I feel like I’m in Confession. I have to admit my deep, dark, scary secrets.
I almost lied. I almost wrote about the second book I wrote, a pretty good attempt at a romantic suspense, because, well, it was SOOOO much better than the first book I wrote (though the second book is still not publishable.)
But there are enough people out there who could catch me in the lie, so I decided to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Hot Latte. My heroine was a virgin. My hero was an alpha cop. (Please, please, shoot me now.)
My hero, Mark Travis, moves into the apartment below my heroine, a computer security expert. They get off on the wrong foot (mistaken identity–she thinks he’s an intruder. Can we get anymore cliche?)
My heroine, Leah Cavanaugh, has a stalker (though she doesn’t know it.) Every morning she goes to the corner coffee shop (hence the title Hot Latte) and the counter guy has the hots for her. But he’s a sicko. He’s also a rapist that my hero is trying to catch.
I had so much going on in this book I’m not surprised that it ended up being 120,000 words. First, my hero has an ex-girlfriend ala Fatal Attraction; my heroine has an ex-fiance who cheated on her because she wanted to save herself for her wedding day; the rapist/stalker lives with his mother . . . though he kills her at some point and she’s rotting in her bed; the rapist/stalker frames the hero … he kills Mark’s ex-girlfriend with a knife he stole from Mark’s apartment. Of course, it was very convenient that Mark had a huge fight with his ex in front of witnesses (please, please, stop the cliches!) . . . and while Mark is in prison cooling his heels, the killer kidnaps Leah and takes her to a cabin in the mountains for a make-shift wedding ceremony, complete with the wedding dress of his dead mother. Oh, and he destroyed Leah’s apartment and made it look like he killed her in order to buy time.
Oh, yeah! I almost forgot . . . there was this subplot going on where the heroine’s ex-boyfriend was stealing company secrets and she found out about it and turned him in, then he tracks her down with his cronies and forces her to transfer millions of dollars from the company to his off-shore bank, until Mark comes in and saves the day. But in the ruckus, Leah’s brother (an ex-marine turned priest–I know, I know, please stop laughing) is shot and almost dies.
To give me a little teeny-tiny amount of credit, I did have a request from a reputable agent for the full manuscript. She sent back the cover letter three weeks later with one word: SUPERFICIAL (double-underlined, in case I missed the point.)
This was before I discovered RWA, before I found a critique group, before, well, before I knew ANYTHING about writing a book.
But I HAD finished a book. Cliches, head hopping and stereotypes aside, I had written an entire book and realized a dream. When I finished Hot Latte, I knew I COULD finish a book. No longer did I want to be a writer, I was a writer.
And not all was lost. I really liked Mark Travis. He came to life for me, and I was able to resurrect him in my upcoming release, THE KILL. Mark became Zack Travis, a very focused alpha cop. Zack has more depth than Mark, he has a backstory (when I wrote Hot Latte I didn’t even know what backstory was!), and he’s smarter.
I’d tried to rewrite Hot Latte because I really liked my characters. But the more I worked on it, the more convoluted it became. It just didn’t work. It was much easier to write a completely new book than to save this one.
I sold my fifth completed manuscript. Each book I wrote before THE PREY taught me something about myself and about writing. I don’t consider any of them a waste of time. In fact, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the trial and error of Hot Latte, Protecting Hart, Watch Your Back, Fatal Secrets, and the thirty-some books I started since 2002 but never finished. (Not to mention the hundreds I began before then!)
Some people sell their first book. Most don’t. But as long as you’re learning and improving with each story, none of them are a waste of time.