May 9th, 2012


Digging up the Backlist

I had a fun little moment of minor fame last night. It was the church women's supper, and when I was checking in, one of the ladies at the check-in desk heard my name, gasped a little and said, "The author? Oh, I love your books!" I guess she didn't realize I went to the same church, but then, who thinks that an author you read might be around you in your daily life?

Last summer I pondered the idea of seeing if I could get the rights to my old Harlequin romances back and then e-publish them. It turns out that wouldn't have been a possibility because even then, Harlequin had already put them out for Kindle and Nook (strangely, I can't find them on the Harlequin site itself). I learned this when I got an unexpected royalty statement in the mail. Since they never told me they were releasing these as e-books and they don't seem to be making any effort to link them to my real name, which is far better known than that old pen name, I suspect that this is more about keeping the rights and keeping me from being able to e-publish than it is about making any money.

However, if you're a completist and want to read everything I've written, these are available. They're strictly romantic comedy and not fantasy at all (unless you want to pretend that all the characters are wizards, which could be fun). They were written in the mid-90s, so I'm sure they're dated, and I hope I've grown as a writer since then. Buyer beware, since I haven't re-read these books in ages and am kind of afraid to, since I can't fix them. But if you want to give them a shot, go for it.

Dateless in Dallas is about a pair of reporters assigned to field test the advice in a dating how-to book. Back when I came up with this idea, the hook for the line involved the written word -- that the plot had to revolve around some element in writing, like personal ads, letters, etc. By the time the book was published, I think they'd moved beyond that because they realized it was a little narrow and it became a sort of proto-chick lit/romantic comedy line. This was one of those strange books that popped into my head fully formed. I'd read the guidelines looking for books focusing on the written word, and I was waiting for the box office to open to buy theater tickets when the idea, the characters and their names just sprang into my head. The inspiration was probably one of my favorite books from when I was a teen, The Alfred E. Graebner Memorial High School Handbook of Rules and Regulations by Ellen Conford, in which each chapter starts with an excerpt from the school handbook, and the chapter shows how that really works. This book works a similar way -- each chapter starts with a bit of dating advice from the book, then shows how it really works. Some of those things may or may not have actually happened. I wrote a query letter and sent it off, then got a request for a proposal, and then months later I got the phone call that they were buying the book. Oddly, I wasn't able to find a copy of the Conford book while I was writing this one, so it was purely inspiration from vague memory. I did find a copy a couple of years ago, and it wasn't quite the way I'd remembered it (but is still one of my favorite teen books).
Dateless in Dallas for the Kindle

Dateless in Dallas for the Nook

The next book is The Emergency Stand-By Date, which is sort of self-explanatory from the title. It sprang from my ten-year class reunion and some other events. I was at a phase in my life when I wasn't dating anyone and didn't really even know anyone to date, and yet I had a lot of events where I felt like a total outsider because I didn't have anyone to bring. I'd been involved in a committee to put on a charity ball and ended up giving the tickets that were a mandatory purchase to a friend because I didn't know anyone to take and the tickets were only sold for couples, so going alone would have been miserable. There was that reunion coming up, where I'd have to go solo. Our company social events were very couple-oriented, where not bringing someone was kind of frowned upon. And there were a lot of weddings. I know people are always saying that weddings are great places to meet people, but that has not been my experience because every wedding I've been to has been like Noah's Ark, where everyone has a date, even if it's someone they dragged in off the street. If you go alone, you end up sitting alone and feeling invisible. I found myself thinking one day that what I needed was an emergency stand-by date, someone I could bring to those kinds of events who was a close enough friend that I'd be able to have fun with him but who would know that me inviting him didn't necessarily mean anything. And then I realized that sounded like a great book idea and proposed it to my editor, who bought it. The irony is that although the opening scene involves the aftermath of a miserable reunion without a date, which I wrote before going to my reunion, I actually had a lot of fun at my reunion, even without a date. Again, some of these events may or may not have actually happened (the one involving the wedding where everyone the heroine had dated in the last few years was there did happen, but not in quite that way).

The Emergency Stand-By Date for Kindle

The Emergency Stand-By Date for Nook.

It looks like those books are available at Google books, too, so you can search there if those other formats don't work for you.

I was using the pen name Samantha Carter at the time, and I had it before SG-1 came on. I signed the contract for that first book with that name in early 1995, and it was actually an X-Files reference because the episode where they meet the fake Samantha Mulder had just aired, and my co-workers thought she looked a lot like me and had started calling me Samantha. When I had to pick a pen name (Harlequin required them at the time), I thought that would work because it started with the same letter as my real first name, which gave me time to recover from brain lock during autographs, and I chose Carter as a last name because it was an X-Files reference that put me near the top of the alphabet. When the second book came out and I was doing Internet searches to see if anyone was talking about it, I learned about the SG-1 series. It was on Showtime then, which I didn't get, but when it came on in syndication, I watched it to see who this person with my name was, and it was a long time before I quit giggling every time someone said her full name. Now it's been so long since I've used that name that my brain first goes to the character, not to my pen name.

My alter ego is no deep, dark secret, so if you feel inclined to write reviews at those sites, feel free to mention the connection. I haven't found a way for me to get into the system and get those books linked to my real name.