Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Back on the Review Rollercoaster

Sandra Parshall

Everyone who leaves a comment today will be entered in a drawing for an ARC of Under the Dog Star.

Now begins the review roller coaster. The giddiness that comes with a glowing review, the despair that follows even the slightest criticism of my newborn literary baby.

Under the Dog Star won’t be published until September, the only version available now is the uncorrected proof (ARC, or advance reader copy), and it doesn’t even have a final cover yet (although a rough mockup that has since been discarded is popping up everywhere). But the first review has appeared. Of course I’m obsessing about it. It’s on an internet review site called, not in one of the powerful industry magazines (Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal, Kirkus), but it’s all I have at the moment, so I’m obsessing about it.

Not that it’s negative. Although the reviewer takes a slightly jokey tone in spots, it’s a favorable review without a single outright nasty comment. Some samples:

“The author manages rather deftly to address some basic ideological issues in her narrative... the conflict between the rule of law represented by our deputy sheriff and the mob rule of a renegade posse is vividly presented.”

“The... storytelling technique is similarly solid, particularly the author’s attention to detail in presenting dialogue.”

“Rachel is portrayed as a person of pluck, stubbornness, and passionate dedication to her cause.”

“Fans of murder mysteries will get their fill of mayhem and local color and characters in this well-written tale.”

So what bothers me? The reviewer doesn’t think Tom Bridger, the deputy sheriff who is co-protagonist with Rachel Goddard, is charismatic. Tom, the reviewer notes, lacks the “charming insouciance of Peter Falk in Columbo or the dry humor of Jerry Orbach in Law and Order.”


I love Tom. Rachel loves Tom. I think Tom is strong, honest, courageous. He has no patience with idiots and heartless bastards. He’s a tough cop in a place where just about everybody owns a gun and resents law enforcement. Hit him and he’ll hit you back, with interest. He has been known to land a hard kick to the ribs of a drug dealer, and in Under the Dog Star he uses a particularly painful method of getting vital information from a bad guy. But he absolutely does have a sense of humor and a soft side. He loves and protects Rachel, his little nephew Simon, and Billy Bob, the old bulldog he inherited from his father. In this book, though, he’s dealing with some of the worst scum he’s ever encountered, so the lighthearted moments don’t come often. Does he really have to be insouciant like Columbo or a wisecracking cynic like Orbach’s L&O character Lenny?

Okay, this should be enough to make you understand what I go through – what most writers go through – when reading reviews. Forget all the good stuff, all the praise. What I always home in on, and remember forever, are the negatives, however small they might be.

I wasn’t expecting the first review so early. I thought I'd at least have a final cover before the reviews started. But now I’m over that initial hurdle and braced for more. 

Bring ’em on. 

I’m ready. 

I hope. 

Leave a comment to enter the drawing for an ARC of Under the Dog Star. Make sure I can reach you by e-mail if you win -- either include your e-mail address in your comment or send it separately to I ask only this of the winners: If you like it, please tell a lot of people, but if you don't like it, please tell no one.


Allene said...

Love this post, Sandra. I think you brought to light what every author must suffer. Good Luck with 'Under The Dog Star'. I'm sure it's a winner (I've read your work].

Jerry House said...

From an author's viewpoint, reviews fall into two catagories: Thoughtful-and-insightful or s/he-didn't-even-bother-to-read-it-before-her/his-deadline. That said, I hope UNDER THE DOG STAR gets a plethora of the former -- it certainly sounds fantastic!

E. B. Davis said...

How did the reviewer get a copy of the ARC, Sandra? Did your publisher send it out? (Guess this is one blind spot for a writer whose books have yet to be published.) If so, then more reviews will come. I think only a consensus of reviewers opinions should be taken seriously. One person's opinion, can't be. If everyone perceives Tom to be less than you want him to be, then you know what you have to do in the next book.

I'm looking forward to reading this next book to continue the series. My impression of Tom from previous books is not the same as the reviewer's. So, now you have one contradicting opinion.

Joni said...

I'm new to the blog and just getting back to writing after a long break. From my chair.... it almost sounds like the reviewer didn't connect with Tom. I figure I don't like everyone I encounter, so this is a perfectly normal and acceptable reaction. The next reviewer could love Tom!

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

What is this guy thinking? Peter Falk or Jerry Ohrbach as the protagonist's boyfriend???Puh-leeze!

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Dru said...

Great post and I wonder if the reviewer's Tom is the Tom I like.

I never judge a book on one person's review and since I've read all your books, I'm looking forward to reading it.

Don't enter me in the contest.

Nancy Adams said...

Sandy, I love the cartoon. (But the very neat office doesn't reflect the writers I know, especially me.)

I've read all the Rachel Goddard books and look forward to UNDER THE DOG STAR. I think Tom's a great guy. (Uh, maybe this is some kind of male/female disconnect? I'm assuming the reviewer is male because, like Elizabeth, I can't imagine any woman would want Peter Falk as a boyfriend.)

Love Tom's nephew and Billy Bob, too. (Great name for the dog.)

Keep 'em coming! I hope to read more adventures of Tom and Rachel for a long time.

Nancy A.

Sandra Parshall said...

Liz -- LOL! No, I can't see Rachel with Columbo or Lenny.

The review was very favorable. That's why I included the link -- if it had been unfavorable, I wouldn't have told anyone about it! I mentioned that one little comment because it's a perfect example of the kind of detail in an otherwise favorable review that a writer will latch onto and obsess about. We can't help it, really. Our characters are our creations and they are dear to is. I know that lots of women readers think Tom is just fine the way he is. :-)

Dru, I hope you enjoy the ARC I gave you at Malice. It was great to see you!

Sandra Parshall said...

E.B., I don't know whether the reviewer received an ARC from the publisher or was given permission to read the book on NetGalley.

The pre-publication reviews that matter the most are in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus, and Booklist,which are read by librarians and booksellers and help them determine which books to stock. My three previous books were well-received by all four (I've had some starred reviews), and I hope this one will be too. But you never know until the reviews actually appear.

Sandra Parshall said...

Thanks, Nancy. Readers like you are the reason I continue writing.

I love the cartoon too. I paid $20 for the right to use it. (It's copyrighted, so I wouldn't advise anyone to snatch it and reuse it online.)

Prentiss Garner said...

I like Tom just t he way he is. Can't wsait to read the new book!!!

Prentiss Garner

Viccy said...

Sandy, I too, like Tom just the way he is and I think Rachel does as well. After their last estrangement, I am happy they are continuing their relationship. I am anxious to see how Rachel and her vet practice go along. Keep on writing!
Viccy Kemp

Sandra Parshall said...

My blog post is tongue-in-cheek, you know -- making fun of the way we writers obsess over tiny things. Does there exist anywhere a creature more neurotic than a writer? I'm very happy with the positive review the book received on that site. I can only hope the rest will be as favorable!

Carol-Lynn Rossel said...

Readers will react to characters according to their personal needs and baggage, just as we all do with "real" people. Good luck with the book.

Anonymous said...

Sandy, I am looking forward to reading it!


Linda R said...

Sandra, I have loved all of your books, and I'm so looking forward to reading Under The Dog Star. Tom and Rachel make a PERFECT team!

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shirley said...

Since I'm not a Columbo fan, that review won't frighten me off.

Kuba Jewgieniew said...

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Sarita said...

What a great post. Your words were so on target and I love the way you ask we tell no one if we don't like the book, something I doubt would happen. But very amusing!

lil Gluckstern said...

I'm just looking forward to the next book. I think we have to imagine characters the way we want, until they hit the movies or tv ;-) Even then it isn't always a fit. I wish you well and more starred reviews.

pennyt said...

It's hard for me to imagine having a job where my work is publicly criticized - which is why I'm an avid reader and love it that folks like you keep writing mysteries for me to read.
pennyt at hotmail dot com