What A Bad Review Can Do For You

J.R. Ward, one of my all time favorite authors, wrote that one of the rules in becoming a successful writer (never mind a decent human being) is to own your own shit.On that note, I thought I would share with my very first review, ever. This was from my self published novel Jackson Corners, in 2006.

Isabella Roberts is looking for a change. After a messy divorce to an anal-retentive husband, she bundles her two-year-old daughter out of the city and purchases a house in sleepy Jackson Corners. There she meets handsome, brooding Noah Davis, and learns that while her new home may come with neighbourly assistance and friendly faces, it also a lugs around a swathe of emotional baggage.

There’s one rule of thumb for writing a decent mystery: Plot Is Everything. Jennifer L Hart knows her plot and ought to be commended for her firm handling of it. Jackson Corners is fed to the reader with the utmost care and not a piece of information comes too soon. Every character is suspect; every action has an ulterior motive. The sinister presence lurking in Jackson Corners waits until the final moment to reveal itself and while the moment isn’t particularly shocking—everyone’s a suspect here, remember—it does deserve a shout of approval for keeping the guesses going so long.

Unfortunately, as all too often happens with mysteries, character and authenticity falter at the hands of the storyline. In particular, the sexual tension between some of the more prominent characters has a tendency to collapse into the realm of the undeniably cheesy. The prose itself is as contemporary as the world the characters inhabit: email and telephones are on equal footing and it’s completely normal for most of the characters to be (or see) a therapist. Word usage and proofing errors are the only real stumbling block in what is otherwise quite lively and well-planned prose. The extradiagetic narrative helps immensely and multiple points of view stop the story from lingering too long in any one place.Ultimately though, it’s the plot that drives this novel forward. A real solid effort on that count.

--The P.O.D People, February, 2006

As far as first reviews go, this wasn't a flaming turd, which by all means I deserved. The phrase "A real solid effort," made me cringe a little, like that homemade project a preschooler gives to his mom. A for effort, bub. So yeah, my pride was a little scorched from the absolute knowledge that I wasn't being taken seriously.

Of course, I wasn't taking myself seriously either, otherwise I never would have gone the self publishing route. So why should I expect a stranger to see it as something more than a weekend project. I was in a hurry to get that sucker out there, for the world to recognize my talent.What this review taught me, and the drawerful of rejections that came both before and after it is this: Talent really doesn't mean jack shit.

I'm not someone who can self publish because

A.) I have no patience. I can write and edit but by the time it gets to the copy editing phase, I see what should be on the page, not what is really there.

B.) Seeing in black and white that the love story I thought was so profound was boiled down to "undeniably cheesy"made me realize I needed to do my homework on what makes for a believable relationship. Part of the reason I switched from hard boiled mystery to women sleuths enter my Laundry Hag.

C.) First effort novels should rarely see the light of day in all their raw glory. Notice the bit about word usage errors. That was me being a tool, showing of my big fat vocabulary and yes, sometimes getting it wrong. Skill and style are things that develop with practice and only after several stumbling blocks do we realize that hey, maybe the simplest way to say it really is the best.

D.) Check out the highlights. My first effort at a mystery/ suspense novel and I paced the sucker well. Well it did take me two years to achieve even that much but hey, it's better than a finger in the eye, right?

E.) It's one review. Send a novel to ten different reviewers, you get back ten different opinions. This one bugged me for a long time because I agreed with most of the critical elements of what she had to say. The solution, write a better book! Good news is, I did. Laundry Hag deserves every one of her sterling reviews and every ounce of glowing praise. I found my voice, my own personal comfort zone.

So yeah, I own this Bad Larry, chalk it up to a life lesson. Love to hear if you had a similar experience.


  1. Very cool. I love this post. I also like how you redid your page. It's very clean, bright and friendly. :)

  2. Fake it 'til you make it, right babe? ;-) So much of the writing community is about attitude and we've seen way too many examples of late of authors behaving badly. Yes this review got me down, but the point is, I bounded back up, didn't wallow in my own ego, made lemonade and all that happy fluff.


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