Tag Archives: Harlequin

It Started With a Flashlight

It started with a flashlight.

Once upon a time publishing meant query–wait 3-6 months–partial–wait 3-6 months–full–wait 3-6 months (if you were lucky) and repeat.

Last year I published Honor and Lies. At the time, I thought that would be my only indie book. My writing goal for years had been 1-sighted. Harlequin. I love category romance. I’ve loved it as long as I’ve been reading romance when my cousin and I read a Greek shipping tycoon, virginal English secretary who won the lottery story around the time I was in 6th grade. We read by flashlight and hoped our parents wouldn’t catch us. They didn’t.

A few years later my mom subscribed to the Silhouette book club. Again, she finished a book, I started a book. My school librarian subscribed to Harlequin and kept the books on the shelves for us. I read them all.

When Harlequin was my one and only goal, I wrote, submitted, got great requests and then devastating rejections.

Self publishing last year changed that. Honor & Lies wasn’t a manuscript targeted to Harlequin. Neither was Grace is Enough (originally published as Prodigal). Both books got great feedback from readers, neither found a home with a publisher. Hello Amazon and Smashwords.

This month I launched Dead Girl Walking, book 1 of The Guardian series–my first contemporary young adult novel. I wrote it with indie publishing in mind. I just “finished” Letting Go, an inspirational romance, and I have A Different Kind of Hero, a contemporary romance ready to go.

Now I’m sitting here reading through A Different Kind of Hero one last time and praying about which direction to go. It takes so long to go through the query process, and these days time means everything. I’ve got a decision to make. I’ll keep you posted on what happens.
“High school’s never been easy. Now it just might be murder.” Dead Girl Walking, The Guardian Book 1. Available here.

Sharlene Gallagher, teen scream movie queen, was the biggest thing to happen to Primrose, Texas. Until she died.
Now Sharlene’s back as a guardian angel life coach. Only her real objective is a bit more intense. Her charge: figure out the identity of her murderer before high school junior Addison Karchusky falls prey to the killer. Enlisting Addison’s help without letting her know her life’s in danger? No problem…she hopes.
High school used to be easy. Now it just might be murder.

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Coolest thing about Vegas

Or, I guess I should say coolest thing other than the night I had an amazing winning streak at the poker table (five full houses, quad 7s)…
We stumbled upon the Harlequin exhibit at Paris Las Vegas. It was so cool. DH was a good sport and walked around with me. 🙂

YES!

I entered the Intrigue pitch contest and I won. I get to pitch Missing to Allison Lyons in a live chat in a couple weeks. Woo Hoo!

Interesting:

You Are an Espresso

At your best, you are: straight shooting, ambitious, and energetic
At your worst, you are: anxious and high strung

You drink coffee when: anytime you’re not sleeping

Your caffeine addiction level: high

Category Romance

I love category romance. Always have. The first romances I read were those great Greek shipping tycoons and secretaries who won the lottery or sisters in the hospitals falling in love with doctors who’d lost all. I was thirteen and through those books, the world was mine for the taking.
Since then things have changed. I don’t read the books with those themes as often, even though they’re still published. Now I read a ton of Supers, IMs and Intrigues. I love these books because they almost always deliver an awesome story, but they do so in a condensed format. I can read a great book in a short amount of time. They fit my busy lifestyle.
I keep hearing people say category is dying.
I don’t think that’s the case. I thinks it’s shifting, and that’s not a bad thing.
Fewer books wouldn’t be a great thing for me as an author trying to break into that market, but it would probably be a good thing for the market as a whole.
Used to I’d go to the store and choose one or two out of 16 books. Now I go to Wal-Mart and there are rows and rows of series length books. If I were a new reader, I’d be lost. Shoot, I’m an old reader and I just discovered Virginia Kantra and Karen Templeton this year! Talk about missing some greats!!!
I hope the people out there saying category romance is on its way out are wrong. I hope H/S continues introducing me to amazing new authors and fabulous stories I can read in a short time. Stories about a million different things but which always deliver the promise: Happily Ever After.

Choosing

Early in my childhood I learned the safety of books. Libraries were places to discover hidden treasure. After I’d finished reading everything I wanted in the children’s section I walked the aisles of the adult area, searching for the perfect story. The librarian steered me toward Grace Livingston Hill and Victoria Holt. I read all she had of both of them and then found others. Books on royalty. Bloody true crime stories. Historical romances with just enough sex to intrigue me but not enough to traumatize my young mind. 🙂
I loved books. I still do. Today I like bookstores better than libraries, but I don’t go on reading scavenger hunts as often either. I rarely take chances the way I did in the past. A part of me wants to, but another thinks there are too many books in my TBR pile to risk time on a bad book.
I’m not sure if that mentality affects what I write or not.
When I first started writing, I chose to target Harlequin Silhouette for a number of reasons. I thought it would be easier to break in…hahahahaha! I thought the shorter word counts would be easier to write. I loved Margot Early and Debbie Macomber and Judy Christenberry and Nora and Judith Arnold and a ton of other H/S writers. Honestly (and so totally wrong!!!!) I thought writing for H/S would be easier because of the “formula.”
I started off writing what I figured was an American and sent it off into that other world of New York publishing and started on another book. When I got a request for full I figured I was months away from being a published author.
I spent hours working but no real thought on any of my stories. I just wrote them. I didn’t really respect the craft. I didn’t think much about it at all.
That changed with time as did my target markets.
This summer I’m experimenting with my writing. I’m still having fun. I’m tossing the idea of formula out the window. I’m trying to find combinations of words that make me happy and still tell my characters’ stories. I’m working on weaving my voice with their voices. I have no idea of market. Some would say that’s unprofessional. I figure it doesn’t much matter.
I’m reading an interesting book right now. When I started reading it I wasn’t sure I liked it. The story captivated me, but the story’s written from the protagonist’s point of view and it’s not easy to read at first. I stuck with it though because the story was so rich, the language and descriptions so full. I’m 2/3’s through now and I’m glad I kept reading. The book is The Shipping News. It’s a Pulitzer winner from a few years back. I don’t know why I picked it up. I guess the whole News angle interested me. I’m not sure what I’m learning as a writer as I read this story. It’s completely different from anything I’ll ever write. But I like it a lot. Somehow I identify with the characters. The author has made the human connection, the emotional tie. It’s set in Newfoundland. I’ve never really thought much about Newfoundland, but I find myself drawn to this barren area and these people. I hope I don’t need a box of Kleenex by the end of the story. But if I do, I trust this author. I trust that she won’t have me crying for no reason other than author manipulation. I HATE reading stories and getting to the end and some horrible tragedy taking place for no other reason than the author wants to make readers cry. I won’t read Nicholas Sparks anymore because of the end of Message in a Bottle. Author manipulation. Sad ending are fine if the story calls for it, if the characters demand them, if the lesson learned requires that end.
Maybe that’s a lesson I’m supposed to learn as I read this story. My new WIP has a lot of opportunity for author manipulated tears.
Don’t get me wrong. Manipulation is part of the author’s job. But there’s a difference in telling a story, crafting something rich and beautiful and enduring, and throwing in a sad ending just to make people cry. It’s the difference between The Notebook (I bawled and loved every minute of that book) and Message (I threw the book across the room and swore I’d never read another Sparks).
Another choice. What to read, how to write, who to send to. Those choices all play a part in molding me, the writer and me, the reader. But the biggest choice I have to make as the writer is to sit down and write and forget all the rest of this. I think now’s as good a time as any.

Weight loss update: I’m still down 51 pounds. I didn’t lose any last week, but I didn’t gain either. I hope this week breaks the never ending plateau. If I can get through the hours of 2-6 without snacking, I’ll be doing good!

What it takes

One of my favorite classes to give at conferences is Time Management for Creative People. It’s usually packed because I speak at high school journalism conferences and those kids tend to be a lot like me. My desk is crazy to the non-creative thinker, but to me it’s perfect. Stacks coordinated by class, by importance, by the need to get to something quickly. I know where everything is, and amazingly, most of my editors do too. But Lord help if I have to be absent.
I start my time management class by telling my students all about priorities and how important it is that we have them. That we can build an entire time management system around priorities.
For years I’ve gotten thank you’s from kids and fellow teachers who wanted me to know I was right.
So how come I’ve been neglecting my own list of priorities?
It’s nothing new really.
When I first started writing, I threw myself into the idea of being published. For two years my family gave me all the space I needed and I took it. I forgot all about being mom and wife and me. I was focused on being “Published by Harlequin in Whatever Line Would Take Me.”
Two years later I was multi-rejected by Harlequin in all lines except the ones in London. Not quite, but almost. I also had five complete manuscripts and one incomplete. All revised and revised and revised again before getting the big R.
I took a year off after that. I didn’t really mean to, but I did. One day I was chasing the dream, the next I’d forgotten the dream and settled back in to the Pretend to be Writer by sending out previously rejected material. My family was thankful and I read a bunch of good books of fiction and a few thousand How to Get Published books. I learned all about Scene and Sequel and GMC and Beginnnings, Middles and Ends. I glommed SEP and discovered Deborah Smith and I rolled in the floor as I read Jennifer Crusie’s Tell Me Lies. And every day I called myself a writer even though I wasn’t writing anything.
That year I toyed with not renewing my RWA membership. DH called it an expensive club. That’s when I realized somehow I’d quit. I can’t stand quitting. I don’t know why. But I opened my documents folder and realized I hadn’t written anything new in a year and decided I’d had enough of that. I went to my first National conference that summer. I spent the next three years writing all over the place. I finished several manuscripts, reacquainted myself with the rejection-revision-rejection-request-rejection merry-go-round. I discovered I had voice, and I liked it. The books I wrote were fun or turbulent. I had fun. I thought I’d discovered the road to publication. I was sure I’d find an editor who would love my work and then I’d know the secret.
Then this year hit. Dallas National was great. I was sure I’d sell the suspense action adventure I’d written. I started a new suspense. I had the kick butt heroine down and I loved her and she loved me and we were going to find the success I wanted together.
Only we didn’t.
Once again rejection came knocking.
About the same time the school year from heck kicked my butt.
It wasn’t a great combination for dream chasing, and I found myself back on the old road to pretend writing, resending things already rejected.
For months I played at writing. My critique group practically shriveled up and died. Somehow we stayed together, but only one of us really worked.
And then a few weeks ago a new idea came knocking. I pushed it away at first because it was different from anything I’d written before. But it didn’t go away.
Now I know I’m going to write that book. It scares me because it’s different, but it’s a challenge too.
Just sitting down in front of my computer and writing is going to be a challenge. I have a list of priorities for this summer. At the top of the list is writing. But that’s nothing new.
It’s been at the top of my list for almost eight years.
The key to time management is taking that list and working it, step by step, minute by minute, day by day.
If I don’t work it, it’s just a list and nothing’s going to happen simply by making lists.
I’ve got work to do.

The Lure of the Dream, H/S

McDonald’s, a millionaire, a french fry will and Mr. Novak are all responsible for my quest for publication.
The thrill of reading my work out loud to a class quickly morphed into hours spent trying to make my friends cry. Only it wasn’t quickly at all. Mr. Novak was fifth grade. My friends weren’t crying until eighth.
By then I’d fallen in love with the romance genre and the idea of being an author.
I forgot about that dream for awhile but it didn’t forget me.
Now all these years later I’m writing books that make my friends cry again. And still I’m chasing the dream.
What is it that keeps a writer going, spending the 74 cents on a query, the hours on a manuscript even when they know chances are the story will end in rejection?
When will the rejections add up to some insurmountable wall? Does that even happen?
I don’t know. For me, the time has not come. I still enjoy the story and the process of creating it even though the rejections still sting.
The dream still lures, drawing me in and willingly I go. And with each word typed, I know the dream is there, just a few steps ahead of me. Waiting for me to find the right path to get there.

For years I’ve read Harlequin and Silhouette romances. They’ve been a sort of comfort for my soul. Lately they’ve been in the news all the time. They’re losing readers and people are wondering what’s next.? I wonder too.
By the time I was my daughter’s age, I’d already fallen in love with a few hundred Greek Tycoons. I dreamed of being the secretary who won the lottery vacation of a lifetime, or maybe I was a nurse called Sister Mary. (It took me the longest time to figure out all the nurses were Sister so and so!)
I couldn’t wait to share my love of the genre with my daughter.
She tried to read romance. She really did.
But she never got past the first couple chapters.
She eats up Shopoholic and Bridget Jones, but keep her away from romance. She’s just not interested.
I thought maybe it as just an age thing, so I asked my students. None were reading romance. At least not romance without a chic lit feel or a suspense or horror element.
I was stunned.
I have my own theory on what’s happened, and I don’t really think it has to do with the fact that kids are reading less these days.
I just think the hopes and dreams of teenage girls today don’t rest on the fantasy of wife, mother and wealth. They want careers and credit cards and cute cars and a life filled with trips abroad. And a bunch of them have seen the lifestyle of Sex and the City and decided that’s not for them either. They want stability but not necessarily husbands.
It’s interesting and it’s really made me think.
Who is my target audience? Who do I want to read my stories?
If I’m thinking those thoughts, you can bet editors are too?
Answering that question first just might help the dream of publication come true.

The Classics

I fell out of love with English classes my freshman year. I’m sure the sweet teacher didn’t mean for it to happen. It’s just we were reading Jack London’s Call of the Wild. Instead of letting us read and engaging us in discussion, the teacher said she didn’t want to worry us too much on that first REAL book; therefore, she’d grace us with reading the book aloud.
At 14 I’d read plenty of real books. And although that teacher had a great soothing southern voice, I had a problem with the way she read the story.
I loved London’s words, the way he structured sentences, the entire idea of The Call and The Wild and what exactly they were.
The teacher might have had the same questions. I don’t know. She lost me with her first instruction. “Ladies and gentlemen, please take out your pencils and proceed to draw a line through all curse words you see.”
Even at that age I knew there was something wrong with the instruction.
Today I can’t tell you how many lines were drawn through curse words in that class. But I can tell you how many weren’t in my books.
I didn’t cross out anything. And I think I might have let a few curses slip with my friends just to see their reactions.
While the teacher enthralled the class with her oral interpretation of that classic, I read the literary great The Karate Kid. I had a thing for Ralph Machio. 🙂
I graduated to those great Silhouette young adult romances and P.S., I Love You. And by senior year I was enjoying my mom’s Desires. I wasn’t reading classics. In fact, after that first REAL book, I didn’t read another required assignment until Sophomore Lit. with Dr. Campbell at Midwestern State. The first classic I read then was The Last Picture Show. It enthralled me, and so did our discussions about McMurtry, our regional literature, the themes of the story and what makes a book a classic.
I lost six years of reading books with universal themes, amazing language, incredible characters. I didn’t even read the Brontes or Austen. But I sure loved the hundreds of Harlequin Presents I read. My high school librarian subscribed to the line and she knew I’d be there to check them out one at a time until I’d read them all.
I’m sure that Freshman English teacher would have explained that they weren’t real books. I would’ve have given her a pencil and asked what she felt needed to be crossed out.
I love the classics. Heart of Darkness is my favorite. But I love genre fiction too. In fact, I love it more. It’s the pulse of the time we live in.
The thing is, we don’t know what will stand the test of time. Hawthorne wrote for the masses. Rowling does today. Three years ago they used Harry Potter as one of the selections for the Literary Criticism test in Texas. Austen’s books are straight up romance. McMurtry sat down and penned a few novels about his home town, a town 30 minutes from the one I grew up in. Only time will tell what books make the cut to become the classics of their time. I’m sure the literati of my generation would disagree, but that’s okay. I love so many of the romances I’ve read over the last few years. Barbara Samuel’s The Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue, Deborah Smith’s Stone Flower Garden or On Bear Mountain are a couple that come to mind that might last a lifetime or three. But it’s okay if they don’t.
What’s not okay is that at 14 I was told the books I’d read weren’t real. That real books (who cares what they were!) were destroyed with pencils and a teacher on a mission to rid the world of “words that might offend”. That I lost six years of reading books I might have liked if I hadn’t been turned off early on.
I hope my students embrace all forms of literature, genre fiction, “literature”, and the classics. And I hope my daughter never has a teacher who knows just how to take a great book and destroy it.

It’s just not special

I’ve tried to read three books this week. All category romance because during the work week, I can read a category and get my fix :-). Usually when I read, I like to get to the end within a couple days and I can’t do that with big booksand still have a life. So category it is.
The first, Karen Templeton’s Swept Away, was incredible. The characters were real. The writing sparkled. It was different, it was fun, it was sexy and snappy and everything I love about category. Only not because it was so different.
Then I picked up the next book in my TBR pile.
I gave it two chapters. The characters were cardboard, the situation cliche, the writing so similar to everything else out there I could care less about it. And this was from an author I’ve really enjoyed in the past. I hope this was just an off book.
Today I picked upanother. This one by a best selling author. I didn’t even give it two chapters. The entire situation set up was so ridiculous and the heroine so uninspiring I put the book down. It wasn’t worth it for me to keep reading.
And now I wonder if that incredible book by Karen Templeton is why the next two books couldn’t hold my attention.
Do I want too much?
I don’t think so.

The Waiting Game

I hate waiting. I know I’ve got to get over that if I’m going to make it in this business, and you’d think after eight years, I’d be used to it, but I’m not. (I almost didn’t write those words because they feel like BEGGING for the rejections to roll in Monday morning.)
This is my eighth anniversary of collecting rejections and still I get antsy around the third month of submission. I have partials at Kensington and Super. The Kensington submission is my first foray into the world of Single Title. It’s hot. It’s fun and I had a blast writing it. 🙂
The Super is angsty. It runs the full gamut of emotions and I love that book. It makes me cry everytime I read it. I’m not sick of it yet, and that’s saying a lot.
At least I think it’s saying a lot.
Way back when I started, I never thought I’d be here. I’ll never forget attending my second conference and talking to a lady in the bathroom. She was a multi-pubbed author whose publisher was getting dragged through the mud on a regular basis. When she told me who she wrote for, I was stunned. At the time I was fixing my lipstick. I looked at her in my smug unpublished state and said, “Wow. I’ve heard so many bad things about them. It must really stink to write for a house that treats their writers like that.”
Now, I can’t believe I spoke the words outloud. At the time I was young and completely unaware of the realities of commercial fiction. I had two requested fulls and a requested partial on H/S editor desks and I was absolutely certain one of those editors was going to call and offer me a million dollar advance for my greatness. (LIke I said, I was completely unaware!)
I have no idea who the author was. Back then I only knew two authors’ names. Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Margot Early. I read lots of others, but if either of them had a book out, I bought them immediately.
It was probably someone super famous like Jo Beverly or Stella Cameron. I remember she was British. Thankfully she understood my ignorance because she just laughed and said “I remember a time when I would’ve paid to have one of my books published! Actually, my publisher pays me well and it beats getting up and going to work in the mornings.”
I had no idea what she meant but I felt sorry for her. She was happy to work for XYZ because she was so desperate for publication. (UGH!)
Now, after all these years and tons of rejections, I’m starting to understand.
I keep reading all the Publish America stories making the papers across the country and I wonder why someone would give their work away, but then a rejection comes in the mail and I wonder why not? It’s better than letting the work sit in a drawer or under the bed or in a filing cabinet.
Like I said at the beginning I HATE playing the waiting game. It’s definitely a part of the business, but it leads me to thoughts like these. I know what I should be doing: trying to connect with my new characters in my new book that have completely befuddled me! Instead I remember the good ol’ days when I read voraciously but never knew who or what sub-genre I read. (Women’s Fiction! What’s that?) When I loved H/S lines, but didn’t even know the authors. When GMC were just letters of the alphabet and people who studied them were crazy! When I waited for 9 or 10 p.m. when I could finally sit down at the computer, turn on the Ozzy or Heart or Van Halen and blast it while I wrote like a maniac, totally immersing myself in my make-believe world and forgetting all about my family or my reality. Back then nothing about writing was hard. It was joyous. It was exciting. It was awe-inspiring.
And rejections were unthought of. Waiting was no big deal because it was just more time to write more books to give to the editor who was going to be blown away by my incredible talent.
I guess I miss that young newbie me.
Hopefully though as I’ve grown, my talent has grown. And maybe this time, I won’t get the rejection. As long as I’m playing the waiting game, I don’t know.