A Writer’s Silver Platter

When is the last time you counted your blessings? Is it possible to prioritize them?

Health might be the most important, neck and neck with family; food is a necessity, as is financial security; intelligence cannot be minimized or taken for granted—and with that, education; and don’t forget love. No, this is not an impostor sitting in for Karolyn… who only a few short years ago might have mentioned new black pumps, Prada purses and pearls. Now all I want is to be published—and to retain the aforementioned blessings.

Why do I not have a whiskey in my hand?

As I type this, I’m sitting in a beautiful Colorado home, where my husband and I will spend the next week. He’ll be drinking coffee and reading. I’ll be transcribing pages and pages of notes I took last week when we were lucky enough to spend the week in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on my research trip for my current novel… the one I wrote while we spent the winter in Costa Rica.

Please forgive me here, I’m not bragging. This admission scares the shit out of me.

I spent eight years as an art dealer with an evermore lucrative art gallery (i.e. it started out paying me zero, and ended up paying me a monthly pittance). When the moment came to re-up my lease or close, I closed it so we could travel and I could begin writing. Now I’m back to being paid zero.

The scary part is that I have every opportunity and every bit of the responsibility. I have been given the Writer’s Silver Platter: a laptop, a location, loving support and lots and lots of quiet time. When I publish, I will have so many people to thank: my husband for his unending support, my parents for my brain and their encouragement, my children for growing up and leaving the nest, and countless friends who’ve given me so much encouragement and advice (specifically my former artists and Twitter friends who will not let me quit). But no excuses, and no one to blame if I can’t make this happen.

So, now I must produce. I have counted my many blessings, and I’m ready to test my skills. By October 1st, I will be querying agents for “Invented Lives.” Get ready World, here I come.

How To Write A Bad Review

In the past year, I’ve become active on both goodreads and Twitter. Each time I record my opinion of a book on goodreads, it gets sent out to hundreds of people via Twitter, sometimes even directly to the author. Earlier this year, I created a small dust storm when I made one slightly disparaging comment about a book I otherwise enjoyed. Since then, most of my reviews have been pretty darn positive. My husband asked me last night if I’d stopped being honest because I’ve been so nice in my reviews lately.

Dishonest? Me? Never!

To look at my list of books on goodreads, it must seem like I’m overly generous with those red stars. But my reviews are swayed by my choices. I rarely read a book that I don’t think I’m going to like. No one else (book club, employer, evil librarian) is telling me what to read. That being said, I do have my opinions and they’re not always nice.

When I was an art dealer, the local Arts reporter from the Des Moines Register gave my gallery a lot of press, including great photo spreads. Nearly all her reviews were extremely positive. I thanked her for that (she was really good for my business), and asked her what she did when she didn’t like an exhibition. Her response was, “I simply don’t put bad reviews in the paper. There are so many good shows, I don’t have enough space to write about the bad ones, too.” (Des Moines has a world-class art scene. Truly.) From this reporter, no review = bad review. Sometimes that works, sometimes not.

Critics are supposed to be critical, otherwise they’d be called cheerleaders. But the tiny brouhaha I found myself at the center of in March taught me one important thing. Authors are people too. Every single book (excluding the unworthy, self-published ebooks) got printed because somebody thought they had some redeeming elements. And every single person has a different set of likes, dislikes, taste, style and expectations. You can’t please all the people all the time.

As we hacks write reviews of novels, it would serve the world well to remember: Be honest but fair. Be objective as well as subjective. Don’t attack the author—they’ve put their hearts, souls and minds out there for your enjoyment, not to be desecrated. It’s okay to criticize, but balance that by pointing out something positive.

We should all be so lucky as to be published. Don’t you agree?

I’m Married To The Wrong One!

(HOOK) Yesterday I had a meltdown. Not the check-me-into-a-hospital kind of meltdown, just a rant-on-Twitter, lock-myself-in-a-room, go-through-a-box-of-Kleenex kind of meltdown. I realized I was married to the wrong title!

(BACKSTORY) Before I get too far, let me make it perfectly clear that I am happily married to a wonderful man ~ the RIGHT man. It’s my work in progress—or rather, my work-that’s-not progressing—that’s got me down.
(SITUATION) A couple years ago, we went to visit two of my sons in New York City. The four of us and one of their friends went to a quaint Italian restaurant in Tribeca. The three “boys” (all in their 20s) sat across from my husband and me. My son Ryan’s friend, Ariel, looks amazingly like my son except he has blue eyes. The phrase “the blue-eyed twin” innocently swam through my head. No big deal, that’s all. Except that phrase wouldn’t leave me alone. I wrote it down and tried to forget about it. But it has haunted me for almost two years!
(GOAL) Not only has it haunted me, it turned itself into an entire novel, The Blue-Eyed Twin. Characters were born, conflicts arose, plots thickened, a twist and an ending presented itself! Aha, my next book! Hurray! Bells and whistles, secretly planned book tours and signings… all I had to do was get my brilliant work on paper.
(CONFLICT) But who’s point-of-view was this story? Was, in fact, the blue-eyed twin my protagonist? No, he is no hero. So, his twin brother then? No, not him either. This is not YA; I didn’t want to write a novel about teenage boys. The mother? The father? Omniscient? None of them fit with my hero/situation/goal/conflict/resolution. Like a child who develops talents a mother never fathomed, my story idea had outgrown the title.
(RESOLUTION) The last Kleenex in the box held the answer: Choose a new title and the whole thing works.
(HERO) Me! I am the author, I hold the lock, and I hold the key. If something’s not working, change it!
(THEME) We all hold the keys to our own happiness. Some changes are easy, some are painfully difficult. I’ve lived through both in my lifetime and expect I’ll have more before I die. Life is short and precious. If you’re not happy, make changes.
(ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS) I could not have gotten where I am today if it weren’t for two special Twitter friends. Kimberly Nichols and Taylor Stevens, both responded to my Twitter rants. Taylor, author of the thrilling book The Informationist and currently working on her next book, took time out of her busy day to reassure me I was not alone and this too shall pass. Thanks to both of you.