Saturday, September 04, 2010
Wild Card Weekend - The Call with Jeannie Lin
It was Thursday before RWA 2009. I was working the day job in my home office when a number I didn’t recognize came through. When I hit redial on the number hours later, an answering machine picked up, and a very British sounding voice told me I’d reached the offices of Harlequin Mills & Boon.
Mills & Boon!!!
My agent Gail Fortune called Linda back, while I paced all around my house. By the end of the morning, we had an offer from Harlequin, but the manuscript had already been submitted to other houses. The other publishers wanted the weekend to look things over, send the manuscript up the chain, etc. etc. Thus began the longest wait of my life.
“Tuesday might get interesting,” Gail said.
“Tuesday I leave for conference,” I replied, feeling ill.
Saturday happened. Sunday happened. Somewhere, several states away, people who could determine my future were reading my manuscript. Monday, nothing. On Tuesday I flew to D.C., and received a call while in the taxicab.
Note the lowercase “c”.
Gail told me the rest of the houses passed and she’d respond to Harlequin, but the business day was over in the UK once again. There would be another wait during which I was certain Mills and Boon would change their minds.
The next morning, a group of Romance Divas gathered in my room for a Pilates session led by Eden Bradley. I needed something to keep my mind occupied. In the middle of about a hundred crunches, my phone rang and I jumped up and grabbed it. Everyone knew what I was waiting for.
I answered it and heard the loveliest English accent in the world. It was Linda Fildew, calling to welcome me to Mills and Boon. She told me how everyone in the office was so excited about Butterfly Swords, which they had requested after judging the Golden Heart contest.
After I hung up the phone, I looked over at all my friends who were, of course, all looking at me.
“I’m going to be a Harlequin author,” I announced. I was immediately swarmed.
I couldn’t imagine it happening in a better place. I was surrounded by friends, some who had known me from nearly the beginning of my writing journey. The Romance Divas in the room had witnessed my query wars, rejection after rejection. They’d cheered with me for every request. There’s no better online support group in the world.
Gail called shortly after. She insisted that I go and get my First Sale ribbon. We all headed down in a posse, still in our workout clothes. Everywhere we went, my friends told people, “She just sold!”
I broke down in tears in the elevator down to the lobby. After hearing all the many reasons why my story wouldn’t work, it was such a ray of light to finally hear that someone loved it. That they believed in my writing and were excited about publishing it.
On the way to RWA registration, I ran up and hugged everyone I knew in the lobby. I never realized how many people I had met in the four years of writing romance. It was amazing to be able to share this moment with all of them, whether they wanted to or not!
Carol Ritter was at registration and I must have hugged her too. When I started to explain about the First Sale, even offering to put my agent on the phone, Carol laughed. She told me she had an idea it might happen because Harlequin called her to ask for my contact information. Then she handed me that silly little lovely pink ribbon. I still have it.
That whole conference is wrapped into my memory of The Call. After the Golden Heart win, I called my sister to reflect on the nomination, the conference, the sale:
“This was the only way I was going to sell,” I said. “It happened the way it had to happen.”
“It happened exactly the way you wanted it to happen,” she replied.
And she was right. Which is why I tell people to aim high and go for it, no holds barred. I knew from the beginning that Butterfly Swords was a long shot. I know it took a lot of luck, and a lot of things falling into place, but it can happen exactly as you dream.
Butterfly Swords will be on shelves in October. Jeannie's Undone story, The Taming of Mei Lin is out now!
I'll be giving away a download from eHarlequin for the HH Undone. To be entered, click on the contact http://www.jeannielin.com/index.php/contact/ form on my website and send me a message with subject "PHS giveaway."
I'll draw the winner tonight at 8pm CST. Good luck and hope to hear from you.