Monday, April 17, 2017

The Power of a Bad Review

I've been debating to broach this topic for a couple of weeks now, but I decided if I don't let it go, it will eat at me and possibly cripple me for the rest of my life. Having no one to discuss this with in "real life" who could possibly understand, you guys are it.

I generally check my Author Amazon page a couple of times a week. I check my stats, and then reviews just to see if anything is happening because I don't get many reviews, so when I do, I'm excited. Even if it's a bad review. At least someone is reading my book.

So, I checked. And I got a 2-star on several books (several books) from the same reviewer. It seems she purchased my boxed set on KU because it's free for KU subscribers. Not only did she leave the reviews on the boxed set, she decided to leave the reviews across the board on each of the individual stories. Nine (9) stories total.

Now, anyone who has had the experience of a bad review knows DO NOT ENGAGE the reviewer. It can only lead to a pissing contest and a social media nightmare. I've heard enough of these stories since I began writing to know not to do that.

It also seems that this reviewer left comments on one of the last reviews and when I looked, it seemed as though she and another reader were having a conversation about, not only MY books, but another author's as well. On MY comment board. WTH?

So, I politely inquired of the reviewer that if she didn't like my books, then why was she going to bother reading the rest. She gave me her answer, we had several paragraphs of dialogue where I explained my thoughts about my writing and why I wrote the books the way I did. She seemed satisfied with my answers and I thought she would either repair, replace, or hopefully bump up the stars. (Because I had done this once before with a different reviewer and she did bump up from a 2 to a 4.)

Nope. What she then did was read the final boxed set, trash it and pretty much tell the world, "Don't bother reading this series." IN THE HEADING!

I looked up her stats because she was a top reviewer and found some comfort in the fact that she didn't like anything she ever read. Every book was tagged with 2 stars. (Some 3, but those were few and far between.)

However, during this time, I had just taken my mother for cataract surgery and had to make sure she had her required eye drops 4 x a day, (hard to do with an Alzheimers patient), was getting ready for Spring Break (which meant I had to get my school responsibilities together when I came back b/c my mother's NEXT surgery was that week--lots of paperwork), try to get the yard in order--we've had rain, finish doing my mother's garden (b/c obviously she can't do it anymore), make a list of what to clean in the house during Spring Break and attempt to install my new bathroom sink, but most importantly...

...finish the book I had started in March. Yes, on March 1, I started the 3rd book in the Ladies of Dunbury series and had 75,000 words written. I was on a roll writing (even with all the other stuff on my plate) because I LOVE this story and was just writing, writing, writing. Until I read the reviews.

And then I stopped. Dead in my tracks. I didn't even look at my computer for almost a week. My Never Give Up Never Surrender mantra was out the window. I honestly wanted to give up writing. I hadn't been this depressed in about twenty years. Seriously. I mean what was I going to do if I couldn't write. It's not like I can just go out and get a job. Not with my mother the way she is.

I finally broke down and wrote to a good friend and dumped the whole load on her (which I did not want to do because really, who wants to hear this shit). Thankfully, she talked me off the ledge. She loves my stories and is a talented writer in her own right, so her kind advice to "let it go, there are trolls everywhere" seemed sage and heartwarming.

I know and understand that every reader will not like what I write. I get that. I do. And I have several 1 and 2 star reviews to prove it, not only on Amazon but Kobo, B&N, Smashwords, and Goodreads to boot. However, for some reason, this just slayed me. My overwhelming urge was to kick this chick in the teeth and tell her, "Well, if you hate what I write, then write your own damn book."

That's the thing about this business that gets me the most (and I think most other writers as well). We pour our heart and souls out onto the page, write what we love, take the time to revise and edit--sometimes for months--and publish with the hope that this book will
make the NY Times bestseller list
make us the most money we ever had
give us the recognition that we crave
fulfill our heart's desire
fill in the blank

What this chick did with her reviews was to take away my dreams of a good life for Monster, make me rethink my future as a writer, and jack hammer my fragile ego to smithereens. It took almost 10 days for me to go back to my computer, something which has never happened. EVER.

I'm happy to say that I am finally writing again, have 83,000 words on the story, and if I play my cards right, one final chapter to write. I'm trying not to hear this chick in my head every time my fingers touch the keyboard, but it's damn hard.

I know this is a business and it's not supposed to be personal, but it is. I don't care who you are, whenever someone says something about you, good bad or indifferent, it IS personal. The old adage comes to mind -- if you can't say anything nice about someone, don't say anything at all. But in this day and age with the privacy of the internet, manners have gone out the window.

I'm sure this reviewer, who actually said to me, "I feel I'm doing your readers a service"
does believe she IS providing a service. But at what cost? She has no idea who I am, what I'm trying to achieve, or what my life is like at this point in time. She sits on her throne and reads book after book and passes judgement on what she thinks is good writing. (She told me that's what she does all day--just reads. Must be nice to have that kind of life.)

Anyway, I guess the lesson I learned this time is to never ever read your own reviews.

Tell me -- Have you ever had a review that just knocked you off your feet? What did you do about it? Do you read your own reviews? Do you write reviews?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2017

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Cold Hard Ugly Truth

Well, hello to you who are still with me. I can't believe it's been so long since I've been here. Yes, I did finally finish the book I'd been working on last fall. Eleven days ago--the day before Valentine's Day. And I was worried I wouldn't finish before Thanksgiving.

For those of you who are wondering, yes, my mother finally received her diagnosis--it is Alzheimers. Mild to moderate leaning more toward moderate heading into severe. Needless to say, it's been a long winter.

I realize it won't get any easier, and I've learned to take one day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time because I can't really do anything else. I've had fights with my father, with God, and myself, because I don't really understand why I've been saddled with this responsibility on top of everything else I have to bear. But what am I going to do? Walk away? It would be soooo easy. Just pack it up and head back to Rhode Island. But you and I know I won't do that. I'm a good daughter.

Never Give Up, Never Surrender!

 My Monster
Monster, (who's 12 now and playing every sport imaginable -- she went from just volleyball, to basketball, now field hockey, track starts tomorrow, and softball in April) Monster and I were having a conversation about her so-called friends. You know, those little witches in middle school who just have to make fun of everyone and everything. She's been having a problem because she's not hip. Okay, what's the word these days--with it? Groovy? I have no idea. They think she's not cool enough because she doesn't have the right shoes, the right phone, the right sports equipment, the right mom. I'm doing the best I can, but I can't give her everything she wants.

Anyway, the other night the conversation turned ugly and I lost it. Monster was complaining about these girls and how they're so petty and back-stabbing and just fucking nasty. To HER! My daughter! My perfect, beautiful, sweet, athletic, smart, funny kid. Short of slapping every single one of them across the face, and getting kicked out of school, I told her, "Nolite te bastardes carborundorum."

Don't let the bastards grind you down.*

She looked at me with "the face". You know the one. Like I was from Alpha Centauri. I said, "Hey, if you think about it, five years from now, these people won't matter. Ten years from now, you won't even remember half of them. Twenty years from now they'll be a distant memory, like a movie you watched when you were little. Just keep on doing what you're doing, get good grades, have fun playing your sports, and take the laundry downstairs." I got the big sigh in return. But like the good girl SHE is, she took the laundry downstairs. She won't think about what I said now, but she'll remember it when the shit really hits the fan.

But isn't that what it's all about in this rat race? Just do what you gotta' do to keep your nose clean, your head on straight, and make it until retirement. Hah! I know there's more to life than just that. Every day when I take my mother's dog out to the back forty, I see the deer crossing through the meadow, the geese making their flight to wherever they're going, the robins are back, the daffodils are up. I see the simplicity in what God gave us and I try, try so very hard to keep from losing it. Some days it works. Others not so much but what are you going to do?

I suppose I could cry and lament and gnash my teeth and just make my friends miserable with the poor-poor-pitiful me scenario. But why bother? They don't really care. Honestly, they're just glad they're not living my life. You know how I know that? One of them told me. She said, "I don't know how you keep it together. I know I couldn't do it. I'm glad I don't have to." Yeah, we don't talk much anymore.

The Cold Hard Ugly Truth

Yup, this is my blog now. My writing blog, where I'm supposed to dish on all things creative. How I'm supposed to wow you with fabulous bits of information to help you in your writing endeavors. This is a far cry from when I started out. But hey, life's messy.

So, here's my advice for today (God knows I might not be back for another six months)--Just keep on trucking. Do what you gotta' do to get through the day. If you only write 50 words, so be it. If you open your word.doc and stare at it for a half hour, then close it up again, so be it. If one Saturday, you manage 2500 words and on Monday realize they're all crap, so be it. Just keep working at your craft.

And I know my last blog post said almost the exact same thing, but it's true and bears repeating. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Or fingers to keyboard and one day you'll actually write The End. It was a long hard winter, but I finally finished the damn book. I took a week off to clean my house and then started on the next one.

Why? Because I'm a writer and writers tell stories. That's my job. It's what I do. It's who I am. And no one will keep me from doing the thing that I love. Not God, not my mother or the damn disease that's eating her soul, not anyone.

If I can get through it, so can you. I told you all this just in case you wonder why you're writing--when you get another rejection, when your sales take a dive, when life slings crap in your direction and you're too overwhelmed to duck. Just remember Nolite te bastardes carborundorum. And me stuck in the life that I don't think I deserve.

Don't let the bastards grind you down.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2017

* Margaret Atwood The Handmaid's Tale