Goodbye, July

East Matunuck Beach and Jerusalem  photo by M. Reynolds
East Matunuck Beach and Jerusalem photo by M. Reynolds

Look, it’s not like I hate summer. I don’t. But this month was killer, with that heat wave that blanketed us (yes, like a thick, hot fleece blanket on your sweaty skin) earlier in the month. Some of my friends would take that kind of weather all year long. Sure, if you don’t have to go to the office, deal with overheated drivers and cranky, hot kids. Deal with dinner, every night. Know that your electric bill is going to be sky-high because you had to run the A/C all the time. But no, I don’t hate summer.

It’s just that I love fall. That first day when the morning air is…different. Cooler. Drier. You know it’s coming. One of my friends tears up on that day, and again when the first leaves drop from their branches. I dance around the kitchen. I make oatmeal. I open the door to the closet and stare at my long-sleeved shirts, my fleece zip-ups. I open my sock drawer and say “Soon, soon. Just a couple more weeks.”

The other day my husband and I were driving home down a lovely road. The heat had broken and our car windows were open. The road was lined with big trees, leafy and green. And the shadows were long. At five-thirty. He said, “Look! The shadows are long!” We grinned at each other.

So we’ll head back to the beach this afternoon to enjoy another summer afternoon. Because it’s summer, and we’re lucky.

amyandisabelleI finished reading “Amy and Isabelle” by Elizabeth Strout. What an excellent book; it’s still resonating with me. My friend Kim tells me I should do book reviews here. I don’t know, what do you think? I don’t usually read books as soon as they’re released (“Amy and Isabelle” was published in 2000). Maybe highlighting a book once a week would be good practice for me. And I’d be able to share with you a really good book. So, maybe.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to finish up the first draft of my book about a 25-year high school reunion. I’ve set a deadline for myself, because that seems to work. By mid-August, I want to have it out to my beta readers. While it’s out, I’ll revise “Bittersweet Chocolate,” the manuscript I completed this month during Camp Nano. Juggling! But it keeps me busy, and before I know it, September will be here. So goodbye to July for 2013 – and bring on August!

The End of the Week and Month

photo by Jim McVeigh

September 28th? Seriously? The calendar tells me so, as does the cool, damp day. My bare feet are cold, but I’m happy about that. Socks are good.

This week had a little of everything:

  • The plumber stopped by on Tuesday morning at 8:30 and departed at 3:00 in the afternoon. We thought it was a minor fix, and I still think it was, but the very nice guy really didn’t know what he was doing. He left at 9:00 to pick up a part and was gone for two hours. Then his boss showed up, presumably to do the aspect of the job the nice plumber couldn’t do. We were housebound. I’m used to that, spending most of my day indoors writing anyway, so it didn’t bother me all that much. We’re still better off than the neighbors, who bore the worst of it two and a half weeks ago when one of the underground pipes malfunctioned (I don’t know what happened –  it was blocked, it broke, whatever it was, it’s been a problem). They’re still not able to return home (we’re attached to each other as condo owners). How’s your infrastructure?
  • On Wednesday, we entertained my 80-year-old father-in-law all day. God love him, he’s a character. He thought it was one of the best days ever because he took us out to breakfast at the Beacon Diner (if you don’t know it, just picture your hometown diner, one you like). Heavy, salty breakfast – just the thing for people who work the fields all day. That’s not us. They do have great johnnycakes, though. Because he’s tethered to his portable oxygen tank, he really can’t do much other than sit, so he sat. All day. And we couldn’t leave him alone, so we sat with him, re-running episodes of Boardwalk Empire Season Two. I’m Nucky’d out. Then it was off to dinner. I needed a juice cleanse the next day.
  • I noticed that the person who had given my book a two-star review took it down. I didn’t really think it was justified, although I do accept that not everyone will like the book. Maybe she had a change of heart. Maybe she read my blog post about bad reviews.  Today I discovered that someone different (I hope, at least) had posted a two-star review. This woman, ‘Mommyofone,’ couldn’t even finish the book. Yikes.
  • Meanwhile, I plow ahead with my second novel and try to figure out what else I can do to get noticed. Maybe nothing. There are a lot of books out there, many of them very good, and I’m thinking maybe I need to get this second one out, have people like it (maybe I can convert “Mommyofone” to give me four stars). So, back to work.

Whatever you do this weekend to ring out September, make it memorable!

The First Bad Review

Yesterday I received my first bad review for my début novel, CHOCOLATE FOR BREAKFAST. Two stars, after more than thirty reviews of mostly five and some four stars. Two stars. The reviewer did not like the book. She wished I had made Bernadette stronger in character and moral fiber.

Although I didn’t agree with her (I’m assuming it’s a female by what she wrote), I accept her opinion. She didn’t criticize my writing, she didn’t say my characters were one-dimensional, she didn’t take me to task for typos or formatting errors. She simply didn’t like Bernadette. So is that worthy of a two-star review? Apparently it is!

Still, it bothered me (that was yesterday – I’m fine now). So yesterday afternoon I re-read a blog by the fabulous Anne R. Allen, the author of five comic mysteries and a survival guide for writers (co-authored with Catherine Ryan Hyde). You can read this specific post here. What I took from Anne’s post is this:

  • Without the negatives, the positives would mean nothing. This is true. Up until yesterday, all of my reviews were 5-star or 4-star. A lot of those reviews came from my friends. A few are from strangers, and every bit of positive feedback just lifted me higher. Perhaps this one review took some wind from my sails, but that’s okay.
  • Amazon reviews, which were only mildly significant three years ago, now have a make-or-break impact on an author’s sales.
  • Rating existing reviews as “helpful” or “unhelpful” has significant impact. By voting for the most informative and favorable reviews, you have the power to
    get them moved to the head of the line.
  • Anything less than 4 stars means “NOT RECOMMENDED” to the Amazon algorithms. 2 or 3 star reviews are going to hurt the author’s sales, no matter how much you rave in the text. Those stars are the primary way a book is judged on AMAZON. Without a 4 or 5 star rating, a book doesn’t get picked up in the Amazon
    algorithms for things like “also bought” suggestions. Giving 1 or 2 stars to a book that doesn’t have many reviews is taking money out of the author’s pocket,
    so don’t do it unless you really think the author should take up a new line of work.
  • A bad review is forever. (Well, maybe.*)

*About a year ago, I read an e-book that was a total mess. It was not only poorly formatted and full of misspellings, it was poorly written. Now, I’d be more likely to overlook the formatting problems (as distracting as they were), but it was a struggle to get through the clichés, the overused phrases and descriptions, and it was pretty obvious the author had some unresolved issues with his parents. I gave the book a two-star rating and tried to write a sympathetic review, but stood by the two stars. The author actually commented on my review and lashed out at me! Within a couple of days, I’d deleted the review. It seemed better to leave this guy alone.

So, I’ve got my two-star review and there it is. With a wider distribution (which is what I wanted, after all) comes the fact that not everyone will like what I’ve written. I ate some chocolate this morning and the world is right again.