The Call—Lee’s StoryIn 2002 I became a Golden Heart finalist for the first time and I wasn’t just excited, I felt sure a sale was just around the corner! But there was no sale. In 2003 I was a finalist again and became a Noodler, but there was still no sale. In 2004 I was a double finalist and I’ll be honest, the novelty was starting to wear off.
During those years I submitted manuscripts, waited, revised them, resubmitted them, waited some more, and amassed an impressive folder full of rejection letters. I’d been writing romantic suspense and that didn’t seem to be working for me, so I decided to try writing something different—more of a traditional romance with some humor, a free spirit heroine and a ghost. Okay, maybe not so traditional, but definitely different.
It was a short contemporary romance aimed at Silhouette Romance. I entered it in the 2005 GH and it fared quite well but it wasn’t a finalist. No problem, though, because it finaled in another contest and an editor asked to see the complete manuscript. However, before I had a chance to get it in the mail, the editor left. Then the line folded. And then I had a manuscript that didn’t fit anywhere.
I pitched the book to Kathleen Scheibling at a conference and she said that if I wanted to lengthen the book for Harlequin American Romance, she’d like to see it. That meant turning a fifty-thousand-word book into a seventy-thousand-word book. I wasn’t sure how to do that, or if I even could, but I loved the characters and their story, so I finally decided to take a shot at it. I rewrote it and revised it and finally submitted the book in late August of 2006.
Six weeks later, the phone rang and the number that came up on the call display had a 416 area code. I knew that was the area code for Harlequin’s Toronto office, but it had only been six weeks since I’d submitted the manuscript. It was probably a telemarketer but I decided to answer it anyway, rationalizing that I could always hang up on someone trying to sell me a vacuum cleaner or a timeshare.
I’m so glad I answered! Kathleen Scheibling introduced herself and told me that she’d read a manuscript the day before, and she wanted to turn it into a book. My book! I have no idea what I said but the excitement in my must have escalated because my daughter, who happened to be home between university classes, appeared and wanted to know what was going on. So there I was trying to listen to the editor and while I explained to my daughter that “Harlequin wants to buy my book!”
Finally the editor asked if it would be better for to call back in an hour. Which she did, and by then I’d had a cup of tea and was able to be calm and professional, and take notes during our conversation. She told me that she’d judged some of my previous Golden Heart entries and liked my writing, although the romantic suspense themes didn’t work for her line—Harlequin American Romance.
But she didn’t just want the manuscript I’d submitted; she also wanted to see a partial of the second book I’d pitched in my cover letter. I submitted that to her and a week later I had a two-book contract. So although my Golden Heart finalist manuscripts haven’t sold, the GH played an important role in becoming a published author. My first Harlequin American Romance, The Man for Maggie, was a June ‘07 release, and I’m excited to say that the official release date for the second book, With This Ring, is today—December 4!