Liver pecking aka reviews
I love Greek mythology. Have so since I was a kid. There was something so, well, epic and yet so very human about the Olympus clan with their petty jealousies and family feuds. I think reading the myths was probably what made me want to be a storyteller. So indulge me and let me tell you about one of my favorite guys, Prometheus.
What a poor slob. To make things brief, he pissed Zeus off really bad. So Zeus had Prometheus shackled to the side of a mountain, and every day, Zeus sent his eagle down to rip at Prometheus's flesh. The bird also tried to eat his liver, although mythology doesn't not record whether this was with fava beans and nice Chianti. Then, the bird left and the flesh healed up -- until the eagle came back and tore it up again.
What the hell does this have to do with reviews? If you have to ask, then you clearly have never had your liver eaten. I have. Kirkus ate my liver in 2000 right after the publication of our first book, Dark of the Moon. No, "ate" is not right. Kirkus ripped open my gut, jerked out my liver, stomped on it with nail boots, flung it against the wall, ground it up in a Cuisinart, served it on Carr's crackers and savored each morsel.
Here, in part, was the very first review I ever got:
"An overwrought debut thriller...Clumsy prose, stereotyped people and a first novelist who has to learn that in plotting the twist is better than the wrench."
It didn't matter that Publisher's Weekly called us "promising" and Library Journal loved the book. It didn't matter that our first book had many of the usual freshman mistakes. All I could feel was my bleeding liver. I called our agent, aka She Who Knows All, and she said, "Oh, don't worry. Kirkus hates everything. And no one reads them anyway."
That didn't lessen the pain. And the damn Kirkus review is still there on Amazon for all to read, like a wart you can never get rid of.
God, it is so sad how much a review can affect an author's self esteem. We might say we don't care. Some of us say we don't even read them. (Yeah, right...) But we don't ignore them. We can't, because our publishers don't.
Which is not to say that all reviews are created equal. Like the rest of our biz, there is a food chain. At the top, are the professional reviewers who have earned their stripes through years of hard work, reviewers who value their credibility so much they won't even let you buy them a drink at Bouchercon. There are some excellent internet reviewers and others who work for love or slave wages in magazines. Then there are those cowards who won't sign their names, and the vast mass of readers who post on internet sites.
Now don't get me wrong. Readers have a right to post on Amazon, and their insights can be useful. What bugs me that anyone can post anonymously, and Amazon does nothing to police the posts. So if an author wants to boost his own star rating, he can enlist all his friends. Hey, it goes on all the time, folks. Or if someone has a burr up their ass about you, or your ex is pissed, they can flame your book in public. Until Amazon cleans this up, its reviews have zero credibility.
But back to the point.
We got our first review for the upcoming book, An Unquiet Grave. I get Publisher's Weekly in the mail, and I have been haunting the mailbox waiting for the review. Now I know PW only has a certain limited audience -- trade folks, librarians and such. But it's still an early barometer.
PW gave Grave a starred review. Again, you have to indulge me because this stuff doesn't happen every day and when you get a gift, you savor it. Even if just for a moment. Because your liver never ever truly heals and the little peckers could be back tomorrow.
The review says in part: "Parrish's gripping and atmospheric new novel is a quality read that will remind many of Dennis Lehane....the author's ability to raise goosebumps puts her in the front rank of thriller writers."
And that is the end of my blatant self-promotion. Happy holidays, folks. May you get everything you wish for. We already got our nice present. I think I will go celebrate with a nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc. It's good for the liver.