I dreamt that I was at a food court in a mall. I met the Book Bishop there, and asked him about how my novel was coming along. He told me to climb on top of a large, wooden table that was under a sky light, and get on my hands and knees. When I did, an enchanted braille paper appeared in front of me. Reviews on my book appeared on the paper in visual text form, but tactile lines divided each one. As the reviews began to scroll down on their own. My phone’s voiceover spoke from the enchanted paper, reading them out loud.
My heart jumped with horror, when I saw a one-star review. I thought back to the nightmare I’d had, back in October, about getting a one-star review, and couldn’t believe how such a bad dream came true. However, this negative review wasn’t nearly as venomous. As more reviews scrolled down, all of them were either a one-star, or a five-star. The last review I read, before waking up, was a five-star. This person enjoyed the story very much, but complained about how long my introductory section was.
When I woke up, the dream inspired me to check if I’d gotten any reviews yet, on HECCTROSSIPY Book 1 The Legend of the Land. Christa had posted a five-star review, but she didn’t rate it that high, just because she’s family. She honestly was impressed with how much my writing has improved, since I’d written the original version of HECCTROSSIPY, three years ago. I grew up in a house full of critical personalities. If something I created isn’t good, my parents and sisters are not going to blow smoke up my ass, and say that it’s great, just to avoid hurting my feelings. So I was honored to get five stars from her. Christa also sent one of our writing group members an Advanced review copy, and my editor sent some to several people he knows. A couple of months had gone by, since then. So I figured I must have at least another review or two by now.
I opened up my mobile Kindle app, and typed, hecctrossipy, into the search text field. When I tapped open my book’s page, I thought I would have a heart attack.
3.0 stars! I had only one review—But it was three fucking stars?
Amazon took down Christa’s review, because they don’t allow authors’ families and friends to review their books. Sadly, there were too many incidents where authors had smoke-up-the-ass reviews from those closest to them, and their books weren’t really that good. I assume this lead to customers who bought these books, because of their bogus rave reviews. Then they were disappointed enough to demand refunds, and give Amazon a hard time about it. How was Amazon to know that my sister was being honest?…
How the fuck did they know we’re related?! I go by a pin name, for God’s sake!
My heart raced, and my hands trembled, as I scrolled down to the section where the reviews are. I know that about 99.99% of new authors’ debut novels won’t become instantaneously successful, and I was grateful that this first review wasn’t one or two stars. Still, I confess, this hurt my wee little ego. After spending three years writing and re-writing and re-writing this first installment to my series, and polishing and perfecting it, and putting hours of my heart and soul and imagination into it—The end result is, someone thought it was, meh.
WHAT DID I DO W-W-W-R-R-R-O-O-O-N-N-N-G-G-G???
It turns out, the review actually wasn’t all that horrible. The reviewer liked Planet Velva Leena. She was impressed with my imagination, and she really liked the two main characters, Artheena and Mell May. They were compelling, she said.
Her first complaint about the book was something I could totally understand. My introduction to the planet was too long. I’m not going to quote her, word for word, because I don’t want to come off like I’m calling her out, but she said something along the lines of—“I would rather have learned about the planet through the actions of the characters, instead of 26% of the book being notes about it.”
Oh, shit. I was afraid that would happen. In my bad dream, back in October, about getting a one-star review, the dream-made-up reviewer hated my introduction. 26%? I didn’t know it was that long. I was leery about keeping it in there, but I thought it would be nice to have readers really get the feel of Velva Leena.. I wanted to welcome human folks there,, and let them spend a few pages scoping out this Alien world, before getting thrown into the middle of Artheena and Mell May’s drama. I thought it was necessary to let readers know about such unearthly details as, what a world would be like, run by two ruling races who have a hive mentality instead of a tribal mentality, like humans. The way they don’t name lands and villages, but instead, all civilization is numbered and neatly organized. How prisons and jails don’t exist on this world. Instead, those under arrest get either an orange collar, or a yellow collar around the neck, and are sentenced to different levels of slavery, depending on their crime. How time isn’t so divided, like it is on earth. (In the actual story, the non-existing divisions of time, like minutes, seconds, and hours are replaced with words and phrases like, “moment”, “split moment”, and “within a span of time that would equal to such-and-such hours”) Stuff like that. Perhaps I should’ve took on the challenge of wriggling all this extra detail into my already-vividly-detailed story. But I was being lazy, and didn’t feel like giving the book a holy-shit-thousand-and-sheesh-hundred-and-nutty-nutth re-write.
Before officially getting the book published, I toyed with the idea of removing An Introduction to the World of Velva Leena, and putting those facts in the back of the book, as part of the appendices. But I decided to take a risk instead, and keep the introduction. I’d seen introductions to fictitious worlds, in the beginnings of other books, so I thought, why not. But, ah, man, the reviewer didn’t think the facts about my weird-ass planet were interesting enough. It made me want to apologize to her, and take the book down, so I could make it more to her liking.
After An Introduction to the World of Velva Leena, there is another section before the first chapter, which is a little bio about Artheena and Mell May’s Alien childhoods, and about Mell May’s childhood trauma, before Artheena’s parents adopted her. This was maybe kind of on the info dumpy side too, but I guess the reviewer enjoyed that part, because she didn’t include it in her constructive criticism. I put both parts in one whole section of the book, titled, before the Story Begins. To let readers know that this is not really part of the story. Just optional bonus material that they could skip over, and come back to later. Because if they do skip over it, they might get confused along the way, about certain phrases and character and background descriptions that are mentioned in the story.
The only thing that the reviewer said that was insulting, was—according to her—not that much happened in this first installment.
There were three major events that happened in this book. And there was Artheena’s interview disaster, and the sisters’ horrific experience in the forest, after unintentionally getting high for the first time. There was also their best friend, Audry’s, mystery illness sub-plot, and more. Not that much happened in this first installment. What the hell are you talking about?
Wee little ego aside, I eventually understood what she meant by that. There was a lot of inner drama with Artheena and Mell May. Their hopes, dreams, fears, anxieties, insecurities, their unspoken sibling rivalry, their obsession with the famous Leeandro Paul, and so on. I think what the reviewer would’ve liked was, more outer drama. Not to self sabotage, but The Legend of the Land is not a nail biting, pulse pounding, action packed kind of story. Artheena and Mell May’s planet has its share of problems and conflicts, but its not chop full of them, like Earth. The sisters have experiences and adventures that are exclusively Velva Leenan.
When I confided in my writing group about my three-star review during a conference call, my editor, who is also an author, knew exactly who I was talking about. She had reviewed his stories before. Some she praised, and others she crucified. So he could totally relate. She especially loved his book, Gods of the Black Gate, which is my favorite book of his too, so far. Then I thought, NO WONDER why she didn’t think that much happened in my book, if she reads Joseph Sale’s books. His books are full of battle action, paranormal activity, magic, and all kinds of wild, intense stuff that happens between Earth and other weird realms.
On a positive note, the reviewer sounded interested in what happens to Artheena and Mell May, in the second installment. She has predictions for what might be coming, and she’s curious whether or not if her predictions are right. She thought my story was an imaginative take on Cinderella, which I found amusing. I could totally see why she thought that, but—HA HA! Fooled her. Spoiler: Pretty boy, celebrity heart-throb Leeandro Paul, is actually the bad guy.
In book one, you don’t really get to know him that much. He’s mainly an object of female obsession, and someone who appears to have a way with the leaders of the land. In HECCTROSSIPY 2: THE WILL OF THE DARK CREATOR, which I’ve been re-writing for the countlessth time, you get to know him a lot more, and he’s quite the charmer. Fingers crossed, I’ll get that second book out by spring, or early summer.
Thinking back on all the times I browsed Kindle and Apple Books, and read book reviews. I realized, what author doesn’t get a negative review. Even the popular books who get hundreds of five-star and four-star reviews, get one or two reviews that are less than four stars. When a book has a five-star rating, it doesn’t always mean that 100% of those who reviewed it, rated it five stars. I have seen this happen, but with books that have a single-digit handful of reviews. It sucks, but you have to have the skin of an armadillo, and a bullet proof self esteem to withstand the fiction novel writing business, because not everybody is going to love your book. I accept this fact, and soldier on further into my series, with no contemplations of giving up…
But I’m too much of a scaredy-cat to look on my book’s page again, where there might be more reviews. This 3.0 discovery happened on New Year’s Eve morning, but I hadn’t checked for reviews ever since.
Love you all! Post you soon!
And what the hell is a Book Bishop?!