With a few short strokes of the pen, I agreed to sell On Wings of a Song to Leisure Books. And via phone call, I asked if the editor might be interested in the sequel, Heart’s Landing, as well. She was, so I packed up that carefully typed second manuscript and shipped it to New York. By spring, I’d signed my second book contract. Not only that, but my excitement over these sales had a new idea popping into my head, this one set in medieval England. So I was writing again, too.
Since I was doing this on my own — by that I mean, I didn’t have the advice of anyone who’d “been there, done that” — I didn’t know what to expect in the months that followed those first sales. And I definitely didn’t know many of the things that I didn’t experience that I should have. I should have had to revise those books. (Oh, the cliches and contrivances!) I should have had to edit. (Oh, the excess of adverbs!) I didn’t have to do either. I wouldn’t see my manuscripts again until they were actual books to hold in my hands. [Did I just hear a collective gasp of horror from the published authors reading this? Well, if you gasped, you were oh-so-right to do so.]
In September 1983, I joined Romance Writers of America. Although my books weren’t technically romances as the genre is more narrowly defined, Leisure Books was a romance novel publisher. By this time the big historical sagas were less popular and I was reading more historical romances. I had a better idea of what would be expected of me in the future (a more narrow focus on the hero and heroine, making them and their relationship the center of the novel).
That month, I also received the cover flat of my first novel, which was now entitled Stormy Surrender. The new title was a huge disappointment to me. I thought it was lame and had nothing to do with the novel at all. I wasn’t thrilled with the sexy clinch either. The story wasn’t sexy, and I hated that it made it look like it was. And for the record, I always hate covers that deceive readers, no matter the genre. Still, it was my book with my name on the cover. That made it exciting.
We had a lot of fun with that cover where I worked. I was the office manager and bookkeeper in a real estate firm. The hero on the cover looked exactly like one of the top salesmen in our office. Our receptionist was a talented artist, and she did a rendition of the cover with the hero and heroine in front of the southern mansion with a For Sale sign (with our firm’s name on it) and a bubble of the hero saying something about her having to sell. That poor salesman. Even his wife thought the cover looked like him. He was razzed for months.
The books were set for release in February and March 1984 (which actually means January and February). I counted off the days and the minutes in breathless anticipation. To be honest, I wished them away. Hey, once they were in print, fame and fortune weren’t far behind. Right?