It’s been several months since I published my second book Return of the Brethren. Several long, agonizing, nail biting, roller coaster months. Months of stripping away any sense of pride I once had while shamelessly promoting my work. Months of frustration as I extolled the virtues of my stories to anyone who would listen. Months where I challenged the people who did stop to listen to take the time, buy my books and review my work.
It’s been months where I have received reviews that pissed me off, reviews that ate away at my soul and left me wondering if I really have what it takes. Months of dark moments, alone with my thoughts, mulling over what a bevy of professional reviewers said about my stories.
And then I realized something.
I’d rather hear what Chuck or Diane has to say about my stories.
Now, I don’t know Chuck and I’ve never met Diane, but in my heart of hearts, deep down, I know they are the kind of people I want to hear from.
Allow me to provide some clarity. It all started with a television commercial. If you’ve ever spent an hour or two in front of the tube decompressing you have probably seen it. It goes something like this.
A woman decides to throw a garden party and spends all afternoon preparing sandwiches made with slices of a new ham she purchased. She presents the sandwiches, beaming with pride, to her first guest Charles.
Charles resembles a professor’s professor, replete with bow tie and horned rimmed glasses and he takes a sandwich and begins to examine it. Never taking a bite, Charles continues to inspect the sandwich as if it were some kind of masterpiece hanging on the wall of a museum. When the woman asks him what he thinks Charles says, “Don’t rush me, I’m sensing there are several ingredients that make up this sandwich.”
The woman walks away to her next guest Doris, who clutches the sandwich with her fingers, her dainty pinky positioned in just the right manner. She brings it to her nose, inhales then says, “I’m sensing something full bodied, meaty.”
“Ham,” the woman replies.
“Yes that’s it Doris says, “ham.” Doris continues to savor the scent of the sandwich.
The woman then spies Chuck and Diane. The two of them have a sandwich in each hand and both of them have bitten off huge chunks and are chewing and nodding their heads, their cheeks bulging.
The woman calls out to Chuck and Diane, “How’s the sandwich Chuck, Diane?”
“Great!” they respond enthusiastically.
The point I’m making here is that I get reviews from people like Charles and I get reviews from people like Doris, but I really, really love it when I get reviews from Chuck and Diane.
The Charles(s) of the world either choose to (or get paid to) inspect the sandwich from afar, examining sentence structure, verb tense and composition. They look for the proper amount of back story, sufficient triangle plots, authorial intrusion and though they inspect the words they never read the story.
The Doris(s) of the world tend to sniff around the edges of the story, looking for a misspelled or misused word, improper conjugation, the wrong use of a comma or even worse, using a dash when in their opinion — because they seem to be the expert at these things — you should have used an ellipse.
And then there’s Chuck and Diane, who tear into a book, not just my books, but any book, looking for a story they can enjoy. The Chuck(s) and Diane(s) of the world are ravenous readers, passionate for a journey and so instead of inspecting a story from afar or sniffing around the edges, they plow into a book. They consume the whole damned thing, and when they’re done they say, “Hey that was a great sandwich! How about next time you try a little horse radish?”
Chuck and Diane I love hearing from you, and I’ll tell you what. This next sandwich is not only going to have some horse radish on it, but I’m going to throw in some slices of onion as well.
How ‘bout that?