POW! Right in the Kisser.


I posted almost three months ago on the great review I received at Booknest.eu for Pilgrimage to Skara.

Since then, things have been…different.  For the SPFBO contest, I’ve had six total ratings (with five reviews so far).  My composite rating so far is 4.1.

(Muse: Out of five stars?)

No, out of ten.

(Muse:  Dang, you suck.)

It’s by a long ways the lowest combined score of any of the finalists.  It is also the lowest score (if it holds) of any SPFBO finalist, of any year.

So, notoriety….I got that going for me.

I kicked this around in my head for a while to figure out why these reviews bothered me so much.  I wasn’t upset over low ratings or people not liking it, or even snarky commentary (of which there wasn’t much).

I love characters.  I think they are the hallmark of any spec-fiction book.  Plots and tropes are worn and reused.  Settings can be unique but often aren’t, and writing styles can be near-literary to colloquial without raising a book’s memorability.  But I think characters are what really makes a book both relatable and memorable.

And this is exactly what the bad reviews focused on:  my characters and why they were terrible.

That realization–that is, for someone who is so focused on characters and character development, I apparently failed to make my characters appealing to a wide swath of readers–is like a punch in the nose.

(Muse:  That sounds pretty dumb.  You would think you would be able to see that before you published it, you dim bulb!)

One might think that but sometimes, it is awful hard to step back and look from an unbiased perspective at you own work.  This is why good beta readers are so important–something not lost on me in working on Scion of Andoya, where beta-reader-input is is (in the current revision) leading to some major changes in the narrative.

Granted, the dislike of the characters hasn’t been universal but it has been a far more common issue among reviewers than, say, plot, setting, writing style, or dialogue.  Specific criticisms have been varied but I really can’t argue with most.  Even in places where I believe things were misunderstood or taken out of context, that’s still on me, for not communicating the intent more clearly.

I’m still disappointed in myself over this but nothing for it now but learn from mistakes and to move on.

What Goes Up….


Based on my last post, one might think I was riding high in the saddle.  Not only did Pilgrimage get a stellar review but was also selected as Booknest‘s finalist in the 2017 SPFBO.  It’s quite an honor and I still keep waiting to wake up and realize it got thrown out and a more deserving book took its place.  No matter what else happens, I can savor the moment.

And then that happened.

(Muse:  Lemme guess:  someone peed in your pool?)

A little, yes.  Prompted by the good review I got in the contest, another reader picked it up and left a decently scorching review on Goodreads, pretty much finding fault with everything about the book.  I think theyu got bored and wrapped it up before saying my grandfather was a baboon, but it was a near-miss.

(Muse:  Hey.  Would you accept the argument that Stephen King is probably the most consistently-popular spec-fiction writer of the last forty years?)


(Muse:  Based on Goodreads reviews, his best-rated book is The Stand.  It still has about 3% one and two star ratings.  The latest edition on Amazon has about 6% one and two star ratings.  No matter how good you are, bad reviews are gonna happen.)

I know.   Bad reviews happen.  It’s easy to know that intellectually.  It’s tougher on the heartstrings.  I didn’t curl into a fetal position or anything but the tone and content of that review was quite a contrast from the previous one, and did get a bit of a wince out of me.  If nothing else, it is a reminder that not every book is everything to all readers.

So….ego raised up, and then brought back down with a little reminder.

This book didn’t win over that reader.  Perhaps my next one will.  Only way to find out is to keep writing.

In the meantime, I again send heartfelt thanks to the folks who did enjoy it.

First Review for Pilgrimage to Skara

Greetings.  Yes, it has been a long time, and real-life, as it likes to do, has been kicking my ass in about five different ways.

No matter.  Good news brings me back.  Back in May, I entered author Mark Lawrence’s 2017 contest Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO).  Essentially, it’s three hundred books divided into ten thirty-book blocks, with one “best” book floating to the top of each block and the ten best going head-to-head.

Now, I didn’t (and still don’t) really expect to win this thing.  That’s a real challenge, to overcome 299 other entries and no matter how good you are, those are long odds.  I did hope to get a good review (thorough, not necessarily glowing) out of it and a little exposure.

I never expected the positive response I got.

Reviewing on behalf of Booknest.EU, Leona Henry (follow on twitter at @authorlrh) was very kind and indicated that she enjoyed Pilgrimage a great deal.  She did–rightly–point out that I am lousy at copy editing (she didn’t say me specifically, but it was me) and that a bunch of those errors are still in the book.  I agree and admit it’s a weakness.

Otherwise, she was quite complimentary and I am humbled.  Here is a link to the review.

So thank you to Ms. Henry, to Booknest, and to Mr. Lawrence for giving me this chance.

I look forward to where things go from here.  Regardless of whatever happens, this is a feather in the cap.



EDIT:  I originally put the 2016 SPFBO, not 2017.  I will chalk that up to my excitement.

Hat in the Ring


I have done exactly what the title suggested.

A fellow author brought to my attention this contest, over on the blog by author Mark Lawrence.  I think it is a really neat idea, so what the hell, why not?  I entered Pilgrimage to Skara (still available on Amazon, for those you still looking for a fun, exciting read) and contrary to my normal procrastination mode, I made it in just under the wire.

I was assigned to Booknest.eu , which I was unaware of but looks like a really awesome review site.

Now, it is very possible that pilgrimage will get bounced before it even has a chance.  Someone might read it and go, “Eh, not my cup of tea,” and toss is aside.  But there’s that saying, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”  I see nothing but upside for this, so again, what the hell, why not?

I will let y’all know what happens.