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  • Phyllis H. Moore

Tangled Mangled, Roxanne, and Making Gravy - 5 Things I've Learned the Hard Way

As an author, I am not supposed to respond to reviews. I don’t want to, really. I’m new at this, and I’m willing to be a beginner and take some advice, incorporate what I can and try to do better. However, I feel the need to say something about my novel, Tangled, a Southern Gothic Yarn. It was edited by an editor who gave me great advice. I think her advice made the story better. However, I totally messed up the upload of the manuscript and it was mangled when many readers downloaded to their Kindles. It’s all my fault. I own it. It was not the editing. It was all me.

I could make excuses about why this happened, but they would be pitiful and no one wants to hear it. There is no excuse that could justify releasing a sloppy ebook. I would think the same thing as the reader. I botched a wonderful opportunity to do a promotion that all authors covet. I moaned, groaned and wallowed in my incompetence for several hours, then attempted the fix and waited for the backlash. Here is the irony, readers were much more forgiving than me. My reviews to date, have more than doubled, and they are much more positive than I expected. Many of the reviews are five star – lauding the wonderful story and characters, but hating the editing. My editing was atrocious, however, trust me the editor did her job – not her fault – ALL MINE.

I mangled the debut of Tangled. Roxanne, a reader, took the time to go to my web site’s contact page and send me a message about how much she enjoyed the story “but there is a big problem”, she wrote. My heart sank as I read there was duplicate print at the end of many chapters. Roxanne is my angel. She was complimentary and gentle and I felt terrible that the reading experience wasn’t perfect for her. It doesn’t matter that it was a free download. Roxanne and every reader deserves the best and that version of my novel was not my best. This was the worst nightmare I could imagine. There were over 40,000 downloads. My opportunity to get someone to read my novel, and it was botched.

What do you say to yourself with such a snafu? I tried to remember, “If it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger.” Okay, I’m pretty sure whoever said that is dead.

Last night I had a dream about making gravy. Yeah, I know, it probably signifies some weird, deviant confusion, but I thought it had to do with making lemonade from lemons or something.

I learned to make gravy in the late sixties – probably, I really can’t remember. It may have been earlier, because I remember my parents were painting the bathroom in our little oil field camp house. It was my chance to cook supper – pork chops, mashed potatoes, green beans and gravy. The pork chops were tough, the potatoes were lumpy and the gravy had clumps of white flour floating in it. In my dream, I made roast beef gravy. I started making it in the roasting pan, but by the time I was finished, I was stirring the most perfectly seasoned, silky, brown gravy you could imagine, in the bed of an old pick-up truck. Yeah, I know, I was awed by the abundance, too. However, I was not the least bit concerned that it was in the back of a pick-up truck.

When I woke, I thought the dream was strange, but I decided it was my subconscious telling me to give myself permission to be a beginner – take the compliments, learn from the mistakes and move on.

So, I’m sharing this story, not to make any excuses, but to say it’s all my fault, not the editor’s. I own it and will remind myself daily to learn from it. I would also like to let anyone who could not muddle through the repetition, to contact me via my web site, and let me know you would like a cleaner version. I will email you a PDF, an ARC (Advanced Review Copy) of an upcoming anthology, or any of my other books. Please don’t give up on me. I thought about giving up myself, telling myself I’m too old to go through this, but I like to do it, so will continue until I cannot.

To other writers, I would like to say, I know how anxiety provoking it is to put yourself out there – share your writing with others to find out if they love it, hate it, or are indifferent. Keep making the gravy. Do it until it’s silky and smooth. Sometimes, people can pick through the lumps, smile at you, and give you another chance. If not, it won’t kill you, not yet anyway.

I still hold my breath when I sign on to look at reviews. I expect a tongue lashing. I received one for cursing and one for being confused about the genre, but some readers were willing to make their way through and say they enjoyed the story. So, here are the things I have learned in this painful process:

  1. I can still learn, take criticism and try to do better

  2. People are much more forgiving than I anticipated.

  3. If I continue to be the author and publisher, I must pay equal attention to both tasks, not just the one that I like to do.

  4. Even if I’m reading a five star review, that doesn’t mean the book was perfect. Reviewers lie. They don’t want to hurt my feelings. It wasn’t that great and there is still work to do.

  5. I am responsible for the finished product. No one else. It’s mine good or bad. I have to own it.

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