Of course I'd like to be jaunting off to a hot tropical place, but I'm merely traveling to Novel Rocket. Come and join me as I discuss a coversation I had with a reader. Would appreciate your thoughts.
Father, please bless those who bless others. Help me to be faithful to you and what you're doing with me. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Those who visit here regularly know there will be novel reviews posted. There will be books I love and books I don't and many - possibly even most - of them somewhere in between.
Those of us who read a lot of novels and write reviews decide if and what we can recommend to others. We've all read those books we've hated for whatever reason(s), and we know there is next to nothing good we can say about them. I've read a few that kept me shaking my head as I dragged through them because I was obligated to write a review. The obligation makes it very difficult to find a way around insulting the author.
As I pointed out in Monday's post, snarky, super-critical, and insulting reviews serve no purpose other than to flaunt an opinion. Telling the truth without decimating an author creates a fine line but a necessary measurement of a particular book's appeal. It's okay not to like a novel. I don't know any author who can please all readers.
I once reviewed a novel I thought was written poorly. Badly. I didn't like anything about the story. I said so but tried not to be mean. I got some critical feedback. I reviewed another book I didn't enjoy even a little bit and explained why. I got some insulting feedback. All the negative comments were from people who enjoyed the books. One gal was not nice. All this over books.
Is there a lesson to be learned about reviews? Perhaps. However, those who might need the lesson probably aren't interested in hearing it. They're entitled to their opinions after all. And we are. As readers, most of us realize now and then we're going to buy, borrow, or get free a story we don't like. If we're obligated to give a review, the least we can do is state our opinion with some dignity and respect for the author and for ourselves.
And never forget: an opinion is just that. Nothing more. No more valuable than someone else's.
Father, help us to be kind, decent, and honest. Help us to remember there are people at the other end of our words. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
As you can see, I appear to be hooked on L. T. Ryan'sJack Noble Novels. Quick to read, fast-moving stories, these are great summer reads for thriller fans who don't mind the secretive operations of high-level security, espionage, anti-terrorist, political, and military types of stories.
Jack Noble is a love him-or-hate him kind of guy. I choose the former because he's basically simple. He's a warrior who will do anything to get the bad guys. And those bad guys don't really want to be on the wrong end of that justice. Consequently, when the bad guys meet up with Jack, they want to spread the pain as thoroughly as Jack can dish it out - maybe moreso because they tend to be exceedingly evil.
Jack and his boss Frank Skinner inadvertently stumble upon a child-kidnapping ring who sell their victims all over the world. Doing their best to maintain their usual professional approach after capturing one of the pick-up men named Pablo, their hardcore interrogation pries information from him which leads to a house in a neighborhood.
An invasion rescue is planned but fails to go as planned. In spite of the harrowing experience and emotional tolls, they recover the children. Their new mission is to discover who's at the head of this evil venture, but before they can organize their efforts, the ringleader calls Jack after re-kidnapping a particular child.
Jack suffers some injuries in the raid, and a female EMT (Sarah) is brought along to their group's secret headquarters to confer with their private doctor and ends up participating in their plans to uncover the leader - much to Jack's dismay. He's afraid she'll get hurt or worse.
We all wish we could become super-men or wonder-women, but those who work in the clandestine services, military and otherwise, and remain faithful to this country and to a high code of eliminating evil enemies and criminals are as close to supermen and women as exist in the secular world. Their extensive and intensive training prepare them for death but teach them how to survive almost anything. Pain is secondary to the mission, and they're amazing in what they can and are willing to do, endure, and accomplish. Jack Noble is one of them. Yes, he's cocky at times, humble at others, daring, wired hot, extreme, and will do whatever it takes to bring down a bad guy. Occasionally he has to be reigned in.
(Don't get me wrong: devoted missionaries fill this bill as do Christians suffering under horrendous persecution, imprisonment, and torture for Christ. They have the highest calling and are the true heroes/heroines.)
Written in Jack's first person POV, we experience Jack's rage, pain, and sense of justice. His insightful deductions usually work well for him in his psychological battles. He's cunning, viscious, and tough. And he's all man. His deep thoughts only happen in his head, and he's definitely not an orator. A man of few words and lots of action, his name suits him.
The title A Deadly Distance will explain itself within the story. Prepare yourself for considerable violence, very little bad language, a few brief sexual innuendoes, and an interesting and satisfying conclusion. Highly recommend L. T. Ryan's second edition of the Jack Noble Novels.
Father, you know Lee. I don't. Please bless him and show him what he needs the most. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
If you've ever read an Amazon one-star review, you know what I'm talkin' about. Some readers can be downright mean and nasty. If I can only give a book a one-star review, I'm not going to waste my time making it public - other than here on my blog where I will give ample reasons for my dislike.
Surprisingly, some of the two-star reviews aren't all that bad. Some of the writers of those reviews mention the book didn't appeal to them with reasonable explanations, but not all of them trash the story and its author. Some acknowledge it's not their kind of book.
This is why I tend to give disclaimers for my novels. Because if you don't get my writing, you're not going to like my books. And by "get" I mean you have to understand my motive, my voice, and my style.
Let's take The Famous One. It's written like a fictional biography chronicling the protagonist's life. Omnisicient point of view is used for roughly the first half of the story, switching to third person. If you expect to read a star-studded account of gossip rags and the typical Hollywood hooplah, this isn't the book for you. If you expect to read the typical CBA romance - and it is a love story - this book is not for you. If you want major action-packed conflict, definitely not for you. If you have no expectations and are willing to try something a little different, have at it.
Let's next look at Breath of Life. Although not a particularly true romance according to genre definition, it too is a love story packed with romance. And that's pretty much all it is. Two lonely people finding each other and journeying down the road to a commitment and finding the trip-ups along the way. The story is notorious for ending abruptly - some readers wanted more included regarding the mistakes and outcome. But the objective was to tell the story primarily from the "hero's" point of view, although second and third person POVs were used. "He" chose to close the story quickly with a hopeful ending. Not every reader's ideal. Almost an experimental novel for me in my first attempt at first person (and from a male POV) and in sticking closer to 100K words which has been a challenge for me. Not surprised some didn't care for it, and from a reviewer's eye, there were definitely options to criticize it.
I've observed a few things about readers in perusing several one-star reviews. The one-star reviewers want their opinions known. They're disappointed and can't wait to announce it to the reading world. Only a few of them seem to understand the writer's intent. Whether or not to them it's the writer's inability or failure to communicate his/her intent - it's still an opinion. Where I tend to really distrust one-star reviewers is when there are multitudes of four and five-star reviews listed for a novel. This indicates to me the reader is mad that so many others really enjoyed the book they found so distasteful. They tend to write harsh criticisms insulting other readers as well as the author.
My personal stance on the Amazon forum is not to post reviews for those novels I really don't like unless I'm obligated to do so because of a "free for review" assignment. I too am sometimes shocked at rave reviews for books I found poorly written, formulaic, and predictable, but it is just my opinion after all. And maybe I don't prefer a particular author's style or story choices. I will voice my opinion here to warn like-minded readers of my assessments, but that will be the end of it.
Those readers who choose to give one-star reviews with snarky and insult-laden opinions show me a few things. They regard their opinions as necessary, valid, and important, and they have no real understanding about what it takes to write a novel. Rather than consider they could be the wrong audience for the book, they profess the author is untalented, incapable, or invalid.
On the other hand, professional reviewers are often known for being outspoken, sometimes rude, opinionated, and refusing to consider themselves in error as to their assessments of the stories they read. They have no qualms about criticizing a story or the means used to tell it. Some readers rely on professional reviewers to dictate their novel choices because they've been convinced the pros offer more than just their opinion, that somehow they have the ability to be objective and fair. After all, they are professionals.
And such is the life of authors who somehow manage to write a novel that generates such diverse and uncomfortable reviews.
Father, please help us be the best we can be and to ignore those who offer nothing. Help us to endure . . . In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Vince Flynn fans have learned the news that the late espionage/political thriller writer and creator of the fantastic character Mitch Rapp will have his unfinished novel The Survivor completed by bestselling author Kyle Mills. Included below is the Vince Flynn website where a wonderful letter from Kyle Mills is printed. By his own admission, Kyle acknowledges there's no replacing Vince, but he intends to give it his best shot. It's bittersweet for everyone, but I'm encouraged by Kyle's honesty and greatly looking forward to another Mitch Rapp novel. I hope Vince will be blessed by Kyle's efforts.
Father, please help Kyle to write this unfinished novel, to understand the heart of Vince's characters and expression. Bless him as he undertakes this huge task in the realm of writing and thank you for giving him the desire to do it. May your blessings rest upon him. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
The Jack Noble novel Noble Beginnings by L. T. Ryan is the first of many in the Jack Noble thriller series.
An exciting story, told in the first person of Marine Sergeant Jack Noble, Noble Beginnings dictates the journey of Jack and his mammoth partner Bear as they are falsely accused of murdering an Iraqi family while engaged in a CIA operation. Beaten without mercy for a crime they didn't commit and returned to the states to end up imprisoned, a former CO gets them released, but from there people keep turning up dead with everything pointing to Jack as the killer. A sophisticated framing job turns into a bona fide conspiracy with Jack and Bear intended as the sacrificial lambs by higher-ups in government.
I thought I was done with general market fiction until next year when Vince Flynn's legacy is continued, but something about this story caught my attention and here I am in the aftermath.With minimal bad language, no sexually graphic scenes, L. T. Ryan has written an entertaining piece capturing the essence - and the underbelly - of clandestine assignments, living on alert, and surviving all manner of deadly surprises.
Creating a likable hero in Jack Noble, a plausible sidekick in Bear, the two have their moments of conflict but work as one. Both proficient in getting what they need from whom they need it, their lives are threatened most by learning they have no one they can absolutely trust to prove their innocence and clear their names. Forced on the run and involving Jack's former nurse girlfriend when Bear is shot, together and apart they search for who's responsible for their guilty fugitive status.
The only two totally insignicant "problems" I had with the story were Jack's girlfriend slipping away and her choice regarding a CD, and Jack's reaction to his CO's daughter Clarissa. Neither is a "story-breaker", and I can whole-heartedly recommend Noble Beginnings as a well-written, taut tale of high-level conspiracy with an intriguing and satisfying conclusion to Book One of the Jack Noble Series.
Father, you know L. T.. You know his heart and soul. I pray for both. Please continue to bless his life and meet His needs, the primary need for all of us is knowing you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."(This saying first appeared in the 3rd century BC in Greek. It didn't appear in its current form in print until the 19th century, but in the meantime there were various written forms that expressed much the same thought. Courtesy of http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/beauty-is-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder.html) In other words what is physically, emotionally, or even spiritually "beautiful" can be subjective.
So it figures that an author displaying a character of beauty would depict that character from personal preferences or from another character's perspective. And we all know how enchanting physical beauty can be. But as an author we must decide if our character(s) will be physically beautiful or if their inner beauty supersedes their physical appearance.
As people, we know our looks play with our minds. Beauty - or a perceived lack thereof - can dictate how confident we are, the reactions we experience, and how we value ourselves. Right or wrong, most of us want to have some physical appeal and if we don't see ourselves with any, we can be ruled by low self-esteem.
The distinction of types of beauty lies in the author's perceptions and translates to the page. How serious a writer takes such things will be communicated by the inner workings of their characters.
Will we use beauty to entice, to seduce, to enhance? Will our character be attractive but shallow? Gorgeous but hardened? Beautiful and unapproachable? Glamorous and aloof? Pretty but unaware of it? Lovely but reticent? How will beauty be portrayed?
As a reader and/or as a writer, what role does beauty play in your favorite novels - including your own?
Father, you find beauty in what you create. Like everything else, mankind has distorted beauty. Help us to view things more from your perspective. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Writing the "beast" is much easier if you're a fantasy author. Within that framework you can build all kinds of beasts and make them good or evil or a combination of both. But when you're constructing general fiction, the beast lives within a person and his or her actions determine just how much of that innate evil is allowed to live and thrive.
I've had the opportunity to meet author Steven Jameswhen he taught some classes at a large, multi-faceted church function in my area. I invited a friend to help me "man" his book booth while he spoke and taught classes. If you're unfamiliar with Steven James' novels, you need to know he writes some of the best contemporary thrillers in literature. A Christian author with a Masters in Storytelling, he selectively teaches writing classes, and he rails against "Christian" being inserted in front of fiction.
A tall, slender, nice-looking guy who sometimes wears hip glasses, Steven James is soft-spoken but enthusiastic, athletic, nice, and gives the impression he could be a lot of fun in a less professional setting. Steven James writes some of the most evil characters you will ever discover. Horrible. Creepy. Yet often appear to be ordinary, suave, or accomplished. He has stated he wants to capture evil and demonstrate its emotional content. The question you might want to ask is, "How does a nice guy like you write such despicable characters?"
To write evil you do have to understand its source. The most painful part of writing it is knowing if you travel down deep enough, you can find it inside yourself. Not a good feeling. But true. Granted, not all of us can go that deep and come up with the stuff that fills the pages of thrillers, nor can all of us afford to examine evil to the length required to write the kind of mindsets which comprise the makeup of serial killers. That's a good thing. It's more than some can bear, dangerous to look at or study, and completely not suited to the fearful and/or delicate psyches.
We are to hate what is evil, but if we make evil "typical", it makes for boring reading. Evil comes in so many forms in human conduct, but it inevitably begins in the mind. Creating an introduction to the beast hidden within the human soul requires us to creatively introduce the subtleties of wickedness without sustaining clichés. No easy task.
Making the beast exceptional requires the writer to look deep and forge an evil from the demonic influence on the human soul. Few writers can do this well. Perhaps even fewer want to do it.
God, for those of yours who are compelled to display evil, I pray your divine protection over them. I pray your insights will permeate their creations and that redemptive alternatives will be presented. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.