What I Couldn’t Say Before
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Curves.
Since the Big Announcement yesterday, the publishing industry has been a-twitter about the decision to halt Silhouette’s action-adventure single-title-crammed-into- category line, Bombshell, as of the release of the January
2007 books. I’m very sad to see this happen—because I loved the concepts and both Natashya Wilson and Charles Griemsman were great to work with—but I honestly can’t say I didn’t see Bombshell’s demise coming.
In fact, I’m reminded that I’d said I would tell what happened 375 days ago today. After all, that’s why I made some business decisions last year that a lot of people didn’t understand.
Harlequin/Silhouette is known for taking huge experimental chances, something I highly applaud them for, but in my opinion, Marketing botched this one. (I’d state that privately, so I’m willing to state that publicly. My opinion doesn’t change, regardless of who’s listening or reading.) Shelving action-adventure-single-title-stories-with-a- romantic-element in the Romance Section was a mistake, in my opinion, because non-romance readers won’t go near the Romance Section of a bookstore and avid romance readers who find action-adventure stories in the romance section expect a Happily-Ever-After and often didn’t get that with Bombshell, or at least not as definitively as boy-and-girl-meet-and-bad-stuff-happens-but-they-overcome-and-end-up-getting-married.
I could have pointed out the line’s product placement issues and the entire downturn of the market as reason enough to suspect the series wouldn’t be around long term, but it was the unseen that convinced me not to put a second Bombshell in the running—in spite of an easy proposal revision sitting on my desk last year (Eye of the Serpent, about the Defense Department employee who
wakes up with a chip-encoded tattoo between her shoulder blades) and a half-written proposal for a trilogy featuring Aubrey and Matthew’s daughter, Lilah, from Dark Revelations (I own all 3 characters from their inception in 2002 so they go where I go) as a protector of a top secret library. The books Bombshell published were right up my (dark and dangerous) alley!
In early August 2006, I was a basket case over my manuscript, #3 in the Madonna Key series I co-created with Evelyn Vaughn and Vicki Hinze. I’d turned in the proposal and had been given a specific number of days to submit the complete manuscript, but another editor I was working with (not Tashya or Charles) wanted revisions, gave me conflicting verbal revisions every time we talked, and told me to finish the whole book and she’d ask for revisions later when she could figure out which way she wanted me to take the story. Well…no.
I didn’t have time to write the whole book one way when I knew it was likely to go in an entirely different direction and then I’d have to rewrite it. But the days passed and still no revision letter and I was contract- bound to a particular deadline I couldn’t keep unless I wrote hundreds of pages that would just be tossed out when the revision letter finally came.
So I did what every semi-psychic author does at least once: I did a divination to get a clearer picture. And boy, did I! The only thing was, I couldn’t talk about it. Cassandra syndrome. I did, however, tell it to several friends and family, and they’ve been ticking off the events as they’ve happened.
- I asked if I was going to be all right. Yes. (And I am.)
- I asked if Tashya was going to be all right. Yes. (To my knowledge, she is, and I’m glad.)
- I asked if my book was going to be accepted. Yes. (It was, even if we were making little changes for continuity in the 7-book series as it was going to press.)
- I asked if I was going to continue to have trouble getting a response from the editor I was waiting for. No. Then I was told that the editor would leave shortly, that Tashya would take over editing the Madonna Key series, and all would be saved. (All happened exactly as I was told, and because I didn’t write what I knew would be tossed out, I had time to write a separate 300+ page novel while waiting for the revision letter.)
- I asked if I was going to be held to my deadline of early September. No. I’d have a new deadline, I was told, and it would be November. (Tashya issued a revision letter and gave several of us an extra 3 months or so, and that meant that mine was finished around Thanksgiving, with some minor polishing before I put it in the mail.)
- How long would my manuscript be when I turned it in? 304. That was a surprise, because these were originally 90,000-word books. I was told specifically, emphatically, in the divination to write short, which is something I have a terrible time doing…obviously. (The last 3 chapters were written on my digital recorder and transcribed. When I typed the last word and printed the manuscript to drop in the mail, I looked up the last page to see how many pages to annotate on the cover page…304. That was significantly shorter than the other manuscripts for the series, by 100 pages in some cases but I didn’t panic because….)
- I asked if I’d have to do significant rewrites, as it seemed that so many authors were at the time. No. (I didn’t. Because I waited for the revision letter, I didn’t have to toss more than 2 pages of work— though I did end up adding some great scenes that Tashya gave me free reign to write!)
- I asked if the other authors would have significant rewrites. Yes. (Some did, yes, because the page count decreased around the time the manuscripts were turned in. At least 2 of the other authors cut a ton of good stuff—like 60 to 100 pages. To me, that’s significant, and painful.)
- I asked if the Bombshells would be a long-term success. The heroines, yes. The line…no. (Bombshell has definitely had an impact on the type of heroines we see.)
- I asked if the Madonna Key series would see publication of all 7 books, including mine. Yes. (This is still the plan, as Book #7 will be published in January 2007, one of the last 4 to see daylight.)
- I asked if the Madonna Key books would sell well.
- I hesitate to say what I was told. (Certainly they won’t do as well as expected, and bookstores tend to drop lines when it’s been announced that the line is dead. My definition of “well” is pretty high.)
- I asked if the Madonna Key books would see release in some other way than just the initial publication. Yes. (And that’s where my hopes lie. As a release of the group set. Movies. Trade paperback. Whatever. This publisher has been more than willing to try new things, and the Madonna Key series is certainly a good candidate for those ideas.)
With some divinations, you get a chance to change the future. With others, you have no way of changing anything. This time, all I could do was make my own business decisions about which books to tie up my time with…and hope I was wrong.
There was one last question I asked, particularly be- cause of the scientific explanation of paranormal elements that I so wanted to get out there to my readers. Was it a mistake to publish this book in this forum? No. My usual readers will like it and I’ll gain new readers, too, who wouldn’t have found me otherwise.
And most importantly, it will get knowledge to people who seek it.
Yeah. And hopefully, they’ll have fun reading it, too.