The First to Call

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Life in the Third Degree.

“Get off the phone—now!” I’m yelling to my 12-year-old as I hang up the cell phone and reach for the land line. “I have to talk to Miss Vicki!”

Working Through Grief

My daughter has heard that phrase thousands of times in her life, since she was a 15-pound baby in a carrier, but this time, it’s in reference to wonderful news. It won’t occur to me until later to spill the news to my beautiful and supportive child who hovers ten feet away. Vicki’s the first I call.

I’ve sold a book, again, this time to Natashya Wilson at Silhouette Books’ Bombshell line. The first in a long time to a commercial publisher, and the first to Harlequin/Silhouette since A Man Called Regret came out in 1994. Mark was right about my publishing career taking off again once I dropped the anchor I was married to. This book will relaunch my writing career at Silhouette Books, and I couldn’t be happier.

It’s the tentatively titled Dark Revelation, the third book in a seven-book series I created with two other authors, called The Madonna Key series, for the Bombshell line of women’s action-adventure. The overall series is DaVinci Code-ish but with women in the starring roles.protagonist is an international art thief in her early 40’s, though with her attitude, she passes as younger. She’s kick-ass and intense and thinks nothing of slapping a lover who won’t get aggressive enough for her in bed—woohoo! (Okay, yeah, they’ll make me revise that, I’m sure, but I’m leaving it in the first draft!) Let’s just say that while I’ve been celibate, I’ve learned to work out a little aggression of my own.

This is a real coups. I’m not a “current author” at Silhouette Bombshell, and they don’t normally put non-current authors in a continuity series. Then again, it’s rare for the authors to develop a concept and detailed storyline for an entire series, as well as the suggested authors, and present the package to a publisher.

So it’s long-awaited good news, and of course, it must be shared. So who do I tell? I’ll tell my 12-year-old in another hour and my teen when she returns from a routine night with her dad. I’ll email Jeaneen right away and tell her she can tell the rest of the Circle when they return, if she wants. I’ll tell my mother in another hour or two, though she’ll probably be more interested in whether I really have time to write and won’t fully appreciate the importance of the sale. There are no men in my life I care to tell, though I did mention to The Treat a month ago that Silhouette Bombshell wanted the series I’d co-created and had started offering contracts to authors already established with the Bombshell line. But I haven’t felt close enough to him recently to give him an update on the official sale and if he wants to know more, I’ll wait until we talk again. I’ve culled so many relationships this year that most of the people I’d be burning rubber to tell aren’t in my life any longer. Which is okay because I realize now that they wouldn’t have cared anyway or, worse, would have had some fit of jealousy.

But the very first person I tell is Vicki Hinze, my best friend. With all this culling of no-value-added relationships, I’ve come to appreciate Vicki even more, if that’s possible. We met right after she sold a Silhouette Intimate Moments (Mind Reader as Victoria Cole) to the same editor who bought A Man Called Regret and then we discovered that we lived less than five miles apart. In the decade-plus I’ve known her, she and I have rarely disagreed on anything. Certainly not enough to express either anger or the silent treatment. Our politics are a bit different and our spiritual beliefs have varied, but we completely respect each other’s beliefs and opinions. I’d be hard pressed to remember a single harsh word between us.

We swore years ago that we’d never be like other authors who had a taste of fame and forgot their roots. I’ve watched her work 16-hour day—every day—to get ahead in her writing career but end up spending precious writing time helping others fix their problems and learn to write and get published, and I’ve watched her get kicked in the teeth by so many of the people she’s helped without expectation. She’s one of those truly non-judgmental souls who wouldn’t do it my way if she had a choice but never tells me that. She simply listens, offers advice usually only asked or when her mothering instincts just won’t let it go, and loves me like a daughter and sister combined. She’s been a rock-solid shoulder to cry on, the only person I could depend on when I was too sick to sit up and needed someone to take the girls to the doctor when their dad was too busy playing basketball at lunch, and one of a rare few who rejoiced at good things coming into my life without any jealous remarks or insecurities. She’s been my best friend in fair weather and foul, and she’s never condemned me for baring my soul or thinking unkind thoughts or yearning for what I couldn’t have. She’s been a protective Mama Tiger and my biggest cheerleader, too, and I often think I must’ve been a saint in a past life to have been blessed to have Vicki in my life this time.

Diane told me last December in my post-divorce Tarot reading that I was then at an odd place in my life where everything in the past had been seared, scorched to the ground and demolished, and I could look to the future and see a lush and wonderful garden but I couldn’t figure out how to get from here to there. All I could do in that place of desolation and emptiness and ruin was to plant seeds for that lush and fertile future.

Since then, I’ve planted many seeds. Some have flourished quickly, blooming bright and sweet, like my new friendship with Jeaneen. Others never quite took root. Still others grow slowly, as with The Treat, and promise to bloom but not this season. I’ve weeded the garden, culling the friendships that died long ago, making room for the new and fresh and flourishing. Some of the more stubborn plants have been full of prickles, and I’ve torn my heart prying them out. Others seemed sweet-smelling and lovely, but produced only a fortune in thorns, and I’ve dug them out, culled, discarded.

So my garden has been as bare as winter land in a forgotten churchyard, all at once desolate and overgrown with brambles. I’ve tilled and sown, and I continue to sow with great intention. My seedlings begin to bud. My daughters bloom and are a constant source of love and hope.

But near the center of my garden is Vicki, standing like an immoveable tree with deep tap roots and a wide shade and taking lightning strikes for me when she can. I swear she’d break in two before she ever uprooted.