The new year handed me a test of courage this week and I flunked it. Big time.

But then I took a make-up and maybe redeemed myself a little.

Here’s what happened:

Best Mystery Novel Since …

I received a request from an on-line acquaintance I’ll call “Q” to blurb a novel. For those of you not in the writing fraternity, “blurbs” are those snippets from authors or reviewers on book covers saying “Best debut novel I’ve read since Thursday” or “This mystery combines the in-depth characterization of Agatha Christie with the humor of the Three Stooges.”

Not in Good Conscience

You know where this is headed . . . I read part of the book and knew I couldn’t in good conscience (irony here) recommend it. Problem was, in addition to being an author, Q is also a reviewer with some clout in my chosen field. So, not only did I not want to hurt Q’s feelings by pointing out the manuscript’s flaws, but I also didn’t want to piss off Q.

What did I, in my courageous way, do? I lied. I emailed Q and said I had too many commitments to have time to read and blurb the manuscript. Then I got to thinking about it. (Yes, I know it would have been more useful to do some thinking before sending the mendacious email.) The squirmy feeling in the pit of my stomach told me I’d done the wrong thing—duh. My lie might spare the author’s feelings, but it wouldn’t help Q become a better writer. And being worried about how Q would review my books in future was too weaselly for words.

True Confessions

So, I sent another email, admitting I’d lied and telling Q exactly why. I detailed the problems I had with the manuscript and offered to critique a future couple of chapters, if Q wanted me to. With great trepidation, I hit “send.”

Q’s reply was professional and gracious—not at all the snarls and scorn I deserved, and I’m happy to say we may become regular correspondents.


One thing I learned from this is that writing a blog about living courageously makes it somewhat easier to do the right thing (even if belatedly). I felt accountable. To myself, and to you. Studies have shown that dieters who let a support group know they’re trying to lose weight hesitate before eating that third helping at dinner, or snarfing down a handful of M&Ms, because they know they’ll have to confess to their friends (or the scale will do the confessing for them). I experienced a little of that feeling. So, thanks for your help.

With your help, maybe I’ll ace the next test the first time.

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