Got an email today from a (my?) potential editor at Cerridwen Press, asking me if I had a timeline for when my revised manuscript would be winging its way back to them. Thankfully, I had already finished the edits and squirted it off to my agent for submission to Cerridwen, so I was able to answer..."Pretty darn soon, Ms. Editor" with the appropriate cc: to my agent. My agent extracted all the relevant information from me (that is, a copy of the revision letter) and now...we play the waiting game.
And I can't sleep.
Do I dare hope that this will finally get published? Have I jinxed it by talking about it? By searching for information on marketing? By thinking about the next 4 manuscripts which I could send to them "pretty darn soon," and if I do, would they laugh in my face and say, "Yes, this first one was okay, but these others..." shiver delicately, "We don't think so."
Because I have a dirty little secret. Yes, I write Regencies which could be construed as traditional Regencies, except, they are really more like Regency suspense. And therein lies the rub. Georgette Heyer got away with it in books like These Old Shades but somehow, folks have forgotten that not all Regencies were sweet, drawing room confections when the genre first started out. Many were actually action-adventure or Regency suspense. It is my contention that the traditional Regency all but died out because the only thing editors bought were chock full of tooth-numbing sweetness without the bite of adventure and mystery which leavened so many of Heyer's works. I believe if the genre is to make a comeback with Cerridwen, they must offer the entire, original toothsome array of taffy-sweet, to sweet-with-nuts, to those with the bittersweet bite of adventure and mystery subplots.
I sincerely hope Cerridwen plans on doing just that, and that I'm just needlessly worrying.
But I'm nervous and it's keeping me up at night. I want to believe I can start making plans - planning a marketing strategy - modifying my web site with cool information about the books coming out, but until I start signing contract(s) it seems premature. Especially since I just don't know how they will react to the rest of my stuff.
My first manuscript which they are interested in has a wee bit of darkness (and in the revisions, I took out most of it). The next ones have murder (occurs off-stage) and some fights. Nothing you wouldn't find in a cozy mystery or one of Heyer's books. And yet I'm afraid they are going to say, um, Ms. Author, these aren't sweet enough.
I've also realized in working through the revisions that what I thought of as writing "light and frothy Regency fun" is only fun in a Kill Bill sort of way. I admit it, I think the movie Kill Bill is hilarious in a zany-sick, action-packed sort of way. I realize now that my sense of humor is the Twilight Zone / Night Gallery / Dawn of the Dead kind of humor and it may not translate too well in the world of books. It's black humor, dark humor, macabre & sarcastic humor, the "laugh in the face of death because you're not going to get another chance" humor. It's a lying on the ground, bleeding to death, trying to hold your guts in while you ask, "Can I get a do-over?" humor.
Well, until I sell A Smuggled Rose and get that second sale, which I hope will be One Honest Man, I won't know how small Cerridwen's box is going to be. I'm hoping it will be a large, roomy box. If they take One Honest Man, they'll take I Bid One American and The Bricklayer's Helper because they are similar in terms of action/adventure/suspense elements. And if they take those, I can finish Grave Mistakes and offer that to them.
Then, I just have the problem of the much more serious The Vital Principle and The Left-Handed Wife where the romance is the subplot and the mystery is the main plot, and they are not...well...very sweet. There are a lot of elements which will make some people uncomfortable. A few of the characters act in despicable and really not-very-nice ways. A murder or two occur very much on-stage, although there is no blood spilled, per se.
Sometimes I think I am not a very nice person, myself. But then again, I view my writing as a sort of therapy. After talking to egregiously stupid people all day on my real job, I have to have some way to take out my frustration in a wholesome and even humorous way. Okay, so I kill a few characters, sometimes in rather gruesome ways, and the other characters stand around and make jokes about it.
Is that really so bad?