Friday, January 17, 2014

The Review That Put A Smile On My Face

When I published my first ebook a few years ago my main thought was, "Will people like it?" Like all writers, I care what readers think of my work, and I was a little nervous about the reception my ebooks would get.
Now that some time has gone by, I can say that I am very happy. The overwhelming majority of the reviews of my ebooks have been positive, especially for my "Rose Of Skibbereen" series. It's been a great experience to see that people do like these fictional characters I created.
And once in a while, I get a review that is so good it puts a smile on my face for days.
The other day someone named Debora Kerr posted a review like that on Amazon. Here's an excerpt:

"McDonnell shines in his characterizations. I wish there were entire volumes dedicated to some of the other people in the novel, such as Rose's "bewitched" mother and the treacherous Mary. It was very natural to identify with the motives and emotions of all the characters. None of them sunk into limited good girl/bad guy cliches."

Wow! I am so happy, not just because she liked my characters, but because she appreciated the fact that they have nuances about them. They are not simple, one dimensional characters. They have gray areas, they are combinations of good and bad, just like real people. You can't put them into a box; the bad guys have good qualities, and the good guys have flaws.
Just like in real life.
My favorite thing about fiction is creating characters, because I love getting to know them, and seeing where their complex inner lives will lead them. Soon I'm going to start on Book Four of the "Rose Of Skibbereen" series, and I expect to meet more complex, flawed, but fascinating characters.
It will be fun getting to know them.
And maybe I'll get another review that will put a smile on my face.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Dreams And Realities In 2014

It’s the start of a new year, and the Internet is filled with people summing up the past year, proclaiming their plans and resolutions for the fresh new batch of 365 days that arrived recently, and generally doing a lot of pontificating about the passage of Time. 
So, I’ll weigh in with a bit of pontificating also. 
What did I learn in 2013?
That life is short, and you can’t wait around for your dreams to come to you. You have to reach out and grab for them. 
One reason I learned this lesson is that I lost my mother in 2013.
She was sick for a few years, and in some ways it’s a blessing that she doesn’t have to endure any more pain or humiliation, but it was still sad to see her go. I’ve lost both of my parents now, and there’s nothing like losing your parents to make you feel the passage of time. 
And so, now that I’ve realized the clock is ticking, it has occurred to me that I have a limited amount of time left in the game. The dream that I’ve been carrying around for my whole life, the one where I become a successful writer of fiction? I now realize that it’s time to stop dreaming about it and start doing the legwork to make it come true. I could always put it off when I was younger, stow it away in the “Someday” drawer. Not anymore. “Someday” is not some vague misty thing anymore. It’s getting closer all the time, and I can see the outline of it in my rear view mirror.  
Actually, I have been taking steps to realize my dream for some years now. When my father died in the 1990s I started writing short stories again, after abandoning them in my youth. I got some published, and that satisfied me for a time. 
Then, I realized that it was time to try bigger things. I wrote a novel, then another, then another. And, I have to say that my timing has been good. The last ten years have seen a revolution in the publishing industry, so that writers everywhere can get published more easily than at any time in history. The digital revolution has meant that you can publish a novel as easily as you can write a Word document, and in a matter of minutes you can have it available to more people than Gutenberg could have dreamed of when he printed the first hardbound book.
So 2013 was a bad year because my mother died, but it was also a good year because I published the first three volumes of my “Rose Of Skibbereen” series. I published 150,000 words about this Irish girl, based on my great-grandmother, who came to America in 1880 and had many adventures, heartaches and joys. To my great happiness, the ebook sold well. I was a novelist! It was a term I could never use before about myself, but now, by God, I could. 
So the lesson I learned in 2013 was that dreaming is a good thing, but you have to combine it with doing. If you want your dreams to come true, you have to start working on them, one day at a time. 
I won’t make any great predictions for 2014, but I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing -- writing every day, publishing more ebooks as I finish them. And if current trends continue, I’ll get some more readers along the way. 
And hopefully my dreams will keep coming true.