Guest Contributor, John Goode

John Goode Asks The Question “Where Are We Now?” Good Thing He Also Knows The Answer.


Where are we now?

113013_0101_AndNowHeres1.pngOkay, so we’ve gone over turning an idea into a story. We have looked at how important words can be to describe a scene. Let’s hit on a point some writers don’t think about a lot: the setting. Where and when we are can color a story as much as the characters inside it. Capturing a moment in time is hard, but success in doing this can make an okay premise into something amazing.

So, when we are looking at the setting, the first and most important question we should ask is why? Why does this story need to be in Texas? Or in the 60’s? Or in late nineteenth century London? What exactly about that period and place is important to you or the story? Trust me when I tell you “just because I felt like writing a story in Pacific Northwest” is not a great answer.

Places have soul and meaning. And, and this isn’t immediately obvious but is very important, they have a preexisting backstory with some readers. If you are going to write about the gay scene in Seattle, then do yourself a favor and know something about both the gay scene and the city. If you start to make things up, people will notice. Little things can kill a story. Just one piece of erroneous information can send a reader into doubt so he or she will begin to disbelieve the rest of your story.

Don’t believe me?

What if we had a story set in New York in the seventies. We are talking about the summer of the Son of Sam, a record heat wave, and a massive blackout, along with life from day to day. All these things are imprinted in the collective conscious of the public and surge to the forefront when you start to mention that place and time. Some people might think of early Saturday Night Live, some might remember the looting and riots that took place. Some might remember disco and Studio 54. Whatever the detail may be, most people will have some kind of snapshot of this time.

Let’s say I am writing about a gay man (Jim) who has met another guy (Joe) he likes at a club. He wants to meet him again so he asks him for his number?

In the seventies, what was the proper response?

If Joe was being coy, didn’t want to just give his number out, or wanted to make Jim work for it, what would he have said to him to give him a hint about where his number was? The response no longer has any meaning in this day and age, but back then, Joe would have told Jim he was in The Book.

The Book here is the White Pages of the phone book. Phone book? People back then relied almost completely on The Book (or, in the case of New York City, The Books) when looking for a number. Then Joe could have also told Jim to call information for the number. However, back then using Information involved using switchboard operators who had, at least sometimes, the skill to pull a number out of the air. Information operated more as art than science and more times than not, you found yourself going back to the phone book as your primary source.

Today Joe would have said he was on Facebook or Instagram or might even have given Jim a Tumblr site to look at. Currently, we wouldn’t bother with something as random as an email. Emails were the norm during the late 90s and early 2000s, and most of them would have been an AOL address.

Things like knowing what The Book was may seem almost silly; but in reference to your story, if you are trying to sell a time period, you need to know the details. And the closer to the present you’re writing, the more you’ll have to know and use correctly.

I have friends who are from England, and they have more than once asked me to look over something they wrote to make sure there was no ‘Brit-speak’ in it. In other words, if the story is set on a ranch in Texas, when people are talking, do they sound like they are from Texas? Are they using the right words? Not everyone in Texas has an accent. In fact, most if not all the people I have met in the past decade I have lived here do not have one. They don’t wear cowboy hats, they don’t wear Wranglers and only some own guns. When you are describing the gay scene in Dallas and you have people talking like they are some ignorant hick, I assure you people will notice and they will tune out.

But more important than the little things is the why.

Why am I setting this story in the seventies? Do I want to examine the open era of sex and drugs and compare that time with today? Do I want to show the innocence of the time? Do I want to make a statement about AIDS? If none of those things is true and I just think it’s cool to have a story in the 70s, I might have to ask myself if I just want it there because I know the story by itself is not strong enough to stand without some window dressing.

It’s disheartening to read an entire novel and, at the end, wonder, “Why couldn’t this story have been set in the current day? Treat the era like a character itself, one that has a purpose, a story and its own motivation.

To go back to my imaginary 70s story, if I was to write a story in that time and place, it would be about longing, about a passion that is threatening to overwhelm the main character. Maybe he has been in the closet for his entire life and now in New York, with such a gay scene, he just lets it all out. The story, like the summer of 1977, would build with the heat and the killings and the anger until finally, when everything hit critical mass during the blackout, not only Jim and Joe but the city itself experiences a moment of complete and total disassociation.

Maybe Jim confronts people who used the night and the lack of power as a reason to bash him. Maybe the gay people at the bar he goes to had enough and went outside to fight back. Whatever the climax is, it happens when the power is out. In those hours, where the basic social rules have broken down, force is met with force. In that primal darkness, modern man lashes out exactly as his ancestors did thousands of years ago. The paper thin veneer of culture cracks and the old, hard wired responses emerge.

You see how the city and the events help the story along, not just frame it? The city is the main character: what Jim feels the city feels. His tension tightens and grows as the heat builds and the air becomes more stifling until everything explodes. And, in those hours of darkness, no one knows what happens. You have this whole waking up and realizing what has happened after, the regret, the shame, the sadness, the emotional arc of the character that makes him realize what he was missing or lacking in the whole story.

Why are your characters cowboys? Because they don’t accept conventional life? They don’t want to sit in a cubicle and work forty hours a week. Do they want to live under the sky and work hard and make something of the land? By saying they are a cowboy, are you saying what kind of man they are?

Or are you just saying cowboys are hot?

Trust me, go for both. It makes a better story all around.

Standard
Guest Contributor, John Goode

“It Was A Dark And Stormy Night…” According To John Goode


It was a dark and stormy night…

So let’s get down to the brass tacks, the things that make a good writer a great writer—invoking emotion using the printed word, for example. Using images, it is so much easier since your brain can take visual information and then fill a story in for it, creating an emotional connection without a word being said. Look at those Humane Society commercials; they have become so heartrending in my mind that just hearing Sarah McLaughlin makes me feel both sad and guilty.

So what the people who made the commercials are doing with images of poor animals and a song is what we are trying to do with our words. If you’ve tried this before, you know how hard it is. If you haven’t, well, this should show you how hard it can be.
Continue reading

Standard
A.J. Corza, GotYouCovrd, Guest Contributor

A.J. Corza’s Got You Covered – This Week’s Pick – From Mr. Boo-Wiggly Himself – Stephen King’s “The Shining”



Today we’re gonna do something different cause my lovely enabler, Lisa, is a WONDERFUL person and lets me babble on pretty much just about anything, as long as there’s a cover in there somewhere.

So, we’ve been chatting a bit back and forth about how the covers for the M/M genre seem to be, well, kinda meh lately. Not bad to be sure, just not WOW. I mean we’ve found a few, last week’s Stung by K.A. Merikan, for example, was a definite WOW, but honestly, it seems like the woo hooness has been dwindling. Granted, we only see a very small percentage of covers every week, so it may just be that, or it could be we’re quickly becoming jaded to half naked torsos and pouty lips. I know, I know, say it ain’t so, right? Trust me, I am 100% not thrilled by this thought myself.
Continue reading

Standard
Guest Contributor, John Goode

John Goode Had This Idea Once, And Then He Came To Share It With Us


“I had this idea once.”

How many times have you told someone you were a writer and, within nanoseconds, heard those four innocent little words balloon into what promises to be a story which, even if it stopped at three words, is WAY too long? We all have ideas. All of us. Imagination is the cheapest form of entertainment on Earth, cheaper than reality television, cheaper than drugs, cheaper than any form of media you can get your hands on. People have ideas all the time; that’s nothing new or unique. Ideas are a dime a dozen.

It’s what you do with them that matters.
Continue reading

Standard
A.J. Corza, GotYouCovrd, Guest Contributor

A.J. Corza’s Got You Covered- This Week – It’s A Veritable Buffet Of Cover Love


So the week’s folder of covers that was sent to me was slim pickins. No not the actor but sadly, the book covers I had to choose from. (For those of you in the huh? Slim Pickens (spelled differently) was an American actor that for some reason, even though I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything with him in it, I seem to know his name. Go figure.)

So, what is a reviewer to do? Well, I could have found a cover I loved on my own, but that would mean I didn’t have an insane professor breathing down my neck for my soul, and/or first born, plus down payment on a mansion in Malibu. Unfortunately I do have said Professor, and if you see his face on a milk carton anywhere in the near future…I TOTALLY DID NOT DO IT!!!

But I digress. I actually do have a folder on my desktop that is just for book cover inspiration, and I did look through it, but you ever have one of those days where you just aren’t feeling it? You’re hungry, verging on ready to eat your own shoe, but nothing sounds good. Yep, that was my feeling towards my stockpile. Total complete…meh. *insert ambivalent shrug here* So, I flung my request out to the good people that populate our little corner of Facebook. (and for some reason follow me on there…which by the way…SHOUT OUT!!!)

I asked people to either link me to, or send me pics of their favorite covers, their own or others. It didn’t matter. And what did I find? Everyone has different tastes. Yeah I know, color me three shades of surprised. Ok, maybe not ‘cause anyone who’s followed along in the past posts knows that I’m a firm believer and touter of people all having different tastes and THAT’S OK!!! Granted, some tastes are less refined than others, preferring a Micky D’s Big Mac over a glass of Sauternes with their foie gras but again, that’s perfectly fine cause it just makes our world that much more interesting. It really drives home the point that even though we’re all of different tastes and backgrounds, we all still share cognitive thought processes (well most of us, I’m looking at you Perez Hilton.) and even if I hate what you like and you hate what I like, we’re both entitled to our opinion! :) So, yay for that.

So today I’m gonna put up the covers people sent me so you can see the differences in tastes that vary far and wide. You may agree or not, but one thing is for sure. It’s all in the eye of the beholder!



Cover Art by L.C. Chase

Cover Art by L.C. Chase

Cover Art by L.C. Chase

Cover Art by Catt Ford

Cover Art by Alex Beecroft

Cover Art by Anne Cain

Cover Art by Anne Cain

Cover Art by Paul Richmond

Cover Art by Paul Richmond

And that’s gonna be it from me this week guys. Hope you enjoyed the pretties.

Have a great day and may the good books be with you!

A.J.

All thoughts and comments are the reviewers only and not the viewpoints of others. If I’ve made you angry, stepped on any toes, or otherwise ruffled any feathers, I do apologize. This is just for fun, and written in the hopes that it will help fledgling book authors and artists to grow and learn.

Standard
Guest Contributor, John Goode

Once Upon A Time, John Goode Came To Visit And To Tell Us A Story…


Once upon a time…

There was a small, troubled child who grew up to be a larger, more troubled teenager. He had entered that phase of life when the male body decides that life on its own isn’t nearly as much fun as it can be dosed with hormones and sexual confusion. In the end he became sullen, withdrawn and then finally resorted to burning things.

This is where two unlikely agents of fate come into the boy’s story.

The Livermore Police department and S.E. Hinton.

You’d think that is an unlikely pairing and you’d be right, since I am relativity sure the author S.E. Hinton never teamed up and solved mysteries with the Livermore police. A pity because I would have watched that show over any three CBS procedural shows on the air today. So anyways, I burned things and I got caught and was thrown into juvenile hall.

I wish I had some real good stories about being incarcerated, but honestly I don’t. The kids were just as scared as I was, we all got along, and we all had separate rooms to chill in. No one threatened me, no one made me their bitch, nothing. I mean, not that I wanted that to happen. I was thirteen years old but still, you’d think there was SOMETHING that would have occurred that might have made me change my ways.

To be honest, the look on my grandparents’ faces when the police knocked on our door and hauled me away was more than enough to ensure I would never, ever do anything to make them look at me like that again. Little did I know what I actually meant was I would never, ever get caught doing something that would make them be that ashamed, but that is another story.

So during this time I was locked away, doing hard time, it changes a man. The person who goes in isn’t…

You aren’t buying this because I already told you that nothing happened. Fine. I got bored and my mom bought me four paperback novels to read while I waited for trial. They were The Outsiders, Tex, Rumble Fish and That Was Then, This is Now. I had been a big reader growing up, so I was thrilled to have something new to read but didn’t expect much from them.

I have never been so wrong, before or since.

It was more than just a book, it was a whole world, and as I was reading the four books I realized they were all connected somehow. Not just through a series of sequels or continuations; they took place in the same universe, even if the people didn’t know each other. It was mind altering to me, and I made two choices while on my long, long week of incarceration.

One, that I needed to be smarter if I was going to do bad things and two, I needed to meet the people in those books.

It hadn’t registered that they might be fictional people because the way they talked and the mistakes they made were so real, there was just no way they could be made up. I had read all of the Oz books by L.Frank Baum and know that Dorthy was fake and that Toto was made up, but Ponyboy? No way, not him. A couple of years passed and I understood that they were fictional and that authors could create whole worlds from just words. I wanted to do that, badly, but had no idea how.

The next book that shook me to the core was Interview with a Vampire.

Now, I was a wise and matured sixteen year old, and I knew there were no such things as vampires and this was all made up, but my friends raved about it so I decided to give it a whirl. What harm could come from it?

It was about two in the morning when I paused reading, put the book down and wondered where Anne Rice had found a real vampire. There was NO way that this was made up, it had to be real in some way. I lived less than fifty miles from San Francisco, and I knew the city she was describing, and the idea that vampires like Louie might be wandering around seemed far more real than, say, Ronald Reagan being an actual president to me.

And again, I wanted to be able to do that.

My final world changing book came a year later when someone gave me a copy of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. If you have never read the series, Mr. Adams does for the written word what Monty Python did for sketch comedy: shows you how it could be done differently and by insane people. The book itself starts where most books lead up to, by destroying the Earth so that aliens can make way for a hyperspace bypass that ironically is made obsolete by the very ship that saves them. It is a verbal ballet that can stun you in wonderment as you watch everyday words you thought you knew do things that no one had ever done before.

Sadly, not done since either.

If you look at these three books, you can find all the parts that make up the patchwork quilt of my writing. There is a connected world where things revolve around a location and people know each other but might never actually talk, like the real world. There is dialogue that makes characters seem real, not just realistic but real people that you know and have met. And then there is the turning of phrase that is really just a pale comparison to the magic Douglas Adams could do.

I think every writer needs to know where they come from and why they write what they write, for many reason. One, it is to give respect to the people who got you here but more importantly, it tells you what well you are drawing from. It saves you from looking at what you’ve written and asking yourself, “Why does this seem familiar?” when it is just a cover version of the breakaway pop hit you fell in love with years ago. There is no crime to cover a song by the way, the crime is in not acknowledging it.

In Taking Chances, I had Linda Stilleno make a reference to throwing wooden shoes into machinery that comes straight from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. While writing it, I had a whole set up to where she tries to come off smarter than she is and then admits she got it from one of Kyle’s movies.

I completely spaced it out.

It wasn’t until an edit that one of the proofreaders brought up it was word-for-word from Star Trek and she liked that I referenced it. She thought it was a cool thing to throw in. I felt like a thief because I hadn’t referenced where I had got it from. Once I put the line in, I felt much better and I got a couple of people chuckling over the line, but inside I was horrified that it got submitted without me saying where the line had come from.

It’s okay to emulate the things you like, just make sure you tip your hat to them as you pass by, or you’re a douchebag.

On the other hand, though, there is such a thing as divergent evolution. In science it is two races completely separated that evolve the same way and produce startlingly similar creatures; in writing it is when two writers think of the same idea at the same time and decide to write a story without ever talking to the other one. There are only so many stories in the world to tell, it isn’t the actual structure of a story that counts, but how you tell it. But I will go into detail next time, when I start talking about how to birth an idea from your mind to the page.

Spoiler alert, there are a lot of bodily fluids. FYI.

So in closing, knowing where your desire to write comes from and the people you are trying to be like helps you because it can help you hone the individual skills that drew you to them in the first place. And if you see your idol in your writing, don’t freak out and don’t throw it away because I am willing to bet people see your parents in you, and you want to see some of you in your kids. It’s natural, evolution is good.

Cloning is bad.

Always bad.

See every science fiction story ever.

Bad bad.

Don’t be a clone
.
Ok…see you in two weeks.

Standard
A.J. Corza, GotYouCovrd, Guest Contributor

A.J. Corza’s Got You Covered – This Week’s Article – Oops, Maybe Not So Much…



I have a friend who has gotten bad covers made for her, more than once. I’m not going to point fingers to say who the artists were or what publishers she used that seem to believe that such atrocities will actually sell books to anyone that isn’t listening to them on audio book; but suffice it to say, THEY were BAD.

Bad bad bad!!!!

Did I mention bad or perhaps awkward, uncomfortable, how about unfortunate? Those work for ya?

We’ve all seen them; hell, some of us have even gotten stuck there, and now we’re gonna get to look at them and marvel in the balls it took to publish these works of singularly unique vision. (Self – published authors you’re up in a bit don’t worry.)

Now, while I am NOT the guru ala perfect book cover artist, I do try to take into consideration the fragile emotional state that are most authors after ripping their hearts out for a manuscript. I try to deliver something good, something that complements their story, and heck that may even make them smile. At the very least I try very diligently to NOT give them a cringe worthy half assed hack job that will have all your friends saying, “oh what a great story but the cover…oh sweetie.”

*insert obligatory hug here*

In my endeavors of looking at and for pretty book covers, I’ve come across some very questionable offerings indeed. Today I just wanted for fun to show you some of the worst covers I’ve come across that pretty much made me wince, all the while laughing my ass off. However, before I do that I want to clarify something first:

Everyone has different tastes and EVERYONE is ALLOWED to have different tastes.

This is not about what the cover is alluding to within its bindings so much as the OMG-ness of the covers. This post is ultimately about my amusement, but it’s also about my irritation and ire. Not with the artists or authors themselves, who all try very hard to deliver what they ultimately think is a good product, but with the publishing houses that just don’t give a good god damn about what they’re choosing to put out there that represents not only themselves but their authors as well. You want our money but you want to give us this drek? It could be To Kill a Mockingbird that is housed behind some of these covers but honestly, who would want to buy it? Not me, and I suspect not a vast majority of the readers out there. That said, I’m sure some of these are and were solo authors doing what they could for their own books.

NOTE TO SELF PUBBED AUTHORS: The covers following will hopefully persuade you to find one of the many artists out there that are good but reduced to charging a shockingly low price for covers, and even if it hurts to pay 35.00 dollars for a decent cover, remember, IT HELPS YOUR SALES!!!!!! Bad covers HURT!!! I need to make a bumper sticker that says that. Hmmm…

This also goes for published authors. If you hate the cover to the point of getting hives, ask for another artist. There are quite a few companies out there that will work with you. BUT BE NICE!!! Just say, you know, I hate to do this but I am really not feeling it, do you maybe have another artist? Don’t be afraid to speak up. Heck, some places will even let you use your own artist, not often but every once in awhile.

Anyhow, this little foray into bad book cover land is what I get for having a conversation with a good friend of mine regarding bad movie scripts (she reads a LOT of them) that turned into a conversation about bad book covers. And I’m dragging you right along with me. Share in my pain won’t you?

1.

1. Tarzan

What can be said about a cover where the man in the loin cloth is looking rather longingly at his best friend, Cheetah? And why is Cheetah making that particular facial gesture? The artist says he’s speaking; personally, I think Tarzan’s been training his buddy there in the fine are of oral copulation.

2.

2. Mounted by the Gryphon

Wow. AND bonus, there’s a whole series!!!!!!!! Sex with Gryphons, Velociraptors, a T Rex. HOW THE HELL that would work I have no clue. Oddly enough this isn’t a horrible cover, and it certainly did catch my eye; it’s just, well, all I can think is ouchie and claws. That and it does put me off as a genre I would want to read. I am not even little bit sarcastic when I say I am so going to give huge kudos to Christie Sims (who I think is a self publishedauthor) for having the steel balls of a serial killer and actually putting this out into the world for everyone to see and enjoy. Sex with a half lion/half eagle mythical creature, AWESOME!

3.

3. Now that I'm a Ghost I'm Gay

Now that I’ve seen this cover, I am DONE!!! I don’t know Josh, he’s probably a nice guy, maybe even a good writer but the cover of his book? Oy vey! Let’s just pretend to forget about the picture for a moment and ask what the frilly heck is that title? Is it a cry for help? A deep seated urge the author has to engage in sex with a phantasm? Some sort of self help book for the dearly departed but deeply closeted? Whatever it is, it’s just, well, it’s kinda creepy.

4.

4.-One-Sexy-Daddy

Daddy, you’re scaring me. And it’s a Harlequin romance, for shame! I get that this is a book about a single father NOW, but I know damn well that I wasn’t alone in thinking that it was about something else entirely. That’s right WE ALL went there!

5.

5. My Brother My Rival

And here we have another one that took us there. Was there anyone else that thought just by the title that this was a brotherly lovin’ situation? Guess what? You’d be wrong! Just be glad you didn’t place any bets on it because in reality it’s a het romance!!!! I KNOW, the wonder.

Not only do you have not get even one iota of a hint about this story being a male/female romance due to the one man and his headless twin there, but the title, My Brother My Rival? Smacks of something and it ain’t a man and woman getting hot and heavy under the covers, though I’m not exactly sure what it smacks of except maybe newbieism. (Yes, I made that word up.)

I included this one more from a learning stand point since I can clearly see that this person probably is a total newbie to Photoshop. At least she seems to be a self-published author trying to make her own covers, but sadly I’ve seen similar covers from publishers as well that maybe aren’t this level of oopsie but really close. I personally am all for giving people a chance, supporting people, and helping them get a foot in the door. Hell, I’m still fighting for that myself with publishers, and if I didn’t have a wonderful friend who had in turn introduced me to other wonderful people, I wouldn’t be here writing this. But this sort of cover can hurt you. If you want to be a serious author and want people to take you seriously, you need a cover that looks good. It’s like the clothes you wear to an interview; you wouldn’t wear ratty jeans and a holey t-shirt to impress your potential employer, would you? Nope, you’d wear your best slacks and shirt, you’d have your hair brushed and your résumé crisp and fingerprint free. So why are we seeing covers out there that are amateurish to this extent? Seriously, people, if you have no feel for Photoshop, a nice plain color cover with a nice crisp title can and will work better than a cover that has poorly lit, badly cropped, horribly cut out pics that are awkwardly placed. No one wants to buy it if no one even wants to look at it.

I’ve shown you covers that we can take with a grain of salt and poke some fun at but, authors, you need to realize that if you have a cover like this, people can and will make fun. Not necessarily to be malicious or mean, but just because they’re so obvious. Artists you need to seriously evaluate if you’re good enough to make covers for others and if you don’t think you are, you probably aren’t. I’ve done some mediocre covers in my past (thankfully, not even close to this bad, and a few years ago) but I learned from that period and now my first thought is always whether or not I can do something and whether or not it’s going to be a huge embarrassment later on for either myself or my client. A bad cover reflects on so much more than just one person. And while you may only have a bad cover on one book, you need to stand tall, be proud of what you’ve written, and demand a better cover next time. If you don’t stand your ground, authors, you’ll never get the cover you deserve. You’ll get the one you need instead. (And yes, I quoted Batman. )

Anyhow, that’s it for this week. I leave you with one last cover that just screams for a book burning.
Enjoy, have a great day and may the good books be with you!

A.J. – Got You Covered

All thoughts and comments are the reviewers only and not the viewpoints of others. If I’ve made you angry, stepped on any toes, or otherwise ruffled any feathers, I do apologize. This is just for fun, and written in the hopes that it will help fledgling book authors and artists to grow and learn.

6.

6. Mind Pump

At least the title is nice and easy to read, but are those horns growing out of his head or another set of arms? Either way, I find myself wanting to watch a really bad Sci Fi movie now.

Standard
Guest Contributor, John Goode

“How Ya Like Me Now?” A Guest Article by John Goode


There is this joke…

So on the seventh day God went golfing with some friends and the conversation of the new world He had created came up.

Zeus said that he liked the way God had let that Adam fellow name everything, he thought that was a nice touch making the experience more interactive, that’s the way to get the younger demographics in. Odin said he was particularly impressed by the whole Angel system He had set up, it was a much needed improvement on the two crow system he had installed. Zeus’ brother Jupiter thought the variety of life that He had created was incredible, even that silly platypus thing He let slip by was cool. Buddha went on about how perfect the soul these tiny human beings possessed were and the workmanship on them was really something….

“Hold on a second,” God said, interrupting the praise. “What was wrong with the platypus?”

No one likes to be criticized. I mean, there is an implication about it that says the person giving their opinion is somehow more informed than the person who is receiving it; therefore, already there is an inherent power struggle right out of the gate. Ask anyone who has ever created anything and ask them to list what is wrong with it and you will get a laundry list of things wrong. But the same moment those things are listed by someone else, it becomes something hostile.

Don’t believe me? If you’re a parent think about what your kids do wrong on a daily basis. Got it? Now imagine a stranger telling you the same things about them. See how the worst kid can suddenly become angel?

This is to be expected, of course. I mean, they are your kids and you have the right to say anything you want about them, but that bitch from across the way better keep her mouth shut or she could find herself on the wrong end of an attitude. We protect our young, it is instinct. You made that kid, so you protect, simple as that.

And then there are writers.

Writing takes a certain talent that is impossible to convey unless you’ve actually struggled to make words go together to make sense, but I will try in case you haven’t. Those of you that have, try not to have a flashback while you read. There is an arrogance that comes when creating fiction that a lot of people don’t realize. When you sit down to describe late nineteenth century England, since you have never been there nor has anyone reading your book, you need to MAKE that world real. And you need to make it so real that the reader believes it with you. Now, my nineteenth century England has a lot to do with Doctor Who, so I am sure it is neither historically correct since there weren’t that many aliens running around, nor is it always that foggy but that’s the way I see it.

As writers, we have to have faith in our creations so much that you, as a reader, will purposely stop believing what you think nineteenth century England is and believe mine instead. Same thing with vampires, ghosts and teenage boys, all mythical creatures that terrorize the pages of books. It is like the late, great Douglas Adams said about flying: the trick is throwing yourself at the ground and missing. In fiction it is throwing yourself into a made up world and missing the fact it is made up. From the outside those worlds may seem solid as a wrong inhabited by walking, talking, breathing people that are very real to them.

To the writer, though, they are just words until someone believes in them.

The voices in my head are not real until I acknowledge them, the same way the words on a page aren’t real until someone reads them. So there is a contract taken between writer and reader: I’ll lie to you to the best of my ability, you try not to call me on my bullshit to the best of yours. To the writer those worlds are like soap bubbles until someone says they are real and that they had an effect on them. It is a two way street and even more dependent on each other in this day of digital presence. I can’t imagine Charles Dickens had a ton of feedback on his stuff as soon as it was published. All he had was his friends’ and colleagues’ assurance that the words worked on them and that the story is worth reading. I wonder how Charlie would have fared if there had been message boards back in the day?

As a writer I can know if someone likes my stuff THE day they read it. I can read their thoughts and reviews as they post, and I can get instant gratification that those soap bubbles are sturdier than I thought, and that is incredible. Conversely, though, I can also find out if my words failed to hit the mark faster than any writer previously could have. Therein lies the problem.

I mean, as a writer I am a vampire, seeking out attention and assurance that my words are good. I feed on positive feedback and use it to nourish me the next time I doubt if the next book I write is good or not. And like any vampire, I flee at the first sign of garlicky goodness that may be hidden in a bad review. I can’t not look, after all I need my fix, but when I do look and it stings, I can’t look away.

After awhile it gets weird because no matter how much praise you can get about a book, it is always that ONE negative comment that sticks with you. Like a sore on the top of your mouth, you cannot stop messing with it no matter how much it hurts. Which comes to the topic at hand.

If I take the good reviews and store them in my mental hope chest as proof that I can write and people do like my stuff, then don’t I have to take the bad reviews as proof there are still places I need to improve? If I believe the good reviews are given honestly and not because the people are just being nice to me, don’t I also have to assume the ones who didn’t like my work didn’t like it for the same honest reasons? If I can’t take a positive review and go,Oh well, that doesn’t count ’cause that guy likes me, how can I take a negative one and say, Oh, that doesn’t count cause that chicks hates me? If you start doubting one, you kind of have to doubt all of them.

But here is my point.

Let’s go back to your kid. You love your kids, you raised your kids, you nurtured them and protected them until they were fully grown and ready to head out into the world. Now of course YOU love them, I mean look at all the work you put into them. To you they will always be your little baby and you will feel that way until you die.

On the other hand, your kid, who is fully grown and out there in the world, might be a raging asshole and you know it. You can love your child with all your heart, but at the end of the day, once they are out there and interacting on their own, they need to be judged for themselves and not have their mommy or daddy come rushing in to defend them.

Just like books.

If you can’t write something and then be content to let it loose on the world and let it rise or fall on its own merits, then you don’t want to be a writer. If you think there is a vast conspiracy out there to malign your work without ever once considering that maybe, just maybe, they have a point, you need to stop writing now. Your kid, like my story, is no longer mine once it is out there. It belongs to whoever meets it, and it needs to be able to speak for itself. If you raised the kid right, taught them how to be polite and treat people right, don’t worry. If you wrote the book to the best of your ability and people say they like it, take that and move on. But if you obsess over the one lady across the way who just never liked your son, then you are giving WAY too much attention to someone you shouldn’t. People don’t like things all the time, doesn’t mean they are saying it sucked or that it should have never been written. They are simply saying they didn’t like it.

And if the person makes a personal crack about your book, let them. They paid their money, they bought the book, they have the right to bitch about it. Same way Mrs. Kravitz across the street might dislike your kid for no reason, let her. Not everyone is going to like your kid. How many kids do YOU like?

That’s what I thought.

Just because someone doesn’t like your book doesn’t mean it is bad, it just means they didn’t like it. As writers we spend so much time shoring up our soap bubbles against reality that I think we take any criticism as an attack when, in fact, it is just an opinion. And opinions are as valuable or as damning as you let them be.

And also, one last thing before I go.

You may have raised your kid to the best of your ability, tried to teach them everything they should know and generally tried to make them the best person they could be and in the end, they might still be an asshole. You may not think so, but it might be the truth. Just because you like your book doesn’t mean it’s good. And if enough people tell you it isn’t good, you might have to fess up to the fact that your book isn’t good.

Doesn’t mean you should stop writing, but it does mean you should start writing better.

Just saying.

John Goode is a regular contributor to The Novel Approach.

Standard