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The Best of Times, the Worst of Times
by Our Guest on April 30th, 2009

So, you’ve sold a book. Finally, someone has told you that you did all the right things in the right genre at the right time, and all your stars have fallen into place. The next year or so will be one of the best of your life. Oh, there will be revisions to work on, new proposals to submit, but during those prerelease months, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be driving around in your car, or at the grocery store, or at sitting at work with the biggest, goofiest grin on your face, and sometimes you’ll even laugh out loud from happiness, making those around you ease away slowly.

Then, a few weeks before the big day, reality sets in. Or, rather, you realize the reviews will start coming in, and suddenly that confident smile wilts to be replaced by sweating palms and a budding ulcer. Oh. My. God…what if no one likes it? What if it’s totally panned? You find yourself forgetting all the wonderful reasons your editor bought the manuscript in the first place and second guessing things like…the hotness of your love scenes. Too much? Not enough? What about the hero and heroine’s first meeting. Does she come off as an air head? Is he a macho jerk? Can I please just make a few last minute changes?????

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Yes, pretty much overnight I went from fairytale princess communing with the birds and little animals of the forest to one of those horror movies where the girl wanders off alone into the darkened woods as the scary music builds, and we wait, tensed and breathless, for the monster to jump out and eat her.

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OK, turns out it wasn’t so bad. For the most part in fact, pretty darn good. There were a couple I’ve erased from my memory banks, but icky words like “mediocre writing” (for Dark Obsession) remain like smoking brands on my writer’s psyche. And then there was that “Meh,” although I forget which book that was for. Unlike joyful praise or scathing criticism, judgments of mediocre and meh imply that I simply failed to elicit an emotional response – and that’s the worst thing you can say to a writer. I’d rather the reader loathed me, ranted and raved about everything that drove her crazy, because then at least I’d know I struck a chord and got some passion out of her!

So my best comments…I can’t deny that the words, “Best Historic Romantic Gothic of 2008″ have gone a helluva long way in boosting my confidence and making me feel like I’ve come of age as a writer. The competition was stiff, I felt sure I’d never win and just being nominated is an honor… Well. Occasionally I still wonder if there’s been a mistake.

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But the comments that have made the most impact on me came from a reader who experienced what I can only call a horrific tragedy in her life, which I won’t go into, but she said reading my books helped her see that while events can snowball out of control, self-forgiveness is key to recovering and getting your life back on track. Not only was I humbled and touched that this reader chose to share her story with me, but it drove home the point that as writers we have a responsibility to present human emotions as truthfully and realistically as we can, because there will always be someone out there who has experienced, in some form, the nature of what we’re writing about. Yes, romance is foremost an entertainment genre, but fiction is a powerful medium, and as writers we should always respect the power of the words we set to the page.