Everyone loves good news, and the judge who critiqued Malibu Bride as part of the Writers Digest Self-Published Book Awards contest gave me plenty. The news is so good that I’ve decided to print most of that critique here in its entirety:

This is a well-crafted, entertaining story that offers a reading experience akin to a bon-bon on a rainy (or snowy) afternoon. The author captures the essence of Los Angeles and the movie industry by incorporating quirky characters, lavish lifestyles, luxury brands, and just enough name-dropping when it comes to restaurants, wines, movies, and fashion that are part of that la-la lifestyle. (He did his research!) Even his choice of names is so LA and part of his ingenious humor.

The central women in the story are strong heroines, and their love interests captivating. It’s a modern romance, with a hint of erotica and tongue-in-cheek humor, offered at the speed of light.

The writer is obviously seasoned, highly skilled professional and the story is breezy and fun to read. The names of the supporting characters are hysterical, the dialogue snappy and fun.

I didn’t become a seasoned, highly skilled professional overnight—or alone. I’ve been writing professionally since age 19, and every step of the way there were people who forced me to improve. I mean, I couldn’t turn in crappy copy to my editor at the Racine Journal Times when fellow reporter Lori Bergstrom’s stories were going to appear in the same section of the newspaper.

I likewise have to bring my A game if I’m going to get author Donna McDonald to give me the thumbs up sign and say, as she did after reading Malibu Bride, “I want a Judas martini. And a Holt. Don’t tell my husband. But Holt. . .what can I say?” Or McKlenna Family Series author Katherine Lowry Logan to write, “A fun, fun book. Strong women, great descriptions. Very well-written,” as she did about Palm Springs Heat.
Before I earn comments like those, I have to perform for a demanding crowd, starting with Judy Cornfield, a member of my writers group who’s working on a brilliant YA novel with romantic elements set during the early days of Prohibition. Judy thinks she learns more from me than I do from her, but she’s wrong.
Then I have to get past my editor, who is also my wife Mary Jo. When she sits down to one of my manuscripts, she doesn’t just grab a pencil, she also sets up the electric sharpener so it’s handy every time the lead gets dull. And then there’s my proofreader Dulcie, who puts a few more pencils—and the manuscript—through the mill.
I know you’re not supposed to write to gain the approval of others but, damn, the approval of others sure feels swell. Especially when the approval comes from people who know what they’re doing.
The Writers Digest contest didn’t net me the grand prize, but I have no qualms about the word “ingenious” appearing in a sentence about something I wrote. And I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of reading the line about Malibu Bride being “a reading experience akin to a bon-bon on a rainy (or snowy) afternoon.” Bon-bons exist only to put a smile on your face.
Writing romance novels has broadened the scope of my work and my life experience. It’s  also led me to meet some amazing people. And that alone makes me a winner.
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