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July 7, 2012

Dig Two Graves
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:24 PM * 177 comments

Let’s do the short version of this. An author gets a less-than-five-star review of his book. He blogs that he plans to write a revenge review. Then he does so.

So why am I writing about this? I’d never heard of any of the people involved before yesterday. This is just more Internet Drama, all forgotten by tomorrow. Why am I piling on?

Well, you’ve seen the various particles and sidelights and parahelia: They’re all visible in the sidebar right this minute.

Why not call out trolling—bullying—when I see it?

The author is Phil Torcivia. Let’s look at our guy. His thesis is, “When you forgive, you encourage bad behavior.” So, therefore, by his lights I shouldn’t forgive him for his bad behavior.

This is a fellow who fantasizes about committing murder:

I’m not allowed to euthanize him, oh, but I fantasize about it—sliding that needle into a vein while he sniffs and whimpers. One final gurgle, then off to the glue factory for Mr. Boogers.

But that isn’t the main thrust of his blog post. Oh, no. It’s the lead-up to the main event. Someone has dared to dislike his book:

A fellow author has left a nasty review on one of my books. (See Rachel’s review here.) If I forgive her, she’ll do this to others. Instead, I’m going to read one of her books (already started and it is god-awful, as expected) and trash the shit out of her in a public forum by posting a one-star review. I also have a social media army I can enlist to assist me in the defensive assault. I hope she learns that her bad behavior must cease.

What was this horrible review, the one that leaves this woman liable to destruction by Phil Torcivia’s “social media army”?

I love a good parody - and parts of this are actually funny. I found the story started smack bang in the middle of all the action and it was a bit daunting working out who everyone was and even who was talking at any given time since there is a lot of talking brackets and not so many ‘Bea said’ and ’ Mormon said’ etc. Once I’d settled into the style, there were a few laugh out loud moments - most of these occurring when the actual Fifty Shades characters were sliced into the story line. This books does show some potential.

Heck, that’s a good review. It states what the reviewer liked, didn’t like, and gives examples. It ends on an encouraging note.

Phil apparently doesn’t know what reviews are, what they’re for, and who they’re for. Reviews are a reader’s reaction to the book. Reviews are not for the author. They aren’t for marketing the book. Reviews are meant for other readers, to help them decide whether to read a book. Private feedback to the author (such as Phil Torcivia claims is appropriate) won’t do that.

Reviews aren’t meant to help the author improve his art. If the author wants help he can get his writing group or beta readers or his editor to make suggestions.

We’ve talked about The Author’s Big Mistake here before. The Author’s Big Mistake is replying in any way whatsoever to a bad review. The term seems to have been coined by Paul Fussell. And really-o, truly-o, pay attention to this. Do not make the Author’s Big Mistake. Because you know the proverb, “When you set on the path of revenge, first dig two graves”? You can watch that get played out every time someone commits the ABM.

Here’s a post that authors who plan revenge for negative reviews ought to read: How to respond to negative reviews.

Fun Facts!

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which is funny and insightful and a classic, has 11,212 one-star reviews. Eleven thousand, two hundred, and twelve.

Phil ends his screed with this:

So, the next time someone offends you, pause to see if the offense was accidental. If it was intentional, don’t forgive—punish.

So who does he attack? The reviewer he attacks—threatens with a revenge-review, then carries out that threat—is a woman. In the comment thread following the “bad” review Phil only replies to people with obviously feminine names—and then only to browbeat. One of those women felt threatened enough to remove her comment, and to remove her comments on other boards lest he track her down.

Moving on, with jaw-dropping lack of self-awareness, while all this was happening, Phil tweeted: “If you’re an avid reader and will post honest reviews on Amazon in exchange for free books, join here. [URL]” The irony, it burnsssss us, my Precious. One can only wonder what might happen if one of those “honest reviews” was less than five stars.

Since Phil says, more than once, that “authors need to eat,” and “I’m trying to sell books and put food on my table,” maybe he ought to pay attention to this:

“I’ve seen way more readers turned off books by author behaviour than by bad reviews,” claims one of the Book Lantern bloggers, a group of young readers from all over the world, citing recent incidents of “authors and editors muscling in on reviews, being very aggressive or judgmental of bloggers”.

Forgiving, heck, not caring about, bad reviews is in his own self-interest.

[UPDATE 1] All comments on Rachael’s review have been deleted from Amazon.
[UPDATE 2] Phil’s revenge-review has been deleted at Amazon.
[UPDATE 3] Rachael’s review of Phil’s book is gone now too.


See also:
Comments on Dig Two Graves:
#1 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2012, 11:34 PM:

Wow, what a piece of shit. Let's drop the internet on his head.

#2 ::: BigHank53 ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2012, 11:48 PM:

I'm satisfied imagining the next publisher who considers buying a manuscript from him...and then googles him. Thin envelope for Mr. Torcivia!

#3 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 12:01 AM:

This... fellow's behavior bespeaks a level of identification with his work which goes beyond pathological into some kind of woo-woo sympathetic magic. "I poured out my heart and soul onto the page" indeed.

I'm reminded of this open letter to crybabies about the place of criticism in nonprofit funding, which I'd swear I got from here, but apparently didn't?

#4 ::: Mea ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 12:09 AM:

Jim, thank you for posting this. Thought I should stop lurking to make my support for anti-bullying visible.

Xopher made me imagine a million buzzing flies (which is for me the sound of the Internet dropping on someone's head) so to Phil: buzzzzz.....

Now I am going to go learn more about what racheal writes.

#5 ::: Rich Van Gaasbeck ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 12:25 AM:

I've seen a lot of authors criticizing reviewers that give one star reviews lately. I posted about it just a bit ago
Single Figure of Merit and the Rating of Your Book. Normally I wouldn't post, but I happened to mention Scalzi in passing in the post and I heard that you were publishing some of his ST fanfic (just kidding, please don't de-verbalize m ggghhhhh!)

Kidding aside, I agree that the primary purpose of reviews is to serve readers and not writers. Online book retailers and book review sites should be using the information to match picky readers with micro-niche writers.

Rich

#6 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 12:29 AM:

That, blog post, the one where Torcivia announces his revenge plan --- wow. So very many warning signs telling you that he's a Grade-A asshole.

He starts off talking about he he's got a duty to punish people, so that they learn to behave. Then, after a numbered list of things women oughtn't forgive in men, "You can't forgive these grievances, my sweet". Not that the post is addressed to any particular women who might be an intimate of his; he just feels like using possessive endearments on random female Internet strangers.

#7 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 12:29 AM:

‘Bea said’ and ’ Mormon said’

There was the late Bea Arthur, but I didn't know that 'Mormon' can be a person's first name.

#8 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 12:33 AM:

I do enjoy your lessons in Authors Behaving Badly: Go Thou And Do Not Likewise.

But I have to tip my hat to you especially for calling out the role that Phil Torcivia's misogyny plays in this fiasco. Because you spotted it: he's not only making the ABM, he's taking it upon himself to punish some uppity womens for Having Opinions While Female.

(About which, can you ever have too many links to this post?)

#9 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 12:35 AM:

Sometimes reviews reveal the work... and sometimes they reveal the reviewer. Even had I not read the foregoing, the moment in Mr. Torcivia's review when he says, "The beginning has numerous characters with odd names such as Una, Amairgin, Finnbheara, Eithne, and places named Connacht and Keelbundoora--good luck keeping them all straight," would have revealed much of his nature to me.

#10 ::: Laura Runkle ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 01:49 AM:

Dear. Me. Every day people are born, die, have life-changing events worthy of a two-penny ballad. And Mr. Torcivia felt it was his duty to take his time and energy to write a petty revenge review of someone's book because she didn't find his book completely to her taste? Bless his heart.
Alas, my uncle George is right once again. "The way most folk's reputations are destroyed? They do it to themselves, with malice afore-not-very-much-thought."

#12 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 03:33 AM:

There are only 2 comments on his blog post now. The first is someone telling him he's overdone it, and then his reply, agreeing.

#13 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 03:55 AM:

Waiting for the Internet to fall on his head... note that, to quote Matt Inman (the fellow who draws the Oatmeal comics and just dealt a certain fool with a similar effect): the internet is an archive. Anyone who googles this author - as BigHank53 mentioned upthread - will probably see this first. Can't imagine that it'll help him in getting acceptances...

#14 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 03:57 AM:

Simply put, the Internet will find him crunchy and good with ketchup.

#15 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 05:19 AM:

I'm not going to attempt to defend Mr Torciva here, because I broadly agree with everyone else about the unwisdom of his actions.

Nevertheless, I'd like to add a little nuance to the Fussell assertion about the wisdom of replying to reviews. I think that under some circumstances it is not inappropriate for an author to emit certain types of response to a certain type of review. (But note all those qualifiers!)

Specifically: if a reviewer makes a large and factually incorrect assertion about the content of a piece of work, then it's okay to emit a neutral correction for the benefit of readers of the review.

It is not okay, ever, to bad-mouth the reviewer. Or to criticise their reading of the work -- you have no control over how other people may read something you wrote, once it's out of your head and on the page. But a brief, factual correction with no emotional freight is usually safe. ("This review says that it's a happy-ever-after story where the boy gets the girl. Alas, at the point when the boy gets the girl, the girl has become a brain eating zombie, and the ending is actually a fade to black with tasteful crunching noises. I offer this correction in the hope that readers expecting a heart-warming romance will not be misled.")

#16 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 05:21 AM:

There's a trope among self-publishers that the Gatekeepers [of trade publishing] Keep Blacklists.

I don't know if this twerp has managed to make himself sufficiently publicly unpleasant that no agent or editor can face working with him. I'm reluctant to assume that, had he written the Great American Novel, he'd get the thin envelope. There are probably books good enough that someone would put up with him.

I'm not entirely sure he's got that particular book in him, mind.

#17 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 05:43 AM:

Abi, I suspect it's far, far, easier for some people to believe in a Sekrit Blacklist than for them to accept that their behaviour repels people who might otherwise work with them.

Because if the latter was true, that might mean there was something wrong with them. Or that they could achieve their goals if only they modified their own behaviour.

#18 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 06:06 AM:

Charlie @17:
I suspect it's far, far, easier for some people to believe in a Sekrit Blacklist than for them to accept that their behaviour repels people who might otherwise work with them.

It's also far easier to believe in a Sekrit Blacklist than it is to believe that the book they submitted was not of publishable quality.

#19 ::: Errolwi ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 06:28 AM:

A good way to respond to a review that misses the point (via http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/)

Thank you for killing my novel

#20 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 07:21 AM:

It takes a lot of self-confidence to do it this way, but Scalzi has some good takes on one-star reviews.

Mmmm… One Star-rific!
And Now, Some One Star Reviews of Redshirts

And, more philosophically, It’s Okay Not to Read Me.

#21 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 08:03 AM:

One of my avocations is that of book reviewer. I do my best to be fair, honest, straightforward, and objective. I also don't always like everything I'm assigned to review.

This summer, I finally got an angry letter from a gentleman of more than usual vanity. Unfortunately for him, one of the things he was angry about -- and that he got seriously wrong -- happens to be something on which I can, quite honestly, claim expertise within my own field of scholarship.

My problem is this: should I provide a detailed response, or should I just say "I had written that your book showed depth; I will happily withdraw that statement"?

#22 ::: Anne Lyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 08:15 AM:

I have zero problem with "not for me" reviews, because I know my writing won't please everyone, any more than I love every book I read.

My favourite so far is the guy whose criticisms unwittingly said far more about his own prejudices than the book's quality - it was so absurd, it kept me laughing all day. I couldn't resist tweeting about it, but I haven't responded directly and have no intention of doing so.

#23 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 08:19 AM:

I don't review stories that didn't do it for me. How many of them are so terrible that I must protect readers from them? Besides, tastes *are* subjective.

#24 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 09:19 AM:

I'm hoping that the current more aggressive anti-troll approach would have kept Kathy Sierra from being driven offline.

#25 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 09:19 AM:

I'm hoping that the current more aggressive anti-troll approach would have kept Kathy Sierra from being driven offline.

#26 ::: Rhonda Hopkins ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 09:47 AM:

“I’ve seen way more readers turned off books by author behaviour than by bad reviews,”...

So true. Bad reviews don't put authors on my Never Buy list, but the bad behavior certainly does. I won't support someone like that. This guy made it to my list yesterday.

#27 ::: Susanne O'Leary ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 09:56 AM:

There is the ONLY one way to deal with bad reviews and it is this: http://susannefromsweden.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/how-i-really-feel-about-bad-reviews/

makes you feel wonderful after going through through all the stages

#28 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 10:08 AM:

This is Phil's revenge-review:

1.0 out of 5 stars Can't get through it ..., July 6, 2012
This book starts with a map, which looks like it was drawn by a nine-year-old. The beginning has numerous characters with odd names such as Una, Amairgin, Finnbheara, Eithne, and places named Connacht and Keelbundoora--good luck keeping them all straight. The writing is choppy and boring, full of pointless babble. An editor would have helped all the grammar errors and typos. I couldn't make it past the third chapter. Perhaps the Australian dialect is partly to blame. Preview it and see if it is worthwhile before wasting $2.99 and time on it.

I can't help but notice that, while there's an "Amazon Verified Purchase" tag below Rachael's name on her review of his book, there's no "Amazon Verified Purchase" tag below his name. In other words, he couldn't have seen more than the "Look Inside" sample. That might help explain why he was unable to finish the book.

I'm almost certain that revenge-reviews violate Amazon's TOS, so read it--and the comments--now before it goes away. There's a link in one of them to the Badly Behaving Authors thread on the Amazon message boards where this is also being discussed.

#29 ::: Gaie Sebold ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 10:23 AM:

Hmm. Apparently he is now following the blog that my partner and I write (http://www.weedingandwriting.com/). I am very tempted to make the next post about How Not To Respond to Criticism.
It will be intriguing to see if he responds to implied criticism of his behaviour by a pair of fictional characters. Or, indeed, notices.

#30 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 10:28 AM:

UPDATE: All of the comments on Rachael's review of Phil's book have now magically vanished. (I'm all but certain that screen shots still exist somewhere.)

#31 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 10:28 AM:

I am also slightly boggled by his list of things he thinks women shouldn't forgive in a man they're dating. It includes "communicating with an ex," which implies that nobody with shared custody can ever date again. And "creating an orgasm tally imbalance," as if we're supposed to be counting our orgasms (rather than caring about whether all parties are satisfied). Never mind the literal parsing, which implies that having fewer orgasms than one's partner is also unforgivable. (I think he's groping for a real issue here, but the phrasing really doesn't work.)

#32 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 11:02 AM:

The first review I received at amazon was a one-star. I wept, but quietly, to myself. Two days later, a five-star showed up from a reader who was indignant that anyone could give the book a one. Both reviewers are unknown to me.

But here's the thing: I think maybe the second one would have given a three, maybe a four, if it hadn't been for the first.

What was it about what comes around again? Does it work, so to speak, in reverse?

#33 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 11:36 AM:

I've done what Charlie talks about, and had it go fairly well. I wrote things like "I'm willing to believe I botched the presentation, but X and Y are actually in the book, on pp. 13-17. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy the result; thank you for reading it and thinking about it, though." In one case, the reviewer actually acknowledged missing the bit, thanked me for the good tone of my comment, and went on to become a pretty good online acquaintance. And I don't think any of the others actually got any madder at me or anything.

It's just really, really important to stay focused, whenever you try something like that.

It's also almost always better if some other reader points out the factual stuff on your behalf. Cultivate friends and seed them with talking points! :)

#34 ::: Austin Loomis ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 11:38 AM:

The sentence that jumped out at me from the ThinkProgress piece, as having meatspace applications:

But if trolls are trying to prevent people from doing their actual work, [...] then it makes sense to push back against them and push back publicly.

I'm looking at you, "Mitch McConnell" or whatever your name is in the language of your home planet. (Seriously, they have the technology to send him umpteen squillion light-millenoids to Earth, and they give him a human-being mask that's less realistic than a Ben Cooper/Collegeville licensed Halloween face? Invasion FAIL.)

#35 ::: Beth Friedman ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 12:10 PM:

Vicki @31:

This. Which is to say, I was boggled at the list of things men do in a relationship that deserve punishment. "Forgetting important dates" and "slobbery" are the only two of the five that I would even consider as offenses. And to my mind, they don't deserve punishment, they deserve negotiation.

Of course, I'm not in a long-term relationship, so what do I know?

#36 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 12:14 PM:

[UPDATE 2] The revenge review is gone, too.

#37 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 12:41 PM:

So apparently, he won. He got what he wanted - someone posted a thoughtful review, he was angry, and he's managed to have the review taken down.

Ugh.

#38 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 12:43 PM:

No, her review is still there (just with no comments attached). His revenge-review is gone.

#39 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 12:45 PM:

I spoke too soon. Her thoughtful, helpful review -- based on actually reading his book -- has also vanished.

Score one for jerkdom.

#40 ::: J.D. Rhoades ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 01:19 PM:

I spoke too soon. Her thoughtful, helpful review -- based on actually reading his book -- has also vanished. Score one for jerkdom.

Sigh. I see this happen a lot on badly moderated sites. It's like "we can't be bothered to actually make a judgment here, we'll just ban both of them."

#41 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 01:28 PM:

Interesting. Torcivia followed me on Twitter a couple weeks ago, and as I usually do when someone's bio says "author" I checked him out, and was put in mind of that thing Gertrude Stein said about Oakland that always gets misinterpreted.

#42 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 01:38 PM:

Errolwi @ 19: Thank you for the link to Thank you for killing my novel. It's funny and interesting.

#43 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 02:02 PM:

Jim 11: Wow, that Citizen Kane review is absolutely priceless. The Grimm one was just ignorant in the extreme. Other notables including complaining that Dante's English is difficult, and that Oedipus Rex "has too much incest" in it, and isn't realistic.

I do have to say, though, that I think some of these books were assigned to kids who didn't yet have the capacity to understand them at all. Assigning Animal Farm before explaining the concept of political satire is foolish, for example.

— 39: Dammit. That sucks.

J.D. 40: Yep. I was driven off that cat-picture site (you know the one) because someone who I'd disagreed with followed me onto EVERY comment thread and accused me of murdering people (this had absolutely no connection to anything discussed at any time). When I complained of this I was told I'd spoken harshly to him too (well, yeah, but never like that and not at all for months at that point, whereas his harassment was ongoing) and that I should just never comment in any thread where he'd commented.

So I never commented there again, and have stopped looking at their site.

#44 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 02:18 PM:

Serge, #23: Doing a polite "not my cup of tea for these reasons" review may indeed be a great service to other readers who would respond the same way you did. I have a friend who used to do reviews of mystery books, and who coincidentally is bugged by exactly the same kinds of things in them that bug me. Reading her reviews warned me off several books which might otherwise have sounded interesting, because I realized that they'd become "Dorothy Parkers" partway thru.

#45 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 02:28 PM:

This entire adventure points up the poisonous atmosphere of self-promotion that surrounds the self-publishing world. What of the person who has merely written a good book, but who isn't willing or able to put on a clown suit, set his hair on fire, and run down the street yelling "Look at me! Look at me!" day after day, week after week? And how does the one who is willing to don that clown suit going to stand out among the million other clowns-with-flaming-hair who are running and shouting beside him?

#46 ::: WJ MacGuffin ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 02:39 PM:

Like Stross referred to above, you can defend your work without trashing the critic. I think that's fine, i.e. pointing out factual errors but thanking the critic for reading the work.

But people are entitled to their opinions of our work. I once had a bad review that, in my opinion, completely misunderstood the whole premise of the work. I didn't argue that because who am I to say the reader is wrong? Perhaps it's my fault that the premise did not come across to that reader.

Heck, I like seeing one-star reviews on a book. It makes me think either someone was offended (hence I'm curious) or the reviews are not all from the author and his/her friends. In other words, bad reviews make the good reviews more poignant.

#47 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 02:40 PM:

Xopher HalfTongue #43: The one I enjoyed most was the review of Plato's Republic that not so subtly suggested that Plato needed to get right with Jesus.

#48 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 02:51 PM:

Fragano, yeah, that was funny. I wonder if they said the same thing about Moses!

#49 ::: Jenn ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 03:15 PM:

We, as a society, have apparently forgotten how to shun.

SHUN him.

Done.

#50 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 03:29 PM:

I blocked all three of his Twitter feeds, not that he was following me or I him. However, I can trace at least one unFollow of him to my RT of this post. I feel good about that.

#51 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 03:38 PM:

Jim Macdonald : This entire adventure points up the poisonous atmosphere of self-promotion that surrounds the self-publishing world.

The Indie Author Hulk twitter feed is a pretty good parody of that world.

#52 ::: romsfuulynn ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 04:51 PM:

Authors can sometimes carry off a response with sufficient good humor. Carla Cassidy responded to this C grade review of her book Pregnesia on Smart Bitches Trashy books in a way that worked.

http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/blog/pregnesia-by-carla-cassidy-guest-review - you'll find her comment at #23...

#53 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 04:57 PM:

The saddest thing? Each of those books probably has six or eight sales ... total.

#54 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 05:53 PM:

Jim, that reminds me of what I've heard say about infighting in academia: the grudges are so bitter because the stakes are so very low.

#55 ::: Older ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 11:20 PM:

This has been going on for a long time.

Many many years ago (my children) my husband and I were the distributing editors of an APA. Some of you will remember these round-robins, predecessors of the internet and its blogs.

Many APAs were concerned with music. Ours was not, but we often received 45s or tapes and requests for reviews. Usually after listening to them, we passed them on to people we thought would be more interested in them. But one of them we liked. We wrote a favorable review ending with the words "These guys could grow up to be Spirit." We *liked* Spirit, a lot.

Welp, the senders were not pleased. They sent us a rage-filled letter, prompting us to be glad we picked up the mail in a town where we had no other connection, and demanded that we Take Our Opinion Back!!!!

After some thought, we published their letter, and our final judgment: "On the best day of their lives these people will never be close to being Spirit." And a note explaining that one does not "take back" *opinions".

My son on hearing this story said, "They should be happy to be mentioned on the same page as Spirit."

Yeah, we were mean. But people who are going to perform, or write, in public have to realize that they won't like everyone's opinion of their work.

#56 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 11:39 PM:

I was lucky enough to get a favorable review for The Christmas Mutiny, but I was grateful to have received any review at all.

Seriously, I am convinced that a one-star review would be more likely to get readers to look at an excerpt than a book which has had no reviews at all.

#57 ::: Andrea K Host ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2012, 11:41 PM:

"This entire adventure points up the poisonous atmosphere of self-promotion that surrounds the self-publishing world. What of the person who has merely written a good book, but who isn't willing or able to put on a clown suit, set his hair on fire, and run down the street yelling "Look at me! Look at me!" day after day, week after week?"

We're doing just fine.

There's an opposing view in the self-pub world (promoted primarily by Kristine Kathryn Rusch) of "just keep putting out good books". I'm a very minimal-promotion person (the occasional giveaway, a blog I post on once a week), and I still sell several hundred books each month.

Self-pub authors start out slow, without the promotional blast of reviews timed to a release date, but it's not impossible to find an audience, and with each release that core group of fans is a little larger.

As yet, no clown suits have been necessary. :)

#58 ::: Matthew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 02:59 AM:

Yes -- is the concept of the "big launch" even relevant in the e-publishing world? Strikes me that it's tied into the economics of traditional, physical book printing, distribution and sale.

#59 ::: Matthew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 02:59 AM:

Yes -- is the concept of the "big launch" even relevant in the e-publishing world? Strikes me that it's tied into the economics of traditional, physical book printing, distribution and sale.

#60 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 08:31 AM:

Matthew @59: the "big launch" for an ebook is simply an attempt to generate a spike in sales that will get logged by the bestseller list calculations. Until the NYTimes list changes to something like tracking cumulative sales to date, a one-week sales spike will get you onto the extended list if you're lucky.

I just got a launch day spike today -- Monday the 9th -- for the UK ebook release of my latest novel. I don't have realtime bookscan stats, but it's currently at #5 in SF in the UK Kindle store, behind a couple of GRRM titles, a Pratchett/Baxter collaboration, and some self-published dude's novel selling for £0.99. If it had begun dribbling out for the past few weeks, that spike wouldn't be there, presumably exposing it to the eyeballs of bored online bookstore browsers who might be tempted to buy it on spec.

Note: one key difference between ebooks and print books is that with ebooks you never need to go back to the printer for a reprint. I can't stress this enough: the shelves are never bare. Which means a short-term word-of-mouth social buzz can in principle cause a midlist title to go big in a way that's impossible for a hardcopy, physical property.

#61 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 11:24 AM:

John M. Burt @56: "If it doesn't have any one-star reviews, no one's read it." For all values of 'it', I think.

I've certainly bought products because of their negative reviews. Sometimes because the negative reviews highlighted "flaws" in the book that I thought were assets, and sometimes because I decided that the flaws highlighted were minor enough for my use-case. (The Lewis and Clark book where all the negative reviews complained about the authors' "political correctness" for discussing the contributions of several women to the success of the Corps of Discovery got bought on the spot.)

Isn't the principle of Amazon reviews usually that the first three five-star reviews are the author under a pseud, the author's mom, and the author's best friend anyway? I'm always skeptical of products which have a small number of all 5-star reviews which don't contain any specific detail, because it smells like that kind of astroturfing. Mr. Torcivia should welcome his bad reviews -- like weathering on model buildings, they lend versimilitude!

#62 ::: Ian Osmond ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 11:42 AM:

I just wrote some long comments on the guy's blog, and I'm starting to have a bit of sympathy for the guy. I mean, I think he's being a moron, but I think I'm putting together why.

Going through a traditional publishing model gives an author a support structure. And that shows up in all sorts of ways. Self-publishers have to create and manage all those support structures on their own, and it's not at all obvious what all of those structures are.

I can understand that authors take negative reviews real personal-like. Actors, directors, artists of all stripes -- your work can be integral to you, so if someone doesn't ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT, it might feel like they don't love YOU. Intellectually, I think most artists are aware that this isn't true, but emotionally. . .

Self-publishers have to learn for themselves how to deal with this without having it destroy them, and some people are better at that than others.

If an authors go through a traditional publishers, then, when they get their first two-star reviews, they can phone up their editors and get all petulant at THEM, and said editors can virtually pat them on the head and say, "There, there, poor baby." That's part of an editor's job, and the main reason editors drink so much.

#63 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 11:50 AM:

Kevin Riggle (61): Similarly, when I've bought products ranging from small electronics to binoculars, I look closely at the two- and three-star reviews. The flaws and drawbacks* they highlight may be things I can live with, or they may be deal-breakers. Either way, I want to know about them.

*Or sometimes they make it obvious that the reviewer doesn't know what s/he is talking about.
---------
Also, I am reminded of the Booklist review of Pamela Dean's Tam Lin. It was mixed**, but I already liked Dean's books so I read it anyway. Everything the reviewer complained about was absolutely true--those were the good parts!

**Booklist doesn't print purely negative reviews; they prefer to save the space for other things.

#64 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 01:44 PM:

Reviewers who "just don't get it": I remember a review of Starhawk's Truth or Dare, a book which is, among other things, about creating ritual in the service of political activism. The NYT review said that the rituals in the book seemed inauthentic:

These latter-day incantations and spells appear to have been concocted deliberately, for ideological reasons; they have more of library paste than of mandrake root in them.

Yeah, and that phone book has too many characters and not enough plot.

#65 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 02:47 PM:

Xopher @ 64:

Unlike all those real spells created by magicians like John Dee and Arthur Edward Waite ;-)>

And speaking of self-publishing, there's an interesting discussion about how it's being used to bypass peer review in the sciences at Download the Universe.

#66 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 03:57 PM:

Kevin Riggle @61: I didn't say that, so please don't put it inside quotation marks.

#67 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 04:36 PM:

John Burt @ 66: I got the impression that Kevin was quoting someone else in response to your post, but that could certainly be clarified.

#68 ::: Ginger has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 04:38 PM:

I have a lovely Yunnan tea to go with some biscuits.

#69 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 09:13 PM:

I first heard of Good Omens via a bad review. They said it was just as annoyingly clever as Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

In a similar vein, one of my uncles once discovered a certain movie reviewer (possibly Pauline Kael, I don't remember) had the exact opposite tastes to his. Anything she hated, he enjoyed, and vice versa. Her reviews, he said, were very useful.

#70 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2012, 10:00 PM:

Sarah @69 -- we had a regular customer at the Other Change of Hobbit in the early days who used Deb Notkin as that sort of bellwether. Both of them seemed rather pleased about it.

#71 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2012, 12:10 AM:

Xopher @54 : I'd say the stakes can be low in academic infighting... but not always. I can think of examples where people have left departments because the infighting has been sufficiently nasty. There's also a difference between disagreeing with one's fellow academics (often volubly - researchers have been known to get in to decades-long feuds about theories) and actually conspiring to be Evil to one's fellows. The latter, at least in my area, is comparatively rare - people disagree all the time, but almost everyone just wants to talk science; they're pretty good about divorcing the science from the person who did the science.

#72 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2012, 01:43 AM:

I am reminded of Ken Miller's story about a paleontology conference in which new fossils from the Powder River basin in Wyoming were presented. He says that there were "almost fistfights" on the conference floor about whether these were "mammal-like reptiles" or "reptile-like mammals".

Paleontologists, he said, will argue about anything. I believe that the same is true of historians. Other disciplines, I can't speak for.

#73 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2012, 02:04 AM:

Vision scientists don't generally get to fisticuffs - just occasionally pointed questions and snark at the bar afterward.

#74 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2012, 02:19 AM:

Tom Whitmore @70: Sarah @69 -- we had a regular customer at the Other Change of Hobbit in the early days who used Deb Notkin as that sort of bellwether. Both of them seemed rather pleased about it.

Oh, that's awesome. I can just imagine Deb's expression, too.

#75 ::: LMM ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2012, 10:26 AM:

@71: There's also a difference between disagreeing with one's fellow academics ... and actually conspiring to be Evil to one's fellows. The latter, at least in my area, is comparatively rare - people disagree all the time, but almost everyone just wants to talk science; they're pretty good about divorcing the science from the person who did the science.

It's always unclear to me, at least, how much Evil there is going on. One hears stories of lab sabotages, of course, but, at least in my field, it's typically told about the high-rated schools -- particularly Berkeley. Which makes it feel, in some ways, like a case of sour grapes.

That being said, academic feuds can easily become Evil just through the peer review process. (And, I should note, such cases don't *need* to distinguish between the person and the science: one can claim at least that one bears no grudge against the researcher themselves while destroying their career.) There have been a handful of well-documented cases in which researchers who have conclusively refuted claims made by scientists further up the academic hierarchy have had *massive* problems getting their results published. (In particular, I'm thinking of the paper discussed here.) Actual sabotage may be rare -- but blocking publications amounts to career sabotage as well, and that's actually quite easy to do.

#76 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2012, 02:16 PM:

LMM @ 75 : That's interesting; I'm at Berkeley - but I'm, as I've mentioned, a vision/psych researcher, and the idea that someone would sabotage someone else's lab is pretty much anathema in my end of things. I'd wonder which department (I've got my guesses, but they're not based on much).

The sabotage through peer review trick does occur - I've seen some of the reviews - but again, it's relatively rare in my field. One of my labmates has a paper that one cranky reviewer tried to kill with malice aforethought - which he then got published in a higher impact journal. There are the cranky reviewers, but everyone knows who they are, and most journals will abide by requests to not send papers to them.

My feeling is that it varies quite a lot based on field - as a general rule, vision scientists are a pretty friendly and relatively sane bunch (at least for people who like to do psychophysics).

#77 ::: Torrilin ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2012, 02:35 PM:

A friend does peer review for a couple journals, and he is delighted to get papers from groups whose work he respects. He loves having positive things to say and finding neat science.

The bane of his existence is the papers with horrific use of English and content cribbed from Wikipedia.

I can definitely believe that there are reviewers who would hold a grudge or not have the sense to recuse themselves if they can't be rational tho since there are papers cribbed from Wikipedia. Every time I think there's something that would surely be too weird to happen... it does. At least when human nature is involved.

#78 ::: Phil Torcivia ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2012, 04:26 PM:

Loving all the attention. Sales are up. Keep feeding the beast.

#79 ::: Jacque, with popcorn ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2012, 04:55 PM:

Oh, this oughta be good.

#80 ::: John Abramowitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2012, 05:01 PM:

As an emerging indie still struggling to get noticed, I took a different stance on 1-star reviews when I got my first one a few weeks ago: I was happy to see it.

It meant I was finally getting widely read enough to GET one star reviews.

Also, since when is not making The Author's Big Mistake a novel concept? I thought that was basically conventional wisdom.

#81 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2012, 05:03 PM:

Phil, I hope you're ashamed of yourself. You've behaved badly. This doesn't mean you're a bad man, but the habit of bad behavior is hard to break. Try to do better. A sincere apology to the person(s) you've hurt, and a firm resolve never to do the same again, would be a good first step.

Listen: If you're going to be a professional writer it's time for you to learn this. You're old enough to have figured it out on your own, but since you apparently haven't, this is a fact: The existence of poor reviews makes the good ones look better by comparison.

"Sales are up." You've sold, what, three copies since Friday? Four? Please, have some self-respect.

#82 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2012, 06:01 PM:

Phil, #78: I'm glad you showed up here, because I've been wanting to ask you: WHY did you take down Rachel's review? It would have been much classier to have left it up, after taking down all the shit you did to terrorize her. Now everybody thinks you're a coward as well as an asshole and a troll.

#83 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2012, 07:39 PM:

Sometimes though, sometimes even though you're right, sometimes when one is forced by this rule to maintain helpless silence under a personal attack, it does make one wish one lived in the days when one could ask one's seconds to call upon them.

#84 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2012, 09:12 PM:

Poor Phil has traded in a positive and encouraging two-star review for two absolute slam one-star reviews, and they're labeled the "most helpful" reviews.

One of those reviews says, in part, "This book is riddled with editing and spelling mistakes." In the comment section on that review, Phil asks, "Would you be kind enough to provide the numerous editing and spelling mistakes you have found? I'd like to review those with my editors."

Would page one be too early, Phil? Paragraphs one through five are in present tense. Paragraph six inexplicably drops into past tense. Paragraph seven is present tense again.

It's nice that you have editors, though. Too many self-published authors skip that step.

#85 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2012, 09:18 PM:

I guess this kind of parallels the Dunning-Kruger effect. People who don't take feedback well don't improve, therefore people who are bad at what they do are likely to take feedback poorly.

#86 ::: Barbara ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2012, 10:43 PM:

Phil maintains that authors shouldn't review other authors (unless with fawning 5 star reviews). Then he dismisses Ian's excellent advice on the grounds that Ian isn't an author.
Are we to conclude that neither authors nor non-authors have the right to advise Mr. Torcivia?

#87 ::: Ian Osmond ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2012, 10:58 PM:

Barbara @86: Let's be fair. Phil doesn't dismiss my advice because I'm not an author. Phil dismisses my advice because it doesn't agree with what he already knows is true. I suspect I could have three Caldecott Medals, a couple Nebulas, a Pulitzer, and a Nobel Prize for Literature, and it wouldn't make any difference.

#88 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2012, 11:25 PM:

I'll give him this much: He's got a consistent voice. In blog posts, his novels, or hate mail, his bitterness and insecurity drip off the page and leave unsightly stains.

It's awkward reading. Whenever I see some guy strutting around with that overdone tough-guy shtick, I just feel embarrassed for him. It's uncomfortable. It reads like he's trying to be a "man's man" but doesn't really know what one is.

One half-expects him to say something about bags of sand.

#89 ::: Phil Torcivia ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 01:30 AM:

Keep them coming, folks. The attention is flattering. I see you are all expert writers, editors, and critics who sell numerous books, treat people respectfully, and understand comedy.

#90 ::: Antonia T. Tiger, amateur author ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 02:16 AM:

Oh, we know all the tricks, dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes and... satire.

As I lounge here on the beach, sipping a pineapple krakotoa, while a cabana-boy gently grooms my delicate fur, I idly wonder if I should write another novel today. You can't lose if you give them handsome highwaymen, duels, 3-foot fountains and whacking great horses and dogs all over the place.

#91 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 02:29 AM:

"I see you are all expert writers, editors, and critics who sell numerous books, treat people respectfully, and understand comedy."

Indeed we are. Finally, a glimmer of perception.

But, despite my understanding of comedy, I still fail to find anything funny in writing a revenge-review to "punish" someone. Perhaps if you could explain it to me--slowly, using little words--I'll see the humor?

#92 ::: Phil Torcivia ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 02:50 AM:

By the way, over 6000 copies sold in the last six weeks, which is over 6000 more than you, right? The one edit you suggest comes (pre-edited) from my blog entry. My editor caught it and it was published correctly as you can see if you preview it at Amazon. My work, while imperfect, isn't riddled with errors, is it? You condone the lie, whereas my review was factual.

That's the extent of my defense here. I apologize for not mentioning your blog to my followers (90,000+ to your 1000) ... you're not worthy.

I have no more time or words to spot you. Have a wonderful life.

#93 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 02:53 AM:

all expert writers, editors, and critics who sell numerous books, treat people respectfully, and understand comedy.

You might want to look up the names of the proprietors of this site (and yes, they read the threads). Try Wikipedia. Maybe have a check who Jim Macdonald, Jo Walton and Charlie Stross are; they've all supplied their full names for easy reference. Hint: they have more sales on an off day in a deep recession than you'll get all decade.

And if you'd like more professionals in the publishing industry to stop by, point at you, and say, "Christ, what an asshole," just say the word. I'm sure a few more will be glad to weigh in. They're lurking, even now.

Or, if you prefer, you can listen to the readers—the people who pay money for books they enjoy—who also have opinions about whom they want to give said money to.

See, you have this weird idea that only authors are qualified to judge you (except when they find you wanting, in which case they had best fuck off). But authors are not your ultimate judges; nor are editors or critics. Editors and critics only prepare the way for your encounter with the really important people in this transaction: your readers.

Your readers are the custodians of your posterity. They plonk down their money to buy your book, tell your friends about you and rate your books...or they don't. Some of your readers are also writers (This is where you screwed up, by the way; you saw a writer competing with you, whereas what you had was a reader talking to other readers. Those are gold. Don't scare them off.), but that's not what gives them the right to an opinion. As the old saying goes, it doesn't take a chicken to tell when an egg is bad.

But this distracts from the key point, which is that you were a jerk. This blog post doesn't exist because of the quality, or lack thereof, of your book. It exists because you were an asshole and a bully. And anyone is competent to make that judgment call.

#94 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 03:22 AM:

"My editor caught it and it was published correctly as you can see if you preview it at Amazon."

Oh, Phil, sweetie, did you really think that I'd comment on an error you made in a place you could easily and invisibly alter without getting a screenshot?

I stopped looking after eight paragraphs. I'll be double-damned and dipped in chocolate before I buy a copy.

Speaking of buying copies....

6,000 copies? Really? Since the 5th of June? Then why does that book rank #50,820 in the paid Kindle store and only have six pages of "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought"? That doesn't add up, Phil.

(BTW, I didn't mention the typo on your copyright page. When you start fixing things you might want to fix that, too.)

#95 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 03:38 AM:

Coming late to this, but hang on - he wants his reader (I'm quite happy to leave that in the singular ... ) to furnish him with a list of the mistakes in his work???

What the actual fcuk? Does he expect the general public to be his copy-editors as well as his audience?

Oh, but I see he's flounced - I guess we'll never know now.

#96 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 04:03 AM:

Jo @ #83: It does make one wish one lived in the days when one could ask one's seconds to call upon them.

Or when some could: one has some suspicion that one would not be one of the some.

I much prefer the more developed manners of the Age of the Internet, in which the offensive party is quite frequently so obliging as to show up to the field of honour alone and without need of personal challenge, in order to ritually shoot himself in the buttock.

#97 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 04:11 AM:

Phil @92 still doesn't know where he is, if he says:

That's the extent of my defense here. I apologize for not mentioning your blog to my followers (90,000+ to your 1000) ... you're not worthy

Let's do an exercise, dear people. You can play along at home.

Navigate ye to Google.com. Log out if you're logged into gmail, G+, or other Google gubbins to get a clean result. Then paste a characteristic phrase from Phil's blog that's been quoted here*. Use quotes so it searches for the whole phrase, rather than the individual words.

I chose "trash the shit out of her in a public forum by posting a one-star review". It's certainly characteristic.

(linky linky for your convenience.)

Guess which comes up on top, this blog or Phil's own site?

-----
* Fair use, Phil, before you start down that road.

#98 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 07:38 AM:

Oh dear, Phil.

This hive of scum and villainy you've discovered is actually a secret watering hole frequented by folks who write and edit science fiction and fantasy novels for a living.

They tend to hide their light under a bushell to some extent, but Patrick Nielsen Hayden is Editorial Director at Tor, the largest SF genre publisher in the United States; Teresa is (I believe) a freelance editor who manages a list of authors at Tor among other things. Jim is merely a successful novelist (coincidentally: published by Tor) with a 20-30 year track record in the industry. Jo Walton and I are just interested bystanders who happen to write for our living.

I'd be more impressed by your claimed 6000 sales if it wasn't self-published with a low-balled Kindle edition aimed at maximizing sales over revenue. 6000 sales in hardcover at an SRP of $24, discounted to $16-17 by the usual retail outlets, would be a reasonable run. But at $2.99, bstselling it ain't ... and rolling it out to prove what a Big Swinging Dick you are is just tacky.

#99 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 07:41 AM:

you're not worthy

Did ML turn into an SNL skit and nobody told me?

#100 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 08:22 AM:

Charlie, I think he's be getting almost as good sales if he got his local transit agency to put up ads in its vehicles and at its stops. (I've seen that done before.)

#101 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 09:35 AM:

Phil's actual sales for this title are two orders of magnitude lower than what he's claimed.

While we're on the subject of orders of magnitude, here are screenshots of traffic stats from Alexa.com as of this morning (combined into one graphic for easy comparison).

A solid 65 people link to Phil's blog! Wowsers! Sixty-five!

I'm sure Phil would like us to link to his blog... and we did! Unfortunately, when I put the link up in the main post, I made it a rel="nofollow" link.

Sorry about that.

#102 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 11:21 AM:

Oh, boy. Phil is just begging to become, in the useful term from "Animaniacs," a "special friend," isn't he?

#103 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 12:44 PM:

I'm waiting for Phil Torcivia's name to return Making Light. That's part of why I'm pseudonymous here-- I've posted as both versions of my real name and if I google those, here's pretty high on the list.

#104 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 12:44 PM:

Reading this thread, it occurred to me that while there are people who believe that "There's no such thing as bad publicity," Phil Torcivia is clearly not one of them.

He said "keep it coming" to Making Light denizens, but if he actually believed that all publicity is good, he would never have attacked Rachael. By that standard, his writing a nasty review of her book would have counted as publicity and thus good for her. (I don't believe this: I'm pointing out that he manifestly doesn't either.) Also, someone who believed that there is no such thing as bad publicity would not have asked Amazon to take Rachael's review down.

It's an odd disconnect: say anything we want about him, but don't criticize his baby book.

#105 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 01:06 PM:

"It's an odd disconnect: say anything we want about him, but don't criticize his book."

I've played that game before. Or if you say mean things about me, I'll insist that criticizing my work is fair game but getting personal is out of line.

Either way works. It's an assertion of dominance. "The thing you're doing now, whatever it is, is unacceptable. I'll claim that I'd be fine with some other thing that you're not doing." (So long as you don't do it.) What's important is that I'm the one making the rules about what's kosher. Also, I find it much easier to endure hypothetical criticism."

#106 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 02:44 PM:

Thanks, Jim, for that screenshot of traffic stats. As I suspected, Phil is not only a creepazoid, but a lying sack of crap.

The earlier screenshot of his book's opening page... well, I'm not about to pay $2.99 for (being generous) second-rate porn.

#107 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 03:00 PM:

Oh, thank you, Phil! I will never, until the Sun grows cold, buy or even skim one of your books. But you have provided exceedingly good fun here. Made my day.

#108 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 04:06 PM:

Bruce Arthurs:

To be fair, it isn't itself second-rate porn: It's a parody of second-rate (but best-selling) porn.

Parodies of Fifty Shades of Grey appear to a sub-genre all their own. Titles on the Kindle currently include:


  • Fifty Shades of Black and Blue
    by I B Naughtie
  • Fifty Shades of Beige: Book One of the Fifty Shades Parody
    by Reid Mockery
  • Fifty Shades of Marker: Book Two of the Fifty Shades Parody
    by Reid Mockery
  • Fifty Shades of Pink: A Parody
    by Faythe America
  • Fifty Shames of Earl Grey: A Parody
    by Andrew Shaffer and Fanny Merkin
  • Fifty Shades of Twilight
    by Secret Anonymous
  • Fifty Shades of Garbage
    by Allie Beck
  • Fifty Shades of Grey and Zombies
    by Grey West

And all of the ones I listed are selling better than poor dear Phil's book.

#109 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 04:35 PM:

Actually, Jim, most of paragraph six is in present tense. One sentence is in past. IMO this is worse.

#110 ::: LMM ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 08:07 PM:

@101: Tangentially, ML has "relatively good traffic in Burnaby"? Who here lives in Burnaby?

#111 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 08:55 PM:

108
The authors' names on those parodies are amusing. (The parodies might be better if the person has read the non-parody first. I'm not that person.)

#112 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 09:16 PM:

Amusingly, and perhaps coincidentally, Teresa's Making Book has sold three copies in the past week. Pretty good for an 18-year old book.

#113 ::: xaaronx ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 09:56 PM:

Phil Torcivia @89

" I see you are all expert writers, editors, and critics who sell numerous books, treat people respectfully, and understand comedy."

Oh, dude. . . you just. . .I don't even.

I kinda wish Scalzi wasn't (presumably) busy with SDCC stuff right now and could spare the time to give us some lovely snark on the topic.

#114 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 10:35 PM:

You don't even need Scalzi-level snark for that. All you need is a well-timed,

"Actually, yes."

#115 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2012, 11:03 PM:

Indeed, we may not have Marshall McLuhan right here, but we do have a bunch of authors and editors whose books show up on the shelves of places like Barnes and Nobles and Powells, not to mention public libraries. Without being special-ordered, even. And some of them have won prestigious awards.

And he's trying to pick a literary qualifications fight with them? Time to pop more popcorn, I think....

#116 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 12:31 AM:

Referring back to my #84:

Normally I wouldn't refer to an obvious revenge-review written by someone who clearly hadn't read the book. But, since Phil has no problem with writing revenge reviews of books he hasn't read, I figured he could lie there and take it.

I also saw that he was sensitive about editing. Note that in his own revenge-review of a book he hadn't read, he said, "An editor would have helped all the grammar errors and typos." You can tell a lot about what bothers a man by looking at what he thinks hurts other people.

I made a bet with myself about where I'd find the first editing error in his book, and he didn't disappoint. Page one.

#117 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 12:33 AM:

As Richard Hammond says, "This can only end well."

#118 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 03:08 AM:

Jim Macdonald, #108: "To be fair, it isn't itself second-rate porn: It's a parody of second-rate (but best-selling) porn."

Oh, it's a parody of a genre that's inherently self-parodying? That's different, then.

I'll revise my comment from #106: It's (being polite) third-rate porn.

#119 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 11:59 AM:

"Charlie, I think he's be getting almost as good sales if he got his local transit agency to put up ads in its vehicles and at its stops. (I've seen that done before.)"

It's not always a bad tactic, either. A friend of mine is a Boulder-local author who writes urban fantasy romance that takes place in Boulder. (There are elves. It's fun.) As such, her ad campaign on Boulder-area buses (paid for by her publisher, I believe - she's not self-pubbed) seemed a good move. In any case, I didn't realize she had a sequel 'til I saw the banner go by on the BOUND. Reader, I bought it. (Er. The book, not the bus.)


"Fifty Shames of Earl Grey: A Parody
by Andrew Shaffer and Fanny Merkin"

Oh, I like it. Please can the follow-up be "Fifty Shades of the Boulder Blues"? (cf. Tea Spot)

#120 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 12:55 PM:

You can probably guess the word that flashed into my mind when Abi told me Phil Torcivia had turned up to do battle in the comment thread: Piñata!

xaaronx @113, there's a long list of authors, editors, and other publishing pros who've hung out in these comment threads, but I doubt it would faze Torcivia. He's a wanna-be flame warrior, and he's here to fight.

Unfortunately for him, he consistently makes four noob-level errors: (1.) He doesn't choose defensible ground to take his stand. (2.) He doesn't take a few minutes to google up the people he's arguing with. (3.) He doesn't assume that anyone will check his claims, save copies of his posts, or remember what he said yesterday. (4.) He doesn't make up new sentences for new occasions.

Speaking as a veteran of innumerable internet dust-ups, those are all characteristic of someone who started dumb and is determined to stay that way.

===

Technical notes: It's not hard to write parodies of porn -- many would-be porn writers do so inadvertently -- but it's very difficult to write parodies of porn that function as both humor and erotica, because the underlying mechanisms are so incompatible.

Humor works by creating tension, then blowing it off in unexpected ways, usually in a series of small-to-medium explosions. Porn works by accumulating and intensifying tension, then releasing it all in one big anticipated way. There aren't many instances of writers who can manage both simultaneously.

#121 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 01:07 PM:

TNH @120 -- you make me wonder what Mike Ford would have done with that challenge....

#122 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 01:18 PM:

TNH 120: Laughter during sex is not usually a good thing (especially when accompanied by, you know, pointing). Asimov pointed out that a story can be moderately suspenseful or even moderately science-fictiony (and I'd add moderately erotic) but a story that isn't funny just isn't funny.

It's not hard to write parodies of porn -- many would-be porn writers do so inadvertently

I remember some attempted erotic fanfic (DS9 erotic fanfic, if you can believe it) that was just kind of lame until the phrase 'his pert sex' appeared, at which point it became howlingly ridiculous. Many things are, or can be, pert, but "his sex" is not one of them!

#123 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 02:15 PM:

Teresa @ 120... humor and erotica, because the underlying mechanisms are so incompatible

"Ah, sweet mystery of Life at last I've found thee!"
- Madeleine Kahn and Teri Garr in 'Young Frankenstein'

#124 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 02:21 PM:

Case in point, Serge. That's funny; it's not sexy.

#125 ::: rat4000 ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 02:49 PM:

I won't say anything about the review issues because, well, everyone else has already said it all. But I do have a nitpick, specifically:

Jim Macdonald @94: The way I read the page was: "'If you insist.' [time passes] The Padres lose [now]. Bea was cool about staying until the final out [until now]." In all the moments between his line and the final out, she was cool -- those moments are past, looking at them from the last out, which is the new now, so the past tense fits.

You think (I guess) that it should be "'If you insist.' [no time passes]. Bea is [currently] cool about staying until the final out." But that makes no sense -- by the time we get to this point in the narration, the final out has happened; we can no longer talk about it in the present tense.

You could say it's unclear, I suppose, but I'd hesitate to call it a mistake; my way is the way I read it the first time I saw it, and indeed I had to reread a couple of times before figuring out what was bothering you.

#126 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 02:50 PM:

Tom Whitmore @121:

you make me wonder what Mike Ford would have done with that challenge....

*simultaneously blushes to the roots and bursts out laughing*

As it happens, I can answer that.

...

Hey, I said I can. I didn't say I would.

(I'll just say this: the letters contained erotic fiction which was not comedic, but the in-person storytelling was not governed by such constraint. I still blush and burst into inappropriate laughter at mentions of Damon Runyon stories. It was the use of the Damon Runyon eternal present tense that did it. OK, shutting up now. And blushing more. And wishing for a recording device and a time machine.)


#127 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 03:07 PM:

Humorous porn is hard to write. Humor about porn is much easier. Case in point: Boingy, boingy, boingy. (NSFW, especially if your co-workers are likely to come over to see why you're laughing like a loon.)

#128 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 03:37 PM:
The Padres lose, as usual. Bea was cool about staying until the final out. It drives me crazy when fans abandon their team. Anything can happen in baseball, regardless of the score, until the final out.

Rat4000: Alas, that paragraph (as written) is the form that makes no sense. This book is written in present tense. As written, it says that Bea was, at some time in the past (but is no longer) cool about staying to the final out. It should read:

The Padres lose, as usual. Bea is cool about staying until the final out. It drives me crazy when fans abandon their team. Anything can happen in baseball, regardless of the score, until the final out.

For your interpretation to be correct, the paragraph would need to start "The Padres lost, as usual." Which would be an even greater violation of present-tense narration.

The most charitable interpretation is that the paragraph is unclear, which again is an editing error. And given that poor dear Phil admitted (in #92 above) that it was an error, I think that's case closed.

#129 ::: little pink beast ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 03:45 PM:

Phil Foglio managed Funny Porn with Xxxenophile, but that's the only example I can think of. It's probably not a standard we can reasonably expect others to live up to.

#130 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 03:59 PM:

Amanda Gannon turns out some remarkably good, and remarkably funny, erotica. It's the best balance I've ever seen of plot, humor and, well, porn.

#131 ::: rat4000 ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 04:00 PM:

Jim: He did say it had been fixed before you posted the screenshot, so I assumed there had been some other error. (Or else that he just said something to say something. His replies here don't look like he spent any time or thought on them.)

Hm. The Padres are losing -- the final out is happening -- now. (I was wrong when I said it had happened, apologies.) Bea was cool with staying, but now she no longer is (or needs to be), because now both she and the narrator are leaving. It's analogous to "I am starving. I didn't eat yesterday." which is perfectly fine within a present tense narrative.

I'll agree with you that it's unclear, though; even if I'm right, a paragraph's failing to convey what you mean to a native speaker makes it unclear by definition.

#132 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 04:41 PM:

rat4000, however you interpret it, it's wrong. The tenses don't match, and that's a stumbler for the reader. A sentence can have a past bit as long as the overall sentence matches the rest of the paragraph.

But as I said before, people who take criticism as badly as this bozo have a hard time learning to write.

#133 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 04:51 PM:

"I never make love on an empty stomach."
- Eva Marie Saint in 'North by Northwest'

#134 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 04:54 PM:

@129 XXXenophilia was also my first thought when the subject turned to intentionally funny porn.

The other title which comes to mind is the weekly webcomic Oglaf (@ oglaf.com). Manages to be funny and smutty and no more objectifying than Foglio.

I recommend fans of Xxxenophile give it a looksee.

#135 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 06:05 PM:

You'll note that I didn't call out "It drives me crazy when fans abandon their team" as an error, even with ambiguity and lack of agreement in number. It could be a stylistic choice. Besides, at that point I'd already found an error. No need to find more.

It's also possible that choppy paragraphs, bouncing around in tense, and mismatches in number, are dead-on parodies of failings in the original Fifty Shades novels. I wouldn't know.

Since Phil hasn't returned to explain himself I'll just assume they're due to lack of skill.

-------------

I think the word for "funny pornography" is "bawdry."

#136 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 06:23 PM:

I'll also add in a good word for Foglio's XXXenophile comics. You can read them without feeling embarassed about it afterward, unlike most regular porn. I tend to describe them as "Just good clean filth."

#137 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 06:35 PM:

Jim, I don't see the error of number agreement in 'It drives me crazy when fans abandon their team.'

'When fans abandon their team' is an acceptable "it."

'Fans' agrees with 'abandon' and 'their'.

Are you saying it should be 'teams'? Not if they're all fans of one team, which seems to be the case here.

What am I missing?

#138 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 07:02 PM:

I might say "teams," since fans may support more than one team (and probably do). The same person may have a favorite baseball team, football team, hockey team, and so on. Or, some fans may favor (for example) the Red Sox while others may favor the Yankees. Thus, fans and teams.

But this is a minor quibble, and I could argue it either way. The entire paragraph needed to be re-written for strength and clarity.

#139 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2012, 11:37 PM:

Phil Torcivia, you didn't even have 6,000 more sales than me.

#140 ::: xaaronx ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2012, 01:26 AM:

TNH @120

"there's a long list of authors, editors, and other publishing pros who've hung out in these comment threads, but I doubt it would faze Torcivia. He's a wanna-be flame warrior, and he's here to fight."

Oh, I know (I've been a lurker here for a number of years and am still pleasantly surprised when some name from my own bookshelf pops up here). I might dispute his being here to fight, though. He was here more to make his grand statement and then run before any rotten fruit could hit him. He lacks the tenacity for a real fight or he wouldn't have flounced so quickly and he might have at least put in the work to write a truly scathing review of Ms. Tsoumbakos' book instead of the weak sauce he actually produced. Although that could also be lack of writing ability.

That said, I am in total agreement with your analysis of his errors. I find #2 and #3 particularly bemusing.

#141 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2012, 01:47 AM:

Thanks to this thread, when I looked up something on Amazon tonight, the bottom of the page displayed Customers who bought items in your recent history also bought followed by two Phil Torcivia books. The horror! I saw there was a Recently Viewed Items column on the left, with his book at the top. Fortunately, there's a Fix this recommendation link under each book. When you click it, it displays which recently viewed books caused that suggestion, and there's an option to remove each from your browsing history.

My other recently viewed books were by Ellen Klages, Jo Walton, D. E. Stevenson and Neil Gaiman, my suggested books are now much improved.

A pity that such a removal option isn't available elsewhere in life.

#142 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2012, 02:20 AM:

Lee @ 127: Boing, boing, boing is so going into the lexicon at my house! Thank you.

#143 ::: MNiM ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2012, 05:54 AM:

Lee @ #127 -- thank you for that. I needed that in my life, and now I have it.

#144 ::: green_knight ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2012, 08:25 AM:

JIm (& everybody else): let them defend the weird tenses etc as style choices, they can't argue away the 'man-stank'. You still win the 'glaringly obvious mistake on page one' bet.

#145 ::: Shmuel ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2012, 12:26 PM:

@122 Xopher: "Laughter during sex is not usually a good thing"

I have heard this claim before, and I accept that it's true for some (most?) people, but I've never understood it. Sex is inherently wacky; in my experience, at least, laughter is an almost inextricable component. Non-mirthful sex doesn't seem anywhere near as appealing. (My problem with so much porn is that people don't seem to be having any fun. What's the point?)

I will grant that writing things that are both funny and hot is hard to manage—and I like TNH's explanation why @120—but then most attempts to writing things that are hot and not funny fail as well. Personally, I'd recommend the works of M1ke Hunt, the onetime clown prince of alt.sex.stories.moderated. (N.B.: Purest smut, would be offensive in any other context.)

For that matter, a friend of mine had a website for many years devoted to "silly sex for silly people," Hoot Island (NSFW, and a moribund shell of its former self). He's also got a collection of stories and essays, most of which are buried somewhere in the archives at that site. (I do find these to be more funny than hot.)

Incidentally, I think the real challenge—with the lowest success rate of all—is writing things that are both literary and hot. I don't quite know why that is.

#146 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2012, 03:11 PM:

Shmuel, that 'generally' was there for a reason...and I clarified what I think most cases of laughter during sex are! (Joking, really.)

I suspect, however, that we're also drawing a different boundary around what we're calling "sex." I certainly think during foreplay (which some count as part of sex and others don't) laughter—even giggling—can be a very good thing. But once you get to the hardcore part, the part where everyone agrees that yep, that's the sex part...laughing really kills it. IME. YMMV. Void where prohibited, limited or taxed. Do not bounce Happy Fun Ball.

#147 ::: parkrrrr ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2012, 03:23 PM:

Xopher, may we boingy boingy boingy Happy Fun Ball?

#148 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2012, 03:32 PM:

parkrrr, you may boingy, boingy, boingy all the Happy Fun Balls you want!

You got me to read that link. I think the lesson Sailor Jim should take is that you shouldn't try to write erotic descriptions of things you don't yourself like. Erect penises are ugly? I fucking beg to fucking differ!

#149 ::: Shmuel ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2012, 04:07 PM:

Xopher, I take your point, but... I'm actually talking about the whole thing. But I cheerfully agree that YMMV! (Member FDIC. Offer not valid with any other discounts or special promotions.)

#150 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2012, 04:28 PM:

I used to know a guy who laughed at orgasm. Or so he and his wife claimed; I was never present for such an occasion. So yeah, people do. Myself I prefer my partner to be inhaling in gasps and exhaling in moans by that point, usually with his eyes rolled back in his head, so laughter would mean I failed to achieve my goal!

#151 ::: Shmuel ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2012, 04:58 PM:

I guess I'm lucky to have a partner who takes that in stride.

#152 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2012, 05:25 PM:

Well, there's pointing and giggling, but it's important to remember Lord Peter Wimsey's comment as well:

I do know that the worst sin--perhaps the only sin--passion can commit, is to be joyless. It must lie down with laughter or make its bed in hell--there is no middle way.

(I don't think that's the only sin passion can commit. But it's certainly a major one.)

#153 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2012, 06:04 PM:

We still have three more graves before we get to Cairo.

#154 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2012, 10:48 PM:

Wait, now. Just because you don't laugh doesn't mean you're being joyless. The times when I've been in the most pure, transcendent joy of my life, I wasn't at all inclined to laugh.

Maybe that's just me. But it is me, and I really don't see that I'm "making my bed in hell" because my passion doesn't always include laughter.

I like to laugh. Laughing is cool. But "not laughing" does not equal "without joy."

#155 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2012, 03:28 AM:

Xopher@ 154:

Interesting, and a possibly unanticipated gap between types of people. I do tend to find laughter bubbling up in me when I'm at the peak of joy (also, tears). Not laughing at anything, really, just venting the emotion like a teakettle vents steam.

Not that that makes Lord Peter right and you wrong. I think Sayers was searching for a symptom of joy so she didn't repeat the keyword. Being, apparently, one of my type, picked that one.

I find the differences among people delightful. But if I laugh with joy at it, be assured that it's not laughing at you. It's just my teakettle whistling that the universe's awesomeness is too great for me to hold silently.

#156 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2012, 09:13 AM:

Xopher @ 154... "not laughing" does not equal "without joy."

Whenever I hear Debussy's "L'Île Joyeuse", I wonder what happens to those of its inhabitants who get up in the morning and who don't particularly feel like being joyous. Maybe the island's proprietor - played by Malcom McDowall - goes around saying "Smile, everyone, smile!"

#157 ::: Beth ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2012, 02:19 PM:

I'm impressed that Phil hasn't flounced back yet, but he also hasn't let it go. Blog post titles since the one that started all this:

Form letter to a person who is annoying you.

ABC Announces the Next Bachelor: Satan

Proven: Controversy Sells!

Lies, lies, lies, yeah!

How NOT to deliver criticism.

I'm finding his particula blend of shrill ego and stupidity tedious, so I haven't looked at all the posts in detail; but the 'Controversy Sells' post includes a sincere attempt to gloat over his increased web traffic (6500 hits! OMG!) and the sudden spike in sales of his messterpiece. He really seems to think this is good.

The one on criticism is more of his noted cleverness and subtle wit, sneering at all the Ebil Mean Pipples who have been saying unkind things about him online.

" . . . some uppity authors (probably friends of hers) decided to pile on by trashing me on their blogs. They hurled personal insults and criticized my writing. If they did this to get attention, I'd understand the motive. I won't mention the blogs or people specifically, as they don't deserve the exposure."

Well, that sure puts ML in its place. Darn, this site has been deprived of all that exposure that he might have condescended to send this way. Gawsh.

The most pompous of the asses slams me for mixing a past tense sentence in a present tense paragraph. Here is his biography on Smashwords. How many tenses are in this?

"[asshole's woman's name removed] has a doctorate in English literature.
[shithead's name removed] was in the Navy for more than fourteen years, both enlisted and as an officer, before he cashed out and started writing. Together, she and [fartbag's name removed] have written more than thirty sf/f books. They live in Colebrook, New Hampshire."

After seeing his picture, I realize there's no insult I could hurl that would exceed the severity of the one his ancestors delivered. Ooh-fah!

Amazingly enough, PT has enough minions that he has several comments on that post, reassuring him that those mean folks Dun Him Rong. I guess his head is too thick for him to have registered the weight of the internets having fallen on it.

I'm also bemused by his Twitter feed, which looks like the contents of a spam trap. But hey, he's got 55k followers! I guess Twitter followers are a better illustration of Power and Might than, say, actual book sales.

#158 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2012, 02:46 PM:

Aww, Jim, he thinks you're ugly and your mother dresses you funny.

And somehow I, am still not tempted to reconsider my opinion of his behavior. I still think it was inappropriate, vindictive, and rude. I wonder why watching him call you names hasn't caused me to change my views?

It must be a flaw in my character.

#159 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2012, 03:01 PM:

I think turning him into a pinata (is there a spell for that?) would have been a good idea.
He doesn't seem to understand that his behavior is what gives people a low opinion of him.

#160 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2012, 03:17 PM:

You know, some of us did have mothers who dressed us funny (not necessarily in the cross-dressing mode, just clunky and ill-fitting for me). Don't know if I have to go to the dysfunctional families thread to say that that meme can get pretty old. (I'm capable of dressing myself funny in the current day.)

OK. Back to ML fun. ("Oh, the shark has pretty teeth dear.")

#161 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2012, 03:50 PM:

(Hey, Phil! Watch this! This is how grownups do things.)

Lenny @160:

I apologize for hurting you. Considering where I've talked about how my parents dressed me as a kid, I should have known better than to use that phrase so lightly. I'll be more careful in the future.

#162 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2012, 04:15 PM:

Hey there, Phil Torcivia!

Say, have you fixed the editing errors in your book yet?

In the week since I noticed you existed you've sold fifteen copies. How's that "controversy sells" thing working out for you?

#163 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2012, 04:53 PM:

I look at PT's original behaviors, those that brought him to the notice of the Fluorosphere (count me as another who'd never heard of him until now, ditto having absolutely no interest in exploring his literary endeavors based on the screenshot Jim linked to, let alone everything else). I look at his course of action since said notice was drawn. And I am left feeling sorry for someone who so obviously Does Not Get It.

Also, many thanks to Lee @ 127 for the link to "Boingy, boingy, boingy", which made for a great read, and I applaud Laertes @ 88 ("...his bitterness and insecurity drip off the page and leave unsightly stains.") and Gray Woodland @ 96 ("...in which the offensive party is quite frequently so obliging as to show up to the field of honour alone and without need of personal challenge, in order to ritually shoot himself in the buttock.") for enlivening my dark hours with USDA Prime snark. Not that many others have not also produced prime snark--these just happen to be the ones that made me particularly glad not to have been consuming liquids at the time of reading.

Too bad PT flounced. I was looking forward to more flailing.

#164 ::: Beth ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2012, 05:28 PM:

I do feel inclined to check out Rachel Tsoumbakos' work as a result of the kerfuffle, even though I'm going to have to download a Kindle application to do it. In case anyone else is inclined, she has two books out:

The Ring of Lost Souls

Emeline and the Mutants

#165 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2012, 06:52 PM:

Beth, your links are broken.

#166 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2012, 07:48 PM:

Good lord, did this dude ever actually get out of junior high? That blog post would be perfectly in character for a 13-year-old. Coming from someone who's (supposedly) old enough to sign a legal contract... not so much.

#167 ::: Beth ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2012, 12:37 AM:

Ack. Sorry, Xopher! I thought they were correct when I posted them, but they may have been munged in the mod queue (unless I coded them wrong, which is entirely possible). I shall now fail to throw a diva fit over having my mistake helpfully pointed out in public by a sympathetic individual. I'm lousy at diva fits, although I'm usually competent at basic HTML tags.

My best suggestion now is to Google her lovely and helpfully unusual name.

#168 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2012, 01:34 AM:

Beth: My guess is that you left off the quote marks around the URLs. Moveable Type removes the URL in that case, leaving just the anchor tags. No hint remains in the mod queue of what the URL might have been. (Remember: Always check the Preview before hitting Post.) Here are what I presume would have been your links:

Rachel Tsoumbakos

The Ring of Lost Souls

Emeline and the Mutants

It's easy to see why poor little Phil doesn't dare link to this thread. It isn't because he doesn't want to drive up our stats: We already get about two orders of magnitude more hits than he does (Personal for Phil: That means "About a hundred times"). No, he's afraid that his "social media army" will see people laughing at him and pointing out that he's a jerk.

I almost feel sorry for the poor guy. Almost.

#169 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2012, 12:42 PM:

Another way we see that he's not a very good writer: he can't come up with an insult more creative than "fartbag".

#170 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2012, 12:43 PM:

I was going to comment about how some of you are giving away editorial advice that he is too cheap to pay for. But then I realized that there is no chance he will actually take the advice.

#171 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2012, 04:15 PM:

Just so, Allan. You do not enrich a man by pouring precious gems over the backs of his hands.

#172 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2012, 12:18 AM:

LMM @110: ...Cushlamochree!

--Dave, late to the pity party

#173 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2012, 06:28 AM:

David DeLaney @ #172:

I oughta be too young to be able to see what you did there, but I read a lot.

#174 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2012, 08:06 AM:

Xopher HalfTongue #171: You do not enrich a man by pouring precious gems over the backs of his hands.

Ohh, I like that!

#175 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2012, 12:07 PM:

*blush* Thanks, David!

#176 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 08:16 PM:

He just followed me on Twitter. I blocked him.
I assume he followed me because I did a #fridayreads tweet, mentioning what I'm reading. I do that most Fridays, and a few authors often follow me after that. I've no idea what they are trying to accomplish. Do many people follow back, so authors expect that I will see their tweets and rush out to buy their books? I'm mystified.

#177 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2012, 09:35 PM:

I'd forgotten, or missed, most of this thread.

Janetl: I ran into a family friend once at an off-off-broadway performance (The Lady Cavaliers, an all-female stage fighting group that seems to have disbanded, were doing some sort of swordfighting with a plot. ) Upon discovering that I was not a friend, relative, or friend of a relative, of anyone in the performance, there was this sort of ... scrutiny.

The thought bubble was presumably something like "So THAT's what an audience member looks like!"

I suspect your authors are giving you similar scrutiny, you fascinating creature you.

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