The Dark Side of the Web


The vast majority of the time I spend interacting with fans and colleagues on the internet has been an enjoyable experience. I love hearing from those who have read my work, those who respect me enough to ask for my opinion on matters far and wide, or those who have just plain taken me under their wing as part of their circles. I would estimate that well over 90% is either positive or at least constructive.

But alas, social media is still… well… social. So of course every now and again the other 10%-ish comes into play. I’ve addressed some of that experience elsewhere, but I’d like to take this moment to respond to two recent examples here.

“So now that you’ve gotten some negative reviews, how do you feel about them now?”

I must confess that this message confused me at first since I’m not the type of author who frequently checks his product pages on his vendors. I’m available all over the place, and my time just doesn’t permit frequenting all of them for the sake of keeping tabs on my own work.

I mean, I’ve got to sleep sometime.

I’ve written the best material I could given the limitations I have, and I market that work as time and spare income becomes available. Other than that, I’m engaged in social media via Twitter (which is a fairly new development), feeding and spending time with my family, or (of course–always of course) writing. To be able to do any of that, I have to let my offerings stand on their own and hope readers find them worthy of their time.

What makes it easy to keep typing and dreaming is that, according to most of the (albeit, sparse) reviews I’ve seen, the positive feedback I get on this site, and the regular sales of the sequels, a lot of you do.

Apparently somebody else did not. As I’ve long said, it was always bound to happen. No one can please everybody. But since feedback of all types can be useful, I did a quick inspection of my largest source of sales, which at this point is Amazon.

Yep. Both sequels to the Outcasts saga have matching one-star ratings. No reviews, though, which honestly was the most disappointing part of it: if it can’t be positive, at least let it be constructive.

To my messenger, I can only say thanks for the heads-up. I guess.

If I was asked how I felt about it in person, the only answer I’d be able to give would be a frown and a shrug. Since I was asked via personal message and I’m blogging about it, I can be more wordy. I am a writer, after all.

My answer is I’m not sure I need to feel anything about it. Again, not everyone is going to like my work. Since the star ratings had no reviews attached to them, Amazon won’t tell me if they are from a verified buyer. Or even if they’re from more than one verified buyer. (I would think a person would not purchase all three books to a trilogy he or she does not like, but I digress.) I don’t know if my critic was trying to retaliate over a disagreement with one of my opinions–either stated on this website or shared on social media–and it had nothing to do with my work at all. Maybe just trolling. Or maybe anything, really. Without something to react to, it’s hard to have a reaction.

But it does give me the opportunity to say this: reviews and ratings are any author’s lifeblood. If you’re an author yourself, you know that reviews are brutally hard to get, but they’re how people who have never heard of you decide between clicking the “back” or “add to cart” buttons. When an author receives so few ratings, it doesn’t take many negatives to drag the whole thing down. At the time of writing this blog, despite selling quite a few copies of Rise of the Outcasts on Amazon, the only review I’ve got for that book is said one-star rating.

Hey, turns out I’ve only got one rating for that novel on Apple, too. It’s four stars. Which looks quite a bit better to a potential customer.

If you, Dear Reader, are one of the people who have read my work and enjoyed it, please do review it. Or rate it. Or both. You’ll be doing so with my sincere gratitude.

[Edit: Thank you to the alert reader who pointed out that the same situation exists on my Goodreads page. There is apparently a cloned account which is trashing the original user’s ratings. I’ve reached out to Goodreads to investigate. Goodreads and Amazon dance hand-in-hand, so it’s likely related. Thank you again. But, yeah, reviews, folks. We need ’em.]

“Hey, no free book! Really don’t want anything to do with this author or website when you treat your potential readers like this. Grow up.”

I’m pretty sure this message was a response to this blog post. For those who aren’t familiar or don’t feel like clicking, it was an offer I had extended for free copies of Through the Eyes of Outcasts. I had posted it on April 1st, and when interest appeared to be waning, I ended the offer on July 17th. Which means I had been offering this novel free of charge for close to three and a half months. Nearly 1,000 of you downloaded it–which you’d better believe put a huge smile on my face. I hope it gave some enjoyment during what I think we can all agree was a stressful time.

(It’s still a stressful time as I write this. I wish I could say otherwise. Stay strong. Stay safe. Stay healthy.)

It was never intended to be a “perma free” title. That’s why the offer was made here on my blog, rather than priced for free in retail outlets: the offer, as they say, was just between you and me.

Offers end. Just like any other kind of sale. In fact, there’s a paragraph in that blog post which mentions–twice–that the offer was for a limited time. All that happened here was that my potential reader missed it.

I had never removed the page itself for one simple reason: things get shared online. I figured it would be less frustrating for someone who happened across a link to that page to discover the offer had ended rather than be smacked with a “page not found” error. At the very least, they’d be informed that I do entertain the possibility of running such offers again in the future.

Had my messenger not told me to “grow up,” my response would have been to send him the appropriate ebook. As it stands… I don’t feel the need to have anything to do with potential readers who treat authors that way.

As I’ve said before and I suspect I’ll say again, we’re human beings. We do best when we act as such.

Your Questions, My Answers


Every now and then, some of you out there like to make use of the “Contact” link on my website–and I’ve gotta say that sometimes you folks ask some pretty interesting questions. I do try to answer personally as time permits, but sometimes questions are so relevant to today’s culture that I like to address them publicly. And hell, sometimes what I receive is off-the-wall enough that I figured it’d be fun to share. The following is a collection of both and in no particular order. I’ve reworded these for the sake of clarity and flow, but for the most part they’re true to spirit.

Who the hell are you?

You tell me! You did, after all, use the contact link on my website in order to ask me this. Does this help?

What are you working on now?

I’m not exactly sure, myself! The novel I’m currently writing didn’t begin with a pre-defined storyline, so I’m letting the story take me wherever it wants to go. All I can say is that I’m enjoying the ride, and once it’s finished it’s my hope that you will, too. Which leads me to…

When is your next book coming out?

Well, you see, it’s not my call to make at this point. It’s up to the book! It’s still insisting that it has more to say, so I’m inclined to keep the cameras rolling to see what it comes up with. Then comes a second draft, retooling, another draft, retooling, a final draft, proof reading, editing, cover design, blah blah blah… it’s coming–but it’s going to be awhile yet. If it’s any consolation, based on what I’ve got here so far it’s going to be well worth the wait!

What are you reading now?

My time for reading is always quite limited when I’m concurrently writing, but my daughter graced me with Stephen King’s If It Bleeds on Father’s Day. I’m looking forward to cracking into it this weekend.

What’s your take on JK Rowling’s statements about trans women?

What I think is that Ms. Rowling is entitled to have an opinion, just as her audience is entitled to either agree or disagree. I’m not a big fan of “cancel culture,” nor am I a fan of hero worship. As with most of my views, you’re going to find me somewhere in the middle. Here’s the scoop, troops: if you follow anyone around long enough, you’re going to find something he/she says/does which you’ll disagree with. You’re going to have to figure out how to deal with that.

To show you how I deal with things like this, let me give you a personal example by way of a different artist who is in a different field. I find certain statements which have been made by actor/director Mel Gibson to be absolutely abhorrent. That in no way means that I don’t enjoy movies in which he has involvement. If it interests me, I’ll see it. Sometimes I’ll like it, sometimes I won’t–but it’s always judged by the material itself, not by my opinion on… well, Mel’s opinions. And so I choose to disagree with him while not letting that disagreement suck away a source of entertainment from my life. I understand that some of Ms. Rowling’s fans are now boycotting her over her statements. Why? She’s likely still the same person she was when she wrote the books which drew them to her in the first place, and they loved her for it. I’d focus on the books, myself.

Which brings me to the idea of hero worship. We all look up to someone. Whether that someone is a parent, a sports figure, an actor, a writer–whatever makes your duck go “quack.” The thing is, our heroes within this context are human beings, not Gods–and every last one of us is flawed. We either grow and evolve, or we crumble away. Most of us do a little of both. Maybe the best approach is to embrace the things they do which builds (or adds to) you, and walk away from the rest. Think of it as a buffet.

Otherwise you will eventual wind up feeling betrayed. Yes, you will. In Ms. Rowling’s case, I think that’s what happened here.

Do you wear a face mask in public?

I’m a firm believer in taking medical advice from medical professionals rather than from politicians. So in answer to your question, yes I do–and so should you. Let’s all do our part to put a handle on this pandemic. I’ve been meaning to blog about this, and maybe soon I’ll get around to it.

You mentioned before that you’re a fan of Game of Thrones. What did you think of Season Eight?

I enjoyed it! I know there’s been some soreness from fans about how it ended, so I understand the implication of this question. But with seven seasons’ worth of character development, I can’t agree that it was rushed. I didn’t see anything about Thrones’ conclusion that wasn’t foreshadowed or built toward. Clearly there’s a lot of people who will disagree with me, and that’s certainly their right. I walked away satisfied, you asked me, so that’s how I’m going to answer. Will George R. R. Martin end his series the same way? Ah, time will tell.


Thanks for your questions, comments, critiques, observations, and just plain reaching out to let me know you’re there in the first place! It’s always nice to hear from you, and I’m sure we’ll do this again soon.

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