Sunday, March 18, 2012
When I Got THE CALL!
The RITA/Golden Hearts awards are coming up for the members of Romance Writers Association, and this is another time when we hear that writers have received that all important CALL. I always am hopeful each year that when I get home from work, I'll have one of those from Houston. But no such luck so far. Still, I'm always a little a flutter, and hopeful.
Then there are smaller chapter contests where winners receive THE CALL. And also contracting with the all important agent that will prompt THE CALL.
So you see, there are all kinds of reasons why the phone jingling can be good news. Not just another political hopeful asking for your vote, or some other solicitor intruding on your privacy.
Here's what happened before I received MY CALL.
Every once in a while I'd check Amazon ranking for A SEAL in Wolf's Clothing, and when I saw it had reached #1 on the fantasy, ghost category, I took a screen shot. Just for posterity. The figures go up and down all the time. Mostly up. Down is better!
I wondered if reaching #1 on Amazon might have been an indicator of sales all over. But I've been told in the past that Amazon's sales were only about 1% of all the sales. I didn't check B & N online. I just thought that the book was doing fantastically well on Amazon, and that was that. It would go back up and that was that also. :)
On V-Day, March 15, which I've got to remember forever and ever...I was trying to get my blog posts finished. I had two sites I was on that I had to get the links to and share the news about more giveaways. It was my long night at work, so I was trying to get a million things done that morning, since I was off. I was working on Savage Hunger edits. I knew I wouldn't be able to do anything that night because I'd get home so late and then I'd be back at work all the next day.
Rachel Firasek, a local author who had been in my local chapter, and who I celebrated over lunch with on Saturday, wishing ALL of you could have been there too!!!....had sent me this, excited that Amazon had made A SEAL in Wolf's Clothing an editor's pick for romance for March!!!
I was thrilled, busy still with trying to get blogs done, and a million other emails finished. I had just announced about SAVAGE HUNGER and it's beautiful cover the day before to all the loops so was still responding to comments about that.
At 9:15, I remember the time because normally I would have been at work and missed the call, the phone did its little musical jingle and I ran to get it, expecting another nuisance call, or maybe a call from my son or daughter, but they're both at work, so mostly figured it was an unwanted call.
Sourcebooks stood out on the Caller ID.
My first thought was that Deb was giving me my editorial notes for A Howl for the Highlander. I was thinking I needed to get a pen and paper so I could start scribbling stuff down furiously.
I picked up the phone and said, "Hello?"...thinking I REALLY should have grabbed pen and paper first.
"Maybe you should sit down," she said.
I HADN'T expected her to say those five little words.
I knew it had to be good news. In stories, if someone tells you that, it's bad news. If you have to sit down, often there's been a death in the family, or someone's in the hospital--near death. It's amazing how many things go through your mind when you're hit with something you don't expect.
But I knew it had to be good news coming from Sourcebooks. Silly me wasn't even thinking of lists. I was thinking how I couldn't sit down as there were no chairs close to where the land line is hooked to the wall. I was thinking when I usually received a good news call from my editor that Sourcebooks was buying another of my books. But I still have 5 I'm working on and I can't submit any until I finish some of these up. So it COULDN'T be that!
I'm thinking, screw the chair, what's the news?
I heard her say, "Bestsellers list."
I don't remember how I reacted over the phone. I'm really an introvert. It takes me a while to process things. I didn't even really hear what list I'd made. I sort of figured it had to be A SEAL in Wolf's Clothing, though I'm not sure I even heard Deb say that.
I remember thinking that it couldn't be for a release that had been out in December, Dreaming of the Wolf. When it comes to lists, since I've never been on one, I'm not really all that knowledgeable. But I figured it had to be the current book. But I also was thinking, wouldn't it be too soon too tell? It had only been out a week. How could it have received THAT many sales in a week?
"Wow," I think I said. I honestly can't remember. I was stunned. Thrilled. Ecstatic.
I was ready to hang up and post the news to the world. But wait!!! I didn't know which list I had made!!! Thankfully, I had the presence of mind, somehow, to ask, "Which list?"!
"The USA Today bestseller's list!" she said.
Poor Deb. I can't even remember if I thanked her right away. I know I didn't thank the staff and CEO and owner of Sourcebooks, Dominique Raccah, for taking the chance with me back in 2008 (April 1, you know April Fool's Day!) with my first release of Heart of the Wolf that was their first romance book that made Publisher Weekly's Best Book of the Year. Or for continuing to buy the series! Or for buying the new jaguar shifter series.
I know I said something about Finn being a SEAL and those remarkable abs helped to sell the book. LOL Hey, even I ran my hand over the cover when I finally received my copies as if I could magically feel them!
It was time to get back to the real world, thank Deb (I think I thanked her!), and I had to tell my kids, first thing. I couldn't get hold of either of them.
Although my daughter chided me because she'd called my cell phone a million times and it was in the car. My son was at work and couldn't take calls. Who to tell? Who to tell?
My critique partners first. Betty Womack, Randy Bruskrud (who I missed meeting at conference one year), Judy Gilbert, Pam Tyner, Tamara Hunter, Vonda Sinclair and Annie Rayburn (both of whom I met at the Orlando Nationals and had a ball with, and hoping to meet the other rebels soon!). Through family deaths and the ups and downs of this business, we've all been there for each other for years.
No one responded to my email. Everyone is required to be at their desks waiting for my email when I get THE CALL. It's just mandatory.
I tried calling work. No one answers the phone before 10 AM.
By the time I finally started announcing it to the world, my hands were shaking, I had tears in my eyes, and thought, darn it, I have to go to work in a couple of hours. I can't look like I've been crying!
Tears of joy.
Oh, I remember telling Deb I would love to call work and tell them I had to take the day off. And my coworkers would have killed me. We were really short-handed all week at work and had huge amount of business because of Spring Break and so stressed to the max already. But boy, what I wouldn't have given to take the day off!
It's taken over 15 years of writing, revising, submitting, dealing with agent and editor rejections, with close calls, with my first two young adult books that were picked up, edited, then dumped when the publisher dropped their YA line a month before my first book was due to be published. With many encouraging words from editors with different houses that loved my voice, but couldn't buy because I had too much seriousness (in my comedy romances), too much light-heartedness (in my vampire novellas), too much romance (in my fantasy)...I really figured I could get published if: I kept writing.
I had tons of agent rejections. Not for me. Not for me. Not for me. You're work has merit, but quit sending me anymore of your queries. Not for me. Not for me. Not for me.
I talked with an agent who represents one of my author friends and she was a delight to talk with! I have nothing against agents, and I think that some really do earn their weight in gold. But for me, it just has never worked out. I've known authors who have sold to a publishing house and then asked an agent to represent them. And it worked! I've even tried that, but the agents still didn't want me. I really am easy to work with! :) But you have to find an agent who believes in you, in your work, who LOVES your work as much as your editor does, and without that, it won't work. So I'll probably continue to be agentless for a very long time! Maybe forever!
But that's okay. Because what's most important is that I continue to write!
I seemed to always have been the proverbial square peg that couldn't fit into the cylindrical hole...
Until Sourcebooks took a chance with my wolves.
My Rebel Romance Writer critique partners said that someday I would have a truckload of manuscripts to ship to NY that would all be bought and I'd have it made.
Well, instead I've self-published a lot of those novellas and novels that I sent out to a couple of agents or editors and received rejections for, figured, next story and wrote something else. I always, always knew that if it wasn't this story that sold, it could be the next one. And so instead of wearing out the last manuscript by submitting it to a million different houses and agents, I'd just write a new story.
I told myself that with every story, my writing got better. That I learned more about how to polish them. That I was learning. And even today, I can never be complacent. I have to remind myself to hook, or add conflict, or setting details, to deepen character motivations, to make the story have emotional impact.
Seeing other authors make the lists or receive other wonderful recognition, I always felt encouraged to keep on trying and maybe one day I would too.
It's all about persevering, keeping the faith, and working hard at it.
I have all of my readers to thank, because without readers, I wouldn't be where I am today.
On the USA TODAY's bestseller's list!!!
Now, with that off my chest, I've got to get down to brass tacks, or kilts and claymores and write some more on A Highland Wolf Wedding, because I just bet you want another story. Right???
Love you all! And thanks!
"Giving new meaning to the term alpha male where fantasy IS reality."