Friday, November 6, 2009


I once saw this commercial that showed an alligator meandering across the floor of an enormous and beautiful white room (furniture, curtains and all), and this lady was sitting on a divan with a bottle of lotion in her hand, and she was admiring her silky smooth skin. I didn’t write down what lotion she was hawking. I already had four bottles under my bathroom sink that hadn’t done any good whatsoever, so I didn’t care, plus I didn’t trust her. I figured she was getting paid so how can you count on her actions anyway. I did notice that the alligator didn’t eat her, which made it a pretty weird commercial if you ask me.

I’m thinking about this commercial because I’m reading the latest review on for my novel Cold Rock River, and all I can say is I will never buy that bottle of lotion even if I could find out which one it was that girl in the commercial on the white divan was using. I don’t want silky, smooth skin. I want skin like that alligator. I want skin that is incapable of any arrows penetrating the surface. I want skin that is impervious to any and all injury. I’m an author and I need skin thicker than cement. Skin like that should absolutely come with publication. You sign your contract and poof! your skin instantly turns to concrete. Done deal.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy and the reviews that eventually pile up (especially on can be injurious to one’s mental health. In my own case I was sailing along quite nicely, wracking up some pretty nifty five-star reviews and getting a bit overly confident (never get overly confident), and thinking that maybe I’d written a couple of books well worth reading.

That’s when you need to watch out. Smacko! Right in the kisser! It will get you: An uglier than ugly review that says your book is not worth buying. This is what one reader wrote about mine: After reading Dorothy Allison, Fannie Flagg, Alice Walker, Connie May Fowler, Rebecca Wells (which all deserve to be read, unlike this novel), this was a very contrived and poor attempt to do what these writers have already done.

Outch!! Didn’t their mother ever tell them if they have nothing nice to say not to say anything at all? Or at least to be gentle with whatever it is they are trying to say. Couldn’t this author have simply said she did not like the novel and found it lacking in what other southern writers have managed to do. Which might have caused some readers to order the book just to find out what it was that I didn’t do. One never knows. Which got me to thinking. Maybe her one-star ugly review is not all bad. Maybe it stands out among all the five-star reviews as a sour apple. That’s it. That’s what I tell myself. Look at all those other fabulous five-star reviews on Amazon and what they have to say. I start reading through the list of the titles just to be sure: Fantastic! Another winner! Breathtaking and mesmeric! Wonderful & riveting. An engrossing novel. Simply outstanding. An amazing book. I keep going. I find the ultimate title posted: I couldn’t put it down! I’m tap-dancing on the clouds. Forget the person who gave me one star and said I wasn’t worth reading. What do they know? Exactly.

That’s when I spot it—another review. It’s there among all the others. It says: Cumbersome and ultimately predictable. Ugh!! Those ugly words head straight to my heart. But, then I remember a favorite adage my mother used to quote about fooling people. I’m thinking that adage covers pleasing people, too. You can please some of the people all the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

If I’m going to keep writing I best remember that. But in case I forget, the next time I see that alligator commercial I’m going to call the station and see what kind of lotion they’re using on him. I might need some. His skin looks pretty thick.

Jackie Lee Miles is the author of Divorcing Dwayne, Cold Rock River, and Roseflower Creek. Look for her latest All That’s True in 2010. Write to the author at Visit the website at


Anonymous said...

I went to the Amazon page for Cold Rock River and clearly most people who read the book loved it. Congratulations on getting some many glowing reviews. You've obviously touched many readers.

Anonymous said...

Oh you are so sweet. I wonder who you are so I could write to you and send you my best.
Jackie Lee Miles

River Jordan said...

Sometimes we all wish for a thick hide and a heart of stone so that we may not feel the arrows from even our closest and dearest - but here we are all messy and human and wonderful just that way. Wishing you days full of alligator skin that only surfaces in the moments that really don't matter in the eternal scheme of things.

Anonymous said...

Oh, River,
You have my heart. Thank you for your wishes!
Jackie Miles