A nice review, a thought about structure, and a teaser

Today I received an outstanding review from Hypervorean on her Blog. It made my day. It always makes my day when people offer me interesting insights into my work. Please check out her blog, not only does she has some intelligent comments about my book, she has some nice depthy reviews on several fantasy greats and indy books as well. In fact her reviews of Name of the Wind, Game of Thrones, and Abercrombie were why I went out of my way to get her a copy of my book. She has some interesting opinions, even on well-trod Fantasy canon. I hope she gets some attention.

Here is my favorite part of the review:

“In the first chapter the main character, Gavin, is trying to pick out his weapons before his first fight. The narrator goes on at great length about every single weapon in the store, their pros and cons (which could be pretty boring if you are not particularly interested in weapons) but also about Gavin’s relationships with them, which is the really interesting part. You don’t really realize it between all the technical details about weaponry, but by the time he exits the store you already know who he is; his personality, his disposition, his views on different matters. You have grasped his essence so that by the time of his first fight he is already your friend and you involuntarily cheer for him. This is sneaky – and awesome.” It is nicely written, and I am really happy to see that she gets what I was trying to do with that scene. Yay!

I chatted with her a little on goodreads after the review went up and I learned a couple of things. First off, she noted that some authors did not give her much follow-up and feedback after a review. This surprised me. Everything I’ve read from both traditionally published and self-published authors pushes the idea that you want to build a good relationship with bloggers and reviewers. Quality often matters over quantity, since a deep review will help you improve your writing skills as well as convey information to buyers who are on the fence about buying your book.

This relationship goes both ways. Bloggers and reviewers want help promoting their work and advancing in the social economy. If they take the time to review and promote your work, it is basic courtesy to promote them a little as well; its not like a tweet or two and a facebook shout-out will hurt you. Manners matter more in the age of social media, even if they aren’t as stifled and convention driven as they used to be.

Secondly, I’m finding that I get better feedback from women. Not higher ratings necissarily, but longer, more observant reviews. My sample size is too low to come to a conclusion on this, but it does counter some of my nervousness about writing a book that women can enjoy just as much as men. Maybe women are just better book reviewers in general. It will be interesting to find out as I get more feedback.

Since Hypervorean asked me for a small writer’s bio, I took the time to write about the weird structure of Bloodlust:

“The structure of the first two Bloodlust books has each chapter based around every single match in Gavin’s career as a Gladiator, even the more routine fights, from beginning to end. Every chapter contains a fight, moves the story forward in some way, and has a bit of world exposition. As frameworks for a story go, it is unusual, lending the books an almost episodic quality. Often quite a bit happens between chapters that is only hinted at, requiring the reader to fill in the blanks. The structure really helped me put the first book together, giving me a strong guideline to follow, but now acts as more of a limitation. Keeping the plot together within the confines of the arena and keeping those fight scenes fresh can be a challenge. After Bloodlust: Will to Power, I will likely follow a more traditional narrative framework.”

Putting that down on paper helped bring into focus what I like and don’t like about the structure that the book follows. In B2 I try to mix it up a bit, but until Gavin’s career is done, I stick with a similar structure. It is a bit of a challenge to keep the fights fresh and meaningful. I think I do a decent job and that the ending will be worth the reader’s valuable time.

I’ll end with a little teaser. This is the first thing I wrote for the new book, and it is fairly raw and likely won’t make it into the final cut without some major alterations. It is part of a fight scene that stretches for the entire book though…

The Gladiatrix stands motionless in the mouth of the shadowed tunnel, clearing her mind as she waits for her match to begin. The cheering for her opponent, first to take to the fighting grounds, has already died down. A chorus of one thousand trumpets sounds. Her heart quickens as her name is announced. The roar that follows shakes the very stones of the greatest arena in the world. She can feel it in her bones. She allows herself a small smile.

She can feel the anticipation of the audience as the drawbridge, massive and bound in gilded gold, lowers gently. Sunlight spills into the tunnel of the Gladiator’s entrance; revealing her to the hungry eyes of the audience slowly, almost teasingly.

Her hair, dark as shadow in the light of a full moon, is a multitude of braids, held stiff by glamour, each resembling a curled scorpion’s tail. The style is uniquely hers; a small rebellion against the more formal or inviting fashions created by the expensive capital stylists for her peers. Her eyes slowly sweep the crowd as row upon row of faces come into view above the descending gate. Her gaze is piercing, even at such a distance; unblinking as the merciless light of the desert sun. Many of the audience shiver, with fear or rapture, as those dark orbs rake over them; imagining that she is looking at them alone.

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