Nasty Naysayers Beware

a-to-z-letters-nI’m my biggest critic. Neurotic thoughts often swirl with negativity when I think about myself -when I think about where I am now and where I want to be. The gap between my ideal “me” and the real “me” is wide. For me, writing is personal; my words are part of who I am. While my need for external validation is strong, I know that successful writers learn to tune out the naysayers and the haters.They set aside the rejections and move on.

Fear kept me from putting my words out there in the past; that fear of rejection and not being good enough. Yes, I write for myself, but the smile that comes with a positive comment or a great review of one my books is addictive. I indie-published two romance novels over that last year. I didn’t even try the traditional publishing route. For one I hate waiting and for another I didn’t want rejection to discourage me from my dreams. I did a lot of research before going the self-publishing route. I corresponded with and read the blogs of many romance authors who ditched their traditional contracts and re-published their back lists via self-publishing. These authors were succeeding and making more money than they had with their traditional contracts.  So in the end I decided in this new age of electronic books that I could reach more readers quicker as an indie author.Yet, still nagging the back of my mind  was the thought that I wouldn’t be a real “author” unless a traditional publisher published my books.

This notion led me to enter my first novel in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award – the winner of which would get a publishing contract with one of Amazon’s publishing imprints for romances, it’s Montlake. You have no idea how elated I was when I found my “pitch” made the cut and my excerpt would be read by expert Amazon reviewers. A month later I read two glowing reviews from those experts and moved on to the quarter-finals. Out of 10,000 entries only 500 remained. I started to feel like a “real” author. I knew my chances of making the semi-finals was slim. Only 25 entries moved on to the next level and only five in the romance category. What excited me though was that a Publisher’s Weekly (PW) reviewer would read my entire novel and provide feedback.

This morning Amazon announced the semi-finalists. My book did not make the grade. Don’t get me wrong. I’m fine with that fact. I’m not complaining (much). What I wasn’t prepared for though, given the fact that my first-round comments were so positive and the majority of reviews from my readers were complimentary, was the harsh, borderline-nasty review my book received. I know the PW reviewer gave what he or she thought to be an honest critique, but it felt mean. I write contemporary romance, not suspense or erotica. Yet, the reviewer bashed the book for being too “unexciting and slow-paced” and for not having enough sex in it, saying it was more “sad than sexy.”  I guess it’s a good thing I wasn’t going for sexy.

I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere. If anything, it made me realize I am a real author regardless of whether I have a traditional publishing contract or not. Being an indie author gives me the flexibility and control over what I write and when that I need. It also taught me that not everyone will like my books and that’s OK. Its find for someone to write a negative review so long as they aren’t nasty about it.

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Boots, Diet Coke and Other Stuff that Make Me Smile

As I lay in bed last night wide awake listening to that January northwest Ohio wind do its thing outside, I realized that today is the last day of January and I had yet to blog this month. Not that anyone noticed or even really cares (except maybe my twin nephews. Love you guys!), but I do like to write and blather on. And once upon a time I made a goal or a resolution or something or other to at least blog once or twice a month and pending this post I would have failed. And I so hate failure, especially mine. Although I know if you must sometimes fail to succeed, I still don’t have to like it.

So I mentally went over the past month pondering what topic I should wax upon today without seeming whiny or bitchy or depressing. The whole point is to make someone smile as they read along. If I get one smile, it’s all good. I don’t do January resolutions as my birthday is in February, so in my book, the new year doesn’t actually start for me until then. I don’t have a rock star life style so nothing extra exciting on that end either. Religion? No Politics? Definitely No? What then?  I went back to the smile. What makes me smile? I like it. So here it goes this last day in January the five things that make me smile the most at least today anyway.

2013-01-31 07.33.09Cute Cards from My Kids
My daughters make me smile on a daily basis. My girls make me want to pull my hair out on a daily basis. My kindergarten daughter has proved to be challenging. One day I’ll hear words like “Do you have the biggest butt at your work, Mommy???” as she barges into the bathroom as I’m squeezing into my jeans or “Your hair looks ugly” as the stylist finishes a new hair cut or “You look like a witch” after I finish applying eye makeup pour out of her mouth. I can hardly wait to hear what she comes up with as a teenager. She’s quick to repent though and when the “what did you say?” comes out of my mouth, she’ll tell me “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings” (you didn’t, sniff, sniff) or “you’re pretty Mom” (too little, too late). She can also be very kind and loving when she wants to be. Last Friday I had surgery to remove my gall bladder. She’s been very caring and concerned. She’s brought my cards home from school every day this week telling me how much she loves me and how I’m the best mom in the world. These little notes and the ones from my other daughter from days past hang on my cubicle walls and on the mirror in my bedroom. They always put a smile on my face.

2013-01-31 08.28.22Cappuccino and Diet Coke
Yes I am predictable and have certain rituals. One of those being that every morning I walk down to the corner Shell station and get two 20 ounce Diet Cokes and in the winter a yummy Cappuccino (today’s blend is chocolate-covered strawberry). I know both these addictions will not help the cause of my yet to be set resolution to lose weight, but oh well. I can’t seem to give them up. And sure I could save money by getting a twelve pack or a two liter or whatever, but I like taking my walk and talking to the girls that work there. I always have a smile on my face when I leave.

2013-01-23 20.10.08Boots, Sandals and Handbags
Shoes, shoe, shoes. Yes! I love my shoes. In the winter, it’s the boots. In the summer, it’s the sandals. And purses? You can’t have enough of those. A dear friend of mine always gets a new purse at the beginning of each season. An awesome idea, that I have joined her in. A new bag on a dreary day, makes my days. Pulling on a pair of black, knee-high boots paired with some skinny jeans and long sweater almost always makes me feel happy. It’s like hey, you look good? Trendy? Fashionable? Passable? At least not like a frumpy mom?  How am I kidding? (Well obviously, I’m trying to kid myself! Duh!) Anyway I like wearing them, so who cares what everyone else thinks! (Me? Shut up, you irritating little downer voice in my mind).

reviewsA Great Review
If you don’t know, I write romance novels. Well, I wrote two anyway and am working on the third. The first, Take a Deep Breath is published and the second, Take Your Time, will be out there soon. Getting lost reading or writing a good romance is a sure way to make me smile. Romances always have a happy ending. Count on it. As an indie (that’s the new cool word for self-published) author I always have misgivings and doubts about my talents as a writer. So whenever, I get an email or someone posts a review on Good Reads or Amazon and gives my book a great review, I can count on a smile to be pasted across my face of a good ten minutes or so (until I scroll down and find a review where someone hated my book). So the review thing is definitely a double-edge sword thing. On my writing loops, most authors advice not to even bother reading them. Somehow, I can’t help myself. I’m drawn to see what other think. I confess that I am a needy writing seeking approval. Yes, I said it (wrote) it. I’m an approval junkie. Sigh. Maybe that should be my number one would-be resolution for this year.

A Perfectly Clean Room
For me walking into my home to find a perfectly neat orderly room is the ultimate happiness. With everything in its rightful place, the counters wiped, sinks shining, carpet vacuumed and every surface dusted. Chaos and clutter gone. Easy back on my couch with a good book, a glass of wine, some soft music and no guilt over something else needing to be done. Now that is pure bliss. And a regretfully, is only a dream. As you can see, I don’t have a picture for this smile. This state of home happiness happens once in a blue moon and last about as long as a lunar eclipse. The chance to snap that photo has alluded me as of yet. But someday when the four members of my household (myself included) finally get on that let’s clean this place up bandwagon at the same time, I’ll be sure to capture that moment with my iPhone.

What about you? Tell me… What makes you smile?

Walking On Sunshine….Oh Yeah!

A few weeks ago, a few days ago even, I was plagued with self-doubt. Yes, I love to write and tell stories. Writing is one of my passions in life. It’s what I want to do, what I’m compelled to do. But loving to do something and being passionate about something is not the same as being good at something. And, I am one of those people who likes to be good at what I do, and if I’m not I move on. I try to think of it more as knowing my limits as opposed to being a “quitter.” Practice makes perfect, hasn’t always rung true in my life. After eight years of piano lessons, I knew I’d never be a concert pianist. Two years of gymnastics, two years of CYO volleyball, eight years CYO basketball and an athlete I’ll never make. Yet, writing was something I always something I thought I was good at. The words flowed through my fingers naturally, effortlessly. My talent. So why the sudden, “am I good enough” self-doubts?

Last fall I blogged about my “dream deferred.”  Throughout my life, I’ve taken a lot of the “safe” paths. I took the writing jobs that provided and still provide and steady pay check and benefits. Those are all good things. I get paid to write, which is wonderful, but I wanted more. So I started this blog as a creative writing outlet. But, the big dream was to write and publish a novel. And in May, I fulfilled that dream with my contemporary romance, called Take A Deep Breath. When I finished the book, when I saw it the Amazon store, when I held the paper back in my hands for the first time, I felt wonderful. An author at last!

The problem? No one was reading my blog. No one was reading my book. Why? The word haunted me. Why? Was I just a wanna be? Did I even have any talent as a writer? Sure my family and best friends, reassured me. But the niggling pessimist inside me, kept saying, “They just don’t want to hurt your feelings. They’re just being nice…” I started wondering if I was just wasting my time trying to publish my novel, the blog and should just “move on.”

And then, three things happened. The first my best friend, who is in marketing, offered to help me with my marketing efforts. She sent me a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) and had me fill it out. It gave me a lot to contemplate. She is working on completing the SWOT and giving me some other ideas. The second thing that happened was I read a novel called “Forged In Fire” by Trish McCallan. At the end of her novel she asked readers to write a review, lend the book, etc. and that she would send those that did a copy of her next book for free. What a great idea! I loved her book and wrote the review. I emailed her afterwards and told her about my book. She gave me some great ideas about marketing and told me about a Yahoo group just for indie romance writers. The last thing that happened was I attended my first Maumee Valley Romance Writers of America meeting and met some very successful and inspiring romance authors.

This weekend everything culminated for me. I added a similar blurb about writing a review to my book, submitted it to the Kindle Select program, and  offered the book for free on Amazon. I spread the word about the book via Facebook and Twitter and the Yahoo group. Perhaps the biggest difference, though, was that I notified Michael Gallagher about my book, and he included my book in his Free Kindle Books and Tips blog. Readers started to download my book. As the number of downloads grew larger, so did my smile. No, I wasn’t am not making any money, but people were downloading my book! Then within 24 hours of the first downloads, I started getting reviews. Wonderful comments and 5 star reviews! Readers liked my book. People that didn’t even know me liked my book and wanted to read more!

I know external validation isn’t the end all and be all. I know I don’t need someone to tell me, “I’m good enough,” but it sure helps!  For the next couple of days, I am going to bask in this success. I know if no one else reads this book or leaves a positive review or even if they leave a bad one, that I am good enough.  And so today…I am walking on sunshine! Oh Yeah! And tomorrow, I’m working on my next book (already in progress)!

BTW – if you are reading this blog before midnight Pacific Time on July 31, 2012, you can still download Take A Deep Breath for free from the Amazon Kindle store.