Walking the Line

Ahh...romantic suspense is a tight rope! If your villain is too obvious, your reader isn't happy. If they come out of left field, your reader isn't happy. So you have to find that sweet spot in between. Only thing is, the sweet spot shifts depending on the reader.

I'm going to be upfront with you--not everyone likes every one of my books. Gasp! The horror! I received a five star review this week and a three star review, on the same book. Reading through my reviews I find that one reader said the book kept them on edge, while another reader said it wasn't the nail-biter they were looking for, because they figured out who the killer was early on. One reader said the characters felt very real, another said the opposite. Love the romance, didn't feel the connection between characters. Arghhh! It's enough to drive a poor author crazy! And it's not that one reader doesn't like all of the aspects, like they are a Negative Nelly. One who likes the suspense line, doesn't like the romance. One who likes the romance, doesn't like the suspense.

What I do pride myself in, though, is most of my "bad" reviews still say something like, all-in-all, though, it was an enjoyable read, or, despite missing this or that, it was well-written and the characters were well-developed. It's funny, as an author, to hear different fans say what their favorite book of mine is. One will gush over BLACKOUT, but for another, their favorite is ABANDON ALL HOPE. It's just interesting what the reader brings to the book, and takes out of the book. One example is the three star review I got today was from a reviewer that gave me a five star review on another book a few days ago. She admitted to comparing the two, and they are just way different. BLACKOUT is a contemporary romance with a lot of deep emotion and angst. BETWEEN ROCK AND A HARD PLACE is a romantic suspense, and while it deals with some tough issues, the focus is on the relationship and the case. So you have to ask yourself, what book preceded mine? Where was the reader coming from, what was happening in their lives that might color their perception of your book.

As an author, then, it's hard sometimes to tell what you are doing right, and what your are doing wrong. You have to listen hard to the feedback and if you see something consistent in what readers/reviewers are saying, then you need to take a closer look at that.

For instance, I've had several readers say that my heroine in BETWEEN ROCK AND A HARD PLACE is weak or immature. I want to say, yes, she is. She lost her parents at a young age in a plane crash SHE walked away from. Since that time she has been totally controlled by an overbearing uncle. She hasn't had room to grow, and she is only twenty-four. Know any immature twenty-four-year-olds? That being said, I missed the mark somewhere along the line by not emphasizing these things to my readers. (Again, you walk a hard line with what to tell your readers. Some will say, don't spoon feed things to your readers, they'll get it. Others will say, you have to hit them over the head.)

I also get some flack about my rock stars not being mobbed every place they go. I've written blogs about this before, but I will contend that if you are a star and want to keep under the radar, you can. Sure paparazzi hound certain stars, but have you seen how some stars manage to keep out of the headlines? I understand that readers of this genre normally see a huge emphasis on the star aspect of it. I focus more on the relationship angle. Does that mean I can't throw a little more harassment my rock stars' way? Absolutely not. Readers sometimes want what they are familiar with, what has been presented to them by others as "the life of a rock star." They want their books to be realistic, but their "reality" may be defined by stereotypes. However, although rock stars' lives vary as much as yours and mine do, there are some things they share in common. And if my fictional rock stars are making choices to avoid the media attention, (for instance, wearing disguises, eating at off times, avoiding public areas, all of which my rock stars do) then maybe I need to emphasize that more. (But don't bang them over the head. Got it.)

In some ways, that is what I like about this line of work. If you take it seriously, you are always learning more about your trade, so there are new challenges in every day, in every project. Well, I've talked long enough. I'd love to hear some of your thoughts on the subject. Authors, do you contend with some of the same issues? Or does everyone love all of your books? [If this is true, I don't want to hear it! ;) ] Readers, are there certain things that authors do that really drive you nuts? Have you ever known that a book you read hit you the wrong way, but not because of the strength of the book itself but because of something going on in your life? Please leave a comment, and if I get some good interaction going on I'll give away an e-copy of BETWEEN ROCK AND A HARD PLACE, so you can judge for yourself.

Thanks for reading!

Now, I've got this song running through my head, and I'm going to get it stuck in yours, too, if you dare to click below! ;) 
(What is up with me posting all these country songs lately? I swear I'm a rock girl!)

Okay, just to balance things out, I need to throw a little Ricky Nelson at ya that has to do with the subject, too. Enjoy and have a nice weekend!

Nest Nostalgia ~ Thoughts of Impending Empty-nesting

"Basket style nest". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Basket_style_nest.jpg#/media/File:Basket_style_nest.jpg

As many of you know, my triplets are getting ready to leave the nest in just a few weeks to attend the University of Missouri-Columbia, my husband's and my alma mater. So yesterday I had a little wig-out that surprised me. Actually, it wasn't a little wig-out. It was a full-scale, over-the-top, temporary lapse of sanity (those of you who know me well can argue the temporariness). My son was giving me some of the standard teenage attitude and I just exploded on him. Now I keep hearing this song:

When analyzing my actions later, I realized it was a sort of how-dare-you-give-me-attitude-when-I-love-you-so-much-and-I'm-going-to-miss-you-so-much melt down. (See song above.) It was like, "You're already hurting my heart by being such a sweet blessing in my life, how could you double the pain by being such a complete pain in my rear?"

We were in the act of taking apart their bookcase headboards. The pieces of their beds sit in the garage at this moment, waiting for Recycling for Families to come and pick them up, to become a part of a new family's story. When we took them apart I found a lot of interesting things. That one small screwdriver that was the best because it fit perfectly so many times? You know, the one that's been missing for years? Yep, under the bed. Apparently it is what made the holes in the wall. I found a small Quidditch statue of a snitch (Harry Potter reference) and a comb stuck to the footboard with what I thought was gum. When trying to remove it I realized the tri-colored blob could only be one thing--candy corn! Of course I also discovered lots of candy wrappers, feathers from the feather pillow that used to be mine as a child (Mitch bogarted it several years ago), tacks, and coins of various denomination. The initials of someone's seventh grade sweetheart were carved into the wood. In another area they scratched their own name, and also wrote it in ink. (They clearly wanted everyone to know this was THEIR bed!) Inside the handle of a drawer someone had written "hello!" no doubt imagining it being found by someone at a later date and giggling at the thought. 

As I polished the beds and got them ready for their new home I began to think of what they have been a part of. Whispered conversations on Christmas Eve. Moments when the kids laughed until they cried. Homework. That one fight where one of the boys got the other one down and SPIT into his face, saying, "And this is so you won't forget." (What had he been watching? Scarface?) They had witnessed tears after break-ups, been covered in drool, bounced on, and spilled on. The cat had found a friendly sunspot there. They had been little boys when we got those beds. I'd watched them come eye-level with me, and then craned my neck to look up at them. 

I had to leave my bed project and take Mitch to work, but my thoughts continued to wander. They'd probably slept in those beds in footie pajamas. Worked out next to them. Ignored my calls to come down to dinner while sitting on them. Hid there when they knew chores were being handed out. Played their favorite music as they sat on them, drumming their fingers on their pant leg... And that's when I tuned into the music playing on the radio, and it was playing this song:

Although I was alone in my car, I said aloud, "Really?" 

What a beautiful song! And how on point!

God gives us these little gifts, and at first all they are is a mouth demanding to be fed or changed. And still, everything about them is miraculous. Their little eyelashes, the way they breath, hiccup, reach, tiny fists flailing. And when they give that first smile, your heart is so full it hurts and you understand, really understand what it is to be selfless, because you'd do anything to make that other being happy. You love them for 18 years, through Band-aids and Kool-Aid, broken toys and broken hearts, high fevers and high school. Through Hot Wheels and "hot dates," dance classes and class dances, ABCs and A.C.T.s. 

You go from that moment when you leave the hospital with them and think, "They're just letting me take this baby?" to the day you drop them off at college and think, "They're just letting me leave my baby?

But, through all these changes, there is one thing that never changes--your love for them. So kids, keep me in the pocket of your ripped jeans as you head off to Mizzou. You will always be right here with me!

*Sigh.* It's going to be a long August.