Thursday, August 30, 2012

Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt's Doomed Quest to Clean Up Sin Loving New York City by Richard Zacks

Book: Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt's Doomed Quest to Clean Up Sin Loving New York City

Author: Richard Zacks

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: An investigation of TR's attempts to curb the sex industry in early 1900's New York City.

My rating: 3 Stars

My opinion: Although the information in this book was new to me (yes, I knew that TR had been police commissioner of NYC), but I thought with the topic, it would flow extremely well and be a bit spicy. It wasn't...the book's writing came off as dry and I had difficulty with staying with it because I found chunks of it kind of boring.

Source: Library

Would I recommend? : Not really

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand Alone


Freedom Burning: Anti-slavery and Empire in Victorian Britain by Richard Huzzey

Book: Freedom Burning: Anti-slavery and Empire in Victorian Britain

Author: Richard Huzzey

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: Huzzey takes a look at Britain's debate on slavery in their own country, the United States and throughout the free world during the Victorian reign.

My rating: 5 Stars

My opinion: I found myself absolutely fascinated by this well researched book. I have read well over 100 books on the Civil War and slavery issues. The information found in this book, though, was fresh and fascinating to me.  It was interesting to see the debate on slavery when the Britain's had passed the Slavery Abolish Act of 1833, which only ended slavery in the western outlying British territories, only 32 years before our Emancipation Proclamation.  Furthermore, I only limited my knowledge to slavery limited to the US, so I found myself devouring the information on "the slave industry" of Europe which didn't really stop through out the late 19th century.

I also enjoyed the writing style of this author. On a topic that could have been dryly written, he kept it fresh and flowing.

Source: Netgalley for Publisher

Would I recommend? : Most definitely. I already have for those who love this period of time like I do. It was full of

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand Alone


Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Thin, Dark Line by Emma Elliot

Book: A Thin, Dark Line

Author: Emma Elliot

Release date (if applicable): August 25,2012

Synopsis: Much to everyone's dismay, librarian Eloise Carmichael believes in second chances and she proves it by hiring ex-con, Cormac O'Malley, who was jailed for murdering the sheriff's son 15 years before. When bodies start piling up, including that of a fired library assistant, suspicion starts to focus on O'Malley, but is this murderer up to his old tricks or is he being set up? Can Eloise help to clear his name and let love flow at the same time?

My rating: 4 Stars

My opinion: A fun debut from Ms. Elliot, I was most impressed with her writing which came off as more of a seasoned pro versus a first time published author. She has a talent for winding a sarcastic wit around an engrossing mystery storyline, which really kept my interest. One other great thing that regarding the book was that, although it was considered a romantic mystery, I loved the mystery aspect regarding bodies being found in the library, which is so unique to its' counterparts. Another reviewer compared it to being in the style of Agatha Christie and I agree. While many authors of the same genre depend on the romance dance to support the story, I didn't have the same feeling from this author's work. This, in my humble opinion, is always the sign of a rockin' author whose greatness, particularly in a debut, is just beginning to shine!

Source: Netgalley for Publisher

Would I recommend? : Yes

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand Alone


Friday, August 24, 2012


A Book and a Review is proud to offer A Thin, Dark Line by Emma Elliot as its' first giveaway.

I loved this dynamic, witty debut novel and can't wait to see more by the author, Emma Elliot.

Want to enter for the giveaway? Read my review on August 25th and make a comment on its' review page or simply tell me that you want to read the book! I will do a drawing for the print version of the book on the last day of the book tour!

Good luck and thanks for stopping by!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Road to Valor: A True Story of World War II Italy, The Nazis, and the Cyclist who Inspired a Nation

Book: Road to Valor: A True Story of World War II Italy, The Nazis, and the Cyclist who Inspired a Nation

Author: Aili and Andres McConnon

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: During WWII bicyclist, Gino Bartali won the Tour de France and immediately became a propagandist tool of the Mussolini's Fascist government. Not a label he took lying down. He used it instead to hide his Resistance efforts and buila a network to supply Italian Jews with the documents necessary to keep them from Nazi concentration camps.

My rating: 4 Stars

My opinion: AMAZING STORY!  I read frequently on WWII. Lately, I have come across a large number of books that depict the personal stories of some of the civilian heroes of that war, which I have been sucking up like there is no tomorrow! This book was incredibly well research and painting a vivid picture of the characters involved.

So, why 4 stars out of 5? This book was 254 pages of "readable" material. A small bit told of Bartali's childhood and probably 100 pages was reserved for his actually work with the Resistance, which was FASCINATING.  The last chunk of the book...another 100 pages was his life following WWII. I would have liked to have seen more detail written about his work during WWII versus his life post WWII.

Source: Netgalley for Publisher

Would I recommend? : Yep...already have!

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand alone

Special Note: I had originally been sent this book as an ebook by the publisher. I didn't think that this book transferred to an ebook version well. There are a number of pictures that I think didn't do as well in the ebook vs. the print version. Also, it just seemed like the formatting was "off" in the ebook version.  I decided to wait until the print version was released to finish this book and I am thrilled I did.

Monday, August 20, 2012

THE RACHEL, a tini and a Book!

As a newbie into the world of Indie publishing and taking tried and true efforts in the business development world and twisting and contorting them to fit into an Indie business perspective, I have come across a couple of people who are so wonderful, dynamic and giving that they have introduced me to a couple of other people. IT IS CALLED NETWORKING, PEOPLE! Any who, one of those people was Terri Guiliano Long, author of “In Leah’s Wake” and the soon to be released “Nowhere to Run”. Terri has been such a wonderful support and introduced me to so many wonderful people that there are not enough ways to thank her for everything that she has done.

One of the people Terri introduced me to was Rachel Thompson, owner Badredhead Media and several social media/advertising companies, as well as the author of two Amazon bestselling novels, The Mancode: Exposed and A Walk in the Snark.  When Terri put out the call to follow this Twitter newbie to help me build up my following, Rachel came to the call. When she first followed me on Twitter, I went in and read her background and was blown away by our similarities, by our healthcare sales backgrounds and our personalities. But a couple of things that really stood out to me was her fun, politically incorrect, shining personality that has some snarkiness attached!  Oh, and one of the biggest things was her love of Tinis!

Now, I have a gift, not sure if it is actually a curse, in which recipes, both food and drink, will pop into my head. I can be lying in bed, driving down the road, watching tv and all of a sudden a concoction will come together.  Anyway, I was working on a post that I was doing which showcased Rachel’s business acumen and I had to think about her personality traits. All of a sudden, I started thinking of alcohols which go with those traits and voila THE RACHEL was born. Rachel can consider herself among such writing greats as Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac all of whom have drinks named after them! May she become as famous as her predecessors named above!

The Rachel

Look at that ice. Now, that is cold, baby!

Make sure your bar ware is chilled!! Here we go!:
1/2 lime juiced into the shaker (Fresh lime...NO CONCENTRATE! (i.e. the real thing..not fake!)
1.5 oz Citrus Vodka (She is from a citrus state, after all!)
1.5 oz Cake Vodka (Who doesn't like cake?)
.75 oz Razzmatazz Schnapps (for her dazzling personality)
1 oz Pomegranate Liqueur (a bold, yet approachable liqueur)
Pomegranate, Lemon Drop or Cosmo Rimmer


1) Rim your tini glass if desired. Follow directions under The Pub and Grub Forum for rimming tinis. Return to freezer while finishing making tini!

2) Place all liquid ingredients in an ice filled METAL shaker and shake for no less than 60 seconds.

3) Strain into very chilled tini glass. If desired, garnish with lemon and lime slices.

A Walk in the Snark : Rachel's essays on life in OC, CA as a real, in multiple perspectives, redhead in a sea of fake blonds, fake boobs and extravagance at every turn. Told with Rachel's trademark snarky humor, she isn't afraid to tell it the way it is.

The Mancode Exposed I reviewed this hilarious, yet dead on novel about the unfairer sex for a recent promotion that Terri and Rachel were doing for the Dog Days of Summer! A Book and A Review's thoughts on The Mancode: Exposed!

So, go grab the books on Amazon, kick back with The Rachel and enjoy the snark!

Be sure to pop in next Monday for another Rachel "inspired" drink...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Free to Trade by Michael Ridpath

Book: Free to Trade

Author: Michael Ridpath

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: Paul Murray, an ex Olympian turned bond trader, turns private eye when Debbie Chater, a co-worker and potential love interest is found dead in an apparent drowning in the Thames. As Paul goes through her papers, he finds some investments that might make this accidental death anything but accidental. Can he determine what happened to Debbie without becoming a casualty himself?

My rating: 4 Stars

My opinion: I first became a lover of Michael Ridpath's writing when I was introduced to his Fire and Ice series. In my Nordic Noir group, Michael was our author of the month. Well, what is a girl to do when she has read what has been released set in Iceland...she looks towards other books the author has written. That is how I was introduced to "Free to Trade". It is written with the same quality of writing found in Fire and Ice, but set in London's financial district. This book is a rerelease from the original published in the mid 1990's but the story is still good for the time.

I think what I liked most about this book is that it wasn't a beat you over the head financial thriller. The setting was financial, but I think the author placed more emphasis on developing the mystery. As someone who isn't a fan of financial mysteries, I think that helped this one not get bogged down to me.

Source: Library

Would I recommend? : Yes, but don't miss his Fire and Ice series. Being a Nordic Noir lover, I still prefer that series, but will continue on with this one.

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Part of series.

Monday, August 13, 2012

CIA Fall Guy by Phyllis Zimmer Miller

Book: CIA Fall Guy

Author: Phyllis Zimbler Miller

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: Beth Parson's lost her husband Stephen in the bombing of the Officers Club in Munich. When an informant of her husband's needs identification, the CIA thinks that Ms. Parsons can assist them in identifying him. Problem is when Kathleen Walker, with the CIA, takes Beth to the apartment there is a body, but not that of their informant. Where is their informant and is Beth in danger?  Beth escapes the CIA to find the answers for herself and deep dark secrets hidden within the CIA. Information that Beth might not live to tell.

My rating: 4 stars

My opinion: I am not a fan of CIA thrillers. A bit too "guyish" for me. However, I enjoyed this book by Ms. Miller though. I would call this a CIA book for female readers.

I might be a bit biased, but the author, a Wharton MBA, has written this book in a clear and concise manner (which is my favorite type of writing) without going overboard in either the romance dance or emotional baggage being attached to the pages, yet doesn't have it so technical that it loses appeal for women. It is really an excellent balance.

I think that this is the type of book that would meet the reading desires of numerous genres of female readers, but it is not so girlish though that there wouldn't be guys who would enjoy it, as well!

Source: Author for review

Would I recommend? : Yes, it was a very cool and different book

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand Alone

The Chronicles of Brendan Earle, Apprentice Mage by Bob Studholme

Book: The Chronicles of Brendan Earle, Apprentice Mage

Author: Bob Studholme

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: Two teens, Phoebe and Adam, are thrust into the world of THE LAND, a place with all the creatures and beings that we thought only existed in fairy tales. or our nightmares are at war. Can these two save humanity and make it out alive?

My rating: 3 Stars

My opinion: Overall, I thought that this was a cool book. I loved the images and descriptions written by Mr. Studholme. I am starting to just get into Dystopian literature and part of the reason is that authors normally can write scene descriptions of "far away" places that a creative reader can imagine in their minds. This book, while not the best, was chomping at the heels of some really good ones that I have read. There were a couple of things that I had a more difficult time with in regards to this book that I haven't in the past though.

These include:
  • This book is written in multiple person perspective. It made the book very difficult to follow at times. Because of this, it took me about 100 pages to get into the "rhythm" of the book. I ended up needing to take a couple of notes to track important events. This book would have been a "couldn't put it down" for me if this wasn't the case.
  • There were some grammatical errors that I thought made the book come off looser and less professional than what it should have been and really detracted from how good of a story line this book had. I felt the book could have benefited from the services of an editor.
In reviewing some of the other reviews on Goodreads, the topic of the use of jargon was brought up frequently. Personally, I didn't have an issue with that. I thought it added to the story and made the characters "approachable".

Source: Author provided

Would I recommend? : Yes, maybe be prepared to take notes as I did.

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: To be part of a series

Last Chance: The Dog Days of Summer 99 cent sale

I am a huge supporter of Indie and self pubbed authors and look to support them any chance I can. Anyone who knows me for even the tiniest, minutest second of a time, knows that I am a free market girl who LOVES competition. That in that competition, it is more times than not, the consumer who is on the winning end, both in price and in quality of the goods produced.

I have come across some really, really rockin' Indie authors and when I saw that a couple of them were hosting a "Dog Days" event, I knew I had to get the message out there! My posts for the last several days have focused on efforts for readers to get to know authors Rachel Thompson and Terri G. Long. I have read all three books that are a part of this event and enjoyed each one immensely!

So take the time to grab each of these books. I promise you for LESS than the cost of a Starbucks latte you will have a much better time that lasts longer and leaves you a lot fuller when you finish!

Leah, an over accomplished 16 year old soccer star destined for state championships and prestigious college scholarships, which fit in perfectly to the Tyler's image, does a teen-age about face and hooks up with Todd, a former roadie from the "wrong side of the tracks". Is the Tyler's life as perfect as it seems or is the overly responsible 12 year old daughter, Justine, a snapshot into a dysfunctional family with secrets to hide and that things that seem so perfect to outsiders are not quite that perfect to those who live it? Sometimes, the grass isn't always greener.
Grab it here:

In sarcastic, witty, hilarious, and yes...snarky, form that Rachel would gold medal in if it was an Olympic sport, we are invited to the inner workings of Rachel's mind and her opinions of the "unfairer" sex...yep, men!
Get it here:

Violet Parker has a lot on her plate. She needs to sell a home or lose her job and the only buyer she has refuses to purchase haunted homes...the nerve! But then, little girls start disappearing from Deadwood, South Dakota. Can Violet figure out what is behind the mystery before her daughter goes among the missing AND keep her job in the process?!? A cozy at its' finest, this little gem has maintained a 4+ Star rating with over 200 reviews on Amazon AND Goodreads!

Buy it here:

Sunday, August 12, 2012

In Leah's Wake by Terri Guiliano Long

Book: In Leah's Wake: A Novel

Author: Terri Guiliano Long

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: Leah, an over accomplished 16 year old soccer star destined for state championships and prestigious college scholarships, which fit in perfectly to the Tyler's image, does a teen-age about face and hooks up with Todd, a former roadie from the "wrong side of the tracks". Is the Tyler's life as perfect as it seems or is the overly responsible 12 year old daughter, Justine, a snapshot into a dysfunctional family with secrets to hide and that things that seem so perfect to outsiders are not quite that perfect to those who live it? Sometimes, the grass isn't always greener.

My rating: 5 Stars

My opinion: An incredibly strong debut, this book is fantastic on many fronts. First in the writing style of the author, she started off like a race car in introducing the characters. Second, this is a topic which is forefront in society today. The author does a fantastic job at looking at familial dynamics for destructive teenage behaviors.

Source: Author

Would I recommend? : This review was an oldie of mine that I have brought back for the "Dog Days" Sale! I have recommended this book more times that I know of.

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand Alone

The Mancode: Exposed by Rachel Thompson

Book: The Mancode: Exposed

Author: Rachel Thompson

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: In sarcastic, witty, hilarious, and yes...snarky, form that Rachel would gold medal in if it was an Olympic sport, we are invited to the inner workings of Rachel's mind and her opinions of the "unfairer" sex...yep, men! 

My rating: 4.5 stars

My opinion: I thought this book was hilarious! I am not a fan of anything politically correct and this book fit right into that. Second, in my humble opinion, it takes an incredibly intelligent person to pull of the type of sarcastic, yet funny (not all sarcasm is funny, people) humor and Rachel pulls it off beautifully. Yet, it is not done with malicious intent. It is simply identifying the differences between men and women.

A WORD OF WARNING: This book is explicit in many ways. If you are not a fan of this type of writing...then this book is probably not right for you!

Source: Purchased

Would I recommend? : Already do...especially to married or seriously involved female friends. I have even recommended it to guy friends who I see portrayed in this book!

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand Alone.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Rachel Thompson: Women Entrepreneurs in the Small Publishing World

A Book and A Review/The Author CEO is proud to present a new monthly series entitled WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS IN THE SMALL PUBLISHING WORLD. This series will focus on women, who have made the jump into the small business world which provide services to the indie and s/p author and offer tips and insights into surviving and thriving in the "jungle". Many of these women are authors (some best-selling authors), as well!

Anyone who has known me for less than 3 minutes knows that I love business. I soak it up. In particular, there are two things that I love in the business world. The first is entrepreneurship and the second is business development. Throw a strong woman into the mix and I am one slap happy mama. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview one of those dynamos, Rachel Thompson, a self-made business woman, who threw aside the daily grind of the corporate world to start several small social media consulting firms and businesses targeted toward assisting Indie and Self Published authors market their books. To boot, Rachel is an Amazon bestselling author.  

Rachel discusses what made her leave the corporate world and blast into the small business world. Furthermore, she gives critical advice to women considering the same path.

In your previous career, you were a pharmaceutical rep and a sales trainer for a pharmaceutical company. What made you change careers? Can you tell us a little bit about your previous career?

Well, I put myself through college working at a retail chain drug store. It so happened when I graduated (with a degree in Communications), they wanted me to enter their management program, which was the last thing in the world I wanted. (I’d already worked there part-time for seven years – have you ever been to a drugstore on Christmas Eve? Insane.) But, I did meet lots of product reps and found out about openings. I started with an OTC company and from there, ended up in pharma. After doing that for fifteen years (including a move across the country on my own to the home office in New Jersey for four years in the early 90s), I’d had enough. By 2004, I wanted nothing more than to be home with my little girl and do the family thing. In 2005 I gave birth to my son. I’d always been a writer though, keeping journals and writing stories. That never stopped.

Were there fears in striking it out on your own?

I suppose, though I’ve never been one to give in to them. I’m a very determined woman! I’d had success in my twenties selling articles (I have a Journalism minor), and I knew people were interested in my writing. In 2008, I started slowly with an Examiner gig, in addition to my own blog. I then spread out into social media. Having a background in sales, marketing and training helped me plan and make it all happen in a strategic order. Any fears I had about starting my own business disappeared completely within the first month of hanging out my shingle. I was booked up within thirty days. I’m so grateful. I also network continuously, sending people business and they to me.

How did you come up with the concept of your companies? What made you think of working with Indie/SP authors? Had you had any experience in the publishing industry before making the jump?

Having cofounded the Indie Book Collective (which I’m no longer affiliated with) helped me to understand the learning curve of ALL authors. It doesn’t matter if one is a self-pub’d, small press, or traditionally published, people must learn to market their own work. I taught webinars monthly to hundreds of people about how to market using social media. I also learned a ton about Amazon and how to optimize our work there. When people started asking me for one-on-one consulting, I struck out on my own in 2011, forming BadRedhead Media, using my personal marketing and sales experience from my own two books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. As for experience in publishing, not really. I mean, I sold a few magazine articles, but I’d never written a book before. My blog was as close as I got to ‘publishing.’

I also recently decided to fill what I see as a huge need for indie authors: affordable ads! With the amazing @sugarbeatbc doing web design, we created four Book Promo sites (@IndieBookPromos, @BkPromoCentral, @YAPromoCentral, and @RomPromoCentral {for erotica and romance}), I work very closely with a great group of women and we all volunteer our time and services to the sites: @sugarbeatbc for web design, @JoGraphic for graphics, @LK_Editorial for copy and publicity,@BabsBookBistro for book tours and beta reads, @SwiftInkEditor for editing, @ToniRakestraw for formatting, and I do the social media. New volunteers, authors @A_K_Taylor and @MelissaHuie are starting to help out also.
My vision was simple: create sites for all authors, but especially self-published, to be featured, do promos, and advertise their books affordably. We start at $10/month up to $50/month, which is FAR less expensive than the larger sites. We’re fully optimized and get the word out across all social media channels.

As someone who works in healthcare sales/business development, we receive little experience in the area of social media since that is often managed out of the marketing department, yet on many occasions; I have called you the “Queen of Twitter.” How did you develop those skills to the point of being considered a professional?

Aw, thank you! I was already involved in social media when I first started my blog, but understood quickly how developing a robust platform would impact my own work. As for Twitter specifically, I watched, learned, attended webinars, and read constantly with regard to updates, tips and tricks. I teach people how to do the same in my business, and offer free info on my @BadRedheadMedia stream and blog . I always say ‘Twitter isn’t rocket science.’ For many of us, as adults we learn differently and are used to more traditional methods of marketing. Don’t tell yourself ‘I don’t get this. It’s stupid.’ Instead, be open to learning.

What advice would you have for businesswomen considering leaving the corporate business world and striking it out on their own?

We are a digital world. You must dive in and understand how social media works if for no other reason than to learn new media and networking. Don’t say NO to anything out of our natural adult fear of change or the unknown; and don’t make any assumptions (.ie., Twitter is for kids). Social media is terrific free marketing when done correctly. In addition, know what your strengths are and focus on those. I’m very clear with people about what I don’t know or understand fully (ie, I don’t do traditional PR or website design) but guess what? I’ve sought out and surrounded myself with amazing women who are experts in these fields. Also, be generous. Share your knowledge, support others in your field, be the person everyone wants to talk to at the party. And don’t forget about real life – meetups, conferences, etc are all amazing ways to create and cement online relationships.

And that’s my final note: find people who support you; not in competition with you. There are enough sharks in the business world without turning on each other. I always tell my kids: you get what you give and you give what you get. The same karma principle applies here.

Rachel Thompson is the author of two Amazon best-selling books, The Mancode: Exposed and A Walk in the Snark. In her previous life, she was a top selling OTC sales rep for Trojan Condoms for their Western region where she lists one of her best clients as The Mustang Ranch. An experience which has influenced her writing and taught her a lot about male/female differences! From there, she joined a pharmaceutical company as a sales rep and then sales trainer. She gave all that up to start several social media consulting organizations designed to help Indie and Self Published authors sell their novels. Currently, she is owner of Bad Red Head Media ( and Indie Book Promo. Rachel’s webinars on mastering Twitter are notorious! She can be followed on Twitter at @RachelintheOC.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Spilled Blood by Brian Freeman

Book: Spilled Blood

Author: Brian Freeman

Release date (if applicable): Published

Synopsis: Ashlynn Steele, daughter of a corporate magnate, who could be responsible for the environmental poisonings of a town, is found shot to death. Is Olivia Hawk, daughter of Christopher Hawk, a Minneapolis district attorney, responsible for the death or is there something much more sinister going on which could tear these towns apart permanently and leave many more victims in its' wake?

My rating: 5 Stars

My opinion: Brian Freeman is one of those authors who, in this writer's humble opinion, should be a lot more known than he is! Like household name author known! I absolutely love his abilities to write with twists and turns that make a reader feel like they are driving on a mountainous road. Spilled Blood was a perfect example of this ability.  This is an author who keeps his novels and story lines are fresh, inviting and CREEPY in a psychological sense.

This book had me guessing until the last several pages with an ending that had me scratching my head and asking "When did that happen?"... I am thrilled to death when that happens. In Freeman's normal approach, extensive character development being present. Furthermore, I love how his characters and story lines unwrap like Christmas gifts normally with nice surprises at the end. Spilled Blood was no exception. In a book that due to character evolvement I thought for sure was going one way, Freeman "wowwed" me some twists about characters who I thought were simply supporting characters.

Source: Library

Would I recommend? : Um, yes!

Stand Alone or Part of a Series: Stand alone...DO NOT MISS HIS JONATHAN STRIDE SERIES THOUGH!

Guest Post by Terri Giuliano Long: Coping with Disappointment and Rejection (An Author's Tale)

Thank you so very much for inviting me to be your guest today, Naomi! It’s such an honor to be here! Readers—there are many things I love about being an author, but far and away my favorite is that it has given me the opportunity to meet and get to know a lot of wonderful people. I adore Naomi. She’s a blessing and an inspiration! She’s also a brilliant marketer. Thank you again, Naomi, for hosting me today.

Coping with Disappointment and Rejection

In 2006, my debut novel In Leah’s Wake was under contract with a small publisher. Weeks before the launch, the publisher ran into trouble, making it difficult for them to distribute my book. By mutual agreement, we severed the contract. The situation was completely unexpected and there was nothing I could have done to prevent it. Still, I’d spent over a year preparing for publication—editing, creating a marketing plan—and I’d told everyone I knew that I’d soon be publishing my first book. I felt like a loser. I took the loss personally, as a rejection of poor, wretched, talentless me.

 Before I’d contracted with the publisher, my (former) agent had submitted the novel to nearly two dozen publishers. Although it didn’t sell, we’d received many letters of encouragement. Established editors at major houses had complimented my writing, called me talented. Rather than keep this in mind, I revisited every rejection. The book was too literary. It wasn’t literary enough. It was too depressing (I’d changed the ending). I’d focused too much on the children, not enough on the parents . . .

 Nobody wanted my book, I told myself. Ergo, nobody wanted me.  Even now, six years later, I’m ashamed to admit this, because it’s so pathetic. But that’s how I felt.

For over a year, rather than focus on a new project, as I should have been doing, I’d spent all my time developing marketing strategies. Marketing is important, for sure. Investing all my energy in a book I’d already written kept me emotionally attached, and left me vulnerable. When I lost the publishing contract, I lost everything. I had nothing to fall back on, nothing to energize me. I couldn’t start a new project. I tried.

My attorney suggested self-publishing, but I couldn’t muster the confidence, or the energy, to publish my own book.  The road seemed long and hard—and I was an elitist. I was a college writing instructor with an MFA; all my friends were publishing traditionally. To me, self-publishing meant hiring a vanity press—the last stop for people who couldn’t cut it in the “real” publishing world but were too vain to quit.

I threw myself into revising In Leah’s Wake—yet again—writing and rewriting. If only I could get it right, if I could perfect it, the book genie would swoop down off her high horse and whisk it—and me—to the glorious world of Madison Avenue.

Problem was, I couldn’t perfect it. No book is perfect. At some point, you have to tell yourself you’ve done your best, and let it go. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time.

For three years, I stagnated. Depressed, I couldn’t concentrate. I’d work on In Leah’s Wake, give up, begin a story or an essay, the piece would meander, I’d lose focus, put it aside, and return to In Leah’s Wake. As I fell deeper into depression, my family begged me to give up, do something new, anything, take up another line of work.  

For a few years I’d dabbled with an idea for a new book, but it had never really gone anywhere. Now, faced with a choice—start a new project or quit writing—I turned my attention to the book. I spent a few weeks reading, gathering research, and then I just wrote. By now, intrigued by the ideas running through my head, I was invested.

Like In Leah’s Wake, the new novel, Nowhere to Run, is a family story—but the similarity ends there. Nowhere is a contemporary psychological thriller with a historical twist. Although I’ve always loved to read thrillers, I’d never written one. To get a feel for structure, I had to read. A lot. That helped. To get the history right, I had to research. These diversions distracted me, taking my mind off In Leah’s Wake.

I compiled notes, wrote character sketches, and collected photographs for the setting. I’d love to say the writing took off immediately, but it didn’t. Novels take time to develop, and false starts are common, particularly for authors who don’t plot before they write. Within a few months, I’d finished a chapter, and then another.

Once I knew what I was writing about, I took notes and developed plot points. Now, In Leah’s Wake, which had been draining my energy, slipped to the back of my mind. One day, I realized I hadn’t opened the file in months. Silly as it may sound, that came as a shock. When I did open the file or glance at the ARC on my bookshelf, I felt a gentle tug, like the nostalgia of seeing a photograph of a long-lost childhood friend.

The book wasn’t my baby anymore. I’d finally let go. It was no longer a part of me. For the first time in years, I was moving forward, no longer wallowing in self-pity.

That’s when I decided to publish.

Have I had disappointments along the way? Of course I have. Everyone does. For the first six months, only my husband and children knew I’d published my book. I didn’t even tell my parents! I was too embarrassed and timid, too worried people would laugh or criticize me. Then one day I woke up. I could market my novel or watch it die, so I took another step—began blogging, joined Twitter, hired a marketing firm.

Within a few weeks of starting my very first blog tour, a former agent told me I’d never sell 500 copies of my book. I was devastated. But I’d gone this far—baby steps, as my husband would say, one step at a time—and by then I’d built enough momentum, I had enough forward motion, that I was able to stand up and brush off.

Today, a year and a half later, I’ve sold nearly 120K copies of In Leah’s Wake.

Most professionals take pride in their work, but few internalize their work as authors do. Physicians care deeply about their patients, but they recognize that factors beyond their control—a patient’s lifestyle and general health, the body’s ability to withstand trauma or exposure to infection—affect patient outcome.

Writers also face factors beyond our control. The sensibilities of an agent we hope to impress may not align with ours; editorial needs and reading trends change. Any of these arbitrary factors can lead to rejection by publishers or readers; none of them necessarily reflects on the author. Excellent books are rejected time and time again.

As writers, we pour our heart and soul into our work. While the details in our stories or novels may not mesh with real life—our protagonist may not even share our philosophies—the thoughts, emotions, and underlying belief system are ours.

No wonder it’s so hard to separate ourselves from our work!

Yet, for the sake of our writing—never mind our sanity—it’s vital that we do.

Conflating work and self shifts the emotional understanding of work as a product of labor to work as an expression of our personal identity. Acceptance or rejection, criticism or acclaim—these subjective, often idiosyncratic judgments become an assessment of us. Great when the assessment is positive, not so great when it’s not.

Because it’s so difficult to separate from our work, every rejection—however subjective—feels personal, like an assault on our being.  After a painful rejection, a lost or unfulfilled contract, a negative review, it can be hard to bounce back.

Despondent after failing to find a publisher for his novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole committed suicide. The novel, published posthumously, won the Pulitzer Prize. Toole is an outlier, of course. Most of us don’t go to that length after a rejection, but I’ve seen writers fall into depression. I’ve struggled myself.

The best defense is to maintain distance between yourself and your work. In my experience, the best way to do that is to keep more than one iron in the fire. My teacher and mentor, Pamela Painter, gave me that advice early in my career, and for a long time I lived by it, and it sustained me. I don’t know why it happened, but for a few years, I dismissed it. And I lost hope. If not for my stubborn streak, I’d have quit.

Always keep more than one iron in the fire. The moment you put a manuscript in the mail, or publish your book, in that first flush of excitement, when you’re brimming with energy—begin a new project. A new project will distance you from the last and provide perspective. No question, rejection will still hurt and disappoint. If you’re invested in the new project, if you believe in the work, the older project will feel less immediate and will no longer have the power to defeat you. You’ll have hope. You’ll tell yourself that it’s okay to let go—this new project is the one—and you’ll move on.