Thoughts as my novel debut approaches

As the Sept. 12 release date for “The Bloody Black Flag” draws near, I am simultaneously excited and humbled.

To prevent a swelled head, I keep reminding myself I’d several things. First and foremost, there are people who write better than I do but who do not yet have a book deal. I am damned lucky. I had a good idea, and connected with an agent who also thought it was a good idea, and we sold it to a publisher. Yes, it was doggedness and hard work to do that, but it was luck as well. May those of you with good ideas and wonderful stories keep at it, and find your way to publication.

I also remind myself that not everyone will love my pirate tale. Most reactions from people who won advance copies and wrote reviews at GoodReads have been very enthusiastic, and that is every damned bit as much of a thrill as you might think. When people say they can’t wait for the next book in the series to come out, believe you me, it’s a head rush.

But I brace myself for the negative reviews that will surely come. Some will think my book too violent; others will think it too tame. Some will think my prose is not poetic enough, others will think it is not plain enough. Some will find the mystery too easy to solve, others will find it too puzzling.

All of that comes with the territory, and I knew it going in. Fortunately, being a professional journalist has provided me with skin thicker than the Hulk’s, and I am certainly going to need it. I am quite certain that sooner or later someone will call my book a piece of shit, and that’s OK.

I will try my best to use negative reviews as spurs to make me a better writer. I think “The Devil’s Wind,” the second Spider John mystery, is shaping up to be better, because I learned a lot in writing and editing “The Bloody Black Flag.” I know none of my novels will ever be perfect, but I will damn well try to make them so. And if people out there offer thoughtful criticism, that’s OK. If the critiques are not so thoughtful, well, that’s OK, too. 

Mostly, this whole experience makes me thankful. I am glad my lifetime of reading and daydreaming is paying off. I am happy to see eyes light up when I describe my book as a “murder mystery set on a pirate ship.” And I will be ecstatic in Sept. 12.

For all of you out there still trying to sell your books, I hope you get to feel this feeling one day. My only advice is this: Don’t ever fucking give up.


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