Friday, December 8, 2017

Getting "The Call" by Cate Nolan

I imagine most "Call" stories don't involve the author missing the editor's call because she was asleep.

That's what happened to me.

But let's go back to the beginning.

Once upon a time - a very long time ago - a young(ish) reader got the idea stuck in her head that she could write a book.

That writer was rather nervous. Authors were her very favorite people. They created wondrous books that filled so many happy hours. She had really never dared think that she could be one, too. Writers were special, talented people, and she was just an ordinary person.

But then one day, she read an article in a magazine about two secretaries in California who wrote romance novels on their lunch breaks (Rosemary Rogers and Shirlee Busbee).

The reader dared to dream. Was it possible? Could an ordinary person become an author?

So, like any good heroine, she found a goal. She would write one of the stories she'd been making up in her head.

Okay, so this is where the director steps in and says CUT!

This reader turned writer did have an unfortunate tendency to write looooong.

So fast forward 30 years. There had been many contests, a good number of prestigious finals and even some wins, but no book contract. Neither the Golden Heart nor the Genesis offered the magic key to publication.

But the author, for she now dared think of herself as such, persevered. She wrote on lunch hours and in coffee shops, she tried historical and contemporary and even paranormal.

And then she got discouraged and went back to grad school for a degree in teaching special ed.

But the stories were always there, so eventually she would start writing them again. She had no choice.

Then one day in early February of 2014, Harlequin's Love Inspired Suspense editors announced a contest - The Search for a Killer Voice.

Hmmmmm, there was that story idea... the one where everyone at the Christmas party was poisoned....

So over the next frantic weeks as the contest progressed from round to round, I (yes, let's abandon all pretense, it's me) wrote like crazy.

The contest had four stages.

Stage one was to submit a first page. Based on that, the editors chose teams. Emily Rodmell chose my entry.

Next up - authors had to submit a synopsis. Again the crowd was winnowed down. Those who made it through were invited to submit the first three chapters.

Finally, in May, the editors each asked 5 people to submit the full.

I wrote like crazy for a month and emailed in the entry less than an hour before deadline. I was exhausted, but proud to have miraculously completed my story.

And then the waiting began.

Side note: In my story, the heroine has a favorite hymn that she sings when she is troubled - How Great Thou Art. I had played Holly Tucker's version from The Voice often while writing the book.

So on a warm Sunday in July, as I came out of church, all of a sudden the church bells started playing How Great Thou Art. Goosebumps literally rose on my arms. Was this a sign?

I don't remember much about the next day, except that it was hot and mid-afternoon, I sat down on my bed to read. I fell asleep. When I woke up, I noticed a missed call on my phone.

A missed call with a 212 area code.

My hands shook as I played the message.

I couldn't believe it! Emily Rodmell had called to buy my book - and I had been asleep!!!!

In retrospect, it wasn't a bad thing because I was able to keep the message and replay it when I started to imagine it had all been a dream.

The message said she would be in a meeting, but I had slept long enough that her meeting was over, and I had just enough time to call before she left.

Emily was so sweet. After we talked through the whole part where SHE WANTED TO BUY MY BOOK, she told me they knew I was planning to head out to RWA in a few days (San Antonio that year), so she and Tina had rushed to get a decision so they could invite me to all the Harlequin events.

And that is how an author works for 30 years to sell a book - and then misses the call because she is asleep! But there is one little extra part.

That RWA conference was such a surreal experience, from breakfast with my new editor to attending my first ever Harlequin party, but the absolute highlight of the conference was finally being able to swap out my general member badge for my PAN badge. That little pink band along the bottom proclaimed to all that my dream had really come true.

Christmas in Hiding, my debut book from the Killer Voices contest, was released in October 2015 and is still available on Amazon.

Thanks so much for letting me relive the memory!

(PS - after many rounds, Emily and I came to the conclusion that the poisonous Christmas party had to go. I rewrote the beginning.)


  1. Loved your story, Cate! It's so fun to hear what everyone was doing at the moment of the Call.

    1. Thanks, Christine. I really do enjoy reading all these Friday sale posts.

  2. I love your first sale story, Cate. It's wonderful. And hey, I love a good nap so it's okay you were sleeping. LOL. I can imagine your face when you saw the 212 number on your phone. And how cool was it that they rushed the decision so you could enjoy the festivities of the conference. And I'm chuckling at the poisonous Christmas party.

  3. Cate, great story. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Fun story, Cate. So glad you got that call!

  5. Wish we'd gotten the poisonous Christmas party. Sounds intriguing. So glad you got that sale, Cate. (And HOW GREAT THOU ART was my granddad's favorite song. I can't hear or sing it without tearing up.) Merry Christmas!

    1. LOL, Arlene. Maybe it will surface in another book. I still get a special thrill every time I hear the church bells play my song.

  6. What a great story Cate! Thank you for sharing :) Blessings and Merry Christmas!

    1. Thanks, Natalya. Blessings and a Merry Christmas back to you.

  7. I didn't know you were asleep when Emily called! I'm laughing...a little!

    So glad Emily DID call! She knew you were good and wanted to SNAP you up! YAY! I loved your debut! Such a good story, Cate! Plus, I remember that RWA conference. You were glowing.


    1. Thank you, Debby. You've been such a valued part of this journey.

  8. What a wonderful "call" story. Many folks are glad you stuck to your dream.

  9. I love a good "call" story. Thanks for sharing it with us!

    And I also love those Harlequin contests. If it hadn't been for the Manuscript Matchmaker contest, I know I'd never have sold. They are a great way to help writers figure out how to craft their stories to work with the line!


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