Back in 2005, I naively thought publication was just around the corner. I had finaled in several contests, including the prestigious Golden Heart. My fellow finalists were selling in droves and I honestly thought, ‘this is it’. But 2005 came and went without an agent or a sale. Then 2006 … and 2007. A veritable drought of success.
I began to wonder if publication was a pipe dream for me. But I never stopped writing, and in the fall of 2007, I completed a new manuscript just in time to enter it in the Golden Heart. I actually entered two manuscripts in that contest, firmly believing that my chances were best with my older, more seasoned story, not the new one.
In February of 2008, my father was called back from a vacation in Arizona because medical tests done just before he left proved ‘concerning’. All thoughts about writing contests fell by the wayside as I escorted my dad from doctor’s appointment to doctor’s appointment in an attempt to determine the state of his health. The day the Golden Heart calls went out, I was in the hospital with my dad as he endured a marathon test.
When I returned home and saw the message light on my phone blinking, I confess it never occurred to me it was the RWA calling to say I’d finaled. With the newer manuscript! It was a terrific boost, to say the least.
But going to the RWA National conference was out of the question. More tests finally confirmed what my family had been dreading—my father’s prostate cancer had spread to his lymph nodes and his bones. His diagnosis was terminal. We were devastated, having lost our mom to cancer two years before and having just supported our sister through aggressive treatment for breast cancer.
Needless to say, my final in the 2008 Golden Heart—although a huge personal validation—did not remain top-of-mind. But it didn’t disappear, either. That’s because, to my delight, one of the judges in the GH requested a full. Then, my query letters started to gain me some requests. Then an agent emailed me to say she loved my book and wanted to represent me.
Around the same time, my dad’s health began to worsen. Living next door to him, I naturally became his primary caregiver. By the end of July, he was barely able to walk. It seemed like every piece of good news was accompanied by bad.
On August 3rd, my cell phone rang in the middle of the night, and my heart raced. My first thought was my dad. But to my intense relief and absolute amazement, it was my friend Sylvia Day calling from San Francisco to say I’d won the Golden Heart for Best Paranormal Romance. I cried.
The next day, I broke the news to my dad that I’d won. His face lit up like a candle, his eyes twinkling, a huge grin curving his lips. He jumped out of his chair and gave me the biggest hug ever. He was so proud of me he told everyone he met that day.
As if that weren’t magical enough, six days later my agent called to say we’d sold my Golden Heart winning manuscript in a three-book deal to NAL.
My dad passed away September 11th. It won’t surprise you to know that the look on his face when I told him I’d won the Golden Heart is one of the memories I’ll treasure forever.