Please welcome Emily Mims back to the blog. She’s talking about her latest three releases from Boroughs Publishing Group. Take it away, Emily!
Writing About Wounded Warriors
Veterans in general and wounded warriors in particular have a very warm spot in my heart. I live in San Antonio, home of San Antonio Military Medical Center, site of the Army’s famous burn treatment center and one of the three stateside hospitals where wounded warriors come home to recuperate and rehabilitate from their devastating injuries. Many of the more severely injured young men and women, those whose injuries were such that they can no longer serve in the military, have settled here in San Antonio to continue their medical care, and it is absolutely no big deal these days to see a young father or mother on two prosthetic legs chasing a couple of children across the mall or a man with severe facial scarring paying for his groceries at the store or a young man in a wheelchair holding a baby in his lap. Nor is it unusual to work beside a colleague with a closed head injury that suffers from migraines and struggles to put names with faces. Here in San Antonio the wounded warriors aren’t just a face on a magazine cover or an abstract concept-they are our friends and neighbors and part of our community.
So why are they such compelling heroes and heroines? Why do I like to write about them? Perhaps the answer lies in the bravery I see these men and women exhibit on a routine basis in everyday life. No, we’re not heroes, they will tell you. As far as they are concerned, they are just going about their ordinary everyday lives the same as the rest of us. And that they do. They hold jobs, they go shopping, they go to church. They ride their bikes down the street. Most of them are remarkably unself-conscious about the hardware and the scars. In ‘After the Heartbreak’ I have a child remarking that Cathy and Beto’s prostheses are ‘no big deal’, because here in San Antonio they aren’t. But the fact that they are carrying on ‘business as usual’, even when the circumstances are anything but ‘usual’, is what makes them seem so brave to me.
So what about their private lives? Their love lives? Again, the wounded warriors are just like the rest of us in that respect. They date, they fall in love, they have fights and break up and make up. They get married and raise families. Sometimes they do it with each other. I will never forget the young couple I saw at one of the malls a few years back. He had burn scars from his knees up and she was walking on a prosthesis. They were holding hands and even from across the mall you could see the love in their eyes for one another, and they are not the only couple to meet and fall in love with another wounded warrior. Sometimes wounded warriors fall in love with someone who nursed them back to health-there have been many marriages between wounded warriors and their nurses or other caregivers. And many, many have come home to the husband or wife who loved them already, and it is heartwarming to watch these loving spouses reach out and fashion a new normal for their wounded loved one.
Yet at the same time, the scars remain. PTSD is a common problem and particularly insidious in that it doesn’t show on the outside. After asking a time or two if a wounded warrior would share their experiences with me and seeing the expressions on their faces, I decided to do my research on topics like firefights and prostheses and PTSD and IED’s online rather than ask them to relive the horror. They simply do not want to go back there and I can’t blame them. (If I did have a question, I went to my son, who saw a lot but thankfully came home without a scratch.) But, outward and inward scars or no, I do see these brave men and women as heroes of the highest order, the kind of heroes and heroines I like to bring to life in my stories.
After The Heartbreak
Together Cathy and Beto have faced horror and heartbreak. Will they together find their way back to happiness?
What was to be the first night of the rest of their lives together instead became an evening of heartbreak and horror. Now dealing with the aftermath, Cathy Armbruster and Beto Flores struggle to put their lives and their relationship back together. Was their future destroyed on that fateful night, or will Cathy and Beto find a way to get past the heartbreak and claim the happily ever after with one another that they both want so desperately?
Tommy Joe is home from war, but he’s now in a wheelchair-and always will be. Can he still be the man a woman like Christi deserves?
Crippled by a sniper’s bullet, paraplegic Tommy Joe Reece doesn’t see how he can run a ranch from a wheelchair-or be a husband to Christi, the girl he’s always loved. Will Tommy and Christi let their doubts and fears about the future destroy their love, or will they have the courage to reach out to one another and find a way to make it all work?
Daughter of Valor
When wounded war hero Holly Riley comes home to the Texas Hill Country to build a new life for herself, she has no idea that life will include sexy Congressional candidate Jimmy Adamcik!
Wounded war hero Holly Riley has come to the lakeshore community of Heaven’s Point to recover from her injuries and build a new life for herself with her band of fellow wounded warriors. Temporarily employed as a nanny for charismatic Congressional candidate and neighbor Jimmy Adamcik, Holly and Jimmy quickly began to care for one another in spite of Holly’s distrust of politics. But Jimmy finds himself sucked deeper and deeper into the seamy side of the political process, and an old enemy from Jimmy’s past targets Holly’s soldiers one by one. Will Jimmy and Holly’s love survive the double onslaught-or will they be the final target of their unknown enemy’s rage?
Thank you, Emily, for sharing your stories!
Hi folks! I’m turning Writer Wednesday over to Emily Mims. Settle back and enjoy her fabulous story about her publishing journey, and how things have changed since she first began, over three decades ago.
Publishing, Then and Now – My Days with Candlelight Ecstasy Romance
It’s hard to imagine, as I think back on my days as a Candlelight Ecstasy romance writer, that it’s really been thirty-two years since I got that fateful phone call from senior editor Anne Gisonny that she wanted to buy my book ‘Portrait of my Love’ for the Candlelight Ecstasy line. In a romance world where the heroines were mostly virgins and the relationships mostly chaste, Candlelight was breaking ground with career women as heroines and (gasp!) full-blown love scenes before the commitment, and I was thrilled to be a part of that liberalization of the genre. I was fortunate to be able to write eighteen books for the line in a three and a half year period, in a publishing world that was vastly different from the world we write in today. I look back on those days with fond nostalgia and no little amusement as I think about how the writing and publishing process has been reinvented since those golden days so long ago.
I was first bitten by the writing bug when I tossed a poorly written romance across the floor and announced that I could do a better job. My husband promptly dared me to do so. I wrote up what was at that time the standard virgin-falls-in-love-with-older-guy story, had a friend type it up for me, and sent it to my favorite line, Candlelight. Lydia Paglio, an associate editor, wrote me a personal rejection letter but told me that my writing had promise. Cheeky little me called her up, and when she heard it was only my first attempt she laid out exactly what Candlelight was looking for and told me to write it for her. About that time my husband brought home an Atari 800 computer, which solved the typing problem, and I wrote up another story, the kind Lydia said she wanted, printed it out on a dot-matrix printer, and shipped the manuscript to New York. Lydia called me up with the changes she wanted, I made them and shipped another manuscript, and they bought the book. Since I was a classroom teacher and wanted to keep my identities separate, ‘Emily Elliott’ was born.
And so it went. I wrote the second on spec also, but by the time the third rolled around Lydia and Anne were willing to let me write three chapters and a synopsis (I am a plotter so this was fine by me) and then we went into the synopsis and made the changes in the story that they wanted before I did the writing. Eventually they trusted me enough to buy a book based on a brief synopsis, knowing I knew what constituted a good story, but we still went through the revision process involving multiple trips to the post office. And we worked entirely by telephone, which could be tough since I was at school during the day and was a time zone behind New York. If I was expecting a call from Lydia, I would have my husband pick up our sons from day care and hurry straight home, praying I didn’t catch traffic or have a last-minute faculty meeting to attend, to take the call before Lydia left for the day.
So when did I do my writing, if I already had a full-time job and two small children? The same as any other writer who works a day job-in the evening and on the weekend. I would get home with the boys, spend time with them and make dinner, and at seven I would hand the boys over to their good-natured and doting dad and hit the word processer while he did baths and bedtime. In those days I could rough-draft ten pages in three hours and if I had a book due I did this three to four nights a week and then took a night or two to revise and polish. And summers were a god-send. I could write during the daytime and just about double my productivity and still have time to take the boys to the swimming pool every day.
One of Emily’s Candlelight romances.
Doing research for the books was a different proposition in my Candlelight days. There was no Google to consult, no mouse to push, no icons to click. We had to do it the hard way! But to me the hard way was also a lot of fun. Since I tend to spotlight men and women in various professions, I found individuals in those professions who would, over dinner in the restaurant of their choice, answer my myriad questions about what they did. Over the course of my career with Candlelight, I interviewed an MD, a Las Vegas blackjack dealer, a deputy sheriff, an Air Force pilot, an FBI agent who also took me on a tour of the San Antonio offices, an interior designer who took me on a tour of the Dallas Trade Mart and into a catalogue photo shoot, a policeman, a forensic chemist, a belly dancer, an accountant, a stockbroker, a Border patrol agent, a…well, you get the idea! And I also got to see some places and do some things I wouldn’t have otherwise, such as tour the Brooke Army Medical Center burn treatment ward and go up in a four seat Piper for a flight over the Hill Country. (Interestingly enough, I still use this approach even though I do have the Internet at my disposal. For my upcoming book ‘The Soap Maker’ I interviewed a Llano County deputy sheriff and went into the home of a soap maker and learned how to make a batch of scented soap.) I also did a lot of in-state traveling to research my settings. I would check out the area to make sure I had the geography and the feel of the town or city right and then we would have a fun family weekend together. I made it a point to have visited every setting I used in the books except for the settings in ‘Season of Enchantment’, which is set in California and Vietnam, and you better believe I carefully researched those settings, talking to people who had been or lived there, before I put a word on paper.
I could have and would have happily written books for Candlelight Ecstasy forever. Unfortunately, between Harlequin, Silhouette, Candlelight, and Loveswept there were over one hundred titles a month coming out, way too many for the market to support, and Candlelight sales fell to the point that Dell Publishing canceled the series, throwing seventy five writers out in the marketplace to find new publishers. I tried, of course, but six weeks later my husband lost his job, and although thankfully he found work quickly, he went from working a forty hour week to working sixty or more and someone had to tend to the boys. In addition, I took on an academic coaching position that pretty well ate up what little time I had left. So regretfully I put the writing career away for what I assumed would be forever and taught school and raised my children. Periodically I thought about writing again, but my friends who were still in the business were not at all encouraging-the romance market had experienced such a downturn they could barely sell a book. “Don’t bother, Emily,” one of them told me. “It isn’t fun anymore.” I listened to them-they did have a point-but I never really quit missing the writing.
Back Into the Fray
And then, several years ago, I had an experience similar to the one all those years ago. I picked up a few novels from an again busy romance aisle in the bookstore and read them, and again I had the sense that I could do better. But this time I didn’t want to write for a series and I wanted to write a longer, more complex story with the added element of suspense. So I asked myself what would be the most powerful motivating force that would bring together two people with seemingly nothing else in common and then I asked myself how I could get those two people together in a way that hadn’t been written before, and ‘Solomon’s Choice’ was born. The sailing was not quite as smooth this time-it took me a year and a half and countless revisions to find an agent with enough faith in the story to represent ‘Solomon’, and it took her awhile to find a publisher who liked the somewhat unusual premise enough to buy the book. But finally, in October 2013, Boroughs Publishing released ‘Solomon’s Choice’ and my career was reborn. And thankfully, I will not be a one-book wonder with ‘Solomon’s Choice’. I have since written two lunchbox romances for Boroughs, ‘After the Heartbreak’ and ‘A Gift of Trust’, and will have two more full-length novels, both sequels to ‘Solomon’, going live next year. And for a blast from the past, Boroughs is also going to re-issue three of my favorite Candlelight romances to a new generation of readers.
So just how different is writing today? Hugely different in some ways and not different at all in others. The technology makes a large difference, of course. I communicate with everyone totally by email. I do all my writing and revising at the computer-no printouts whatsoever, and I have yet to go to the post office. I do a lot of my research on the Internet. One personal difference is that I have retired from teaching and no longer have to hide my work behind a pen name. To me, however, the biggest difference is that today it is the author’s responsibility to reach out to the reading community and find her readers. We can no longer hide behind a label and expect the readers to buy our book based on a logo-our readers have to want to read our books, and to make our readers aware of our books we have to be out there making our presence known in the social media world. And of course the stories themselves are different, reflecting the changes in society in the last thirty years. Single parenthood is common and not a cause for shame. Women in high-powered or dangerous careers are a story line staple. Recreational sex on the part of the heroine is not particularly frowned upon and Erotica has become an accepted presence in the market. Addiction, abuse, PTSD, war injuries, flawed heroes and flawed heroines-no longer shied away from by authors, publishers, or readers. And on the other side of the spectrum, in a world of fantasy unimagined thirty years ago, vampires and werewolves and shape shifters, oh my! The paranormal world-what a fun addition to the genre!
But not everything has changed. The crafting of an interesting, compelling, believable story is the same as it ever was. The creation of appealing heroes and heroines who reach out to the readers is as important as ever. The need to draw in the reader and make her care about these people and what happens to them is still paramount. In other words, in spite of the changes that the publishing industry and the romance genre has seen since my days with Candlelight, it is still my job to tell a good story.
You can find me at Facebook of course, and at my Blog.
Wow, Emily! Thank you so much for stopping by. What a career, and how exciting that you’ve come back to writing. I’ve heard that once you start, it’s very difficult to stop and you are proof of that, my friend.
Folks, the links to each of Emily’s books are highlighted – check them out! And if you’re interested in her back titles, aside from the ones being reissued from Boroughs Publishing Group, a quick search will show you opportunities to purchase them through third parties.
AND…here’s a quick link to all three at Amazon. Click Here.
May your Wednesday be a happy one, filled with words and books and love and hugs.