I got an email from a reader this morning, mentioning that she’d seen my name in a Mills and Boon 100th Anniversary collection. I wrote back immediately telling her that she probably already has this story — which is a Christmas novella called The Virtuous Widow. That’s the 100th Anniversary cover on the right.
This edition doesn’t look either Christmasy or historical, and at the time it came out I got a few complaints from readers who, going by the cover, hadn’t expected a Regency-era story.
Once I have contracted a book to a publisher, I have no control over what they do with it. That said, it was a huge honor that my novella had been chosen for the 100th anniversary collection, and despite the modern-looking cover, I was thrilled to be included.
The Virtuous Widow was originally contracted to be part of a Christmas collection with US authors Miranda Jarret and Lyn Stone. It was an honor to be asked, as they were well established authors and I was a relative newbie. In fact such a newbie was I that it was my first ever novella, and I didn’t have a clue how long a novella should be.
It was my first-ever Christmas story, and to prepare myself for writing it, I read several other Christmas stories, and discovered that I loved them. I submitted mine at something like 46,000 words, and my editor wrote back, saying it should be a maximum of 30,ooo. So I had a quite a bit of cutting to do. However cutting always improves a book, I think, even though it’s quite a painful process.
I try not to lose anything important, so it’s a matter of pruning out unnecessary bits and writing tighter, punchier sentences.
I didn’t read the other stories in the book until it was published and a few copies arrived in the post, so there was no attempt to link the stories, apart from them all being Christmas stories.
Then Mills and Boon (which is Harlequin UK) decided to release my story in a collection with two different authors — Gayle Wilson (from the USA) and UK author Nicola Cornick. They called it Regency Brides, and that’s the cover on the right.
I didn’t know Gayle — we’ve since become FaceBook friends — but I knew Nicola, and after I’d read the collection (again when my author copies arrived in the post) we joked that it could easily be called “Battered Bridegrooms” as each of the heroes in the collection had some kind of injury.
If you have the choice between any of these editions, my favorite collection is the Regency Brides one. The paperback is still around in used bookstores and amazon US is selling it here, but it’s pricey.
Since I discovered that I really enjoyed reading (and writing) Christmas novellas, I’ve written several. Two were in collections with the Word Wenches — Mischief and Mistletoe, and The Last Chance Christmas Ball.
They were a bit tough to write as because there were so many of us, the stories had to be even shorter than 30,000 words. More like half that. So as usual, I wrote the story I wanted to write, and then worked hard to cut it back to the required word length.
The Last Chance Christmas Ball was also a linked series of stories — all based around Lady Holly’s annual Christmas Ball, reputed to be the occasion where people will meet their life partners. That was fun, but again I had to cut for word length. It’s the story of my life, really. <g>
And then I wrote and published my own Christmas story, The Christmas Bride. I enjoyed writing it and I plan to write and self-publish more in the future. Do you like Christmas stories?