December 9 is a special date for me. It is the anniversary of the day I sent a query letter, a synopsis and the first three chapters of my first manuscript, TEXAS ROSE, off in the mail to three publishers in New York. I remember that day like it was yesterday, although it was twenty-six years ago. As crazy as it sounds, I even remember what I was wearing on that day so long ago. Nine days after mailing off those packets of precious words, I received a letter from one of those publishers; one day later, I received another letter from a second one, and few days later, I got a phone call from the third publisher. As hard as it is to believe, all three of those publishers wanted to see my entire manuscript and all of them offered me a contract within days of reviewing my complete book. My first venture into querying publishers for my first manuscript, and I did not receive one rejection. It’s rare that I mention this little bit of information, because most people act like I’m making it up. But, I swear, it’s the absolute truth.
I chose to sell my manuscript to Kensington Publishing for their Zebra Romance line of paperbacks. December 30—just 21 days after I sent out those first queries—I was cooking French toast for my children’s breakfast when the phone rang. A woman with a very distinct East Coast accent was on the other end, and she was telling me that she was an editor with Kensington Publishing, and they wanted to buy my book. Holy crap! Of course, I said YES! The French toast was forgotten after I hung up, and while I jumped around cheering and fist-pumping the air, until the entire house began to fill with smoke and the smell of burning bread. It’s a story my children still like to tell at gatherings.
Now, all these years later, I’m spending this day reflecting back on all the happy moments, and less than happy moments, of my literary career. I could write a dozen blog posts about all the mistakes I’ve made where my writing is concerned, but I want to celebrate TEXAS ROSE today. This Historical Romance made number nine on the paperback bestseller list and the beautiful cover won an award for the cover artist.
TEXAS ROSE, which I had originally entitled, FORBIDDEN TRAILS, was a story that was almost never told. I had written it when my oldest son was just a baby, but I was afraid to show it to anyone because (gasp) it had some rather explicit love scenes in it, and back in the 1970’s there were not too many books with eleven sexually candid love scenes in them. Yes, I overdosed on sex in that first book. The entire 523 page manuscript was hidden at the back of a book shelf for nearly ten years. Occasionally, I would get it out and read it, and dream about seeing it as a real book on a real bookshelf in a real bookstore. But, my husband at the time told me that probably all bored housewives wrote trashy romance novels, so back into hiding it went.
One day I happened to mention my secret manuscript and writing ambitions to a close friend. She demanded to read it. I was nervous, but dusted it off and let her have at it. Her reaction was more than I ever could have imagined, and it was her enthusiasm that finally gave me the courage to seek my goal of becoming a published author.
The manuscript went into the trunk of my car with the plan to revise and edit all of it at the local library where no one would know what I was up to. This was before I even had a computer, so everything up to this point was done on a typewriter. But, in my trunk, a full bottle of brake fluid spilt on the stack of pages and nearly all of the manuscript was close to being unreadable. I was crushed and certain it was a sign that I shouldn’t be wasting my time with this book. I now had three children to raise and that very unsupportive husband who would get angry every time I even mentioned my writing. “No way was I giving up,” said my friend who had read the manuscript and encouraged me to find a publisher for this book. This wonderful woman took that pile of red stained smeared mess, and with a magnifying glass, she retyped every single word of that book. I knew her unselfish devotion to my writing was the real sign that I was not meant to give up on my dream, and I will be indebted to Roseina Whitecotton for the rest of my life.
TEXAS ROSE is a sprawling tale of love, lust and greed among the Texas cattle barons in the late 1800’s. My heroine, Lisa Parker, is basically my alter ego. Every emotion, desire or fantasy I’d ever had up to that time in my life was poured into her character. Her hero, Buck Randell, was my ultimate fantasy man. Although I feel my writing has vastly improved (I hope), Lisa and Buck will always be my most special couple, because they were my first, and you know what they say, your first will always hold a special place in your heart.