There have been a number of tales of woe recently on the authors’ listservs about comments they’ve received from judges in writing competitions. My sympathy goes to the authors concerned, completely. I’ve been on both sides of contest submission, and the agony and frustration of nasty comments to which you cannot reply still leaves a bitter taste.
Loveland was my first book and, as such, I was constantly seeking guidance on how well I was doing, where I was going wrong, what were its good points and what I could ditch. I had readers look at it, and what I subsequently ditched were its first 72 pages! After that, I was dependent on competitions. In one competition, I came in fourth, 3 judges loving the book and a fourth tearing it to shreds in the most unconstructive and unsupportive manner. What use is it to a writer if a judge cracks snarky (Melissa, you must forgive me, please) remarks about your writing? Criticism should be constructive, not sarcastic and biting.
As a judge, I have my pet hates as does every other reader. I hate finding anachronisms in historical books. I dislike reading a single book from a series when the author mentions characters and scenes from former books in the series, leaving me in a fog. There are grammatical mistakes I can live with and those which drive me nuts, such as misplaced modifiers that make me go back and re-read a sentence several times in order to understand it. The same goes for a plethora of “he”s or “she”s leaving me wondering to whom they refer. And then there is just bad writing: characters who act out of character such as having a heroine who would never ever fall for this hero, info dumping, sagging middles and so on. When I was recently judging, I read a book with a build-up that made me think something important was about to happen; it didn’t, and the book fell completely flat. And the same book had the heroine removing her shoes twice on the same page.
In judging, what there isn’t, is a need to tell an author all this in a caustic and mocking manner. Judges are like doctors—they are doctors who help fix your writing, guide you in the right direction, just as your medic points out to you what pills to take or what tests should be run. Who would return to a doctor who was derisive and disrespectful?
Yup, judge not lest ye be judged—it’s the perfect maxim to keep in mind when you sign up to consider the excellence of a book. Happily for me, Loveland is now being re-released by Amazon Encore so I’m past the competition period. Oh, but then, of course, there are reviews…
Genre: western historical romance
When Lady Alexandra Calthorpe returns to the Loveland, Colorado, ranch owned by her father, the Duke, she has little idea of how the experience will alter her future. Headstrong and willful, Alex tries to overcome a disastrous marriage in England and be free of the strictures of Victorian society –and become independent of men. That is, until Jesse Makepeace saunters back into her life…
Hot-tempered and hot-blooded cowpuncher Jesse Makepeace can’t seem to accept that the child he once knew is now the ravishing yet determined woman before him. Fighting rustlers proves a whole lot easier than fighting Alex when he’s got to keep more than his temper under control.
Arguments abound as Alex pursues her career as an artist and Jesse faces the prejudice of the English social order. The question is, will Loveland live up to its name?
Buy Links for LOVELAND:
For the eBook, Amazon Encore
For the print book, The Wild Rose Press
The light was failing and the birds were settling with their evening calls. Somewhere in the pasture a horse nickered. She sensed Jesse was there, watching, but she never turned as he stood at the fence. She heard him climb over and ease up behind her. He took the coiled rope from her in his left hand and slid his right hand over hers on the swing end, almost forcing her backward into his arms.
She thought of paintings and statues she had seen, imagining his naked arms now, how the muscles would form them into long oblique curves, how he probably had soft downy fair hair on his forearms, how his muscle would slightly bulge as he bent his arm. His voice was soft in her ear, and she could feel his breath on her neck like a whispered secret.
“Gentle-like, right to left, right to left to widen the noose, keep your eye on the post—are you watchin’ where we’re goin’?”
He made the throw and pulled in the rope to tighten the noose. Alex stood there, his hand still entwined with hers and, for a moment, she wished they could stand like that forever. Then she took her hand away and faced him. For a second he rested his chin on the top of her head, then straightened again and went to get the noose off the post while coiling in the rope. She looked up at him in the fading light and saw nothing but kindness in his face, simplicity and gentleness that was most inviting. A smile spread across her face as he handed her the coiled rope and sauntered away, turning once to look back at her before he opened the gate. Emptiness filled her like a poisoned vapor seeking every corner of her being, and she stood with the rope in her hand listening to the ring of his spurs as his footsteps retreated.
Andrea Downing likes to say that when she decided to do a Masters Degree, she made the mistake of turning left out of New York, where she was born, instead of right to the west, and ended up in the UK. She eventually married there, raising a beautiful daughter and staying for longer than she cares to admit. Teaching, editing a poetry magazine, writing travel articles, and a short stint in Nigeria, as well as extensive travel throughout Europe, Africa and Latin America, filled those years. She returned to NYC in 2008. She now divides her time between the city and the shore, and often trades the canyons of New York for the wide open spaces of Wyoming. Family vacations are frequently out west and, to date, she and her daughter have been to over 25 ranches throughout the west. Loveland, her first book, was a finalist for Best American Historical at the 2013 RONE Awards and her three further novels and novellas have garnered several awards.
Links to social media/website/etc.:
WEBSITE AND BLOG: http://andreadowning.com
Twitter: @andidowning https://twitter.com/AndiDowning
AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE: http://www.amazon.com/Andrea-Downing/e/B008MQ0NXS/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
“Andrea Downing has crafted a masterpiece with Loveland. Her fast-paced romantic western keep readers wondering how the story can ever be resolved…Downing is a strong writer who has written a worthy premiere novel. She handles romantic scenes with flair while showing the nitty-gritty of ranch life in the 1880s. Loveland is packed with action and emotion, leaving the reader wanting more. Loveland is one of those books I hated to have end. A hands-down five-star novel.” Mary E. Trimble, Captivating Stories from the American West to West Africa
“…Great storytelling! Even though the happy ending is a given, the journey was much more satisfying because of the snappy dialogue, the pivotal plotting, and the realistic progression of Alex and Jesse’s emotional connection. I’m happy to give this book Five Stars!
Lynda Coker, Between the Pages
“Andrea Downing does a very good job of depicting the hard life on a ranch in the late 1800´s as well as the struggles of a high-society woman to gain independence. I like the authors descriptive style and the pace throughout the book is very high, with one dramatic event after the other unfolding…The author does a good job in adding a lot of interesting historical detail and a fun group of supporting characters to give this classic romantic story more depth. I would recommend Loveland for lovers of romance and historical fiction enthusiasts.”
–Daniella, The TBR Pile
Tags: western historical romance, cowboys, British aristocracy, Colorado ranches, Andrea Downing