Sunday, October 14, 2012

New Review of NICE WORK!

A review of NICE WORK is up at Reviewing the Evidence! Yay!

(You know, I don't know why Blogger sometimes makes the links live and sometimes doesn't. It is a puzzlement.)

I really appreciate the review! It helps to get the word out there. I'd love to see the Kindle version become available soon; I know the price is somewhat high on the trade paperback. Still, a paper book might be a cool Christmas gift (hint, hint).

I've noticed a couple of similarities in the reviews done by people who say "this wasn't my favorite book" or "I had problems with the characters." One thing I do note is that they don't have any problems following the plot twists and/or accepting them as logical. That was, frankly, my biggest concern. I figured that people might not believe some of the things that happened. I'm happy that it seems the suspenders of disbelief are stretching appropriately.

(This is a musing on the usefulness of reviews for authors, not an "attack" on reviewers. I'm musing about why parts of the book might not come across as intended.)

*contains spoilers or semi-spoilers for those who are bothered by such things, although so does this particular review*

Generally, I use the advice given or implied in reviews to improve the next book. It's always good to get feedback that isn't restrained or edited. However, sometimes I simply can't agree with ALL the advice being given, although I appreciate the effort that any reviewer goes to in order to put their concerns into words. I know how tough it is to read something and review it!

I'm surprised that a couple of people have objected to Jacquidon's attending the funeral of her former boss. For one thing, I point out in the book that she has worked for the man for several years, and she believed during that time that they'd had a fairly good relationship. She saw his recent behavior as an aberration. So I can't see her *not* going to pay her respects. Also, Tracy (her co-worker and best friend) practically strong-arms her into going, remember? That conversation takes up a couple of pages in the book, featuring Tracy's crystal blue persuasion. Many times, at least in mystery fiction, the perp will attend the funeral, so sleuths get information from it. I think there might be a couple of clues planted in that scene, for those who are analytical and paying proper attention. But oh well.

The bigger surprise, though, is that this reviewer doesn't like it when Jacquidon gets (basically) verbally attacked at the end of the service when she goes to tell the family and close friends how sorry she is (because of course she IS--I couldn't hear of the passing of one of my former co-workers or bosses without feeling for the family, because I'm not a sociopath.) The reviewer complained that when Jacquidon is basically shouted at ("You killed him!"), she doesn't shout back. Well . . . I think that it's never a good idea to make a scene, especially if you ever want to get another job. (These people might be contacted by the new potential employers; it happens, especially if the new job requires an extended background investigation or the HR department likes to call around. Sometimes that saves a company from hiring someone who really IS a problem child but looks good on paper.) I think that the better part of valor is to quietly say a few words in your own defense, apologize (because obviously they feel intruded upon), and exit. That's basically what she did. It is part of her characterization that she wouldn't shout back or shove back. That would be (in her view, as well as in mine) a childish and immature response to their actions. Their actions might have been taken out of pain and confusion, or it might have been someone trying to pin the blame on Jacquidon even MORE firmly . . . perhaps that could be seen as a clue or red herring.

I know that readers today expect a completely Alpha hero or heroine who fights back and throws vases and stomps feet, if not swinging swords and firing Colt .45s into the air like Yosemite Sam, but that's not the only kind of hero there is. Mine are generally more thoughtful and think before they act. If cornered, they'll come up with some way out other than violence, if possible. Sometimes it's not possible.

But isn't shouting back what you should do in real life? No, I'd say not. My advice would be that if you ever ARE confronted verbally with accusations about something you didn't do, and/or you get into a dangerously brewing situation, that you take the sensible route and speak softly while exiting. You might have to brandish a big stick, but if you start bashing people over the head with it, YOU will be in trouble for assault. It's better to fade out of the scene and deal with rumors by doing something other than screaming and shouting that they're false, as this often leads to comments like, "Thou dost protest too much."

Trust someone who has been in that particular situation. (NOT accused of murder, but confronted by someone who felt wronged and who wanted to make a scene with me as the star victim.) It is better to respond quietly and take the first opportunity to exit, even if you think that is "chicken," because if you allow the situation to escalate (or, worse, if YOU escalate it), I guarantee that most onlookers (and oh, yes, this sort of confrontation will gather a crowd) will go away thinking that YOU STARTED IT and YOU MUST BE GUILTY OF SOMETHING AWFUL and YOU ARE A TROUBLEMAKER. It's not fair, but that's how it works out. (Note that newspaper retractions never have much effect, as the readers of the original story still believe what they've read.)

I know this kind of scene shows up in movies all the time because they're doing the bread and circuses thing, but that's the movies. You don't want a reputation as someone who heedlessly shouts at a funeral or in an office or in the parking lot, trust me. Try to avoid escalating things into an ugly scene if possible, in real life (and in fiction, if your character is smart enough to avoid it). A word to the wise is sufficient.

This particular reviewer questions why Jacquidon and her sister are reluctant to tell their mother that Jacquidon is under investigation for this murder. Well, that just means I must not have portrayed the mother properly. (I'll do better next time.) Most moms are somewhat older and fragile, and why worry them when there's nothing really to tell? The truth comes out when the sisters go to their mom to help them read something that's written in a language that their mom understands, and they are forced to confess. So it's only at first that they keep this to themselves. I think that's wise, and so did they, but you'll have to make your own decision. If your mother can't do anything more than worry and fret and possibly have palpitations over the idea that you're unjustly accused . . . I'd advise that you wait to tell her. I mean in real life. But we'll all hope that none of us ever get into this situation!

I was dismayed that a couple of reviewers (this one included, but there was another one as well) didn't see any clues in the short interlude during which Jacquidon judges a corporate spelling bee. Not only is she attending the event with a suspect (Tracy should be a suspect in most readers' minds by this point in the story) who might reveal more helpful information, but also Jacquidon catches sight of a second suspect there and chases her down for questioning.

I thought it would be more fun to have a suspect appear in a new and interesting setting rather than always having the scenes in restaurants, offices, classrooms, private homes, and so forth, the way so many stories do. It's always neat when I read a mystery and the scenes aren't just all courtroom, police station, office, telephone conversations in cars, and that mundane stuff we've all seen over and over again. If a scene is set at a carnival (okay, THAT one was done in so many films that it's almost a cliche), in a house of ill repute, or in a hot-air balloon (which is a scene from one of my forthcoming works), and readers have the opportunity to learn something or experience vicariously something they've never experienced, so much the better, as far as I'm concerned. I don't see anything wrong with hanging a colorful background so that readers get more fun out of a scene (and possibly the action develops character as well). But some readers want nothing but nonstop focus on the main plot action, and that's fine. That's the way they roll.

I like a secondary plot or "B story" to relieve some of the seriousness. (Even Shakespeare was allowed some comic relief.) I don't know if there's something about a romance inside a mystery . . . I see it almost every time in a cozy these days. I didn't want Our Romance to be with a cop in this one, though. I get really tired of female amateur sleuths hooking up with the detective on the case. It never bothered me in the Claire mysteries by Joan Hess, or in the Goldy mysteries by Diane Mott Davidson, but it bugs me in other books now. It's more fun if you don't have a Close Personal Friend on the police force, I think. Of course you'll get up close with a few cops if you're being investigated, though.

I like to learn something when I read, even if it's fiction. That, again, is a personal preference.

The point here, I suppose, is that different readers read for different experiences. If you like an experience that doesn't have an obvious B story, then you won't like books with subplots that take away time from the main action (even if they're tied in--for example, the employment counselor who becomes a romantic interest in NICE WORK turns out to be a computer whiz who helps decode some clues later in the book). Reviews are good for initially determining whether a book will be to your liking (I often use them to check whether children and pets are victimized, because I simply do not read those books), but often you'll find something different from what any one particular reviewer found. You'll find your own story, because you help the author to show you the "vivid, continuous dream" (as John Walker phrases it).

However, if something shows up in more than one review, it's time to consider why the scene didn't come across the way it was intended. It takes time for this information to percolate through the gray matter and reach the Girls in the Basement all deciphered, so maybe by the time I'm polishing the sequel, I'll figure out a way to make this stuff come across more clearly. Clarity above all is the goal! And entertainment . . . yeah, entertainment. That's the business I'm in, after all.

Go ahead, read 'em . . . we'll write more.

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