Paper Trails

Literary cold readers are unsung heroes, the Yodas of the writing world that read first or second drafts—the proud mess we create before the final manuscript. My cold readers saved my tail more often than I can count, at times seeming to understand my characters better than I do. I pour over every critical comment, agree to disagree, let them change my mind, and trust their judgment in the stretch. I don’t know what I would do without them. My current group of cold readers is golden, but occasionally other people offer to join in on the fun.

“Let me edit your book for you. All my friends at work use me to check everything they write. I have the best grammar and punctuation.”

“I’ll read your book for you in advance. Send me a copy and I’ll give you ideas.”

Though I respect and appreciate the gesture, my response is generally a non-committal nod or a gentle thank you because giving an unedited novel to an acquaintance seems something like leaving a baby with a new sitter. Will they care as much as I do? Will they be wise, smart, truthful?

One time I gave in, and received my funniest review ever. A mystery-loving friend had helped me with research on a tricky and unfamiliar subject for my second novel, Bruja Brouhaha. When he offered to read the final draft, I decided his input on my treatment of the topic would be valuable. Handing him a printed copy for comment, I told him I had a month before the submission deadline.

“I can’t wait to read it,” he said as we parted.

A week passed, no word. Okay. He’s busy. I get that. Two weeks in, I was a little nervous but still had time to correct flaws when he got back to me. Six days before deadline, I lived in panic. He hated the novel. That’s why he dodged my friendly “How are you?” email. Two days before deadline (I still had time!) curiosity overcame self-respect and I called him.

During our “Hey, how’s it going?” chitchat, not word about the manuscript. I felt like a supplicating fool but the paranoid writer in me HAD to know. “Um, did you read my book?”

“Oh! Didn’t I tell you? I had the flu. I read a few pages then got too sick to finish. I will. I promise. But the paper you printed it on is FANTASTIC. What kind is it?”

The paper??? Head-smacking special stock from writer hell. Fortunately, days earlier my trusted cold readers gave me a thumbs up on the last draft. I submitted the manuscript to my editor and moved on. The novel, Bruja Brouhaha, recently won the Watson award at Left Coast Crime.

Tuesday, May 7, marks the release of my third novel, Hex on the Ex.  Divorced psychologist Liz Cooper thinks she left her emotional baggage behind when she moves into her new home, but the past comes back to haunt her in a bitter clash with a former rival whose murder casts a shadow on Liz as suspect #1. She enlists her family, friends, and a colorful defense attorney to clear to her name, but only Liz’s boyfriend—occult expert Nick Garfield—may be able to decipher the cryptic, devilish clue the murderer left behind.

I hope you enjoy the read!


0 thoughts on “Paper Trails

  • VR Barkowski

    Can’t wait to curl up in my favorite chair, open the cover and dig into HEX ON THE EX, Rochelle. Wishing a joy and much success with your THIRD (can you believe it?) Mind for Murder mystery.

    • Rochelle Staab

      Thanks, Norb! Well, as you read (or didn’t read) above, I chickened out on calling out my World Series prediction. I had a strange experiences after my first two novels came out. I set the stories in Los Angeles and use real places and facts about the city. After publication, restaurants I included closed, and mini-malls flew up on the empty lots I used. I’m pretty convinced that because I wrote about the Curse of the Billy Goat in HEX ON THE EX, the curse will end and the Cubs will win their first series since 1908.

      I know it’s only May, but the Cubs have the second worst record in MLB. Miracles happen, and from now on when I’m in Vegas I’ll place a small wager on the Cubs to win the series, but calling out the Cubs as a World Series contender is almost embarrassing! But again…it’s only May.

  • Romalyn

    Love this!!! My experiences are similar … but thank goodness one friend, YOU!, read my query in matter of minutes and provided such helpful feedback.