Thursday, June 27, 2013

What's In a Star?

I never gave much thought to reviews until I became a published author. I know from TV shows such as “Smash” that on Broadway reviews make or break a performance in an instant. Book reviews are not quite as immediate and poignant, but they do have their own value.

I was raised to believe the following: (or at least I was told to believe this)

It’s one of those quotes or sayings I grew up with but never exactly agreed. As a young child and teenager, I could get my feelings hurt in a blink of an eye. I had yet to learn, nor did I for many years, how to laugh at myself. Once I did, I realized I can be pretty funny. Life got a lot lighter, but to this day hurtful words can cut and hurt as much as a dull knife. I have a story to tell about me and knives…but that’s for another day. And some of you will know what I’m talking about (I believe I can hear some chuckles).

How people rate a book with the 5 star system is, in my opinion, highly subjective. For example, I can watch a movie and not really be able to give it “a thumbs up” which might result in a 2-star rating. Why? Was it my mood? Did I have to pay bills that day? (always a bummer). Or did I have a bad dream the night before that seemed so real and disturbing it stayed with me throughout the day? My point is, I can watch that same movie at a later date and have a completely different opinion (and star rating). 

I’ve been fortunate to have some truly heart-warming, moving 5 star reviews on Amazon for Saving Gracie. In fact, at this time I have 44 reviews with an average rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars which brings a smile to my face. I’ve heard more than once a writer needs a thick skin (picture turtle wax). This I do not have. I read my one 1 star review and pouted for days. Although thrilled by the many 5 star reviews…guess which one affected me the most? 

Guess that’s my nature, but I’m not satisfied with that particular quirk of mine, so I’m working on it. My shell isn’t as paper-thin as it used to be, but I’m still applying coats of turtle wax on a regular basis. I also don’t read reviews. Not anymore. That’s Rich’s job and he’ll let me know when a good one comes along and knows by now not to mention the bad ones. 

I believe no one sets out to write a bad book. Too much labor of love has to be put into a story and I’ve decided that just because a book or a movie isn’t to my liking doesn’t mean it’s bad. I’ve heard people say, “That book/movie is horrible. Don’t waste your time.” Once again, subjective. I know of several instances I would have given a particular movie or book an easy 5 star-rating while someone else might respond with, “Well, it’s cute.” Cute, in my opinion, means okay and maybe a 3 star-rating (which is still better than 1). I had one reviewer give me a 4-star review, really liked Saving Gracie, but deducted a point for typos. Totally out of my control but still reflects how she hands out stars.

At this point in my life, I think before I write a review.

Words are powerful...and hurtful.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Doors fascinate me. And as you will see…mostly blue doors. My interest sprouted after attending a Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit in the mid 90’s with my dear late friend, Drew Lazarine and spotted the "Farmhouse Window and Door" painting. Very different from O’Keeffe’s exotic and often controversial flowers and also far from her later Santa Fe/desert collection. The book, Dictionary of Dream Symbols, states, “A door may represent an opening to a new phase of life or a possible new development-either in your external circumstances or in yourself.”

Below is a quote from Gregg Fraley’s blog after viewing Claire Danes’s superb performance in the made-for-television movie, “Temple Grandin.”  

“Grandin learned that doors, literally and figuratively, are things you have to walk through to make progress. When faced with a new challenge, she girded up her courage and told herself she needed to walk through the door — to learn, to make changes. We all have those doors, don’t we?  If we want to change and grow we need to walk through those metaphorical doors.”

In January of 2011 I walked through an extremely significant door when I joined the Houston Writers Guild. I’d peeked through the same door back around 2005, but quickly slammed it shut due to intimidation by some Writers Guild members at several critique group meetings. The same intimidators were still present in 2011, but I persevered. 

Best decision I ever made... 

This door provided me the opportunity to meet the four most significant people in my writing career. We formed our own critique group, set our own guidelines and expectations and named ourselves 2.0, an offshoot of the Writers Guild. 

(I really need someone to comb my hair before a photo shoot)

The dynamics of the group continue to amaze me to this day. The general age ranges between 25 and 35…and then there’s me, I turned 61 in February. These young, wonderfully talented (each in their own right), fun-loving and extraordinarily compassionate people assigned me the title, Adopt-o-Mom, a name I hold dear to my heart.

We met every Thursday, bouncing around story ideas, making suggestions and always…laughing. Each week we held our little soiree at a different place. Once we met at Five Guys on Post Oak. The music, although meant to be background, boomed rather loudly and must have been SiriusXM Radio’s ‘80’s on 8, because Lauren and I were jamming to Cindy Lauper, Michael Jackson, Madonna and Robert Palmer, to name a few. And Lauren was BORN in the mid 80’s, for crying out loud. Her mother must have played some serious (word play on Sirius) rock music during her pregnancy. The others didn’t quite share our enthusiasm that night.

But I digress…

We’ve remained close although one of my adopt-o-daughters, Jules (creator of book covers for Saving Gracie and Partly Sunny), has flown the coup and now resides with her husband in Burbank, CA. These four fine people are a large part why today I call myself a published writer.

The doors I have opened in the last couple of years have been many, and with each one I become more fearless. From signing a publishing contract in April 2012, to book signings, book club appearances and speaking engagements, onward I gladly march. As Temple Grandin said, “A door opened and I went through it.” 

I felt a strong sense of importance to begin my writing blog by mentioning the people who helped make the current episode of my life possible. So…as a blog launch, I dedicate this initial post to 2.0. Onward and upward…

(blue door photos courtesy of Julie Tuovi Baker Hansen's (Reveal Photography) recent trip to Peru)