Tag Archives: books and reading

Promises, tears, and magic

Remember back when I won a book on Goodreads and it led to me accidentally working with an author?

On May 13th, that manuscript, the one I got to read and puzzle over and love – it was published.

Suzy (I call her that cuz we’re tight, remember?) and I probably shot pieces of this book back and forth over the course of four or five months? Let’s call it six because that makes it sound like we did half a year’s worth of hard work and let me tell you, writing is hard work. She’s a total hack-n-slasher; she’ll remove entire sections, if necessary, in order to make her story go the right way. It’s like she is all the forces of nature wreaking havoc upon her poor characters but the result is amazing. In turn, her early readers are like FEMA workers in that they have to see what the lay of the land looks like after the restructuring. We’re responsible for testing the new spots, making sure everything fits together, sometimes reading the same thing over and over again. It’s a lot of work and I don’t think I’ve enjoyed or taken as seriously any other project in my entire grown-up life.

Anyhow, when time was up and she had to relinquish her baby to the publishing house, she told me I’d been a big help. I don’t know how much I believed her – my opinions are only opinions, after all – but it was nice to hear nonetheless. She reaffirmed she was going to put me in the acknowledgements, something she’d said a million times already, but this time she said I would be first. Again, I don’t know that I fully believed her because I know I get overly-enthusiastic about stuff from time to time and make promises only to forget them later. She asked me how I wanted my name to appear and if I wanted her to say anything specific. I said I wanted my full name because I’m vain and no one would be able to doubt it was me she was acknowledging but, otherwise, she could say whatever she wanted. Then I promptly forgot about all of this. Well, not forgot but it sort of went to my background consciousness.

As the publication date drew closer, I started hyping the book to co-workers, friends, and family, using the “You should buy this book because I’ll be in the acknowledgements” line but even then, I don’t think I really knew what that meant until April 18th when Suzy announced on Facebook that the pre-order was live and that if you went to Amazon and did the “Look inside!” trick, you’d see the people she’d tagged in the acknowledgements. I did as instructed and then died.

Talk about making good on promises.

People, when you say you’re going to do something, do it big like Suzanne Palmieri. I cannot tell you what this did to me (but I’m going to anyway).

Here’s the book:

Go get this book. If this isn't your kind of story, buy it as a gift for someone else. Just go get it.

Go get this book. If this isn’t your kind of story, buy it as a gift for someone else. Just go get it.

And here’s the Acknowledgements page which is right at the beginning:

Yes. That's me. The very first acknowledgement, just as promised.

Yes. That’s me. The very first acknowledgement, just as promised.

Not only am I first, but I have my own sentence. Two of them, actually. If you read the book, you’ll appreciate the sweetness of “shine,” too.

When I saw this, I cried. Not pretty little tears trickling down my cheek at a beautiful pace. No, it was the out-n-out snotty nose, puffy eyes cry, the Ugly Cry. You would think ugly-crying would not be the proper response to finding out you were mentioned with gratitude in a book and got a place of honor surrounded by swirly, lovely words but the thing is, not only had I not been expecting something this big, this special, but about ten days earlier, I had found out my mom has cancer and I’d been in a bad place ever since. So seeing this was a gift, a hug, a bit of love on the wind coming to give me comfort during a turbulent bit of life. Yes, of course, part of my joy was centered around my vanity – who doesn’t want to see her name in print, right? But it was more than that, two things more, to be precise.

One: My mother was going to be able to see this before she dies. I owe her and her mother, ZZ, credit for my reading addiction. Because they showed me how to love words, my name gets to live with words. My mom always wanted to be a novelist but never got around to it. I think she has the same hope for me but even if I never make it, this is close. I loved seeing her smile when I gave her this book and she read those words. I can keep that with me forever.

Two: Praise is a wonderful thing but, for me, it’s what’s behind the praise that means the most. I know that I helped Suzy, that I gave her a piece of me and she was able to weave my thoughts and suggestions into her story, that she was able to take what we all gave her and she made something that was already good into something absolutely…well…magical.

I feel the shine. Can’t you?

The Witch of Belladonna Bay is available at Barnes & Noble, Target, Amazon, and other fine book retailers or you can order it through your local bookstore. Can’t buy it? Try the library!


Filed under Adventures, My journey to writerhood, My Opinions on STUFF

I was honest and didn’t even get in trouble. For once.

Something really neat happened to me. I mean REALLY neat, like in the Top Ten Coolest Surprises In My life neat. I won a debut novel from GoodReads First Reads Giveaway last December  (that’s just plain neat, not the super neat part) called The Witch of Little Italy by Suzanne Palmieri. I received the book in  February, read it, then reviewed it on the site, as suggested in the contest rules. I tried to be a little more concise than usual, a little better at expressing my opinion in a normal-person way, but, as always, I was honest and I gave the ARC a 3-star rating and that was that.

This isn't my ARC, it's the actual published copy. If you don't want to buy your own, why not try the library?

This isn’t my ARC, it’s the actual published copy. If you don’t want to buy your own, like maybe because you’re poor or just horrible or both (poorible), why not try the library?

Until February 9th when I got a message from the author. She wrote to thank me for my review and said that I’d picked up on the things she’d had the most trouble with when writing the book. She was enthusiastic and seemed genuinely happy with both my praise and criticism. This has never happened to me. Well, ok, once I gave a local band’s album a terrible review and they put it up on their MySpace page apparently under the belief that there is no such thing as bad press, but that’s not quite the same. I was…well, a little floored, actually. An author wrote to  thank me for pretty much saying, Yes, I liked this book but it wasn’t great and here’s why, though here are the parts I enjoyed. Who even DOES that? Well, Suzanne Palmieri does because she’s a genius who must understand the concept of fan loyalty because she was making fans before she was even on the market. (She says she values honesty and constructive criticism because it makes her better at her craft, but I suspect brilliant marketing because no one is really that introspective and appreciative. Come on.)

Here’s what happened next:
I wrote her back to thank her for responding. I told her I appreciated her not sending a face-stabber after me and from there a conversation started, one that led to her asking if I might have time to read the manuscript for her second book. I tried to be all non-chalant in my, “OH HELL YES!” reply and I think I nearly pulled it off. On my side of the computer, though, I was all giddy and I probably fainted. Several times. I mean, seriously, an author just asked me to read her manuscript and give it my evil, critical eye! MY HONESTY WAS NEEDED! Wow.
I thought maybe she was being nice and wasn’t really going to send me a real manuscript because isn’t that dangerous or something? Apparently not since a couple of days later, she e-mailed me the first part. I fainted a few more times and then stayed up til 2:00 am for 2 days reading it. It was really hard at first – I wanted to make sure I said the right things for the right reasons. I wanted to not be fawning but I also didn’t want to be my normal brusque, mean, critical self. I edited and re-edited my comments over and over to make them fit into those narrow parameters. And then that just got too exhausting and I said, “Eh, screw it. I’m just going to say what I think because that is what is easiest and it’s what I’m good at,” so I did. I sent that first part back to her, never expecting to hear back due to my bizarre running commentary throughout her draft. And yet, a couple of days later, I did hear back and she did not even tell me go gouge my own heart out with a rusty nail file! No, in fact, she was gushing with even more enthusiasm, if that was possible, and she promised me part 2 ASAP. Part 2 came and I plowed through that both because it was the best-written part and because I’d found my rhythm and felt comfortable spewing my comments all over the place. When finally I got part 3, I read it all in one sitting, happy to suffer at work the next day in a zombie-like haze because getting to the end of the story was much more important than getting to sleep. And besides, sleep was unnecessary since I was left feeling incredibly lucky, special and also inspired.

I felt special because I had been hand-picked to read a manuscript with a reader’s eye and to give feedback. I’ve edited ten bajillion school papers and some articles and too many technical documents but that was always for school, for friends and family, or for my job. This time, it was solely for my honest opinion. For once, my unhumble self was finally not in trouble for shooting off at the mouth and it was an amazing feeling. More important, however, is that I was inspired. I’ve always said I want to be a writer someday and that day started on my 40th birthday when I became serious. And then I ran into ten thousand and one stumbling blocks, many of my own creation (I can edit the hell out of a paragraph over and over and then forget to write the rest of the story) so to see an actual manuscript, one that would be sent over to an actual editor and would eventually be made into an actual book made me realize that I can probably do that, too. I recognized that manuscript as something that looked very similar to things I’ve written. It was not formal, it did not have secret codes that only REAL authors know, there were mistakes, it was a work in progress JUST LIKE MINE!
This experience left me with three things:
1) The knowledge that I can finish a book, regardless of whether or not it ever gets published. I know I can make it from the beginning to the end, now, because I know what that looks like. Such a strange little realization but one of such magnitude that it changed everything.

2) A sense of purpose. I don’t know how long it has been since I’ve felt I’ve done something that has made a difference. Thanks to Suzy (I call her that, now; we’re tight), I felt like I had helped someone with something very important and that I was good at it. I may not have been good at it at all but because Suzy was so supportive and encouraging and seemed to appreciate all my thoughts, I wound up feeling positive about what I’d done. It made me think that I would love to be an editor.

3) Someone to look up to. I don’t know if Suzy’s just a brilliant strategist, though, honestly, it’s probably more true she’s a naturally magnetic personality, but she has made one loyal fan via a simple gesture and a truckload of trust (because giving your baby to a stranger is crazy). She has unknowingly inspired me, knowingly encouraged me, and has made me feel like I belong in her world, the world she writes about, like she’s writing me stories about people we know and now I will always buy her books, always push her books, and even if she writes something that disappoints me, I will not stop supporting her. I think I’ve just become a fangirl. Well, a fanoldlady, at least.

Her work is being compared to Alice Hoffman’s or Sarah Addison Allen’s; I find it closer to the latter but am even more reminded of Adriana Trigiani’s Big Stone Gap series only with more magic. If you like any of those authors, go pick up The Witch of Little Italy. Seriously, do that. Because it’s important to get prepped for her next book (not the one coming out in May that she co-authored, but the NEXT one)  because, dude! I helped with that one! Oh, I’m going to faint again. Excuse me.

Authors are amazing people. In my line of work, I’ve been able to meet several and beyond my line of work, I’ve met even more. Some have been nasty creatures, most have been lovely, but a few stand out and shine. Suzanne Palmieri is on the top of my Shiny Pile. Also? I’m going to continue to be honest about things because that was one sweet reward.

April 30, 2013: This just in! A book trailer for The Witch of Little Italy!


Filed under Adventures, My journey to writerhood, My Opinions on STUFF