Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hubby vs. Mean Reviews, Touched by an Email

I'll be very honest with you, blog reader friends. Just between us, negative reviews about a book you've written can suck. Even though every book gets them, even though you can always learn something from feedback, even though it's part of what you signed up for when you decided to take the self-important step of foisting a book on the world. Even though, even though, even though.

It doesn't matter how you re-frame it or how much you're expecting it; if any part of your fragile writer's ego is exposed when you peruse the one- and two-star reviews that are an inevitable part of the publishing process, you are open to be a little wounded by them. The ones that make valid critical points are challenging enough to swallow, but at least they offer you something you can take away with you to improve for later. Or, choose to ignore and better define who you are as a writer. Both useful behaviors.

More difficult are the reviews that seem just plain mean-spirited. These are definitely the minority, even of negative reviews, and they don't bother me as much as they did at first. I'll admit to being surprised sometimes at the vitriol that some people feel after reading a book that wasn't exactly what they expected, or they felt was wordy, or whatever. But I'm the writer, and I knew the minute I clicked "publish" that one of my new jobs was to work on checking my sensitivity and keeping perspective.

Hubs, on the other hand, is still working on growing thicker skin. He's learned to handle my (often intense) self-criticism and even helps me wade through feedback to pull out themes to improve my writing for next time. But when people are mean, he still gets a bit hurt and defensive. And, you know what? I think it's sweet. At the end of the day, I'd rather have the guy who gets mad on my behalf than a thousand five-star reviews.

All that said, I also wanted to share that I have received some incredible emails in the last few weeks that have been really heartwarming. Several people have reached out to let me know that The Marriage Pact was more to them than just an entertaining read (which was my primary goal), but that it had some personal significance to them. Whether it was something Marci experienced that resonated with them or just a connection with one of the characters, some people have a special experience with the book, and I've been delighted to hear it.

One note in particular landed in my inbox last week while I was taking a break from working on Regrets Only. The note was from someone who would probably not be considered my typical target audience (as he pointed out): a 63-year-old man. I'll respect the privacy of what he shared with me specifically, but several events in his life mirrored some of those in The Marriage Pact; though his real-life story was in many ways far more beautiful than my fictional one.

It meant the world to me that he enjoyed the book, and that he took the time to send such a personal email about it. It means even more, since my Dad -- who was also 63 -- died last year before he could finish reading my first novel. I never got to hear his impressions, but it's nice to know that it's at least possible he might have enjoyed it.

Self-publishing can be both a raw and rewarding process. We get to play a lot of roles: from parent to author to spouse to business owner to editor to marketer. Sometimes in the midst of the chaos, the universe gives us what we need: useful feedback, a supportive spouse, or an encouraging word at just the right time. The trick is being able to look up from the keyboard long enough to appreciate it!  

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Enough About Books... Let's Eat!

This isn't a foodie blog, but I just want to do a quick update for those interested: I did a guest post this weekend on my friend Meghan's plant-based living blog. It has a yummy Curried Veggie recipe and some pictures of my kids chowing down. You can find it here.

As someone who's spent most of her life in the "Plus Sized" section of the world, I am not exactly the expert on healthy eating habits. But I get a little better all the time, especially as I try to help my boys not to have the same struggles that I've had. I don't obsess about calories, pounds or size anymore. I've decided I'm too old for that crap. I like myself the way I am, and more importantly, I accept myself for who I am. I don't beat myself up for my imperfections and mistakes, in any area of life, but especially related to weight.

Instead, Hubs and I just try to focus on making healthy choices, whenever we can. This year we joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) that my best friend has been doing for years, and I'm so excited to get my hands on all the new and interesting fresh veggies. I love to cook, but rarely make time for it, so I think the influx of produce is going to force me to do more of that. You may see more veggie-related posts in the future!

In the meantime, if you are interested in plant-based eating (as a participant or observer), go check out Meghan's blog. She manages to be really informative without coming off all judgmental and crazy. 

And in case you don't have time to follow the links, here's a picture of a kohlrabi. Because kohlrabi is fun!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Two More Free Days for The Marriage Pact

I know many of the folks reading this blog have already downloaded and read my first novel, THE MARRIAGE PACT, but in case you know people who haven't and you think it's worth sharing...

In celebration of Memorial Day, all day Wednesday May 22nd and Thursday May 23rd, you'll be able to download TMP for FREE. This will be the last time it's available for free, at least until the release of REGRETS ONLY later in the summer, so get it while it's hot!! I wanted to make sure everyone is loaded up with something fun to read over the long weekend.

You can read the free download on your Kindle, of course, but you can also read it using a free Kindle app for your PC, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, Android phone, etc.

Please feel free to share this post with friends and family. The book has done really well since the first free promotion in April, spending 30+ days in the Top 100 Paid for Kindle, and longer than that in the Top 10 for Contemporary Fiction and Women's Fiction. There are more than 65 reviews with an average of more than 4 stars. You know, in case you want some credibility for your recommendation! :) 

While you're doing that, I am slaving away on REGRETS ONLY, the sequel (though it's a bit of a tangent from the original plot line), which I think will be even better than TMP. You'll be the judge!

Have a wonderful Memorial Day, everyone!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Post #160: In which I whine an awful lot and then try to learn something

Did you ever have one of those weeks?

I did. Week before last, actually. Some people would say, "when it rains it pours." I would say, "it felt like our house was on a vortex of crap."

Those of you who have or have recently had preschool-aged children understand that once your kid goes to daycare, you get every imaginable communicable illness, every time it comes around. I used to pride myself on having an iron constitution, but ever since Monkey started bringing home those lovely germs, I'm amazed at how often I am knocked flat by something that barely fazes him.  Two weekends ago, despite my best efforts and loads of Emergen-C, I came down with a nasty little virus that came with a fever, sore throat, sinus infection, bronchitis, and after a couple of days, a double ear infection.

Little Fozzie Bear got it, too, so we were both miserable while Monkey was feeling fine at full blast. Just in time for Hubs to go out of town on a business trip. I got sick Friday night, he left Monday, and the three of us were planning to drive out to New Orleans on the following Friday with my mother-in-law to meet him for a wedding. Over those four days, I was supposed to be packing myself and both boys for the long car ride, working, and writing.

But then I didn't get better, and neither did Fozzie Bear. He was so unhappy, he couldn't sleep, and needed to be held 100% of the time. So I took him to the doctor, got antibiotics for his ears, and then promptly lost my voice. I cancelled my clients and the nanny (to keep from getting her or her other charges sick). Tuesday I got worse instead of better, so I took myself to the doctor -- moms know what a rarity it is, and how BAD you have to feel, to take yourself to the doctor. You pretty much have to be losing a limb or at death's door. More antibiotics for my ears and sinuses.

Cranky baby, no nanny, feeling crappy. Hubs out of town. To top it off, Monkey is brilliantly mastering the art of being an almost-three year old, which means he can annoy you within inches of dropping him off at an orphanage and running like hell.

Times like those, I miss my parents more than ever. Especially my mom. When you're really sick, you just want someone to come stroke your hair and tell you it will be alright. Or to give your kids dinner so you can go get a shower. Whichever. That night, in the midst of trying to negotiate both boys through dinner, medicine and bath, I sat down and cried for my Mom. Big, pathetic tears. Monkey came and asked me why I was crying, and I answered him honestly in my raspy squeak: "I miss my Mommy today."

He said, a little befuddled, "You miss your Mommy?"

I nodded. He knows who my Mom was, in theory, though of course he never got to meet her. She died eight years before he was born. Sometimes, however, kids understand simple things that we have forgotten. "It's okay, Mommy," he said. "You can talk to her. I'll show you where Grandma Peggy is."

He motioned for me to follow him, and feeling a little silly, I did. He led me upstairs to the hallway where we have a black and white picture of my mom, taken around her senior year in high school when she was Homecoming Queen. It's one of my favorites. "There she is," he said simply. "Talk to her."

Needless to say, this did not stop the crying. I held him close, and for a few precious moments, everything was okay. I mean, in a couple minutes, he was back to throwing enormous tantrums for no rational reason, and Fozzie was crying nonstop as I tried to funnel Tylenol down his throat. But still. I got them to bed and called my Mom's childhood best friend, who was nice enough to talk and let me listen for a while.

The next morning, my sinus infection decided to take over my whole face. I woke up with one eye swollen shut and both eyes leaking some kind of disgusting goo. Pink eye. Awwwwesome. Back to the doctor, this time with both boys in tow, where a nice but odd nurse suggested I could've saved myself a trip by putting baby pee in my eye. I took this in stride, and said to her without irony, "That's a good idea. I guess since I'm already here, though, maybe I'll just go ahead with the drops."

My aunt came that evening to help me get the boys to bed and catch up on dishes, which was an enormous blessing. One nice thing about not having lots of family nearby and available to help is that you really appreciate what you get. The nanny was returning Thursday afternoon, and I had a desperately-needed haircut and pedicure scheduled to get ready for the almost-forgotten-in-the-shuffle wedding. Oh, and I needed shoes and jewelry to go with my new dress, too. Plus the packing to leave early Friday morning. No problem. I had five hours of nanny time and a plan to use every minute wisely.

We stopped by the pediatrician on the way to preschool Thursday morning, since Monkey had been complaining about his ears and I didn't want to take any chances on our road trip. It turned out that saying "my ears hurt" was just another fun way to get attention (sigh) because they were fine. So we dropped him off and I went home to try to pull some things together before the nanny arrived. Half an hour before she was supposed to get there, I got a call from the school. Monkey had been hit in the head with a sand bucket by another kiddo, and they thought he *might* need stitches. I think I actually said to the poor teacher, "Are you kidding me?"

She was not, in fact, kidding me. I called the nanny and bribed her with the entire contents of our refrigerator and pantry to skip picking up her own lunch and get to our house a few minutes early. She did, and so I drove frantically to school and picked up my brave but bloody Monkey. I canceled my hair appointment (for the third time in two weeks) on the way to urgent care, where Monkey and I went through the decidedly un-fun process of getting him his first stitches (three of them).

It was around then that it happened. I realized the week had defeated me. I had not packed a thing, I had not seen a single client, had not written a word. No hair cut or pedicure. Nothing had gone as I'd planned. But as I held my terrified, screaming child while the doctor speared him with a fish hook needle, I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Woman plans, universe laughs. But maybe for a reason.

Even though I was packing at midnight and had frizzy hair and an emergency stop for accessories along the interstate, the trip was uneventful and the wedding quite lovely. I got to spend Mother's Day in New Orleans with Hubs, the boys, and my wonderful mother-in-law. And I think I appreciated it more for the trials and tribulations of the previous week.

Originally I thought this blog might be about Motherhood, or Mother's Day. And it is. I thought it might be about learning to give up control and replace it with gratitude. It's that, too. But since it took me an extra week to get back to writing it, I've realized there is more to it...

Throughout my frustrating week, I reminded myself that there are lots of parents of young kids out there who have partners whose jobs pull them out of town far, far more often than mine. Some of those parents have great support systems around them to help out, and some don't.

As Memorial Day approaches, though, I started thinking about sacrifice, and it occurred to me that one of the hardest weeks of my cushy life is a standard week for many military families. Parents and grandparents, husbands and wives, give every minute of every day just to keep their families up and running. They do this while their loved ones are not only away from home, but putting themselves in peril for all our sakes. If I'd had to add Hubs' bodily safety to my list of worries last week, or the prospect of not being able to see him for months on end.... well, I can't imagine.

It's a tiny gesture, but I'm going to be offering The Marriage Pact for free for a couple of days this week, to give folks a chance to pad their Kindles for the long weekend and the start of summer. If you haven't yet read it, I hope you'll enjoy it. I also hope you'll have a chance to spend time this holiday weekend enjoying things you love, with people you love.

As for me, I have some writing to catch up on, and I'm looking forward to some down time with the fam. Of course, we will take a few minutes this weekend to honor the sacrifices of those who've given their lives for our country, and those who risk their lives each day. This year, I'm also going to think especially about the families they leave behind -- some for a while, some forever -- who make equally important and difficult sacrifices. I'm in awe of the strength of those families, and grateful for them. "Thank you," seems inadequate, but I'll say it anyway: Thank You.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Procrastination: a Poem

This haiku is for
National Poetry Month,
which was in April.

Happy May! :)