Monday, November 28, 2016

A Tale of One Book



Today I'm going to be a reader instead of a writer, and tell you a tale of one book. It's a trade paperback I bought over the weekend, and it's new, expensive (the $15.00 I spent on it would have bought me five books at my local UBS) and almost everything about it pushes no-way buttons with me. So why did I buy it?

Let's start with why I didn't want to. The cover art, while pretty, features blueberries. So does the title, which is also too long and employs the word Irresistible, for God's sake. Like I can't stop myself from buying it. Please. Back to the fruit: for blueberry lovers this is great, but I don't like them. They taste like perfume to me. I'll eat them if I have to in a muffin or a pancake, but I'm just not a fan. All the blueberries in my face was strike #1.

According to the bio, the author is a corporate attorney who writes fiction on the side. I'm all for the day job, but lawyers are not my favorite people. They generally make lousy writers, too, and I personally know only one attorney-author who is a marvelous writer. So the lawyer bit was strike #2.

There is a blurb on the front of the cover comparing this book to a novel I really love. Plus, right? Not really. I hate blurbs that compare a book to more successful novels. Also, the author who blurbed the book went on TV with a commercial in which he threatened to kill off his protagonist if readers didn't buy his book. I loathe that kind of advertising. The blurb was strike #3.

I should have put the book back on the shelf at the store, but even with the three strikes I wanted to see what the writing was like. Actually I was positive that the writing would confirm all my little judgments. There would be some stupid weather report, or a fake emotional introspective yawner, or some plodding fumbling attorney crap, or even one of those 12-step podium speech intros: My name is Yada Yada, and I am helpless against blueberries, which changed my life . . . Seriously, though, I was expecting it to majorly stink, just as everything about the book did at that moment -- and I was prepared to gloat over how right I was about the book being a total suckfest.

Five minutes later I checked out and bought the book. Why, why, why? you ask.

The writing. The writing was a homerun. In fact, the first five words knocked it out of the park. The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe by Mary Simses has the best opening line I've read in years. The first page grabbed me by the imagination and wouldn't let go, but honestly, the reason I bought it was the first line. That's how much it wowed me. It steamrolled right over the blueberries and the attorney thing and that awful blurb.

I don't care who you are, or what a publisher does to your book. If you write well, I will buy your work. I will follow you, and keep an eye out for more, and tell my friends about you. I will write about you here on PBW, even when your book had three strikes against you from the get-go. Because when it comes down to it all that really matters to me is the work. I won't care if you own a thousand blueberry farms or a hundred personal injury lawsuit franchises. Write a homerun, and I'm yours.

If you NaNo'ers out there are serious about becoming a professional writer, don't be distracted by the hoopla or the mystic or the prestige of the job title. Don't be sucked into all the self-publishing crap. Focus on the work. Get it done, edit brilliantly, and make it the best damn story anyone has read in ages. And we will be yours.

11 comments:

  1. Interesting, because almost to a one, the great reviews were about the writing. I would never have picked it up either though thanks to the blueberries (I'm not a fan either) but reading a bit of the first couple pages and it's a buy for me.

    Hope you had a great holiday! Mine was...

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    1. We had to move a family member right after Thanksgiving, but other than that it was great here, too.

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  2. What were the first five words?

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    1. "Don't move, it's not safe."

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  3. Anonymous8:47 PM

    Too true, if the writing captures me I'm sold. Now if I could only get the quality of my own writing to be that good.
    Ron B

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    1. Keep at it, Ron. That's the best advice I can give you. :)

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    2. Anonymous5:49 PM

      Thanks, Lynn. Much appreciated.

      Ron B

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  4. It's hard enough to gain notice. In the end it's all about the quality of the writing.

    Can you recommend any mystery novels that you've liked? I have a friend who reads only mysteries and I'd like to get her a little something from a new to her author.

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    1. For mysteries, I always recommend Anne Frasier's Elise Sandburg series (Play Dead, Stay Dead, and Pretty Dead, in that order) as they're beautifully written, spooky, emotional and are set in Savannah, my favorite US city. I also like Lee Child's Jack Reacher series, although his books are more guy-centric books, and after the first five or so they do get a bit repetitive. If your friend likes to take it up a notch Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko books are superbly written with great intelligence and thought, but his work is more on the dark/bleak/depressing side. I should also put in a good word for my favorite mystery novel of all time, The Main by Trevanian; brilliantly written, unflinching, sad and surprising, but probably out of print.

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  5. I'll have to add this one to my TBR list, so thanks for the recommendation.

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  6. I've picked up books like that. No reason to buy it but an itch and a sentence or two that sucks me in. when finished I'm always glad I didn't get swayed not to purchase

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