Monthly Archives: September 2016

When friends and family read your books

After I finish writing a novel, I’m excited and eager to share it with the world. I have to tamp down this excitement, though, as I go back and revise, edit, polish. Then, once again, as I’m ready to push the “publish” button or, if I’m fortunate enough to land a contract with a traditional publisher, as the release date nears, a strange shyness overcomes me.

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A book I’m proud of.

I become reticent to have friends and family members read the book. I might be all hip-hip-hooray, buy-my-book on social media, wanting the world to read my story. But if I see a friend or family member weigh in with a chipper “I just bought a copy!” I’m clutched with nervousness. I have to stop myself from saying, oh, you don’t need to buy it and read it. Really, you don’t. 

That’s crazy! I know it. And part of me argues with that other Negative Naomi, saying, of course you want them to read it, silly! You’re proud of it!

As I analyze this sentiment, I think there are several reasons for it. First, sometimes I will know, because of how well I know the reader involved, that this particular story is not their cuppa. So while I’m grateful — very, very grateful — for their support, I don’t want them disappointed when they discover that my book isn’t their kind of read.

Second, though, even if my book is to their taste in storytelling, I cringe at the thought of them not liking my particular brand of that storytelling. Unlike with a stranger who buys and reads my book, these relatives or friends are people I will most likely interact with regularly. Will they feel compelled to offer faint praise? (“I enjoyed your book. It was…different.”) Will they say nothing, leading me to absolutely, positively know they hated it? Will they think less of me if they dislike it, think I’m a…fake?

Reading tastes are subjective, I know. Who hasn’t excitedly urged a friend to read a favorite book, only to be crushed with disappointment when said friend gives that book a “meh” rating? Imagine that disappointment if you’re the author of the meh.

The third reason I am nervous when friends and family buy and read my books–What if they find…mistakes in it? Not just editing mistakes  (after all; a copy editor can’t catch everything. I know — I am a copy editor.) But historical mistakes in the case of a historical novel. Or mistakes in logic in the case of a mystery.

Yes, other readers can find those things and point them out to me via email. But again, having someone in your intimate circle point them out makes you feel like a sham. (Ha! So you thought you were a novelist, did you, the inner Negative Naomi cries.)

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Another book I’m proud of.

So, to all my friends and family who support me by buying and reading my books, I say, thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m really happy you support me in this way, and I hope my stories are enjoyable. And I’m grateful if you keep it to yourself if they’re not!

To my fellow authors, I ask: Do you suffer from these same feelings when friends and family say they’re buying and reading your books?

UPDATE: My daughter, Hannah Sternberg, also a novelist, noted that she feels “naked” when friends and family read her books, knowing they might learn very personal things about her through her writing. I completely agree with this observation, and I’m glad she pointed it out.

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Filed under Book reviews, Jane Eyre, romance, Uncategorized

Embarrassing Moments in Cooking

In my family, we have an incident we refer to as “The Troubles.”

Let me revise that. We have an incident I insisted my children refer to as “The Troubles,” after relentless teasing (of me) following said incident.

It happened like this: I made a beef stew. It wasn’t very good. There were leftovers. When my husband went to grind them through the garbage disposal, a wrenching whine ensued. The problem? The beef was so tough, the disposal couldn’t break it up.

Thus began months, nay, years of “Remember when…” storytelling from my offspring designed to embarrass me. Finally, I declared we would not speak of this incident again, except to call it “The Troubles.”

“The Troubles” aside, I’m not a bad cook now. I can make a pretty good stew, in fact, and lots of other things. Even things with French names. I can bake a cake (as long as it’s a recipe such as the one on the back of Hershey’s cocoa cans), make biscuits and whip up a decadent chocolate cheese cake from an Ina Garten recipe. Sometimes my kids even ask me for recipes or how to do something in the kitchen.

Back in the day, however, before I became more confident in the culinary world, I had many a cringe-worthy moment. Like the yogurt-marinated chicken cooked on the grill that could have been called Blackened Kabobs. Or the garlic mashed potatoes with raw garlic in them that should have been called Pomme de Terrible.

smartcookie2In my defense, in any mother’s defense, when you have three kids with picky appetites, you’re on a budget, and you’re pressed for time, well, things happen. Bad things. I ended up relying on a lot of ready-made ingredients, everything from the obvious (pasta sauce) to the quick cheat (frozen Asian vegetables in teriyaki sauce).

I’ve learned a lot over the years, and most of it came from watching the Food Network. I’ve watched since Emeril was on almost every night, and now my favorite shows are The Pioneer Woman and The Kitchen.

But I also enjoyed the shows where a team of experts would swoop in and help some feckless eatery owners renovate and refashion their establishments. Who doesn’t love a great turnaround story?

So, that’s the inspiration for my new romantic comedy, Smart Cookie. In it, sweet but clueless Sonja Garrett signs up to have her bakery featured on an “Eats 911” show, a two-day shoot she hopes will turn the tables on her failing establishment. But she’s the one who gets more than she bargained for as her longtime love starts questioning his involvement with her business, and friends, who’d helped her in the past, now share criticisms on-air that, while true, sting. In the end, love’s baked in the cake–but it’s a shock to everyone who gets the sweetest treat.

For a preview of this book, Amazon lets you take a peek at THIS LINK. I hope you enjoy! Get a copy (check if it’s free today)! Recommend to friends! Eat some cake!

Oh, and pen a review at Amazon if you do read it! Just a quick one-sentence review is fine, but the number of reviews on Amazon can help push any book into more recognition.

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Filed under romance, Uncategorized

LIBBY’S BOOK CLUB: Queen Victoria

Welcome to the first in a series I’ll call “Libby’s Book Club.” (Hence the title of this post.) It will be just like a regular book club except for these things: We won’t get together except online; I will probably do most of the talking; I will occasionally (or even regularly) promote my own books.

But other than those things, it will be precisely like any other book club. 🙂

First up, a question: Is anyone here as excited as I am to see the PBS British import Victoria series? Here’s a trailer and clip:

Doesn’t that look yummy? Costumes! History! More costumes! I can hardly wait. Here in the US of A, the series starts in January.

Anticipating this series sent me scurrying to my bookshelf where I pulled out and started rereading this well-worn tome: Queen Victoria by Cecil Woodham-Smith. It’s an oldie — published in the 1970s — but it’s jammed with historical goodies and covers the queen’s life from birth to the death of Prince Albert.

I’m sure there are other more recent books on Queen Victoria, but I enjoyed the slow, detailed pace of this one, which reports not only on Victoria’s history but on how that history was reported by others–what was false and what was true.

Not being a student of British history, I found the entire tale enlightening. One of the things about this story that surprised and  interested me was how she actually came to the throne–the various family intrigues that led to the daughter of the Duke of Kent becoming the monarch. Spoiler alert: the rest of the family wasn’t producing heirs or the right kind of heirs.

The Duke of Kent, her father, was an odd duck in that he was very kind to some people (his wife and his mistress of 27 years, whom he was forced to abandon in order to marry and produce an heir) and cruel to others (the many military under his command, so many of whom disliked him that he moved around to various posts, avoiding mutinies in some cases). Poor fellow died miserably, at the hands of doctors trying to treat what sounded like a bad cold, pneumonia or bronchitis. So he never saw his daughter rise to the throne, even though he was absolutely sure she would be queen.

I’m fond of this book for reasons unrelated to its content. For several years in the not-too-distant past, I would travel from Vermont (where I used to live) to Maryland to help my sister take care of our father by accompanying him to various doctor visits and the like. My sister had a copy of this book on her shelf, and I’d always pick it up and resume reading it when there, finishing it after many, many such visits. So I associate it with her warm hospitality. Years after I read it, I found a used copy in a little bookshop in Connecticut associated with a local library. I snatched it up.

So, do you have a Victoria biography you’ve enjoyed? If so, leave a comment! I’d like to hear about it!

And, while marveling at what a smart cookie Victoria was, consider trying my new book, Smart Cookie (by Libby Malin), a contemporary sweet romance with laughs as well as love. You can sample it at THIS LINK. (There — that’s the book promotion!)

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