Beta readers have a tough job. The beta readers for Standing Sideways are mothers. They work full time. They cart kids to and from. Some are coaches. Some are volunteers.
They have lives outside my 80,000 words I've asked them to read.
Beta readers are test readers. They tell you what's working in the story before you take your baby and throw her out into the world and yell: SWIM!
Of course I hope they love the book, but more importantly, I want them to tell me what's not working about the story. Not every Amazon reviewer is kind. Some are buttheads just trolling around like Great White sharks, waiting to rip someone's work apart. So, I give my books to my betas entrusting that they will give me invaluable feedback that the Great White sharks would devour otherwise.
Standing Sideways is a book I started about a year ago after the passing of my cousin. Cousin seems too removed, too loose-leafed. He (Jason) along with his twin, Michael, and I were the three musketeers, so our family called us. Raised by single mothers (who are sisters), we were raised together more like siblings. It was ten years later that our two other cousins (Jessica and Jacob came along). We're a small family with five grandchildren total.
When Jason was killed, I know something died in all of us. It's a personal journey, grief. Everyone is different. Nobody grieves the same. My way of processing the grief was through words.
It took me 70,000 words to find the voice of Livia Stone. That's a full-length novel. Once I found her voice, I started over and scrapped the 70,000 words. I wanted her voice to be mine, but also, not mine. I wanted her to tough. And brave. Weak in moments--no--many moments. I wanted her to find her own path, not my path. I wanted the story to be fiction. Many of the pieces in Standing Sideways are fiction. But many are not. Taken from my childhood with Jason and Michael. Other parts stolen from the vestiges of my crazy imagination.
But these parts are true:
-The time he saved me from drowning.
-The stupid toast he used to eat with butter, sugar and sprinkles, that made me want to gag every time I watched him eat it.
-The time he told me that I was better than the decisions I was making in my life at seventeen years old.
-All the times we used to travel door to door selling our shitty hand-drawn artwork at ages 8 and 9.
Too many to list, and I don't want to give too much of the book away.
Anyway, a week and a half ago, I sent Standing Sideways to my beta readers.
I prayed some more.
But one thing kept coming back to me: Stay true to who you are.
While I like to believe I stayed the course with that saying, I haven't. I wavered. Had a mix of emotions. Wondered if the loved it. Hated it. Cried. Thought: cheeseball, and rolled their eyes.
A week and a half of anticipation, I just heard back from a beta reader last night.
Remember how they all have lives? Remember how their lives don't revolve around the huge 80,000 word gorilla I'd just sent them?
Here's what the beta reader said:
I cried when I read this.
You see, I followed my heart. My passion for words.
I grieved some more.
I followed that little voice inside me that kept pushing me along.
Standing Sideways is about addiction. Love. Heartbreak. Patience. It's about standing in our own truth and the ultimate price we may have to pay to do that.
All (yes, ALL) the proceeds for Standing Sideways will be donated to the Jason Dale Triumphant Return Scholarship set up at College of the Redwoods. If you'd like to find out more about the scholarship, click here:
Okay, now I'm rambling.
Follow your heart.
Trust your gut.
My friend Elisa says: Art takes courage. I'm not sure if she wrote it or not, but--ugh. These words were a direct hit to my heart.