A (Not So) Brief History Of My First Time

No not that first time.  That time would be entirely too short and not worth the ink.  🙂
This is about my first time writing a story and publishing.

I’m not the sort who has always wanted to be a writer.  But I have always had stories playing in my head, since a very early age.  Elaborate stories that stretch over days and weeks, and certainly made me the bookish introvert I am today.  In 1990, when I was pregnant with my son, I had the notion to put down a story on the page.  Why not?  I liked the stories, maybe others would too.  And maybe I could sell, make the big bucks, and never have to work nine-to-five again?  

Such dreams.

So, with rummage sale typewriter before me, I began a weird story that featured a vampire as hero.  The remake of Dark Shadows starring Ben Cross was playing at the time, and that’s when I learned vampires could be sexy.  I tossed in rock music, pissed off ghosts, a little time travel to my favorite period, 18th C Paris, and oh yeah, there’s that wall paper scene because at the time I was currently tearing paper from the walls of my new house.
I went through three typewriters that summer, and finally got a cheap used computer one day with the little screen that must have been six inches across.  Remember those?  Two years later, I had a 200,000 word manuscript.  My masterpiece!  During that time, I’d been researching publishers using the Writer’s Market (I hadn’t heard of RWA back then), and decided Zebra was most open to new authors.  So, I packaged up the tome, kissed it, and sent it off.  [Note: the standard single title romance is 100K, but I didn’t know that, among other things.]
And then I started my next story.  By then, I had become a writer, for real.  Didn’t matter if I never sold a story, I just had to write.  I wrote stories I wanted to read, and I still do.
Six months later, and another manuscript half finished, I got the call.  A real live editor from the big city of New York actually wanted my book!  And she wanted to pay me for it.  How cool is that?  I still remember the day: April 8th, 2:00 in the afternoon.  My mother had stopped by, because it was her birthday.  My hubby was home (for reasons I don’t recall; he always works until evening) and was taking a shower.  So, I jumped into the shower, fully clothed, and told him the good news.  When my mom arrived, it was interesting explaining my wet attire and the surprise book contract (I hadn’t told anyone in the family I was writing).  It was a great day.
That was 1993.  The book was scheduled for publication in 1995.  I got to edit the book (four-page revision letter; it wasn’t bad) and I was told to cut 70K words from the mss.  I said sure!  Little did I realize at the time, that I’d just been asked to cut the equivalent of a Silhouette Romance from my story.  I managed to get the story down to 145K; the editor seemed fine with it.  At one point during this fascinating process I called up my editor to ask what, exactly, was going to be on the spine.  I mean, would it be put out as ‘Horror’ a la Anne Rice, or ‘Fiction’.  She was like “No, dummy” (okay, so the dummy was implied) “It’s a Romance.”  That’s the first time I  knew I had written a romance.  Cool!
A cover arrived.  It was red and black and the hero was strangely purple.  I didn’t care, it was gorgeous.  And the lettering was in purple foil.  Neat.  It was going to be a real book!  I made homemade bookmarks and sent to tons of bookstores.  Yeah, it cost a pretty penny, but I wanted the world to know about this book.
At the end of 1994, my editor called.  “Sorry, we’re not going to publish Dark Rapture.  The vampire market is dead.”  Pun not intended.  “But you know, I really like this book; I’ll see what I can do for it.”
 
I hung up, stunned.  Did things like this happen in publishing?  Can they buy the book from you and then not publish it?  I didn’t know any other writers at the time, so had no one to ask.  I could only go back to the computer and keep writing.
The following year, my editor reported they were going to try again and scheduled the book for 1997.  Whew!  And guess what?  They made a new cover.  Heck, I liked the old one, but take a gander at the new one.  John DeSalvo in leather lace-up pants and looking SO sexy!  The blood dripping from the rose.  To this day, this is still my favorite cover.  I mean, look at it!  It rocks.  
So I set about promoting.  Again.  Letting bookstores know that the story would finally be published.  Back then, the vampire selection in the stores was not a dozen new titles every month, as it is now.  They published less than a dozen vamp romances the entire year.  So fans who read paranormal were really hungry for new stuff.  To this day, I still get fan mail for that book.  
So fast forward to the release!  Yay!  My first book!  I was so proud, and even fellow authors in the local RWA chapter I’d just joined were interested (Though some stood at a distance; who is this chick?  She writes about vampires?  Where’s the cross and holy water?)  Anyway, I did a few book signings with some awesome names in the business.  And at one of my first signings, Betina Krahn presented me with a bottle of champagne.  (Class act, that Krahn chick.)  
Within two months, the book had sold out.  Used copies appeared at Amazon.  The highest priced I noticed as $80.  Really?  For a paperback book?  And people were buying it!  Myself, I have only 3 or 4 copies of that book now.  Wish I had more.  I have a ‘send around’ copy that’s all tattered, but which has been to a few agents and editors with the promise it is returned to me because I just don’t have any spares.  That’s kind of cool in itself.
It wasn’t really like a dream come true, it was more a manifestation of something that had always been with me.  My desire to tell stories.  And I’m still doing it, and hope to do it for a long time.
Now, eleven years after the first publication of Dark Rapture, the publisher has rereleased it.  They slapped a new cover on it (see the pic to the right above), and well, I have to be honest and say ‘Yuck’ to that cover.  It’s not bad, but it ain’t pretty either.  The guy on the cover is nothing like the gypsy-wild long dark-haired rocker vampire in the book, but whatever.  Here’s hoping it won’t scare readers away from picking up the book.  🙂
I’m excited for the rerelease, but a little worried, as well.  I wasn’t given a chance to re-edit the book, and while I think it’s an awesome story, I KNOW it needs editing.  Heck, it needs major revising.  I started reading it the other night, and man, did I like my adverbs back then!  My writing has really improved since the early 90s.  I just hope readers will understand this is ‘classic’ Michele Hauf, and enjoy the story.  And I hope I didn’t reference anything from the 90s that’ll seem strange now.  I did talk about a ‘car phone’; can’t imagine the size of that thing back then.  
So there you have it!  Though I sold the first book I ever wrote, it took four years to actually see it in print after the sale.  Some published authors might sneer at my selling the first book, but trust me, I’ve received many rejections since then.  But I’ll never stop.  I am a writer.  It’s in my blood.
So if you’re a writer, have you always been so?  Or have you recently come to keyboard and screen with ideas?  What about the readers?  What’s your take on vampire romances?  Love ’em or loath ’em, I think they’re here to stay.  
I’ll give away a copy of the new DARK RAPTURE (sorry about that cover) to one commenter.
Michele
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33 Responses to A (Not So) Brief History Of My First Time

  1. Margay says:

    I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write. As soon as I learned to read, I started crafting my own stories, although it took a junior high English teacher to make me realize that what I was doing was called writing. The desire to publish came along much later.

  2. Keri Ford says:

    I didn’t read that much when I was younger. I enjoyed it when I did, but I just had a lot of other things going on. I didn’t write unless it was required for school and have only been at it a little over three years. My first book will NEVER be published, but one day I might take some of the ideas from it.

  3. D Twomey says:

    I’m a reader only. Wish I could write, but no “creative” gene I guess….. I haven’t ever really been drawn to read about vampires, etc., but recently read a couple of short stories involving paranormals. I was happily surprised that I enjoyed them both. Haven’t yet read an entire book about them, but much more open to that now than before. Congratulations on your rerelease!

  4. Dina says:

    I’m a reader and I love reading about vampires. I used to love Buffy and Angel, lol. I think there are alot of people who enjoy vampire novels of any kind. 🙂

  5. CrystalGB says:

    I am a reader. I love vampire romances. They are the books that got me to reading paranormals.

  6. Debra Dixon says:

    Michelle– I can just imagine how you felt when they “postponed” publication.And you know you’re on every writer’s list for publishing the first book you wrote?–Deb

  7. Michele Hauf says:

    Ladies who write, keep at it! You will get published some day when the time is right for your story.Deb, there’s a list?;-)

  8. Michele, I was a dummy, too. I didn’t know I’d written a romance until I sent the first ms out to agents, which was the way I started out. The agent I chose broke the news to me. I was a reader, but I wasn’t into commercial romance and had never read a Harlequin. But I’ll tell my story next week. I’ll say that I’ve always been a writer, though. Even as a very young child.

  9. Michele: What a story about your first story! I love the covers, too. A visual rendition of the way the genre has changed, I think. The more real-looking guy in the last cover shows, I think, how we’ve come to accept the vamps.

  10. I’ve always been a reader (except for that short while after college when I swore I’d never read again) but only started trying to write about 5 years ago. I’ve yet to complete a novel, but I just sold my 25th short story to the confessions magazines a few weeks ago.I love your sale story! My heart just dropped when I got to the part where they said they weren’t going to publish it. But how neat they are re-releasing it. :-)Marilyn

  11. Helen Brenna says:

    Wow, Michele! I didn’t know they stalled your first book like that. How crazy.I’ve always been a reader of romances, but never dreamed of writing them myself. One of LaVyrle Spencer’s books got me on that track.And I agree with you on vampire romances being here to stay.

  12. Kylie says:

    Great story, Michelle! We must have sold at the same time, too. Like you, I managed to sell my first manuscript, but it was actually the second they purchased first. So my original manuscript ended up being my second release (after several major surgeries, LOL!)

  13. Michele Hauf says:

    Christie, interesting note about how the covers changed over the years. Yeah, from a purple thing to a real guy. Marilyn, wow that’s a lot of sales!Kylie, does it feel like we’ve been around forever? I mean, I feel like the youngster amongst the great published ladies on this list, but still, we sold fifteen years ago. That’s a long time to stick around in this business!

  14. Cindy Gerard says:

    Great story Michele but I can’t imagine how you survived the blow when they pulled the book the first time around. You had to have been crushed! But yea on the new cover and the reissue. How cool is that. Mega congrats!!

  15. Liza says:

    I’m a reader only right now. I love vampire romances, but just got into them about a year ago. Congrats on the reissue. I looked for it over the weekend, but it wasn’t out at Borders yet.

  16. Betina Krahn says:

    Michele, I’m so proud of you! And your writing has not only improved– it’s rocketed to the top of the genre– of any genre! I was so enthralled with your Bombshells– I’d love to see you do that action-adventure thing again sometime. but for now the darkling guys are pretty cool!And thanks for the story– reminding us all that it’s a journey and not all smooth sailing along the way. I had forgotten about your “delay.” And I agree with you about the second cover for Dark Rapture. . . just dynamite. And yes, the new cover has kind of an ordinary guy by comparison with John DeSalvo at his best. But you know what– it’ll sell and people will love the story all over again.Write faster!:) Betina

  17. I’ve only recently came to writing, and the romance genre in general. I’ve been reading romance for 2-3 years now, and only just started to write one. I just finished chapter 1 and I’m so excited–an ACTUAL chapter finished by me!I almost convinced a very special person to me to buy me Dark Rapture, until she saw the price. lol.

  18. catslady says:

    I always have been an avid reader – my escape into other worlds. To be honest I haven’t gotten into the vampire world as yet. I don’t know why really except that I just never tried it. I bet once I start, I’m gonna love it!

  19. flchen1 says:

    Michele, what a cool story about Dark Rapture! I’m somewhat neutral on vampire romances–I’ve read a few I’ve really enjoyed and avoided some because I’m afraid they might scare me 😉 I do think they’re here to stay though, and the good ones are really good 🙂 Congrats on Dark Rapture’s return to the forefront!

  20. Michele Hauf says:

    Hey Betina, I’ve got an action/adventure Bombshell-esque story out in November. It’s Swordsman’s Legacy under the pseudonym Alex Archer. Much action and adventure!Ah, Lou! Yeah, I think DR is not priced $3 higher than when it was originally published. You know marketers think the $7.99 price point is the most attractive to consumers? (I learned this working for Levy.) I still like the idea of a $5 book. That’s perfect. How long before they’re almost ten dollars?

  21. Michele Hauf says:

    That’s NOW priced higher…sheesh.

  22. Loved the story, Michele! I was around then, but I didn’t remember all the details.And yeah, the new guy just doesn’t look . . . vampirey.

  23. I am one that sincerely hopes vampire romance stays around forever, or should I say eternally:) I’ve been reading the vampire genre since my mom gave me a copy of Hotel Translyvania when I was about 12 years old. There’s something beautiful about falling in love with an immortal. A good vampire book can be the ultimate escape from this stressful world- turn off the doom filled news, pick up a book and relax. I didn’t realize that publishers control so many aspects of writing. Paranormals used to be hard to find and now they are everywhere- I’m glad for that because I have discovered so many great authors. But what happens when publishers decide that paranormals are over? Do established authors get to decide what genre they continue to write? Michele, I think I have the original of this book in my storage! I boxed up all the books I couldn’t live without (we live in a tiny apt right now) and I think DR is one of those books. I’m going to check on my next trip. Thanks for sharing your “first” story and congrats on the re-issue.

  24. Michele Hauf says:

    Susie, I remember that first MFW meeting I went to, you were the one who approached me, shook my hand, and welcomed me to the group. That was very cool.Anna, publishers control what gets put on bookstore shelves. Writers can write whatever genre they chose, but that doesn’t garantee it will sell. So if the paranormals were to die (doubt it) then an author would probably just have to switch genres and hope it’s a book publishers want to sell.Look for that original! I think I can start calling them collector’s items now. And I sent out tons of the original red cover that never got printed. That should be some kind of collectible, I would think.

  25. Estella says:

    I love vampire romances!

  26. Betina Krahn says:

    Cool, Michele! Alex Archer! I’ll be sure to look for it! Who’s the publisher?

  27. Nathalie says:

    Hi,I like a nice vampire story from time to time!What a nice story… it was nice that it finally got published, however I have to admit I prefer the 1st cover!

  28. Lily says:

    I am not a big fan of paranormal, but read a few Vamp. stories.That ‘first time’ story was great! Thanks for sharing it with us 🙂

  29. Michele Hauf says:

    Nathalie, I do like that first cover too! Betina, Alex ARcher’s Rogue Angel series is published by Gold Eagle, a division of Harlequin. They do mostly men’s action/adventure series like Outlander, and Max Bolan. Rogue’s market is about 60% men/40% women. The series is awesome! I’ll tell more about it in November!

  30. Cait London says:

    Hey, Michelle. Your story really struck some familiar cords with me. With little communication with a writing community years ago, I sent off a 500 pg SINGLE spaced ms (typewriter/carbon copy). Someone I thought was experienced told me it was ok to do hand written corrections. Cannot understand why it went nowhere 🙂 No, wait. It did later, in chunks of very different books 🙂

  31. booklover says:

    I have to admire your bravery for sending out your first manuscript… 🙂 I have always been a reader, and 5-6 years ago, I decide to start writing. It will probably remain a hobby, but I don’t think I will ever be able to quit 🙂

  32. Shari C says:

    I started out reading romance books several years ago and gradually moved into the paranormal genre…which I now love to read. It is exciting and interesting reading about unique, powerful and immortal heroes/heroines as you never know quite what to expect and so many unusual situations can occur. I hope the paranormal novels will be around for a long time to enjoy.

  33. Karen Foley says:

    Michele, I loved reading your story, and your success is well-deserved. I love your first two covers, especially the second one. Yowza!! I’ll admit that I might not have picked the latest version up, but now I am intrigued and am definitely buying it!! Thank you for sharing your story!

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