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Sunday, April 17, 2005

Perceptions versus My Reality

I find some perceptions of my stories to be interesting, but some also leave me scratching my head and going, "huh?" I have two new examples of this.

One of the guys I work with has read both Ravyn's Flight and The Power of Two. I was talking to him and a couple of other tech writers and somehow the level of heat in my books came up. He said that he liked RF, but that TPOT was too much. I thought he was joking. I mentioned then that Through a Crimson Veil was a lot hotter than anything I'd written before and I found out he wasn't joking. He said he probably wouldn't buy it then. Okay. Well, I didn't think TPOT was that out there, but he's not normally a romance reader. But the story gets better.

A week or so later, I was going around the office showing my Crimson Veil cover off and he comes up to me while I'm talking to someone else and says, "Cai was slutty." HUH? First of all, the comment came out of the blue and I wasn't even talking to him. Secondly, Cai (the heroine in TPOT) was a virgin, which I pointed out. His response? The things she did were slutty. I was absolutely, totally, utterly floored. I finally got my brain working enough to say, "well, she loved Jake," but man, that's about all I could manage to come up with.

After the fact, I realized this gave me a very inside look at his relationship with his wife and it definitely came under the heading More Than I Wanted to Know. The only thing that could possible have brought on his comment was the fact that there was oral sex in the chapter--everything else was pretty tame--but I can't believe that makes my heroine slutty.

Then there's the comment I saw online this weekend about Ravyn's Flight. Someone asked if anyone had read the book because she was thinking of buying it and someone piped up that they'd read it and didn't like it because it was HORROR with some SF and very little romance. This was another HUH? moment for me.

Horror? Very little romance? Say what?

Sure, 25 people are dead by the close of the first chapter, but nothing happens on stage and I glossed over a lot of stuff, especially the condition of the bodies. I'm squeamish and I didn't want to gross anyone out, so I deliberately didn't go into much detail. There isn't one more item until near the very end of the book that is even vaguely horrific. Two chapters out of the entire book with any kind of slightly gory description and this gets the book a horror label? This, too, has me scratching my head.

It's the very little romance comment, though, that bites. Since 90% of the book focuses on the relationship between Ravyn and Damon, I don't understand where this "not much romance" idea comes from. I've been running through the story in my mind, trying to figure out why someone would believe this and I still have no answers.

Once upon a time, I thought that I could use readers' opinions to improve my writing on future books, to use their comments as a critique and grow as a writer. I've discovered it's impossible. Every single thing that one person has hated, someone else has loved. I'm not exaggerating. Every single thing. Even the level of SF in my books doesn't bring agreement.

While I'm taking hits online for writing SF Lite, I'm getting emails from SF readers who loved that element and wished I hadn't wasted so much time on the romance. So, the romance readers are saying there isn't enough SF and the SF readers are saying no, that's great, but cut back on the relationship stuff. Now how the heck am I supposed to take that?

TPOT brought the same kind of opposite opinions, but by then I was expecting it. The biggest lesson I learned was that there is no way to write a perfect book. That no matter what I do, someone will hate the very thing that someone else loves. I've also decided to stop worrying about it. That's not to say the little comments like "Cai's a slut" don't sting, they sure do, but I'm done obsessing. I'm writing the best story I can and being true to my characters. That's all I can do.

MN Weather Report: 50 degrees. Fog.