I mean, which of us will, right? Ever since I've learned about the coveted award, I've always known it wouldn't be me who won it. I'm too scared to enter for starters. There are tons of writers out there who are better than me. I hold my own, but . . . I'm sure I'm not GH material. I admire those who've won the award. Or even finaled. That's amazing. I have a handful of writing awards ranging from high school to 2011.
But I'll never win a GH or so much as final.
You see, they only give those out to authors without contracts.
I'll let you soak that one in for a second.
You've heard this story a dozen times. At the end of 2008, after a long dry spell of not writing, I was standing in the shower one day and an idea came to me. A convict woman transported to Australia where she could spend time in a gaol, serving a sentence for thievery, or she could be hired out to work. Choice number two makes for a better story. She's hired by a reluctant grazier who's trying to raise his sister's baby, but doesn't have a clue how. They're at odds from the start, her uncertain about the country, about him, about her role in this strange world. Him because she's young, beautiful, and sure to cause problems on his cattle station. At a time when men were mostly raising sheep out there.
They slowly fall in love, but someone wants to ruin that for them. Before they can join forces and become a family, they have to fight for it.
The first draft of the book? T.E.R.R.I.B.L.E.
The second draft? The one that makes a lot more sense? Left alone on my flash drive for almost 3 years. Unfinished, while I wrote about mystical creatures and alternate histories. I was 80,000 words away from finishing that series when I took The Convict & the Cattleman out of its hiding place.
I read it again and I wrote the ending. I kid you not, about 5,000 words to finish it. Five thousand words I hadn't been able to write in 2010. My original goal for the book was 75k, because of the houses I was looking at way back when. This draft, a mere 66k.
I wrote the ending a few days after the Jano party because although I had finished the novel I was working on then, I was too wound up to sit still and edit. I read it again, this time with the ending. Much, much better than the first draft.
And then D'Ann Lindun announced she was holding a pitch on Word Wranglers to Lyrical Press. And I thought, why not? Worst case, I get a no. Best case, I might get asked for the full. Or maybe a partial, which would be great. So I read the blurb I'd written and reduced it to three lines, the criteria for pitching. I posted it and it wasn't long at all before I had a request for a full and a synopsis.
I'd never been asked for a full manuscript before. A first for me, and a big, exciting deal. By the time I got my synopsis straightened out, because it was based on the first draft, and made another pass through the MS, it was two days after the pitch.
And a month until I heard something back—the hazards of pitching online with dozens of other authors. But there it was, in my Gmail inbox, bold, with the star and the tab marker telling me it was important.
From the subject, RE: Requested submission, there wasn't anything I could tell about it. Good news, bad news, indifferent news. It felt like a lifetime passed before I got the courage to open it. It was probably twenty or thirty seconds. After waiting what seemed like an agonizing year, I had an answer.
I'll never win a Golden Heart because they only give those to authors who aren't contracted.
I breathed in the words 'loved it' like a swimmer starved for air. Loved it! She loved it! I had that moment where it feels like the floor is dropping away and it's a damn good thing I was sitting down. I signed a contract with Lyrical for The Convict & the Cattleman.
People always asked me, “Why didn't you finished it?”
I've had assurances over the years that it was a good book, that everyone who critiqued it liked it. It earned an Honorable Mention in 2010. I always said I couldn't think about it right then. That I thought I'd failed the characters, maybe it was a gateway book to others. Lots of writers have them. Last year I thought about pitching it at the ORA conference, but it didn't feel right.
I don't know what was special about that day in January that I wrote the ending. Why the magic that was in the air then didn't come along sooner. I think it goes to show you can't force a moment. All I know is that, it's not a gateway book anymore. It's a book to believe in.
I'm not going to cry because I'll never win the Golden Heart. I'm going to work my fingers to the bone to make sure C&C is the best it can be for the people willing to take a chance on it.