Saturday, February 21, 2009

From Texans to Tycoons

I guess you could say I was always meant to write. I never had trouble in school when it came to preparing an essay, writing a story or poem. As an adult, I found it easy to make my point by the written word. Friends and family members would seek me out when they needed a complaint letter to some business or enterprise that had aggravated them. I’ve been asked to write eulogies for people in my heart who have passed on.

I’ve always been an avid reader and as a young girl in my twenties, I discovered the world of romance. Reading these stories touched me in ways that I couldn’t possibly have known. I read three or four books a week. I loved all forms of traditional romance. What I mean is, no paranormal or vampires … you couldn’t find those stories readily in those days anyway. But I loved Regency, medieval and western stories. I especially enjoyed those cowboy romances that reminded of so many of my favorite television series, like Bonanza, Cheyenne and Rawhide. I was a huge fan of The Lone Ranger and Roy Rogers too! With the added factor of a hero and heroine falling for each other in those great historical books, I fell in love with the entire romance genre. I couldn’t read fast enough love stories that ended happily.

I’m an optimist at heart. I think the glass is half full. Yes, even with these troubling times in America, I am still cautiously hopeful and I believe in the power of love.

As I read those romances, something inside me emerged and I felt that I too, might be able to write something that would pull at heartstrings and give inspiration. At the time, my children were in junior high and I had time on my hands. Mind you, I worked part-time teaching childbirth and baby-care classes in a local hospital and still enjoy that work today … it’s very rewarding. But something inside me shifted at one point. I felt I needed to do something more with my life. I felt I was meant for something else and the feeling wouldn’t go away. It constantly nagged at me and made me search my soul.

Bravely, I took an all-day workshop about writing romances given by a very successful author and she said something to me that stuck with me to this day. She said she’d been rejected four times, before she sold her first book. A light went on in my head … you mean if you don’t sell your first story, you have more chances? You can keep going? You’re not labeled an unsellable author for all eternity? Well, this was news to me. Remember, the romance industry was younger then. It was 1995 and I knew little about the business end of writing. I only knew, I had to try.

So try I did. I sent my first story off and thank goodness it didn’t sell. It was all wrong and so bad. Yet, I was thrilled with the standard rejection letter. It meant I’d made a start, a dent in a long journey, and I’d heard back from a real, honest-to-goodness editor!

Then I joined RWA and the absolute second I walked into the Orange County Chapter of RWA and saw all those published authors, I knew that I would do this … I knew I’d really found what I’d been searching for all those years. I needed to be published almost as much as I needed my next breath. I’d think, aside from anything tragic happening to my loved ones, NOT getting published would be the worst thing to happen to me, in my life. I wanted it that badly … after all, it’s what I was meant to do.

Well, after three years, and countless rejections (at one time I had 11 manuscripts out to various houses), I finally got the call from Hilary Sares at Kensington. I sold my first book. Not a western, but a contemporary about a rancher in modern times. I called the book, Chance in a Million, because his name was Chance, but this really had been MY chance in a million. I wrote three books for Precious Gems, all contemporary stories, but my heart’s desire was to write westerns. I still had that hurdle to overcome. In 2000, after waiting nearly a year to hear back, I sold my first western called Lily Gets Her Man. I was thrilled. I’d always wanted to write for Harlequin. It’s a great forward-thinking company. From there, I began writing contempories too, and my debut Silhouette Desire was a Romantic Times Magazine’s Top Pick. Since then I’ve written twenty-five books, eight of them being westerns. Presently, I’m writing a Desire Trilogy set in Napa Valley and I hope to get back to writing westerns again.

Everyone’s writing journey is different and unique, but if I could give you one piece of advice, it’s to enjoy the process while trying to get published or reach your goals. After all, you’re doing what you love to do!

Charlene Sands is a bestselling author of 25 books writing Silhouette Desires and Harlequin Historicals. She’s the recipient of the National Readers’ Choice Award and the Booksellers’ Best Award. Her November Desire has been nominated for the Best Silhouette Desire of 2008 by Romantic Times Magazine. Married to her high school sweetheart, she’s a mother of two grown children and lives in Southern California. Her February Desire, Reserved for the Tycoon is on the bookshelves now and is available at Amazon and Eharlequin as well as other online sites. She invites you to visit her at or

One lucky commentator will win a free book from Charlene's backlist. The winner will be posted on Sunday afternoon.


Anita Mae Draper said...

Good morning Charlene, I love the part where you say, 'you mean if you don’t sell your first story, you have more chances? That's precious yet we can all relate because we've heard the stories of editor's memories.

You mentioned you had 11 ms's out at one time. It sounded like an assortment of westerns and contemporary. And then your first sale was about a rancher.

Do you live on a ranch in Southern California? Or is it just where your heart lies?

Speaking of Southern Cal - it's a glorious sunny day here with a temp of -2F but it feels like -13F with the wind. How's your day?

Karen said...

Greetings Charlene,
Thank you for sharing your writing journey over here at the Chicks.

I love the part where you describe your motivation to be published. I share many of the feelings you did. Your words have inspired me to work harder and dream bigger while having fun, of course, which I can honestly say I am doing.

Charlene Sands said...

Hi Anita,
Thanks so much for inviting me to guest blog today! My 11 manuscripts were a combination of both westerns and contemps, but I multi-submitted. I broke some rules back then. I never queried - just sent along my 3 chapters and synopsis. But I'd say I did have maybe 5 or 6 various different ms out at one time. I wasn't very patient for an editor to get back to me, so I wrote and wrote some more during that time.

I live in the suburbs of California. I used to ride horses as a child, but no, I'm a valley girl...I don't live on a ranch.

Oh,and do you really want to know the temps here? Yesterday, it was so beautiful, 70 degrees that we had lunch with my daughter in Malibu - where we sat down at a table right next to Pierce Brosnon and his son! Now, I can say I had lunch with James Bond!

I feel for all of you in frigid weather right now. I was born in New York and I remember those brutally cold days.

Charlene Sands said...

Hi Karen,

Oh, if I can help inspire you or anyone else, then I feel humbled. I really hope you continue to enjoy the process! You know, aside from writers, people just don't know how difficult this profession is. I always say WORK is a four letter word. And it's work mixed in with joy and frustration, but we love doing it, don't we?

Suse said...

Hi Charlene, welcome to Prairie Chicks. I enjoyed reading your journey to publication. I think those people who succeed are the ones who persevere, even when it looks hopeless. Last night, I spent some time researching an orchard in Saskatchewan. Over several years, the owners chronicled their struggle to plant, nurture and reap their bounties with many setbacks with our unpredictable weather and grasshopper infestations, etc. I'm not sure I could have kept going with that venture. I guess if a person believes strongly enough in what they are trying to accomplish, they will continue despite the setbacks.

Thank you also for reminding us to enjoy the process.

Cheri2628 said...

Charlene, I enjoyed your blog about your writing path. I am glad that you stuck with it! I love all your books, but I am especially partial to your western historicals. Gotta love those cowboys! ;-)

Charlene Sands said...

Hi Suse,

I love hearing about stories of perserverance and success! The orchard growers are an example of what it takes to succeed. Wasn't that fun research?

Charlene Sands said...

Hi Cheri2628,

Hi there! Thanks for the lovely compliment about my books. I always try to write with the reader in mind, hoping they would enjoy a new setting and new professions for my characters. Gotta love a cowboy though!

Stacey Kayne said...

We must be soul sisters, Charlene :-) So much of your journey mirrors mine. I laughed when reading about your first book, and feel the same relief mine is still safely tucked away on my harddrive ;-) But that first book is still such an important milestone, huh? To finish a manuscript, and be so super-charged to write the next one.

It pays to be an optimist in this business--you definitely have to be wiliing to take a LEAP OF FAITH *g*.

Kate Bridges said...

Hi Charlene!

I loved reading about your journey to publication. And look how far you've come! Perseverance really does pay off in this business.

Hey, Prairie Chicks! Great new blogsite! :-)

Mary Connealy said...

Such great covers, Charlene. Great article, too. I'm trying to picture just how HAPPY you were when you're first book didn't sell.

Yeah, right!

Looking back...sure...but not back then I'm betting. :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Charlene and Stacey - if I might put a plug in for your group blog, Petticoats and Pistols - when the Chicks and I were first discussing starting a group blog, I kept referring them to P&P as an example of what to do right.

Did you all know each other before you started it? You're not all Harlequin Historical authors so you must have something else in common other than the love of cowboys...

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Kate and Mary - you snuck in while I was writing. Real nice to see you here.

Linda Broday said...

Charlene,I absolutely think the key to getting published is perseverance. A writer has to keep trying over and over in the face of rejection. Every writer I know has to go through bad times to get to the good. But isn't that the way it is in life no matter your profession? Your story is so similar to mine and probably dozens of other writers. You just can't afford to give up in this business.

I really love your books, contemporary and westerns. You create the most awesome H/H's. I just finished RESERVED FOR THE TYCOON and I fell head over heels in love with Brock Tyler! Wow! The story oozed with sex appeal and sexual tension. What a guy! Lord have mercy!

sheandeen said...

Charlene, I love hearing about various author's journey to being published. Thank you for sharing yours. I have just recently started reading the Desire line and enjoyed Reserved for the Tycoon.

Charlene Sands said...

Hi Stacey,
It seems my story is one of perserverance, just like so many of us! Yep, to the leap of faith comment! So true!

Charlene Sands said...

Hi Kate,
Thanks for stopping by! This is a great new site, isn't it?

Hazel said...

I simply have to add a comment, because I am on a wee break from my first day at a one-week writing colony -- talk about motivating! A room to myself with no distractions, don't have cellphone service here, and we get meals without entering a kitchen. I'm working on a short fiction, a romance based on my grandmother's trek out west in 1911 to get married after a four year courtship by letter.

I, too, have a desire (secret, until now) to write a western. Some day, with perseverance (thanks for your example!), I'll do it.

Thanks for joining the Chicks today.

Charlene Sands said...

Hi Linda and Mary,
Thanks for dropping by. Yes, in hindsight, I'm incredibly thankful that first book didn't sell!!

Charlene Sands said...

Hi Sheandeen,
Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed the story!

Hi Hazel,
Wow, sounds like the perfect setting to getting your story written! You should definitely write that western!

Charlene Sands said...

Thanks for the kind words about Petticoats. It's the brainchild of Pam Crooks. We didn't all know each other, but I knew Karen Kay and Pam knew Mary Connealy and then we brought Kate in after an author dropped out. We all get along great and have fun together!

Janet C. said...

Hey Charlene, great having you here on the Prairies. And is there a party going on here, or what! Welcome to all the others who've braved the cold Prairie day.

Perseverance - my mantra as I work on this new career. I love to read success stories and yours is fabulous. 11 manuscripts - wow. But I think your belief in yourself and your conviction that this is what you were meant to do really touched me. In the back of my mind, through all the rejections, all the painfully hopeless statistics, I hear that little voice that says "I want this!". And I believe one day I will have it.

Thanks for sharing your story (and the little aside about Pierce Brosnon - OMG). I look forward to reading your books.


Charlene Sands said...

Hi Janet,

Looks like you're on the right track about writing. Never give up, never surrender. You'll make it as long you keep learning and keep writing. It's really a growing process too. Thanks for you nice post!

Anita Mae Draper said...

I'm still enjoying your Pierce Brosnan lunch. :) OOeee now there's a hero for ya!

I have a hard time finding your backlist books, Charlene. It's only in the last couple years since I've gone back to writing that I've started reading Harlequins again and I've been scouring used book stores and library sales trying to pick up the ones I've missed. It seems to me that the authors I know who write the real emotional stories are the ones I can never find.

In fact, I was thrilled to find a copy of Winning Jenna's Heart a couple weeks ago. It must be a good one if the readers are hoarding it. I'll let you know when I do my review during the Harlequin Historicals spotlight month in May.

CherylStJohn said...

I am so glad you persisted, because I love your stories, Charlene! I had many many many of those rejections, too. Seven years worth, but I deserved most of them. LOL Some of my early stuff was pathetic.

Anonymous said...

congrats on teh books
loveyou r deisres


Anonymous said...

What an inspiring post Charlene. It should be required reading for every aspiring writer. Love your new cover. Can't wait to read the book.
Elizabeth Lane

Charlene Sands said...

And the autographed book goes to Sheandeen! Congratulations!

Just email me privately at
with Prairie Chicks
Winner in your subject and I'll send you a book of choice from this list:
Taming the Texan
Bodine's Bounty
Western Weddings
Five Star Cowboy
Do Not Disturb Until Christmas
The Corporate Raider's Revenge
Fortune's Vengeful Groom
Bunking Down with the Boss

Hope to hear from you soon!!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Charlene, thank you so much for sharing your journey to publ'n with us. You are an inspiration not only to those of us who are struggling with Rejections, but to established authors as well if we can go by your Petticoats and Pistol pals.

Speaking of P&P, I'll speak for all the Chicks and thank you for inviting them over here. Hopefully, we can do with this group blog what you all have accomplished with P&P.

Now, I'm off to do the announcement posting Sheandeen/Nancy as the winner of your book.