It’s day three of the Mystery We Write blog tour. I’m visiting Mary Martinez’s blog. Leave a comment to win an ecopy of Frank, Incense and Muriel, book 1 of the Muriel Reeves Mysteries.
Now, onto my very special guest, Lou Allin. Lou is the author of the Belle Palmer mysteries set in
Northern Ontario, ending with Memories are Murder. Now living on Vancouver Island with her border collies and mini-poodle, she is working on a new series where the rainforest meets the sea. On the Surface Die and She Felt No Pain feature RCMP Corporal, Holly Martin, in charge of a small detachment near . Lou also has written That Dog Won’t Hunt, a novella in Orca’s Raven Reads editions for adults with literacy issues. Her website is www.louallin.com and she may be reached at email@example.com. Victoria
Confessions of a Second-Rate Author by Lou Allin
I’m second rate, maybe even third. Feels good to admit it, like coming out of the closet. After ten books in eleven years, I’m still not making much money and probably never will. Do I have an excuse? Mais oui. I’m Canadian, published by small presses with tiny print runs. Case closed, as Patricia Cornwell would say. Crunch the numbers: Print run 2000, book $15.00, profit 10%. Even selling out won’t finance a Mexican vacation. Neither do I have an agent, ticket to a large publisher with megabucks. No self-respecting agent would settle for 15% of my profits.
On the other hand, I write what I like. No pandering to the masses. Vampires, time-travel fantasy, serial killers, cats who talk, moo-cow-creamer-collector mysteries. I like a strong female lead, no gore or mutilation, plenty of action, a few eccentrics, and a clear sense of place, wilderness if possible. Urban settings are a best-forgotten part of my distant past. 1948 to 1977 was spent in bland Cleveland and
. The next thirty years perked up in the bush in Columbus, Ohio Northern Ontario, where I was teaching in a community college. Finally I was paroled to ’s Canada Caribbean, Vancouver Island.
But I’m a lucky lady. I have sweet pensions, and this is
, so health care is part of the package. But because of my cut-rate status, I have another secret. Every few months, when deadlines aren’t pressing, I stoop to a very low form of entertainment. I read bad reviews of best-selling authors. Canada
Don’t get me wrong. I would never write a negative review. In fact, as the former VP of the BCYukon chapter of the Crime Writers of Canada, I clocked many supportive reviews for our members, especially new ones. Check Amazon.com and ca if you don’t believe me. I’ll eat my moose hat with velvet antlers if they don’t make you want to run out and read the books.
Maybe this habit started with my own bad reviews. I’ve had a few stingers. “Mystery Fails to Excite” was one
, newspaper headline. Someone else threatened to throw the book across the room if I mentioned one more local business. Hey, people in London, Ontario , the Nickel Capital, loved that part. Here’s another secret. The weight of a bad review carries about 100X the weight of a good one. It’s a psychological axiom. Sudbury
So whenever I feel a bit down, I can count on a wee smile to read what some disgruntled fan has to say about one of the greats. It’s a short fix because after only a few, I start feeling sorry for the author, which makes no sense. Like Liberace, the author is crying all the way to the bank.
For most bestsellers, it’s 99% possible to find a one-star review. Complaints about the book not arriving don’t count. With 150-1000 reviews, even those predominantly five-star, there are always a few malcontents. So far, the only exception is Louise Penny. Out of her seven books, nothing but raves. Not one singleton star. May I mention that she’s Canadian? Her well-deserved rise has been meteoric.
Let’s get to the good stuff. These quotes involve both men and women authors. Don’t expect any names. And I have gone the old Confidential route with XX and altered a few inconsequential words “to protect the innocent.”
“XX might have been kinder if she/he had just murdered Y several books ago rather than to subject them to a slow and painful death.” Now that’s getting personal. An author identifies with a series character. Ever wonder why so many silverback males have nubile young girls falling into bed with them every other chapter?
“The people were flat, the plot tedious, the characters meaningless. “ Don’t hold back. How was the setting? Everything spelled ok?
“The same disappointing drivel.” Short and pithy. At least the author is consistent.
“A conglomeration of events and choices that made no sense.” That diction runs off the tongue, especially the last three spondees.
“How many times have we readers been given this boring pattern: The dead body of a young woman found…and 472 pages later finally we get to know who killed her? Something ideal for insomniacs.” Did the reader expect to know in the beginning who dunnit? And remember, some people choose books according to weight.
“The author rips off every stereotype she can find.” At least the author reads widely. And down deep, isn’t everything a stereotype? There haven’t been more than a dozen plots since the first storyteller sat down with her friends in a cave, making shadow plays and narrating them.
“Numbingly dull backstory, which brackets the one third in the middle where something actually happens.” There’s something nicely symmetrical about this plan.
“I would have given this book great reviews if someone had told me that it was written by an eighth grader.” A very creative comparison.
“Mind-bendingly awful.” Nice rhythm. There’s a certain poetry to a bad review.
“Hideous, boring, and unbelievable.” All that and heaven, too?
“It is all too easy to continue out of loyalty to buy garbage from once-inspired authors.” Hey, at least the writer had the magic once.
Phew. I’m starting to sweat for these authors. But do they read these reviews? Not unless they are masochists. Why would they flagellate themselves because of the ignorant opinions of a few malcontents? The exceptions make the rule.
Maybe e-books will help. The $21 I made this month on Kindle is a new record. I could buy a sack of potatoes and technically claim to be self-supporting…if I lived under a bridge and got my clothes at
. It’s all in the perspective. Value Village
Excerpt from promo book: And on the Surface Die
The sea spread satiny glass across the sheltered bay. Amid lazy undulations, a blue heron rode his kelp-bed carpet and peered for minnows. White meringue clouds watched their reflections, overweighted galleons on a cerulean mirror floating towards the Olympic Mountains of Washington State. Up poked the mustachioed face of an acrobatic seal, which flipped in a lazy pose to warm its belly in the soft September sun. Deep below, a red rock crab found something to its liking. Soft tissue gave way as it inched along propelled by large nippers, using smaller chelipads close to the head to urge meaty delicacies into its eager maw. Then a fickle current swept the meal away, and the hapless crab dropped over a shelf to the deeper sea floor where it was seized by an opportune Dungeness cousin.
Trailing a frothy cloud of bubbles, a snorkeler angled down for a peek at a host of purple sea urchins. Carrying an underwater camera, he feathered his fins through the heavy tendrils of bull kelp, bulbous at one end, fat whips which bobbed on the tides until tossed ashore. The man paused to admire a cluster of whelks and a nervous school of sculpins, then took a few grab shots of a sea cucumber. A forest of leathery brown rockweed, clinging to the slippy basalt with its disc-like holdfasts, drifted into his path, then the dark crimson blades of Turkish towel seaweed. Carefully he pushed it aside, startling a juvenile octopus which had scuttled from a mollusk-mounded crevice. He checked his watch. already. He should be getting back to the car. Monica was meeting him for brunch at Point No Point. With his appetite fueled by the cold water and exertion, he could almost taste their luscious cheese scones.
Then something large glided into his peripheral vision, and he turned, moving his legs to stabilize himself. Whales were seen around the island, but they didn’t usually come so close to shore...unless they were sick or injured. A mane of yellow hair and a chalk-pale face with vacant light-blue eyes searched his like a diffident lover. Hands clutched at him. He coughed out his mouthpiece and surged to the surface with a silent scream, choking as he yanked off his mask and thrashed his fins as if a killer shark rode his tail. As he scrabbled onto the rocky shelf, his prize Canon scraped on the coral, cracking the lens.
At the end of the Mystery We Write blog tour a name will be randomly selected from those who've left comments and will receive a copy of Lou Allin's And on the Surface Die, the first in her Vancouver Island series. Be sure to leave your email address.
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