I was becoming quite the hypocrite. I'm an indie author, and I firmly believe that indies can write good books, but I was becoming more and more hesitant about actually picking them up and reading them. Why? Because the first two indie books I tried to read were awful. Worse than awful. They were atrocious. The mistakes went so far beyond typos and the occasional misplaced comma that I couldn't even finish them. And I never fail to finish a book. Ever.
But I knew there had to be some indies out there who actually knew how to use the English language. I just needed to find them. And because I'm an indie author myself, I knew that if I could find them, then promote them to the world, I'd be helping myself too because, hey, if one indie book can be good, others can too. And that includes my books. Right? Well, I hope so.
There's also the whole networking thing, which I pretty much suck at but I'm trying to get better. These monthly features are a first step.
The Criteria I Thought I'd Follow
I was not going to feature a romance. A couple of reasons for this. First, it's never been my favorite genre. Over the years I've been gradually drawing the conclusion that if you've read one romance you've read them all. Frankly, they bore me. These feelings were most likely driven home by the fact that the last two romances I tried to read were Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey. So, okay, I have a tendency to read two books from a certain category, then judge the whole category by those two books alone. I should work on this. I am working on this. But I still wasn't going to feature a romance because, in addition to not particularly enjoying them, I also believe the indie market is saturated with them. I'm an indie author who dares to write something else, and I feel I'm getting lost in the shuffle. Even finding bloggers to review my books is a challenge because so many websites only review romance novels. So I was planning to find books which were close to my own genre and feature them. It was all part of the branding thing. I write paranormal books, so I should be showcasing paranormal books on my website.
I was also specifically looking for an author who knew how to follow the rules. Dotted every i. Crossed every t. I'd have been willing to overlook minor punctuation errors because I know I haven't fully mastered the art of the perfect comma and would never judge someone else for struggling in an area where I struggle, but I did at least want to see a general command of the language. That means no errors in verb tense. No misused homophones. Basically my plan was to be a grammar Nazi in my choice of a book.
When a Book Takes Me By Surprise
The book I chose made me rethink all my rules. First off, it's a romance. But I actually liked it. I know. Shocking, right? I was still fighting some prejudice toward this genre even as I was reading it and was thinking, "Do I really want to feature this book on my blog? I mean, I said I wouldn't do romance." But every time I put the book down, all I could think about was wanting to pick it up and read some more or it. If a book is affecting me that much, how can I not choose it for Indie Book of the Month?
The book also breaks some fundamental writing "rules". There are a few examples of wonky verb tense. There's some head hopping. There are some data dumps. But the thing is, I didn't mind them. In fact, the book is so well written in every other respect that I'm almost ready to assume those departures from the rules were deliberate. Reading it, I did not get the impression that the author was making the standard "newbie" mistakes. Rather, I got the impression that this is an author who knows what kind of story she's trying to construct and she's bending a few rules because she likes the effect she achieves when she does that. I may be wrong, but in the end it doesn't matter because this is a darn good book and I'm not going to nitpick the details.
So What Is the Book?
Under Winter Lights by Bree M. Lewandowski. Yes, it's a romance, but it's also so much more. It is about a young dancer. A newbie in the world of professional ballet. A dancer who constantly worries she doesn't have what it takes to be a success. Even when she is given the principal part in the company's latest production, she still struggles with severe self-esteem issues. Then, of course, there's a handsome male dancer who tells her how wonderful she is and tries to restore her confidence in herself. And from that grows the romance.
It was the ballet which pulled me into this book. If you've followed my blog you know some of my history with dance. I quit ballet as a child and didn't look back until I hit my twenties and realized dance was the one thing that was missing from my life. I now take ballet classes. I take tap and jazz. I do Highland Dance competitively. But the fact remains I'm a thirty-something with unfulfilled dance dreams. This book allowed my to live my dreams vicariously through the characters. The descriptions of classes, clothing, warm-ups, music, etc. are so vivid I felt like I was really there with Martina. When she stepped out on stage, I stepped out on stage with her. The world presented in this book is a beautiful one, but like all beautiful things it has a dark side. The author does an excellent job of showing both the beauty and the darkness of professional ballet.
If you like romance, buy this book. If you like ballet, buy this book. If you know nothing about ballet and want to learn a little something, buy this book. You won't regret it.
Here are the links: