Your Cyber Sins Follow You Everywhere

Daughter Am I is going to be published in just a few days, and Amazon is in the process of getting it up on their site. There’s no cover image yet, no blurb, no “look inside”. Nor does the book show up on my Amazon author page. Imagine my surprise then, when I checked the Daughter Am I page and found two editorial reviews. What????

Two years ago I entered the first Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition and ended up as a semi-finalist. The “prizes” for having reached the new level were reviews by Publisher’s Weekly and two top Amazon reviewers. I only received one Amazon review, and it said simply: Mary didn’t know she had Grandparents till the lawyer called to tell her that she’d inherited everything from them. Turns out, the pair were murdered together. Her father won’t talk about his parents and the more she digs, the more she wants to find out what happened to her mysterious family.  That “review” is simply a rewording of the description I wrote for my submission, and to be honest, mine was better!

The PW review said: A group of spunky octogenarians joins a woman on a search to discover the truth about the grandparents she never knew she had. After inheriting the farm of her estranged, murdered grandparents, Mary Louise Stuart discovers photos and an address book in the Colorado farmhouse and becomes obsessed with finding out who her grandparents were and who would want them dead. With each question, another senior citizen joins the quest – former friends and gangsters with names like Crunchy, Iron Sam, Happy, Lila Lorraine. The mystery deepens with each stop in their whirlwind tour of the Midwest: who’s following them? A love interest ensues between Mary and Tim Olsen, whose grandpa was good friends with her great-grandfather. While the author certainly researched the history of the Mafia, too many of the numerous historical asides – and subplots – are tacked on under the guise of story time, making the story drag with detail abut Wyatt Earp, the JFK assassination and bootleggers. But underneath the relentless bouts of story time is a delightful treasure-hunting tale of finding one’s self in a most unlikely way

It’s not a bad review, all things considered, but the book that is now being published by Second Wind Publishing, LLC has been rewritten, edited, tightened up, and is  much better than the version  I entered in the contest.

That’s not the point, though. The point is that the reviews have been lurking in cyberspace all this time, and now they have found me again. Makes me what other of my youthful peccadilloes (writely speaking) will come back to haunt me.

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And the Tension Builds . . . Yawn

Alfred Hitchcock is often referred to as the master of suspense, but I find some of his movies dreary. The tension rises at a leisurely pace and there is nothing to relieve the single grey note of suspense. By the time I am halfway through one of his films, I hope that everyone dies and gets it over with.

For me, the problem with these movies is that they have no sense of humor. A bit of comic relief would give the films color, would make the suspense more surprising by comparison and the revelations more shocking. Anyone who is familiar with color knows that this works. Yellow is brighter in the presence of purple, its direct opposite on the color wheel, than in the presence of any other color, and purple is more vibrant in the presence of yellow.

I am trying to cultivate humor so that I don’t turn out to be a single-grey-note writer. I’m not planning to add slapstick to an otherwise serious story; nor am I planning to use a lot of clever quips and one-liners. They get annoying after a while, and overshadow the plot. A touch of quiet humor works just as well and makes readers (or film watchers) let down their guard so they are more susceptible to deadly thrusts.

There are many ways of being humorous. One can juxtapose different character types as I did in Daughter Am I. I did not intend for the book to be humorous, but parts of it ended up that way because of Mary’s relationship with the old gangsters. The humor did not come from the age difference but from value differences. The old gangsters had no problem breaking the law, and Mary did.

One can also have a character say or do the opposite of what is expected. The classic Lou Grant remark from Mary Tyler Moore is a good example: “You’ve got spunk,” a pause, then, “I hate spunk.” Or one can have a character struggle to come up with a witty remark and finally come out with a simple “Hi.”

Humor does not come naturally to me, but then, even funny people have to work at it. Agents and editors have rejected me because they say they don’t fall in love with my characters. Maybe a bit of humor will make my characters more lovable. It will certainly make writing them more fun. At the very least, they (and my books) will not be colorless.

Not Exactly a Rave Review, But a Fair Assessment

Well, here it is. The Publishers Weekly review of my Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award entry Daughter Am I:

A group of spunky octogenarians joins a woman on a search to discover the truth about the grandparents she never knew she had. After inheriting the farm of her estranged, murdered grandparents, Mary Louise Stuart discovers photos and an address book in the Colorado farmhouse and becomes obsessed with finding out who her grandparents were and who would want them dead. With each question, another senior citizen joins the quest — former friends and gangsters with names like Crunchy, Iron Sam, Happy, Lila Lorraine. The mystery deepens with each stop in their whirlwind tour of the Midwest: who’s following them? A love interest ensues between Mary and Tim Olsen, whose grandpa was good friends with her great-grandfather. While the author certainly researched the history of the Mafia, too many of the numerous historical asides — and subplots — are tacked on under the guise of story time, making the story drag with detail abut Wyatt Earp, the JFK assassination and bootleggers. But underneath the relentless bouts of story time is a delightful treasure-hunting tale of finding one’s self in a most unlikely way.

Not exactly a rave review, but a fair assessment.

I can understand why the reviewer didn’t like my “relentless bouts of story time,” but the whole purpose of my writing the story was to debunk the myths about the so-called Mafia in this country. The Mafia as we know it is a figment of Hollywood. Teach, a con man and the storyteller in my novel, says, “People talk as if the Mafia and the Syndicate are still active today, but the Syndicate phased out the American Mafia, wealth phased out the Syndicate, and now new gangs of all races and nationalities have taken their place.”

I wanted a framework for telling the history of gangsterism in this country, and I decided on a mythic journey using aged gangsters for the archetypal figures. As the hero’s journey progresses, her mentors tell stories of the old days. Listening to the stories and putting all the pieces together, she learns who her grandparents were and who she is.

I suppose I could take out some of the stories to make the novel more publishable (which I will do if an agent or editor ever requests it) but for now they stay. Until I read this review, I hadn’t realized how much I miss the all those novelists who did tack on historical asides. In fact, I used to seek out books by authors such as Taylor Caldwell and Noel Barber for that very reason.

So, if that’s the only thing the reviewer objected to, I have no objection to the review.

You can take a look at my entry here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00121WDKQ

A Rejection So Pleasant It Was Almost an Acceptance

 Yesterday I received two encouraging emails. The first was a rejection letter from an agent:

“Thank you for allowing us to review your manuscript for Light Bringer. Your writing is very impressive and, on a personal level, I enjoyed the story immensely. Unfortunately, at this time, we are not prepared to offer a contract for representation.

“I know it is disappointing to receive a rejection, but this is certainly not meant to suggest that your work is without merit. Rather, given the small size of our agency and the fluctuating nature of the market, our literary needs change periodically and sometimes we must pass on good writing simply because it doesn’t match those needs.

“Given the quality of your work, it really is just a matter of time and persistence before you find the right agent or publisher.”

The second email was a notice from Amazon regarding my novel Daughter Am I:

“Thank you for participating in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. We received thousands of submissions and were impressed by the incredible talent and creativity seen in the entries. We are happy to inform you that you have been selected as a semi-finalist.

“You can find your entry on Amazon.com via the following link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00121WDKQ.

“Now that you’re a semi-finalist, feel free to encourage friends and family to review yours and others’ entries.”

It sounds as if I had a good day, which I did, but at the end of it, I am still unpublished. Persistence is something I can do, but I could also use some help. If you get a chance, will you check out my ABNA entry? You can download it by clicking on the above link.

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