I have had a sad revelation. My second novel, An Unexpected Exile, isn’t as good as my other two. There, I’ve admitted it. I released AUE too impulsively, out of a misguided sense that I needed to quickly follow up my first book, Later With Myself: The Misadventures of Millie Moskowitz, with something “light” and “commercially marketable” (since Later With Myself so clearly isn’t either). But I’ve learned a few things since I wrote my first book, while the painstaking effort I put into my third novel, The Floater, taught me what it truly takes to produce my best work. I recognize that Later With Myself isn't as polished, perhaps; but it possesses something even more important: a sort of untouchable raw honesty you don't want to mess with.

A Goodreads friend and fan imparted these words of wisdom, originally spoken by Maya Angelou and popularized by Oprah Winfrey: “When you know better, you do better.” I know better than I did a year ago. Much as I hate to repeat that stupid writers’ mantra, “show, don’t tell,” AUE clearly suffers from an excess of telling. My third-person narrative is wooden and bombastic—too much of the lawyer in me seeping through to genuinely capture my protagonist’s fragile soul. When I re-read An Unexpected Exile, I feel like a mother observing her two-year-old who hasn’t yet spoken her first words. There she is, blessedly good-looking but hiding a squelched emotional complexity only a parent can appreciate. I know these admissions might be considered scandalous by the many “fronters” in this fake-it-or leave-it (a/k/a “fake-it-till-you-don’t-make-it”) world of self-publishing. But I offer myself—and my flawed second novel—as examples of works in progress.

Perhaps I shouldn't admit this about my own creation, but if a child of mine hadn’t uttered a sound after two years, would I allow shame or embarrassment keep me from helping her learn to express herself? No, I’d look inward first, to see whether I’d done something wrong. Then I’d do everything humanly possible to identify the problem and take corrective action to unleash her full potential. As a professional, I feel compelled to correct this baby's birth defects; as her mother, I believe An Unexpected Exile has the potential not only to speak, but to sing. A bit of an oddity, AUE's sociopolitical chick-lit that irreverently exposes the blurred lines between pleasure and abuse, lust and obsession, all in the context of a riotous inter-American culture clash. (Think, “Fifty Shades of Green Card.”) I brought her into this world prematurely, and as a result, she’s the “runt” in my litter of three. But she only needs a bit more love and attention to really shine. Not that she’ll ever be “marketable,” mind you. All three of my books suffer a doomed fate called “lack of widespread commercial appeal.” But I’m willing to accept my children for who they are. And popularity is highly overrated, if you ask me—in publishing as on the playground.

If you like my books, it won’t be because they are predictable or formulaic; it will be because each has something unique to say. I like to think my novels draw the curtain to offer a glimpse of compelling characters performing their particular, peculiar roles in this crazy script we call life. My writing (hopefully) provides the one-of-a-kind literary lighting, music, and backdrops to make them enjoyably entertaining; but—word of caution to the prim—don’t expect costume design, because my characters perform on stage in their underwear. Sometimes, they even strip naked.

An Unexpected Exile re-opens in a week or so. Give it a second chance; you might actually love it.