First Impressions & Second Chances

by Vinnie Hansen

You never have a second chance to make a first impression.


This advertising slogan for dandruff shampoo wormed its way into our consciousness. Because it’s a catchy way to state a truth. In life there are no do-overs.

My good friend Christine recalls when she first met me. She was a teacher visiting my classroom to see if she wanted to make the shift to a high-school setting. She thought I was unfriendly.

This sounds awful, but I completely understand her first impression. I’m an introvert, so I don’t project the bubbly exterior many might dub friendly. I also grew up in the Midwest, so I tend to be private, which many might interpret as aloof, or unfriendly. Finally, she was visiting my class before lunch and I had to be brusque in order to meet other colleagues for our lunchtime walk.

Me, Christine and our colleague Georgene, dressed as flappers (many moons ago)

Me, Christine and our colleague Georgene, dressed as flappers for Halloween (many moons ago)

Over time, Christine learned that I may not be overtly friendly, but I’m an excellent friend—loyal, thoughtful, and encouraging. She once said I was the kindest person she knew. And when she became my lunchtime walking partner, she learned firsthand that one could not dally and still fit a walk into the lunch period.

The problem with the well-known aphorism above is that it supports the tyranny of the first impression. And first impressions are sometimes wrong. Or maybe not wrong so much as superficial. The aphorism reinforces the notion that nothing will ever be different. If we blow it, the damage is done! You show up with dandruff–game over.

Fortunately, like other tyrants, first impressions can be toppled. Second chances are possible.

My friend came to appreciate not my friendliness, but my friendship. And knowing that she found me unfriendly, improved my self-awareness. I practiced the painful art of extending myself to strangers, creating a new first impression for future acquaintances. The truth is, every moment, really, we offer a new self for impressions. And anyone stuck on a first impression is making a mistake.

Which brings me to my books. When I started writing the Carol Sabala mystery series, I was working full-time as an English teacher. I did not have a lot of free time to pursue my long-abiding love of creative writing. Nonetheless, my first mystery, Murder, Honey, caught the interest of an agent. Only in retrospect do I appreciate what a milestone that was, even though the agent did not successfully market the book.

At the time, I did not know that the next step should have been to write the second book for the series. I later learned that many series writers don’t sell their first, or even their second book, but may sell their third, creating the opportunity then to publish the first and second.


One of my original covers

But back then in my naiveté, I decided to self-publish. Digital print, companies such as iUniverse, were in their infancy. With little guidance, (I wasn’t even a member of Sisters in Crime yet!), I still did many things right. The book had passed through a writing group and other readers. As an English teacher, I proofread the book until my eyeballs were hanging out.

I employed a professional photographer to create cover art. Still I had no idea how much more really needed to be done to create a polished product.

Over time, I improved. By my third book, I was working with a small, local publisher who expertly formatted the mysteries and steered me to reputable printers. The problem was, to make this viable, I had to order hundreds of copies of my books—and I didn’t know much about marketing.

The new version!

The new version!

It wasn’t until I both retired from teaching and found a home at misterio press that I really learned what it takes to produce a first-rate product. The last book in my series was published directly from misterio, but I’ve also had the good fortune to go back and re-release the first six books under the misterio imprint.

I can’t change the fact that some readers encountered Murder, Honey in its first edition. Fortunately, some people liked it warts and all.

No matter what others’ first impressions of my writing are or have been, it does not change the fact that I am evolving, becoming a better writer. Having the expertise of the ladies at misterio press, using a professional cover designer, and gaining a better sense of the market, I now have the chance to make new first impressions with new readers.

Have you ever been given an important second chance? Have you ever made a bad first impression that haunted you?

And here is the last one to be re-released under the misterio press imprint, Book #3 in the series — Rotten Dates.

RottenDatesNewly divorced and vulnerable, baker/sleuth Carol Sabala resists her friend’s pressure to use a personal ad to enter the dating scene.

Two weeks later a woman’s body is found strangled on a riverbank in Santa Cruz. Did the killer use the ads to lure his victim?

Hired to investigate by the deceased’s cousin, Carol sees the amateur photographer who discovered the body as a likely suspect. He’s handsome, charming, and definitely on the prowl. Is it for a date with Carol or for his next victim?

As she digs deeper into the case, she uncovers one dangerous-but-appealing man after another. Longing for companionship and adventure in her own life, Carol learns the hard way that combining the two can be a risky business.

Now available on:    AMAZON    SMASHWORDS

The paperback version should be ready by the end of the week!

Posted by Vinnie Hansen. Vinnie is a retired English teacher and award-winning author. Her cozy noir mystery series, the Carol Sabala mysteries, is set in Santa Cruz, California.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

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  • Reply
    Barbara Allyn
    October 4, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    Great post, Vinnie. As I read it, I experienced cringe worthy moments from the past, including yesterday. Flashbacks of unintentionally hurtful things said or uneducated attempts to express ourselves as writers can stop our personal and professional momentum. As you pointed out so well, these gaffs are simply steps to bettering ourselves and our work. Thanks.

  • Reply
    Vinnie Hansen
    October 4, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    Thanks for dropping by, Barbara. Of course, you left me mighty curious about what happened yesterday!

  • Reply
    K.B. Owen
    October 4, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    Congrats on your re-release, Vinnie! I’m so glad you found a home here at Misterio. Our enclave has helped me enormously! And yes, there is certainly a learning curve in indie publishing. You should have seen the first cover of book 1 before I found the right cover artist! LOL.

    Good luck! Looking forward to many more.

  • Reply
    Vinnie Hansen
    October 4, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    Thanks, Kathy. Our “enclave” rocks!

    BTW–Love your covers. Such a clever theme to unit the series.

  • Reply
    October 4, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    So true. Ditto for unwittingly creating less than friendly first impressions myself. I haven’t read your series yet but they are in my line-up to read after Kassandra’s.

    • Reply
      Vinnie Hansen
      October 4, 2016 at 9:05 pm

      Thank you for checking out the post, Melanie. I’m thrilled to be on your reading list.

  • Reply
    Shannon Esposito
    October 5, 2016 at 8:58 am

    I’m right there with you, Vinnie. I’m such an introvert that my first two best friends were only made after they initially thought I was a bitch. We laugh about it now and I’ve learned to try and “act” like an extrovert when I meet people for the first time so the impression I give isn’t aloof or uncaring. It’s difficult, especially since I actually care too much.

    I’m so excited for your re-release of this series! You know I’m a big fan of the new covers & I know they’re going to help you find the readers this story deserves. Now to concentrate on marketing 🙂

  • Reply
    Vinnie Hansen
    October 5, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    I wonder what it will be like when we two introverts finally meet, Shannon. 🙂

  • Reply
    Kassandra Lamb
    October 6, 2016 at 10:59 pm

    Love this post, Vinnie!! I can’t begin to tell you how many bad first impressions I have made. As my brother likes to say, I have foot IN mouth disease. I’m always grateful when I get a second chance with people.

    And I am definitely grateful for our group!! You all have touched my heart (as well as helping me to be a better writer).

  • Reply
    Vinnie Hansen
    October 7, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    Thank you for providing some of those second chances, Kassandra.

    • Reply
      Kassandra Lamb
      October 7, 2016 at 8:12 pm

      You’re welcome!! <3 <3

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