I Fell For it AGAIN

The first time I was asked to review a book, in exchange for a review on mine, I didn’t think much beyond saying “Sure!”

What I received was a “how to lose weight using yoga” guide that was written by a non-English speaker. There were questions asked in chapter headings where no question was intended, a screamingly offensive treatise on “how to tell if you are overweight,” and yoga poses that were not only NOT described, but not pictured.

I sent an email back to the guy and suggested he edit and add some damned pictures.

A few days later, I fell for another one. This woman had a GREAT cover, said she was “bestselling author” and the premise of the book sounded interesting, so I told her to go ahead and send me the pdf. It was laughably short, all of 14 pages long in Adobe Acrobat. Along with it she sent a note, “As a sidenote, I was in such a rush to get this done that I didn’t have it edited, but I think my writing stands well on its own.”

Say what?!

I opened the “book” and found within the first page a paragraph that literally had brackets and said [Insert book title here].

Christ on a stick.

I sent an email back to her and told her I wasn’t going to bother until she was willing to actually edit. Which was pretty kind of me.

And you think I would have learned.

But no, I had to have the lesson taught a third time. The other day I received a request and the link showed a godawful cover – and if you don’t think those things matter, believe me they DO – but a couple of the reviews seemed to indicate that this might be a great story clothed in a dog butt of a book cover. So I said “yes” and did a face palm after reading the first couple of pages.

It was agony reading more than that. It is so bad, SO BAD, that I can’t even tell this author anything good. I mean, it’s middle school kind of bad. I can’t even formulate a response other than to delete it.

I swear, this is the WORST issue I have with self-publishing. We are all standing here, shoulder to shoulder, on the same level playing field. I totally get why some reviewers respond to me (nicely, but still) with a “thanks, but no thanks.”

There is only so much dog vomit one person can willingly consume in a day.

And if I’m sounding like a complete bitch, here is a big admission. I’ve written shit. I have folders full of it. In fact, my first four books remain full of grammatical faux pas and typos. I’ve since learned, under the adept tutelage of my eldest, the proper approach for point of view shifts when dealing with fiction. I have also been admonished on reducing my sentence length.

Part of me wants to charge forward and write a slew of books as I edge closer and closer to notching my belt with that 10,000 hours of writing experience. I have learned so much in the past eight years. I KNOW my past books are not perfect and I struggle to reconcile that, wondering if I should go back and fix them (covers, grammar, pov shifts, and more).

The fact is, after going through some major edits with my eldest, I am ruined for bad writing. As in ruined FOREVER.

I’m still clueless when it comes to conjunctive phrases and all of the technical jargon that English majors seem to know so well, but at least I can say it isn’t as bad as it was.

Last night, I lay down in bed and began to read Yesterday’s Gone by the same authors that wrote Write. Publish. Repeat. I hadn’t gotten more than a few pages before I was jerked out of the story by a weird point of view shift between the mother Mary, and her daughter. That’s when I realized I was ruined forever and there was no going back.

“I am glad you did it, but you have to know that you have ruined me forever. I’ll never be able to read bad fiction again.” I told Dee this morning as we drove to a cleaning appointment.

And it is true. I’m ruined…forever.

Feel Free to Ignore This Post


Because I’m going to bitch.

/cue rant

I don’t do it very often (well, at least not publicly, my family would probably have a different view) and I’m sitting on the fence, frustrated and peeved.

In the past week, I have had five review requests from “authors” needing reviews of their books.

As an author, I have a hard time saying no. After all, I know all too well just how hard it is to get reviews on a book you have spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours crafting, editing, and polishing.

Sometimes I feel like a supplicant on my knees as I politely, and then with increasing desperation, ask, “Would you read my book? Would you review it? Can I send you my book? Tell me what you think.”

Believe me, working in an office surrounded by catty, bitchy women seems rather appealing at the moment. In fact, the marketing side of writing is just a short step up from working in a call center with angry, pissed off BCBS customers reaming my ass for something I didn’t do while having to follow rules I didn’t make.

But I digress.

These “authors” – and yes, I feel the need to use quotation marks for two reasons. One, because they are anything BUT authors. Seeking to cash in on the self-publishing revolution, these jerks write (or plagiarize) the crappiest junk they can, as fast as they can, and then toss it up onto Amazon in the hopes that some idiot will buy it and they will be rich.

I was sent a pdf of a “book” written by a non-native English speaker (without any discernible editing that I could see – and folks I’m NOT editor material) about how to lose weight practicing yoga. Not only did the “author” NOT include ANY pictures of yoga poses, he also basically insulted anyone who is even slightly overweight by suggesting that the way they would discover it was because when out at bars and public venues people who are given your number don’t call you back.

The next one I fell for had a GREAT cover. It was purported to be a self-help book and the person billed themselves as a “bestselling author.”  They sent me a pdf that was 14 pages long and rife with errors, including brackets that literally had [Insert book title here].

Better yet? That pdf was actually sent with the following message: “Just a sidenote, I didn’t have time to get this book to an editor because I got in a huge rush with my launch, so it will not be absolutely perfect text, but I’d say it’s still pretty well written 🙂 ”


If that person is a bestselling author, then please, go ahead, shoot me in the head now because the literary world has truly become a mammoth mountain of horse dung.

Now all of this bitching is rather two-faced of me. I’ll admit it.

My first forays into self-publishing were rife with errors. I did my best with the skills I had, and I did have family members or friends help me with editing considering I had no budget for such things.

I still don’t have a budget for such things – so I have a content editor (my eldest daughter) a line editor (my friend Kerrie) and my husband serves as my auditory beta reader. I read the entire book to him, editing as I went. And that is how I managed to whittle down the errors to around 15 (so far, there may be more). One of my first readers was kind enough to send me a list of fixes, 14 in total, and then I found a repetitive word in one of the first chapters when I received a proof copy.

I’ve put out books that had lovely artwork by my eldest daughter but weren’t considered “professional” covers.

And I’ve put out books that I now want to revise since my writing skills have improved exponentially since.

But there is one thing that I absolutely do not share with these other “authors.” And that is this – I’m not looking at writing as a way to make quick, easy money. Sure, I would really, really like it if one of my books went viral and people started reading it on the subways of New York and then hunting down every other book I’ve written because they just couldn’t get enough.

Do dollar signs dance in front of my eyes? Rarely. It is why I am putting other passive income streams into play – like overhauling The Cottage and making it into an Air B’nB. I hope for more income on writing, and teaching, and cleaning houses, so that I can put that money into The Cottage and then it will turn around and become a money maker that gives me regular income while I continue to work on the writing. I’m shooting for that whole 10,000 hours thing.

I’m not a one-trick pony and I’m in this for the long haul.

But in the end, I can’t help wondering if I’ll be that pretty shiny gemstone sitting somewhere on a mountain of feces. Fighting that is frustrating to say the least.

/end bitchy rant

Back to work I go. I’ve got three projects to choose from, best get to it.

Not One, Not Two, But Three Irons in the Fire

It’s my birthday today and I’m feeling spunky. Perhaps that’s why I’ve got not one, not two, but three projects in the works.

Knowing me, it will shake out soon and I’ll focus on one of them pretty much exclusively until the project is complete. That said, I’m having fun right now.

I’ve got:

  • The Chronicles of Liv Rowan – Book 1 – About 1/3 done
  • Start Your Own Houscleaning Biz – About 1/5 of the way done (I’ll have a jazzier title than that soon)
  • It’s That Easy – Cooking for the Kitchen-Challenged – Just started

I’m having fun with this last one, having settled (at least for now) on that working title and written my first chapter, Booty Calls and Pasta.

And because it is my birthday and I’m feeling quite chipper (despite my dad chipping in his “the sky is falling and we are all going to die” two cents for the day) and so here is the first chapter, unrefined, for your reading pleasure.


©Christine D. Shuck

Booty Calls and Pasta

Let me tell you how I learned to cook. And no, it wasn’t at my mother’s knee. I love my mother, but you know that saying “she could burn water?” Really, I count myself lucky that I survived childhood.

I learned how to cook much later.

It all started with a booty call.

Christine, you can’t say that.

I’m pretty sure I can. It’s my book and I’ll say what I want!

Yeah but…

Zip it!

There are two me’s that you will hear throughout the book. Feel free to ignore the one in italics, heaven knows I do. That one in italics is a boring old rule follower. Me? I break rules. I run with scissors. I swim upstream. I eat at Red Lobster and I do what I want!

Yeah, yeah, you are a rule breaker. Got it.

In any case, as I was saying, it all started with a booty call, albeit a long-distance one.

[long-suffering sigh]

Fine. I grew up the child of divorce.

Really? We are going there?

Shut up, you! I’m trying to set the stage here and explain that really, it’s all about love and how cooking is love, but you…

Aw, that’s sweet! By all means, continue.

So it all started with a booty call and I’m a child of divorce.

[shakes head]

My parents separated when I was six and by the time I was seven, my dad had moved to San Francisco. I lived there with him, visiting my mom often in Flagstaff, Arizona, but growing up for a good part of my childhood and adolescence in San Francisco. I mention this because it is where I met my future husband. Well, my future third husband.

Yeah, this is sounding better and better.

My husband, having heard this, has added a request. “Can you please refer to me as your last husband? Because calling me your third husband implies there will be a fourth or that you are just waiting for Nathan Fillion to come swooping in and run away with you.”

My dear last husband has a point. So we will now revise that paragraph. Notice I have switched from “I” to an imperial “we?” In any case, in 1984, I met my future last husband, Dave.

This is completely relevant to this book, by the way, because nineteen years after not dating me in high school, in late January 2003, Dave flew 1,806 miles (I totally Googled that)  to Kansas City for a booty call. And the booty call is relevant because, as I said earlier, that is when I finally learned to cook.

Put another way, boxed dinners and broiled red snapper (which I haven’t had in nearly 20 years thanks to the distinct lack of oceans in the Midwest) does not count as cooking, people, that’s a basic “heat and eat” kind of scenario.

There, in my kitchen, confronted by the boy of my dreams (I had been ridiculously smitten with him since the age of fifteen) I was determined to make him fall in love with me. And so I decided the best way to a man’s heart was through his esophagus. I had read this quote once on a bus and never forgotten it. “I must cook for him,” I thought to myself.

The closest I came to cooking at that time was spaghetti, so I put on a large pot of water to heat and pulled out a jar of sauce and some hamburger meat and got to work. Dave watched me for a moment and then asked, “Can I help?”

“Um, sure.” A man who knew his way around the kitchen? I figured I had scored big time. Not only had he flown out to see me, but he was handy in the kitchen. I began to estimate the length of chain I would need to ensure he could be tethered in the basement, but still be able to make it around the kitchen to cook all of my meals.

Think Misery by Stephen King, only with a kind, caring psycho fan.

You can NOT say this. Everyone will stop reading!

Fine, I take it back. Sort of. I would have made sure the chain had padding and was all soft and fluffy. While I was visualizing that (not really, I totally didn’t think of chaining him up until later) Dave asked, “So, do you have any olive oil?”

“Sure.” I handed it to him and he poured it into the pasta water.

“Do you have any fresh garlic?” he asked.

“Um, yes I think so.” I located it and handed it to him, watching as he pulled off a couple of cloves, smashed them with the flat of a blade and tossed them into the water as well.

What sorcery was this?

Twenty minutes later we were devouring the best spaghetti I had ever eaten. He hadn’t stopped at garlic and olive oil. He had also found fresh mushrooms, white wine, and black olives to add to the sauce.

And that’s when I realized a serious truth. Cooking isn’t just about making a man fall in love with you. It goes the same in the other direction. Cooking is love. My belly, empty and plagued with nervous flutters for hours, was now warm and full. And all I could think of was how do I make this one stay?

And honestly, the last thirteen years has all been about that. Because ladies (and gents), I had found the man of my dreams, and he was a damned fine cook.


©Christine D. Shuck

Enter the Happy Dance

Gliese 581-Departure

Self-publishing can be rather traumatizing at times. After four major edits, which included reading the entire manuscript out loud to my husband, I finally felt as if it was ready for publication. The road there was full of ups and downs.

In the next day or two, it will be live on Amazon and available for purchase in paperback and a Kindle formats.

For a limited time I am offering this book for free in exchange for honest, unbiased reviews. If you are interested, I will be happy to send it to you. Whether you have a Nook, Kindle, or just prefer a pdf, I’ve got them all, ready and waiting!

By the way, did you know that you can follow an author on Amazon? I just used my author page as the link. Click that yellow Follow button on the left-hand side and Amazon will automatically notify you, the reader, whenever a new book is released.

And now on to my next project!