Reviews: Stepping into the Twilight Zone Again

I once did an earlier blog post called “The Twilight Zone of Reviews.” I tend to lean toward that old television classic because one of my first reviews referred to me as “Sinclair Lewis meets Rod Serling on Main St.”

I tend to agree with that assessment. However, now I’m in the Twilight Zone of reviews again, because I just can’t figure out why different groups tend to see my work in totally different ways.

I don’t blow a proverbial gasket over a review that has an unfounded criticism. Why? Because I know that the reader/reviewer missed the cues.

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In my first short collection Ragged Souls, there’s a story called “Martha’s Kitchen.” When I first wrote that piece it was a big hit among my fellow scribes in the San Antonio Writer’s Guild. They loved it and laughed at the right moments. They even pushed me into reading it during one of their “open-mic” nights.

Therefore, when it was published on Amazon and I received my first reviews, I was eagerly awaiting to see how readers would react to the story. Unfortunately most of the reviewers just “liked” it instead of “loving” it.

Of course, this came as a bit of a shock to me. They didn’t load on a huge pile of praise for the story and they also criticized it because they saw it as a “horror vignette” rather than a story.

Color me surprised!

I intended “Martha’s Kitchen” to read like a wry dark-humored Twilight Zone episode. The difference between the Amazon reviewers and my writers group gave cause for me to scratch my head and try to figure this one out.

After pondering for a long while, the light bulb turned on and I think I had the answer. The story is sown with many subtle seeds. For some, it may take a second reading to turn those seeds into humor. That was the difference, my fellow San Antonio authors had read or heard it a few times.

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And…

Those same on-line reviewers also lumped on accolades for the lead story in the collection, “A Purveyor of Odd Things.”

Phew! In my mind, that lead story was the cleverest piece I have ever written.  So what’s the problem? Well…my writing buddies from San Antonio received that story with a rather “ho-hum” demeanor. I haven’t figured this one out yet, but I’ll try.

The Twilight Zone of Reviews

I just got my third short story listed on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in keeping with my New Year’s writing goals. I remember listing the first one and worrying about reviews. Well, the first six are in and they’re all either 4 or 5 star ratings. Phew, what a relief!

What struck me about them was how two of the reviewers made similar observations that there was a hint of Rod Serling in my work. Probably quite true, I was raised on watching reruns of The Twilight Zone when I was young. I could watch it with my friends, sisters, or “square” parents. It just didn’t matter with that show, and still doesn’t. I just DVR’d a bunch of them during the New Year’s marathon and lately I’ve been curling up with my wife to watch them after dinner.

My third short story, A Purveyor of Odd Things, is up and I wonder what reviews will say about this one. I’m especially interested because of the preamble to this story. When I first presented it to my critique group, one of them said “That sounds like something Rod Serling would say to introduce a Twilight Zone episode.”

Let’s see what happens!