G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA has been nominated for the International Association of Media & Tie-in Writers “Best Adapted” Novel award. The Scribes Awards are held at San Diego Comic Con.
Barb, Matt and I had a nice turn-out at the Borders in Davenport on Saturday. We’re not really doing a book tour for either ANTIQUES BIZARRE or YOU CAN’T STOP ME because the sequels to both are in process right now, and the time just isn’t there.
In fact, ANTIQUES KNOCK-OFF was completed this weekend. By the time you read this, it will be in the hands of Kensington editor Michaela Hamilton. ANTIQUES BIZARRE in particular and the “Trash ‘n’ Treasures” mystery series in general are doing very well – BIZARRE landed on the Barnes & Noble hardcover mystery bestseller list. And there looks to be a strong possibility a new contract for more Brandy & Mother books is coming…stay tuned….
Meanwhile, YOU CAN’T STOP ME has been on the Kindle bestseller list, sparked by a several-day giveaway but lasting well beyond the freebie stage.
Over the years, David Burke at the Quad City Times has given me lots of coverage. This Sunday he did a very nice write-up about YOU CAN’T STOP ME, ANTIQUES BIZARRE and the collaborative process as it pertains to Barb, Matt and Mickey.
A fun blog from comics writer Valerie D’Orazio called Occasional Superheroine has a list of five female comics characters that deserve revival, and MS. TREE is one of ‘em.
And here’s a blog whose list of the best movies of the past decade includes ROAD TO PERDITION as one of the best five adapted from comics. Cool.
Sean Leary, an excellent writer and all-around talented human, used to be the entertainment writer at the Rock Island Argus and Dispatch. Now he has an entertainment-oriented Quad Cities web site, Get Your Good News. He did individual interviews about the new books and the collaborative process with Matt Clemens, Barb and me. These are good – check ‘em out.
I want to talk briefly about reviews, but I want to talk about a very specific aspect of them. After all, everybody has a right to their opinions. And I strive not to bask in the good reviews because that means I would have to take the bad reviews seriously, too. No, I want to talk about reviews (and this particularly happens on the non-pro reviews at Amazon and other internet sites) that revel in finding mistakes in the text.
A number of Amazon reviewers – not just talking about my stuff, but reviews I encounter all the time when shopping for books – will give a book a low-star rating and a terrible review if that book is (in their view) poorly copy-edited or if it has mistakes that the author or the copy editor should have caught (again, in their view).
A review of YOU CAN’T STOP ME (one of only two less than stellar ones out of a whole flock of positive ones at Amazon) dismisses the book largely because the lead character, J.C. Harrow, is initially described as having brown eyes and later as having blue eyes. The book is over 100,000 words long and I promise you it gets a lot of things right, including the descriptions of its large cast of characters.
Here’s what happened, or anyway how it happened. If you’re at this site, you know that YOU CAN’T STOP ME is a collaboration. My co-author Matt Clemens likes to “cast” a story – he puts actors and sometimes other celebrities in the roles, and even sends me photos of the cast. Which, frankly, I ignore, because I don’t work that way. Matt likes to start with the reality of a real human to describe and an actor’s voice to hear in his brain – it helps him, and it’s not a bad technique. But it’s not mine. As it happens, he “cast” Pierce Brosnan as Harrow. I said I thought Harrow was more like Dennis Farina in CRIME STORY, but only vaguely so – a craggy guy in his forties, not James frickin’ Bond. This started a cheerful disagreement between us, which actually became a running gag. I would say, “It’s possible our lead character is under-characterized, if one of us thinks he’s Pierce Brosnan and the other thinks he’s Dennis Farina.”
We were shocked and distressed when we went over the copy-edited manuscript and discovered that Harrow’s eyes were described as having two colors (we had settled on Farina brown, but the initial Brosnan blue crept in). As it happens, we had a copy editor who had taken a fairly heavy hand to the work – my pet peeve – and I put a lot of it back the way it had been, and in fairness to the production folks at Kensington, they got a fairly messy copy-edited manuscript back. Still, we had caught the blue/brown thing – yet it crept through into the galley proof stage, too. We caught it and corrected it again…
…and yet it still got through wrong. How? Who knows? Mistakes and typos happen, particularly with a book the size of YOU CAN’T STOP ME. With typos, sometimes a new typo happens when a change or correction is made that requires new, last-minute typesetting. It’s easy for tiny screw-ups in a book this size.
At the final read-through stage (like the one Barb and I just did with ANTIQUES KNOCK-OFF), we discover all sorts of stuff – little things like a very minor character’s name shifting, or fairly big things, like plot points that somehow (over the many months of writing) got confused.
A review of one of the ANTIQUES books has an Amazon review that makes a very big deal out of a reference to Aunt Bea from the “Andy Griffin Show.” This ruined the book for the reviewer and earned us a very low star rating. Talk about mysteries – both Barb and I are longtime fans of Andy Griffith. I was a fan of his well before his famous TV show – I remember as a little kid seeing the live TV play of NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS before it went to Broadway! I saw NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS the film in the theater. I bought all of Griffith’s comedy records (“What It Was Was Football”). Barb also is a fan. I can’t believe either of us – and remember, we read the book after we turn it into the publisher in copy-edited form, and then at least once more in galley proof form (usually twice in the latter stage). The only thing we can think of is we spaced out, thinking of SCTV’s parody THE MERV GRIFFITH SHOW, on which Merv Griffin is transformed into Andy Taylor. We are stumped. Did a copy editor or someone in production catch “Griffith” and think it was a goof and change it to “Griffin”? It’s a mystery. Who the hell knows?
I do know it’s unfair to dismiss the rest of the hard work that went into the big writing project that is a novel by seizing upon such occasional goofs, whoever made them.
But I know from long experience, with Nathan Heller, that reviewers and readers love to find historical inaccuracies. Such mistakes would appear to be the prize in the Cracker Jacks for a lot of readers. I can’t tell you how many fan letters I’ve received that tell me how much they love a Heller book or maybe one of the disaster novels, and then without referring to one specific thing that they liked, tell me about the error they spotted. Sometimes these are real errors, and sometimes not (as when someone in Louisiana insisted a road in BLOOD AND THUNDER hadn’t been built yet when I had a vintage research book that said it had).
A very supportive reviewer (whose name I won’t mention) has consistently mentioned a mistake or two found in the Heller and other historical novels despite his very brief per-book review space. This is a reviewer who apparently really loves my work, but rather than comment on the voluminous research I’ve done and the thousands of things I get write (I mean, “right”) in one of the massive Heller novels, insists on grabbing that Cracker Jacks prize and displaying it in public.
Do I sound frustrated? I am. I hate knowing that every copy of YOU CAN’T STOP ME has Harrow with brown eyes and blue eyes. But it can’t be helped. It’s human error. Anyway, Matt and I will reveal in the second Harrow novel that those bastard executives in the first novel had made the TV host wear blue contact lenses on his reality show, CRIME SEEN! He will now have thrown them away….