Saturday, June 14, 2008

Saturday with Cindy Kirk

I'm so happy to welcome Cynthia Rutledge, aka Cindy Kirk, today. She's a perfect example of a contest successs story. Thanks for being with us today, Cindy.

It's my Anniversary!

No, I wasn't a June Bride. But on June 17, 1999 at approximately 3:28 PM I sold my first book!

Before I go into more detail, let's do a flashback. I started writing romance by taking a course in the Fall of 2005 appropriately titled "How to Write a Romance Novel." In high school I wanted to be a writer, but I'd never known anyone who wrote a book and I gave up on my dream before it had a chance to get started. So I got married, graduated from college, had a baby and started on a career. Still, the love of story telling remained. I would make up different ends to movies and television shows, fall asleep not by counting sheep but by making up stories. I thought everyone did that! lol

So, I took the course and started writing my first book. I also joined a local Romance Writers of America chapter, went to a regional writing conference and then to the RWA National Conference (1996). I finished my first book in June of 2006 (six months after I started writing it) and promptly sent it to Harlequin. It was called Somebody's Baby. It was rejected, but with a request to start it at a different point and resubmit. Stupid me...I did not redo and resubmit. Fast forward to 1999 and four books later.

I'd sent a query to Steeple Hill on my current WIP (work-in-progress) "Faith on a Harley." The response came back quickly "Not interested." I entered the book in the Faith Hope and Love Chapter's Touched by Love contest. Although you just send your first three chapters, you had to have a complete book to enter (which I did). But while the judging was going on, I decided I didn't like the book and cut it from 270 pages to novella length (100 pages) and GOT RID OF THE EXTRA PAGES. Of course it ended up winning the contest and the first prize is a critique of THE WHOLE BOOK by Patience Smith, who was then an assistant editor at Steeple Hill. If you've been following along carefully, you now know I NO LONGER HAVE THE COMPLETE BOOK. And to make matters worse--or better, depending on how you look at it--Silhouette Special Edition (SSE) requests a full of my 4th book!

Knowing Steeple Hill will only reject my book (remember, they'd already told me they weren't interested in the story line) I concentrate on the SSE....which didn't sell. :( Then I returned my attention to Faith on a Harley. Mostly because I was getting a push from the contest coordinator to get the book in or she'd give the prize to the second place finisher, I finally get it back up to 190 pages (80 short of Steeple Hill's word count at the time) and send it in.

I was shocked to get a note back from Patience Smith several weeks later saying that she'd loved the book and wanted her senior editor to read it. I wasn't stupid (even though you might think that from some of the things I'd done), I knew this was a good sign...because only the senior editors can buy for the line. But as I used to tell people, I'd been to the trough before but never been allowed to drink.

Then....on June 17, 1999...the phone rings. I'd been out of town for my job and had gotten back early. It was a nice day and instead of going into work I went home, took a book and a cold soda out on the deck to relax. The phone rings...and I hear a voice say "Cynthia Rutledge?" I think...telemarketer and almost hang up. But I don't. Instead I say, "Yes, this is Cynthia." Patience Smith tells me who she is and asks me how I'm doing. I say the very witty "fine" and when she says "I think you're going to be even better when you hear what I have to say" I know this is "THE CALL" that every writer dreams of....

She bought the book and my revisions were to add 80 pages! "Faith on a Harley" became "Unforgettable Faith," my first book for Steeple Hill!

Every year, I send Patience a note thanking her for giving me a chance and letting my dreams come true.

Thanks for letting me share my story and my anniversary with you!

I now write as Cindy Kirk, but I still have my Cynthia Rutledge web site ( so if you'd like to check out the cover of that first book and read an excerpt, it's there for you! BTW, the book SSE turned down became my 3rd book for Steeple Hill "The Marrying Kind" It's on the web site, too.

Cindy Kirk learned at an early age the value of having an active imagination. If she didn’t like the ending of a television show or movie, she simply thought of a different one. Or if she had difficulty falling asleep, instead of counting sheep, she made up a story. When she was sixteen she penned these words in her diary: “I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t be a writer.”

But it would be several decades before her dream would become a reality. Now a wife and mother, Cindy is a writer of contemporary sensual romance. She invites you to get to know her by reading her novel and visiting her website at and her My Space page at


  1. Happy Anniversary and welcome to Seekerville, Cindy! Thanks for sharing your story with us. Sending a note to Patience Smith each year on the date of your Call is a lovely idea.

    It's neat how contests played a huge role in your sale. We can learn from your experience to save every version of our books. You never know when you'll need it. :-)

    The anniversary of my Call is June 29, 2006 when Melissa Endlich bought my book for Love Inspired Historical, now titled Courting Miss Adelaide. Our wedding anniversary is three days earlier. Any guesses which anniversary means the most? :-) No it's not the Call anniversary, but it's a close, right after the birth of our daughters.

    The suns out and it's heating up. Did you bring your bathing suit?


  2. Welcome to Seekerville, Cindy.

    Cindy has been a guest speaker at Unpub Isand, motivating and answering questions for the unpublished Seekers. We appreciate her generosity to share her expertise and experiences.

    Your call story is so inspiring...and I love happy endings, lol.

    BTW your new release book cover is awesome.

    How do you balance writing with working full time? And a family?

  3. Happy Saturday, Cindy, and happy anniversary too! Thanks for spending the weekend with us in Seekerville!

    I have to admit, you have been a real curiosity to me because of your two distinct markets -- the CBA and ABA. I actually wanted my agent to pitch me to the ABA over the CBA because of the edginess (sensuality-wise) of my books, but she told me they were too spiritual for the ABA. So tell me, do you still write for both the CBA and ABA or just in the ABA as Cindy Kirk? And if just the ABA, I'm curious as to why?

    Thanks, Cindy, for being here today.


  4. Good morning, everyone! I slept in this morning! Just woke up having a nighmare that a tornado was heading our way. Weird morning!

    But I'm finally here. And since I don't have Ruthy's baking talents, I'm brigning cereal and poptarts for breakfast. Or maybe since it's the weekend, I can offer frozen pancakes. :)

    Cindy, happy anniversary! And thanks so much for sharing your great story. Janet was right about it bringing home the lesson to save all versions of a story! LOL

    Missy--who's going to go have coffee now. I'm looking for an IV line. :)

  5. Janet,

    It looks like we both have our anniversary in June, except you were also a June bride. Congrats on both!


    So nice to hear from you! In terms of balance, I continue to write all my new pages on Saturday (15-20pages) and then revise those pages all through the week. That works for me since I'm fairly brain dead after a day in the office...but I can revise while watching TV. :)

    I still do things with friends and family but I guard my Saturday time zealously.

    I really think being out in the world stimulates creativity...though sometimes all I want to do is stay home and write!


    Good questions. Since moving over to the ABA side, I haven't done any more CBA books. Not for lack of interest, but because of time constraints. I try to write at least two books a year and with working, I'm maxed out.

    My characters still go to church and believe. In the book I just finished for Silhouette Special Edition, it's something they both hear in a sermon that helps them to come together in the end.

    So, it's nice to be able to have that be a part of the story. But the message certainly can't be a big part of the book, like it is in inspirationals.


    Thank goodness the tornado heading your way was only in your dream!!

    Actually I'm glad that I got rid of those extra pages. The book was so much better "the second time around." Anyone else have that experience?

  6. I just had the second time around, too, Cindy. I think you're right. Mine was actually a re-write that I did after a rejection. It sold the second time around and was a better book.

    I learn more each time I write one!

    Can you remind me what you do for your weekday job? I had forgotten that you only write on Saturdays. That's amazing productivity!


  7. Hi, Cindy. I haven't seen you since the "Turning the Pages of Romance" stopped.
    Do you ever get to the HWG meetings in Omaha? I've been trying to attend them but it's a long, long drive for me and I fail as often as I succeed.

    I just finished One Night Stand. Very fun book.

  8. And it's your anniversary...or almost? I know the day I got my first contract. I'm going to start celebrating that as an anniversary, too. It's a great idea. What a huge thrill.

    You know, I do that too, rewrite movies I'm watching and books I'm reading. But even more that that, especially on movies, I know what's going to happen next. I can't believe everybody doesn't.

    And there is NOTHING I love more than to watch a movie and when it's over thing, "I've never heard that story before. That is completely fresh and new."

    I remember thinking that about Ghost Busters and Back to the Future.

    That doesn't mean I don't see movies that are great that are familiar tales, but once in a while someone does something completely fresh and original and I absolutely LOVE that.

  9. Missy,

    I work for a major insurance company in Provider Relations. I enjoy it and the people I work with but it's busy all the time and very mentally taxing.

    Everyone develops their own schedule, but Saturdays really work for me. :)


    Hello! I miss the Turning the Pages of Romance conference, too! I still belong to Heartland Writers Group (HWG) but rarely make the meetings since...they're on Saturdays! I usually make it to the Christmas party.

    I used to think everyone rewrote movie and TV show plots...and then realized no, only writers do that. :)

    I also love reading or seeing something on television or in movies that is unique and different. Of course, I usually say to myself "why didn't I think of that?"

  10. Thanks for sharing about your ABA books. A few of us Seekers do not write for CBA, such as myself.

    My characters remain responsive to their moral and spiritual beliefs in the pages of the manuscript- they simply express it more subtly.

  11. Aha!!! I left nursing and now work full time with a major mail order pharmacy in Order Entry--I know a bit about trying to keep those insurance people happy!!

  12. Tina,

    I'm also a nurse! Sounds like we both ended up in careers where we can use that medical background.

    It's interesting to me how many times we use our own experiences and backgrounds in a book.

    I just wish I'd come from a wealthy family cuz it's hard for me to know how the rich and famous truly live.

    BTW, does anyone have a website that tells what a normal day in the life of say, an accountant would be? Sometimes when I give a character an occupation I need more information about their daily schedule...and I thought there was some website that went into that detail...but I can't find it!

  13. Tina, I know there's a set of books that tell about different careers. I sent information that got put in one. But I'm drawing a big blank on the title and author. I'll take a look on my shelves and let you know (I have a copy of one of them.)

    Let us know if you find that website, though!


  14. Sixth Sense did that for me, Mary--was one that blew me away with surprise. But of course, you had that one figured out! I still can't believe you did.

    I'm really bad about figuring most movies out, too. I make my family so mad because I say it ahead of time. :)

  15. Hi Cynthia/Cyndi/Cindy! LOL! Just had to pop over, say hi, and wish you happy anniversary. I always enjoy those 'call' stories.

    Linda Goodnight

  16. Linda,

    It's so good to hear from you! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I really miss you and all my old friends from the Love Inspired loop.

    For those who haven't wrote for Steeple Hill, it is--or anyway, was--a very cohesive group of authors. It was almost like having an extended family. And I truly miss all of you!

  17. Hey, Linda. Thanks for stopping by!

    Well, I'm going to go watch baseball. I'll check back in later this afternoon.

    Check out Florida State on ESPN!! My nephews are playing in the college world series. :) (Buster and Jack Posey)


  18. I meant to say how much I loved all of Cynthia's LI books! And I really look forward to your new book, too!


  19. Well hello Cynthia - that's where you are! I love your books. You are one of the few authors that I will buy a book with your name without paying attention to the title, cover or back blurb b/c I know I'll love it. For some reason, Wedding Bell Blues sticks in my head.

    I've been wondering what happened to you since you put an on-line read on the SH thread last fall. You see, I don't usually read them but since you wrote it...

    Anyway, Dream invited us to comment. I did. I posted that as usual, I loved your story but was wondering how it made it to the SH board when it seemed more suited to the HR, HAR or SSE. I mean, it barely touched on inspy. Dream answered that due to length constraints, yada, yada, yada. No one posted after that and the thread died. A month later, we switched to the new eharl site and you haven't written anything since. Or so I thought.

    So, hello Cindy. I have a lot of SSE's in my tbr pile but not a single Cindy Kirk. Hmmm. I'll have to change that.

  20. Cindy,

    Thanks for sharing your story. I can't imagine having to add 80 pages to a finished manuscript. CRAZY!

    And, hey, HAPPY ANNIVERSARY. I love the idea of sending your editor a little something-something every year.


  21. Hi, Anita Mae and Renee! So glad you stopped by.


  22. Anita Mae,

    Thanks for the nice comments.

    Yes, Wedding Bell Blues is one of my books. It was also a winner of the Bookseller's Best Award. Patience told me she thought it was the most sensual book Love Inspired had put out.

    All I know was that it was one of the hardest ones I've ever written. The couple reunites after ten years apart and has this impulsive marriage in Las Vegas. They then have to decide if they're going to make it work. I never realized how hard it would be to write a romance about a married couple.

    I recently read Oceans Apart by Karen Kingsbury and she did a great job with a married couple who were teetering on the verge of divorce.

    Anyone read/written any good books with married couple?


    Can you see me waving all the way to you from Nebraska?? Can't wait for your LI Historical to be on the shelves! February 2009, right? Remind me again of the title???


    This is a great blog site and I'm really enjoying being here!

  23. Cindy, I really enjoyed reading your story to publication. In fact, I logged on and had to go pee but was going to pull up the site, then go while waiting for it to load. Well, it loaded so fast today! I sat here holding it in, and reading. I was going to leave your post, but something about LI caught my eye, so I stayed. I was in agony but wanted to keep reading. Then when I was almost done, my 9 yo son came up and asked me a question. I actually snarled at him before realizing what I was doing!

    Talk about having my priorities screwed up today. Anyway, I took care of 'business', gave ds a really good hug, and went back to reading.

    I realized that's exactly how I feel reading your books...I don't want to put them down.

    I have a question for you though. I write book reviews both on my personal blog and on my eharl blog. When I looked at your cynthia website and then at your cindy site, I noticed the two don't cross ref each other.

    So when I write my book reviews, do you want me to mention both your names or leave them as separate identities?

  24. Cindy,

    Waving right back at ya from good old hot, hotter, HOTTEST Georgia (I just went to a grammar workshop today, so I know the above is correct on so many levels).

    My first LIH is called THE MARSHAL TAKES A BRIDE. And without Cindy's fabulous critiquing it wouldn't have made it to publication. So, this is my first official THANK YOU!


  25. Cindy!

    Storms knocked out my Internet connection last night...

    I'd have come by sooner, so nice to 'see' you, Girl!

    FYI, Cindy was gracious enough to do a private chat session months ago with a group of Seekers labeled the "Plan B'ers", those of us still whiling away the time on Unpubbed Island, and she was frank, honest, open, heartfelt and very approachable.

    So of course we'd ask her to do more, right????

    Thanks so much for coming by today, Ms. Kirk. I've played on your website a bit and find that you are a delightfully normal albeit somewhat whacked woman. Since that describes all of us in Seekerville, we feel right at home cozyin' up to the table with you.

    Did anyone bring food?

    I'll check it out. Had to work today and I'm starving. Not literally. It would take a long, long stint of fasting to make me starve, but I AM hungry...

    Talk amongst yourselves like you've been doing so nicely all day.

    And I'm going to see who picked Cindy's mind and for what purpose. With a sandwich in hand.



  26. Cindy, I have a son-in-law that's a corporate accountant and a son who's a financial analyst and a son working on his masters in auditing and finance, so if I can be of any help, let me know.

    And they're all total hotties and I don't mean Clark Kent beta male.

    I'm not prejudiced, of course.


  27. Happy anniversary Cindy! How exciting. I have Unforgettable Faith on my shelves. Even after all these years, I remember the opening scene. Great book!

    And I'm familiar with not having the ms. complete when you win the TBL. Not a good idea in hindsight.


    Oh...rejoice with me Seekers. I just typed "THE END" today! Got a lot of revision to do, but I made it all the way to the end.


  28. Anita Mae,

    Thanks so much for asking. I don't mind if you mention both names in a review. I don't do any cross promotion because I don't want anyone to pick up a Cindy Kirk book under the mistaken impression that it's an inspirational. But the writing style is very much the same, so if the reader doesn't mind a little sexier book...


    So nice of you to post. I remember you finaled when I was doing the Touched by Love contest.

    I can't remember the name of the entry--but I know it was GOOD--and I remember how much I enjoyed visiting with you on the phone.

    Thanks for offering the services of your family members expertise. I may just take you up on that one of these days.


    I love warm weather but the very hot and humid I can do without. Also no more tornado warnings...we've had too much bad weather in Nebraska already.


    So happy you stopped by to say hello. I feel like I'm surrounded by old friends here!

    Mega congratulations on writing "The End." I just did that a couple weeks ago myself and it is such a fabulous feeling.

  29. Hi, Cindy! Loved your story! Your books sound great.

    Yea, Pam! Congrats on finishing your WIP!

    I finaled in the TBL contest this year, and my book isn't quite finished either. Ha. But I am SO CLOSE! I'm working on the FINAL SCENE--yes!--and then I have to go back and add some stuff in, and add a couple of scenes I skipped. Thank goodness the SH editor who saw it in another contest only requested the first three chapters and a synopsis. Whew! This is the book that just refuses to let me type THE END. I've been working on it for a year and a half, NOT including research time before I started writing. But soon, very soon...

  30. Melanie,

    Woo-hoo,congrats on finaling in the TBL. I've always said it's THE premier contest for unpublished inspirational authors and the competition is always stiff.

    And now it's before an editor--what an exciting time for you.

    My fingers are crossed that you finish the book, they request the full and LOVE it!!

  31. Hey Cindy,

    Thanks for your response about writing ABA over CBA -- you write two books a year and also work a fulltime job??? YIKES, I am impressed!

    And you asked if anybody had read any good books with married couples -- I absolutely LOVE Outlander by Diana Gabaldon because there is no illicit sex -- just a WONDERFUL (and very sexy) marriage relationship between the hero and heroine. It was so good, in fact, I had to fast Diana Gabaldon to finish my 3rd book because she was soooo good, she made me feel ... well, no so good.

    My debut novel, A Passion Most Pure, has a really great (and sexy) relationship between the mother and father in the book, which was one of the reasons my publisher bought it. Married love can be REALLY exciting and dramatic in a story, can't it though???!


  32. Julie,

    Thanks for two great suggestions!

    I love the title of your book. I'm definitely going to have to pick it up.

    Did you find it hard writing a romance between a married couple?

  33. Yay, Pam!! Congrats on typing The End. And Melanie, I know you'll be there soon, too! Uay!

    Cindy, I've written a story with a married couple (that hasn't sold). When I first started it, it was going to be more of a women's fiction story--I had thought the wife would leave the husband and move on with her life. But once I got into it, I found I couldn't do that. I had to reconcile them and have a romantic ending. I guess I can't write anything but romance!

    The hardest thing for me about the story was tring to write the conflict between them without making either of them look like the bad guy.


  34. Okay, the key to my spelling:

    uay = yay

    tring = trying

    Sorry for my bad typing. I have a sore finger. :)


  35. Missy,

    I totally hear you...I have to have that happy ending.

    I was talking to a friend last night and she kept asking me why I don't write more mainstream fiction...I told her that's because I LOVE romance.

  36. The only way I could write a book that didn't have the heroine meeting Mr. Right would be if it was going to be a series and I knew she would find him eventually. Even then, it would be hard!

    For me, reading is escapism. I don't want realism. I want the fairy tale. :)


  37. Cindy, you've been great to hang out with us today! Thank you! We've enjoyed it.

    I'm going to sign off for the night. My daughter and I are going to watch Animal Planet. :)


  38. Cindy, I've been out all day, but I knew you were going to be in Seekerville and I couldn't wait to get home and read your post!

    I loved hearing about your journey to publication. Can I just say I am in awe of your adherence to the Saturday writing and weekday revising schedule? And the fact that you have a challenging day job AND write 2 books a year blows me away!

    I also wanted to thank you for calling me (back in March) to say I was a GH finalist. I hesitate to mention it because I was incoherent and highly emotional. But you were extremely kind and encouraging, and it meant the world to me! :)

    Wishing you much continued success in your career(s)! - Anne

    P.S. - Pam, way to go on typing "the end." I think you should celebrate with a margarita!

  39. Anne,

    I'm so happy you stopped by to say hello. Making those GH calls was so much fun. As a board member, I'll be at the RITA/GH reception so we should be able to connect.

    Can't wait to say good luck, face-to-face!

  40. Cindy,

    You asked "Did you find it hard writing a romance between a married couple?"

    Actually, no, because I am blessed with a marriage that after 30 years, through help from the Word of God, is more incredible today than ever before. So the married couple in A Passion Most Pure are actually modeled after my my relationship with my husband ... uh, including the romantically tense scenes. :) I am a drama queen, and my husband is a saint, so we have LOTS of colorful stories that I infuse into Marcy and Patrick's (the mom & dad in my book) lives. I am a FIRM believer that romance can be alive and well (and challenging) AFTER the vows are said!

    I am definitely going to have to get your book, Cindy! I'm putting it right now on my TBR list.

    And, Missy, you said: "For me, reading is escapism. I don't want realism. I want the fairy tale."

    Oh, ament to that! I am fond of saying that I am a "Calgon, take me away" kind of author/reader, not slice of life such as women't fiction portrays. Life is hard enough ... I don't want to compound it by reading about somebody's problems too.


  41. I agree happy anniversary.
    im late to get to this again.

    thanks for the info on aba and cba
    (i live on readers island and we often wonder about these things it could also be im an aussie and the aussies on the island are curious)

  42. Julie,

    I agree totally. I want to be uplifted and feel happy when I finish reading a book, not be sad and depressed. (Oprah book club anyone?)


    Thanks for chiming in! I'm so happy you could stop by and say hello!!

  43. Cindy, you inspire me. Thank you for sharing your story with Missy so she could share it with me.

  44. Me too! Me too! Give me the fairy tale. Don't care for the disease of the month book or the angst-ridden family problems book. I'd NEVER be able to finish writing my book if it didn't have a happily ever after ending.

  45. Angie,

    Hello!! So glad you could stop by. I enjoy telling that story because it was--and is--so special to me. It's one of those days I'll always remember....calling friends and family, celebrating something that I'd hoped and dreamed of for so long.

    What I didn't add was that I really think writing inspirationals helped me develop three dimensional characters...which is what I struggled with in the previous (unsold) books I'd written.


    You said it...give me a happy ending ANY time.

  46. Happy Anniversary, Cindy!

    It was fun hearing your call story..and I remember reading your Steeple Hill books and loving them. Your heroines particularly have a way of standing out.


  47. Can't believe I missed Cindy's post and this great conversation on Saturday.

    I loved all the Cynthia Rutledge books so I suspect I'll enjoy the Cindy Kirk books since the voice is very similar and the characters still believe. A little sexy doesn't bother me one bit.