I am so thrilled and happy to welcome Debra Webb to the convertible today! Deb is not only a wonderful friend, but she’s a woman I admire beyond measure. I think you’ll understand just some of the reasons why when you read her post! Please give Deb a rousing Top Down Welcome!!
Taking the Plunge!
The past three weeks have been a whirlwind for me, personally and professionally. Tragically, on April 27th Alabama was hit with devastating tornadoes—the worst disaster in the state’s history. The horror of that day will not be forgotten, not in the minds of those who lost so much or in the view of all others who every day see the change in the landscape of our community. Just before this horror turned our world upside down, I was in the midst of taking a major step in my publishing career.
Last summer I met with a personal tragedy that changed my life forever. I lost most of the use of my right arm and my right hand. Wouldn’t you know it, I was right-handed. I say was because I can no longer do much of anything with my right hand. Learning to write with my left hand has been a huge challenge (my handwriting looks like a third grader’s). I could name all the things I can’t do anymore but I’d have to blog for seven or eight days in a row to get it all in. Suffice to say anything that requires two hands is difficult if not impossible. Throw in the inability to reach higher than my shoulder and you get the picture. The massive change included typing. Can’t type with fingers that won’t work. Yes, I tried the Dragon process (my dear friends got together and bought the newest version for me right after I came home from the hospital). But you see I’ve always told my stories from my brain to my fingers. First with a pen, then a typewriter and eventually a computer. As I told my friends, “I tried to create my stories that way (with Dragon) but it didn’t turn out right.” Of course, they asked, “What do you mean?” I thought for a moment then offered, “It’s like a heart surgeon preparing to open the patient’s chest and reaching for a chainsaw rather than a scalpel. Either one would do the job, but the end result would be vastly different.” Need I say more? Anyway, I had to learn to do the best I could with one working hand.
Lots of pain, depression and hard work later, I had a few decisions to make. I could no longer produce the quantity of work I did prior to the loss. In fact, ten months later, we’re talking less than half what I used to be able to do. Something had to give. I love writing my Colby Agency stories for Harlequin Intrigue (#45 is out next month!). But I also love creating the bigger stories. Considering my situation, it looked as if I would have to give up one or the other. Let’s face it, most publishers want an author they can depend on to produce at least two big books (big meaning single title, 80k or more words) per year. That isn’t going to happen, particularly if I try to keep my Colby Agency series going. I was worried sick. I had many long, painful discussions with friends (like the wonderful Cindy Gerard!). Did I risk the ability to maintain a roof over my head to keep my dreams alive? One of my friends asked about a series I started a while back but never pursued. The conversation went something like, “Whatever happened to that story I liked so much? You know, the one with that super cool forty-something woman?” I smiled and hurried to the computer. And there she was just waiting for me to have the time to give her a little attention. Jackie Mercer!
When I wrote the first Jackie Mercer novel it was well received by four publishing houses. The editors who read the story LOVED it (if I do say so myself). The problem was they couldn’t get the concept past the marketing folks at committee. Truth is, Jackie was written before her time. Desperate Housewives hadn’t appeared on the scene. Cougar Town was nowhere in sight and Body of Proof was called Crossing Jordan (no wait, that was a much younger protagonist). The middle-aged woman was rarely a leading lady in films or the heroine in novels. Some flirted with forty, but those beyond forty were very few and far between. Jackie is 45. Yes, I said forty-five. She still loves mini-skirts, high heels and sexy lingerie. She is divorced with a son in law school, a feat she takes singular credit for since her no-good, cheating husband left her a decade ago to start a new family with his younger wife. Jackie put her husband through college, leaving her with no higher education and no true marketable skills to keep a roof over her head and raise a kid on her own. But she wasn’t about to be bested by the likes of her scumbag ex. So she launched a new career that required only two skills—determination and the willingness to do most anything for money. With the help and guidance of her newly retired uncle (a Houston homicide detective) she started the Mercer Agency.
Ten years later Jackie has put the agency on the map in Houston. Her uncle has retired for real and she needs a new partner. Enter Derrick Dawson. Scorching hot. Sexy as hell. He wants the job and he isn’t taking no for an answer. Jackie knows Dawson is trouble—for her. A decade after the divorce she is still having bad luck with men. Allowing pure temptation to join her agency is just asking for trouble. Check out the excerpt and you’ll see what I mean.
“You are this close—” I held my thumb and forefinger about a millimeter a part right in Dawson’s face “—to being out of here, buster.”
Unbelievably, the warning didn’t faze my new partner. In fact, he had the nerve to move closer. His nostrils flared and every female chromosome in my entire being went ape shit, which only pissed me off all the more. “That’s what you said. That night was about sex, not talking. No information exchange, just hot sex, right?”
I was fire-breathing, punch-his-lights-out mad, but even in that wacked zone, I understood that, somehow, for reasons I couldn’t yet comprehend, he was angrier than me.
“I’m going to give you this one, Dawson.” Mainly on account of Texas being so big on the death penalty that the powers that be had actually put in an express lane for heinous criminals. Considering what I wanted to do to Dawson right now I’d be at the front of that unpopular line. “But this ain’t no frigging baseball game. You won’t get three strikes.” Fact was, I’d already given him that leeway up front.
“Tell me, Jackie,” he went on as if I’d said nothing at all, “how does it feel to know you were the last one to see him alive besides whoever killed him? Maybe being with you just put him in the right place at the wrong time.” He leaned down and flattened his hands on my desk on either side of me, forcing my bottom down onto the edge and still his face was so close to mine I couldn’t take a breath without it coming from his lips. I almost drew away but refused to surrender that easy. “Think you were worth it?” he murmured.
Before good sense could stop me I’d grabbed him by the shirt with both hands and lunged to my feet, maintaining the intimate proximity, face to face, but forcing him back and leveling the playing field a couple of notches. “One thing’s certain, Dawson, you’ll never know.”
Both of us were breathing hard, the air sawing raggedly in and out. My whole body shook with equal measures anger and awareness. In spite of those volatile emotions I couldn’t take my eyes off his…felt lost in that churning sea of blue. His lips trembled making me shudder with some new, indefinable rush of sensations. In that infinitesimal moment I knew with complete certainty that if he touched me we were both goners.
Breathing new life into Jackie Mercer was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I love her. I love the story and this time nothing was going to stop me! I started my own publishing company, Pink House Press, and I took that heart-pounding plunge into the e-book world. It was exciting and terrifying! Kind of like being a virgin all over again! The cover creation process was awesome! For the first time in my career the cover is exactly what I hoped for. I picked the title, DIRTY. I am so proud to be a part of this new and exciting evolution. And I’m still a little terrified! So let’s get DIRTY and talk about why women over forty are not only alive and well but they are kicking butt!
DEBRA WEBB, born in Alabama, wrote her first story at age nine and her first romance at thirteen. It wasn’t until she spent three years working for the military behind the Iron Curtain—and a five-year stint with NASA—that she realized her true calling. A collision course between suspense and romance was set. Since then she has penned nearly 100 novels. Visit her at www.debrawebb.com