Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Envy in Writing

Our guest today, writer Leesa Freeman lives in Connecticut with her husband and two daughters. A native Texan, Leesa escapes the chill of New England by setting her stories in the places she loved growing up. Some of her favorite moments are the ones where it’s just her, her Mac, and the people who live inside her head whose lives she shares with those who take the time to read her stories. Leesa is also an artist, avid baker, a self-proclaimed music snob, and, in her own words, a recovering Dr. Pepper addict.  Her debut novel, The Wisdom to Know the Difference, can be found at www.amazon.com or www.barnesandnoble.com . To find out more about Leesa, visit her blog at www.leesafreeman.com. Welcome to Book Blather, Leesa.

 Not too long ago I drove to the airport in the middle of the night to pick up a friend. It was about eleven o’clock, and I still had a couple of hours of driving ahead of me, and while I desperately wanted coffee, I’ve given up caffeine and decaf just doesn’t do it. Instead, I turned on NPR and they were talking about jealousy and envy.
 The distinction being that jealousy is rather benign, personally insidious maybe, because it’s ultimately a fear of losing something or someone, but it’s envy that is truly painful. Envy is coveting what someone else has. It’s bitterness for their good fortune and not just wishing you had what they have, but almost wishing them ill for getting what you want.

What stuck with me, though, was there is an underlying belief that there isn’t enough of something for them and you to get what ever it is you want. If I’m envious of someone else’s success, then that means I don’t believe there is enough success in the world to go around. 

As a writer, I struggle with this occasionally. Even as I congratulate a fellow writer for getting a short story published, a small, mean part of me sometimes asks how come they get that honor when I don’t? It’s childish, I know, but also a very human emotion. One that I’m sure most writers can relate to. Perhaps we need to heed the words of Buddha: "Do not overrate what you have received, nor envy others. He who envies others does not obtain peace of mind."

We’re told the publishing world is shrinking. We’re told only the best of the best can get anything published, and even then it’s a one in a thousand shot. We’re told we must be perfect, and then turn around and read some of the drivel out there, certain the whole system is broken.

Well, maybe it is and maybe it’s not, but what I’ve also heard is in many cases it’s the best writers who submit the least, while the mediocre ones are often tenacious, sending out hundreds of submissions. If this comes down to a numbers game, then statistics will tell you it’s tenacity that gets the publishing contract.

My point is this: rather than allowing that envy to hold us back as writers, rather than letting it be a detriment, allow it to be a fuel to push you forward. Let it be a challenge to you to find your own success, because there is plenty to go around. Humans are a story-telling species. We need fascinating, delicious, imaginative stories to disappear inside, and that’s not going away. Ever. No matter what happens in the publishing world.

Success is out there and available for anyone willing to work for it, seize it, and claim it as their own, but not if they allow a sense of resentment to freeze them in their tracks.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Ricardo Bare

It is my pleasure to introduce brand new author, Ricardo Bare. Ricardo is an award-winning video game designer who has worked on such games as Deus Ex and Dishonored, both of which received BAFTA awards (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) for Best Game. His short fiction has appeared in publications such as Shock Totem. Jack of Hearts is his debut novel. He lives with his family near Austin, Texas. Welcome to Book Blather, Ricardo.

You’ve obviously been successful as a video game designer. What prompted you to write a book? Or, did the desire to write come first?

I couldn’t say if one came before the other. Fiction and gaming have always been closely related for me. As far back as I can remember I spent a lot of time inventing stories, drawing maps, and sketching monsters. When I was a kid, my dad brought home a Commodore 64 and the first game I played on it was the Bard’s Tale, a type of computer role-playing game. If you’re not a gamer, an RPG is the kind of game which combines game rules, character development, and storytelling. Also, reading was a big part of my family growing up. One of the first books I ever read was John Carter of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, which I found in my grandfather’s attic (probably because there was no room for it on the already stuffed bookshelves).

High-school is where I seriously started trying to write in a structured way (e.g. here is a story with a beginning middle and end) and that was when some wonderful teachers encouraged me to sign up for creative writing classes.

There were long stretches where I wrote very little, or the writing I did was mostly related to the games I was working on. But I would always come back to writing fiction in my spare time eventually, either late at night, or on the weekends. Jack of Hearts wasn’t the first book I wrote, but it’s the first one that can be shown in public.

Your young adult novel, Jack of Hearts, features a protagonist who surrenders his heart to a witch. Are more books planned in the series?

That’s right, Jack gives his heart to a witch to avoid dealing with something painful in his past, which I think is something most of us can relate to. Many of us have things we wish had simply never happened. And even if we can’t erase the memory, we often want to numb the pain. The problem of course, is that trying to bury painful things, or forget about them never works. It stays with you, and resurfaces when you least expect it.  

That’s Jack’s situation. He begged and begged for something to take away his agony. One evening a creature in the twilight heard his cries.

And yes! There are more books planned in the series. Jack's adventures do not stop with Jack of Hearts. I'm working hard on the second book now.

Was there anything (music/books/etc.) that you found to be an inspiration for Jack of Hearts? Or, was it just something that popped into your mind and demanded to be written?

I’ve always loved The Lady of Shalott, which is a very tragic and lovely poem I think. The mysterious curse on the lady and its consequences have always intrigued me. Also, Ursula K. Leguinn’s story The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas affected me deeply. It concerns a city whose citizens experience utopian bliss, except it requires that one child be kept in shadow and misery. I was definitely inspired by these ideas for certain themes in Jack of Hearts.

Also, off and on I game with a group my developer teammates, all really talented and inspiring guys. The genesis of several characters and concepts in the book sprang from those interactions.

All of those influences banged around in my brain for a while. And then one day I could see Jack racing across a burning desert, chasing after that dissembler of a wizard, Moribrand, and his giant slave, Minnow.

Oh yeah… and the game development company I worked for went bankrupt and laid everyone off. Which meant suddenly I had lots of time on my hands.

Do you have a favorite author/book? What are you reading right now?
Picking just one favorite book or author would be difficult for me, so I'll give you three! First would be C.S. Lewis. And I bet you think I'm going to say Narnia, but I actually wasn’t enchanted by Narnia. There's some cool stuff in the series to be sure, but I came upon it as an adult after I'd read his other works and found it a little watery for my taste by then. If you want C.S. Lewis's best fiction, read Till We Have Faces which is a marvelous retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche.

Roger Zelazny is also in my top three. He's easy to read and his stories are some of the most imaginative blends of myth and reality. The Chronicles of Amber is probably his most famous work, of course, but For A Breath I Tarry is one of the best short stories I've ever read. If it’s not obvious, I really like stuff that’s mythic.

Last, I'd mention Gene Wolfe. This man is a genius. His writing is sneaky and dense. As in, center of a black hole dense. His Urth of the New Sun series is a master work of American literature.

As for what I'm reading, I have the honor of working with several teammates who also happen to be published novelists, which I think is a pretty rare scenario. Right now I'm finishing up Black Bottle by Anthony Huso, which is an adroit blend of technology and magic set in a very grim world. If you like stuff by China Mieville, you'd probably like Huso's stuff. Then there's Harvey Smith's Big Jack is Dead which is an incredibly moving piece of Southern Gothic fiction. Finally, I just finished Austin Grossman's YOU, which chronicles the nerdy lives of professional game developers. It’s a blast.  

There you go, three of my favorite authors and three wildly different recommendations for what I've been reading recently.

Where can readers go to learn more about you and your book?
Please follow me on Twitter @RicardoBare or check out my website www.ricardobare.com.  And a big thank you to Marilee for hosting me on her website!

What’s next for you?
I'm slowly pecking away at the next book for Jack of Hearts. Figuring out which ideas stay and which ones go is always simultaneously exciting and difficult. Doing a second book in a series feels much different. Now there are constraints and canon established by the first book—which is great, but it’s a different problem space (one which I’m familiar with from game development).

In the background, I'm also hoping to release a series of short stories eventually, themed around a creepy supernatural neighborhood—a sort of cosmic drain hole where all the weird-shaped bits get stuck on the grating on their way out.

Can you share a little of your work with us?

I would love to. Here’s the first chapter from Jack of Hearts!

THERE WAS something wrong with Jack.
He should be dead. Any other fifteen-year-old boy would be. Dead as the dunes he marched across. Dead as the bleach-white splinters of glass that cracked under his boots in the sand.
But not Jack.
Jack was only dead on the inside, a thought that made him take a deep breath to see if it was still true, expanding the hollow in his chest as far as he could and holding it. He listened...
Only his thought, echoing: dead, dead, dead.
He exhaled and squinted at the horizon, tugging the hood of his cloak to shade his eyes from the baleful sun. Nothing showed yet in the distant blur except the rumor of foothills, so he slid down the face of the dune that had been his perch and trudged on.
A sudden hot wind screamed across the wasteland and heaved against him. It grabbed his cloak and shook it out like a war banner. He threw his arm up in front of his eyes until the gust expired, then broke into a steady run.
He ran alongside a road made of flashing glass and quartz that had been etched into existence long ago by a firestorm that crossed the entire desert in one day, dividing it in two, east from west. He was careful to avoid stepping on it, hopping over any stray chunks larger than his fist. Heat shimmered above the road, ghosting into the air. During the day, the surface could melt a horse’s hooves into glue, but at night it snaked across the desert, glittering white in the moonlight, guiding travelers who had the courage to cross the waste.
He ran until nightfall. The sun sagged beneath the world, slung itself around, and lurched into the air again. Still, he never stopped to eat or drink, or to answer the needs of a normal boy’s body.
At dusk the next day he spotted a man and a woman arguing beside the road. They paced, dark shapes against a livid sky. The woman made sharp chopping gestures with her hand, and Jack could tell by her shaking voice that she was weeping. He slowed so as not to frighten them.
When the woman saw him, she drew a veil over her mouth and nose and grasped the reins of her donkey tighter. The man stared. Two sacks the size of wine bottles hung from his fists. As Jack drew closer he could see the man’s body tense, read the questions forming in his wind-scarred face.
"I thought you were a sandwight,” the man said.
Jack didn’t respond. It was the same wherever he went. It wasn’t just that he walked through the desert, alone. It was the way he looked, especially in the vague dimness of twilight. How is that boy’s skin so pale? What’s wrong with his eyes? He had heard all of these things before, and even if they didn’t speak the words, he knew they were thinking them.
"Accursed,” someone whispered. A boy frowned at him from the donkey, a protective arm around his younger sister. Their mother shushed them.
Jack let his eyes linger on the siblings. The way the brother glared, ready to defend his sister despite the fear on his face, brought to mind the way Jack had tried to protect his own sister. For a moment, he could almost see her face, her smile—but he smashed down the thought, tearing his gaze away.
He had to stay focused. Stay focused and keep moving, or the Lady would punish him.
Around the family, boxes and saddlebags littered the sand as if they’d been dumped off in a hurry. An incense pole was spiked into the ground, issuing a pungent stench meant to keep sandwights away.
"How is it you wander the open desert in the day?” the man asked, licking his cracked lips. "You have no incense.”
"A man came this way,” Jack said. "His name is Moribrand.” He said it with little inflection. His words flowed out evenly, not too fast, not too slow.
Recognition flickered across the man’s pinched features, then anger. "Yes. I met him. The pig-faced piece of dung robbed me.”
"Swindled,” the wife said under her breath.
The husband flinched. "Quiet, woman!” She turned away to stifle a sob, and he glared at her until she hushed, and then said to Jack, "What do you want with him? He claimed he was a wizard.” The husband grew braver in his anger. He took a step closer, jaw clenched, head thrust forward. "Is he a friend of yours?”
"I’m going to kill him,” Jack said, and he shifted his cloak, revealing the grip of a sword that hung from his back.
"Kill him?” The man halted. He eyed the sword, a wary frown dragging his face down. "Kill a wizard? But...”
The children were whispering to each other, but Jack could hear them.
"He’s only a boy,” the girl said.
"No he’s not,” her brother said. "Now be quiet for once.”
Their mother shushed them again, her breath hissing.
Their father eased back and nodded. "He wanted to buy my pack horse. I refused, of course. I’m a trader. I need the horse to carry my goods. But he offered two sacks full of gold.” He shook the two bags he held. "He showed me the gold. It was real!” He glared at his wife, daring her to contradict him. "But now it’s turned to dust with the setting sun. Dust!”
The man upended one bag, and a column of sand poured out. "What will I do now? I dumped everything I own into the desert and gave him my horse. What will I do now, with only a donkey to carry my children, and a pile of dirt, tell me that, eh?”
Jack stared down the length of the glass road, now a deep purple in the fading light, and pictured Moribrand riding for his life, reins lashing from side to side. The wizard would widen the gap between them significantly, at least until he killed the animal. He might even make it out of the desert before Jack could catch up.
He let his gaze return to the children and tried to think what might happen to them. Without his goods, their father would arrive at the city of Spiral as a beggar instead of a merchant.
Jack had never been to Spiral, but if it was anything like he’d heard, they were doomed. It wouldn’t be long before a slaver clamped chains around their necks.
Not that it mattered to Jack. They were just strangers passing on the road, weren’t they? At least, that’s what his mistress, the Lady of Twilight, would say. She would mock him for even considering their situation for more than a heartbeat. If they were in trouble, it was their own fault for trusting a man like Moribrand. A wizard. So let them perish. Even now, seeing the fear on their faces, imagining them in shackles or dead in the sand, he couldn’t feel the slightest twinge of sympathy.
Except, he had made a rule hadn’t he? Rule number one was Obey the Lady. That was her rule. It was the only rule she had, but Jack had made his own secret addition. Obey the Lady, but Don’t think like the Lady was rule number two. He had to. Otherwise, it was too easy to be cruel.
Jack opened a satchel at his side and plucked out a rough gemstone. "Take this to the market in Spiral. I think it might be worth more than the horse you lost.”
The man’s eyes widened at the uncut opal, a slice of tangerine against white palm, but he refused to touch Jack’s hand. After a moment, Jack flipped his hand over, letting the stone fall into the dirt, and walked away, following the tracks of Moribrand’s new horse.
THE SUN burned in the sky.
This day marked the four hundred and fifty-second day of Jack’s hunt for the wizard Moribrand. He had chased him beneath the Mountains of Black Glass all the way through to the Fire Stairs, and before that he’d found him dreaming up schemes like a rat in the City of the Sword Worshipers. Moribrand always managed to slip away. But each time, Jack came closer to catching him. At every turn, he forced the wizard to alter his plans, pack up, and flee for his life.
Now Jack stalked him in the Desert of Night Walking, where traders said the sun melted a person’s will long before he died of thirst. If he survived the heat, a wandering sandwight was sure to scour the flesh from a traveler’s bones and snatch his soul. Even if he carried incense to ward off the sandwights, he had to avoid the firestorms that screamed through the desert during the day and boiled the sand into glass. Warnings Jack mostly ignored.
He found a brown heap on the side of the road the next morning. Vultures squabbled for position around the carcass, their shadows long and wild in the light of the dawning sun. He scattered the carrion birds with his passing and spared the dead beast a glance. Moribrand’s horse, run to death. Its flanks were caked with dried sweat and blood, lacerated with a crisscross of whip wounds.
It seemed like an age since he had dreamed boyish dreams of fast horses. He would have wept for the creature back then.
Not long after passing the dead horse, he wondered if the waste would finish his work for him. There were signs—bladders squeezed dry of every drop of water, spare clothing tossed aside, and discarded books Jack couldn’t read—all forming a trail of debris leading to his quarry.
A clutch of rocks punched up from the sand near the road. In the shade, he found the ashes of a fire the wizard had made by burning a set of robes. The blackened pile still issued wisps of smoke, which meant Moribrand couldn’t be far now. A tangle of scorched bones that probably belonged to a lizard sat next to the fire. On the flattest part of the rock face a vulgar image had been scrawled with chalk. It depicted a cloaked boy, abused and come to a cruel end. Jack imagined the wizard, sweating and wild eyed, scratching out a last insult against him.
He squatted and plucked the remaining nub of chalk between his thumb and forefinger. He might have laughed at the wizard’s futile gesture, but the humor withered before it could reach him. Besides, it might be a spell of some kind.
Jack flicked the chalk away and rejoined the glass road. Where it met the horizon, mountains bulged into view, edges blurred by the heat. Dunes and sandy plains gave way to foothills. Shabby low bushes clung to life in the shade of stones, rooted in deep cracks. He saw a wild hare. The creature stood to pound a warning into the hard-packed ground with its long foot and then bolted away.
The tracks of other travelers multiplied alongside the road, so Jack figured he was nearing a settlement or an oasis. Cresting the next rise, he spotted a compound hunkered around the intersection of the glass road and a dirt road that coursed west along the edge of the foothills. A salmon-colored wall of rammed earth encircled the compound. Inside, clusters of large canvas tents billowed, reinforced with tall central poles. He thought it might be a mining camp of some sort.
He’d heard how powerful Barons were willing to risk everything for the valuable resources they could plunder from the fringes of the desert, despite the dangers. In all likelihood, slaves toiled inside the walls, dredging up gems, bones, or salt from furnace-hot excavations.
At the gates, soldiers with glinting helmets and spears, their faces half-veiled, watched the crossroads with suspicious eyes. More patrolled the walls. Incense poles spiked around the perimeter released black greasy smoke into the sweltering air.
He was sure Moribrand was inside. After slogging for days on end through the desert, half-starved, the wizard would be unable to resist whatever comforts this settlement offered.
Jack looked up. It was nearly midday, which meant he would soon be at his weakest. Already, he could feel his strength diminishing, pulling away from him like a slow tide. His senses would be their dullest, his limbs more leaden. Almost like a normal boy. Almost.
It was also when his mind was most prone to wandering, which was the best reason he had for finding somewhere to hide until nightfall. Besides, no one walked the desert in the day, not without incense. The guards would spear him before he came within ten paces of the gate.
Turning back, he abandoned the road and scrabbled over the rough boulders that littered the hills, searching for a niche to hide in. He found a narrow cleft in the ground with just enough space for his body and squeezed into the cool darkness.
Jack remained dead still, watching the shadows creep across the ground, unconcerned with the scorpions and lizards that scratched over his skin in search of prey. Nor did he flinch at the rasping moan of a sandwight that swept past.
Before long, it happened, as it usually did when he could do nothing but wait, when the influence of twilight was furthest from him. It was his encounter with the trader’s children that had started it this time. He noticed his hands shaking, then sweating. His breath quickened.
Jack couldn’t stop his mind from drifting back to a time when he was another boy, when he played on emerald grass under the shade of a giant oak. The memories lurked, crouching within him until he became still, then crept out like priests in a boneyard, beckoning with gaunt hands and counterfeit smiles, onward, deeper, so they could crush him with an unbearable grief.
An age ago, Jack would have cried out in despair, but instead he watched the memories as if they belonged to a stranger. Inside, he was numb. Inside, there was no reason for him to cry out, because the grief could not touch him. Because Jack had no heart.

Friday, May 3, 2013

It is my pleasure to introduce Vicki Hinze, the award-winning, bestselling author of 30 novels, 4 nonfiction books and hundreds of articles.  She’s a columnist on the Social In network,  sponsors The Book Club Network, and Christians Read.  Her latest inspirational release is Torn Loyalties, the third book in her Love Inspired Suspense, Lost, Inc. series, and general audience release is Maybe This Time, a paranormal romantic thriller.  Visit her on FB, Twitter, Pinterest or at www.vickihinze.com.

Most writers write because they have something to say they want others to hear.  Something that the writer deems significant enough to sacrifice time doing other things—children and family and hobbies—to say.  Writing requires sacrifice.  That’s pretty common knowledge among writers, but I’m not sure if readers are aware of it.   More importantly, and this is the focus of what I want to share here, is that readers touch writers and impact them in ways readers probably aren’t aware.  Touched, these writers take the insights and wisdom shared with them by readers and incorporate that wisdom and insight into future stories the authors write—and the circle of interaction between readers and authors continues, and the reader’s ripple of influence broadens.

Many readers never realize that they’re a significant part of the process, but they are.  An extremely significant part of the process.  Let’s look at how.

1.  Publishers buy books readers want to read.  If reader reaction to a book is good, then publishers want more books of that type.  If reader reaction isn’t good, then no matter how much a publisher loves a book, the editor won’t buy it because the editor has to buy books s/he loves and s/he can sell.  That’s essential to the health of the publisher.  So readers define the types of books made available to them by their reactions to the books they read and support.

2.  Booksellers stock the books their customers want to buy.  It’s simple supply and demand.  If a bookseller doesn’t have the books readers want, then that bookseller won’t sell books, which it must do to stay in business.  So readers tell the bookseller what they want, and the bookseller seeks out those books and makes sure they’re available in his/her store.  Readers influence what books are in their bookstores and available to the readers.

3.  Readers through word-of-mouth influence other readers.  When a reader loves a book and speaks well of it to other readers, then other readers are more likely to develop interest in a book—whether or not the other readers are familiar with the author.  There is nothing better for a book than a strong “buzz” among readers.  “Buzz” is word-of-mouth, a personal recommendation, and a reader’s personal recommendation is the strongest recommendation.  It’s personal, trusted, seated in the personal relationship between readers.  So readers lift or lower a book with other readers, and introduce authors new to other readers, through their word of mouth.

4.  Readers have amazing influence over writers.  This is largely under-reported and under-realized, but readers’ responses and reactions directly to authors are probably the most influential factor in impacting what authors write and why they write what they write.

As stated earlier, writers write because they have something to say they want others to hear.  The vehicle for saying what they want to say is the story.  So when a reader reacts to that story, the author’s desire is fulfilled and validated—provided the reader reacts in the way the author hoped.  That’s a blessing to the author, who spends much time alone creating and hoping that exactly this will happen.   Let me share a personal example.

When my dad died, my mom went into shock.  She couldn’t stay alone and so came to live with my family.  I focused on helping her cope, helping my three children cope with the loss of their grandfather and its impact on their grandmother.  I really didn’t have the luxury of time to mourn.  I wrote a book about this.  The book was delayed in being made available to readers—for six years. 

That was a long delay I really didn’t understand at the time.  Maybe it wasn’t meant to be shared?  Maybe it had served its purpose in helping me get through grief?  But it did sell and then publishing was delayed two years, making the total six years between writing and publication.  Shortly after it was published, the reason for the delays became clear. 

I received a note from a reader asking me to call her, and I did.  I had no idea what to expect—but I couldn’t have imagined what she said.

The reader told me a story of death and loss in her own family and her utter desolation.  She felt hopeless and despairing and couldn’t see a way forward; she too wanted to die.  But when in a store with her young daughter, her daughter grabbed my book off the shelf and said, “Mom, you need to read this.”  When asked why, the girl told her, “It will help you.”
And so the mom bought the book and then read it.

She wanted me to know that, grieving and mourning and lost, she read the book and found encouragement and hope and that it helped her see that a way to live beyond grief existed.  The characters found it and she could, too.  She wanted to say thank you—and to let me know that the book had made a difference in her life.  Now she could see her way to keep living.

As you can imagine, I was in tears.  At the affirmation and confirmation the reader had gifted me with as an author, but also in sheer gratitude that this woman who was hopeless had found hope.  The dark tunnel of grief had lost its death grip on her!

It was in this reader’s feedback that I found my mission to write books with constructive solutions to difficult challenges many of us face.  This reader profoundly influenced me and my work.  She gave me insight to my personal purpose.  She touched my life and all of my future works.  She will continue to influence me forever.

My story isn’t unique.  I spoke with Robin Lee Hatcher about this, which led to an interesting exchange that might surprise readers.  Robin said, “It is so easy for a writer to get discouraged. We spend a great deal of time alone with our own thoughts and imaginations. A dangerous place. And the present turmoil in the publishing industry can make this discouragement even worse. But then a reader reaches out and tells you something like this message that I received this summer:

‘I am an avid reader and have been for many years, but I've never contacted an author before. But, I wanted to share how the book  Beyond the Shadows  changed my life ... When I read your book in May, I did so with sobs. I didn't quite realize why I could identify with the main character, her husband being an alcoholic, mine just angry. I felt hopeless and for the first time could relate to someone, even if it was just a fictional book ...  [description of a troubled marriage and the reconciliation and healing that has followed] ...  Throughout this process many people have asked me what made me seek change,  and I say, God sent me a little fictional book that desperately made me want to get beyond the shadows of the emotional pain. So, I want to say how grateful I am. I'll always remember your book and the pain I felt when reading it, but now it's only a Remembrance. God has provided a miracle for us.’”

I listened with a knot in my throat.  And Robin went on to add, “An email like this provides me with enormous encouragement. It reminds me that I am doing what God called me to do, and that I must look beyond the discouragement and persevere. I never know how God will use the words I write. My job is to be obedient. The end results are up to Him.”

Now not all reader feedback is positive or constructive.  Some readers don’t like a book and feel compelled to say so.  There’s no surprise in that; if we all liked the same type of book, we’d collectively need fewer books and fewer authors.  But that doesn’t mean that the reader’s negative feedback is without value.  Often readers see an author veering off-track, so to speak, and let him/her know.  This can be a welcome wakeup call to the author.  Readers help authors stay on track.

Of course there is also feedback that isn’t constructive.  But that is easy to spot and given the weight it is worth.  It’s amazingly easy to discern constructive versus destructive feedback, and most authors don’t judge.  They differentiate between constructive and destructive feedback.  In all feedback, they seek the good.  Rarely have I encountered an author who neglects the gems of wisdom and insight in constructive negative feedback.

My point is that readers touch lives.  They touch authors, influence them, and their feedback is cherished.  Let me share a bit of a discussion had with my fellow Christians Read author, Kathi Macias.  (I feel a special affinity with Kathi since we both have written books warning about human-trafficking and its dangers.) When asked, Kathi recalled a specific reader and a specific event: 

“I will never forget this one. I was sitting at a book-signing when a young man (about 17) came up to me and said, “Mrs. Macias, I just wanted to come here and tell you that I read all four books in your Extreme Devotion series, and they made me want to lead a noble life.” It really doesn’t get any better than that, does it?”

A noble life, I thought.  Constructive.  Solutions.  Elevating and entertaining.  Encouraging.  Inspiring.  No, it really doesn’t get any better than that.  And it would be utterly impossible not to expect that this reader encounter wouldn’t influence future Kathi Macias’ works.

Readers are a treasured, significant part of the entire process.  From preferences on what they want to read to supporting and purchasing the books they prefer, from sharing their opinions through word-of-mouth and in their feedback to authors on what they’ve read, readers influence . . . because readers touch lives.v