We never forget our first and Jessica Chapnik was mine. And although you're filled with anticipation and excitement at what might happen as a result, your very first can be a frightening experience ... terrifying, even painful ... forever etched in your memory.
But it can also be exhilarating beyond description. In fact, it's the element of venturing into the unknown that makes it so alluring.
Jessica has gone on to greater things. Aussies will remember her as "Sam Holden" on the hit television show, Home and Away. In 2008, she recorded the Ben Lee soundtrack for the Joel and Nash Edgerton film, The Square. The song was nominated for an Australian Film Institute Award for "Best Original Music Score," as well as an ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) Fine Arts Award for "Best Original Soundtrack". A singer of exceptional talent and beauty, Jessie has toured internationally with musicians Sarah Blasko, Ben Lee, the Kahn Brothers, and Old Man River. Her 2010 Appleonia Music video, It's Not So Precious, exemplifies the gentle, inspirational quality to her voice. Which surprised me since she is such a raging soccer fanatic (go Argentina!) who loves espionage thrillers and vegetarian pizzas (go pizza!).
So while many of you may know Jessica as an exceptional actress and musician, to me she will always be "the first" -- my first -- book critic, that is -- to review book #1 in my Aleksandr Talanov thriller series, Department Thirteen, when it was originally published in Australia. At the time, "Jessy" was writing for Who magazine (the Australian version of People magazine, both of which are owned by Time Inc), to whom I had sent a copy for review consideration.
A first review can play with your mind. It did mine. For one thing, I had no idea whether Who magazine would even look at my novel. Who was, after all, the premier celebrity magazines in Australia, and I was this unknown author whose book had been published by a micro-press no one had ever heard of. And if by some miracle they did review it, would they like it? Or would they trash it? Would my book get hammered before it even hit the shelves? Fears collided with possibilities to produce a tornado of emotional turbulence. I could hardly stand it. But, as I said before, it was the element of venturing into the unknown that was, in fact, its allure.
We need book reviewers and critics. We rely on their seasoned judgment to sift the wheat from the chaff. Sure, some of them like to find something wrong with everything. No turn unstoned, as the old saying goes. That's because some are snotty, uppity elitists who are downright arrogant and rude.
Just as some writers are.
Most critics, however, are decent people who devote lots of hours to their craft. Many are writers, all are readers, and as far as I can tell, they're in it for one reason: their desire to present good books to the public. However, with shrinking budgets and cutbacks, there are fewer reviewers and critics writing for fewer magazines and newspapers, so the challenge of getting reviewed in a major publication is harder than ever. Nevertheless, in today's world, a good review -- or a bad one -- can spread virally like wildfire via blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and a host of other social networking sites. And that's not counting those customer review sites hosted by online giants like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Like never before, the reader has become the critic with a voice. Which keeps a writer like me on his toes, especially since I am now touring with Department Thirteen's sequel, Greco's Game. What will you, the jury, think?
As for Jessica, well, my "first" had this to say about book Department Thirteen: [This book] "... will delight aficionados of the genre with its punchy pace, intricate plot, compelling structure and, best of all, goose-bump-raising-climax."
It may well have been pure luck that I got that cool review. I hope it wasn't just luck, but it could have been. Thankfully, some others agreed, for Department Thirteen went on to be voted the "Best Thriller of 2011" by USA Book News, after which is won a gold medal in the 2012 Independent Publisher ("IPPY") Book Awards (thriller/suspense), after which it won a gold medal in the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards (action/adventure). Will Greco's Game fare as well? Who knows? You can check out what others are saying over at Amazon by clicking HERE.
As for Dragon Head (book #3 in the series, which will be out in 2013), well, allow me to extend you an offer: I will email you a FREE eBook copy in exchange for an honest review on Amazon. Yep. A free copy in exchange for an honest review. Before the book goes on sale to the public! So, if you're game, drop me a line by clicking HERE and leave me your email address. I'll be in touch.
ABOUT JAMES HOUSTON TURNER
A native of Kansas, James turned to writing fiction as a result of his years as a smuggler behind the old Iron Curtain. He has been on a KGB watchlist, organized secret midnight meetings with informants, located hidden mountain bunkers, and investigated legends of forgotten tunnels buried beneath the cobblestones and bricks of some of Central Europe’s most venerated cathedrals. Department Thirteen, his debut thriller featuring former KGB informant, Colonel Aleksandr Talanov, was inspired by those experiences and went on to win the USA Book News “Best Thriller of 2011″ award, a gold medal in the 2012 Independent Publisher “IPPY” Book Awards (thriller/suspense), and a gold medal in the 2012 Indie Book Awards (action/adventure).
A former journalist in Los Angeles, James holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Baker University and a Master’s Degree from the University of Houston (Clear Lake). His 2011 “Too Ugly Tour” saw him drive 4500 miles across America promoting his books and speaking to thousands of students about not letting the hard knocks of life defeat you, which in his case included years of rejection, surviving cancer, and once being turned down for a customer service job because he was “too ugly” — a reference to the facial scars he still carries from his successful 1991 battle against cancer. He and his wife, Wendy, a former triathlon winner, live in Adelaide, South Australia.