Authors Are Public Figures

I get that, and I donít dispute that fact. For the rest of my life, I will forever be associated with the characters I write. Whether itís fair or not (and thatís another blog post entirely) my characterís values (or lack thereof) will be compared to my values. And thatís okay. Iím a big boy with a steel spine, and I can take whatever the world dishes out about me and Casey. The first one through the brick wall always gets bloody. Always. And I donít mind leading the charge, because change happens when I tweak peopleís expectations, and I push people just beyond where they want to go.

With Casey, itís still a delicate act, and Iím working out the proper mathematical formula, but I donít mind giving it a few more rounds (novels). So Iíve sat idly by while everything from my plotting to my character development to my writing was questioned, and sometimes spewed with enough vehemence to make Hannibal Lector blush. But I brush myself off and move on, because readers are entitled to their opinions, and Iím a reader first, writer second. Itíll always be that way, because I started reading (or more accurately had books read to me) before I ever picked up a pen and paper, and Iíve read more books in one year than Iíll probably ever write in my entire life. Again, thatís the way itís supposed to be.

But where I draw the line is when you start attacking my friends and family. At that point youíve crossed over from being a reader into being an asshole, and I have a really low tolerance when it comes to assholes. Maybe itís the introvert in me (who met his share of bullies), or maybe Iím focused on truth, justice, and the American way, but whatever it is, I can no longer sit idly by and let this shenanigan stand.

Hereís the title for the Amazon review: ďJust because your friends said they liked the story, doesn’t mean it’s true.Ē For you grammatically astute folks playing at home, we have a tense shift in the middle of a sentence. Last time I checked, not a good idea, but weíre moving on. This reviewer is an author. Yep, that scared the shit out of me, too. But it gets better, as I dissect this a bit further. Reviews are opinions, and I havenít found a single person yet that disputes this, not even this reviewer. But what this one simple sentence says is that my friends and family are liars, and theyíre not entitled to their own opinion. Yep, even Casey Holden doesnít have his head that far up his ass.

Losing An Editor

As you can probably imagine, the entire publishing process was a series of firsts for me: tossing all the candy bars and my manuscript aside and believing Casey probably never would find a home, before finding a potential diamond in the massive sifting process otherwise known as querying; having a professional believe in my work almost as much as I do; conducting that first phone conversation which I still remember pieces of, even though it was over four years ago; collaborating on the editing, marketing, cover design, and layout, before the box arrived with my first stack of bright red paperbacks just in time for my first Left Coast Crime Conference; and ultimately having a published novel. Not my greatest and best work, mind you, but Iíve always been a sponge and believed in the art of continuous improvement.

But losing an editor, and in many ways a friend, the one who believed in me and my work when no one else did, the one who decided to take a chance on me when no one else would, and who helped me reinvent myself for my second novel, with additional advice and support and back-and-forth editing sessionsÖwell, that red pill is a bit harder to swallow. Betty Wright and Rainbow Books Inc. had been going strong for 34 years long, until she passed away recently, with plenty of non-fiction books and the occasional cozy mystery.

But you donít write cozy mysteries, Downs. Exactly. And now I can never ask Ms. Wright why she decided to take a chance on me. But from what I remember about our first phone conversation, she fell in love with my protagonist, telling me I had more talent than Mickey Spillane (the juryís still out on that one) and saw some spark in my writing amidst the sea of manuscripts that happened to come across her desk. If that were the end of the story, it might make for an amusing antidote. But this is a publishing house run by women, and I have (if you take a gander at my reviews) a rather unlikeable male protagonist with plenty of ego and chauvinism to boot. And my manuscript didnít just go through Ms. Wright, it went through her daughter, and possibly two others at the publishing house (I was never clear on the exact figure) before it reached her desk. Six months after I sent Rainbow Books Inc. my full manuscriptóI still remember thinking that they couldnít even be bothered to use my own SASE for my rejection letteróI received the envelope, with a one-page letter tucked inside, that every writer hopes against hope to receive, the letter that says you are worthy and good and we want to publish your shit.

How do you like them odds? Yeah, you might just have an easier time winning the lottery.

Betty, you will be missed, my friend.