Monday, August 14, 2017

My Strange Addiction - Bad Reviews & Where To Find Them.

Bad reviews.

They're nothing new. They are part and parcel of being a published author and, if there is one thing I've learned after seven years of writing and being published, you are bound to get one - or two.

You know something?

They still hurt.

Even with all of the advice I've received about bad reviews and the knowledge that you can't please everyone all of the time, there are occasions when the bad review cuts - and cuts deep.

(image credit: Goodreads.)

Of course, one nexus where authors can almost be guaranteed of seeing bad reviews of their work is Goodreads. The Amazon owned, global hub of just about any book that has ever been published is either a blessing or a curse for the working author.

I still haven't decided which.

Sure, it's a platform that gives exposure to an author's work, allows discussion and interaction about that work and literature more broadly. 

In the past couple of weeks, some reviews have appeared on the Goodreads entry for The Recipient that are less than kind. In a word  - they suck. I won't relay the details of them for you here. You can visit the entry for yourself and check them out. Suffice to say, there are no positive take aways in them. There is nothing in them that I could use to apply to better myself as a writer. Over the course of several hundred words, their basic take-home is, 'This is shit. Move on.'

You maybe asking, why would you do this to yourself Dean? Why would you visit a site like Goodreads, if you know that the reviews may not all be good?

Well - because reviews matter. Reviews are still the pre-dominant indicator of an individuals decision to purchase or not to purchase. If the reviews are bad, and they come from a reviewer of influence, that is quite a powerful position to be in.

I've had plenty of advice, saying to avoid reviews - good and bad - and I know, intellectually, that is the right thing to do. 

But sometimes, I have moments of weakness. I've had a few moments of weakness recently.

I'm close to a stage of burn out. I've recently had two patients at my work pass who I were really close to and I think they affected me more than I am willing to admit. There has a constant pressure associated with the daily grind. Work, the school run, the weekend sports, juggling the house hold budget, my health. Not to mention the challenges of trying to remain creative and finish a story that I've committed quite a lot to emotionally over the past year.

I missed a pressure release valve somewhere along the way.

In those moments, I find myself indulging in a crazy little game of self flagellation. There is something about bad reviews that is strangely attractive. It's almost like, seeing a bad review acts as a sort of leveler. That, even after multiple titles, you're not actually top stuff at all. You're not even decent. You're a fraud.

(image credit: REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail.)

The best place, it seems, to do that is by visiting Goodreads and checking up on your reviews. Ignore the good reviews and go straight for bad ones and bask in them like some strung out drug addict. 

Feels good, don't it. 

I've endeavored to adhere to the idea that all reviews are valuable. All reviews offer something that an author can use to better themselves. Truth is, not all reviews are helpful. In fact, there are actually bad, bad reviews. 

And it still hurts.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Remembering The Lineman.

The death, this week, of country singer/songwriter Glen Campbell affected me more than I anticipated. For me, Campbell's music has always been an affectionate fixture, even if it hasn't figured prominently in my playlists. Whenever a Glen Campbell tune came on the radio, I would invariably turn the volume up.

This was especially true for the Jimmy Webb penned Wichita Lineman.

My grandfather was a lineman for the State Electricity Commission in Victoria, Australia. It was his first job when he returned home after the war (WW2). 

I remember the stories he used to tell me about driving the big old electricity commission truck that had the line barrels on its rear and how he would drive out to where the lines had broken to repair them. He was also responsible for the erection of many of the poles and wires across that remain in existence across large parts of the Gippsland country side. 

I like to think Pa was quite proud of the fact The Wichita Lineman talked about men and women like him - those who established such a vital infrastructure. It was he who introduced me to the track on his old HMV record player.

I hear you singin' in the wire,
I can hear you through the whine
And the Wichita lineman is still on the line...

Pa went onto become a night watchman at the Yallourn Power Station. He wore a uniform and a hat and worked in a station house onsite. Basically, he was the equivalent of a policeman. I have vague memories of visiting him with my Dad when he was on shift. The tearoom at the station had a jar of teddy bear biscuits and he'd often find one for me. He was a proud man.

Glen Campbell's was a voice I've known my entire life and Wichita Lineman is a song I'll forever associate with my grandfather. 

I am emotional, even as I write this.

Good things pass too frequently.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Being Badly Motivated - A Look At The Bad Motivators Star Wars Podcast

The best Star Wars conversations, in my mind, are the ones that recall the best bits of your childhood. You know those ones - where you would gather round with your bestest friends, who were as equally in love with the saga as you, and you would wonder, speculate and imagine where George Lucas would take the story next. 

In the early 80's, that was my experience. Riding my BMX around the back hills of Yallourn North with my friends, playing cricket in the park, talking Star Wars whenever the opportunity arose. In those heady days, particularly during the years between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, there was never more enthusiasm for the franchise. There was a wide eyed wonderment, an innocence - and there were none of the complications modern day Star Wars fandom seems to attract with ferocity.

In the 80's, I was the kid in back (image credit 21 Laps Entertainment.)

I thought those innocent conversations were a thing of the past and I've often lamented it. With the advent of podcasting, a whole world of conversation is now available at ones fingertips - literally! And while this is welcome, for me, it's been a quest of mine to find a show that harkens back to those days in the early 80's when Star Wars was king.

The Bad Motivators podcast is, perhaps, one of the best examples of Star Wars commentary that captures the essence of my childhood wonderment around Star Wars. The brain child of Eric Strothers, Luke Cruser and Dallas Woods, The Bad Motivators broadcasts weekly and covers the latest news from the Star Wars franchise, discusses the hot topics which has captured the attention of fans and explores the wider themes from the franchise that have so inspired millions around the world.

The Bad Motivators album art  - (image credit TBM)

The genius of the show - which takes its name from a scene in A New Hope where Luke Skywalker informs Uncle Owen their initial droid purchase from the Jawas has a bad motivator - lies in the infectious enthusiasm of the hosts, who approach Star Wars in a way which recalls that childhood wonderment I spoke of earlier. I've noted a tendency for Star Wars themed podcasts to approach the franchise with a cynicism, a need to knock aspects of the franchise they don't like. These shows also make the mistake of making the show about themselves and they assume a sort of ownership over Star Wars that leaves little room for inclusiveness, a variety of viewpoints and a respect for the franchise. 

"This R2 unit has a bad motivator. Look!" - (image credit Lucasfilm Ltd.)

The Bad Motivators approach their fandom with reverence for the saga, a positivity that is refreshing and an enthusiasm for their audience. They invite you in, make you feel welcome and you leave with a smile on your face.

The Bad Motivators & friend - (image credit Dallas Woods).

I often wonder what it would've been like to have lived back in the 80's and had access to the kind of podcasting The Bad Motivators produce. I think it would have made the experience just as cool. In this day, and age though, The Bad Motivators shines a positive light in the dense world of Star Wars fandom. 

Tweet with The Bad Motivators here.

Subscribe to The Bad Motivators on iTunes here

Subscribe to The Bad Motivators RSS feed here

Shop at The Bad Motivators store here