by Julie, loving 50 degree weather in Somerville
I want to offer a wicked welcome to Diane Vallere. Diane’s most recent book, A Disguise to Die For, the first in her Costume Shop Mystery series, debuted February 2. This is Diane’s fourth series. But, as she talks about in this post, that wasn’t always a given.
Your Toughest Opponent
It might be odd for a former fashion buyer turned mystery writer to base a blog post about a Rocky movie. I’m not a boxing fan, and have probably never seen a fight that wasn’t part of the movie franchise. But whether it’s because I’m from a town near Philly or because more than once in my life I’ve heard the phrase, “you can’t do that,” I connect very strongly with the character.
There is a scene in the current movie Creed where Rocky and Adonis face a mirror. “See this guy here?” says Rocky, gesturing to Adonis’ own reflection. “That’s the toughest opponent you’re ever gonna have to face. I believe that’s true in the ring, and I believe that’s true in life.” And it appears to be a pretty true about publishing, too. Because while every book brings its own unique joy—the culmination of weeks, months, years of sitting at the desk with fingers on the keyboard, imagining a story and finding a way to capture it—every book also brings risk. It brings an opportunity to be criticized, to be told we’re no good. It brings a voice to the doubts that we relegate to the back of our minds, the same voice that asks, Why do you think you can do this? Nobody else does.
Ten years after I first started writing, I published my first book. My personal journey had changed a lot in those ten years: divorce after thirteen years of marriage, a move from Texas to California, losing the companionship of the cat I’d adopted right after college, and willingly giving up my corporate career. Writing had become a constant through that tumultuous time and after years spent revising manuscripts and querying agents, I chose a different path and considered putting the book out myself. The decision felt right. I would be moving forward, not standing still.
And then, this happened:
Vallere’s decades of experience in the fashion industry don’t quite translate into entertaining storytelling in this middling cozy. Samantha Kidd takes a professional gamble—leaving her secure job as senior buyer of ladies’ designer shoes in New York City to become the trend specialist at Traveda—a family owned company in her hometown of Ribbon, Pa. But the first day at her new job couldn’t be worse: she finds her fashion director boss, Patrick, dead in an elevator, and after the EMTs arrive to transport the corpse, the body vanishes. With the only person able to verify her employer dead, and no actual body to examine, the police are naturally skeptical of her story. Determined to restore her reputation, Kidd sets about playing detective. Patrick’s scheduled involvement in an upcoming design competition—he was to be one of the judges—is one of several motives Kidd investigates. Her bravado (“Some crazy killer out there was going about to learn one thing. You don’t mess with the Kidd”) comes across as silly rather than convincing, and the intelligence Kidd must have had to succeed in her field is sadly absent in her avocation as amateur sleuth. © Copyright Pwxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Not gonna lie. That’s not what I’d hoped for from my first Publisher’s Weekly review. That review was like a punch to the gut in round one of a fight where I was in over my head. It told me that everything I’d done up to that point—the writing classes, the research, the revisions, and the editing—hadn’t been enough. If I’d listened to that review, I would have hung up my gloves and quit.
But here’s the thing: after all that, I didn’t quit. And the real kicker? Publishing that book got my foot into the door of the industry and led me to today where I’m writing four series for three different publishers and have recently celebrated my eleventh book’s release.
That’s the nature of the journey. Every time a book comes out, we, as the authors, open ourselves up to criticism. It takes courage and confidence and thick skin. But most of all, it takes the ability to look at our book and believe in it. To know that we are our own toughest critic; we are the opponent. We can halt our own advancement by playing it safe and keeping our manuscripts on our computers, unread. Or we can get out of our own way and keep moving forward despite what anybody says because we each control our future.
And to paraphrase Rocky Balboa, I think that’s true about writing, and I think it’s true about life.
Readers: What area of life have you opposed yourself in? How did it work out? Questions for Diane about her rocky path to publication and her recent successes?
No sooner does former magician’s assistant Margo Tamblyn return home to Proper City, Nevada, to run Disguise DeLimit, her family’s costume shop, than she gets her first big order. Wealthy nuisance Blitz Manners needs forty costumes for a detective-themed birthday bash. As for Blitz himself, his Sherlock Holmes is to die for—literally—when, in the middle of the festivities, Margo’s friend and party planner Ebony Welles is caught brandishing a carving knife over a very dead Blitz.For Margo, clearing Ebony’s name is anything but elementary, especially after Ebony flees town. Now Margo is left to play real-life detective in a town full of masked motives, cloaked secrets, and veiled vendettas. But as she soon learns, even a killer disguise can’t hide a murderer in plain sight for long.