When Jon Land offered to read and review my novel, Among Women, I was a little anxious. He was after all an internationally known author and I was just the person who had read and reviewed several of his books, and not always with glowing words. I pointed out shortcomings and places where the plot or characters didn't quite work, but the surprise was that with every review, he has thanked me unconditionally -- and agreed with my assessment. It's not like he could change the books to fix the plot holes but he was gracious. That was the one thing I counted on -- him being gracious -- even if he didn't like my novel.
He is also a gentleman. I could forget about any soul ripping or prose rending as I've endured with former friends who have decided to vent their spleen on me by trashing my work. I knew he would be honest whatever the outcome.
I sent him my book in April and a few days ago he gave me his answer.
"With AMONG WOMEN, J.M. Cornwell has fashioned an emotionally bracing tale of love, loss, and redemption. Here is a book of rare depth in both character and story, tragic and uplifting at the same time in the tradition of Alice Walker, Terry McMillan and Judith Guest. Certain to stay with you long after you've turned the last page and just as certain to leave you eagerly awaiting the talented Cornwell's next effort."
--Jon Land, bestselling author of STRONG AT THE BREAK and BETRAYAL
I was stunned, shocked, and pleased. I've not been compared to McMillan, Walker, or Guest -- and I wasn't quite sure who Judith Guest was. I found out pretty quickly. She wrote Ordinary People and several books in the same vein. Walker and McMillan I knew; I've been fans of them both for years.
The extravagance of the blurb is undeniable and I thanked Jon profusely. If I wasn't a fan of his Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong before now, I would be soon. However, I am a fan and have been since the first book. Jon writes solid and timely thrillers and, while I quibble on occasion with some of his plot choices and point out the holes, he is overall a solid writer with a vast imagination.
I've been told that authors praising other authors doesn't make a difference to the reading public and yet publishers and authors put blurbs from recognizably famous authors on the backs of their books. I didn't do that with Among Women because I hadn't sent galleys or advanced reading copies to any authors who had agreed to read the book. I could barely get people I know to read the book. They're always too busy, don't read that genre, or just don't read at all. I have a rather long list of authors whose books I've read and reviewed, but I didn't think it appropriate to ask them to read my book, and I didn't ask any of the authors I've known for years and corresponded with. I wanted the reading public to start talking about my novel and my writing, good or bad (preferably good), and start the snowball rolling down Mount Everest. The snowball seems to be stalled at base camp 2. Or is it 3?
The thing about the writing business is no one really knows how it works. Authors who tell great stories and couldn't put together a cogent grocer list zoom to the top of the charts, garnering automatic fame and a considerable fortune. Authors who know how to market and tweet and socialize like madmen and write formulaic drivel zoom to the top of the charts, too. All too often, authors who do it all right and follow the rules, barely make it to the middle of the pack. It's a crap shoot, especially for indies, and fragmenting themselves and their efforts following what worked for other authors doesn't do much good, except to provide a little bump in sales. There is no tried and true method of getting ahead and advertising on no budget isn't an option. The only thing left is the story.
I read a post Amanda Hocking wrote recently about how everyone talks about all the millions of dollars she has made and no one mentions that she writes books with stories that people want to read. It's all about the story even though the editing and proofing are horrible. She's one of those who write fantasy and fantasy is hot right now, so what happens to someone like me who writes books about real people in real situations? Base camp 2 -- or 3. You know, right at the summit.
I don't know what else to do but keep writing what moves me and keep hoping that among the seven billion people on this earth, a few paltry million will discover my stories and decide to read them.
Jon Land did me a huge favor by reading my book and I hope, by putting his views here, others will feel the same way and read. I don't socialize and network all the time (I have two full time jobs) and I don't haunt the bulletin boards and forums. I'd have no time to write if I did. That just leaves this story and the ones that came before and the ones that will continue to follow. Somewhere along the way, I hope it is enough.
It's all about the words.