Monday, August 31, 2015

The Big "C" Visited Me



Unsuspected…there is no family history, you see.

Uterine Cancer is the fourth main cause of death in women so I’m sharing details in hopes that you can protect yourselves. Search for the the symptoms for cancer that were on Yahoo front page last week. But don’t let that be your only guide.  I only had two of those symptoms.

Fatigue…if you’re juggling family, job and writing then you’re bound to be exhausted. No surprise there.

Spotting…there is absolutely “No Bleeding Allowed” after menopause. I picked up a box of books, felt pain and then spotting. A Pap smear taken the same day as my biopsy came back normal. But the biopsy didn’t.

I am lucky. The surgeon found no attachment of the tumor to the uterus lining or any cells. Other than being larger than he would hope I seem to have a bright outlook.

My GP said lifting the box of books had nothing to do with the spotting…I choose to believe differently. You and I know we share a special karma with books and two weeks after surgery I’m itching to crawl back into my story in progress when the fog in my brain clears.

So stay alert about your health. Be your own best health advocate. Know your body and seek medical help if you have any suspicious signs. Stay safe.

And read…

So what are some of the good books you are reading now?

Friday, August 28, 2015


What is it about school reunions that we find so intriguing? For a romance writer, it’s a great vehicle for a love story. The book practically writes itself.  Our heroine decides, albeit nervously, to go to her high school reunion.  She thinks about that boy she knew in school… Might be that she dumped him and now she’s sorry, maybe he dumped her and she never got over it, or, just as interesting, she and the boy were best friends all through high school but always dated others.  The years pass, she gets on with her life, maybe even marries, but she never quite forgets that boy. Things don’t work out so well for our heroine. The marriage didn’t last or she never married.  Then comes the announcement, her high school reunion.  She thinks of the boy and wonders if he’ll be there.  She wonders what happened to him over the years.  She might Google him and search for a recent photo to see if he looks the same.  IShe is happy to see the years have been kind.  You can guess the rest, including the ending where our heroine and the boy find that, even after all these years, they are each other’s soul mate.

My high school reunion was this summer.  But my scenario is quite different since I went to an all girls’ school. I didn’t think about any one particular individual, but wondered if, besides my two friends who I’d kept in touch with, I’d have anything to say to anyone else.  I wondered too if many people would attend.  As in the case with many single sex schools, because enrollment was down, the school closed about five years ago.  I worried how that would have an impact on who would make the effort.

In fact was there was a huge turnout.  People flew in from all over the country.  Instead of deadly awkward silence during the two meals and reception, my classmates and I bustled around talking to everyone.  The cliques, and it’s a given that there were some, practically disappeared. We were all thrilled to reconnect or, more likely at least in some cases, connect for the first time.

I talked to and sat with people I’d never spoken to during my four years of high school and found in many cases that I’d more in common with people I’d hardly known back then than I had with some of my present day closest friends. We had gone to The Academy and it seemed our shared experience had indelibly shaped us.

As I said, it was an all girls school, it was also a Catholic school, with certain values that were taken as a given.  I’d also thought that I was the product of my parents and the home they raised me. What I learned over that weekend reunion is that this little high school on Long Island also had a big impact on me, on my values, and helped to shape my personality.

One of my wish it had been different was that I didn’t go to the public school in my small town.  I always regretted that I hadn’t been more a part of my community, didn’t walk to and from school with my friends or date boys that were in my class. It’s why I felt so strongly that my children go to the local public school. 
What I discovered at my reunion was the value of what I did experience. There was in that little school an emphasis on how important and powerful women can be in the world.  Considering the time, the mid-60’s, my parents’ decision to send me might have been exactly right and the lessons I learned at The Academy were just what was needed for my future. My story is not a love story, but nonetheless, another chapter in self-development.

Deborah Nolan is the author of SUDDENLY LILY and CONFLICT OF INTEREST both published by Montlake and SECOND ACT FOR CARRIE ARMSTRONG published by Desert Breeze Publishing. 


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Reading Romance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

The usual saying goes a little differently: “Distance makes the heart grow fonder” or its opposing sentiment, “Familiarity breeds contempt” but writers are always on the lookout for a different way of seeing the everyday.

To make our work fresh and unique, we scour our brains for ways of saying what ultimately is the same truth — the truth that has been told by our predecessors from the first instance that one human spoke to another member of the cave-dwelling group about an experience they would all need to understand to survive.

In tales of romance, the element of survival may not seem quite as drastic as how to wrangle with a saber-tooth tiger or avoid eating those poisonous berries that look so delicious. But the human heart — technically a mere symbol of the miasma of emotions we cope with every day — can cause the most dire of consequences to arise from what some consider trivial events.

Falling in love, for many of us, is one of the moments in our lives that carries with it all the elements of human drama: comedic and tragic. Romantic love is not for the faint of heart nor is it in any way limited by circumstance. Each couple experiencing the wonder of finding the one-in-six-billion person who is their perfect match can testify to the miraculous phenomenon — that overwhelming elation of supreme good fortune. The ultimate “I can’t believe this has happened to me” moment.

Along with that elation comes the doubt — “This can’t be happening to me - I don’t deserve this - This can’t be love” — when you wish you’d never met this person.

Although Romance, as a genre, is often denigrated as “fluff,” “trivial,” “inconsequential,” most of this criticism comes from a misplaced sense of intellectual superiority. When I entered the Creative Writing Program at my university, I did so with the objective of writing “important” novels. I took classes in every aspect of writing the meaningful short story to the construction of the meaningful novel.

Try as I did, I wrote …and they lived happily ever after.” The optimistic ending is in my nature, probably a result of my childhood spent in reading the classic fairy tales of world literature but more probably related to my “cup half full,” “walking on sunshine” point of view.

“Important” novels are those that drag the reader into a downward spiral of misery and hardship. “Frivolous” books lift readers up, provide “the air beneath their wings.”

I know which I’d rather write and read. Life is hard, why make it harder?  

Monday, August 24, 2015


 by Fran McNabb

If you look at a calendar for the year, you realize there’s a nice pattern and a calming sense of familiarity to the names of holidays spread throughout the year: New Year’s Day, Valentines, Easter, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas.

 The holidays can be expected on or near the same dates each year, and with that regularity, most people find a sense of stability. We know when to pull out our white shorts for the summer, when to start searching for Christmas gifts or school supplies, and when to think about cleaning the fine china for Thanksgiving dinner.

This is the end of August, the closing moments of the summer months and the beginning of school and football season. When I taught school, our lives revolved around the school’s calendar. As soon as it was given to me, I sat down with our family calendar and marked the days when school would be out. My husband would then book his time for vacation according to our days off.

For those of you who work jobs or own businesses, you have no idea what it feels like to be on a set schedule. I was lucky. My husband’s job and my job both marched along pretty regularly.

I am a visual person, someone who learns best and understands the world through visual
images. I saw my school year as the shape of an egg lying on its side. The small end was Christmas and New Years and the wide end was the summer months. Today, as a retired school teacher, I still visualize it that way, but now my life doesn’t revolve around the school calendar. In fact, this year school buses were rolling before I realized schools had opened their doors.

 Life goes on whether you’re involved in it or not. Hubby and I still think about plans for our year, but they’re not set in stone. We’re retired.  For the most part, we can do what we want when we want, but every once in a while, I stop and remember when life wasn’t like that.

I feel so blessed for our good health and energy to still do things we want to do, and my wish to all of you who are still working is that one day you can also enjoy your carefree days of retirement. My egg is still visible to me, but some days I have to remind myself that my life isn’t controlled by a school calendar anymore.

Hmmm, maybe I should try to see the year as a different shape. Nope. My year has been an egg for so long there’s no way that my old brain cells would see it any other way.

No matter – whatever you’re doing at the end of this summer, I hope it leads to a wonderful fall because that leads to winter and that leads spring – get the picture?

Fran McNabb writes light romances and has just finished the final round of edits for KEEPING HOPE ALIVE, a romantic suspense and her eighth published book. She lives along the Gulf Coast with her husband and spends her retirement years writing, painting, and boating. Visit her at or contact her at



Saturday, August 22, 2015

Writing around the day job

Like many writers I know, I write around the work I am paid to do—the “day job.” While I don’t mean for the writing to take a back seat, that often seems to be the result. I’ve been in publishing for over 25 years, have 13 titles available (most still in print) and a 14th in the final stages of production. I maintain a website and have a paid publicist/web designer who sometimes earns more than I do. Nevertheless, criticism about the “dilettantes” and “hobbyists” in the writing world still makes me squirm.

Is it guilt because I know I could probably find a few more hours a week if I was willing to sacrifice sleep or couple time with my honey or the few small efforts I make in the community? Am I squirming because I sometimes hit periods of exhaustion when the words won’t come or occasionally suffer crises of confidence that make me erase everything on the screen? Or am I worried I may really be treating the work as if it were my hobby and not the one thing I’ve aspired all my life to do?

I suspect the answer is D. All of the above. If I were brave enough, perhaps I could break free of the day job and live with the consequences until the royalties began flowing in. Then again, what if they don’t? See? I’m back to that crisis of confidence again.

The stories are many and varied about the writers who’ve lived in their cars or on other people’s couches (J.K. Rowling being the current favorite) because they believed so fully in their own work. Did the world have hostages it held until the royalties came? Because I did: I had a family. And since I still have people in my life, even if they aren’t dependent anymore, I still have hostages—at least to some degree.

For now I’m going to go on writing fiction around the day job and creating fantasies in my head about being brave enough to leap. Maybe those will be the best stories of all.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 13 published novels and has a part in three boxed sets, all 16 titles available now. Mother to seven, she is "gramma" to 24. She lives in northern California with her husband of 45 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. She loves hearing from readers @SusanAylworth, at, or You can also follow her on Pinterest and Instagram.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Teaching an Old Dog

by Gina Ardito

Tomorrow's my birthday. I'll be (gasp!) 53. Spare me the comments about how I don't look my age. I don't mention the day because I'm fishing for compliments. What I really wanted to say is that, even at my (venerable) age, I still have to remain flexible with fate. Because fate seems to love jerking my chain. I'm officially an old dog still learning new tricks.

Life never remains constant. Today is my last day at a job I've had for more than a decade. I've been in this industry for four decades and starting Monday, I'll be trying my wings at something else. No longer will I be able to joke that I work for Satan (health insurance, so yeah, it ain't too far from the truth).

Two days from now, I'll be dropping my youngest child off at college and will come home to a much quieter house (but with more food in it).

I honestly didn't expect 2015 to be the year of so much change (there's more, but it's not my story to tell. Suffice it to say, the last six months have thrown my family topsy-turvy in many ways). But it seems that's just how it happens. You're moving along on your usual path, and suddenly, you hit a detour. You negotiate that turn, and there's another up ahead. And another. Until when you look up again, you realize your path has led you somewhere entirely different than where you thought you'd be.

In "The Princess Bride," Westley, in his Dread Pirate Roberts persona, tells Buttercup, "Life is pain." I beg to differ. Life is change. The days we'll remember when we're looking back are not the days where we got up, went to work, came home, did some chores, watched a little TV and went to bed. We'll recall the milestones: the days that were different, the days that changed us. The birth of children, the death of loved ones, trips and vacations, the end of or respite from the usual grind. 

Go ahead, fate. I'm ready.

As John Lennon sang in Beautiful Boy, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

Enjoy your life, my friends. Live it fully, no matter where it takes you.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Getting to Know Us — Karen McCullough

Yes, we all have bios on this website, but there is so much MORE to know about our Classic and Cozy bloggers.  So the 2nd Friday of each month is dedicated to getting to know us better.  This month I'd like to introduce you to Karen McCullough. 

Okay, inquiring minds want to know…why a writer? Certainly not for the fame and fortune…or maybe it is? 
Good question and I’m not sure I have a good answer.  Definitely not for the fame and fortune.  Not that I’d mind the fortune, but I’d just as leave skip the fame part. It’s just that being a writer is part of what I am.  My imagination is always at work and seems to bring up new story ideas and characters regularly. They begin knocking at my brain and demanding release.

When did you first put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to create your classic and cozy characters?
I wrote my first short story when I was eleven or twelve. It was a mystery and three pages long, which seemed like a lot of writing at the time. I wrote my first serious short story in 1980 and submitted it to a couple of magazines. They all turned it down, but a couple added nice remarks about my writing, which was all I needed to keep at it. I think I finished my first complete novel somewhere around 1984 or 1985 and sold my first novel (the sixth complete novel I’d written) to Avalon in 1988.  It was published in 1990.

Do you have a set writing schedule?
I wish I did, but I have a full-time job (though I’m working my way toward retirement from it) and family commitments. I try to save a couple of hours a day for writing and try to get 500 words done per day, but it doesn’t happen every day, and I don’t beat myself up about it when it doesn’t work.

Is there a certain routine, food/drink, or location that summons forth the muses for you?
Not really. I often re-read the second I wrote the previous day, making corrections, and that gets me into the story enough to get the ball rolling. If I’m having trouble, I allow myself one game of solitaire while I’m thinking, but then I have to write one sentence before I can play another game. Weird as it sounds, it works and gets me rolling. However, a cup of coffee always at the ready nearby is a definite necessity

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I watch sports on TV - Carolina Panthers football, Duke Basketball, Atlanta Braves baseball, along with going to games of our local minor league team, the Greensboro Grasshoppers.  I also putter in the garden, play computer games, and travel. 

I imagine you’ve been reading all of your life (all great writers have.)  What was your favorite book as a child?
Yes, I have a lifelong addiction to reading. I remember tearing through every Nancy Drew book I could lay hands in my pre-teen years. When I couldn’t find any more new ones, I went through the Hardy Boys, Tom Swift and a couple of other series whose names I don’t even remember now. But Nancy Drew was always my favorite.

Do you re-read books?  If so, which one have you re-read the most?
Yes, although not many. I’ve re-read the books of my idols, Mary Stewart and Barbara Mertz (aka Barbara Michaels and Elizabeth Peters) numerous times, but the book I’ve re-read most often would have to be The Lord of the Rings.

But there’s more to life than reading, writing (and arithmetic)…what is your most memorable adventure in your life?
Hmmm.  That’s a hard one since I’ve done a few.  But, yes, the most memorable adventure happened in 2005.  Along with our two daughters, my husband and I went over to England for our son’s wedding.  (He attended graduate school at the University of Bangor in Wales, and while there met his future wife, a young woman from Kent in England.)  We decided to use the opportunity to see more of the United Kingdom, so we flew into Edinburgh, Scotland and spent a few days there, before we headed for a few days in London, and then down to Hastings to the hotel on the waterfront where we’d stay for the wedding. It was my first time in the UK and it was all new and wonderful. Sharing it with family made it extra special, and then the culmination in the wedding was marvelous. Another thing that made the trip so great was that in Hastings we got to meet so many members of the bride’s family and spend time with them, learning more about how they lived, etc. I recall that every moment was packed with things to do, see, and talk about!

If you were on American Idol, what song would you sing to WOW! the judges?
Ouch, this is a little painful because there was a time when I could actually sing. I had vocal training as a kid and sung in a number of choirs in school, then later in pop/rock groups, cover bands, and a couple of church music groups. But ten years ago I had two rounds of surgery to remove some things from my sinuses that weren’t supposed to be there, and my vocal cords were damaged, resulting in the loss of almost all of my range. (Same thing that took Julie Andrews’ wonderful voice.)  But if I were still able to sing, I’d probably cover Both Sides, Now, by Joni Mitchell, or Memory by Andrew Lloyd Webber.  

What are you currently working on? What can we readers look forward to seeing from you?
I’ve recently turned in the second book in my Market Center Mystery series to Five Star. The first in the series was A Gift for Murder, released in hardcover in 2011. The sequel is titled Wired for Murder. I have no idea yet when it will be released. I’m currently working on a novella in the series which I’ll likely self-publish myself to support the series.  My working title for it is A Gift for Destruction, but that could change. And finally I have a short story just released in July as part of the Frostgrave: Tales of the Frozen City anthology, which is connected to the Frostgrave game world.  My story is titled, “Best Served Cold.”

Last question…movie rights…who’ll play your current main characters when Hollywood comes knocking on your door? 
Oh, dear.  I don’t know…  Jennifer Lawrence in a dark wig would make a wonderful Heather McNeil.  For Scott Brandon, maybe Chris Pine.

Catch more of Karen McCullough the second Saturday of every month here on the Classic and Cozy Blog.   

For a complete list of Karen McCullough’s books click on over to her website

And be sure and check out her blog

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Surviving Jury Duty with Jamie and Claire

Anyone who has served as a potential juror knows it's a day of waiting. You arrive at the courthouse with your morning coffee balanced in one hand and a bag with snacks and reading material in the other. In my county, the juror pool is huge. Several hundred people sit and wait for their number to be called.

I am one of those obsessed Outlander fans, desperately waiting for the next TV season to start. Only another obsessed Outlander fan can understand how the characters constantly intrude on my thoughts. Fortunately, I still have two more books in the series to read. I carry Jamie, Claire, Roger and Bree with me wherever I go. Yes, I carry around a thousand plus page paperback. 

I entered the jury room and half listened to the introductions. I was almost to the end of, A Breath of Snow and Ashes.  I had to know if Jamie and Roger got to Bree in time. No spoilers, I promise. 

I breathed a sigh of relief when my number was finally called. Not that I was anxious to be picked, but desperate to finish book 6. That day I had packed two books in my bag. Heaven forbid I finished one and couldn't start the next. Jamie Fraser somehow makes time travel a good idea.

My group of potential jurors was directed to the judges courtroom, but the docket wasn't ready. 
"Take a two hour lunch break," the court officer said.  
I was thrilled. When do I ever get two uninterrupted hours to spend with my favorite hero and heroine.

For me, jury duty is one of those annoying obligations that you can't escape. But this time, in the company of my favorite characters the waiting was tolerable.  This is why I read and write.  Escaping into their story takes me away from the nonsense of everyday life.

Thank you to all the talented writers who give us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Patience, patience ...

By Sandra Wilkins

            Um…have I ever mentioned that I’m not a very patient person?   I mean, I’ve tried over the years to not get bent out of shape when things don’t go the way I wish they would.  So, I would say—in general—that I do a much better job at just “chillin’” than I did ten or twenty years ago.  Certainly, having children has had an obvious connection to a more understanding attitude.  It doesn’t do a person any good to get upset, worried or angry at every little problem.  Sometimes you just have to go with the flow.    

            Waiting on other people can seem impossible sometimes.  It doesn’t matter what the relationship is between two people, we don’t have the same agenda.  No one does.  We may have similar ideas, but the execution of them can come about in altered ways and in different time periods.  Oh, and there is always the chance it won’t happen at all.

            The other day, I heard this quote on the radio, “It’s better to go slowly in the right direction than quickly in the wrong direction.”  How true is that?!  I’m trying to embrace that thought.  I’ve hoped to build a house out in the country for more than twenty years but it hadn’t worked out in the past.  Now, as we’re on the verge of hiring a builder I can see where it’s much better to take baby steps toward a goal instead of falling headlong into a pile of manure.  It’s not always comfortable standing around twiddling your thumbs hoping that something will happen someday, but there will be a reward in the end for patience.  It may not be exactly what we planned or
envisioned in the beginning, but that meandering path could lead to a beautiful thing. 

    Sandra Wilkins is busy writing another series while home educating her two daughters.  Ada’s Heart, Rose’s Hope and Gwen’s Honor are her first three published wholesome historical romances. 

 Go to to find out more about her and her books. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Having Adventures

Most days I sit in front of a computer and work. I’m a free-lance web designer/developer by profession as well as an author. Both jobs involve sitting at a desk for hours on end, using my brain and my hands but not much else. Even on weekends, when I do more writing, too much of my day goes by at the computer. I do make it a point to get up periodically and walk around; I try to walk at least a mile a day, and I do other exercises, but still the day is limited.

I read as much as I can, too, but every now and then I itch to get out in a more serious way. I want to take a vacation and travel. We go to the beach once or twice a year and that’s great for resting and relaxing, providing more reading time, but it doesn’t satisfy my longing for new places, people, and experiences.

At least every other year we plan a more major vacation with travel to someplace we’ve never been or don’t get to visit often. We almost always meet or include other family members in the trip, which tends to make it more meaningful for all of us.

A few years ago, we flew to Las Vegas, then drove to the north rim of the Grand Canyon, spent a few days there hiking, drove to Bryce Canyon and spent a few days, and then drove over the mountains to Denver. It was a lot—A LOT—of driving, but so worth it. It was the first time I’d seen real desert other than in movies and television shows, (yes, East Coast Girl), my first view of the Rocky Mountains, including an unforgettable ride on Interstate 70 up and over, my first time in Vegas (and likely my last), and hikes in eerie landscapes at Bryce that sparked all sorts of story ideas.

Me at the Grand Canyon, 2010
The last two trips have been to England, where our son now lives with his wife and small daughter. We’re fortunate that he lives in Oxford, a place that is endlessly fascinating on its own and within fairly easy driving distance of many other interesting places. We’ve ventured forth to Bath, Blenheim Palace, Highclere Castle (better known to most people as Downton Abbey) and Stonehenge. We’d spent time in London and Kent on a previous trip, as well.
My husband and son at Stonehenge, 2014
Not many of these places have directly worked their way into a story yet. But the spirit of them has already infused some of my work. Those places have expanded my horizons and filled the bucket of my brain with more material to weave into my books. But I need more.  Need more!

By the time you’re reading this, I should be home from the latest jaunt, a trip to Italy.  My son and his family joined us there for a stay in Rome, followed by Florence, and then Como.  Report to follow.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Of Cartoons, USBs and the Cloud

 by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson

I have a secret passion. I love USB thumb drives. They are so handy and so much easier to use or carry than the old 3.5 floppies. We aren't even going to mention the ancient 5.0 floppies.

I know it’s peculiar, but the main reason I love USBs is not primarily for their practical use, but because they are so much fun. You see, my passion for USB drives isn't really for the humdrum if not downright boring oblong ones that come in a variety of distressing colors, though I have several. They are great in their own rather pedestrian way, but I have fallen in love with the 'specialty' USB drives that come in shapes! There is such a variety of images out there now! They are available as jewelry (one of my faves is a sparkly rose pendant that is really a USB) and coins and cars and guns and just about anything else that you can think of.

My favorite ones, though, are the cartoons. There are both the famous ones and the generic images. Pull off their head and there is a USB! I have a Sylvester the Cat – or it might be the baby cat whose name I can't remember from the Animaniacs – and a snake and a couple of monkeys (both brown and pink) and a Tom (am still looking for a Jerry) and a Tasmanian Devil and a Marvin the Martian and... well, just take my word for it that I have a lot of them. I've also seen others that I want but just couldn't afford at the time (and of course have never seen them again!) and an impressive assortment of superheroes, who don't do anything for me (I'm married to the only superhero who interests me) and some things that are vaguely anthropomorphic, but I can't even hazard a guess as to what they are.

Believe it or not, there's also a practical side to this variety. I switch a lot from one machine to another, some mine, some not, and having the different characters makes it easy to remember where what project is. 'Oh,  such-and-such is on Sylvester' or 'Thus-and-so is in the snake.'

But, you say, what about the cloud? Put something in cloud storage and it's there whenever you want it.

Humph. Admittedly I am a Luddite slow to embrace new technologies, but I really hate the idea of the cloud. I truly dislike control of my work being in anyone's hands but mine. Then there's the whole idea of piracy in all its ugly manifestations – I don't care how safe they say it is, it was made by someone which means it can be cracked by someone. Not that I am so big or so famous that anyone might want to pirate my works in process, but I might be someday so why tempt Fate?

Not that we will have much choice. My new tablet (an Asus) was chosen not only for the fact it had a keyboard with it and a deliciously affordable price, but primarily because it had a USB port. It was the only affordable one I could find that did. I can foresee a day when the cloud (or whatever they call it) will be the only storage available to us, and that will mean that our work will be held at the whim of others. Already you can’t simply buy an Office suite – no, you have to buy a one year’s license. Every year. To me that smacks of extortion. Just imagine what it will be like when the only storage is in the cloud, and you can access your work only when and if the cloud’s controllers permit. That’s when I will dig out my antique typewriter and buy a supply of typing paper. Worked like that once, and I can do it again.

In the meantime, though, I have a wonderful word processing program for which I don’t have to pay a yearly fee (Open Office) and a tidy little zoo of cartoon thumb drives. What does it say about me, though, that I love to go to work each morning, even if it means yanking the head off of Sylvester the Cat?

Monday, August 3, 2015

The worst review ever

I was having trouble thinking of something to write, when this fell into my lap. 

Third review on my new release and it asked why was the story similar to one already written. Needless to say I was horrified.  I never read the book cited.  At least I don't think I ever did.

Before I tell you about the story and my story, let me say I have been reading romances since I snuck True Confessions and True Story magazines from my mom's reading pile when I was fourteen and then progressed to romances.  That was 50 years ago and I have read a whole lot of books.

The story  I just released -  - is my story.  Rooted in what happened to me but with a twist.  I was the consummate nerd.  Moved to a city from a small town in Pennsylvania when I was going into the eighth grade and did not belong with my new surroundings or the kids.  Didn't dress the same, wasn't anywhere as mature as they were, and not nearly as mean spirited.  Dirt poor, when I got a new outfit for school, that was all I got.  One new outfit.  I wore thick soled shoes and thicker glasses. I was picked on and laughed at unmercifully for most of my school years.  I can't remember all the names I was called, but I do remember trying not to be noticed so I wouldn't hear them.  The cool kids picked on me, the jocks laughed at me, and I virtually had few friends.  Those that were friends were just like me and we survived together by learning to blend into the background.

I kinda morphed into someone tolerated about my junior year of high school, and wrote on the school newspaper and yearbook staff.  That's where my love of writing came from. Got a job, worked on changing myself and kept on reading romances because that's were the great guys were.

Fast forward to now, and I needed a new plot. Writing about a woman who goes from plain into pretty was overdone, so I decided to try writing about a geek who suddenly becomes cool. But guys aren't into plastic surgery, so I figured and auto accident would take care of what I needed. So I smashed the hero's face and sent him to the hospital.  I gave him a girl-friend who cared about him, but not a girlfriend because I had a boy-friend who I guess took pity on me back in the day and at least talked to me once in a while.  That and we both like science fiction books. 

I called upon life for the rest, drawing on things I saw, things I saw on TV  and things experienced through life.  The hero actually owned a successful computer-gaming development business, but had be lying about it for two years because the girl-friend treated him like a person and not a modern-day nerd.  She offered to help him build a new outside while he tried to remain the same on the inside, and she also offered pointers to ease him into the dating scene because she thought he deserved to experience everything he had missed before she told him how she actually felt about him, all the while hoping he would not find someone else in the process.  I tossed in some cougars and kittens, a  hussy at work, and some internet bloggers who found out about his transformation and broke the story on the internet, and an FTC investigation of his company which had a public offering on the stock market before they ended up happily ever after.

I thought it was a good story. Then wham!!  I was told someone already wrote it.

Worse than that, I liked this story so much  that I hired a PR firm to do all sorts of media on this because I was finally able to release all the hurt I still carried, but should have let go a long time ago.  How stupid would I have been to try to attract attention to something already out there?  How stupid would it be to not think readers would notice?  

I been reading for 50 years, writing for 20.  Did I read a story like this?  Maybe.  I can't prove I didn't but I can't prove I did.

But I can prove I lived it.  The scars are there and I guess will always be now. I don't know what is going to happen. Maybe the book will be pulled.  Maybe I'll never submit again for fear all the stories in my head have already been told.  Maybe no one will publish me again.  It will be what it will be. But I will see this to the end, whatever that is.

On the only positive thing I can see is maybe there is another story in the future.  This time non-fiction.

Please don't share this post.  This is for my Avalon sisters who I hope know me well enough to at least understand that I had to talk to someone because this hurts as much as all the name calling.