Of scathing reviews and pedicures …

I’m not going to lie. Code of Justice has received some very nice reviews. And they’ve made me smile. Some of them have included constructive criticism … and I appreciate that. I’m under no delusion that my books are perfect or that I can’t grow as a writer. I want to grow as an author. My goal is to get better, improving with each book.

I say all that to explain about my evening. I’d had a wonderful day with a friend watching movies. Then a lovely drive through rural Tennessee and off to Saturday evening church service. After the service, I decided it was high time for a pedicure. The weather is far too lovely not to be showing off my toes. So I sat down with this guy–whose name I can’t pronounce, let alone spell. We’ll just call him PM–Pedicure Man.

pm1

PM quickly had me giggling over my ticklish feet and looking for something to distract myself. Soon I was zipping through my e-mails and happened to receive a google alert e-mail with a notice that there was new review of Code of Justice up at ChristianManifesto.com.

So I hopped over to read the review, just as PM began massaging my feet. It. Felt. So. Good. And it was a good thing he was making my feet so happy, because the review is scathing. A few of my favorite lines:

  • “The bang-up beginning is muddled down by the love story between the two main characters and Heather’s clichéd bull-headed approach to life.”
  • “Calling this book a suspense is a bit misleading. Much of the story is spent deciphering the almost love story between the two main characters instead of focusing on the case…”
  • “The nuances of romance are more bumps than caresses … like reading a junior high romance instead of an adult love story.”
  • “Neither of the two presented enough legitimate conflict [and] was awkwardly executed by Johnson.”
  • “The characters were predictable, and the killer obvious. The red herrings put in place did not cause me to bat an eye, nor did the romantic exchanges.”

Oof.

I’m still not going to lie. That doesn’t feel good. And it might have reduced me to tears if PM hadn’t been performing magic on my feet.

As PM painted my toenails green (yes, I was in the mood for something fun!), I began to ponder Mary’s review. It all green-toesboils down to one question, is what she wrote true? That’s a hard question for me to contemplate. Even harder to answer.

Here’s the realization I’ve come to: Despite my book’s faults, despite my imperfect writing, despite what some call unrealistic characters and poorly written plot, I trust that God has a purpose for my book and that He’ll use it, imperfections and all. And I’ve decided that’s more than enough for me.

Oh, and there is at least one thing in that review that is factually incorrect. Steeple Hill didn’t send Mary the book for review.

I did.

Can I tell you a story?

I’m in a rut. A ditch. A crater (depending on who you ask). Some might even call it a character flaw. I personally think it’s an adorable quirk.

But it’s starting to bother me. Really, I’m noticing it much more lately, and I’m concerned that there may be a medical problem. Do you think there’s a place in your brain that if pressure is applied it makes you do the same crazy thing time and again? Yea … me neither.

So what is this verbal hiccup? “Can I tell you a story?” Yup. That’s the phrase. I start every story with it lately. Of course, it has variations, but the point is always the same. I feel the need to request permission to tell a story.

And I have witnesses. Take for example Kristi, my friend, coworker, and cubicle neighbor. Everyday–and I do mean EV.RY.DAY–I turn to her and say “Can I tell you a funny story?” And about 63% of the time I follow that with a quick “Well, it’s not really that funny.”

Of course she’s gracious and kind and tells me to tell her the story. I do and she laughs. (Only about 27% of the time out of pitty.)

But then the other day, I was in the car with my friends driving back from lunch, and we were talking about awkward moments of holding the door for others or them holding it for you. Literally, we’re ten minutes into this conversation of silly door holding stories, and I pipe up with, “Can I tell you guys an embarrassing story about opening a door?”

Yea, that made me stop and shake my head.

I hope there’s medication for this or we’re all in trouble.

What are your verbal quirks?

Downton Abbey

So this weekend I finally sat down to start Downton Abbey. Have you heard of this? Well, if you’ve followed me on Facebook, then you’ve certainly seen the discussion that this early 20th Century period drama has fostered. Set just after the sinking of the Titanic, the household at Downton Abbey is in a uproar, as the two closest heirs to the estate were on the unsinkable ship. Who will step in as the heir? And what secrets does the house staff hold?

In the tradition of Gosford Park and classic BBC period dramas, comes this much-hated (because it ends on a cliffhanger, and the second part won’t release until next year!), beautifully made and amazingly acted!

 

Although I’m just a couple episodes into the first part, I’m thoroughly enjoying Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, and a host of amazing actors, beautiful costumes, and a thoroughly compelling plot. I recommend this with one caveat … It has a short interlude that may not be appropriate for children, so let’s label this one PG-13.

Writer’s Block vs. Fear vs. Me

Okay, so I don’t really have writer’s block. But I do have a terrible case of I-can’t-seem-to-finish-my-series-proposal! Symptoms include watching incredible amounts of television (and/or movies), playing computer games, sleeping long hours, googling character names, brainstorming other book ideas, and in worst case scenarios, doing laundry.

You see I have this book proposal that I’ve been telling my editor about since July of last year. Seven months ago I came up with an idea for a book–actually it was a three book series–and she loved it! She thought it sounded great and asked me to put my proposal together right away. I promised to do just that. And then I got derailed by a proposal for a Christmas novella and then writing said novella. But still I knew I needed to get the Love Inspired Suspense series proposal done. Mostly because my editor and agent continue peppering me with quesitons about when they’ll be able to see it.

So what’s the hold up? Well, that’s a really good question. And one that I want an answer to. So between watching television and reading e-mails this weekend I thought about what has made me put this one off. And then it hit me.

I’m a little bit scared. Seriously. This realization left me with that little knot in my stomach that took another four episodes of Life for me to unwind.

All right. I’m joking a little bit here. So let’s get serious for a second.

This fear thing is real. You know what I mean. It starts small. Just a little voice niggling in your mind. What if this book isn’t as good as your last one? What if your ideas copy a book that you read years ago? What if you’ve lost your talent? What if you never even had any talent?

They start as questions. Start as quandries that you can answer. Can respond to. Until that voice in your head starts making statements. No way will your new book be as good as the last. Of course, that won’t take much, since the last one was crap anyway.

And then the worst. You begin believing those statements and repeating them to yourself. The voice in your head becomes your own. And then it becomes the voices of the ones you trust and respect. It begins to sound like your editor and your agent and your mom and sister. And despite the reviews and kind words and encouragement, those words of fear become your truth. Became my truth.

So that’s it. I’m afraid. But I have good news for myself and anyone else who struggles with this.

So do not fear, for I am with you;
   do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
   I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10, NIV)

The truth is that me + fear=writer’s block. The great news is I don’t have to be afraid. And neither do you.

I’m diving back into my proposal. What are you diving into?

Reviews, Interviews, and Giveaways!

code-of-justice-cover-hi-resCode of Justice has been out nearly a week now, and many kind bloggers and reviewers have posted about it, some of them even offering giveaways! So here’s a quick list of the reviews, interviews, and giveaways thus far! Be sure to enter the giveaways. Even if you already have a copy of the book, they make for great gifts!

Interviews:
HeatherCadenhead.com (GIVEAWAY)
RomRevToday.blogspot.com
BookshelfNewsletter.blogspot.com

DivineDetour.com

Reviews:
BookReviewsRUs.com
AndThenIWokeUp.blogspot.com
ConfessionsOfAnOver-WorkedMom.blogspot.com
JenniferSikora.com
MochawithLinda.blogspot.com

Guest blog:
NovelJourney.blogspot.com