Saturday Roundup: It’s always better on holiday.
No Duranalysis this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Duranalysis will resume as usual next Thursday and continue on a weekly basis through the end of the year. In the meantime, here’s a quick list of recent Duranalyses, if you feel like getting caught up on any Duran-based madness you may have missed:
My book Demon City was knocked out of a Writer’s Digest competition. The judging scores and evaluation of it were fine, but not great. Basically, in the terms of this competition, I’m a solid B student. Because I’m a writer and thus am something of a touchy, defensive asshole when it comes to criticism, I’ve been smarting about this perfectly nice, perfectly moderate, middle-of-the-road, milquetoast review far more than necessary:
Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”.
Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 4
Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5
Production Quality and Cover Design: 4
Plot and Story Appeal: 4
Character Appeal and Development: 3
Voice and Writing Style: 4
“Demon City is a unique mystery novel. The world the writer has created is convincing in its details and vividly wrought. I appreciated the way the writer allowed the plot to unfold without explicitly explaining the supernatural aspects. I found the fire demons a really interesting innovation, and I’d be excited to read more about this world. Felix is a great protagonist, but I did question having Michael, the connection to the supernatural, be his brother. There wasn’t enough time to develop a substantial relationship between these two characters, and history would be brought up without the opportunity to explore it. It would seem more logical to me to make Michael a new friend, reminiscent of the connection in The Long Goodbye. This would allow elements of the world to be explained to the reader through Felix, who is encountering them for the first time. Also, the deaths of the innocent bystanders seemed a bit underutilized. It would be good to have a character who is relentlessly interested in them, or at least to have the characters who die be more central to the plot. Doing so would up the stakes for the main characters and make the tension more apparent.”
—Judge, 23rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards
Again, it’s fine. I've had much, much (much) worse reviews. Since I aim for my writing to be somewhat better than fine, though, it’s a little
soul-crushing disappointing. Bright
side: It’s useful to discover the judge automatically classified Demon City as a mystery; I’d categorized it myself under
contemporary fantasy (I mean, you saw the part in the review about the fire
demons, right?). Demon City has never
really found an audience, at least not in the way my book Bias Cut has; maybe the difficulty with classification is part of
the problem*. The judge namechecks Raymond Chandler’s crime fiction/noir
classic The Long Goodbye, which
shares some stylistic/story-related elements with Demon City (for starters, both take place in a seedy, dangerous
version of Los Angeles where unseen forces wield great power); adjusting Demon City’s marketing to also target noir/mystery
lovers might not be a bad plan.
*I seem to have a tough time figuring out which genres suit my books the best. I’d never thought of Bias Cut as a mystery, for example—when I wrote it, I was pretty sure it was general fiction—and then the very first sentence of my Publishers Weekly review started with, “In this fresh and dark mystery…” So evidently I tend to write mysteries without realizing it. It's an odd habit, and one which I should probably try to break.
I’ll be back to my regular posting schedule next week. Until then, I’m leaving you with Franz Ferdinand’s “Jacqueline”, because it’s always better on holiday (“That’s why we only work when / We need the money…”).