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!”
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.
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