Sunday, 6 March 2011

More Serendipity

Most people who know about my writing career know already that it was a chance meeting with a Harlequin best-selling author which prompted me to start writing novels again.

In June 2008, a friend and I decided to do an American Civil War battlefields tour, based at Manassas in Virginia. It was a busy week, covering sites in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. It was also hotter than usual for June – over 100 degrees most days.

Not ideal for standing in the middle of a field somewhere and trying to imagine some bloody battle there in the 1860’s. But we had some excellent military historians as our guides on the different battlefields.  Gettysburg, of course, stands out as probably the most evocative, when we stood where Pickett started his charge against the Union army. 

Most people on the tour were either husband/wife pairs or men (father/son or two friends etc). However, my friend and I found ourselves sitting behind two women each day on the bus and, inevitably, because we were the only two pairs of women on the tour, we ended up sitting with them at mealtimes too. One was Linda, from Washington State, the other was her cousin Doris from Tennessee.

(Linda on the left, Doris on the right, and also my friend Pat)

After a couple of days I discovered Linda wrote for Harlequin and was doing the tour as research for a Civil War trilogy she intended to write. I told her I’d previously had two books published by Harlequin, and so we got talking about writing in general. When she talked about book-signing tours all over America, I knew she was in a league way above me (in fact she’s written about 80 books for HQN). But, at the end of the week, she said, “If you decide you want to write novels again, let me know. I can maybe help you to get your foot inside the door.”

Well, who can resist an offer like that? When I got home, I hunted out a story I’d written years ago and set about re-writing it to bring it up-to-date. In November, Linda ‘introduced’ me to her friend who was a Harlequin editor and I sent my story to her. While I waited, I began to write another – again one which I’d started (but never finished) way back in the past.

To cut a very long story short, involving a time-span of over a year, the editor declined my first novel, with the comment:  "I enjoyed your depiction of two people who let mistrust and secrets drive them apart, and I’d hoped to be able to find a spot for the ms. in one of our series lines. Unfortunately, I confess my second readers weren’t quite as taken by the storyline as I was."   I sent her my second novel, but, disappointingly, did not receive any response from her at all.  So that was the end of my HQN link.

Despite that, however, I will always say that it was meeting Linda Lael Miller on the battlefield trip which started me writing novels again, and I will be forever grateful to her.
Linda's website is at:

Next week: Writing Novels Again


  1. Hi,

    As the saying goes: one door closes so another opens! ;)


  2. I chose the wrong door to slide my foot around - and ended up with a stubbed toe?

  3. It is amazing the influence, for the good, that people can have on you. I had a similar experience with Loren Teague. A few words of encouragement and there you go...picking up the pen again.

  4. I agree, Margaret. I wonder if we all have that 'someone' who inspires us to start writing again after a gap? Or gives us confidence to start submitting stories to publishers?
    There have been several people in my life who have been encouraging in this way, and I am indebted to all of them.

  5. I love this story.

    My hubby and I took a tour of the Gettysburg battle field, and it's something I'll never forget.

  6. Gettysburg is awesome, isn't it, Debra? Assume you've seen the movie? Critics panned Martin Sheen's portrayal of Robert E. Lee, but he played it exactly as Jeff Shaara wrote it in 'Killer Angels' which was the basis for the movie.

  7. This a great story that just goes to illustrate the importance of talking to people you come in contact with, aka networking. I like to keep an awareness about me to find a kindred spirit who might be on the same wavelength. Sometimes you just have to step out and make conversation.
    Best wishes for success in your reactivated writing career.

    Tossing It Out

  8. Thanks for visiting, Lee - and yes, the value of a kindred spirit can't be over-rated, whether it's kindred spirits in the 'real' world, or those you come across online.