Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Unwell by Marie Chow (Author Guest Post / Book Review / Contest Giveaway)

In association with Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Unwell by Author Marie Chow!

Author Guest Post

How Self-Publishing Affects A Writer's Growth Curve

Ira Glass (from NPR’s This American Life) did an interesting video about people who attempt “creative work.” He talks about the doubts we experience and boils it down to basically three things:

1. We attempt creative work because we have taste
2. Initially, there will be a “gap” between our work and the work our taste would guide us towards
3. We have fight through, work hard, practice, refine, and practice some more, to close that gap

It’s a great video, with a wonderful message. One that many aspiring authors are told:



Or, as Beckett put it, “Fail better.” 

As a self-published author, it also inspires me to question: Should I be self-publishing?

Like many self-published and indie authors, self-publishing was not my first choice. Unlike previously successful authors who turned to indie publishing because of better margins or greater creative control, or just because they were people who knew they had a platform and thus didn’t need the services of a traditional publishing house, I started my official writing life by submitting to agents.

48 agents to be exact.

As I was submitting query letters I was also making every mistake you’re warned against (I didn’t take polishing my query letter as seriously as I could have, I had a completed manuscript that I was still actively editing, and so on). Yet the truth of the matter is, my ultimate rejection from the formal publishing world might have had everything to do with the novel itself. It’s possible that even if I had written a pitch-perfect query, the book just wasn’t what they wanted. It’s not in a popular genre. It didn’t fit with their… taste.

At that point, I decided to self-publish. I’m a control freak. I’ve tried quitting writing several times already. This time, I was committed. It was publish-or-bust, and if traditional houses weren’t willing to help, then I would do it myself.

Most days, it’s a decision I stand by, despite the ups and downs inherent in self-publishing.

Still, there are times when I can’t help but wonder whether I should have just put Unwell on the shelf. If I should have dedicated all of my time to writing, practicing and closing that gap between where I am, and where I want to be.

Five months ago, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you how to find a cover artist, or what a .mobi file is. Four months ago (despite the fact that I run a book review blog), I couldn’t have articulated what a blog tour is. Finding a cover artist, formatting, all of these are things that I previously knew nothing about; it took time and patience to learn all of it (and still, there is so much more to master).

Ultimately, every moment I spent learning about marketing, tweaking cover designs or even trying to figure out this mad, mad social media world, was time away from writing. Time I could have been using to close the gap between where I am, and where I’d like to be.

All of which makes me wonder: How has self-publishing affected my own growth curve?

It’s not, ultimately, a very answerable question, but I think it’s one that bears consideration.

About The Author

Marie Chow is a former teacher, education evaluator, and engineer. A lifelong student, she has degrees in degrees in chemical engineering, teaching, an MFA in writing, and a doctorate in educational leadership. Her writing focuses on bilingual and English-only children's books that feature mixed families, as well as literary and contemporary fiction focused on Asian and Asian American characters.


Book Review

Unwell by Marie Chow
Publisher: Independent Self Publishing
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Format: Paperback - 306 pages
             Kindle - 2323 KB
ISBN: 1494941201
Genre: Women's Fiction


Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours.

Book Description:

How do you tell your child that you won’t be there when they grow up? Unwell is the raw, honest story of a mother who writes to her unborn child, sharing her decision of choosing not to be a mother. She doesn’t choose abortion. Nor does she consider adoption. Instead, she decides to give her child a fighting chance in life, without the angst and drama that’s shaped her own bittersweet life.

With a poignant lack of emotion, the young mother shares her life story. As the child of Asian parents who moved to America early in her life, the mother shares how her life disintegrated after her parents’ divorce. From upper middle class suburban to sharing her mean aunt’s house to a one bedroom apartment in a shabby neighborhood, this mother endures the indignity that comes with the change of status. From her father’s absence to her mother becoming a married man’s mistress, her story reads like a tragic Victorian novel set in the 21st century, but that’s where the similarity ends—she is definitely not a shy country miss and she certainly did not take the easy way out.

This amazing story chronicles the life of a woman who fought for everything she got, faced her demons and made the hard choices. Her fortitude and candor are disarming, her avant-garde views strangely endearing. You’ve never read a book like this and probably never will again. Get your copy today and take the literary journey of a lifetime. Through this glimpse into the life of a woman of integrity, sacrifice and love, you’ll feel her pain, live her failures and cheer for the meager joys that come her way. But the one thing you’ll never do… is forget her. Or her story.

Book Excerpt:

One last thing.

I wasn’t even going to apply to MIT, originally.

I was applying to a lot of good schools, mostly UCs, since we lived in Modesto. My classmates were split pretty evenly: about half were planning on community college, staying in Modesto and living with their families, the other half were hoping to get into UC Davis, and having an excuse to move just far enough. Those of us at the top of the class were applying to UC Berkeley, maybe UCLA (if we didn’t get along with our parents, and wanted to be further away). Most were applying to a handful of private schools.

I was different in that I was applying to almost no private schools: shortly after I’d submitted my initial paperwork I’d been invited to submit an application for the Regents’ scholarships, which I took as a good sign. I was already looking into dorms at UC Berkeley, was already calling it Cal, like I belonged there, before I ever got an acceptance letter. Cal seemed perfect -- top tier enough to be respectable and well known, brag-worthy for those in my family who cared about such things (which was almost all of them), and also close enough that I could come home for the weekends, birthdays and all the major holidays.

But yeah, sure, I was a teenager. I made a hypothetical list of privates, because it’s always fun to daydream: Duke (I still remember the application and information packets they sent, which were blue and embossed with gold letters), Princeton (because a television star you’ve probably never heard had gone there), Yale (though the exact reasoning escapes me), and of course Harvard, because that’s always the Asian dream, right?

Since they were all long shots, I was going to narrow it down to just one, and probably that would have left just Harvard, in a shoot-for- the-moon logic. But my mother came into my room one day and kind of nonchalantly asked about MIT. She said that it had always been my father’s dream school (though he’d failed out), and wouldn't it be funny if I got in? That’s all she said.

Wouldn’t it be funny if I got in.

Nothing about how we’d pay for it (which of course, would be my father’s problem, according to the divorce agreement), or whether I’d like it (which should, really, have been a concern: the sciences had not been my favorite subjects in high school, and MIT is really a math and science school). Just: wouldn’t it be funny.

So, I scrapped the other private schools I’d been thinking about (without regret, I should say, since I really hadn’t done enough research on any of them, so convinced was I that I would end up wearing a Cal sweatshirt). I had long ago finished my UC application, which meant that I had copies of all my recommendation letters (where my teachers had signed on the outsides of the envelopes, to show that I hadn’t tampered). I had copies of my transcripts as well as a traditional essay about my family, my aspirations, blah, blah. The essay, though, became a stumbling block. Probably I could have just retooled my UC one, but I had convinced myself that I shouldn’t.

No idea why.

The night before the deadline I couldn’t sleep. I sat down at the computer and wrote a completely ludicrous essay for a fairly standard prompt: tell us about you, your world, blah, blah.

Because it was already the middle of the night, and because I was in an odd mood, I fixated on the “the world you come from” part of the question and started just writing.

I wrote that both of my parents were aliens, from different worlds. They’d been matched together, sight unseen, as part of an elaborate crossbreeding experiment engineered to produce a supernormal being. Both were selected after a series of tests and competitions and represented the best their species had to offer in terms of intellect, physicality, and emotional stability and maturity.

They’d been sent to our planet so that if the experimentation went horribly awry, their home worlds would not be affected.

Also (I wrote) there were political considerations: neither world was willing to let the other have home court advantage. The Nai’Ros (my mother’s people) were worried that the Heojs’s (my father’s people) might inexorably influence and pollute my mother with their way of thinking, and vice versa. The only way to be in a truly equal, unbiased setting was to select a neutral territory that neither species had significant influence over, preferably one that was technologically stunted enough that it could be easily taken over, if necessary.


After being chosen, both of my parents became instant celebrities. After a lavish ceremony, both worlds waited in eager anticipation, tinged with justifiable suspicions about the necessity of a future war: if the pair reproduced a set of supernormal beings, as had been predicted, which planet would have jurisdiction? What if there was only one child? How would such a resource be evenly distributed between two vastly different planets?

But my parents were unlucky, physiologically incompatible and thus infertile despite the tests that had been run and theorized ahead of time. A decade into the experiment, both had yearned to return to their home planets, preferably without each other. Since both had been chosen as examples of near-perfect specimens, they’d come to resent one another, convinced that the lack of offspring was the other’s fault.

But by then, most of their own people had forgotten about them and the experiment. Not wanting the expense of transporting them back and performing the necessary debriefs, the two governments agreed to change and extend the initial experiment. It was decreed that they would adopt a child, a human girl, and she would become the living embodiment of the nature vs. nurture hypothesis.

I was that child.

My Book Review:

Unwell is the poignant story of a young Chinese American woman who journals her life story to her unborn child, who she has chosen not to know. Told in the first person narrative, the reluctant mother-to-be chronicles her difficult life story in a haunting, raw, and honest style that takes the reader on an emotional journey.

To say that this was an easy story to read would be wrong, as this gritty tale unfolds it definitely pulls at the heart strings and stirs the soul, and causes one to ponder what would you do if you were in this young woman's shoes. The reader is easily drawn into the woman's story as her life struggles determine the hard choices and tough decisions. The reader is kept wondering what the woman's final decision would be when her child is born, questioning along the way how one could choose not to be a mother, yet comprehending that you can't judge a person unless you walk in their shoes.

Unwell is a sobering and thought provoking story that will resonate with you long after the last word has been read.


Contest Giveaway

Win A $10 Amazon Gift Card

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Tour Schedule:

May 12 – The Book Bag – Review & Guest Post
May 12 – eBook Addict – Q&A
May 13 – A Writer in a Wheelchair – Review
May 13 - A Writer in a Wheelchair - Q&A
May 14 – Wendi Kay – Review
May 15 – Second Bookshelf on the Right - Q&A
May 19 - eBook Addict - Novel Spotlight
May 19 – The East Village – Review
May 20 – Chick Lit Plus – Review
May 22 – Samantha March – Q&A
May 23 –Christy’s Written Word Love – Review
May 26 – Jersey Girl Book Reviews – Review, Guest Post & Excerpt


  1. Thanks for closing out the tour!

    1. Thank you for the opportunity to host the virtual book tour event.