Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Joy of Getting The Call by Cheryl Bolen

The month of March marks a double milestone for me. It was 23 years ago I got The Call from a New York editor offering to buy my first book. That was on March 17, 1997. That book was published on March 1, 1998, as A Duke Deceived by Harlequin Historical. (It was one of the few books I wrote in which the publishers kept my original title.) 
Signing my first book at a Barnes and Noble bookstore.

I’ll never forget the day I got The Call. I was working as a news editor at a community newspaper and had gone home for lunch. A light was blinking on my phone’s answering machine. The message was from Harlequin editor Margaret Marbury, who said to give her a call.

I knew what this meant. The senior editor there had read my first three chapters five months earlier and had asked me to send them the rest of the novel. (This was after she had read another of my books in a contest I’d finaled in, and she’d asked me to submit a historical novel, if I wrote one that took place before 1900.)

One doesn’t get a phone call for a rejection.

By then I was trembling.

I’d waited a long time for this call. Twenty-five years. I’d written my first complete book when I was in my early twenties.

I picked up the phone.

And I called my husband.

“Why are you calling me?” he chided. “Call her right back!”

$5,000 Advance

So I did. She offered to buy the book and asked me if a $5,000 advance was all right. I thought it was just wonderful, but I tried to play it cool. “Fine,” I said. I don’t remember a whole lot more about the call because I was flying really high.

After I hung up I wanted to tell the world. I wanted to celebrate. Of course I called my husband and told him. I called my mother, but she wasn’t home. I left a message on her answering machine. When I got back to the office, I was still shaking all over, and I told our receptionist. 

One of my children had finished law school and fled the nest, the other was still in college and working nights, so celebrating with them that night was not an option.

I’d always dreamed of buying an expensive bottle of Rothschild wine and really celebrating the huge milestone. But even my husband had to work that night. As a college professor, he was required to teach one night class, and this was the night.

This calls for a celebration

As it was, he and I managed to sandwich in a quick dinner at our favorite Mexican dive to mark my Huge Life Event. Not what I’d always envisioned, but at least I didn’t have to cook.

The following day when I went to work, our receptionist and her young daughter had baked me a cake that said "Way to Go, Cheryl," and the whole office enjoyed celebrating my milestone. Our publisher even insisted a story about my accomplishment go into that week's edition. 

A year later the first of my forty-plus books came out. Harlequin billed it as March Madness, when they introduced four new authors. What a wonderful opportunity it was for me.

Holding my book, seeing on the shelves in bookstores, and having it professionally reviewed, all of this was beyond thrilling. It was even better than getting The Call.

How happy I was that my mother lived to see my first published book and attend my first book signing. She died a month later. 

March will always be special to me because it is what launched the career I love. Oh, and there’s a moral to this story. Don’t ever give up.—Cheryl Bolen’s last release was HisLady Deceived.

Enter our March Lucky in Love giveaway here.

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  1. What a great story to the start of a great career for you!!

    1. Thanks, Kari. There have been ups and downs, but that was a big UP!

  2. Getting the call was so exciting. One thing newer authors don't get to enjoy and celebrate. Keep celebrating. You never forget that first sale.

    1. The publishing world certainly HAS changed since 1997, Nora!

  3. I, too, will never forget the sheer joy and happiness of THE CALL after years of submissions.

  4. Persistence pays, doesn't it Kathleen?

  5. How exciting that "call" must have been, Cheryl! As Nora said, it's a thrill most authors don't get now. For me, it was an email, and I was over the moon! Years of pouring your heart and soul into a book, and finally! The only thing better was when I met my first fan. I will never forget it, and we're friends to this day. ❤️

    1. But there are definitely trade-offs between traditional publishing and indie, Kathryn.

  6. Definitely a day you never forget, isn't it?

  7. One of life's unforgettable moments, Liz!

  8. A perfect moment in time! Truly unforgettable!

  9. I would have been speechless had I got the call that you did. Congratulations and continued success.

  10. Cheryl, I remember that so well. I brought you a bouquet of stargazer lilies to our RWA chapter meeting. I probably wouldn't have thought of that, but Larry bought me a bouquet of them yesterday. They're on the table next to me, perfuming the air with their wonderful fragrance. Happy Anniversary!

    1. I remember you bringing the flowers. That was so thoughtful. Wish I had fresh flowers right now. With my asthma and kaput immune system (along with age) I don't leave the house, and John's afraid of bringing home something that will infect me with COVID 19.


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