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The Call, Part 2

I should probably finish my publishing saga, so here goes. When we left off the other day, I had sold a book named STOLEN KISSES to Zebra’s Bouquet line. That book ended up winning the RT award for best Zebra Bouquet . But meanwhile the line wasn’t performing well, so Zebra decided to discontinue it.

Luckily, Zebra was starting a new line, this time of historical romances. It was called Ballad , and the idea was that each author would write a group of books that were interconnected by a certain element/theme. I had had a mail order bride story in my back pocket for years. I also had another story that was a Caribbean romance. So I pitched an idea to my editor of doing a series of books where each of the couples somehow got together through the same matchmaker – a man named Russell Braddock who ran a mail order bride business out of Chicago. My editor loved the idea, so I named the business The Happily Ever After Company, and ended up writing five books in the series. It was so much fun. I just loved it.

Can you guess what happened? Yes indeedee, the Ballad line folded. Was I surprised? No, but I was awfully disappointed. Just around that time, though, I also wrote a novella for an anthology for Zebra, but otherwise, my historical days were numbered. (The novella, by the way, was one of my favorite projects! It’s out of print, but if you ever see a copy of Then He Kissed Her in the library, check out LOVE PASSAGES, a romantic comedy featuring a governess and her handsome but harried employer.)

At the same time I was writing the historicals, I managed to finish up my “legal thriller” – it wasn’t gritty enough to fit the genre, but I really loved it. It turned out to be a true crossover among three different types/subgenres: legal thriller, romantic suspense, and romantic comedy. I viewed it as unmarketable, but I still adored it. Then I heard about an e-publisher looking for great manuscripts that couldn’t find a home in NY print publishing, and I sent them HARMLESS ERROR. They bought it and published it as an e-book, with a print-on-demand option. They even planned on releasing it as a regular paperback, but of course, the e-publisher folded before that happened.

By this time, I wasn’t sure what to think about my crazy writing career. I was intrigued by e-publishing, because it really did seem perfect for me, in the sense that e-publishers have the flexibility to take a chance on stories they love even if the stories don’t fit an established genre. I kept thinking of my first book – the paranormal that should have been a six-book series. It seemed like e-publishing might be the answer for that story. And maybe for all of my stories.

I’m sure I would have taken that route if I hadn’t gotten distracted by some announcements from Harlequin/Silhouette. They were starting some new lines, and for these lines, “the romance would be a subplot, not the main plot.” Wow, they were finally playing my song! And one of the lines was fantasy – wow! I was excited, although once the guidelines came out, I could see I wasn’t a good fit for them, because they weren’t looking for contemporary paranormal, but rather, for stories that took place in “other worlds” either historical or alternate reality/universe. Bummer.

The other line that H/S was starting was for heroine driven action/adventure – where the kick-ass heroine saves the day, and has a subplot romance with a hunky guy in the process. This was a tough one for me, because I’ve never thought of my stories as “action” oriented. Adventure, yes, but kick-ass? Probably not. Still, when the guidelines came out, I was intrigued. For one thing, they said they wanted a variety of tones/voices for the line. So maybe they didn’t want all-gritty, all-the-time. Also, they said the heroine’s strength could be her mind/ingenuity instead of martial arts, etc. That really got me thinking. Because in HARMLESS ERROR and even in STOLEN KISSES, the heroines had saved the day with their ingenuity, with the heroes playing a secondary although important role. Sooooo.……?

I’ll finish this up next entry. Bye for now!

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