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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Monday, May 22, 2006

Wild Montana Sky

In 1998, I attended a New Year’s Eve party and met a handsome, young cowboy. (Quite unusual, because cowboys don’t usually hang out in the beach cities of Southern California.) The cowboy asked me out, and convinced by his charm and enthusiasm, I agreed. After a few dates, I started asking myself why I was dating him, because we had nothing in common. But then I started imagining how, if we’d lived a hundred years ago in the West, we might have made a relationship work. And thus Wild Montana Sky, my Western historical romance, was conceived.
Meeting my young cowboy set me on a new path in the road of life. I don’t know that I would have tried writing fiction if I hadn’t gotten my story idea from him. Because of him, I’ve learned to write fiction (very different from nonfiction,) joined RWA, found my writing teacher and critique partners, traveled to conferences around the US, meet lots of interesting people, and made the most wonderful friends, including my dear wetnoodle posse sisters. I can’t even imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t chosen to walk down the fork in the road presented by my cowboy.
I’d written about ninety pages of Wild Montana Sky before I discovered RWA and my local chapter of Orange County. I didn’t know it then, but I’d stuffed those pages full of beginner errors--primarily passive, instead of active, verbs and ly adverbs. When I met my wonderful writing teacher, Lou Nelson, and she added me to her critique group, my writing began to change. My group celebrated with me when I finished the book in August of 2000.
In March of 2001, unlike many of the other Golden Heart entrants who feverishly waited by the phone, I had no idea the calls were going out. And I wouldn’t have paid much attention if I did know. It never even crossed my mind that I could final. When the phone rang, and the woman on the other end told me WMS had finaled, I was stunned. I could only say, “Oh, my God!” However, I must have said it five or six times.
The book went on to win the Golden Heart, one of the highlights of my writing career. The win garnered me an agent, who sent the book out to all the major publishers. However, the market had tanked for historicals, particularly Westerns. To make matters worse, WMS is “sweet,” meaning the hero and heroine don’t have sex until they’re married. The book has love scenes, but not sex scenes. And the market in the last years has been for increasingly sexy books. Three strikes against it.
I completed a second book, Starry Montana Sky, then turned my attention to writing romantic fantasy and science fiction. Meanwhile, WMS meandered its way through a series of editor rejections. It didn’t help that the rejections happened because of the market, not because of the writing, characters, or plot.
Aside from waiting for the last couple of editor responses, I basically put WMS on the back burner, thinking that I’d have to wait until the market swung back to an interest in historical Westerns. In the meantime, my agent sent out the first of the fantasy romances.
In 2005, after five finished books, and two additional Golden Heart finaling manuscripts, I didn’t even write fiction. Instead I drafted two nonfiction proposals. (The nice thing about being unpublished is that I can write whatever I want.)
Slowly, the Western tide turned, and editors started to buy some books in the genre. A few of my friends sold their Westerns, giving me some hope.
I left my agent, and after a diligent search, signed with Kelly Mortimer of Cheryl Ferguson Agency. Kelly tightened the manuscript and made a suggestion that added some tension. Once I did the revisions, I had a fresher version of my faithful book. Kelly and Cheryl’s excitement in WMS ignited some of my dormant enthusiasm for the series.
A few days ago, Kelly sent the new incarnation of WMS out to its first editor. She has also selected several more romance publishers and some historical publishers.
Once again I’m on the submission merry-go-round. Although this time, I’m feeling more positive and less anxious about the whole process. I have a good intuitive feeling that the book is going to find the perfect home.
As I sit back and contemplate my writing journey, I marvel at the twists and turns of fate. The disappointments of those earlier rejections have led to a better book and what might consequently be a more special publishing situation. Life’s interesting that way.

Debra Holland


At 10:24 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Good luck with WMS! I love western romances and would love to see more of them published.

At 11:22 PM, Blogger Diane Perkins said...

I'm keeping all my digits crossed for Wild Montana Sky!


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