One of the taglines I use as an author/publisher is “Escape with Us.” Escape is what good fiction accomplishes. We readers immerse ourselves in the problems of fictional characters, accompany them through adventures and angst, and share their triumph when all’s well that ends well.

Sometimes we need an escape from our normal lives in real life, not just within the pages of a good story. That’s why we take vacations. We give ourselves a break and permission either to do something different or do nothing at all. Last week I took such a break. I went to New Orleans, Louisiana.

My deceased son’s birthday is in late October. I didn’t want to be home for what was supposed to have been–and was in previous years–a joyful date. I needed distraction from melancholy and what better place to find distraction than the Big Easy?

The choice of destination was deliberate. I picked a place where Matt once visited and thoroughly enjoyed himself. I picked a location I’d never before experienced. I asked my best friend to accompany me and she agreed.

I’m sure that wasn’t easy for her, as I’m not the easiest person with whom to spend extended time. But we managed to get through the entire week with our friendship intact, so that’s good. We were smart enough to get separate hotel rooms and take breaks from each other.

We explored the French Quarter together. We went on various tours: a city bus tour, a carriage tour, a swamp tour, a ghost tour. We walked pretty much everywhere. We dined at restaurants recommended by locals, not by Yelp or other tourists. We directed our attention to the city’s eclectic storefronts, art, and history. I bought stuff I didn’t need. We tried new foods.

“Escape with Us” recognizes that we all need breaks from daily stress. A good story can deliver that at our convenience; a great story pulls us back into the pages even when we’re supposed to be concentrating on other things. I’m contented with a good story, but thrilled by a great story.

A great story is what I hope to produce. It’s what every fiction author hopes to produce. There’s no better accolade than a review confessing that the story gripped the reader into the wee hours of the night or persuaded the reader to ignore his or her other obligations in favor of reading it, like this review for Russian Lullaby: “Loved this book. Had everything to hold your interest. Author puts magic and life into her words and the story flows and steals your attention. Reading this book becomes a priority. Other things put on hold…like sleep for example.” Or this review for The Falcon of Imenotash: “Holly has done it again. I couldn’t put down the book. Aridis and Edan battle humiliating circumstances brought about by the emperor. Her supposed brother. I just couldn’t wait to see if they would prevail.

Not all my books garner such praise. A few receive negative reviews because they don’t conform to genre expectations or the reader dislikes something about the character(s). I take comfort in those reviews, because they don’t complain of substandard writing. That just goes to prove that just because something’s written well doesn’t mean that everyone will like it.