Backward Thumbs

This will seem like a weird analogy, but bear with me.

Imagine for a second that your thumbs are backward. Most other people’s thumbs are the “regular” way, but not yours. Now imagine you’re 5 years old and in kindergarten and learning how to write. The school system doesn’t check for backward thumbs, and doesn’t have any policy in place to teach you differently even if they did realize your thumbs were backward. Imagine how hard it would be to write with a standard pencil and paper and finger formation, and how frustrating it would be when the teachers would only teach how to do it for “normal” thumbs. Your grades would plummet. People would assume you were being lazy. Or maybe you were dumb. “Writing isn’t that hard, why can’t you do it right?” “Practice harder.” “Don’t you realize how important good penmanship is?” “You look like an idiot with that handwriting.”

boy confused with lots of homework

Now imagine you’re all grown up, having gone through 12 grades of that. Your penmanship still sucks despite the fact that you’ve worked harder than anyone else in the class for 12 long years. But at least you’re out of school now, right? Penmanship doesn’t have to be a part of your daily life anymore. You’re certainly not going to get a job as a calligrapher, so it isn’t that big of a deal, right?

Now imagine that suddenly instead of talking face to face or via phone, everyone prefers to write letters. At work, even though you didn’t pursue a job in the handwriting field, you’re now expected to write letters every day. Tons of them. To colleagues, bosses, clients. And in personal life, no one calls anymore, but instead they post handwritten notes on the bulletin boards. You want to keep up with your friends, share your ideas, get invites to parties, etc., but it’s really hard to do it unless you write notes too.

So you do. You spend 10 times as long as your peers to write these notes, erasing and re-writing the letters to try to get them as clear and straight as you can, but your thumbs are still backwards and you’re still using pens and paper and handwriting skills that were meant for forward-thumbed people. Your notes aren’t perfect. After 15 minutes, you have a 4-sentence note that most people could jot down in 2 minutes. It’s squiggly and crooked, but it’s readable, it makes sense, and most importantly, it’s actually really funny. Or poignant. Or important.

Now imagine posting that note on the wall. Some of your friends post back about how funny or poignant or important it was, sharing their own reactions to your thought. But one of your friends posts a note stating how squiggly and crooked your handwriting is, and that it really ought to be smooth and straight.

Does that friend honestly think you don’t know that? That you didn’t spend 7 times as long as s/he would have to make it as smooth and straight as possible before posting? That you hesitate to even WRITE notes because they take so long, are so frustrating to do, reveal to everyone how backwards your thumbs are, and because his/her negative reaction is exactly what you’re worried you’ll get? That you re-phrase your thoughts over and over again so that you can write them using as few words as possible?

This is what living in the age of social media and email is for people with dyslexia. It is under-diagnosed or diagnosed too late in life for so many people. And when it is diagnosed correctly and in a timely fashion, our schools have practically no systems in place to deal with it anyway. Public schools are locked into specific styles of teaching that leave a huge portion of the population behind. Kids aren’t taught the skills they need to work around their disabilities and find new paths to learn, and so they get stuck. And then on top of that, we pile on this guilt as if it is somehow their fault.

So the next time you have the urge to be a grammar Nazi, to point out someone’s spelling error, to correct word usage, or lament over punctuation misuse, STOP. Stop yourself and think for a moment. Is the writing in question a professionally published work (e.g., a novel, a resume, a business website, an official company flyer) in which we expect it to be professionally edited before being shared? Is the person who wrote it commenting on someone else’s poor grammar, and is therefore being hypocritical? Or is this person just writing a casual email or posting a FB note to share with friends, family members, and maybe colleagues? Because unless the content is something that should be professionally edited, your comments about spelling or grammar are WRONG. They are not welcome or appropriate. Spelling and punctuation are inconsequential in these forums in comparison to the content of what that person is trying to say. If you can’t see beyond them into the content of the text itself, that is your problem, not theirs. And pointing out or correcting someone in these forums is as rude as telling a person whose native language is not your own that their accent is bad. Or telling a person in a wheelchair that they ought to use the stairs.

Seduction: One Fortune at a Time

As many of you know, my husband and I welcomed our daughter into the world this past August, and life has been a whirlwind ever since!  She is adorable, fearless, and precocious, which all translates into the fact that she’s become the center of our world for a while.

Baby Girl

But I haven’t been completely stagnant in world of writing, and I wanted to share with you something that I meant to share months ago… My novella “Hidden Fortune” is available as part of an anthology of steamy, fortune-themed romance novellas, entitled SEDUCTION – ONE FORTUNE AT A TIME.

seduction - one fortune at a time

You can purchase it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Kobo.  For only $2.99 you get seven brand-new novellas, including mine!

I hope you love it (and please leave a review if you do)! And in the meantime, I’m going to get back to writing my next book and trying to keep my daughter from crawling into the recycling bin…

Baby Girl in daddy's hat

Performing in Spamalot

If you’re in the Los Angeles area, I welcome you to attend a performance of Spamalot, the fantastically funny musical theatre production that I’m dancing in this summer.


The show runs from June 29 to August 3, 2013 at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre at 2627 Pico Blvd. in Santa Monica. Showtimes are at 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 2pm on Sunday. You can buy tickets online or at the box office (which is open Wed-Fri, 4-7pm; phone: 310-828-7519).

Lovingly ripped off from the classic film comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Spamalot was the 2005 Tony winner for Best Musical and tells the tale of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table as they embark on their quest for the Holy Grail. Flying cows, killer rabbits, taunting Frenchmen, and show-stopping musical numbers, this production has it all.


The original 2005 Broadway production, directed by Mike Nichols, won three Tony Awards, including the Tony Award for Best Musical of the 2004–2005 season and received 14 Tony Award nominations. During its initial run of over 1,500 performances it was seen by more than two million people and grossed over $175 million.


I’ve been having a blast performing in this production, and would love to see you there.  My husband, Matthew Sheehan is serving as the Stage Manager (which means he gets to “assist” me with my many costume changes, something he’s thoroughly enjoying).

I hope you can come check it out! Remember, what happens in Camelot, stays in Camelot.

Morgan Wixson Spamalot


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Amazon’s New Review Policy: A Mountainous Solution to a Molehill Problem

If you’ve been following the happenings in the world of publishing over the last few months, you’ll be familiar with the phrase “sock puppet reviewing” and the recent controversies regarding such.

If you haven’t been paying attention, in short: sock puppetry refers to published authors using “pseudonymous handles to post positive Amazon reviews of [their] own books and one-star reviews of others” (Carolyn Kellogg, LA Times, Sept. 4, 2012).  A handful of authors, a few of whom were somewhat high-profile, recently admitted to such abhorrent behavior, and the news has spread like wildfire.

Unfortunately, in Amazon’s frantic attempt to contain the flames, they’ve managed to burn down the entire forest.

Forgive me for being dramatic, but I maintain that my analogy is not that far from the mark.

To prove to their customers that the Amazon rating system has not become corrupted, they’ve decided to forbid authors from posting reviews of any other author’s work.

That’s right.

Authors, most of whom became writers because of their passion for reading, are now denied the right of other readers by being prohibited from reviewing books on Amazon.

Readers who frequently discovered new authors through the recommendations of authors they were already familiar with will no longer have that opportunity on Amazon.

New authors who are struggling to be heard in the cacophony of the e-book world can no longer solicit honest reviews from their fellow authors in an effort to get their books off the ground.

One of the saddest conclusions I’ve come to when researching Amazon’s new policy is that Amazon considers authors to be in “direct competition” with each other.  They are treating us as if we are bitter enemies, cats and dogs that can’t be trusted to be alone in a room together.

Now, some people might agree with that assumption, but I bet you that most of those people have no idea what they’re talking about. An outsider might look at the writing business and presume it is like any other commercial enterprise: the author who gets the most readers wins, and the rest of the authors lose.

But it doesn’t really work that way with books.

Unlike TV shows, authors are not fighting for the same 1-hour slot in primetime. A book doesn’t “go out of theatres” if it doesn’t outsell other new releases during it’s opening weekend. In other words, if my book sells, it doesn’t mean your book won’t.

Authors rarely “steal” readers from another author; readers just add new authors to their To-Be-Read pile.  In fact, a reader is more likely to try out a new author from the recommendation of another author than from advertising (RWA Readership Statistics, 2012).

I may be relatively new to the publishing world, but from what I’ve seen within the Romance Writers of America and Los Angeles Romance Authors, the publishing world is not dog-eat-dog. We romance authors are incredibly supportive of each other. The biggest names in the business (Nora Roberts, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jayne Ann Krentz, etc.) regularly frequent the annual RWA conferences to share their knowledge with amateur authors and encourage them to become successful. Hundreds of mid-list authors donate their time to mentoring newbies and guiding them through the perils of the publishing world. We have blogs, newsletters, conferences, critique groups, and review sites, all created with the intent of helping each other become the best authors we can be.

I know of no author that would intentionally sabotage another author in the hopes that their own work would become more successful.

OK, apparently, there are a few writers out there who would do such a thing, but the keyword here is “few.”

But instead of searching for a tailored and efficient solution to this isolated problem, Amazon has thrown the baby out with the bathwater. They’ve branded all of us authors as untrustworthy, greedy, immoral money-grubbers who can’t be trusted to share our opinions in a responsible manner.

But there are so many other, better, solutions that Amazon could pursue.

For example, Amazon could add a disclaimer to reviews posted by authors, which identifies that reviewer as a writer. (In fact, that would be a win-win-win for the reader, the author of the work in question, and the reviewing author.  If the review was negative, readers could take that review with a grain of salt, recognizing that perhaps the reviewer was biased [especially if said review was poorly justified]. And if the review was positive [and well-written], then perhaps the reviewing author would pick up new fans from other readers.)

Other options include flagging strongly negative (1- or 2-star) reviews by authors who have been published in the same genre, so that readers can be aware of a potential bias or conflict of interest.

Perhaps the content of negative reviews from fellow authors can remain, but the star ranking would not be counted, therefore allowing the reviewing author to make their argument, but not allowing the work’s author’s ranking to be unfairly diminished.

One of the biggest problems with Amazon’s new policy is that it dramatically inhibits new authors from widening their readership.  Established authors won’t feel the impact of this new policy, since the loss of a handful of reviews won’t make a dent when you already have hundreds of reviews. But new authors often struggle to get even a dozen reviews, and so the loss of just a few can be devastating.

New authors can’t get family members to read and review their book, because Amazon considers them to have “financial interest in the product.” And they can’t get fellow authors to review their book because they have “financial interest in a directly competing product.”

Where is the line drawn?

What about friends, are they unfairly biased too? How about friends of friends, are they OK?  Friends of friends of friends? If a family member from outside my immediate household reads my book, are they allowed to post an honest review?  What if I give a free copy of my novel to a reviewer, is that considered bribery? My boss’s, sister’s, step-brother is thinking about writing a book, is he disqualified for being a biased acquaintance with a financial interest in a potentially competing project?

I’ve never been a fan of slippery-slope arguments, but since we’re already sliding down this mountain Amazon made from a molehill, I figured it was appropriate.

~ Laura Sheehan

[NOTE: This article was was originally published in the November 2012 issue of LARA Confidential, the newsletter of the Los Angeles Romance Authors chapter of RWA, for which I serve as Newsletter Editor.  It may be reprinted with proper credit to author and chapter.]

Romance Junkies Haunted House Giveaway!

Romance Junkies is hosting a Haunted House Giveaway!  If you dare, come explore the spooky halls of their mysterious mansion and take advantage of the opportunity to win dozens of free books and prizes.  (If you’re looking for the chance to win an e-copy of DANCING WITH DANGER by yours truly, I suggest checking out the Magic Shop!)

Romantic Junkies Halloween Contest

“Dancing with Danger” Reviewed by Long and Short of It Reviews

Long and Short of It Reviews has given my novel, Dancing with Danger, 4.5 Stars!

Dancing with Danger Cover

I loved these characters so much and wanted more, the story was a very enjoyable read. I’ll definitely look for other titles by Ms. Sheehan and I’d even love to see more of Marc and Lily. If you love a good romance, mixed with the potential danger of an unknown stalker, this is a perfect title to pick up!

– Asher, Long and Short of It Reviews

Check out the full review here.

Long and Short of It Reviews

I’ve been Interrogated by an LAPD Officer!

Kathy Bennett, former L.A.P.D. Officer and authentic crime/romantic suspense author, has me in the hot seat today over at her Interrogation Room.  I told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, but I think some of my answers might have gotten me in trouble…

Kathy Bennett's Blog Kathy Bennett's Interrogation Room - Laura Sheehan

You can’t leave any comments (what did you expect? It’s an interrogation room, not a guest blog!), so if you have anything to say in my defense, please do so here!