So, here's the thing! I got a 4-star review of A Life for a Life today! I know, after six five-star reviews (nine if you count the US ones), I should have been happy. I mean, a four-star review is good, isn't it? It's not a one-, two-, or three-star review, which are horrible, nasty, despicable things, but one star below a five-star review.
The trouble is, I feel sullied. I feel as though someone has trampled over my allotment - I haven't got an allotment, but I might have had one. My wife is growing carrots, lettuce, peas, and strawberries in pots in the back garden, so an allotment would have been a boon, but alas we have no allotment. Anyway, a four-star review is like - Well, like you've been burgled! I know, call me irrational, but that's how I feel. I put all of me into writing my books, spend inordinate amounts of time working on plot, characterisation, grammar, sentence-structure, tying up loose ends, cliffhangers - you know the stuff, and then someone reads it in a couple of days and says, "Yeah, it was OK!"
Ha! My wife cooks me a wonderful meal that delights the taste buds and slides down the old gullet like jelly on a hot tin roof, and she looks askance at me! My usual response is, "Yeah, it was OK!" You can imagine the tongue-lashing I get! So, I now have a lexicon of adjectives such as - fantastic, wonderful, superlative, fantabulous, supercallyfragilisticexpiallydocious - is that even a real word?
Anyway, I had this thought that reviews might be helpful in writing future books. I mean, reviews are not just about stars are they? Some wonderful people go to the trouble of adding some critique. So, I sent Parish & Richards to investigate the reviews I'd received, and here's what they discovered.
'You're kiddin' right, Chief?' Parish said.
'It's time to give something back to the community, Parish.'
'Isn't solving murders giving to the community?'
'That's a different type of giving. Remember, one day when you're old and wrinkly you'll want to write a book about your experiences. Richards will be a DI by then.'
'Do you really think so, Chief?'
Parish pinched her on the arm. 'Stop interrupting, Richards.'
'You're so mean, Sir.'
'So you want me to investigate what the readers think make a good book, Chief?'
'Are you still here, Parish?'
Richards eyes opened wide. 'It says no sex, Sir? I like sex!'
'Your sorties into relationships are hardly the stuff books are made of, Richards.'
'Do you think I'll ever get a man?'
'No, I don't think so. What's next?'
'Do you enjoy being mean to me?'
'Will you stay on the tracks, Richards. This is difficult enough without you veering off every time your mind wanders. What's next?'
'People like cheap books, but if its a good story they're happy to pay full price.'
'Full price, what does that mean? In this self-publishing, digital, topsey-turvey age, what is full price? Next?'
'Do you want me to answer the question?'
'Do you know the answer?'
'If you're writing a gritty police thriller, readers don't want to read about nice people.'
'You're too nice, Richards.'
'Do you really think so, Sir?'
'Yes... So, we're going to have to toughen you up.'
'What, like send me on one of those Army training courses with all those hunky men?'
'No, Richards. I was thinking more of personal trauma, grief, hardship.'
'I don't like the sound of that.'
'The readers like the characters to have complicated home lives - the more grief and strife the better.'
'There you go then, your life is about to get a lot more complicated.'
'What about your life, Sir?'
'Yes, unfortunately my life as well. A number of people are going to try and kill me in the next book.'
'Next? In fact, I need a four-sugared coffee, this is thirsty work.'
'Slavery ended year's ago, you know?'
'The police force are always behind the times.'
'You're so mean,' Richards said storming out.
'Next?' he said taking a swallow of his steaming coffee.
'They like well-written books.'
'Goes without saying. Next?'
'A believable storyline with strong, believable characters that are likeable or hateable.'
'Hateable? Is that even a word, Richards?'
'If it's not it should...'
'The story should be easy to follow without too many twists and turns that confuse the reader.'
'Those twists and turns are your fault, Richards.'
'I don't think...'
'Exactly, you make suggestions that send us down the wrong road.'
'I'm not going to talk to you after we've finished this.'
'I should be so lucky. Next?'
'You're so mean. The writer should keep track of the characters.'
'Well, where they are, I suppose.'
'Not changing the character's name, hair colour, and other things half way through the book.'
'Okay, I think I've got the hang of that. Next?'
'Readers want a strong ending. Maybe a final twist, a shock... But it shouldn't finish too quickly, and the writer has to make sure everything is brought to together - no loose ends, answer all the questions.'
'Any more, I'm losing the will to live?'
'You just want to go home and have sex with my mum?'
'I thought you said we couldn't do sex?'
'They appreciate good research, dialogue, description, stylish writing, pace, and...'
'Let's not tell them how to suck eggs.'
'They like dramatic tension between nasty characters, a bit like you, Sir.'
'Natsy! You haven't seen nasty yet, Richards. Maybe I'll be nasty in The Flesh is Weak.'
'No, never to you, Richards.'
'We're done, Sir.'
'Right, let's give this report to the Chief and go and have fry-up.'
Hi, I'm Tim Ellis - I write a lot and I hope you enjoy what I write.