“Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” Gene Fowler
“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately no-one knows what they are.” Somerset Maugham
It wasn’t until I attended my first writer’s conference that I truly understood the wisdom behind both of those quotes. Until then, I was bright-eyed, eager, and really ill-informed about what it took to get a book published. To get my head straightened out, I went to a lot of nuts and bolts workshops, all meant for beginners. I took scads of note, soaked up so much information I thought my head would explode, and loved every minute of it. By the time the conference was near the end, I decided to attend the workshop of a contemporary novelist as I still had my sights set on a 174-page book. Fortunately the room was packed, SRO with no place to stand.
Yes, I did mean fortunately. Since I couldn’t get into the contemporary workshop, I wandered around and found myself in a workshop featuring two historical novelists. I enjoyed reading those books so thought I might as well take a seat. Besides, I was tired of standing. In fact, I was just plain exhausted. Entertaining the idea of a short nap, I think I might have even closed my eyes. Believe me, they popped opened immediately when I picked up the gist of what the authors’ were saying; mostly, write what you love. I loved historical novels, absolutely loved them, so why hadn’t I truly considered writing one? Simple. I was scared to death by the idea of 400 plus pages coming out of my neophyte noggin. Still, by the time I boarded a plane to fly home, my first historical romance was flying through my head at an alarming rate.
I immediately began jotting notes, scribbling on anything I could find. I’m pretty sure the flight attendants thought I had some kind of allergy problem as I kept asking them for napkins. By the time I got home I had a basic outline (NOT a synopsis) of what I wanted to do, and went after it with a vengeance. This particular story was set in Arizona, and I wanted to do something different to catch an editor’s eye; the difference being my half-Indian character was the heroine, not the hero, and a member of a little known tribe, the Quechan. Oh, and there was one other difference with this book–it sold pretty quickly and garnered me (AKA neophyte noggin) a two-book contract with a highly respected New York publishing firm.
I can’t remember all the details of that first sale. I think I got the call from my agent on May 26 at 7:02:36 AM, Pacific Time. The day was crisp, spring was in the air, and I was in the bathtub, brainstorming a new novel set in North Dakota. Larry and Sushi were still in bed snoring. The phone rang. I answered it (I had a plug-in at the edge of the bathtub) and discovered my agent on the other end of the line. I really don’t remember the conversation too well, but she said something like, “I got you into a bidding war of sorts. Two publishing companies want to publish your novel and both offer a two-book contract. I suggest publisher A because they want to make you a lead author. What do you think?”
A scream had built up inside me, but I somehow kept it inside. Always remain professional was my personal mantra, and I wasn’t going to forget it now. I managed a tightly controlled voice and concurred with her judgment. By now Larry had heard bits and pieces of this conversation and must have heard something in my tone because he stumbled out of bed and came into the bathroom.
He did not discover a professional author. He discovered a thoroughly disheveled woman with tears flooding down her cheeks and a distinct tremor in her voice. So much for mantras. And so much for tales of my little trip to North Dakota, for I have run out of space. North Dakota will be first and foremost on my mind next month. I think…
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