The Bad Side of Being an Author

George A Bernstein

Is there a bad side to being an author? Let me count the ways!

Seriously, though, writing, and especially fiction, is a lot like life…with both ups and downs. But this month’s topic is more about the “downs,” so let’s look at that.
As an author, we’ve worked hard on creating our masterpiece. At least, I know I have, especially when I learned being talented was not enough
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I read how-to books on creating a blockbuster and I regularly attend writers’ conferences (where there are more classes about the entire spectrum of being an author than I could possibly attend). I’d written four novels and was focused on getting my first, Trapped, as good as I could make it, and eventually published. I learned a lot about what makes good writing, and am amazed at how many people who strive to be authors just don’t do the work to develop their craft. 

Anyhow, the only thing remotely “bad” about any of the above, was the time and effort it took to polish my skills…and that really wasn’t so bad, after all. Some of the “bad” are things all authors experience…and have come to expect:



What’s really bad about rejection isn’t so much that this agent or that editor didn’t think your work was for them. It’s that you’ve slaved over the perfect query letter, after consuming a plethora of articles from those same agents/editors on how to do it right…how to create that compelling hook. And then you read their web site and write a personalized letter, showing them you know who they are and what they like. And then the rejection comes in your dutifully supplied SASE: 

“Dear Author (NOT personalized), Thanks for thinking of me. Unfortunately, this is not for us (Despite being right in the strike zone of what they say they love). Perhaps you will have better success with someone else.” Yeah? Who? 

The frustration is that you went through a lot of effort to show them you MAY be right for them, and they send the generic form letter. You know in your heart they probably never even looked at your submission. Agents admit they look for the tiniest things in the query to summarily reject you. Surely they are swamped with queries, but their cavalier dismissal of you treasure is very disheartening. How many great authors were nearly buried with rejections. Gresham, Louis L’amore (350 times – America’s premier western author), and J.K. Rowlings are a few.

Another “bad” thing can be contests. Contests have great potential for the new author. I’ve entered several, and in fact my novel, Trapped, is published by TAG Publishers because I won their Next Great American Novel Contest. Trapped was also a finalist in the Florida Writers annual RPLA fiction contest, with over 300 entrants. And the rub here come from inconsistent judging. To qualify as a finalist, the novel has to receive a total of 80 or more points, out of a possible 100, based on two preliminary judges evaluation of 10 different criteria, 1 – 5 points for each. Trapped received a total of 48 from one judge and 46 from the other, both very complimentary of character development, scenes, and the 1st person POV throughout of my main character, Jackee. The latter was at the suggestion of Dee Burks, editor at TAG Publishers. Every chapter was from the POV of Jackee, and whatever happened away from her had to be learned by what she saw and what she heard.

Unfortunately, the finalist judge didn’t like all the things the two prelim judges loved, and he/she especially wanted scenes with the other characters’ POVs. So, of course, Trapped, did not win the RPLA in 2012. It’s interesting, however, that readers unanimously say they can’t put it down, and I attribute that partly to the 1st person POV. I’ve had two of my other novels also as finalists in the RPLA, with almost identical results. High marks in prelims, but the finalist judge going another way. That, as I like to say, is why they make chocolate, vanilla and 39 other flavours.

So, I guess the recap for “The bad side of being an author,” can be condensed into possibly one word: FRUSTRATION. Frustration with the entire judgement system that tends to keep new, very talented authors off the market. 

Of course, now we have e-books, and anyone with a bit of computer skill can publish their tome. And unfortunately, self-published e-books (and print, as well, from all the POD companies, many of whom make their money mostly from the authors…not book sales) have come to be thought of as inferior… largely due to all those authors I mentioned earlier who aren’t willing to put in the work to become really good writers. There is, admittedly, a lot of junk out there. Hopefully, readers are able to sift out the nuggets and discard the chaff. That’s just one more potential frustration.

In spite of the above, I keep plugging. And it’s great to finally get the laudatory validation I’ve received for my work.

So maybe it’s all worth it, after all. 

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George A Bernstein is a youthful seventy-six-year-old, with a B.A. from Northwestern University, now living in south Florida, and the retired president of a publicly-held Chicago company. George’s main interest is as a serious novelist. He has attended numerous writers’ conferences and seminars, including that of famous fiction agent, Donald Maass, and he has worked with independent editor, Dave King, all with the goal of improving his craft. 

George is also a “World-Class” fly-fisherman, and has held a dozen various IGFA fishing World records. In his life before writing, George ran Outdoor Safaris, a World-wide fishing & hunting tour operator, working with airlines and travel agencies promoting premier sporting trips. He has also published the definitive book on fly-fishing for pike & musky, Toothy Critters Love Flies. 

George’s first novel, Trapped, is published by TAG Publishers, after being a finalist in their Next Great American Novel contest. Dee Burks and her staff really love the story, and her revision suggestions helped make Trapped the best it can be. Trapped was also a finalist at the 2012 Florida Writers Association RPLA fiction contest in 2012. Trapped has received virtually all 5-Star reviews on Amazon. 


The darkness is still, silent. Jackee Maren’s heart pounds reverberating through her body as fear sears her veins. Someone’s coming. No way out. This time they will kill me. Her breath is short, her chest burns. Must run. Faster. Faster! Her eyes fly open, her heart still racing with blinding fear. Jackee breathes deeply with relief and stares at the ceiling desperately trying to calm herself. The same dream. Something, someone is watching . . . and waiting.

A tragic car accident leaves beautiful, vibrant Jackee Maren completely paralyzed, in “Locked-in Syndrome,” able to move only her eyes. Jackee’s husband, Phil, is devastated and her two young boys left with nothing but a shell for a mother, but still, Jackee senses the foreboding of an evil presence and knows time is short.

Slowly, Jackee learns to communicate with her physical therapist, Kevin, by blinking her eyes. As evidence comes to light that her car accident was no accident, Jackee doggedly strives to expose the person who wants her dead before they get a second chance.

While Jackee struggles to put all the clues together, she’s stunned to discover she has the ability to sense the thoughts of others, but she hides this talent from everyone but her sons, not knowing whom she can trust. By actively exercising her new psychic ability, Jackee finally learns who masterminded the “accident” but feels helpless to stop them from trying to kill her again.

Desperate to survive, she slowly concocts a psychic plan to not only ensure her boys are safe forever, but to exact retribution on her would-be murderer. Jackee vows not to rest until this villain understands what it is to be TRAPPED! But she must hurry. Her psychic manipulations of the players in her “skit” of revenge are sapping her meager reserves, leaving her with only months to live.

First chapters teaser:

Turn signal flashing, she eases into the right lane in front of a large, battered pick-up, with less than a half-mile to the Old Orchard Exit Ramp. Jackee Maren rarely drives so aggressively, but first delayed by her two sons’ late departure from school, and then navigating around a minor fender bender on Dundee road, she is already ten minutes behind, and she’s never late. The Northern Illinois Chapter of the United Way won’t start their planning session without their chairwoman, and Jackee hates the idea of keeping so many busy people waiting.

Peeling onto the ramp, her attention is drawn to her two boys, bickering and shoving in the back seat. Glancing back at the road, a ridge of goose bumps cascades down her spine. They’re hurtled toward a string of glaring taillights… cars unexpectedly stopped by a red light at the first intersection off the expressway.

Jamming a foot on the brakes, she’s stunned when the big Mercedes slews sharply right, smack into the path of the huge pickup truck, which had exited behind her. It slams into the rear fender of the sedan, sending it careening off the road, the seatbelts gouging her shoulder, crushing the breath from her lungs.

“Hang on boys,” she gasps. Oh God! My sons! They can’t die here.

They spin down the embankment like an eccentric top, ricocheting off a bridge column. The wheel torn from her grip, the air filled with the screech of rending metal and the stench of burning rubber, the car rears like a great angry beast, its rear legs hamstrung. Slamming down, it hurtles backward into the culvert, bucking and skipping along the steep embankment.

Despite seatbelts, Jackee is flung around like a rag doll in the jaws of some huge terrier. The air bag erupts in the midst of their tumultuous downward plunge, rushing out at 200 MPH, just as frontal impact slings her forward.

Her face catches the brunt of the blow, skewering lips on her teeth, smashing her nose. A searing bolt of pain fires across her brain, igniting a burst of red heat behind her tearing eyes. A sharp pitch right crushes her left cheek against the window, knocking her momentarily senseless. The sedan teeters, enveloped in a cloud of dust, hunkering precariously on its haunches before crashing down on its wheels, coming to a thunderous, grinding stop.

She awakens to wailing and blubbering from the two small boys in the rear seat.

“Mommy!” The call gasped through ragged breathing.

“Mommy!” Now a frantic screech.

“I’m…I’m here.” We’re alive! Thank God, we’re all still alive.

She sags against the seatbelt, every joint singed with agony, unable to will herself into action.

Help should be coming. She moans. Gotta hang on… She slips out of consciousness.

The continued bawling and moaning of her sons stir her, drawing her out of the fog of semi-consciousness. One of her eyes is swollen shut, but the other flickers open, glazed with shock.

Where the Hell’s Fire/Rescue. CHAPTER ONE 

Where am I?

Intense, deep-cave blackness envelops her…smothering, almost thick enough to touch. She seems adrift, suspended a pool of dark, still water.

A bath? That doesn’t make sense.

Despite a shroud of absolute darkness, she senses herself rising, finally breaching the inky surface, floating weightlessly.

And she is awake.

What was that? A dream? It seemed so real!

Jackee Maren lay very still, confused by the eerie perception of bobbing gently on tepid, calm waters. Despite a sense of warmth lapping at her, she shudders.

What’s happened to…? Oh… how stupid of me.

My surgery! It’s finally over. Five months since the accident, and breathing hadn’t gotten any easier. But why is it so… so dark in… where? A recovery room?

Why have they left me alone?

A pungency unique to hospitals floods her with unpleasant memories: momma, daddy, and her own last visit. Not a happy moment in the bunch.

Icy tentacles caress her spine, kindling a mountain range of goose bumps.

What’s going on? Why… oh…

Voices murmuring, bare whispers, apparently close by. What are they saying?

Spooky, laying here in this… this black place. Why haven’t they taken me to my room? Phil’ll be worried.

Won’t he? He promised to take time from work to care for their sons… to be supportive for a change… while she recovers from this reconstructive facial surgery he seemed so eager for her to have. She shivers, momentarily reliving that scary car accident.

Spinning, lurching, crashing down that embankment. The shriek of rending steel.

God, it was terrifying.

The boys tussling in back, and I was distracted, worried at being late… and wondering about Phil’s frequent late nights. He was seldom home evenings before then. But that changed after I spun the Mercedes into that ditch.

Whatever. That was then. Gotta figure out the now… why I’m still in Recovery. Get someone’s attention. If she moves, will stitches tear? The undercurrent of voices pulls at her.

Why are they whispering?

She shivers again, her skin peppered by an icy sleet of uncertainty.

Has something happened… something bad? No one’s here… no one to check on me. Did something go wrong?

Oh God, it must be terrible!

Her heart tumbles, skipping into high gear. This crushing darkness robs her of any sense of place.

Maybe I’m dead, locked away in the Morgue, lying on a slab, waiting to be cut up? It’s so black, and they…. Oh, shut up!

Jeez, it was only reconstructive surgery after the accident. Dead people don’t lie around, thinking. Always ready to worry if there’s a little hitch somewhere. Nothing bad happened. Still, I’ve gotta get someone’s attention.

Hey! Why didn’t I see that before?

How had she missed what was right in front of her… two shaded windows, a bare sliver of light glimmering at their lower edges. Dare she move, seeking aid? Still stymied by the strange aura of weightless floating on a glassy film of water, she tentatively stretches out a hand.

Am I actually moving? Eerie! I can’t really tell in this utter darkness. Her unseen fingers trip lightly across the base of the shades.

Success! Both spool noiselessly upward.

Finally! She winces, blinking at the sudden light, before her vision clears.

There, three men, standing in a small white room, two wearing blue surgeon’s scrubs, the other, the tallest, a dark suit. No second bed, no moveable tables, no guest chairs anywhere. No outside windows, either. Stark illumination from flickering fluorescent fixtures cast demonic shadows across their faces. She shivers, unassured by the sight of the trio of apparent doctors.

What is this place? A recovery room? Suddenly their voices are clear.

“I spoke to her husband,” says the one in the dark suit, fingering the stethoscope looped around his neck. “He said she occasionally took both amphetamines and tranquilizers.”

He said that? It was just this one time, and he said…

“Damn,” from the taller of the two, “that wasn’t on the admitting form. We could’ve rescheduled. Drugs and anesthetics always cause problems.”

Problems? God, I knew it. Damned hospitals! Damn, damn, damn!

“We’re checking,” the third man says. “I’m not convinced tests will tell us anything that will do us much good in court, if it comes to that.”

What are they talking about?

She is suddenly struggling to breathe, her heart pummeling her breast.

Oh Jesus, something did happen! Something bad!

Head spinning, her world lurches surreally askew. She shudders.

I’m so cold! Her little lagoon churns from comfortable warmth into a bed of ice.

Something’s terribly wrong! Hospitals are supposed to fix things, but I had the same scary feeling while waiting for Daddy’s test results… and I was right!

Gotta find out what’s happened. Sucking in a ragged breath… worried about damaging her facial surgery… she grits her teeth before calling out.


Don’t panic. They’ll see me in a minute.

But they don’t. Are they deaf?

“Over here!” Louder now, willing them to look at her.

“You, out there! Please help me.”

The taller surgeon cocks his head and turns.

Thank God! He’ll see me now.

He pauses, still as stone. Then his eyes flare wide, his jaw dropping. Snatching at the other doctor’s sleeve, he thrusts an almost accusing finger at her.

“Look,” he shouts. “Look!”

“Her eyes! Her eyes! “They’re open!”

4 thoughts on “The Bad Side of Being an Author

  1. It is frustrating to place your work out there, to be “judged” by another with the “hope” to have those words of acceptance sent your way, and instead receive the “its not right for us”, it can be very disheartening, and I give kudos to the individuals who press on to go after their visions and dreams. Thanks so much for sharing and I wish you the best!:) Pit Crew


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