Thursday, September 11, 2008

First Sale and Patriot Day

Good bad or otherwise, you’re getting a twofer from me today. First things first – my first sale. It falls into the ‘if I knew then what I know now’ category, I probably wouldn’t be published. I was so naïve. Such a baby – rhetorically speaking – and so ignorant of the business. Long story short, I was in love with LaVryle Spencer’s work – who among us doesn’t love and miss seeing new work from LaVyrle?? Anyway, I’d exhausted her complete library – or so I thought until I discovered some old titles but couldn’t find them on the shelves anywhere. So I wrote to her. That was before the days of e-mail (yes, Virginia, there is a pre-web era many of us survived, but just barely). Wonder of wonders, she wrote back to me. Told me she wrote to me personally because my letter was so articulate. In my 'star-struck' mind that equated to: “LaVryle Spencer thinks I’m articulate. I bet I could write a book.”

You laugh but that’s just how it all started. I sat down with a portable manual typewriter with a sticky E and set out to write the great American novel. From that moment on I was a gonner. Bitten bad by the writing bug. That manuscript was rejected by the best editors in the business (many of whom I enjoy seeing at RWA nationals) but the rejection letters were very encouraging so I kept at it. I wrote two more books. Farmed them all over NYC and finally got the call one pretty fall afternoon from Elizabeth Barrett (yes that’s her name) from Bantam Doubleday Dell’s now defunct Loveswept line.

My hubby was helping a farmer friend of his so I was home alone. I was screaming and buzzed with excitement so I hopped in the car, drove out to the farm, bounced across a fall-plowed field or two until I found Tom behind the wheel of a HUGE combine picking corn. He saw me coming, jumped out of the cab and ran to the car. “Who died?” he asked frantically. In his mind, nothing else warranted the beating my poor car was taking.

We still laugh about that day but MAVERICK was my very first title and came out in July of 1991. Now- wow - 17 years and 41 books later, I still get a little tickle of excitement when I think about that first sale.

My question for you all is, if you're a writer, was there a particular author who inspired you? A particular book? Have you always wanted to be a writer? Or if you're not a writer, what compels you to take a chance on a new author?

On a more somber note, today is Patriot Day. Seven years ago today our lives were forever changed by the horrors of the 9/11 attacks. Please stop with me and take a moment to remember with both sorrow and pride all we endured as a nation that day. In honor of those lost then and in the days that followed as our military fight and defend all that we hold dear, if you fly a flag please display it at half-staff today and observe a moment of silence beginning at 8:46 a.m. eastern daylight time to honor the innocent victims who lost their lives as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

In peace…

Cindy

32 comments:

Arkansas Cyndi said...

I don't know why but I love reading these first sale stories. I think it's because they remind me that everyone started somewhere.

I loved your husband's reaction
(Who died?) LOL

and the encouragement from Spencer (you're articulate), we writers look at everything and everyone for support and confirmation of our decision to write and put ourselves out there. It's scary.

Betina Krahn said...

Cindy, I LOVE your story and its moral(at least for me). . . the value of believing it can happen, even when the world seems to be telling you otherwise.

Perseverence is one of the greatest qualities we can have as writers. . . whether multi-published or just starting out!

Meanwhile, that's a lesson for us on Patriot Day, too. Whatever the USA has to endure, we pull through and persevere. And we're stronger for it.

Helen Brenna said...

Cindy, love your story. Wow, 41 books!! It was LaVyrle Spencer for me, too. I devoured all her books.

And I add another moment to yours for remembrance today.

Kylie said...

It was Sandra Brown (Erin St. Claire at the time), Linda Howard and Elizabeth Lowell who inspired me to write...simply because they couldn't put books out fast enough to keep me in reading material, LOL!

And Cindy, when I'm embarrassed telling *my* first sale story, I always tell yours (with names withheld to protect the innocent!)

Seven years seems like a long time in some respect but not when it comes to 9/11. When they showed a clip of the towers coming down at the Republican convention this year I visibly recoiled. Too soon. Much too soon. One of the best ways we can pay tribute to the tragedy and terrible sacrifice of life that day is to refuse to allow any party to use that tragic event to make political hay.

Cindy Gerard said...

Cyndi - I love reading everyone else's stories too. And yes, we all started somewhere and we all have very different and specific events that lead to that 'first sale'. Just goes to show that the old cliche is true: "There's more than one way to skin a cat!"
Of course, that begs the question - "Who would want to skin a cat in the first place?" Ewwweee.

And yes, Betina - you nailed it in one word: Perseverance! It's everything in this business.

Helen - LaVryle was wonderful, wasn't she? I learned so much from reading her books. Add Tom and Sharon Curtis to that list too. Such evocative writers.

MsHellion said...

When I read The Raider by Jude Deveraux, I knew I wanted to be a romance writer. And that feeling was reinforced with all of Julie Garwood's historicals...and then when I read Teresa Mederios' Once an Angel and Jill Barnett's Bewitching, I knew I wanted to be FUNNY too. *LOL* I've had lots of inspiration. You ladies are VERY inspirational!

Liza said...

I'm a reader only, but I love to read how everyone got their first book published and their first call.

Michele Hauf said...

Hmm, I think it was Anne Rice who inspired me, but only after I'd already begun to write. I remember seeing her on an Oprah show so very long ago. She was a small woman with long black hair, and I think she was on a panel of writers, and there might have been a romance writer in the mix. She had a few fans in the audience that were appropriately vamped up. I just recall how soft-spoken, yet passionate she seemed about her writing.

I don't think she'd ever make any of Oprah's book club lists now though. :-)

Kathleen Eagle said...

I wonder if LaVyrle has any idea how many writers she personally inspired, especially in our area. I met her in Fargo soon after I learned that I was a double Golden Heart finalist. She was giving a talk at the university as part of a continuing ed program. I drove close to 300 miles. When I (shyly) introduced myself, SHE knew who I was! She had just published HUMMINGBIRD, which was her first with Berkley and in many ways launched her. She wrote to me, spent time with me at RWA, introduced me to her agent (now my agent), and so much more.

And LaVyrle tells a similar story about the writer who inspired her--Kathleen Woodiwiss, who lived in MN at the time LaVyrle completed her first ms, THE FULFILLMENT. She took it to a booksigning, says she was moved to tears simply to meet Ms Woodiwiss, laid her precious ms at her feet and asked her to read it. Most writers would decline, but KW took the ms with her, read it, sent it to her editor at Avon, and the rest is history.

Kathleen Woodiwiss encouraged LaVylre who did the same for so many of us, and so it goes. That's one of the things that makes thes first sale stories so special.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Oh, and I treasure the time I met Kathleen Woodiwiss, many years after I was published. She didn't attend conferences--was herself a rather shy woman, seemed amazed by the notion that others considered her to be an icon--but she had been persuaded by the publisher to attend one of the larger chapter events. What a gracious lady she was. She broke ground for all of us, as did Janet Dailey.

Keri Ford said...

The husband was the one who suggested I started writing. I had been reading everything. Christina's Skye's Code Name: Princess was my romance introduction and I've been hooked since.

*A moment for 9/11*

catslady said...

Oh I so love hearing these stories!!! Isn't it amazing how much a small comment or a bit of encouragement can mean to someone. And the "pass it on" stories are even better. Just hearing about them are inspiring. Thanks!

Kathleen Eagle said...

On this day...

I watched a bit of the coverage this morning, and I was glad they asked most of the speakers to keep their remarks brief because the reading of the names by survivors and loved ones was so much more powerful than anything else that was said. It reminded me of the Gettysburg Address, criticized in its time for its brevity. Such power in every word.

The memorial at the Pentagon is lovely. The Wall set a new standard for memorials, I think, and we remember how the design was criticized at first. It's the names. It pays homage to those who gave their all. No one can co-opt a simple, truthful statement like that. It's humbling to stand in that place, feel that presence, and know some small piece of what it all means.

Kylie, I'm with you on attempts to co-opt 9/11 for political gain. It's so disrespectful, really very sad, but I think most people see through it.

Debra Dixon said...

Well, Blogger ate my comment!

Long story short...I can't tell you how I was inspired to start because I have to tell my own story later in the month. I need those words! (g)

lois greiman said...

Great story, Cindy. I too, love those first time stories.

My inspiration was actually by a well known author whose work I thought was well... less than perfect. I thought...as many do...I can do better than that. Uhhh...wrong. But maybe someday I'll come close.

Cindy Gerard said...

Mshellion - just a little food for thought since Ms Spencer has inspired so many on this blog - the book she sent to me when I wrote to her her was The Hellion. so - there you you Ms ... hellion :o)

Liza - I love hearing them all too. Can't wait for the rest of the riders to chime in.

Michele - Yeah - Oprah wouldn't have time for the likes of us romance type writers these days.

Kathy - OMG - You've MET LS? Be still my heart. I turn into a regular fan girl at the mention of her name. I couldn't resist and after I'd made that first sale and had a copy of the first book in my hot little fist, I send a copy to her with another letter telling her how she had inspired me. She wrote me back again. What a class act.

Cindy Gerard said...

Keri - I actually met Christine Skye on the authors at sea cruise a few years ago. Nice lady. She helped me feng shui my office :o)

catslady - yep. One word can mean EVERYTHING. Such power in that 'one' word.

Deb - gotcha. Can't wait to hear it. I remember reading your first Loveswept when I was writing for them and thinking "Wow! I wanna write just like her when I grow up." But then I could say the same about Kathy and Betina because I was reading them too before I ever started writing. Suffice it to say I was a slow starter because I think we're about the same age ???

Lois - Yeah, there was an author or two I'd also read that made me think the same thing. "If they can get this published then I ought to be able to get something published." I think that's called blind ambition :o) I had no clue what it was going to take to finally make that sale until it actually happened.

Playground Monitor said...

Actually, Erma Bombeck inspired me to write, and at the time I wasn't writing fiction, but little character pieces like Erma wrote. Then along came kids and all that family entails and writing got pushed way into the background. I'd never read many romances (a few books by Mary Stewart, Danielle Steele and Phyliss A. Whitney that my mother got from a book club) until 2001.

A fanfiction message board I was on had a new woman show up and start posting these very well-written stories. We were in awe of her until someone recognized one story as a Silhouette Desire. I volunteered to hunt down the book since we have a big used book store here. I read the book to confirm that yes, she had plagiarized the book, but I also loved it. I then hunted down the rest of that author's backlist, found romance sites online and a year later, based on a few fan emails I'd sent to some authors, was asked to be the review coordinator for a romance website.

I had been writing fanfiction romances, but the more I read, the more I wanted to write something that had my own characters in it. I still haven't conquered the full-length novel, but I keep at it.

So in terms of romance, there were several Desire authors who inspired me including the one and only Cindy Gerard. I wanna be like her when I grow up. ;-)

Marilyn

flchen1 said...

Hi, Cindy--how fun to read everyone's first sale stories! I'm not a writer, but I have definitely been introduced to a TON of new authors through blogs and the occasional chat--plus there's one book swapping group I belong to that has caused my to-get list to just balloon! There's nothing like a solid recommendation to get me buying like a maniac!

Susan Kay Law said...

Loved your story, Cindy!

Re: LaVyrle. I read romance in high school, and then didn't read it again for almost ten years . . . but somebody gave me one of her books, and I was hooked all over again!

Susie

Chelle said...

When they showed a clip of the towers coming down at the Republican convention this year I visibly recoiled. Too soon. Much too soon.

Not only too soon, but totally insensitive. What a bunch of clods. They are so out of touch with ordinary people. And if I hear the RNC bitch one more time about sexist remarks against Palin I might just scream. When she put on the gloves and stepped into the ring, she should have known she might emerge with a bloody nose. If she's going to run with the big dogs, then she needs to get over it. Get. Over. It. Deal with the issues, stop whining and please learn the difference between the truth and a lie.

And yeah, 9/11 should not be used as a political tool. That's an insult to the many, many families whose lives changed so drastically on that day.

Cindy Gerard said...

Awe Marilyn. Love your story about discovering the fan fiction plagiarizer. Some people just have no shame.
Neither do I thought when it comes to hearing such nice things - You are so sweet. And you're only on ounce of luck, timing and fairy dust away from that full length sale.

flichen1 - And we do luvs it when you get your 'buying like a maniac' shoes on :o)

Susie - LaVryle was just amazing. I think I read Hummingbird 5 times.

Cindy Gerard said...

Chelle and Kylie
I did not intend for my post to contain or evoke any political commentary.

Both party nominees left politics out of the equation today and paid their respects at Ground Zero to those who have lost so much. This non-partisan show of solidarity was a wonderful example for us all, especially on this day.

Thanks, guys

Anonymous said...

Dear Cindy - Thanks for the reminder of 9/11 - of course I remember - I was there. Well, directly across the river in my daughter's apt - my husband & I stood on our parking garage rooftop and watched as both towers burned. I remember seeing flecks of fiery light and know today that they were probably my fellow Americans. Horrible, but true. I don't see the McCain convention video as playing to the heartstrings in a political begging sort of way. My God, have you looked at the polls lately???? How far down security is listed on the things that we Americans find "important" when we think of problems facing us??? They are coming at us again - make no mistake, so vigilance is all we are expected to take from that "political" video. Sorry this all sounds political - it's not! I'm only saying that I saw it up close, I smelled it for a week, and I witnessed the water taxis coming back that day with survivors covered in ash, zombie like stares on their faces and I will never forget it. Obama or McCain, it makes not difference - they are both patriots - what about us? Susan Connell

Estella said...

I love the first sale stories.
I am so glad so many authors did not give up.
The new authors I have tried are mostly recommendations from friends or review blogs.

Cindy Gerard said...

Susan - I got shivers reading your e-mail. You said it all.

Estella - Thanks, sweetie. Glad to hear there are folks out there making recommendations and that you're picking up authors from blogs.
cool

Jane said...

Thanks for sharing your first sale story with us. I usually find out about new authors from recommendations I read on the blogs and also author recommendations.

Cindy Gerard said...

Jane
Love love love all these posts that indicate you're discovering authors on blogs. While we just love chatting, we also love knowing that the word is getting out on this venue about our books.
Thanks for posting

Janga said...

When I taught high school English, I had my students write to an author whose book they loved. They wrote to all kinds of writers. Many authors never responded, but without exception, the kids who wrote to popular genre writers got some response, ranging from press kits to personal letters.

A few years later, I knew exactly how those students who received personal replies felt. The first time I felt compelled to email a romance writer to tell her how powerful and moving I had found her book, I was astounded to receive a lengthy reply within days, a reply that showed she was responding to my comments, not merely pushing a button for a form letter. Since then, I have learned that such graciousness and generosity are the norm in this remarkable community.

Janga (who was inspired to delurk by Cindy's LS story)

Cindy Gerard said...

Janga
That is a wonderful story. And it's so affirming to hear what I've always known - the romance community is truly a sisterhood. We support each other and our readers when we can.
Thanks for sharing and for delurking :o)

Helen Brenna said...

I met LaVyrle too!! Nananabooboo, Cindy!!

And, Kathy, Hummingbird is my favorite of hers.

Cindy Gerard said...

Again - OMG. I'm sooo envious. Yes. Hummingbird. As I said, I read it 5 times. May have to get it out again :o)