Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The View from the Pitcher's Mound

(1) Pitcher, a playing position in the game of baseball or softball. See also:
Starting pitcher, the pitcher who pitches the first pitch
Relief pitcher, a pitcher who enters the game after the starting pitcher has been removed
Middle relief pitcher, relief pitchers who commonly pitch in the 6th or 7th innings
Setup pitcher, a relief pitcher who regularly pitches before the closer
Closing pitcher, a relief pitcher who tries to get the final outs in a game to secure victory for his team
Power pitcher, a pitcher who relies on the velocity of his pitches
Control pitcher, a pitcher who relies on the accuracy of his pitches
Groundball pitcher, a pitcher that relies on getting hitters to hit into ground outs

(2) Pitcher, a container with a spout used for pouring its contents.

(3) Pitcher, a very nervous writer who had less than seventy-two hours between being named as a finalist and having to answer questions from a New York editor.

Last week I announced in my blog that I'd been picked as one of eleven writers to pitch a novel to the editor of Silhouette Special Edition. I got the word on Monday afternoon and then learned the day before the pitches that I was second in the line-up. That meant I had to be ready to go into the eHarlequin chat room at about noon Central time.

I emailed everyone I knew who'd ever done an online pitch and got some great advice (thanks to the Brainstorming Desireables!). I also emailed a couple other friends who are multi-published and got even more good advice. I was advised to be able to hone in on the characters' conflict, to be able to verbalize what made my book perfect for Special Edition and to be able to rattle off the hooks used in the story.

Someone told me they'd been asked what authors they read and what Harlequin/Silhouette lines they liked. "Tell them what else you've written," one person said. "And let them know about all the stories you've sold to the confessions magazines." "If she asks, let her know you're involved in RWA," another suggested.

Smarty Pants read the first three chapters for me in case I got asked to send a partial. Lynn Raye Harris read them too and even met with me at the coffee shop to drill down the conflict to its core. And one of my RWA chapter mates read the entire book for me and offered some very constructive criticism that will make the story stronger.

Because there were so many of us, we each had ten minutes with the editor. "Let her take the lead and ask questions," we were told. So that's what I did. I also took all the other advice and I made a cheat sheet -- a Word document open in another window so I could cut and paste if applicable.

After telling me she had a giggle over the title (and adding she hoped I wasn't offended by that -- and I definitely wasn't) the editor said she loved the premise and it was "classic SSE."

Score one for the home team. I'd studied the line just like I'd been told to do.

"Can you tell me a bit more about the characters and conflicts?" she asked next.

Score two. I had that on the cheat sheet and was able to cut and paste. Thank you again, Lynn.

She then asked me to clarify a bit of the external conflict and I answered that one off the cuff.

Score three when she said it made sense.

Next she asked about a turning point in the book and I answered that one off the cuff too because it's one of my favorite parts of the book. "They seemed to have such an intense emotional connection I wondered if this was about the sex or the relationship, but I see you just answered that! :) His plan adds an interesting subtext."

Score four despite not knowing I had interesting subtext. Sometimes you just get lucky.

After she asked me what the hero did for a living and I explained, she said, "Well, I would definitely like to see the full ms for this, since it's got so many classic elements which do well for SSE. Can you send it to me at the New York office?"

Uh... well... mmm... er...


Score five!

And if they buy it and let me design the cover, it'll look something like this. Don't you just love my hero? ;-)

I'm editing and polishing and working to make this the best story I can send her. So if I'm a little bit absent for the next week or so, don't worry that I've fallen off the edge of the earth. I'm just busy and nervous and anxious and still completely gobsmacked that I got this far. The Playfriends have been a big part of this -- explaining things I didn't quite understand, brainstorming, helping me with the story board I put together, reading some sample chapters and just being all-round terrific cheerleaders. I'm buying them all new pom-poms for Christmas because they wore theirs out rooting for me and holding my hand.

I also felt all those good vibes I asked you to send last week. I had a whole army behind me, and I thank all of you. I could tell you believed in me, and that helped me believe in myself.

Now I'm going to put y'all on the pitcher's mound and ask the question I didn't get asked: What are your favorite Harlequin/Silhouette lines and why?


Problem Child said...

I'll send a squee even though I've squeed already! Squee!!!

My favorite line? Presents/Modern Heat, of course!

Angel said...

Woohoo! Congrats.

I'd have to say the line I read the most of is Blaze. Those draw me more than any of the others. But I do randomly pick up other lines also: SuperRomance, Special Edition, and Desires, mostly.


Smarty Pants said...

I'd have to say my favorites are Blaze and Romantic Suspense (the old IM).

I am becoming a fan of other lines like Modern Heat as I support my friends.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

I'm a Presents/MH fan. Guess that should be obvious. :) I also like Blaze, and the suspense lines.

And I'm ROFLing over your cover, Marilyn! :) I like it, of course, and think it would be perfect!!

From what I've read, I think you have a wonderful story and it really does seem to fit into what SSE wants.

So, though I know you haven't sent this one off yet, I'm going to ask you what my editor would ask: what's your next book about? :)

Liza said...

Squee and congrats! My favorite line would be Blaze, but I do read a few from other lines too, especially if the books are written by an author I know.

Instigator said...

Squuueee! Congrats, PM. You've worked hard for this moment and deserve to enjoy the rewards.

Favorite line? Blaze, of course! :-)


Kathy said...

SQUEEEE! What a wonderful blog post. I love how you incorporated your pitch!

Congratulations on all your success, PM!

My favorite line? Historical and Presents. ;)

Anonymous said...

You go girl, I know you will do a wonderful job PM. I don't necessarily have a favorite, I just love reading a well writen book and not one where I'm ready to give up on it after 10 pages. Something that will hold my attention.

Playground Monitor said...

Sorry to be so late checking back in. All my appointments hit on the same day.

I'm so glad you like my cover, Lynn. Hugh's my man.

And as for that next question from the editor... My answer would be, "Uh... well... mmm... er..."

Seriously, I have a story I started even before this one about a high school nerd who comes back to his reunion and no one recognizes him thanks to Lasik surgery, expensive orthodontia, a $100 hair cut and a well-cut suit. Also, the book going to SSE has a secondary character who might make a good heroine too.

flchen1 said...

Huge congrats! As for favorite lines, I read most from Blaze, SuperRomance, and the old Temptations, but I also read a bunch of Historical, Special Edition, Desire, and some of the Intimate Moments/Romantic Suspense. Honestly, it all kind of depends on my mood--conveniently, there's a line to suit just about any mood of mine ;)