Monday, September 28, 2020

Worst Episode Ever, I Loved It!

I received my first review for a performance, in the first grade. I had just performed for the first time publicly as a toy soldier in the Christmas play. My Mom said I was outstanding. Maybe it was the review, or maybe my high school drama teacher, Katherine Goodwyn, that drove me onward to perform many times in community theater starting with my role has the Dead Body* in The Real Inspector Hound and ending with my role as King Arthur in Camelot. Almost all the roles I brought the stage would at some point be reviewed. Some were good, some were bad. I even won a few awards. 

My point is that I was used to having other people tell me what they thought of what I was doing. When I wrote my first book, I found there were many people willing to tell me what they thought of the words I put on paper. Just like my stage roles, some were good, some were bad, and I even won a few awards. I will admit that I take most reviews with a grain of salt. I recall getting a one-star review on Goodreads for From Within the Firebird's Nest, after reading it I discovered the reviewer did not like the fact I used italics. Suppressing the desire to lash out, I instead read some of the person's other reviews. What I noticed was a trend. The reviewer seemed to be a frustrated copywriter who also had issues with people who used ellipses too often, asterisks, and hated the Oxford comma. The one very big thing lacking in the reviews was anything about the book's content or storyline. Essentially, because of his obsession with punctuation and typeface, all the joy of reading had been sucked from him. Pity.

There is one basic truth: a review is just one person's opinion. When I first released Blood Upon the Sands, I was expecting my character Maksim Fillyp Bondreovich to be noticed. I was quite proud of him, even though he was an evil villain. I spent a lot of time and effort crafting ways to make him sadistic and easy to hate, to include lengthy internal monologues about how he was enjoying the evil he was doing. That attention did not go unnoticed, as I got two Amazon reviews back to back. One called him a great villain that was so memorable he might cause nightmares after reading the book - Yea!. The other said that Maksim was too mean, and too much time was spent inside his head providing his viewpoint as he shredded other characters - Uh Oh. Same book, same character but two different opinions. 

Now that my book Ferdinand's Gold has hit the streets and reviews are starting to come in, I have to say I'm pleased with most of what I've read so far, even the ones that didn't like this or that.

One reviewer stated that they loved all the detail of military procedure that was talked about in the front of the book as it helped them more fully understand what happened as things went on. The next day, a different reader felt I spent too much time on that sort of thing. Anyone who has read my books knows that I lay in a solid back story for each character at the beginning of the book as things start to happen. This allows the action to go on later in the book without interruption since you fully understand the character.

I'm happy to read in most of the reviews that the dialogue was appreciated as was the depth of each of the characters. I like a book with multiple characters where you can pick and choose which one to identify with but are still provided by the author with enough detail on the others to understand them. Therefore, it is the way I tell stories.

I will admit that the reviews I like best are those that notice things I try hard to achieve, like characters that are not caricatures. References to time and place so the reader is not confused within the setting, believable dialog that is unique to the character, and more.

This excerpt is from a review that is one of my favorites because of the reviewer seemed to find all the things I had put into the story: 

“I also appreciate (minor spoiler) that Angel was handled so wonderfully. I’m always apprehensive of queer and female characters in military stories because not a lot of people flesh them out more than stating their queerness, or womanhood. She was a great character; she went through some tough shit and came out on top and for that I’ve gotta give this writer props ★★★★★” Meranda, Amazon

I love getting props for good storytelling.

Aside from everyday reader’s, I have received a few from professionals:

"A riveting combination of fact and ingenious narrative ability that throws surprises at the reader on a regular basis Ferdinand's Gold proves a taut and exciting read with Charles leveraging his own experiences as a decorated Air Force veteran to good effect...Sure to be met with approval by fans of the War and Military Action genre, Ferdinand's Gold is a must-read and is recommended without reservation!"  BookViral Reviews

"This novel is fascinating in its historical detail, but also woven together with fictional elements that make the story leap off the page. Charles is able to bring a barracks to life, even for someone who has never stepped foot in one, just as easily as he depicts a flurry of action or violence - confident, specific, and memorable. With increasingly high stakes and a powerful narrative voice that makes it hard to put down, Ferdinand's Gold is a tumultuous ride that is a perfect afternoon escape for fans of military thrillers and adventure fiction." Self-Publishing Review

“At its climax, the story offers gripping ultra-violence, offset by a surprisingly satisfying denouement. Overall, readers will find a tasty mix of criminal conspiracy set in unfamiliar territory, all spiked with political intrigue.” BlueInk Reviews

“Air Force veteran Charles’ novel feels entirely authentic, and his extensive knowledge of military aircraft and procedure lends weight to Dex’s exploits… The author’s prose style is largely crisp and direct… every player proves memorable nonetheless—especially for such a relatively compact narrative. A fast-paced adventure with some emotional weight.” Kirkus

While the reviews are all fairly positive, each has a differing viewpoint – one person, one opinion. I have seen one bad review destroy somebody’s aspirations for the future. I guess because I’ve been hearing feedback on things I’ve done for so long, I take each review with a grain of salt and try to learn something from each of them. If you were to lay any of the Evan Davis tales next to Ferdinand’s Gold you would see that I use considerably fewer italics than previously. But you would also notice that I threw in a couple of ellipses that really were necessary as well. As an author, I always get the last word...

* Kevin Costner's first role in a major motion picture was portraying a dead body in The Big Chill. So, I was in good company.


No comments:

Post a Comment