…and a story from evilkev.
The last night of Harrogate, I didn’t go to bed. Instead, I found myself ready to pass out around 3 am from sheer exhaustion, but I needed someone to sign books. So, I was waiting. And it was a solid 5 am before he finally gave up on the conversation we were embroiled in.
Which had to do with reviewers not writing honest reviews.
The person who’d raised the discussion hasn’t been writing. Whether or not they will start now, I don’t know. So, their view was as a reader at the festival. The one thing they didn’t like was seeing all the reviewers and authors schmoozing together, because they felt that too many reviewers were trying to stay in favour with authors and therefore failing in their responsibility to be honest to readers.
Of course, then I went on DorothyL and read a ton of comments about reviews. And decided to write out a negative review, with a challenge. The post is too long for DorothyL and the conversation there has moved on. But I’ve promised to post it here Thursday, and there will be a challenge and chance to win a special prize.
An ARC of my debut novel. (The ARC won’t be available until September, but still. You win, you get one.)
Anyway, the conversation was an interesting one, and I won’t rehash the whole thing for you, but it did make me think. One of the things I said was that I was actually in the worst position of all, as an author also writing reviews. By nature of my dual roles, that means I’d be more inclined to want to keep authors on my good side, as peers, wouldn’t it?
I don’t particularly like writing negative reviews. I know how much time and trouble an author puts in, from my own writing I imagine how important their book is to them. And how personally they’ll take it. But at the same time, I don’t ever intend to be dishonest. Which means walking a very fine line in how I phrase what I say in reviews. I used to read a book, like it, then review it. Always books I bought for myself. Now, I get piles of ARCs. Chances are, I won’t like some of them.
So, I’m trying to be fair and balanced. To qualify what is a matter of taste, to clarify who the book would appeal to (unless I’d venture to say nobody but the author’s grandmother). It’s hard. Yes, I worry a bit about hurting feelings. Truthfully, I could be out of the reviewing side of the equation tomorrow and it wouldn’t bother me in the slightest.
I recently came to a hard conclusion, and that’s that there’s a group of people I can’t review books for. It isn’t because I doubt my ability to be fair and objective. But because of the nature of my relationship with this group of people (not good) if I were to write anything less than a positive review, it would be seen as a personal attack. Now, in this group there are only a few authors anyway. So it isn’t a big issue in my life, except that by nature of association with this group I feel I’d have to turn those authors down if they approached me, although none of the authors have been involved in my conflict with the group’s administration.
I’ve always maintained nobody would believe it was objective if I wrote a positive review of a Rankin book, or one of Val McDermid’s, come to think of it. Which is why I haven’t reviewed books by either of them. I’m thinking about reviewing a book by Val, but haven’t decided.
Not that it matters much to them if I review their books anyway. They get tons of reviews.
So why put myself through the grief?
And it still doesn’t address the initial question. Should reviewers meet/be friends with authors? Does it throw their objectivity into question?
Have you ever read a review and discounted it because you know the author/reviewer are friends?
I know, I know. All these heavy questions. But I wear three hats, guys, and I do worry about this stuff. To the point where I don’t read submissions that come in from people I know, just so that I’m not put in an awkward position. Although it’s still my job to type the rejection letters…
Now, this niggling question about reviews is still bugging me, and if you know me, you know I’d be happy for any excuse to stop reviewing. But on the other hand, there are a lot of authors out there who are great writers who aren’t getting a lot of reviews who can benefit from the exposure.
Opinions wanted. And I won’t consider any of your comments to be partial. Even if you’re an author I’ve got an ARC from.
And does anyone know agents who specialize in overseas sales? I suppose I should be doing something about my unsigned rights one of these days…
Oh, and evilkev will really want to know what you think of his story. You can send the fan mail to thethorninSandrafirstname.lastname@example.org
Cozy Noir Contest
It isn’t cozy. And it isn’t noir. The premise is simple: a cozy story featuring a noir protagonist or a noir story with a cozy protagonist.
There are sample stories here and you’ll find they cover a fairly wide range of styles.
We haven’t actually decided how many winners we’ll pick, so while it says you’ll receive one book as a prize by one of the authors listed, that’s actually a lie. In some cases, we have more than one book by the author that we’re giving away (three by Ian Rankin, for example) so sharpen those pencils and get writing!
Entry deadline is September 5, 2006.
And yes, we’re still taking regular submissions. We won’t be looking at them until September either, though.
by K. Robert Einarson
I knew it was going to be bad when I found the head at the bottom of the stairs.
“The neighbors reported hearing a scuffle, then a scream, then nothing.” The uniform paused to flip the page in his notebook. “Then they said they thought they saw a tall man with dark hair running off.”
I climbed to the top of the stairs and examined the body. She was wearing a long housecoat and other than missing a head, looked rather peaceful. There was some evidence of the reported scuffle, a broken fingernail and some bruising on her wrists and what was left of her neck.
“Detective Taylor, we’ve found something.” I walked toward the Crime Scene Tech in the adjoining room. He pointed to a six-inch butcher knife on the floor. A thick layer of blood coated the knife. As I looked up, I noted the broken window and the splintered glass underneath the window frame. It was starting to come together.
“Well, it looks like the perp entered through this window and…”
A shrill meow behind me broke my concentration and I instinctively looked back. A uniformed officer was holding a black cat, a gold badge dangling from his neck.
‘Son of a bitch.’
“Lt. Puss Puss, I didn’t know you were coming down here”
Merrooow, Meow, Meow.
“Sir, I think it is too early to question anyone, we don’t even have a suspect.”
Hiss, Meow, Merrooow.
“I understand it’s the mayor’s daughter, but we need to take our time to be certain we get the right person.”
Merrooow, Meow, Meow, Merrooow, Meow.
I turned away. ‘Fucking affirmative action. What kind of idiot would think that we don’t have enough cats in management positions? I mean the last crime that fucking cat solved was the great tuna caper.’
“With all due respect sir,” the sneer was evident in my voice, “ I find it hard to believe that she was killed because of an argument over a catnip mouse.”
Hiss, Hiss, Merrooow, Hiss.
“Insubordination! I’ll show up fucking insubordination!” I grabbed Lt. Puss Puss and threw him out the window. “Let’s see if you can fly, you little fucker.”
Well as luck would have it, Puss Puss landed on the murderer, who was hiding out in the bushes under the window. After a brief struggle, a seriously scratched up perp was arrested by two uniforms.
Lt Puss Puss was given a medal for heroism for catching the murderer and promoted to Captain.
And my reward? I now walk a beat in bum town and think of all of the ways to skin a cat.
And evilkev and I watched the Foul Play from Harrogate last night and enjoyed a great laugh. Stella and Mark... Too funny. I think Laura and Shane should have followed up on the war wound and discharge a bit more. Glad I got that on video.