Yesterday I received a signed contract for my paranormal romance. I’ve gone from disbelief, to dancing around the room screaming with joy, to calling/texting everyone that might care. This has been a wild ride, and I know I haven’t even hit the big hill on this roller coaster. But oh my, the thrill of the ups and downs!
Someone once told me writing is a journey. I agree and mine started at a young age with my parents reading to me. In grade school I wrote stories and illustrated them. Amanda Panda was a huge hit with my mom. She’s always encouraged me and told me she still has that little book. Junior high school brought all of the melodrama of unrequited love at age 14. (I hope he’s bald and fat now, not that I would hold any grudges or anything…) My stories were maudlin and full of angst-filled heroines and dying heroes. (Freudian, perhaps?) My day wasn’t complete until I made my friends ugly cry over my writing. What can I say? It was the 70’s and Brian’s Song was a huge influence.
In high school I developed a passion for romances since my own life was generally geeky and boring. My love life was non-existent. I escaped reality with my books. It started with the sweet stories of Barbara Cartland but soon progressed to steamier stuff. I can still remember hiding my Rosemary Rogers book from my mother. After high school, reading had to take a back burner except during breaks in nursing school.
My love life improved after graduating from college. I met the love of my life in a bar. (yeah, that’s another story) We married and a few years later I became a mom, which will always be my greatest accomplishment. I read to my daughter at every chance and it paid off. She struggled but overcame a significant learning disability. I’m proud to say she is now a reader and successful businesswoman.
As she got older and I had more free time, I once again took up writing as a hobby. Friends were plied with liquor and coerced into reading my first attempt at a romance novel. It was horrid, but they were friends (and probably drunk) and assured me it “had potential.” I didn’t really believe them, but I wrote for myself. I had a story and it needed to be told. Only other writers get that.
But then came the magical day my dear friend Jill Odom revealed she had published a book. A romance book. My friend was one of my idols! Authors have always been my rock stars. An autographed book makes me scream like a little kid with candy. I search for them at book sales, book stores and thrift shops. I collect them like some people collect baseball cards. The day Jill said, “Let me read your book,” I swear, the heavens opened up and a choir of angels sang. I emailed it to her post-haste, positive she would marvel over my enthralling story. I had worked on it for fifteen years, after all! It was perfect, right?
I’ll never forget her first email stating, “Now don’t be alarmed.”
Don’t be alarmed? It came back bleeding red with trackers. There were so many it was difficult to see my actual text. But she held my hand and walked me through it. I swear to God, it was like giving birth to a second child! I wanted to give up, but Jill pushed, prodded and I’m sure smacked her head on her desk a few times.
Three years ago she convinced me to go with her to the Southern Magic RWA luncheon. There I met women and men who shared my love of books and writing. I started attending the meetings. They encouraged me to enter contests. I did. I failed miserably and yet I learned from every single critique. I became a contest junkie. If I had the money, I entered. My chapter is the best in the world, offering classes and programs on a monthly basis to improve your craft. They have an active email loop so you can ask questions. I have developed friendships with other authors and for the first time in my life, I felt like I “fit in.” We laugh, we share, we commiserate over rejections and cheer over successes.
In July, I practiced my pitch to anyone that would listen (thank you Southern Magic for putting up with me!) in preparation for Romantic Times in NOLA. Carla Swafford, one of my critique partners reminded me that those we pitch to love books. They’re people and she assured me no one would hit me or throw me out of the room. The day of the pitch I came close to backing out. Jill was with me and pointed out all they could say was “no.” She promised I’d survive and threw in a promise of alcohol afterward.
Prior to pitching I went to the spotlight on Omnific Publishing. Why? It was who I wanted to pitch to. They are home to some of my favorite authors, including Debra Anastasia. Debra interacts a lot with her fans on social media and is kind and generous to aspiring authors. (I admit, I went a little crazy and stalked her at every opportunity in New Orleans–thank you for not calling the police on me, Debra). After meeting Debra in person, she too encouraged me to take the plunge and pitch.
So I put on my big girl writer panties and did it. I have no idea what I said, but I remember Lisa O’Hara looking me in the eye, smiling and asking questions about my writing. Then she said the magic words, “Send me the full manuscript.” I nearly hyperventilated. As a matter of fact, I was so excited I didn’t even remember to give Lisa my business card and couldn’t remember if I’d given her my name. I went back the next day to the pitchapalooza and gave it to Elizabeth Harper, who said she knew who I was. My mouth fell open. She knew who I was???
I lucked up and obtained an agent (the ever patient, Victoria Lea with the Aponte Literary Agency) who believes in my work. She held my hand and put up with my frantic emails.
And now I have a contract. I’m still in shock. And excited. I know there is a lot of hard work ahead, but right now I’m enjoying the view from the top of the roller coaster. Thank you to everyone who helped make this happen.