Today I saw this lovely review from “Clint” for the short story I recently published, The Ruins: Humanity’s Ending, and I wanted to make an observation or two.
Look, if you don’t like a story, that’s perfectly fine and you have every right to leave a review saying as much. No argument there. Of the thousands of reviews my books have received since I started publishing in 2008, there have been more than a few 1- and 2-star ratings: not every book is for everyone.
As for Clint not believing in climate change, that’s also his privilege, despite the massive evidence to the contrary. But it’s a fair basis for disappointment in the story, and that’s fine, too, although the “you climatistas” bit is pretty infantile, frankly.
What’s not fine is accusing me of “copping off” what I write on people. I put time and effort into writing a story and ask that if you choose to read it that you provide some compensation for that effort. It’s an exchange. And with Amazon, you can always get a free sample to see if you like it. Of course, it may seem fine in the sample, but you find yourself disappointed by the end. That happens. But it’s not because the author – at least in my case – was trying to defraud you. So I did report the review to Amazon for that, which I don’t think I’ve ever done before. I doubt they’ll do anything, but I’m not going to put up with people just being nasty.
And don’t forget, Clint, that three of my full-length novels – First Contact, Empire, and Season of the Harvest – are free to you and other readers as ebooks. Yes, I do that to help get folks hooked on the story line, but you’re literally getting two or three years of my work for nothing but the click of a button.
Finally, this: “…finish Reza’s story…What a disappointment after waiting so long for new work from you.”
I could practically write a novel-length response to this line, but suffice to say that I was overjoyed to have finally written anything after being abandoned by my muse for so long. I’ve felt like my hands were partly paralyzed for years now, just having no will to write, no inspiration from my muse – nothing. I literally have a dozen novel starts that have been sitting in Scrivener, and In Her Name: Red Legion, which is only a few chapters short of completion, has been languishing for how many years now? I think I’ve lost count.
But in the last four weeks I’ve gotten full use of my hands back: I polished up The Ruins, which I’d written a while back, and published it (you have no idea how good that felt, Clint), and I’ve put in over 30,000 words so far on what’s shaping up to be a novel-length work that – Oh, the horror! – is a romance story that has absolutely nothing to do with my previous work. I have no doubt, Clint, that you’ll immediately pounce on it to give it a one-star review because it’s not what you want.
Why would I write that story, Clint? Why would I do such a horrid thing to you? Because that’s what my muse is calling me to write and now that she’s back I will be damned if I’m going to drive her away. People who aren’t creatives often don’t understand how this works: I literally cannot force myself to write fiction that my muse isn’t driving. I know that sounds silly, but it’s true. When I write, the vast majority of the time I don’t even know what I’m going to type until my fingers actually do it (and it doesn’t work by dictation; I’ve tried that several times). The other part is the drive to write, where my muse is agitating for me to get a story out and gets very put out if I don’t hit the keyboard. There’s a very subconscious element to my writing that’s been blocked for a long, long time, and I’m going to keep my muse happy by doing whatever she wants. Yes, she wants to finish Red Legion, and the next books of Vulcan’s Fury, a sequel to The Black Gate, and the other stories I’ve had lined up, but she first wants me to finish the story I’m working on now. I will happily obey.
Clint, I know this may burst your bubble, but I’m not writing for you – I’m writing for me. My very best work was my own personal therapy, my own personal joy, and I think I may have found that again. The romance story I’m working on has been a joy to write so far. I think a lot of people (other than you) will enjoy it, and if they don’t, that’s fair enough. Although to also be fair, if you know it’s a story you won’t enjoy, do the author and readers who might enjoy it a favor by just not buying or reviewing it with the sole intent of slamming the author.
Another thing I would tell you is that I’m not a one-dimensional author. While I’m best known for the In Her Name series, followed by the Harvest Trilogy, there’s more to me as a writer than those two universes. Perhaps you’ll always love those the best of all the books I may ever write, and that’s perfectly fine; believe it or not, they’re my favorite books, too. But Clint, if the In Her Name series is the only writing of mine that you enjoy, why go and buy something that you know from the blurb isn’t in that story line? Just so you can write a one-star review to vent your spleen?
How about this: rejoice with me that my muse has returned! Even if the first couple things out the door won’t be what you’ve been anticipating, celebrate that I’m writing again. Maybe trying lifting people up when good things happen in their lives, rather than slapping them down because they didn’t satisfy your own selfish expectations. Give it a try. You might like it.