Friday, December 28, 2012

The Year in Reviews.

Well, that's probably not the case, but I did find two reviews yesterday for Duty and Desire that made me happy...

The first one is by Christi Snow, who did a quick "grade rating" on each of the stories contained within. I particularly found myself interested in the review, not just because my story got a good grade (it did, tho... an A.) but because my personal favorite stories in the collection, "Shattered" by Shanna Germain and "Done" by Charlotte Stein, got bad grades.

I'm reminded that we (meaning readers as a whole) don't always like the same things, and that doesn't make it wrong. It is, actually, a sign of a good editor that Kristina can select a group of stories that meets the theme, the "rules" for erotic romance and appeals to such a widely different audience.

"Shattered" is my favorite story. I love it so much. I cried almost all the way through it, and I recognize that sobbing with heart-breaking emotion is not necessarily what some people are looking for in an erotic romance. Now, I admit, I don't read erotica for perhaps the same reason that a lot of people do - I'm not the stereotypical one-handed reader. I read erotica, and for that matter, everything else for escapism, for emotional connection, to dream, to be someone else for a while. To me, sex just is. It neither has to be the core of the story, nor does it have to be avoided as a taboo subject. I love romance books, and erotica books and science fiction and horror and fantasy and murder mysteries and westerns. So long as they have good characters and interesting ideas, I'm right there with you.

When my work appears in an anthology with Charlotte Stein, I feel like a fraud. Her narrative voice reads so much like living inside my head that it's very familiar to me. It's like going over to my grandmother's house where she's got a fresh batch of homemade cookies for me, and the guest bedroom made up, and all the toys are the same as they were last time I was here, and everything is exactly the way I remember it. Not quite me, not quite my house, but very, very comfortable. Next to her work, I feel like an amateur. Like a guy on poetry night at the coffee shop's open mic who has the misfortune to be reading after Dylan Thomas.

This review, however, reminded me of an argument I have with a friend - repeatedly, actually, since we both never really tire of this. I think Bon Jovi is a terrible band. Which is not to say that I don't enjoy "Have a Nice Day." But the band... not good. Their music is derivative, the lead singer is a serious jerk with delusions of adequacy, and their CD's fill up the $5 bins at the Target. My friend... gets offended when I make this statement. She loves Bon Jovi and therefore they are good music. I say just because I like something doesn't make it good. But while we disagree - and that vehemently - on music, books, movies... we're still very good friends. (Well, I keep considering disowning her because she doesn't like Fight Club, which is one of my favorite movies... and she loathes it... )

Not everyone likes the same thing. And it's interesting to me to discover that someone might like my story - I mean, don't get me wrong, I love "Snake Dance." I'm very fond of it... but that someone might like it more than "Shattered" or "Done," well, that just blows me away.

And the second review is from Emerald. A small excerpt below, but really, the whole review is gorgeously written - and I'm not just saying that because it's a good review...

Each of these stories touched or affected me differently. I am aware of that, but I also feel aware of an unusual (in my experience) cohesiveness, of how this volume affected me as a whole, not even as a collection of stories but as a work encompassing a theme I approached with slight trepidation and emerged from with profound desire, even yearning, and gratitude for the universal oneness we share (whether we realize it or not). Whether I wanted it to affect me that way—and before I read it I might have questioned that—and whether I feel comfortable with what about it did so, it nonetheless did.
That, of course, means it is an opportunity for me to learn about myself. Which is one of the opportunities I appreciate most in life.
That kind of depth aside, I truly found this book beautiful. It may sound flippant, but I am not intending to be so when I say I feel these authors outdid themselves, offering stories of a world with which some of us are wholly unfamiliar and possibly can hardly imagine and illuminating what is both unique to that and what is universal—the expression of that universality being, again, something I see as a hallmark of successful erotica writing.
I was... quite blown away by the thought behind this review, by the serious way she treated the book, and by her own insights into our writings.

But you know, I don't really mind bad reviews, either.

I know, I know, I know that I'm not supposed to do this. I'm not supposed to read bad reviews, and I'm not supposed to comment on them, and because of those unspoken "rules"... (You shouldn't respond to trolls, you shouldn't give them what they want, if you respond to bad reviews, you're just lowering yourself...)

So, I'm not going to bring up the exact review; but I got slammed for one story... really hard, actually. I didn't mind. In fact, I was oddly gleeful about it. I felt like I'd "arrived." The person who wrote the review did a one or two sentence blurb on each story in the collection, and then reserved two whole paragraphs to comment on how bad my story was.

Amateur. Cliche.

And I love it.

For one thing, I don't really disagree with the reviewer. This was one of my first published stories. So, yeah... amateur. I often feel like I'm still getting my legs under my as a writer. Hell's bells, it took me twenty years to figure out what sort of stories I should be writing, of course I'm going to flub it up!

Secondly, I tried out a few different endings to my story. The one I was most happy with took me well over the word limit. The other one was tedious. My beta readers who got to see the multiple endings selected the one that was decried as "cliche." And honestly, I'm okay with that. Sometimes stereotypes have some basis in observation.

Third: There is no way in the world that anyone - ANYONE, no matter how trollie or personal they get - could ever say anything about my writing that's worse than what I say to myself... so, everyone and anyone who slams my writing is competing with the best there is to say something nasty. And that's me.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, what a lovely, thoughtful piece on reviews and on "Duty and Desire." Thank you also for the nice words about "Shattered." Getting slammed for stories is hard, but you handle it with lovely grace.

    All my best, s.