Sunday, January 11, 2015


A few nights ago, I found myself sitting in the home of a complete stranger, surrounded by other complete strangers who, like me, had been invited to discuss my new novel, The Resurrection of Tess Blessing.  I adore book clubs. Really. Who doesn't like to talk about themselves, eat chocolate chip cookies and watch women become slightly sloshed on moderately priced wine? I also love to field the questions. There were the usual: "How did you get started writing?" "What is your process?" "Where do you get your ideas?" But the question that struck me the most that evening was one I'd never been asked. "What does it feel like when you release a new book? It must be so fun!"

I was pretty sure what they wanted to hear, but I offered them the option. "Fantasy or truth?" When they eagerly answered, "The truth!" I asked all of them to close their eyes for a moment and recall a project that they had put their blood, sweat and tears into. "Got it?"  When they nodded in unison, I asked them to further imagine that their heartfelt project would now be posted in a multitude of public forums for the whole world to see." All of them smiled. Thrilled with that idea. "Okay," I said, "now for the plot twist. Imagine that this project that you care so very much about isn't just an expression of your creativity or intelligence, but the thing that will provide you with the funds you need to keep a roof over your head, food on your table, and clothes on your kids backs. It's your job." A few of the women adjusted themselves in their chairs and stopped smiling. "And how much you make at your job will not necessarily be determined by the quality of your work, but by people who view your project on these public forums." (This is beginning to sound a little like what Christians might encounter in the Colosseum in ancient Rome, I thought. Not a terrible comparison.) "I also want you to keep in mind that the people on these forums are usually not qualified in any way to comment on your work, just whether or not they "like" it. Essentially, they're going to "vote" on whether or not your work is worthy enough to be reimbursed, and to what degree. Thumbs up, you get to keep your job, thumbs down...." I couldn't help myself. "Release the lions!"

Whether it was the wine, I do not know, but eight out of the nine women looked like they were about to toss those earlier consumed cookies. The other had begun snoring.

 The following morning I buzzed over to Amazon to check the sales for both THE UNDERTAKING OF TESS and THE RESURRECTION OF TESS BLESSING, my recently released "projects." Both seemed to be doing fairly well, which was nice. It had taken me twelve years off and on to write Tessie, so, of course, I hope that more than a few readers pick it up. I was just about to leave Amazon, when quite by accident, I noticed that two more reviews for each book had been posted by the same book blogger. Three stars, or three thumbs down, for both.

Now, the general wisdom amongst authors is, "For godssakes, don't read the reviews!" Most of the time I heed that advice, but I admit, my curiosity got the better of me. And that's why it killed that cat. The review this blogger had posted for the novella was wildly inaccurate. There was no way this woman could have read the story. Another bit of advice passed amongst authors is, "If you should get a bad review, whatever you do, don't respond!!" While I sat staring at the cruddy review, I knew that I shouldn't, but I felt so outraged that this woman had taken the time out of her life to comment not only negatively, but incorrectly, on my "job." I couldn't stop myself. I pulled up the comment section on Amazon and wrote:

Dear Blogger,

If you wish to review books, I suggest that reading them beforehand might be a good way to go about that. And after you've finished the novella, if you should feel compelled to write a new review, please remember you don't have to like my work, but elevating your game and trying your hardest not to be an asshole about it would be completely wonderful.

As my finger wavered over the POST THIS COMMENT button on Amazon, I tried one last time to talk myself down.Was it worth the time and energy to get this worked up? Was it really such a big deal? Yeah, it is, I told myself as I lowered my finger. Respecting ourselves and our efforts, and expecting at the very minimum that others do the same, might be one of the biggests deals of all. It should be all of our jobs.

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