Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Retro Blog: Fate, Fortune Cookies, and Faith

On May 30, 2013 I got the call from my editor at Entangled Publishing. This blog first aired June 5, 2013. Now I am poised to release my debut novel THE MAVERICK'S RED HOT REUNION on June 30th, 2014. It's a dream come true. Here's the story about what happened on May 30th, 2013. 

I got what we writers like to say is "The Call." In my case it was an email. And I was sitting in my trusty Ford Escape getting ready to go to my morning Zumba class when it arrived on my iPhone. So what did I do after my new editor at Entangled Publishing sent me the email that stated my manuscript was approved?

Frankly, I trembled. It was unbelievable, surreal even, after all these years of seeking a home for my stories.

I emailed her back-thanked her so much and then I forwarded it to the Physicist and my critique partners, Sharon WrayKaren Johnston, and Pam Mantovani. Sharon and Karen have worked with me since 2006 and they're talented writers whom I value beyond measure. Pam and I met through a contest that she was coordinating in 2009: the Maggies for the Georgia Romance Writers RWA Chapter. I finaled that year and the following year I wooed her to become my category romance writing partner. We haven't looked back. She's an incredible writer, a fantastic critique partner, and a dear friend.

I would not be the writer I am today if fate had not lead me to these women. Our relationships are special, and I love them all.

Fate also lead me to a fantastic writing group. The Romance Writers of America. My first manuscript was requested by an editor at Harlequin and then rejected. Rightfully so. It was a hot mess and I needed to learn a lot. But in that rejection, the editor encouraged me to join RWA. So I did. Then I found Karen and Sharon. Two years later, I found more writing chapters with my subsequent move to Alabama. Southern Magic, Heart of Dixie, Music City Romance Writers and Georgia Romance Writers of America have given me so much support throughout these long years. Fate also led me to a fantastic group called GIAMx4 (Goal in a Month) after I emailed the loop's creator about a PRO post. Amy Atwell is a dynamo and I adore her for including me in this group. They are so good to me. Finally, fate also sent me a multi-published author who literally took me by the hand and said she'd read the first three chapters of the book I just sold because she knew how hard it is to get published. I finally plucked up the courage to send her this book and she fell in love with it. Though it didn't suit her publishing house's line, it lead me down an interesting pathway. And her faith in my writing kept me going when times got dark and I wanted to give up writing for a shopping vocation.

But I couldn't quit writing because then I would be--as Sharon so wisely and gently said--rejecting myself.

This brings me in no clear way to Fortune Cookies. For some reason I like saving certain fortunes that come in the cookies. I've kept two in my jewelry box for at least four years. I used one in my short bio because it suits me to a T. I kept the other one because it describes my internal motivation. Here they are:

Your ability to find the silly in the serious will take you far.
Your skills will accomplish what the force of many will not.

There were days when I'd open my jewelry box to get my hoop earrings and heart necklace and I'd read these fortunes just to jump start my day and keep my motivation going.

I came home and showed the College Kid the email who then promptly hugged me three times in a row (a record!) and said she was proud of me. I still get all weepy when I recall that moment. Then it was off to PF Changs because the day I sold to Entangled Publishing, the Physicist and I had already arranged a SWG with one of our favorite couples at the restaurant to catch up. SWG stands for Scotch Working Group. The servers there keep The Marine and The Physicist's  favorite scotch on hand and know them by name. So one minute I was signing a contract and the next I was off to eat Chinese and hang out with friends while the College Kid started fooling around with my Tumblr account to make it look better.

When the Marine and his wife learned the news they were very excited. But really? I was so dazed, I was almost overwhelmed. They insisted on me tooting my own horn a bit. So we had a big piece of cake on the house (because the server was happy for me after they told her I had sold a book). After we ate the cake (which was super yummy and completely sinful) the fortune cookies arrived. We each opened ours and I'm saving them all in my jewelry box. Here's what they said:

You will receive a surprising gift very soon.
You should have a talk with a friend today.
Treasure what you have.
A small gift can bring joy to the whole family.

Somehow, in the dim glow of the low lights at PF Changs these fortunes reflected my entire day. I loved that moment when each member of the table read their slip of paper, then handed me their fortune.

Their friendship leads me to Faith. I could not have gotten to this point without the company of faithful friends and without faith in something greater than me guiding my destiny. My family, my dearest and oldest friends (two who read the first ill-fated manuscript and encouraged me to go forth), my new friends, my Zumba Sisters, my writing friends, my awesome critique partners, the mentors and teachers who have guided me (Mary BuckhamDianna LoveMargie LawsonMichael Hauge to name a few), the published authors who have given me so much encouragement--all of them have filled my internal faith jar with hope for the future.

And I have a real faith jar. Years ago someone gave me a prayer jar. You write down your prayers on slips of paper and date them, then you put them in the jar and let them sit there. When things change, you check the jar and pull out the prayers that have been answered. OK, so now I'm crying as I write this because this weekend I pulled out two slips of paper. Here's what they said and the dates they were written:

I  pray that someone will publish my works 2005
I pray for strength to write strong even when I'm not published. 2012

The top of my jar is inscribed with the following words:

Faith is the substance of things hoped for... Hebrews 11:1

It's been a long journey from that first tiny slip of paper to today's new slip of paper. The journey's not over, it's just different. I'm making new connections and finding new friends who are in this extraordinary world that I've just entered. But I'm so glad that the companions I have known throughout my life will be cruising on this pathway beside me. They are why I have the courage to sit down to write stories which believe in the power of love binding two hearts together.

A lot has changed since I first wrote this blog. I lost my dear friend Karen Johnston to an inoperable brain stem tumor in March 2014. I'm grateful that we were able to celebrate my sale last year. She was an amazing person, and I will miss her forever. Still, she's with  me every day in spirit cheering me on with her boundless enthusiasm. And there's been good news despite the sadness that has passed our way. Pam Mantovani sold her first book to Belle Books in July 2013. And Sharon Wray is a Golden Heart finalist for the fourth year in a row. 

One thing that hasn't changed is my faith jar. It still has prayers in it. Slips of paper with bits of hopes and dreams written on them.


Stephanie said...

Christine, your blog brought tears to my eyes. I love the idea of a prayer jar. A great reminder of what you've accomplished. Not long now until your book is released. Enjoy every minute.

Christine said...

Stephanie: I love my prayer jar--keeps me grounded. And I'm glad you enjoyed the blog. Won't be long before the first book baby is launched. Still feels surreal to me. :)

Lisa Brown Roberts said...

Love your story, Christine! It's so fun reading about first book sales. I look forward to your book!

Christine said...

Thank you Lisa. I'm so glad you're looking forward to my book. It's been such an amazing ride to get to this point of the journey. :)

Coleen Kwan said...

"The journey's not over, it's just different."
Love that line. It's so true!

Christine said...

Thanks Coleen for your comment about the journey. It's ever evolving for sure!

Aidee Ladnier said...

Such a beautiful story!

Christine said...

Thanks Aidee. It was a beautiful day :)

Sharon Wray said...

This was such a beautiful post, Christine. I'm just sorry I'm a few days late.
I am so proud of you and so happy for you. And I'm so glad you didn't reject yourself. :)

Christine said...

Sharon I count you among one of my most special friends as we go forth on this journey. So many things have happened since we first started writing and critiquing together. I'm honored by your friendship and I KNOW you'll be rewarded for all your hard work in honing this craft.

I'm glad I didn't reject myself either :)