What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been

I clearly remember an evening in June 2006 when I pitched two manuscripts to two different agents at Lori Foster’s Readers and Authors Get Together. I wore my “power suit.” You know, the outfit that makes you feel professional and put together. For me, that was a black column dress (which I doubt I can still fit into) with a longish black jacket. It must have worked as both editors later bought my manuscripts.

Mrs_Brimley_CoverYou’ve heard about the first manuscript to sell. The Education of Mrs. Brimley went on to win the Golden Heart the following month. But I’m not sure you’re familiar with the second manuscript, In a Heartbeat, which was purchased by Samhain. It was the second story I’d ever written (the first is still under the bed) and was probably written about 2002 or 2003.

As you can see by the cover on the right, it was published at a time when authors had separate names for separate genres. This, I was told, was to help bookstores know where to shelve books, and to protect readers who might be expecting one kind of story (Historicals) from being disappointed to find a different story (Romantic Suspense). With the rise in self-published and the demise of book stores, I don’t think this is the rule anymore. It’s assumed readers are intelligent enough to recognize the difference in genres. 🙂 Richard, by the way, is my husband’s name. Publishing as Donna RichardsIn a Heartbeat-Samhain was my way to thank him for his support during the many, long, non-publishing years.

I received the rights back to In A Heartbeat a couple of years ago. My plan was to slap a new cover on it, write a new blurb, and self-publish the story. After all, it had been already edited by Samhain so how difficult could it be? Well, more difficult than you might think.

You can see the new cover to the left. Erin Dameron-Hill, who also did my cover for Bound by Moonlight, is the designer. I wrote a much improved blurb for the book as I’ve a better sense now of how these things are done. Here’s the blurb:

InaHeartbeatTransplanted hearts can hold memories. They can give voice to the dead. And they can hold the key to identifying a serial killer.

Assigned to do an audit for an old client may finally give Certified Public Accountant Angela Blake what she really wants: independence from a family that’s been overprotective for far too long. Her recent heart transplant has given her a new lease on life and she’s ready to live. The demanding new CEO of Hayden Industries may be distractingly sexy, but Angela’s audit reveals troubling hints of deception. What is he hiding?

Hank Renard never wanted to be CEO of Hayden Industries, but his parents’ impending financial ruin gave him no choice. If he doesn’t reverse the flow of red ink, he’ll lose the lucrative incentives offered. The clumsy, adorable auditor with the face of an angel only adds to his problems.

A series of troubling accidents point to a dangerous truth: someone wants Angela Blake dead. With her job, her heart and her life in peril, will Angela survive to discover a long-awaited love, or will her new life end before it’s barely begun?

So I should have been ready to release the book, right?  Wrong.

iphoneI decided to update the book to make it more relevant to contemporary times. Back in 2002, landline telephones were more prevalent than cell telephonephones. I thought that would be the only fix, but I was mistaken. As I read the story, I stumbled across a reference to music on CDs. You remember those lovely silver discs that we don’t use anymore? Had to replace that with music provided by a cell phone. I also referred to a dial-up computer line. I’m certain that’s we had in 2002, and while some people may still have dial-ups, that particular reference would automatically date the story. I had to change to password protected wifi to get to the internet.

The story involves a CPA engaged in an audit. This is a subject I know something about, or at least I did back in the 80s when I perform audits.  I read through my entire manuscript, changing, improving, adding CD_DVD_small_brightemotion where I could, when I realized that auditing a company has probably changed from when I did the deed. Computer spreadsheets saved on a flash drive or on the internet in a shared document would replace the old green work papers that I was familiar with. So familiar that I’d glossed over all the references to them in my first pass-through without blinking an eye. I thought I was done with revisions to update when it hit me.  I had to go back and change all those references.

There’s a scene at the Ohio State Football Stadium which was remodeled shortly after I wrote the story. I left the the old stadium. I’m guessing not many would recognize the difference.

The whole experience made me think about how life has changed since I originally wrote that story, and what a long strange trip it’s been.  I made a reference to a clothing incident where an employer was displeased with a skirt being too short. (This, by the way, is based on my own experience. Not exactly as presented in the story, but mini-skirtclose 🙂 ). I wondered if that still happens, but then heard just last week an employer complaining about “skinny jeans” worn in the office as too seductive. So that prejudice still exists even though clothing standards have relaxed. Fortunately, I didn’t reference any songs as obviously music has changed. But what else? Can you think of anything?

I must say, while I did go through an update and polish the manuscript. The basic story surprised me. This is really quite good. I hope you give it a try when it comes out in July. I’m looking for some folks to read the book with the condition that they write a review for Amazon and Goodreads. If you’re interested, let me know.







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  • Ki says:

    Oh wow, now that’s a lot of editing. Hopefully the story hasn’t changed much because of all the changes you had to make to bring it up to date. However I think it would have been just fine as it was with the landlines and CDs. That’s what makes literature great because of all the changes in technology that will be kept as a time capsule for further readers.

    Congrats on the reissue of In a Heartbeat, definitely sounds amazing.

    • Hi Ki!

      I didn’t want to toss younger readers out of the story. There’s still some landlines in the book especially in scenes occurring in the office, but cell phones are too prevalent to ignore – especially when the heroine is in trouble. I didn’t want someone to yell “where’s your cell phone!” at the book 😀. But it was a shock of how much has changed in a relatively few years.

      Thanks for the congrats! Love the new cover. While this has a great sex scene, my heroine would never have been dressed like the woman on the Samhain cover 😀

  • Donna, what a fun post! Congrats on your new release. Your updated cover is great.

    I’ve had to do tech updates on my spy books, getting rid of flip phones for smart phones, letting the h/h use 4G, etc. it makes a difference.

    • Hi Nancy!

      I think it does make a difference – but isn’t it amazing how quickly technology is changing? How those little things “date” a book which eventually might impact its viability. It caught me by surprise. I thought I only had to deal with a small change, but when I got into the manuscript, I discovered that change wasn’t so small after all 🙂

  • Jane says:

    Hello Donna,
    I just reread a romantic suspense by Meryl Sawyer and the hero uses a Palm Pilot. It was a little weird, but then I remember the book was a recent release.

    • Hi Jane!

      I remember Palm pilots. I never had one – but I remember when they were the rage. I’ve always been a paper person. At the time, I was the one with the fat packed organizer that held calendars and names and addresses. My friend carried a palm pilot and a stylus and had as much info as I did. Now, however, I can always refer back to those old calendars and contact lists, while I doubt she knows what happened to her pilot. :). To be honest, I still have CDs of albums, though I haven’t bought one in years. I have some old record album covers framed in the finished basement. It’s amazing how fast we move through these things.

  • Deb Meredith says:

    Hi Donna! Can’t wait for your new release! I love the peek inside you gave us in creating your story. It is amazing how many things that have changed during that time period. Lol

    Good luck with your new release!

    • Thanks Deb!

      This was my write-what-you-know story. That’s the advice given to new aspiring authors. So I wrote about a woman CPA in Westerville, Ohio, and turned it into a suspense. Hope you like it.

  • Heathercm2001 says:

    Oh my goodness! I’m sorry I’m so late to post. It has been a crazy week. My email was out of control, and I’m working on it. Better late than never right?

    The story sounds great! I can’t even imagine how much work it took to update it. I was just talking to someone the other day about how much things have changed just over the last few years. I think updating it was a good idea. It will be a fresh new book for fresh new readers. I’m excited to read it. Way back in the day, one of my favorite authors was Lurlene McDaniel. Her characters dealt with illnesses and transplants, so when I read this blurb, I thought of those books. However, those were young adult, and this is not. 😉

    It sounds like there are a lot of exciting things in this story. I’m willing to read/review it if you are still looking for people. If not, I’m planning on doing it anyway. 🙂

    • Heather –

      This is why I love you 🙂 Thank you. I’ll be in touch.

      Interesting about Lurlene McDaniel. I’m not familiar with her. This is definitely an adult book. It was my very first sex scene and I decided to go for broke. It surprised me how very sensual it was when I reread the manuscript.

      LOL – With the exception of the heart transplant and the serial killer 🙂 this book comes pretty close to my real life. Ssh… don’t tell anyone 🙂

  • Shannon says:

    Congratulations on the new release. Lovely cover. I have to say that I’ve been out exploring rather than reading. This will be added to that scary TBR pile.

    • Hi Shannon –

      SO where have you been exploring? I know it’s easy to fall out of the reading habit especially in good weather. That’s why I try to reserve time at the end of the day to read at least one chapter. If you do something special, read Charming the Professor. It’s makes for much more restful dreams than stories about serial killers as in In a Heartbeat (grin).

  • Helen says:

    Hi Donna

    Sorry I am late to the post I have had a very busy week and this is a book I am really looking forward to reading woohoo 🙂

    Things change so quickly these days its like with the a blink of an eye and something is updated and I have to learn how to use it LOL, I must say though I still use CD’s 🙂

    More than happy to read and review

    Have Fun

    • Thanks Helen – yeah, it’s amazing, isn’t it? Glad to hear you still use CDs. I had a really cool line about the hero gripping those plastic cases so tight that he feared they would crack. My husband thought I could leave the CD references in but that would only work for our generation, not the up and coming ones.