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I was reading an article this week on tips for obtaining a literary agent. What struck me was the author’s authoritative insistence that without a “perfect” manuscript, drafted and redrafted and redrafted yet again, a writer is doomed to be ignored and never to be published. If that is true, I am wondering why so many books are out there, indie and traditionally published alike, because I am yet to read a “perfect” one. Have you?

I myself hate the cult of “perfectionism” because it creates a myth that victimizes the rest of us who are just trying to do our best work. Note that “ best work” is not “perfect work.” In between learning that Dance For A Dead Princess had been nominated by Foreward Reviews for its Book of the Year Award in Romance and learning Dance was the sole Finalist for the Beverly Hills Book Award in Romance, I got an e-mail one morning informing me my “review was ready” from a indie author book review service I had contacted ages ago. I scrolled down and read absolutely the nastiest, snarkiest review of my book imaginable. No, let me rephrase that. The nastiest, snarkiest review of any book imaginable. Apparently I’d unwittingly fallen into the hands of the High Priestess of Perfection. So while munching my slightly underdone egg and overdone toast, and drinking a less than perfectly brewed cup of coffee (but happy to have a warm breakfast anyway), I learned that the High Priestess found my plot “contrived,” thought the use of the diary to tell the inner story was “the oldest literary cliche” out there, and was just outraged because the word “lame” got into the text without an accent over the e. Oh, whoops, my eternal bad. High Priestess said nothing about my ability to draw a reader vividly into a scene. (A New York editor had given me that accolade years ago.) High Priestess had nothing to say about all the readers on GoodReads and Amazon who had stayed up at night to find out what happened. And, of course, she had no idea what the judges at Foreward thought of Dance for A Dead Princess. No, she was dead set in her opinion that Dance wasn’t perfect and therefore not worthy of anyone’s time of day.

Well, I agreed with her. If perfect is your bag, Dance is not for you. But, then, neither are the rest of the books out there. Wonder if High Priestess has given that much thought?

Fortunately, I’ve been a writer long enough to know what I do well, and where I can improve. I listen to honest reader feedback. I learn. I grow. But I have not one single aspiration to be Perfect. My heart was broken enough times on that wheel growing up, and I have no intention of the punched-in-the-gut feeling that comes from hours and hours of working and hoping for that “Perfect” accolade, only to find all effort wasted because the accent mark didn’t find its home over the “e.”

I think it is useless and wrong to preach the religion of “Perfectionism.” One Christmas I went to a luncheon here in San Diego that a local group of attorneys sponsored in honor of the season. We sat in a semi-dark cavern of a room, at fifty or sixty round tables covered in spotless linen (or the lights were dimmed to hide the spots, take your choice), and potted poinsettias were plopped in the center of the table (to give the proceedings that “festive” air, I guess). We ate rubbery chicken with a glob of gravy on top, dressing that I swear was made out of old newspapers, and green beans that had been run through a pot of boiling water for ten seconds flat. (I assumed those beans spoke French.)

Since I was starving, I opted to search for food value in the wilted lemon meringue pie that had probably been parked by each diner’s place around 8:30 that morning. And as I sent my blood sugar soaring on an empty stomach, I listened to the speaker, a middle-aged attorney in a bright purple suit, who was presenting a writing award to a student from one of the local law schools. What interested me was the Speaker’s awe-inspired assurance that this student was “Perfect” because she put every one of her writing projects through at least ten drafts. Had Madame Middle-Aged Purple Suit taken leave of her senses, I wondered. Which one of her clients would have paid the hourly rate of a junior attorney who couldn’t produce a fileable document (fileable, not perfect) in one draft and a final? No client on earth is going to pay for ten drafts. Nor should he or she have to. What unreasonable and unworkable standard of the cult of “Perfectionism” was Purple Suit advocating in the midst of stultifying boredom?

Perhaps Miss Ten Drafts went on to be a disciple of the High Priestess, I don’t know. I never went to another holiday luncheon. I’m not perfect, my books are perfect, my readers aren’t perfect, and I love us all just the way we are. I’m throwing my hat in the ring to stamp out the religion of Perfectionism!

The High Priestess

The High Priestess

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Hi, Everyone, Two bits of exciting news for Dance For A Dead Princess this week. First, at long last, it is available in paperback at Amazon.com!

Second, below is a preview of the review of Dance For A Dead Princess that will be in the October edition of the Midwest Book Review!

Dance for a Dead Princess is a work of fiction loosely based on facts surrounding Princess Diana’s life, and opens with the premise that Princess Diana received a death threat shortly before her accident, recorded the phone call, and gave the information to a close friend in America who subsequently died under mysterious circumstances.

Diane’s close (and rich) friend Duke Nicholas, the second richest man in England, would seem to have more than enough resources to track down this missing information, (which seems to have wound up at a Wall Street attorney’s office), but though he can lure Taylor to England with the promise of selling his ancestral estate to one of her clients, he can’t force her to turn over the tape. Nor can he control the unexpected: his sudden infatuation with her.

On Taylor’s part, she views Nicholas as a spoiled, selfish rich man and only wants to represent her client as quickly as possible and return home. She’s recovering from a broken engagement and the last thing she needs is another romance. But then, the last thing she also needs is involvement with a piece of evidence that could and place her in jeopardy while providing the definitive word about Diana’s death.

The plot becomes even more complex with the discovery a document which relates a history that gives her more compassion for Nicholas, who is battling to save his drug-addicted ward. Add an arrest for murder and Taylor finds herself more than immersed in a wildly twisting affair that moves between romance and murder mystery.

Now, I almost hesitate to mention the romance factor: too many romance novels are insipid, predictable, and shallow writings. And I even hesitate to bill this as a ‘mystery’ (even as a ‘historical mystery’) because so much genre writing in this area is also too dry.

Not so Dance for a Dead Princess, which maintains a vivid set of protagonists, clearly outlines motivations built upon their realistic personalities, and adds the backdrop of romance and mystery to create a complex and ever-evolving story line that’s anything but predictable.

For one thing, the historical references run the gamut from past to present. This lends a realistic background to the novel which clearly shows connections between timeline events and what motivates the protagonists. British history is offered as a real force affecting not only past, but present events.

For another, motivations for actions are clearly drawn. Nicholas is drawn to investigate Diana’s death not because she’s a famous personality, but because she was his friend – and his last connection to his wife, also deceased. So his drive to investigate her death comes from a personal, not a political, connection: “How many nights had he spent talking to Diana about his marriage, about her marriage, about his guilt over Deborah, and about the impossibility of being in love? Too many to count. He ached to tell her now how empty his life had become without either of them.”

The connections between Nicholas and Taylor are forged from a number of motivators; from shared feelings to an overall event that ties them together, and are thoroughly explored in a plot ripe with high drama, tense scenes, and realistic twists and turns throughout.

Fans of good solid fiction writing will find Dance for a Dead Princess is clearly more than a cut above genre writing, and will relish the definitive conclusion which leaves nothing hanging and much to enjoy.

D. Donovan, Senior eBook Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

Dance-for-a-Dead-Princess-Final

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