Do you remember your first Harlequin?
I was 12 when I read it for the first time, and my obsession with horses quickly gave way to a fascination with brooding heroes and gutsy heroines and hard-won happy ever afters. Before long I was fantasizing about writing a romance of my own. I did a lot of plotting over the years, even managed a few scenes of a romantic suspense (scenes that make me shudder now and for all the wrong reasons), but I was less than disciplined. I allowed my attention to wane and I learned to ignore the you’ve left something undone sense of uneasiness that clung to me like Pigpen’s cloud of dirt.
What changed? I turned 40. I’d like to say I was finally mature enough to realize that dreaming would never hook up with doing without a little matchmaking on my part. But really I think I was just desperate to distract myself from rubbing alcohol and reading glasses. I don’t remember how I discovered www.harlequin.com or where I found the chutzpah to not only join my local RWA chapter but actually attend a meeting, but thank heavens I did! (And 8+ years of online courses and ebooks also explains why I now need those reading glasses more than ever!)
5 manuscripts, 11 partials, countless contest entries, a handful of requests and two armfuls of rejection letters later, I finally sold! I should dub this the "call story that almost wasn't" since I nearly didn’t enter the online contest that led to my sale—I was revising a story already targeted to Superromance and I really wanted to get it done. But eventually I realized the Harlequin Memorial Day Challenge was too good an opportunity to pass up. I mean, how smart would it be to ignore the chance of getting feedback from the editors managing the very same line I wanted to write for? So I decided to enter. And that’s why I’m here. :-)
I actually received 2/3 of a call first, and received the other 1/3 about a week later. I promise I didn’t pull that fraction out of a hat—there were actually three editors involved in the decision. In June, after I discovered I'd won the opportunity to have Superromance editors Victoria Curran and Megan Long critique my story, I was ecstatic. I was also far from finished. So I wrote and edited madly and with the help of one critique partner, two beta readers, and four seasons of Army Wives, I finished my friendly fire story and sent it in. And waited.
Several weeks later, Megan Long left a voicemail message letting me know she'd emailed the critiques I’d won. It took a few seconds for my heart to slide back down my throat. Good news, though not what I’d hoped to hear. Then she said she'd passed my book up to Wanda Ottewell, the senior editor! I was listening to this message as I drove home from work and I had to pull over into the nearest parking lot because I was crying too hard to see.
I heard from Megan again eleven days later. (Not that I was counting. Oh, who am I kidding, that was the longest eleven days of my life!) She called the morning of Halloween, though I didn't get her message until late in the afternoon, since we're not allowed to carry our cell phones into the building where I work. This time I listened to my voicemail before leaving the parking lot. :-)
Megan’s message? Wanda said yes! I don’t remember how I got home, though I do remember helping myself to way too much Halloween candy once I got there. Good thing we only had three trick-or-treaters that evening, because there wasn’t much chocolate left.
I managed to pull myself together—mostly—and called Megan back. And proceeded to embarrass myself by giggling. Incessantly. If anyone asks, I’m blaming the chocolate. Anyway, to my utter delight, Megan did not whimper "never mind" and hang up. Which means she is now stuck with me, and The Other Soldier is slated to be released next week, on July 3rd.
All of which means I really should have dedicated the book to Mary Wibberley, don’t you think?!
Please let me know in the comments—do you remember the first romance you read? The first Harlequin? What was special about it? If you’re a fellow writer and not yet published, how long have you been writing? Do you share my newfound obsession with Army Wives? How about Halloween candy?
I have two copies of The Other Soldier I’d love to share—no trick, it’s my treat. :-) Many, many thanks to all of you Pink Heart Society blog readers for tuning in to read my story today! And an extra-special thanks to the lovely Pink Heart Society ladies for hosting me! Here’s to Happy Ever Afters!