Friday, September 28, 2007

Start Your Weekend Off with a Good Call Story

Guest Maven Delilah MarvelleI joined RWA in 1998 thinking I knew everything there was to know about writing a romance and that all I really needed was to find an editor. How hard could it be to sell my very first book? Yeah. Go ahead. It's okay to laugh. I know I still laugh about it. Honestly, I didn't know a gosh darn thing. About characterization. About dialogue. About presentation. My first book was 800 pages long. Single spaced. Eventually, I started figuring out the rules. But it took me a while. I kept writing book after book after book (I've written WAY too many to put a number on it. Really.). And I wondered. Why weren’t the editors and agents wanting my story?

I started eyeing contests. Maybe I just needed a track record. At the very least I'd get feedback. And boy did I ever! One judge told me that she hated my heroine but hated my hero even more than my heroine. And she hadn’t even gotten to my writing yet. I never told a soul about that one judge because I feared that this person was right. But I was stubborn. Like the heroines I love to write about. Give up? Never! I was developing a tough skin. I already had a huge rejection pile (and by huge people, I mean over 200 rejections). Contest after contest, I never seemed to go anywhere. And the Golden Heart? What a dream that was. But I entered it year after year after year. And year after year I waited by the phone all day only to figure out by the weekend that I wasn’t a finalist…again.

And then...things started happening. Slow. Definitely slow. But at least it was happening. I finaled in a contest! Never mind that I took last place. I finaled! It made me throw myself into my writing all the more. The next thing I knew, I went from placing last to placing first. And then in 2005 I found out I was a Golden Heart finalist in the Short Historical Category. I sobbed my thank yous to the gal that called me and quickly called up my critique partner, Maire Creegan, even though it was only 6 something in the morning. She thought something horrible had happened. Talk about a wonderful experience.

Even though I didn’t win the Golden Heart, I met so many amazingly talented writers. And their story with regards to trying to get published reflected my story. But even though I was a Golden Heart finalist, I still didn’t sell. Everyone kept telling me to hang in there. So I did. I even decided to take a trip to London with my critique partner and see the place that I’ve been dreaming about all my life. I came back from the dream trip of my life to a personal nightmare that happened on the way back from the airport. My husband was brutally attacked by two strangers in front of me and my two kids. He almost died. Lost consciousness. If it weren’t for me taking on the two guys before the police arrived, he most certainly would have.

Taking blows for the person you love takes on a whole new meaning. And it changed my writing forever. At first I couldn’t write. Didn’t want to write. All I wanted to do was to make sure that my family was being cherished. Taken care of. I started thinking about the grim reality that if my husband had died, how would I have taken care of the kids? Writing is not a way to put bread on the table unless you’re a bestselling author. And I wasn’t even published. So I turned my back on my writing and followed my second love. Cooking. I went to Culinary school and felt as if my life were starting all over. I missed writing but a part of me knew that it wasn’t practical anymore. And with me being in school I had an excuse not to write.

In the end,a huge part of me was suffering because of it. I turned my back on myself without knowing it. And this is where the fates stepped in. I'd hardly started school when I found out that I was a 2007 Golden Heart Finalist. My husband insisted that I go to National even though we were short on funds. So I went to National and even though I didn’t win, again, it was this sense of how awesome it was just to be part of the excitement. To be noticed after all these years of writing. After the Golden Heart/Ritas, at the reception, I saw my 2005 Golden Heart buddy Victoria Dahl and we started chatting. The sweetheart that she is, she starts asking about my writing, what I write, what I currently have to offer and after hearing the "pitch" for the last book I wrote before my husband‘s attack, she suggested that I submit to her editor and that she would slip in a good word for me.

I was besides myself. I realize in this industry it's difficult to put your name on the line and more often than not people shy away from "recommendations" for both reasons of time/commitment and fear of what will happen to the relationship between 2 friends once the rejection comes. So anyway, Vicki e-mails her editor, John Scognamiglio, and God knows what the woman said, but he actually requested the full right off the bat. I didn't expect much of it but I still appreciated the opportunity. I sent it off August 8,2007. It arrived in New York August 10, 2007. (I keep a calender and write everything down, in case you were wondering). I then get a call on August 16 from John. The editor. Only I'm not there to take the call. I was in Powell's (the greatest used and new book store in the world!) loading up on books that I kept telling myself I needed to keep me in the game.

I came home and there's a message. It's from John at Kensington and he wants me to call him. But he says he won't be in the office on Friday (it was a Thursday when he called). So I called him ASAP, about 40 minutes after he did, but he had already left the office. Talk about torture. I left a polite message or at least I think I did because I was so freaked out of my freakin' mind, I still don't remember what I babbled out. And then I start thinking, Could this really be it? No. Wait. It's way too soon. And gosh darn it, I didn't include a synopsis with the complete!! But then I started really hashing it out with my husband. He kept telling me to at least try and be prepared. Start thinking positive. Start looking into agents. Just in case. So here I was calling around telling agents, "You know, I think I sold, but I'm not sure because I haven't really touched base with the editor and won't until Monday. You interested???"

Pam Hopkins, who is represented by one of my chapter friends, told me to send the first three chapters but that she wasn't promising anything, because even if the book is a sold book she needs to love the book. Which I absolutely loved about her. So anyway, I spent the whole weekend AGONIZING about what Kensington had called about. I didn’t want to tell myself I sold and then have that taken away.

Come Monday, Pam calls the house and leaves a message that she really liked the first three chapters, loved my voice, and wanted to see the rest before making a decision. I get home from culinary school and still no word from John. So I take a deep breath, knowing it's already 4 o'clock in New York and call him and leave another message saying that I was going to be home. And I wait. He calls within the hour and introduces himself and says he wants to buy the book. I was still in shock, even though I knew the possibility of him wanting the book was "sorta" there. Hell, I'm STILL in shock. I somehow gained my wits about me and told him that I wanted to go into this with an agent. Right after I got off the phone, I talked to Pam Hopkins for awhile and well, she's my agent!

SOOOO...the deal? I got a two book deal with Kensington. My historical romance, Mistress of Pleasure will debut in summer/fall 2008. I am still throwing up butterflies. And in the end, I have all of my friends and my critique partner to thank. For keeping me afloat even though I thought I had already drowned. The lesson of this story? Don’t ever give up on your writing. Ever.
Mistress of Pleasure, Zebra Debut Summer 2008


Kendra said...

I love this story every time I hear it. Congratulations, Delilah. You deserved it.

Darcy Burke said...

Yep, this story still gives me shivers. Thanks for guesting with us Delilah!

Question (and, I know the answer, but I want you to share, lol): What kinds of revisions did your agent and editor request? How long do you have until the book is "due?"

Hellie Sinclair said...

Congratulations! This is an extremely inspirational story--and I thank you for sharing it. Heck, maybe I'll cut it out and post it above my computer if you don't mind.

I'm glad you hung in there--I can't wait to read your book! :)

Jackie Barbosa said...

Ah, Delilah, what a fabulous story. I didn't know about the attack on your husband though--how frightening! I can't begin to imagine what that must have been like.

Somehow, it's particularly inspirational to me that you wrote a lot of books before you sold. I do think that's the secret to getting better--writing more books--but I see enough first sales of first books made that I occasionally get depressed.

And I'm really, really looking forward to reading Mistress of Pleasure myself.

Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe said...

Wow. I'm wordless. Congratulations!

Tessa Dare said...

Congratulations! What a story!

Is this the same Delilah I met in Dallas??? It can't possibly be, because if that Delilah started writing romance in 1998, she must have been like 12 years old. Two kids? No way!

Can't wait to read Mistress of Pleasure!

Celeste said...

Wow. Go You.

Gillian Layne said...

I love this story--thanks so much for sharing it with us! And I'll be looking forward to your book with pleasure.

Jennifer Linforth said...

A story that can speak to us all.


Anonymous said...

Thank you everyone for all your wonderful comments! It's so exciting to share. I've made it a personal goal of mine to help other writers with their struggles. Because writing is a struggle. It's what I like to call labor love. You just have to keep asking yourself how badly you want it and what you are willing to do to get it. My website will finally be up and running and will have an e-mail address in the next two weeks. Feel free to e-mail me anytime about anything. Really.
LOL Darcy! What kind of revisions for Mistress of Pleasure? None. Just a basic line edit. Which is amazing. My agent was brilliant enough to get me to the end of the year to perfect some of the things that we wanted perfected. And seeing I'm still in culinary school (with only a week left and a ten week externship!) it's perfect. And yes Tessa! It's the same Delilah from Dallas....bless you, bless you, bless you on calling me 12 in 1998...

Santa said...

Congratulations, Delilah! It is great of you to share your story with us. It gives me the courage to hang in there. Good luck wrapping up your culinary training. I'll keep my eye out for your book. I hope you come back and promote it all over the place!

Anonymous said...

I still have goosebumps!! Truly, an amazing story and SO inspirational!! Thanks for sharing!

bob said...

What a great story - talk about determination!

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