Confronting Criticism – A Learning Opportunity

Hello Dear Reader,

Two months ago, I received a negative Amazon review and I decided to share it with you.  I have received another negative review and decided it is only right that I share this one as well.  Although the criticism is hurtful, the reviewer made some valid points and good observations.  Rather than hide from, ignore, or cover up this feedback, I wish to accept it as constructive criticism.  In other words, I hope to make it into something positive.  The fact is, I have a lot to learn.  With that in mind, I will strive to be a better author, historian, and thoughtful member of the community.  Below you will find the reviewer’s comments as they were expressed on Amazon.  Thank you to all those who have taken the time to read and comment on my work.   I will continue to aim beyond what I can achieve.

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Colin Mustful’s book Thy Eternal Summer is seriously flawed on far too many levels.  For one thing, the writing is so cluttered with purple prose that it constantly breaks up the flow of the narrative: “Ten thousand eyes seemed fastened on Little Crow…” (this in a crowd of a few dozen people); “The room was oozing with people…” A room “oozing” with people? Really? Writing like this suggests that the author had literary aspirations but lacked the skill to achieve them.  When Mustful attempts to write fast-paced action scenes, his writing comes across as clumsy and amateurish, at best. At worst, it reads like a 6th grader’s effort to use words the definition of which he is somewhat confused about. But let the writing speak for itself: “They ran headstrong straight for the Sioux with courage and brash disregard for their lives.” (Does the author mean “headlong?”) “The Sioux opened up a ravenous fire.” (Not sure what to make of that one.) “In a great pack, the soldiers roared ahead with their bayonets thrust forward. Like one great force the men charged toward the angry and violent citizens hoping to influence their retreat.” (Because military assaults are all about hoping to influence the opposition to retreat, right?) First prize for silly sentence construction, though, would be this gem: “We were all exasperated as we literally ran for our lives.” A desperate flight from life-threatening danger would be many things, but exasperating?
Homophones present a particular challenge to this author; this book is littered with such missteps as: “Little Crow dawned [instead of donned] white attire including a jacket…;” “Like a Lord to his vessels [instead of vassals]…;” “The sites [instead of sights] of their rotting bodies… I had to turn my head at the site [ditto] of each…;” “his two followers let out a rift [instead of riff] of diabolical laughter…” It goes on and on like this. One could blame these rookie sort of errors on bad editorial work, but since this book was published by a vanity press which has a very unsavory reputation, it seems likely that the errors are the author’s alone.  All of these factors can be discounted as either the inevitable grammatical errors that show up in almost every book, or as stylistic points that are matters of personal opinion. What is more important, however, is that while Mustful goes to great lengths in his preface to tout the veracity of his historical fiction, he gets so many details of that history wrong that the quality of his research is suspect. Either he needs to do more research on the subject, or he is entirely too careless in his writing to support his claim of exhaustive research into this subject. When it comes to the military commission trials that occurred after the war (one of the most controversial parts of this history), Mustful demonstrates a thorough lack of knowledge about the processes of 19th century military law and the actual conduct of the 1862 military commission trials. Furthermore, by inserting a white protagonist into the trials, a man who was never actually involved in any way with this event, he detracts from the actual history itself and confuses the real story for readers who might not already be well-versed in the facts of the matter. This would not matter so much, were it not for the fact that Mustful stresses his reliability as a historian. If this book is to be taken as evidence, then his work does not support the claim.  This book is not well-written as a story, and it is rather bad as historical fiction. Mustful aims far beyond what he can achieve as both a writer and a historian.