Amazon.com has many features, strengths and weaknesses. One of those features (whether it is a strength or weakness I do not know) is that, as an author, you can get fairly quick feedback from complete strangers on your work. Mind you, these readers do not always evaluate the actual work; rather, they will take the opportunity under the guise of a “review” to comment on something else–maybe they don’t like the price of the Kindle version of your book (See J. K. Rowling’s A Casual Vacancy for this), maybe they don’t like the cover art; and maybe they don’t like you or something about your book that has little or nothing to do with the story.
Maybe I have arrived as a semi-famous author; I now have ratings at all five levels of Amazon.com’s rating system. A few reviewers think I didn’t provide enough clues–fine–I disagree, but that’s their opinion, and at least they read the book. One reviewer thought I was small-minded and quit reading after a few pages because I dared to call Ayn Rand’s philosophical ideas “small” (I stand by that).
A few reviewers don’t like the fact that my protagonist, bookstore owner Simon Alastair, is a gay man. One reviewer went so far as to put that in all caps as the title of his review (although I believe he did it somewhat tongue-in-cheek as a response to another reviewer who objected to Simon’s “flirting and flipping around attractive men.”) I didn’t do a word search, but I’m pretty sure I did not once give Simon an action involving “flipping.” Flirting I will concede, but so what? It’s the 21st century. If a reader can’t tell from the free amazon sample that my character is both gay and dismissive of Ayn Rand, I can’t help him if he chooses to buy the book. I hid nothing.
As this election year closes, we see a president finally supporting marriage equality, and that equality becoming a reality in more states (including Oregon’s neighbor to the north). Who knows what the Supreme Court will decide when it reviews Prop 8 and DOMA next year, but George Will perhaps said it best–the opposition to marriage equality is dying.
But I’m a novelist, and a writer who wants to entertain and, perhaps, educate his readers just a little–about Dickens, about the world we live in, and why Dickens is still relevant 200 years after his birth. The theme of The Christmas Carol Murders relates to this question–by what philosophy do you wish to live your life? One of abundance and sharing (the “Carol” philosophy, as Dickens called it) or one that calls itself Objectivism and celebrates “the virtue of selfishness”? Voters decided last month. As far as I’m concerned, Dickens won the election in the USA, just as he (small spoiler ahead) triumphs in The Christmas Carol Murders.
Simon’s and Zach’s adventures will continue throughout the Dickens Junction mystery series. They will have some rough waters ahead, but they will, I suspect, survive them, because they love one another and are trying to build a life together (even as the bodies pile up).
If you don’t want to read about two men seeking happiness together in the world, find something else to read. Try Madame Bovary. It’s a five-star laugh riot. And she’s straight.