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Friday, December 31, 2010

Eating Humble Pie

To date, I've not received any really negative reviews on my books, for which I'm grateful. The one short story that was reviewed early on, was somewhat negative. But most of the reviews of Infinite Realities and Transforming Realities have been very positive, 4 and 5 star reviews. But I've always, deep inside, worried what would happen if I received a really negative review. I guess all authors feel that concern, even if on the outside we acknowledge that there is no way everyone will like what we've written. Every reviewer is different both in what technical issues are their pet peeves to what style of stories they like, what strikes them as cool and unique, or ho hum and trite. So it is inevitable that one will get an unenthusiastic review, maybe even a very negative review, on what most would consider a good or even great book.

So, I feel to clear the slate on 2010 as we go into 2011, I need to fess up to not doing one reviewer justice. Not because he gave me a negative review, but because he gave me a "so-so" review. Because he honestly had some issues with what I'd written, and stated those, I felt upon first reading like it was a negative review. It really wasn't, taken as a whole, but phrases like: "On occasion the dialogue can be a bit wooden, as Copple uses some contortions to get his characters to preach as well as speak," and "Overall, I was not excited about this collection," stood out to me. You know how the negative obliterates any positive statements, especially when it is about your story? So it sounded very negative to me. It's not that others hadn't said anything negative before, but in general, this is the first review that made me wince.

Being the first "not enthusiastic" review of this book, I held back from mentioning it on my blog, or on Twitter, or on Facebook. And the worse part was, going into it I had received the impression that the reviewer was Christian. After that, in part due to the way he spoke about God in the book, and in part due to some other things on his blog, I began to question whether he was a Christian, and voiced my doubts on a private list that I believe he is on. No one ever corrected me, and they were simply doubts, I wasn't saying he wasn't. But I later found out not only from other comments, but post by he himself, that he is indeed a Christian and that comment could have been offensive to him.

So while it was a private list, I came to some conclusions that were in error, not being familiar with the gist and point of his blog site, which is read by a lot more people than Christians, and the review was written with that audience in mind. In retrospect, I realize I was being way too reactionary to what I perceived as negative, and I made some assumptions that I shouldn't have made. And because of that, I failed to promote the review and his blog on my platform.

So, I'm taking this last day of 2010 to fix what I believe to be an error on my part, and though it comes six months after the fact, I'm offering an apology to John Ottinger, III for any offense and failure to promote his site and the review in question. I promise not to be so reactionary in the future to what is an honest and valid review, which not only had some things he didn't like about the book, but also some things he found good, and suggestions to the types of people who would enjoy my book more than perhaps he did.

Because, yes, some of the dialog is on the wooden side. Not all of it, but as he said, "occasionally." There are some "unnatural" situations, some of which I'm aware of. Common issues when these stories were first written in my first year of writing fiction. John had some valid points. But I should have taken heart with other comments he made like "Told in first person, part of the enjoyment of the stories comes from trying to discover what principle or lesson Copple is trying to relate," and "If allegories like John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress or the fables of Aesop, or morality plays like Everyman are enjoyable to you, then you will like Infinite Realities."

And I have to add, that out of all the places that have reviewed Infinite Realities, it is the only review to which I actually saw a measurable bump in books sold on Amazon and my own bookstore. So despite it being a "so-so" review of the book, it obviously encouraged people to check it out for themselves, to which I can only be grateful for the exposure.

So, John, consider this my personal and public apology, and finally correcting the lack of promotion, as this will go to my Facebook friends as well as those subscribed to my blog. And I will add for my friends reading this blog on my site or on Facebook, I have subscribed to his blog since I first discovered it back around May of 2010, if I recall correctly. I can vouch for it not only being a wealth of information, but some great articles and book reviews. If you're not reading it, and you like speculative fiction, you should be.

I encourage everyone to read his honest and well-thought out review of Infinite Realities, and then check out the rest of his site, "Grasping for the Wind," and subscribe to the RSS feed if you're not already. You'll thank me later.

And thank you, John, for your work and enthusiasm for supporting speculative fiction. It is appreciated, even if sometimes some of us don't show it as we should. Here's the link:

John Ottinger's review of Infinite Realities at Grasping for the Wind

How have you, as a writer, reacted to negative reviews of your work? Do you fear them? How do you plan to react if you've not received one yet? Certainly somethings to think about.

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