Friday, May 6, 2011
My Dumb Ugly Baby
By Deborah Sharp
Why don't people like my middle child?
Don't work yourselves into a lather, parents. I'm not about to cyber-humiliate an actual youngster here. I don't even have kids. I'm talking about my middle book, Mama Rides Shotgun. Don't all authors think of their books as their babies? I know I do; and it makes me as mad as any mama to see my second-born being ignored.
This became clear to me last week at Malice Domestic, a conference of mystery readers and writers held each year near Washington, D.C. The good news: The conference bookstore, Mystery Loves Company, sold out of the first and third volumes in my Mace Bauer Mystery Series. The bad: There sat an ample supply of Shotgun, forgotten and forlorn, like the unpopular kids at that table in the back of the school cafeteria.
What is it? The trail ride setting? Too many would-be readers afraid of horses? Or is it the Shotgun of the title? Too old-fashioned a firearm in a world of SIG Sauers and Glocks? Ohmigod, is it the poor child's mother? Is she trying too hard?
Whatever. I feel like that mom who just knows her unpopular kid is as smart and special as the homecoming queen (maybe more so), if only the other kids would take the time to get to know her.
Maybe I'm just fooling myself. As a middle child, I have tons of experience in the realm of being overlooked. When the First Born comes along, everyone says: ''What a tiny, perfect miracle!''
With the baby of the family, friends and relatives gather to coo: ''Awwww, so cute!''
Here's what they say, eyes glazing over, about Little Miss Middle Child: ''Oh, I didn't realize you had three kids.''
Is it just me, or do other series authors see the same phenomenon? The debut continues to sell. The latest release garners some excitement. And the one in the middle? Glazed eyes and, ''Oh, I didn't realize you had three books.''
How will the series fare as I add more titles? My fourth, Mama Sees Stars comes out in September. So, will there now be two middle books as series wallflowers, while No. 1 and No. 4 dance under the disco ball at the prom? Or, will it still just be Shotgun, all alone in the corner, wearing the dunce's cap?
How about it, series authors? Do your middle ''kids'' get ignored? Readers, do you prefer to start at the beginning of a series? Or, will you happily pick up the author's titles in no particular order?
In other words, is this a general trend? Or, is it just my poor little Shotgun that's so unappreciated? Go ahead, be honest. Break a mother's heart.