Red Ned Tudor Mysteries

Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Polite Answer to a 'Review'

Greetings to all my friends and readers out there, it has been quite some time since I’ve had the chance to site down for a quiet hour and compose for my blog.  What with three teenagers home all day on the Yuletide holidays and the frantic efforts to get my eldest into a university course after the regional bell curve and algebraic massaging of VTAC turned his straight A and A+’s into C’s and a pitiful scatter of B’s.  But I’ll deal with that discriminatory bias by Victorian Education anon.  The local bushfires and a few unfortunate tragedies too close to home of course didn’t help matters.  In the meantime I’d like to bring up a vexing subject for writers, both retained and Indie, that of Amazon reviews.  I know this particular theme can fill countless blog and forum pages and I don’t wish to revisit old arguments or well hashed debates, instead based on observation over the past couple of years I’ll divide them into three classifications.
  1. Genuine comments from readers responding to their perceived view of a novel.
  2. Sock puppets of aggrieved fellow authors or would be writers and hired hacks from various publicity or publishing houses.
  3. Trolls out to gain vicarious satisfaction and jollies by putting others down.
There of course many other sub divisions and categories but I think these three will suffice.
Now for the writer the question is do you answer these reviews?  That is a ticklish question, on the one hand responding to a good or average review is a polite acknowledgement for effort.  While to answer the commonly baseless accusations can be seen to be pandering to the desires, plans or prejudices of sock puppets and trolls giving them a bigger target.  Though to let those go unanswered can have serious consequences on the sales and promotion of your novels.  It really is a quandary, to give the benefit of the doubt to a suspicious review or reveal them as malicious frauds?
Well here’s how I’m going to deal with one review that’s left me perplexed and dismayed for the past few months.  By the way my deepest thanks to my dear friends at EHFA for their helpful advice and support regarding this matter.

MarieG 2.0 out of 5 stars Confusing! 7 Oct 2012
As a great fan of historical novels I didn't expect to find myself so befuddled by the content of this story. It seemed that as a reader I was thrown into the middle of a story that I had missed half of. Without warning I was presented with a vampire strand of the story and I just got confused about where the story was. I couldn't finish it which is something that I rarely say once I start a book. Additionally the Kindle edition had many grammatical and spelling errors that were distracting in the extreme. I am surprised that there are not more reviews of this book. Great idea and style but For me lost in translation (sorry).

To MarieG
Thank you for review I have thought long and hard about your comments and have delayed replying as I mulled them over trying to work out the areas of your difficulties.  So I will endeavour to give you satisfaction one item at a time. 

  1. A great fan of Historical Fiction befuddled by the content of the story.

    1. #28 in Books > Fantasy > Historical
    2. #43 in Kindle Store > Books > Fiction > Fantasy > Historical

The story is listed in the historical fantasy genre as is proved by the above ranking prominently displayed on the book page.  It is not, nor does it imply either by promo, prologue or genre placement to be historical fiction.  While set in the nominal world of a young Henry VIII the phrase - the dark magicks of reanimation should have given a hefty hint that this novel strayed into the supernatural.

  1. An unexpected vampire strand of the story
Firstly I refer you to the above ranking of the story in the Amazon genre categories it is a Historical Fantasy, so by classification it must have fantastic, supernatural or magical elements as part of the story like, witches, elves, demons and so on.  Secondly the book promo refers directly to these two phrases- Now Francis knows very well who killed Gwen, the problem is ensuring she stays safely dead while he tracks down the source of the dark magicks of reanimation.  Now that should give the clue that we are dealing with a heavy fantasy component, as well as magick and the walking dead.
Or then, maybe Mistress Annise? That’s if you can trust a drinker of blood.  As for the, to you unexpected inclusion of a vampyre, if it is in the promo and it is historical fantasy as we’ve already proved you’d have to be pretty disappointed if a drinker of blood wasn’t a vampyre.
Thirdly the first two and a half chapters are available to read in Amazon’s Look Inside option or as a sample download.  Now I’m really not giving anything away in stating quite bluntly that the first few pages give more than a hint that this tale is dealing with the reanimated dead, as Francis grapples with the suddenly moving slain woman.  That’s not something you’d normally expect in your average Tudor historical fiction, but does fit with fantasy.

  1. Grammatical and spelling errors 
Ahh yes the old bugbear, this is always difficult to answer since when it comes up no evidence is provided, it’s a bit like the old Tudor cry of treason or witchcraft just enough to set the mobs a howling for blood but no proof.  Considering that I can easily cite over a dozen prominent works of fiction and non fiction with the most abysmal spelling and grammar is not an excuse, but it is reality.  I suggest that if you would care to equally direct your outraged ire at the larger publishing houses rather than just poorly resourced Indies then I will readily accept your admonishment.  However I believe it is stated quite conclusively at the start of the book that I use Tudor spellings for places and occasionally titles and terms as well as a glossary.  As for grammar both my editor and I use the Australian style manual and a very large pile of Tudor reference books (see this link for a partial list).  Although, as I’ve seen what is considered correct grammatical practice can vary wildly between genres, professions and regions, let alone those between continents supposedly using the same language.  All I can say is that my personal style is the product of my heritage, education, reading and environment.  I can however assure you that if you direct me to any particular problems they will be remedied. 

  1. More reviews…Great idea and style
Thank you for that part of your review, though your phrasing leaves a hanging question, was that more good reviews or bad reviews?  Unfortunately the praise comes well after your emphatic expressions of confusion and dislike so I’m not sure you actually meant it, but I will be a gentleman allow you the benefit of the doubt.  So my thanks, for leaving your opinion.
Regards Greg


  1. Well rebutted, Greg. It seems your 'reviewer' had some deep seated literacy problems going there! Actually I came across a whole thread in Goodreads regarding the issue of using different spellings and grammars of English. Apparently some American readers don't know that other versions of English exist and think that UK spelling is just incorrect spelling. Oh, the problem with going global!

  2. Thank you very much for your comment Pauline, hmm yes language and spelling it is indeed a vertiable minefield. I've been critised a few times from both sides of the 'Pond'(though mainly the US side)about my phrasing or use of Tudor period spelling, it is very difficult to know how to respond. We are as Winston Churchill said a common culture divided by language and I think that more people need to be a lot less dogmatic in their interpretation of how the English language works across the world and over the span of centuries compared to how they use it it right now in their country, their culture and their position in society.
    Regards Greg