The Book Of My Heart

Stories have lives of their own.  Some spring into being and race to completion.  Others follow their authors around for years, demanding to be told.  My January Harlequin Historical, ON THE WINGS OF LOVE, is the second kind of story.   I’d like to share it with you here.

      For as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by flight—especially the men and women who first ventured into the sky.  About fifteen years ago I came up with an idea for a story with a hero and heroine, Rafe and Alexandra, who are drawn together by their passion for flying.  I loved it.  From the very beginning I knew it was the book of my heart.

      I jumped right into the research, reading a whole stack of books.  I even took a flying lesson in a Piper Cherokee.  The cute young  instructor did the takeoff and landing, but I got to handle the plane in the air, turns and all.  It was an exhilarating and terrifying experience—white knuckles all the way.   Even though I’d love to try it again, I don’t think I’d ever have the self confidence to solo.

      I wrote a proposal and sent it out.  It came back again and again and again for two reasons.  First, nobody wanted a story set in the early 20th Century.  Second, nobody was neutral about Alex, my strong-willed heroine.  A few editors loved her, as I did.  But most didn’t “get” her.   I’d created a woman with the stubborn, reckless nature needed to venture into the sky.  In ordinary situations, these qualities could work against her—and  often did—which, for me, was what made Alex so compelling.  I didn’t want to change her.

      After I started writing for Harlequin I tried the story again.  The senior editor almost bought it but changed her mind at the last minute.  “I loved the chemistry between Rafe and Alex,” she said, “but the time period is too modern for our historical line.”

      Years passed, editorial policies changed.  I sent the story to my new editor.  “Interesting time period,” she said.  “But I can’t stand your heroine.”

      More time passed.  I had a different editor, and suddenly Harlequin Historicals was looking for new settings.  I sent my story in again.  Finally… it sold!

      Even then the saga wasn’t over.  I’d conceived the book as an epic, covering the early days of flight through World War I.  To fit the Harlequin format, I had to cut, and cut, and cut.  Every lost word was painful.  But I got to keep Alex with all her faults.  The final result was a thrilling love story that I’m still proud to call the book of my heart.  

Those of you who write, do you have a “book of your heart” either written or unwritten?  Have you ever had to fight for a goal that was close to your heart?  Do you have a dream you hope to accomplish?  I’d love to hear about it. 

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I'm an internationally published romance author, coming up on 40 novels and novellas. Most of my stories have been Westerns for Harlequin Historicals, but I set stories in other times and places as well. I'll also be writing contemporary stories for Harlequin Desire, with the first release in January 2013. You can learn more on my web site.

40 thoughts on “The Book Of My Heart”

  1. The book of my heart would probably be the first one I finished. I struggled with it off and on for about 10 years because I either “didn’t have the time” or because I claimed writer’s block. I hadn’t found the voice I needed to finish it or the strength to work through some very difficult scenes.

    I finally finished it two years ago. It wasn’t just the first novel I wanted to finish, but it was also close to my heart because I was writing it from a place of pain because I put my heroine in a situation similar, but more far gone, than something I had been through.

    The novel was my outlet for emotional pain and a desperate need to find closure and restore balance to my own life. The novel is far from done because I know it needs some major overhauling and revision and it may never see the light of day, but it was a story I knew I had to write, even though I struggled to put “the end” on it.

    In a way, finishing that one was a major goal I had to fight for, to simply get the story out because I knew if I didn’t finish it first before I started writing other novels, it would haunt me. It begged me to finish it, gnawed at me during times of my life when I swore I didn’t have time to write or that I wasn’t good enough to even attempt writing novels, let alone finishing one.

    My dream is to be published and in the past two years, I feel like I’ve come a long way toward reaching that dream and hopefully making it a reality. I’m getting started on my 8th manuscript right now. Of course, I’ve not submitted anything yet, but I know that’s part of my goal and I’m simply getting my ducks in a row at the moment, so to speak.

  2. What an inspiring story, Taryn. I hope the book of your heart sees the light someday. It sounds like something very much worth reading.
    And deciding to submit is a big step but a necessary one. I could paper a fair sized room with my rejection letters, but seeing that book in print makes it all worth the effort, so don’t be afraid to try. You’ll know when you’re ready.
    Hugs and good luck,
    Elizabeth

  3. What an inspiring story, Taryn. I hope the book of your heart goes all the way. It sounds like something worth reading.
    Submitting your work is a scary thing, but necessary. I could paper a fair-sized room with my rejection letters so I know how hard it can be. But seeing your book in print and knowing that people will read what you wrote makes it all worthwhile.
    Hugs and good luck to you,
    Elizabeth

  4. The book sounds really great, Elizabeth. I like difficult heroines. 🙂

    I don’t know if this is exactly the book of my heart but it’s one I’ve written that I really liked and hasn’t sold, and may never because it’s way outside my ‘brand’ of western romantic comedy.

    About a demon possessed killer and a woman police detective who can ‘sense’ demons and is nearly blow away by what she senses at the scene of his crimes.

    A light hearted historical western romantic comedy of course. (NOT)
    But man can I see the movie…..

  5. Taryn, have you entered your books in any unpublished writer’s contests? You can get a critique that way and some advice and some solid neutral third party eyes on your manuscript. And if you final, the prize is usually having an editor or agent read your work. They’re listed in RWA’s monthly magazine.
    If you’ve got eight books you need to get them out there, darlin’, start practicing up on taking brutal rejection. 🙂

  6. Great advice for Taryn, Mary. And the way the dark demon stuff is flying off the shelves, I can’t believe your book hasn’t sold.

    On the advice of my agent I recently wrote an entire time travel book. I loved it, and so did my agent. It didn’t sell, everybody wanted the scary, hard-edged paranormal stories. You may want to keep trying with it.

  7. Good morning Elizabeth- I just loved to hear about the journey your book traveled to get published. You loved the story so much and never gave up hope that it would one day get published! That’s inspiring to new authors as well as everyone who has ever tried something and failed, then kept persisting.

    I think the real book of my heart is still percolating around in my head. I enjoy all the books I write, truly, but no, there hasn’t been one that really demanded to be written, no matter what. Is that odd? I hear so many authors talk about the Books of their hearts and wonder where mine is. 🙂

  8. Thanks, Charlene. I’ve never believed that there is just one “book of my heart”, so I’m waiting for my next one to come along, too. When we’re on almost constant deadline and don’t have time to think outside the usual box it’s hard to make that happen. Hope it happens for you in the not-too-distant future.

  9. I was at a bookstore recently, they let me sign my books they have in stock, and the lady there said, “You want to sell a lot of books? VAMPIRES!”

    She said they were just flying off the shelf.

    So there, insider stuff.

    Hmmmmmmm vampire cowboys…you know, it’s never been done…well, I haven’t read them anyway. 🙂

    Cheryl? You up for a vampire cowboy???? YeeHaw.

  10. Thanks for this post! What a perfect of example of the reasons for not taking rejection personal. I love historical romances, but the story of my heart is a western for middle grades. I keep submitting and some comment that it has potential, while others hate it. You gave me motivation to keep learning, revising, and sending it out.

  11. Good luck with the story of your heart, Natalie. Young adult and middle grades seems to be a growing market. It’s great that you keep trying, learning from your rejections, making improvements and never giving up. That’s the way you get there!

  12. Thanks Elizabeth and Mary. I’ve seen the contest listings in RWR and I’m thinking of entering…just a matter of slowing myself down to dig into editing.

    My goal for this year was to write all 4 books in this series I got an idea for at the end of last year. I’m 3/4 of the way there because the newest I’m starting on is the last one of the four books. Once I finish it, I’m going to start polishing all four of them (and the other 4 that aren’t connected) so that I can either enter them in contests or submitting queries for them by the end of the year (and before I do NaNoWriMo again this year.)

    Thanks so much ladies. You’re truly an inspiration!

  13. Elizabeth, congratulations for sticking to your guns and hanging in there! Most would give up. You’re amazing.

    “On the Wings of Love” sounds like a beautiful, gut-wrenching love story. I’d love to read it.

    I think my book of the heart was my first published story. “Knight on the Texas Plains” was based on a true story about a little girl who lived beside us when I was growing up. One day I learned she’d been won in a poker game. I was horrified. That stayed with me all those years and I knew I wanted to tell part of her story and give her the happy ending that life denied her. I finally got my chance and saw my work make it into print.

    Thanks for sharing your special feeling and pride in your book.

  14. Wow, Taryn, you have so much written, it really is time to get it out there. The contests in RWR are a great place to start.
    I’ve known writers with several completed, unpublished books who finally sold one, and then the publisher wanted all the others, too. Go for it, girl!

  15. What a wealth of story material you’ve had in your life, Linda–so unique and so real. Knight on the Texas Plains sounds like a wonderful book. Can’t believe they would treat a little girl like that in the 20th Century! Thanks for sharing.

  16. Vampire cowboy? There was an old movie where Billy the Kid met Dracula. Drac lived in a cave. I don’t remember any more of the movie than that.

    I think there’s plenty of room for paranormal cowboys. Just look at my pile of notes and research for my cowboy dragon shapeshifters. 😉 There is a series over at Nocturne of immortal demon hunters–with a cowboy base of operations.

    I can’t say any of my books have been totally ‘the book of my heart’. Each book has had special parts and like Taryn, they’ve helped me work through pain and emotional garbage. I do, however, have a character of my heart. He shows up, over and over, always seeming to find a place no matter what kind of tale I’m writing. But, as of yet, he’s not wanting a book all of his own.

    With all the tales begging to be written, I’m sure each of those will be a part of my heart as I write. 🙂

  17. Elizabeth, I don’t have a story of my heart to write, but I did just want to say that I recently read both The Stranger and On the Wings of Love–they were both beautiful but completely different stories, and I’m very glad you had a chance to share them both! Thanks for continuing to write!

  18. Billy the Kid and Dracula? Sheesh! What Hollywood won’t come up with. Gotta look that one up.
    And I’m fascinated that the same character keeps turning up in your books, Lizzie. There must be some deep reason for that. Maybe it’s somebody you’ve met or that you’re destined to meet. There’s a story in there somewhere.

  19. Thanks so much Fedora. I’m thrilled that you read and enjoyed both those books. They are very different. THE STRANGER is one of my favorite westerns. And WINGS is different from anything else I’ve written. You just made my day!

  20. Oh, congratulations, Elizabeth, on having this dream come true and for your perserverance. Best wishes for continued success. I don’t mind flying (it’s probably the one thing I’m not phobic about LOL) but piloting a plane is something I know I couldn’t do. I totally understand my limits.

    I think for me: the book of the heart is simply The Western itself. I’ve considered other genres just to keep up with a trend and maybe sell, but at my age, I don’t have time to waste doing something I just don’t want to do. So whether they sell or not, and most don’t LOL, I love writing cowboy stories.

    But…I do know how popular vampires and shape-shifter lit. is these days. I keep thinking of The Highlander (anybody like that series with Adrian Paul? YUMMO). Why not a good-hearted vampire living as a cowboy in the old West? Hmmmmm. I think I’m lovin’ it.

  21. Enter the man always requesting he ride herd at night.

    Sunset Cowboy
    Immortal Brand
    Buck Tooth
    Tooth or Consequences
    Hex Marks the Spot
    The Vampire Strikes Back (no, too outer space)
    Deadly Doo-Rite (hmmm, I kinda like that one)
    Night Rider (well, no, maybe not-isn’t that David Hasselhoff and a cool car?)
    Midnight Cowboy (oops, that’s something else)

    But how does he haul his coffin along on the cattle drive…….

    Not saying you can’t over come it. But I want to see the synopsis and the first three chapters before I commit.

  22. Oh Mary, I am as always laughing out loud at you!!! I am supposed to be cleaning a bathroom but P and P is such an addiction.

    Hmmmmmm. Sound pitchable at RWA?

    Okay, where’s the Windex…gotta go.

  23. Elizabeth, I had no idea your book took so long to get to the shelves. It just goes to show how much determination and drive it takes to get through this business. Congratulations! And that’s a gorgeous cover, too!

    Interesting that you went flying for research. I’ve been in those small planes, too. Quite a thrill. As far as books of the heart, I feel like each one is something I love to write, and it’s where I want to be.

  24. Mary, I am hauling myself off the floor after a laughing fit. Forget the demon guy, you were born to make people smile.

    And Tanya, if your heart is in every book you write that’s the best of all worlds. You’re home. And since westerns seem to be making a comeback, you’re riding a trend as well.
    Yeah…piloting that plane was really scary. I was afraid I was going to crash and kill that nice young instructor.

  25. Thanks, Kate. If I’d loved that story any less it would still be on the shelf. The hard part was cutting it back for Harlequin. I had to change the multiple POV and drop several sub plots. Then at the last minute the title had to be changed from my original “Wings on the Morning” because another book with a similar title was coming out first. “On the Wings of Love” was the editors’ idea and I hated it at first. But I forgave them when I saw that cover. It just took my breath away!

  26. I’ve always liked longer books. I’m sure I would have enjoyed yours as it originally was written. Publishers/editors are a necessary evil I guess and the “fad” seems to be shorter books.

  27. I so agree, Jeanne. Some of my friends who’ve read the book say it feels like there’s something missing–there is. I would have loved to publish the full length version, but after all those years and all those rejections I was happy to get it into print at all.
    My earliest books were epics. If you’re interested you can see them on my website. You can still get used copies on Amazon. Thanks so much for writing.

  28. Elizabeth,
    since I do write mostly fantasy, it’s easy to have a reoccuring character… if he’d just stop telling me more about himself, I wouldn’t have to keep writing him. Such an ever changing fellow. And yeah, he’ll show up in the old west with my dragon shifters. 🙂

    Mary–I vote for Immortal Brand. I really like that. Or, maybe I’ll rustle it away from you. 😉

  29. Thanks for the encouraging words, Elizabeth. Yes, I’m back…done cleaning one b-room but another awaits so I’m treating myself with a dose of P and P beforehand. (I’m also working on a gold-miner story inbetween all this. I think I have ADD.)

    Mary, I vote for Immortal Brand and Sunset Cowboy. But Tooth or Consequences has a nice bite to it LOL.

  30. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again!”

    That seems to be the theme for authors or could it be for publishers and editors?

    Pat Cochran

  31. Now you’ve got me really intrigued, Lizzie. Sounds like your character is clamoring for a book of his own.

    And I share your ADD Tanya. Even if I super-glued myself to my chair there’d still be the internet. Anything is easier than writing.
    🙂

    Hmmm, Pat. I never thought of that old saying in terms of editors. Interesting thought.

  32. Nope, it’s all yours *lizzie. I’m leaning toward

    Buck Tooth.
    I think I’ll name my hero Buck Tooth.

    For me, that just rolls off the tongue.

    Although seriously, do we want to talk about vampires and Buck Tooth, then include things the ‘roll off the tongue’.

    Hello Oral Fixation

  33. LOL, Mary!!
    Running away to a canyon party with friends for a few hours but will check back when I return. Thanks for all your comments. It’s been a fun day!

  34. I seriously don’t know if I have a book of my heart.
    I’m feeling kinda sorry for myself.

    I have…yikes…twenty five books on my computer at least. Are NONE of them the book of my heart? What is WRONG with me?

    I mean sure, that demon thing. It’s a pretty good book, although I’ve got some techno glitches in it because of things that have been invented since I wrote the book, updates in cell phone technology mainly.

    I have one that just wrote itself, seriously, I saw that book in this perfect arc from beginning to end. About a hostage negotiator. Not sold.

    I suppose Petticoat Ranch is close, I seriously loved that book. When it was finished I just thought, okay, this is the best thing I’ve ever done.
    These days I’ve moved away from the books on my computer that aren’t selling to brand myself. (that sound so PAINFUL-think cowboys and red hot iron)
    And I do oh, yeah….lo-o-o-ove cowboys so I’m good with that.

    Having a moment of self-pity and a feeling of shallowness that I’ve got no vision for some elusive ‘book of my heart’ out there in the future.

    Maybe if I wait a while longer, I can set it in a nursing home.

  35. I had someone say to me one time, when she got a book published nd she didn’t feel like the world was embracing it, “It hurts so much because, despite the other I’ve sold, this is the book of my heart.”
    I just looked at her, all confused and said, “So big deal, if this one doesn’t sell, go write another book of your heart.”

    I suppose I just don’t get it. 🙁

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