Why I don’t read my reviews

My poor neglected blog! It’s been two months since my last post, and while I wish I could promise a return to regular entries, I have been busy doing things like writing my next book and traveling and napping, so entries will remain sporadic. But. This is not a blog about why I’m not blogging.

Two and a half months ago, THE GIRL BEFORE hit shelves. But even before that I had started receiving reviews from those who had advanced copies, readers, bloggers, trade publications. At first, I read every word. The glowing to the harsh and everything in between. The trade publications were generally positive. The reader reviews were also overwhelmingly positive, but there were some negative ones mixed in.

Guess which ones I focused on.

It didn’t seem to matter how many positive reviews I had. The negative ones stuck out, seized me with their claws and wouldn’t let go. And that’s when I made my decision. By the time release day rolled around, I was done reading reviews.

My reasoning for avoiding reviews is two-fold. First, most obviously, for my own mental health. I know myself well enough to know where my focus goes. I think this is human nature, this focus on the negative, but some are better than others at letting it roll off them. I was getting better, but it wasn’t good enough. And in the end, my book was out there. While critique is helpful in the writing and editing stages, there was zip I could do about a reader’s displeasure with the structure of the book or a particular character once the book was on the shelves. All I was doing was sabotaging my own ability to write the next book that many would love and a few would probably hate. It wasn’t good for me, and it wasn’t good for my creativity.

The second reason was because of the readers. I was reminding everyone how helpful reviews are, and I didn’t want anyone to feel like they couldn’t give an honest review because I might read it and get mad. Of course I hope that everyone will love the book, but I wanted people to feel free to say what they really thought, warts and all, without fear that it would hurt my feelings. What I don’t read can’t hurt my feelings. Reviews are really for other readers, not to stroke an author’s ego. They’re the best way someone roaming around Goodreads or Amazon or any other site with reviews has to figure out what might interest them, or how a book they’ve heard buzz about is resonating with other readers, not just in the publishing industry.

And so if I need to hop on for any reason, I get in and get out as quickly as possible. It’s nearly impossible not to view my star rating, but I avoid the rest. I have friends and family who read my reviews and will screencap their favorites and send them to me, so I do get to see some of the more glowing reviews, and they fill my heart with happy.

The best part has been those people who have reached out to me through Twitter or email or FB messages or Instagram or my blog to tell me they loved the book. When I’m having a low night, I search #TheGirlBefore on Instagram and it buoys me. I have had some amazing conversations with strangers who have opened up to me after connecting to my book, and those connections are worth all the stars.

I know there are some authors who read every review, and I am amazed at their mental stamina. Reviews are so important, and I’m grateful to every person who has left one for TGB, and I’m sorry I can’t thank you individually because I won’t see them. I’m always available to hear your thoughts, just not on those forums.

Other authors out there, what do you think? Do you read your reviews? Do you avoid them like the plague?

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In the Wild!

I planned to write this post two weeks ago, but time, as always, slipped right through my fingers. Why does it seem like the more things there are to accomplish, the less time there is to do so?

Anyway! Almost 3 weeks ago, THE GIRL BEFORE released! And there was much rejoicing throughout the kingdom! I spent the day hunting down my book in the wild. My sister and I found it at the local independent bookstores and at Target, and later some friends and I found it at both Barnes & Nobles and at another Target. It was surreal to see MY book cover and MY name out there on shelves for everyone to see!

The week progressed with receiving pictures from all over the country of people finding THE GIRL BEFORE in the wild or in their mailboxes. Every new post made my heart happy. And I was hearing the NICEST things from people who were enjoying the book, mostly that they couldn’t put it down, which is on of the best compliments an author can receive.

Thursday and Friday, people started arriving. People from out of town, friends and family. I had decided on two launch events, one at each of the local independent bookstores in the area. The first night was at Beaverdale Books in Des Moines. So many beautiful people came out to celebrate with me. Family, friends, coworkers, church people. All told about 75 people showed up. I’ve always known I have a great support system here, but there they all were, in one room, looking at me.

Beaverdale

I was super nervous to talk, and even moreso to read, but I did both, albeit a bit quickly. Then I signed and signed and signed and I don’t think it will ever not be weird for people to line up to have me write my name in their book. So many pictures were taken, but I’ll only share one more of my faves here.

littles

All my nieces and nephews! They’re the cutest.

 

On Saturday it was another fun event, this one at Plot Twist Bookstore, which is just down the road from my house! I love this little store, and I was their first official launch. I expected this event to be a bit smaller, but by the end of the two hours, another 70 or so people had come through! Some were repeats, but the majority were different from the night before. I was overwhelmed in the best way.

Plot Twist

There are many more hiding behind the bookshelves!

 

It’s taken me a couple weeks to fully recover, as the colorful flowers and shriveled up and the leftover food has slowly disappeared. I couldn’t have imagined a better weekend. The release in general went really well, and I’m so happy with life right now.

As I’ve been thinking over the past few weeks, I wanted to write up a few things that I learned. Everyone learns different things, I think, but by reading up on other people’s release experiences, I felt better prepared, so maybe this will be helpful for others in the future. Some of them are universal, and some are things I decided to do for myself.

  1. If you work another job, take release day off. You will want to be on social media and/or gallivanting around town, taking pictures of where your book is.
  2. Make plans for release day, whether you’re having your launch party on that day or just going to lunch/dinner with friends, have other people around to help commemorate the occasion.
  3. Invite invite invite! Make sure people know where to get your book! Make sure people know where to come to party with you! Tell them in advance, and talk it up. Make it the celebration it is.
  4. Remember your support system. I relied on my people SO MUCH. I was insanely surprised at the turnout I had at both events. Surprised in the best way. Get the word out, and people will come. They want to celebrate with you.
  5. Bring your author copies to your event(s). I had read this on someone else’s tips ahead of time and threw mine in a car (that almost went to the State Fair that day, but thank goodness it didn’t!). The bookseller at Plot Twist did such a great job of selling my book ahead of the event, she was almost out by the time the event rolled around! We were able to work it out so that everyone who wanted to buy a book was able to. (This is also why it’s important to communicate to the bookseller how many people you might expect at the event, if you’re able.)
  6. It will never not be weird to have people lining up for an autograph and/or a picture with you. People you know, but also people you don’t know. Especially for an introvert, this can feel very odd, but enjoy it. Again, people come to support you because they want you to succeed.
  7. However, there may be people in the crowd who ask weird questions or seem to resent your success. Be generous with them. Answer their questions graciously or steer the topic elsewhere if the question or tone seems off.
  8. Find a way to remember the moment. I made each crowd pose for a picture, and also had a guestbook that I’ll bring to all my events. (My nieces all signed it about ten times.) Not everyone signed it, but most did, and some wrote messages. It’s a keepsake that I can go back to when I’m in the valleys of writer world.
  9. There will be tough days, even in the midst of the excitement. There’s always this huge buildup to release, and then the drop-off of attention and excitement. Plan some things for the days and weeks after release to look forward to. Come down gently.
  10. There will be people who you expect to be supportive who will be silent. People you have supported in the past who let the day or week pass by without a word of congratulations or support. It will hurt, but it’s more about them than it is about you. There will also be support from places you didn’t even expect. Let those surprises and the people who do show their support outshine the negative people with the light of a million suns.
  11. HAVE FUN. BE IN THE MOMENT. REVEL IN DOING SOMETHING AMAZING. You only get one debut. Enjoy it!

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Who Am I?

Tomorrow my debut novel will be on the shelves in bookstores all over.

As I type this, copies are winging their way across the country for those who pre-ordered, hopefully to be delivered on release day.

I’m solidifying plans for the week and weekend, and I wandered into the local bookstore on Saturday to see this:

book sign

I am beyond excited. I can’t wait until everyone gets a chance to read this book that has been at the center of my world for over two years.

I’m also a bit terrified. I know not everyone is going to like the book, nor would I ever expect that. If we all liked the same things, life would be boring. But this is my debut, and it’s the first opportunity people will have to be exposed to my writing style, my storytelling, and some of the most secret parts of my soul.

(Writers are a little dramatic sometimes…)

As all of the many strong emotions have been flowing, I’ve also been wrestling with this idea of the change in identity that comes with this monumental day. This is the only time I will make the switch from unpublished to published author. (Though there is an argument to be made that anyone with a book deal is technically published, but you see where I’m going with this.) From now on, when people want to read my book, they can get it immediately. No more pointing them in the direction of pre-order links or assuring them that it will be out SOON. It’s a huge relief.

And also totally terrifying.

I’ve been overwhelmed with emotions the past couple of weeks. There are so many amazing things going on with this book, and it’s been incredible. But I’m already dreading the letdown. Not the letdown of the book being out itself, because that will forever be amazing, but I’m looking down the barrel of a week filled with activities and parties and people, and a week from today all those people will be gone, the events will be over, and somehow I will be expected to go back to business as usual, back to dayjob and writing the next book and the cycle starts all over again.

This is something authors deal with every time a book drops, I’m sure, but this is the first time for me. And I was freaking out a bit until church yesterday morning.

The sermon was about having goals in life, and keep our eyes on that goal. He also talked about finding meaning in what we do. We watched a clip from Chariots of Fire (my dad’s fave movie!), where Eric Liddell made the point that unless we have meaning outside of the things we do, it’s hard to find true joy in them.

This book, THE GIRL BEFORE, is an incredible accomplishment. I’m so excited for the world to meet Clara, to hear her story, to hopefully find some hope and be inspired in some way. But in the end, this book is not where my identity is. What people say about my book is not me. How well my book does does not reflect who I am as a person.

I’m going to hand out some advice for myself and for anyone else who has at some point found themselves tying their identity to their accomplishments, whether in writing, music, arts, family, jobs, or anything else.

Figure out who are you apart from those things, because they are temporary. Accomplishments fade, are replaced. Jobs end. Popularity doesn’t last. Find internal sense of being. For me, it’s my faith in God and the friends/family who have been around since the beginning that remind me of who I am, and where my worth lies. My family and friends remind me that they loved me before and will continue to love me whatever wordly success or failures I may have, and my faith in God reminds me that I am worthy no matter what happens next.

So while my author identity may change tomorrow, who I am, who I truly am, will remain the same.

books

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Sometimes

Sometimes I look at the Internet

And I read comments

And I feel sad

And hopeless

People screaming at each other

Fighting with invisible strangers

Protected by a screen

THEY don’t understand kindness

THEY are so angry

If only THEY would stop and listen

THEY are ruining our world

THEY fire shots with guns and with words

Heedless of THEIR targets

Confident in THEIR worldview

So sad

I feel for THEM

If only I could make THEM understand

And then someone comments

Something I disagree with

And my heart hardens a little more

Words swirl through my head

Razor sharp, sure to cut

My fingers poised to type

And I realize

I am no different

There is no THEM

It’s just US

WE are humanity

ALL of us

And WE are the only ones who can make it better

One kind word at a time

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Pizzathology COVER REVEAL!

Pizzathology-Banner

Hey hey, pizza lovers! (That should cover everyone reading this blog, yes?)  You may remember a while back I announced that I’ll be part of a pizza-themed anthology coming out in November. Well, now I get to share THE COVER! It’s completely adorable, and I’m so excited for everyone to see it! Ready???

Are you sure?

Brace yourselves!

Okay, ready?

BEHOLD!

A-Pizza-My-Heart-Pizzathology-Cover

DON’T YOU JUST LOVE IT?? I do. I’m so excited to sit down and read the rest of the amazing stories in this collection. With a slice of pizza, of course.

And in case you aren’t on Twitter and missed it last time, here’s a teaser from my story.

Fresh-Hot-And-Deadly-Teaser

See below for the details of the anthology again. Add it to Goodreads today!

Book Name: A Pizza My Heart: An Anthology

Book Genre: YA fiction anthology

Book release date: November 12, 2016 (National Pizza with the Works except Anchovies Day)

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30119563-a-pizza-my-heart

A Pizza My Heart Blurb

Gooey cheese and warm pepperoni, with a side of kissing and murder.

A Pizza My Heart is a quirky and fun anthology that crosses all genres. Fifteen extraordinary authors have united to tell stories of mystery, mayhem, romance, danger, deceit…and pizza.

Sometimes spicy, sometimes cheesy, but always delicious, A Pizza My Heart invites you to explore life, happiness, and the pursuit of pizza.

 

Stories Include:

A Slice of Adventure by Maria Carvalho

Between Slices by Andy Grieser

Fresh, Hot, and Deadly by Rena Olsen

KissingDancingPizzaMURDER by Darci Cole

Kneadful Things by Jenna Lehne

Love Pizza No. 9 by Vanessa Rodriguez

Madame Miraval’s Pizza Place by Kelly deVos

Password Is… by Jolene Haley

Pizza by Emily Simon

Pizza Buddy by Brian LeTendre

Pizzamergency by Brett Jonas

Survival Pizza by Rebecca Waddell

The Last Stop at the End of the World by Jamie Adams

The Pizza Guy by Jessi Shakarian

Where There’s Pizza by Jasmine Brown

 

About the Publisher

Established in 2014, Hocus Pocus & Co. loves to bring unique voices and stories to fruition.

Website

Twitter

 

Cover Design by Haley Crosby

 

Join the book buzz using hashtag #Pizzathology

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Just thinking

This is one of those middle of the night posts that I pray still makes sense in the morning and that will probably be riddled with typos and fun autocorrect surprises because I’m using my phone, but the thoughts are cartwheeling through my brain and I need to splat.

I stayed up too late again. I found another season of Young and Hungry on Netflix, and loafed on my cushy couch and watched it on my large flatscreen while scrolling through Twitter. Finally I rolled off the couch and went to close up the house.

Remembering I needed to cool some water, I pulled my filter out of the fridge and put it on the counter to fill. I was feeling sort of melancholy. It doesn’t really matter why. It’s a CD on repeat with me. (A CD is like a tiny record that old people used to listen to music on, kids!) Comparisons with others, with myself. Wishes that things in my life were different. Whining in my own brain about how unfair some things are in life.

As I watched the clean, cool, drinkable water flow from my faucet to my filter container, it occurred to me how very lucky I am that I have time to sit around and complain about the fact that my life isn’t exactly how I’d like it to be. 

How amazing that my biggest worry is that I might get some bad reviews for the book I get to publish, and not whether I will be able to pay all my bills this month.

How fortunate that I can rant about the political climate on social media and not worry that I will be killed for it.

How incredible that I am able to grumble tomorrow morning about having to get up and drive in my safe car to my steady job instead of searching for whatever work I can find.

What a blessing that I live in a place where I have the opportunity and the freedom to follow my dreams, even if they don’t all come true.

My point is this (I think). Life isn’t perfect. We all have struggles. We all have low points. And we shouldn’t pretend that we don’t. They are difficult and they are legitimate. But when you catch yourself complaining because your life isn’t the fairy tale you’d like it to be, remember all the amazing things you have in your life, even the small things like the ability to read this blog on a phone or computer, and think about the fact that the life you’re living just may be someone else’s idea of a fairy tale. 

Now I’m going to go take a hot shower with clean water and set my alarm for five uninterrupted hours of sleep. It may not be ideal, but it’s something. 

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When I grow up

Yesterday on FB memories, this little beauty popped up.


That’s me graduating from college. That’s me graduating from college TEN YEARS AGO.

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to go to a graduation party for a girl I worked with at an after school program when she was in elementary school.


Needless to say, it was the weekend of feeling old.

Yesterday my mom and I caught a movie in Sioux Falls and afterwards I suggested taking a drive around my old college campus. When I went there, it was Augustana College. Now it is the mighty Augustana University.

Despite the name change, so much remained the same. The residence halls, the old admin building, Madsen Center, where I spent much of my time. There were changes as well. A much-needed upgrade to the science building is in progress, and the humanities building has been growing for years. 

Still, as we drove around campus, I was struck with memories, happy days, difficult times, friends and professors and activities. Augie was as much a home to me as anyplace else I’ve lived. 

When I graduated college, I don’t think I knew what to expect ten years down the road. I know I didn’t when I graduated high school. At college graduation, I was already registered to start my grad program in the fall, and didn’t see much beyond that. I knew I wanted to help people, but I didn’t know what form that would take.

I’ve filled a lot of positions in my life. In the last 20 years I’ve been:

– a paper delivery girl

– a Subway sandwich artist

– a Hallmark retail worker

– a camp counselor (which is like ten jobs in one!)

– an office worker

– a nanny

– an after school program lead teacher 

– a home-based therapist 

– a school-based therapist

– a college instructor

– a therapy supervisor

– an author

Whew. I’m sure there are people who have done more. Had more labels. Been more places. 

This is a time of year where it’s easy to get reflective, to look at the time that has passed, wonder how it went so quickly. But when I look back, I see all the lessons I’ve learned, the amazing people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve had. Are any of us anything without that vast crowd of experiences in our past, influencing who we are, informing our future?

I guess my point is this. Ten years ago, I had no plans to be supervising a therapy program at age 32. And I definitely had no plans to be publishing a book at that same age. But when I look back and the winding path that led me here, I can see that on the way I was able to accomplish what I’d hoped, to help people, if not always in the way I’d planned. And through my books and through my continued work in social services, I hope to continue to help people, in whatever form that may be. 

In ten years, I may look back at this and smile, or roll my eyes, or just nod. Who knows?

A lot can happen in ten years.

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