Friday, May 27, 2011


I called her hotel room to confirm my meeting with Miss Prettywell, the Editor-in-Chief of Rose Petal Romance Publishing. Although she had rejected my pitch last fall, she offered to give me another chance at the upcoming Romance Writers Conference, but only if I would write a story that fit their romance criteria. The main characters had to be attractive, sexy, and at least somewhat likeable. All of which I thought to be reasonable on her part.
Although my first romance novel, Sir Truckalot And The Obese Maiden had gone over like a circus fat lady in a pole vaulting contest, I felt pretty good about my latest attempt at writing romance.
At 7:30 AM on the first full day of the conference, Miss Prettywell was already seated in a booth in the hotel restaurant, when I approached her holding a printout of my synopsis.
“Good morning, Miss Prettywell.”
She nodded and pointed to the empty seat across the table from her.
 I slid into the booth with the ease of butter on hot toast. The unwashed new pair of slacks I was wearing still had that slick feel to them.“Thank you for agreeing to meet me for breakfast.”
“I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.” She smiled.
She must have noticed I knitted my brow, because she quickly added, “Having breakfast while listening to your pitch.”
“Oh.” A huge wave of relief rippled over me. For a brief moment, I thought one of her intentions might have been to kill my dream of becoming a best-selling romance author.
A waiter came to the table to take our orders. Being the gentleman I am, I took the initiative and ordered for both of us. “A bowl of fruit for the lady, and a stack of pancakes for me.” I had done my research. In a blog post she had written while in Paris, she had written she preferred to have fruit for breakfast, after reading the menu.
Miss Prettywell looked up at the waiter. “I’ll also have two eggs scrambled with toast.”
In all of my excitement about getting a second chance, I had forgotten we were in Oklahoma, not exactly the same as Paris. “So sorry.”
She waved off my comment as if no harm had been done.
Timing is everything in a pitch session so I decided to make my move.
“While we’re waiting for our food, could I interest you in reading my synopsis?” 
“Why not?” she replied with a smile that would corrupt most clergymen’s thoughts.
I pushed my twelve page synopsis across the table.
After glancing at the first page, she jerked her head up. “Water and Wild Flowers, now that is an interesting title?”
When readers are considering buying a romance novel, the title is the second most important selling factor. The most important thing, of course, is to have is a couple of half naked people on the cover.
“I thought you might like it.” I leaned back, confident I’d gotten off to a good start.
I held my breath waiting for her to get to the subtitle.”
“Love flourishes like weeds on the roadside of an interstate highway.” She stared at the sheet of paper. “Now that makes me want to dive right in.” 
Trying to contain my excitement, I said, “That’s exactly the same thing Darla said.”
“Who is Darla?”
“My neighbor, she’s one of my beta readers. Her husband, Eddy is the other one.”
One of her eyebrows ticked up a notch, before she rubbed her temples with both hands. “I take it your neighbors read your manuscript?”
When pitching to an agent or an editor, honesty is always the best policy.
“Eddy only read most of the first page, but he told me if I added a shoot out, a train derailment, and a couple of explosions, he’d finish reading the whole manuscript.”
“Your neighbor reminds me of one of my editors, Colt Johnson. He worked for a western publishing house, before he joined us at Rose Petal Romance. We nicknamed him Tombstone, because he’s buried so many writers’ dreams.”
        The waiter poured two glasses of water. “Your food will be out shortly.”
        I needed to hurry up and finish my pitch before the food arrived. It would be extremely rude to expect Miss Prettywell to continue reading while her eggs got cold. Had she struck with only the fruit bowl I wouldn’t have felt the need to rush her.
“My story is not a western romance, but I did take your advice and made both the hero and heroine attractive people. They live on a lake surrounded by a few wild flowers, but mostly weeds.” 
In any romance novel, a romantic setting is a must have. According to Eddy, you can’t get more romantic than water and wild flowers.
She appeared to read a few more lines.
“Your heroine’s name is Candy Cleavage?”
The frown on her face spelled trouble. So much for Eddy’s input on the names for the main characters. I needed to think fast. “Of course not, I use temporary names in my drafts. The actual name of the heroine is Farla Kay Smith.” It was the first thing that came to me.
She dropped the page. “Well that makes all the difference in the world. I love it.” She pulled a business card from her purse and pushed it across the table.
“Please send the complete manuscript to this address?”
After years of being a struggling writer, I had finally received a request for a full manuscript. My heart felt like a balloon tied a Helium tank with the valve turned wide open.
The waiter approached our table carrying our breakfast orders. I grabbed the card from the table and stuck it in my shirt pocket, before he placed my plate down on top of it.
The smell of hot pancakes permeated the air. I was starving and couldn’t wait to get my hands on the maple syrup and a fork.
Miss Prettywell glanced at her watch. “Breakfast has been lovely. Unfortunately, I have to run.” She stood.
I jumped to my feet. “But you haven’t eaten.”
“That’s the downside of the publishing business. One minute you have an appetite and the next minute you don’t. But please go ahead. I need to run up to my room and get ready for my first session. I was told the turnout for the conference is expected to be an all-time record.”
Admiring both her work ethic and red high-heel shoes, I watched her walk away in what could only be described as the most ladylike fast pace I’d ever seen.
In celebration of my triumph, I poured half a bottle of syrup on my stack of pancakes. I took two bites, and then remembered my wife was waiting on pins and needles. I pulled my cell phone out dialed her number.
“Hi, Honey, great news, I just got my first request for a full…yeah, I’m pretty excited about it. Would you place a copy of my manuscript in the mail today? Thanks.”
When you get a request for a full, it’s best not to delay.
“Wait. Let me give you the mailing address.”
I pulled the card from my shirt pocket and read it.
Colt Johnson, P.O. Box 3D, Deadwood, South Dakota
“Better hold up on that mailing. Looks Like I’m going to need to add a shoot out, a train derailment, and a couple of explosions.

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