A Review on Reviews

When I started playing around with the idea of writing a novel, I learned quickly that asking for one’s opinion was risky.  Candidate A of that short-lived experiment turned out to be my well-meaning mom.  After completing a page or two of the story that would become Forgetting My Way Back to You, I proudly begged her to read it, and it didn’t take long for her to point out the unrealistic elements in it.  I later realized the truth in her gentle remarks, but as a hormonal sixteen-year-old, I succumbed to the discouragement of being human and gave up on the draft.

Once I became serious about being an author, I knew I’d have to toughen up if I wanted to survive.  I had to allow someone to proofread my work, and if all went well, I’d work with an editor one day. (See  Editors: A One-Person Jury or a Friendly Doorman to the World of Readers?)  Then, of course, I’d have the fearsome yet delightful prospect of friends, family, and total strangers alike able to critique my every sentence if they wished.

Why hadn’t I gone into accounting?

Nine years after my experience with Candidate A, that prospect came to fruition with the release of Husband in Hiding.  There was no turning back; my book was in people’s hands and on their lips.  To my relief, everything I heard initially was great.  No one could put the book down, they told me.  They were invested in my characters and plot twists, and even the professional reviewer I sent it to gave it more praise than I ever expected.  Was it really this easy?

No.  Within a month, I received a pretty critical opinion from an unexpected source.  Thankfully, it was said in private, and I could laugh it off.  In truth, though, it crushed me, and the pain stuck with me for weeks.  I may not have quit like I did as a teenager, but doubts plagued me for some time.

I recovered, however, and thankfully, that was the harshest review I received.  Still, a writer—especially a worrisome one like me—often wonders how their future stories will go over with readers.  When I finally had my second novel published, I kept worrying if it would disappoint those who enjoyed my debut and were anxious for more.

One month after its release, I can say the reception’s been good…but I’m not yet releasing the breath I’ve been holding.  Like I discussed in a previous post, books are like their authors’ babies.  We’re protective of how others view our works.  Comparisons, I’m learning, can be tricky to hear —even if they’re favorable.  After all, no parent wants someone to say, “Your baby’s so much cuter than his big brother!”

As scary as it is, though, I encourage my readers to review my books on Amazon, Goodreads, and/or elsewhere.  Good or bad, they inform other readers about what they can expect and help me grow in my craft.  Just, please, don’t dump a whole truckload of fertilizer on me!

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And to my fellow authors, I can’t pass along a foolproof way of handling criticism.  I haven’t mastered it myself.  However, what I keep in mind when I hear a less-than-glowing remark is that my favorite authors disappoint me from time to time, but do I give up on them?  Nope.  So, why give up on myself?

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GUEST POST-Behind the Pages of Teal Paisley Tights

Today’s a huge day for my friend and fellow author, Barbara Brutt. Her new contemporary romance novel, Teal Paisley Tights, leaps into the writing world, making Barbara a first-time published author! Like Forgetting My Way Back to You, it takes place in Pennsylvania, and though it’s just been released, it’s been in the making for the better part of a decade.

The 8-Year Journey of Teal Paisley Tights

Books have always been a love of mine. And though I read a lot as a child and teenager, becoming a writer was never on my radar. In fact, I planned to be a teacher. But then, halfway through college, I had a bit of a crisis: I loved kids but I LOVED English. So I switched my major—easiest and best decision of my life.

And with that switch, I started a writing concentration. My writing professor, Kim Peterson, asked me if I wanted to work on a novel.

*cue brakes squealing*

Me? Write a novel? I read those. I didn’t write them.

But even as those practicalities ping-ponged through my head, my heart leapt forth, “Yes! Yes!”

The Creation of a Character

Jadyn, originally named Janette, slid into my life in a flurry of teal paisley, random shoes, and messiness. And I liked her immediately. Sure, Jadyn was annoying with her people-pleasing tendencies and her over-packed schedule. But I loved her anyway.

And so I let her story come forth in a bunch of really bad writing. Because let’s be super honest, first drafts are pretty crappy.

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Rewriting and Rewriting and Rewriting

By the time I graduated college, I had a novel-length work, and I knew I wanted to see it published. I also knew that I still needed instruction and guidance. One day I was creeping on a favorite author of mine (Hello, Sandra Byrd), and I discovered that she did novel writing coaching.

I signed up so fast (and got a job at Dunkin Donuts to fuel the dream).

And this novel writing coaching with Sandra Byrd was like a 6-month boot camp for Jadyn and her teal paisley tights. I wanted someone to show me my weaknesses (and strengths) as a writer, and Sandra Byrd definitely did. My favorite weakness is having no idea how to create tension (I don’t like tension in my life so I don’t know how to write it).

My final question to Sandra Byrd when we closed out our last coaching session was, “Do you think I have what it takes?”

I’ll never forget her words. She told me, “I don’t know if you have what it takes, but I know your story does.”

And you know what? I love that. I love that it was about the story and not me.

A Trail of Rejection

That first rejection was a hard one. Why? Well, because I actually never heard back. And that’s normal (apparently for the industry). But nothing is worse than that silence, right??

When I received an actual email rejection letter, I did a happy dance. I know, weird, right?03F9432C-1975-4C1C-9CFD-BAAD205496F2

But here’s the thing. I loved KNOWING. And I saw that tangible rejection as a badge of I’m-actually-a-writer-trying-to-do-this-book-thing. I’ve kept them all. Each rejection felt like another confirmation that I am a writer. Sometimes I was sad, though, like when one of my favorite agents turned me down (does anyone else dance out sad emotions?).

The Publishing Dream Comes Alive

In November 2017, almost seven years after I met the main character of Teal Paisley Tights, I received word that Vinspire Publishing wanted to publish my novel. And now, today, on November 15th, Teal Paisley Tights will be released to the world.

If you’d like to keep up with my book news updates, you can follow me on Instagram at @CordiallyBarbara. I can be cute sometimes.

About Teal Paisley Tights

After graduation, Jadyn Simon expected to launch her art career. Instead, this PittsburghIMG_8923 native finds herself locked into a low-paying marketing position with an impossible boss.

Evicted from her apartment because of a small spending problem, she is forced to move in with her know-it-all sister. While everyone else plans a neat, buttoned-up life for her, Jadyn longs to paint professionally. Stretched like canvas between responsibility and dreams, she must choose.

Will practicality always win?

Buy it today on Amazon or another retailer listed on VinspirePublishing.com

About Barbara Brutt

headshotBarbara Brutt, a born and raised Pittsburgher, spent her growing-up years with her nose in a book. After claiming her bachelor’s degree in English, she plunked down hard into a smattering of jobs from shop girl to communications director with a healthy dose of nanny and house-cleaner. Flying to new adventures is her favorite, especially on an airplane or aerial silk. Barbara adores ice cream and only buys purses that provide room for a book or two.

Barbara talks books, aerial silks, faith, and travel on her blog.

Find Barbara on her website: www.BarbaraBrutt.com

Behind the Book Launch

Back in 2015 when I was a first-time author, I had dreams of having my publisher throw me a big book launch, preferably in New York City, with a celebrity-packed guest list. I’d seen them depicted on shows like Castle and heard Kelly Ripa talk about going to such on multiple occasions. Thus, I waited to be clued in about my glamorous night of cocktails and compliments…but my invite never came.

Once I realized the reality of it, part of me was relieved. I don’t like to be the center of attention and force people to buy my book. Meanwhile, a very good friend wanted to celebrate my accomplishment by throwing me a party. I wanted no part of it. Besides my reasons mentioned above, I didn’t want to come up with a guest list or—most importantly—let people spend money on me.

A few months later, though, my research on marketing stressed how productive a launch is. With that in mind, I began to reconsider my stubborn position. Still, I wanted it to be cost efficient to me, my family, and friends, and I didn’t want the hassle of inviting guests.

Hence, we compromised, using my alma mater as the venue to a public launch. I advertised it in the local paper and post office, and we spread the word. To give it a party-like feel, some chipped in and provided finger foods and desserts. Plus, my friend who started it all decorated, transforming the room where I once had lunch.

Concerning the release of Forgetting My Way Back to You, there was no debating; the first launch went so well that we had to have another one. We planned all year, with forget-me-nots as the theme. Our first get was the centerpiece, which featured a forget-me-not scented candle in a lantern and packets of forget-me-not seeds. We also implemented several of the story’s elements in the other decorations and giveaways.

While I’m still waiting on my fancy gala, I’m so thankful for the two great evenings I’ve had so far. We may not have had starlets, best-selling authors, or escargot, but we had beloved relatives, friends, and former teachers set aside their time to come share in my excitement. To me, there’s no better way to cap off a thrilling achievement and start a new chapter.