Mingling at Netgalley

Just a year ago, I’d never heard of Netgalley, hadn’t realized there was a social media site for booksellers, librarians, educators, book influencers and reviewers where they could request digital ARCs (Advanced reader copies), rate them and vote on covers.

Since I first learned about it, I’ve been both excited and nervous of my debut novel being uploaded to the site. What in the world would readers make of my non-formulaic mystery-thriller-gothic-suspense? I knew opinions would be broad, range from “No, thanks. Too different.” to “Wowser! Loved it. So different!”

Well, this week something occurred to me. My book is at a party. It’s a wild party with a vastly mixed crowd; the guestlist is amazeballs. And my book is mingling with these incredible other books. It has already sat right next to some mind-blowing works-of-fiction, non-fiction, children’s fiction and picture books.

I’ve been watching the ‘Netgalley’ show like some people have been binge-watching Bridgerton. What is going to happen next!

“Oh my God. Look who arrived at the ball. Holy cow, you go girl! Steal the show! You earned it, YOU GENIUS!”

And, “Geez. Why they snubbing HIM? People, people, show that one some love!”

And, “I’m gonna die happy. Look who just sat down right beside A Cruel Light. My book is in the presence of royalty. I am soooo not worthy! (Deep curtsy) I’ll just bask in YOUR light for a while, okay?”

The authors who are currently on Netgalley and have free galleys available for request are legendary and beyond awesome. I feel like I’ve shown up at the bookish version of a Hollywood A-lister soiree and I’m mingling with both legends and the newest stars.

I mean Margaret Atwood is here! Atwood!

Other attendees: Jodi Picoult. Gregg Olsen, Ann-Marie McDonald, Celeste Ng, Nicci French, Joy Ellis, Stacy Willingham, Dennis Lehane, Janet Dailey, Veronica Roth, John Grisham, Diana Palmer, Hester Fox and Holly Jackson. Thirty-two other Crooked Lane Books authors are also at this cooler-than-cool party including Vicky Delaney, Leanne Kale Sparks and Alex Kenna.

To say that I feel out of my element is to put it mildly. I am fighting with imposter syndrome on a daily basis. Cinderella at the ball, waiting for that clock to tell her to run for the carriage.

Meanwhile, I’m making popcorn, watching as new authors walk the red carpet, staring in wonder at their magnificence, urging myself to savour this magic before it all disappears.

Party on, fellow authors! Party on!


Facing the Dragons

As an author, I refuse to compromise my beliefs or sell my soul in order to sell books. I realize that in a perfect world readers would not be racist, sexist, homophobic, classist or religiousist. But even xenophobes like to read . . . and review books.

Though I am mindful about cultural appropriation, my stories will always include characters who are not white, not Christian, not heterosexual and who are comfortable with who they are. My main characters are liberal-minded folks who fight the good fight, so readers who–for example–are anti-indigenous will dislike my book for its inclusion of First Nations peoples and sacred, traditional art. They may see this kind of inclusion to be baffling, unnecessary to the story, and/or out-and-out annoying.

Agawa Rock, Ontario, photo taken by Sheri Minardi

I have forced them out of their comfort zone.

My second novel includes a lesbian married couple, POC and activists. It will address both domestic abuse and the patriarchy. Art will again play a major role in the mystery, as will how women have been and are still being portrayed in works of art.

I’m not playing it safe. I refuse to whitewash my fiction. My novels are loud and proud. Yeah, so there be dragons, over there, ugly ism-dragons that resent the fact that I am mapping my worlds with diverse characters. In a way, I am daring those dragons to fire away, fire away, try ‘n burn my books or discourage others to read them with smoke and mirrors.

I know my book will not be enjoyed by everyone, even by those who share my convictions! (I want to make that abundantly clear!) My genre-blending Gothic mystery will be too hybrid for some.

Now, as far as those ism-dragons go? They can huff all they want. I’m not scared. Why? Because I know that readers are as diverse as my characters. I will trust in the power of perception, and the wonders of open minds. First reviewers have said my novel is ‘unique’, ‘fresh’, ‘refreshing’, ‘a good mystery’, ‘interesting’, and unputdownable. (I was so touched!) I am grateful and amazed and excited and thrilled that already some readers have enjoyed my book.

Wait till you see what comes next!

Cheers. 🙂

My Beautiful Book Cover

Admittedly, it was hard to nail down a cover for my genre-blending mystery/thriller/romantic suspense/gothic novel. What image would best encapsulate the story while intriguing readers?

The book delves into chiaroscuro, both in art and in literature, so the book cover should reflect that dramatic contrast between light and darkness.

My main character, Annora Garde, is an art conservator who is hired by the police to help clean a long-hidden, cryptic mural that holds clues and could solve a sixty year old cold case. It seemed natural to weave symbols into a cover for a novel that explores symbolism. Within the book, I mention many sources of light. But which one could be used symbolically?

It came to me: fireflies.

The firefly is a strange insect. From a distance, it seems to be magical, fairy-like, almost angelic, certainly benign. But as a larvae, the insect is a carnivore; it ravenously feeds on snails and slugs which are too slow to escape them. The victims are first injected with a numbing chemical and then are consumed alive. Some adults eat their own kind, and certain species even use their light to lure prey. Also, Victorians believed that should a firefly enter a home, it was an omen of death, and the book’s setting is a large Victorian parsonage.. Fireflies, not as pretty as they look.

In the Victorian language of flowers, the peony symbolizes love, compassion, honour and luck, but the wilting, dying peony is considered a harbinger of a disaster to come. (Look carefully at the peonies on my cover. What do you see?)

Though I feel awkward about the size of my name on the cover, I chose to not request that it be made smaller. Both the publisher and the designer, Nicole Lecht, had worked hard on the design, and I was so happy with everything else, I chose to keep my shyness to myself.

I can’t wait to hold this beauty. I made a ‘mock-up’ cover, just to see what that would feel like. It felt bloody awesome! It felt like a dream come true. My husband said that if I was this happy with my cloned book that I’d probably happy-bawl when I hold the real thing.

He knows me so well. I will have a box of tissues on stand by.