…. the obscure

Until I started writing I never realised that ‘Dave’ and ‘Jude’ were the same name.  I felt safe in my envelope… I’m worried now.  It had to happen eventually I guess, but so far I have generally been blessed with professional reviewers at least who have been very kind, but would describe Animal Farm as a ‘well-written animal story’.  Okay, there be morons occassionally too, like the twat who said SLOW TRAIN TO ARCTURUS brought nothing new to space opera. The company that hired this brain-dead genius should rather hire Harriet Klausner. She at least usually manages to read the right blurb for the book she ‘reviews’.  (SLOW TRAIN isn’t ‘space opera’ by _any_ definition. The Karres books (by the same authors -for a miricle) are.  The ‘new’ part also kinda made me do fish-imitations. It’s nearly on a par with the critic who said my South African Heroine in PYRAMID SCHEME was too American, and I obviously had never met anyone from South Africa.  Anyway, aside, DRAGON’S RING seemed to fail to get any first rank professional reviews – Locus, PW, Library Journal etc. Seeing as there wasn’t even one and the roll-out DR was what might politely be called a total septic abortion, (I can’t blame my editor, as she bought the sequel, after this, but it’s hard not apportion malice to what might possibly be total incompetance somewhere up the chain, possibly at S&S – who are supposed to do distribution. I look at my bookscan figures and its not hard to work out that ‘distribution’ of them is something that just doesn’t happen in a lot of states in the US. ) Anyway, there have been some good reviews — the Galveston County Daily News – http://galvestondailynews.com/story/146197/  from other tiers of review. On the next tier down there have been a lot of good reviews, well barring one rather dumbass woman who didn’t quite get the simple story, let alone anything else — which I suppose says that, yes, I need to be aware that some of the potential readers are challenged by Janet-and-John, Run-spot-run and want a LOT of spoonfeeding. Well, yeah. But I could dumb down so far that 1) I hate writing it, even if it might get me a ‘literary’ award, (where apply with a trowel or steam shovel your ‘message’, which should simple and currently PC) 2)I lose my existing audience, some of whom appreciate the underlayers.

I like the nuances.  I like characters and situations which are are  ‘grey’ rather than black and white… I like to challenge existing views. I like layers. Dragon’s Ring is a simple adventure story. It’s a coming of age story.  It’s a morality play on values – just what is ‘right’?  Who is ‘good’? It delves into the mythological origins of  the fantasy species (which of course have cultural, historic and mythological referents and implications. Such as the Brisingamen mention – which puts a very different slant on Fionn.) There are layers of puns and in jokes and snide comments… and of course the core theme — Tasmarin is a place — cobbled together from everywhere else, where dragons who were formerly oppressed and used can have a place of their own.  Dragons are powerful and certainly in their own eyes noble and deserving. They are also capable of being anything else, if they wish to.  This place, where the formerly oppressed now rule  was only achieved by co-operation between  species — including some of their erstwhile oppressors.   And now… the once oppressed have become the new oppressors, as well as free from domination. Not pretty, certainly not politically correct (where victims are always nice people, who behave nicely after they are lifted from victimhood, and of whom criticism is intolerable for ever after). I hold it as accurate, however, in disparate examples. Given my background it was specifically written about a socio-political situation I was shall we say coping with.  The place is a cobble of many places, people and cultures.  Perhaps Fionn’s solution is the right one. Perhaps Meb’s is. Perhaps losing one’s beloved is the only way to save it… well. Thoughts. Not prescriptions… Anyway, I finally got an Animal Farm is possibly about communism review – http://shinybookreview.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/dave-freers-dragons-ring-intricate-rousing-action-adventure/. So I’ll have to be more obscure next time ;-/

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “…. the obscure

  1. I saw all that, Dave. I honestly did. But I don’t know a way to convey it without giving the reader nothing to discover. I had hoped that by saying it’s “intricate and rousing action-adventure” that maybe a reader new to your books would give it a chance.

    There definitely are many, many layers to DRAGON’S RING and I tried to say that without giving too much away. Reviewing is a craft I’m still working on — all I can hope for, really, is that someone reads the review and goes to look at the book.

    Sometimes people will disagree with me mightily — I welcome this, as at least my review made ’em think a bit. Sometimes people will agree — that’s fine, too, though in a case like this with DRAGON’S RING if they haven’t read it themselves they’re really missing out.

    As for why the Locus folks nor Publisher’s Weekly nor the other usual suspects reviewed DRAGON’S RING, I cannot speculate, except to say that they have missed out.

    • Yep, I realised you’d grasped that. As far as I can work out, you’re the first reveiwer to do so. It’s not supposed to be in your face, and it supposed to shown rather than told, and it is not supposed to be prescriptive. I’m not upset – I WOULD be if it was (as is so typical of much ‘fiction’ these days) if ‘message’ was so central that story was trivial and that it was as obvious as it usually is. I and I think many readers read for entertainment. Semons I go to church for – and even those are more effective if they’re entertaining. I do however have the vague delusion that a reader who sets themselves up as a reveiwer should have the capacity (and perhaps the literary background?) to pick up the more subtle. I like to make people think, to question deep held preconceptions without raising every defensive barrier (because I do not set out to assualt them, just make you think about them) and oddly I believe I do this.
      It’s rather nice to have a reveiwer pick up on it, but if the establishment realises I am poking holes in their dogma they will become defensive.

      • In this case, my thoughts regarding the “Establishment” probably go somewhere along the lines of “Mad Mike” Williamson’s, so I’m not sure they’re printable at a family blog site. 😉

        Otherwise, many writers can learn a great deal about how you set up DRAGON’S RING. How you showed event rather than told them — using very few asides, and those few for effect or punctuation rather than set-up — is something every writer needs to see. Genre fiction often gets a bad rap in this regard because of a few very well-known writers in the field (who I don’t need to point out; you know them as well as I do) who have gone overboard in their use of set-up or in some cases way, way overboard in the technological sub-strata of how starships work (or in the case of the late Robert Jordan, getting a bit too caught up in the descriptive element of all these strange societies he postulated on this one world in his WoT epic). (Oops; couldn’t help but name one, though at least with Jordan his description usually added rather than distracted.)

        I’m glad there’s a sequel to DRAGON’S RING because I can’t wait to see what Fionn/Finn and Meb do next. And I do hope that one of the big-name reviewers will pay attention this time.

  2. Oops, that should’ve been _events_. (I’ve been up a while.) Shown _events_, plural.

    But I still think many writers could learn a lot by studying DRAGON’S RING. I know _I_ learned a lot, though whether I can put it into practice is a whole ‘nother story entirely . . . . 😉

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