Saturday, September 04, 2010

Wild Card Weekend - The Call with Jeannie Lin

For Wild Card weekend, we're thrilled to share a bit of a Wild Card Call Story!  Just over a year ago, Jeannie Lin got The Call. Some of us were witness to her amazing week at RWA Nationals in Washington DC...and today you get the whole story!

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!!!

But it was long after business hours in the UK. I had to wait all night, fretting. Why hadn’t they left a message? The next morning I missed another call. This time Linda Fildew left a message regarding Butterfly Swords.

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.

Within the hour I was at RWA conference, among my writing buddies: the Romance Divas, my chaptermates from MORWA, and the Ruby-Slippered Sisters. They were all there for me to talk me down from the ledge, hold my hand, and buy me a drink.

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.

After I won the Golden Heart that Saturday, Jade Lee found me. We’d met a few days earlier at the Literacy signing when I’d confessed that she inspired me to write historical romances set in China. Jade thanked me for carrying on the torch. My idol. Thanking me.

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!

The Taming of Mei Lin is available September 1, 2010.

I'll be giving away a download from eHarlequin for the HH Undone. To be entered, click on the 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.


  1. I was there and I still love this story.

    Way to go, Jeannie Lin! So proud of you every single day. Can't wait to have your book in my hands in October!

  2. Hi MG!
    Did I get the facts right? I was a little woozy at the time....

    I did want to stop by and first say think you to the Pink Heart Society for having me here. I've come by here so many times to read Call stories. It's kind of amazing to have one of my own!

    Also if you want to be entered in the drawing, you actually have until 8pm on Saturday in the US, Central time zone. :). Which means about a whole 24 hours before I draw based on the e-mails I get through the contact form. Good luck!

  3. Congrats, Jeannie! What a fabulous call story. Love the sound of the book!

  4. Wonderful call story.... so inspirational. Thanks.
    Love the sound of your book.

  5. Jeannie --
    I am wiping tears from my eyes. It is such a lovely call story. And I'm so glad you are a Harlequin Historical author. I can't wait to read both your stories...
    It is wonderful that the Eastern time periods are opening up!

  6. Jeannie, I'm in tears as well. What a great call story.

  7. It couldn't have happened in a better place, or with better people!

  8. Thank you everyone. It was so nice to walk down memory lane. Unlike other authors, I don't remember the date of my call. I will forever think of it as "Wednesday at RWA conference".

    Michelle - I was especially touched to get your message the next day. (She's extremely on top of it, if anyone didn't know) Prior to joining Harlequin Historical, you were the only HH author I had read. I looked at the e-mail and thought, OMG...I read her books! I'm a little better with playing it cool now that I've met many more published authors. :)

  9. Congrats Jeannie! Your call story made me cry.

  10. This is such a thrilling story, Jeannie! I'm crying happy tears too. Congratulations. Mei Lin is terrific! Don't enter me in the drawing as I already bought it. I'm looking forward to having you sign Butterfly Swords for me. Good luck with your tour.

  11. What a great story, Jeannie. I was grinning as I read it. I love reading call stories.

  12. Thank you everyone for the supportive words! And also thanks for all the entries. I will randomly draw the winner and announce shortly!

  13. Congrats to Rosie! I have contacted you with your download code.

    Thank you Pink Hearts for having me!

  14. Loved your story. Can't wait to get my hands on your book!

  15. Jeannie, I got misty eyes myself reading that! I'm SO proud of you. You wrote the story you were compelled to write, and it worked! I'm so excited to read Butterfly Swords and The Taming of Mei Lin!

    Couldn't have happened to a nicer person, either. It was a pleasure meeting you at this year's RWA. :D