Friday, May 23, 2014

Publisher's Weekly Review from Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

I've received my official second prize, a Publisher's Weekly review of the Recalculating Route Manuscript. I'm pleased. See what you think.


Widow and former home economics teacher Marsha Davison is still trying to recover from the death of her husband, Eric, 19 months earlier when she meets Ben Mayfield, a wealthy retired geologist who invites her on a road trip along old Route 66. The ex-husband of a dear friend, Ben’s courtly manner and sense of adventure intrigue Marsha. Although initially she declines, Marsha decides to throw caution to the wind and she and her dog, Lindy, go along for the ride. After a nearly three-month jaunt on the road, Marsha returns to her home in Sedona, Arizona, and Ben to his in Texas, planning another roadtrip -- an East Coast one this time -- for the fall. But soon after returning to their respective homes, Marsha and Ben soon realize that their relationship is far from being a simple friendship, it’s turned to love, and then quickly they decided to marry. It isn’t all smooth sailing because both have grown children who object to the relationship for various reasons, and they live hundreds of miles away from each other. But can these obstacles stand in the way of true love? The author writes movingly of the mixed emotions that come after mourning a beloved spouse and then dating again in this sweet romance that targets a less-than common demographic: those in the later stages of life, who refuse to give up on love. A sweet treat.

Now for the required disclaimers: Publisher's Weekly is an independent organization. Review was based on entered manuscript and not the published version (which is slightly different).

The reviewer at Publisher's Weekly also graded the manuscript from one to five on character development, originality of idea, plot, prose/style, and overall strength of submission, but we won't get to see the scores. The five entries with the highest scores in each category will advance to the semifinals. I can't tell from the review how highly the reviewer would have rated me in these categories, but I'm hopeful. Semi-finalists will be announced June 13th, so until then, I'm keeping my fingers crossed. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

What I've learned from Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, so far

As I wait for the next round of ABNA to be announced, I’ve been thinking about the contest and what the experience has taught me. Here are a few lessons I've learned:

1. You can’t win if you don’t enter. It’s scary to put your writing out there, open to criticism and drama, but the whole point of writing is to share the story with an audience. Will the reviewer at Publisher's Weekly love it or hate it? We'll see.

2. A pitch is not a synopsis. A pitch’s job is to sell the book, to give the reader a taste of what the book is about and why they would want to read it. Clarity, brevity, and voice are important.

3. Writers are generous people. Of course, some writers are selfish, mean, and petty too, but through the forums I’ve seen so many that freely give their time and efforts to help other writers with no expectation of payback.

4. All feedback is useful. Sometimes criticism hurts, and sometimes it should be taken with a grain of salt. One person may hate a story because it’s dark and violent, which is why another loves it, but understanding it’s over the line for some readers is useful knowledge for a writer. Getting defensive and trying to argue that criticism is invalid doesn’t teach the writer anything.

5. Waiting is hard. It’s also distracting. My mind keeps drifting from my current work-in-progress to the entry, thinking perhaps I should have done this differently, or taken that out. The rules of the contest have a few apparent discrepancies, so I’m not even sure if the Publisher’s Weekly reviews will show up on May 23rd or June 13th. I know the next round won’t be announced until June 13th, at which point 95% of the current contestants will be telling themselves, “There’s always next year.” In the meantime, we can dream.