How Hot Is Too Hot?

Man on fire 1

I like hot stuff. On a scale of vanilla to battery acid, I prefer food heat levels somewhere in the radiator vicinity.

A fear years ago while travelling down in Louisiana, my companion and I selected a loverly little spot to grub on some ribs. The waiter took our order, including what kind of sauce we wanted the ribs soaked in.

I sat up straighter, pushed my shoulders back, and looked him dead in the eyes. “Hot. Like, super hot.”

“As hot as you’ve got,” my companion added.

“The Inferno’s the hottest we suggest.” His top lip quirked up. “But we do have a sauce that’s not on the menu: Petey’s Insane in the Membrane Melt Your Face Off Sauce.


Mr. Waiter warned us. He tried to talk us out of slathering it on the ribs, and offered to bring a cup of Petey’s on the side. Helz naw! We were living the life. If we were gonna go hot, we were gonna go hot.

My companion & I tucked in our napkins. Kerosene fumes assaulted our noses as we closed in on the flammable meat. Eyes locked, we took our first experimental bites. The sting was immediate. We chewed, eyes watering, sweat erupting on our cheeks, not even pretending like the agony was worth it. Then the liquid lava kicked in. Holy hell was it insane. In our membranes, our tongues, teeth, tonsils, our very souls. We cried, coughed and chewed, somehow choked down the first napalm chunks.

And then our faces melted off.

Bread didn’t help. Drinking tea was like tossing water on a grease fire. We scraped our lips and tongue with our napkins—to no avail. Once the feeling returned to our limbs, we squeegeed the ribs with knives and napkins in an effort to strip off the incendiary barbecue paint. Damn that sadistic Petey and his murderous sauce!

Last week, I posted about a personal experience with an offer of rep and the reasons I declined. Going into the drafting of that post, I definitely weighed the risk of sharing it with the world. Sure, I could have kept it all tucked in, buried in the shadows, vaguely hinted at, or completely cloaked from interweb eyes. But I had a burning in my gut; sharing the experience would help others. This wasn’t just about me. And, perhaps, by openly sharing my experience, reasoning, and process, other querying writers might pause, and breathe, and assess an offer of rep not just with emotion, but also with tempered wisdom.

I know too many amazing writers who jumped at their first offer, only to regret that quick decision later.

So, tiptoeing onto the tightrope, I sought a way to share my story, while giving enough specifics to be genuine, but not too many that I’d tip over into unprofessional. I sought to be truthful, to speak with candor, while only naming one party—myself. Personally, I believe I stayed on the tightrope.

The positive response was overwhelming. Something in my words obviously struck a chord. My personal favorite DM: You’ve got balls of steel, man. Kudos. An agent took the time to send me an encouraging email regarding the post. Folks engaged in active conversation about the topic. Which is to say: this hush-hush thing was laid out on the table where everyone could see, poke, and discuss it.

As in all public things, which are open for judgment, my post received a few tsk tsk tsks.

My thoughts?
Opacity helps no one.
Transparency can actually hurt the sharer.
– But a Translucency exists between those two extremes.

And you know how random synergy seems to pulse through the writing community? [Eerie that…] Parallel conversations on complimentary topics cropped up. Things like a Twitter convo about how much is too much to share regarding rejections. And, in another synergistic moment, Oversharing was the focus of the loverly Fizzy’s post from earlier this week. And scroll back to @millercallihan’s Twitter feed from Wednesday to see her thoughts & advice.

If this isn’t apparent yet, in every facet of my life, I burn white-hot: creative ventures, work, relationships, emotions, humor, opinions, writing. Passion sears through me and ignites everything and everyone within warming distance. Rarely does any of that go up in flames. Instead, my life glows with heat, and adventure, and love, and surprise, and beautifully insane randomocity.

I have no doubt that some believe I burn too hot at times.

But some things remain opaque. There are things I absolutely know NOT to share. Specifics and stats you will never, ever know. These are the sacred things, the things which are nobody’s business but my own, things which—by sharing—would be of no help to anyone else. These things, while they may still blaze and spit flames, remain safely caged behind the fireplace screen and out of the public eye.

I’m curious what you all think. Some things are an enigma to me. Like how querying writers, as a rule, shouldn’t publicly share stats on rejections, but as soon as that writer is repped, those stats are almost a requirement in the announcement post. I suppose it’s okay to share that once-taboo detail once you’ve crossed into the promised land?

So, how hot is too hot?
What are the things best left opaque?
What are some translucent areas you feel are left up to circumstance & personality?
Are there times when you’re actually scared to Tweet or post something, out of fear that it might sour an industry pro’s view of you or your work?
At what point does a writer/author’s transparency cross from Inferno into Melt Your face Off with Cringe?

FTR, I don’t have a problem with sharing rejection info—to a point. I’ve posted a few pie charts detailing the different yeses and nos in my querying process. But I chose to share percentages, not numbers. Another off-limits for me is naming specific agents or agencies. Super blasphemous. As is submissions & rejections to publishers once over on the other side of the river in the promised land. For what my opinion’s worth. 😉

6 thoughts on “How Hot Is Too Hot?

  1. I’ve been very upfront in posting about an unpleasant publishing experience and though most of the comments were positive, there have been a few folks who told me I should have kept my bad experience to myself. Like you, I posted in hopes others would learn a thing or two. New and aspiring authors have misconceptions about the publishing industry that could destroy their careers before they ever begin. Being saddled with a “bad” agent or publisher is worse than queries and rejections. That rush of “yippee I landed an agent/publisher” fades pretty fast when you realize you didn’t get what you expected. Though it hurt you to have to say no, I have absolute confidence your book will find the perfect home. Please continue to keep us updated about your publishing journey.


    • Thanks for stopping by, Tricia.
      We really only have two ways to learn about both the good experiences & the pitfalls. Either:
      1) through personal experience ~or~
      2) by others sharing theirs.


  2. Wow, you really have some thought-provoking posts. I read the one the other day about the Offer of Not Rep and was really fascinated by it, soaking up every detail. You have a great style that comes across easily and demands to be read. I so wish that had been the real deal for you.

    I just signed with an agent the other day. It was fun and I had a little Twitter Party. So now I’m like, ok, well, now I have to share “The Stats,” now I have to do this and that and the other thing. But I need to think about that. I think it’s very important what you said about these things. Of course, I posted the news on my favorite websites, but I don’t know how much detail I’ll go into later.

    As for the article by Fizzy, I read that too, and am in agreement. I’m amazed by some of the things writers post and talk about on Twitter.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post.

    Oh, and you are out of your mind to have done a dare on the hot sauce!


  3. Personally, I think a lot of writers are ashamed by how many rejections they have. But when they finally get a publishing deal, that shame turns into a helpful story to cheer up the poor struggling wannabes. “Chin up, young writer–JK Rowling was rejected by 52 publishers! And look at her now!” That kind of thing.

    I used to have some pretty revealing, tongue-in-cheek posts on my blog like “Ten Signs Of A Bad Agent”. I didn’t name names, and my blog was anonymous back then (before everyone started commenting using my name! Thanks, guys.) but apparently posts like that are a big no-no. I really wanted other writers to benefit from my experience and not make the same mistakes or spend years wondering, “do I have a bad agent, or is it just me?” But I’ve heard enough writers say posts like that can kill your career. So I deleted them. I’m not sure if I did the right thing or not.

    That’s why it takes guts to write what you did and stand behind it. Even in this day and age, when writers supposedly have so much power to publish what we like when we like, everyone’s still so afraid of maybe-accidentally-kinda-sorta offending an agent or publisher with an anonymous, reveal-no-names blog post. I wonder why that is…?


    • I believe it’s because the agent is the first to say “yes” or “no”. The first move is theirs. And I think there’s a hesitancy on the part of non-repped writers to do anything they feel/believe/have heard/think might make that an easy “no”.

      My thought on that (for what it’s worth) is that whether repped or not, you should be real. Truly be yourself. Any relationship started under a guise of any kind stands the risk of ending badly. (For what it’s worth.)


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