I wrote my first romance on a cast iron Royola typewriter with my three and five year old toddling around me back in the seventies. I did everything wrong. I sent it off on erasable paper—smudge city—with hand corrected typos and received an interesting offer from a well-known literary agency. For $350, they would read the manuscript and consider handling it. So for $350 very hard-earned dollars, I received a six page letter. Three pages were glowing with my ability to tell a story. The other three were scathing commentaries on my writing and the romance genre in general for not being literary.
My first advice? Beware of any agent who charges to read your material unless they are hired specifically to edit it. I was told that even if someone were to publish the book, not to come back to said agency because some publishers would print anything. Ouch!
So I sent it to another well-known agency. All ten pounds of it. I’d never heard of queries. In fact, I got this one’s name from the back of a book I’d read and liked. I hadn’t even heard of the Writer’s Market!
This man’s offer and commentary were far more civil and encouraging...and free. First, I was told that if I condensed the first three chapters into one, they would consider marketing it. I was also told that my writing reminded the agent of “wearing a Dior original to a dinner party…with gravy stains on it.” Yikes! I had a Dior original. Gravy stains could come out! Unfortunately, my marriage ended that year and I began life as a single working mom. The two books I’d written went into the attic and would remain in storage for around 15 years.
I’d tossed them in the garbage when my new husband and I were moved into our home, but he found them and asked to read one. It was that dear man who told me, “Hey, this is pretty good and I don’t even read this stuff.” He encouraged me to try again. So I did. And totally rewrote both books, researching deeper and improving them immensely. Thank goodness they hadn’t been published as they were.
So, my very first book came out in 1990 with Zebra Books titled Pirate’s Wild Embrace. (I did not pick the title.) It was released exactly 13 months after the same publisher had rejected it, not a word changed. But the second time it was submitted after my purchasing a Writer’s Market and shot-gunning queries to ten agents and ten publishers, it was by an agent who’d responded to my literary barrage. Zebra had a slot and my completed manuscript filled it. I went on to do another fourteen historicals for Zebra/Kensington and a contemporary for Kismet Romances. I guess one could say they slammed the door on my foot, but I didn’t take my foot from the door.
It was only after I’d sold five books that I discovered there were organizations like Romance Writers of America that would have been so helpful earlier on in knowing the business side of writing. So I learned most of what I’d done wrong after the fact and discovered there was a method to my writing madness by joining writers’ organizations. I also greatly improved my craft through this association.
I could go on and on about the rejections that turned into published books…when the time was right. Every manuscript I’ve ever written has been published, but not when I first wrote it. What can I say? The ideas were good, but it wasn’t their time or my writing level wasn’t right yet. I say this to encourage those of you who hide old manuscripts under the bed not to give up on them.
I failed my way into the inspirational market as well. I didn’t want to write inspirational romance because I’d read a few mediocre ones and judged the genre by the few. But I was four years without a contract from Zebra during the major publisher consolidations of the nineties. And here is an interesting tidbit. Even though authors were getting contracts cancelled and books returned, God saw that I had a book come out every one of those dry years. I’d written so many ahead and Zebra published them all. He even made certain I received wonderful rejection letters about how this project wasn’t what they wanted, but please send something else. In hindsight, He was failing me into the inspirational market. I’d exhausted my secular avenues and that was the only door open.
I went through it kicking and screaming like Jonah going to Ninevah. I’d been happy where I was, successful even…if I didn’t count four years on hold with no contract. Besides, those Christian characters didn’t have hormones! And I wasn’t holy enough to write Christian fiction. I was still a relatively new Christian—actually a returned one from a college/twenty-something period where I’d been educated beyond my spiritual intelligence. Finally I agreed to try. Told God I’d take Hi Honey I’m Home, written for Harlequin American, clean it up and do the best I could, but the spiritual part was up to Him. And please, God, don’t make it preachy.
I have to tell you, as the spiritual parts “came” to me, I found myself crying, deeply moved by what God was doing through me, a total screw-up. When I sent it off with a prayer at the post office, I felt for the first time that maybe God and I were on the same page after all. Maybe He could use me, ex-sexy historical author and baby Christian. And He could use my characters, even if they had hormones.
The book was rejected by Steeple Hill. Hindsight gave me the reason. God knew I still had a foot in the secular door, if I stayed with Harlequin. He knew my weakness. Instead, Hi Honey I’m Home was picked up by Multnomah Publishers as the launch book for their new mass market line. It made the bestseller list for a couple of weeks. But it was the fan letters that bowled me over the most. Yes, this character was still hot, but in addition, that character’s struggle touched someone’s life. A pastor’s wife vowed to renew her efforts to make her marriage work on seeing how hard the hero worked for his family, even though it took him away from them. Another person told me the theme in Not Exactly Eden of rejection and being surrounded, but not despairing had lifted her, a missionary’s daughter whose husband had abandoned her after she was handicapped out of depression. She would not despair.
The books went on and on. My historical Irish series, Fires of Gleannmara, won numerous awards including a Christy, but it didn’t sell well. And I was without a publisher. Yet, the research for that series and for the one beginning with this month’s release HEALER, Book one of the Brides of Alba series, helped me effectively witness to my daughter. She’d been stalked and assaulted in college, abandoned God in anger, and turned to Wicca-white witchcraft. That process, like my career, was not an overnight success, but five or so years later, she came back to Christ on Mother’s Day, one I will never forget.
And I developed a passion for reaching out to New Age believers using the history of the early church and of druidism’s acceptance of it in Ireland to make an effective case for Christ. I call it fishing from the other side of the boat. When they won’t hear Scripture, use history and science to back up Scripture. It got my little girl back in the boat and I have sold my Gleannmara books to admitted Wiccans and New Agers at medieval fairs as a result. What a joy it has been to establish what we have in common and build on it toward Christ.
Today I found out RIONA, the second book of that series will not be re-released. Again, poor sales of that line led to the decision. How does one explain pages of awards, but poor sales? That has been my story with several publishers. Great reviews. Wonderful awards, but sorry, they just didn’t sell as well as we’d hoped.
So now I have HEALER, a book of my heart. The proposal was another one of those secular historicals that morphed over ten years in the back of my mind into a moving inspirational saga set in Arthurian Scotland. HEALER is book one of the Brides of Alba trilogy, Alba being an early name for Scotland. And this is Arthurian Scotland—and King Arthur, for that matter—as never seen before.
The series focuses on three brothers, their respective brides, and how love and faith grow to enable them to survive those trying times of the Saxon invasion and the church's desperate measures to ensure the survival of Christianity. These measures include matchmaking men and women from the Davidic bloodline passed on by royal Irish and the apostolic bloodlines established in Britain by the first century family and followers of Christ. The historic Arthur in HEALER, one of at least two arthurs (a title) and definitely the last one, is a product of such matchmaking. So is the merlin (another title) Merlin Emrys, who in this case is a documented Celtic Christian bishop and druidic scientist. In fact most of the Arthurian figures were bred and raised by the Grail Church to become warriors, kings and queens of Britain to ensure the Grail Church's survival. Brenna and Ronan's conflict is a result of that matchmaking gone wrong.
Forced to live most of her twenty years in hiding from both her own clan and the clan who murdered her family, Brenna of Gowys wonders how she can possibly fulfill her mother’s prophecy that the Gowys seed will divide the enemy O’Byrne’s house and bring about a peace beyond his wicked ken. Brenna’s clan remnant would have her lead them to certain death against the stronger O’Byrnes. But Brenna is a healer, not a warrior. Nor is she the shape-changing wolf-woman of the hills as she’s rumored to be by the superstitious clans; although she does have a gift with wild animals, including her pet wolf Faol.
So when Brenna witnesses the ambush and attempted murder of a warrior during the annual O’Byrne hunt to find the wolf-woman, she does what she’s called to do. She brings him into her mountain hideaway to heal him, even if he could be her enemy. All she knows is that he is not just wounded in body, but in spirit; that he’d been there as a frightened child when her family had been slain; and that she has seen a future with him. But is her faith strong enough to follow the vision, no matter where it leads?
Please stop by my website at www.LindaWindsor.com and check out HEALER and sign up for my contest to give away a signed copy. It’s my first book trailer and I am over the moon with it and the cover. It so captures the essence of HEALER, my twenty-ninth book. Wow. I can’t believe it’s been twenty years since my mother gasped, “Linda, they put your real name on the cover!” of Pirate’s Wild Embrace. She just knew I’d get kicked off the church choir. Fortunately, my fellow Christians were full of grace toward this baby one.
I hope that the writers among you will be encouraged by the “failures” I’ve mentioned. I’ve often said that rejections are like footprints on the sand. If you don’t see them, you haven’t been moving at all toward your dream.
Basking in His love,