|Patricia McLinn -- From Wildflowers to Lemons and Back Again|
When writer Patricia McLinn looked out her window just a few weeks ago, everything was coming up wildflowers -- Wyoming wildflowers associated with the heroines of McLinn's next three contemporary romances. In fact, it looked so much like a summertime lemonade commercial, the gods decided to hand her some lemons.
On May 14, McLinn launched a contest in honor of her new Silhouette Special Editions trilogy -- Almost a Bride (June 2001), Match Made in Wyoming (July 2001) and My Heart Remembers (December 2001). The contest offered readers a chance to win a matted and framed pastel by renowned Virginia artist Moira McQuillen. The Scarlet Indian Paintbrush, Fireweed and Bur-Marigold depicted in McQuillen's Wyoming Wildflowers relate to the character and circumstances of each of the series' heroines.
Although McLinn focused past contest offerings on simple book drawings, she felt these three books deserved something special. "I knew from the time I came up with the series name, 'Wyoming Wildflowers,' that I wanted to celebrate the trilogy and the wildflowers," McLinn said. "At first I was going to give away packets of seeds. But I kept wrestling with problems. I couldn't find the combination of packaging, price and quality control I wanted -- I sure didn't want readers to sow wildflowers and have weeds come up!"
Plus, McLinn couldn't be certain that wildflowers accustomed to Wyoming's climate and soil would thrive anywhere else. "When I found myself thinking about organizing 'zoned' packets of wildflower seeds depending on readers' zipcodes, I could envision the project taking over my life," McLinn said.
Fortunately, McLinn's dog Riley (the star model on the cover of Match Made in Wyoming) came to the rescue. While walking Riley and thinking about her contest challenge, writer and dog passed the McQuillen's house, and everything clicked into place. "A painting thrives everywhere," McLinn said. "It's durable and enjoyable all year round. I'd gone another half block before I doubled back, hooked the dog's leash to the front railing and presented my idea to Moira."
The idea grew like fireweed. The contest opened on McLinn's Web site without a snag. McLinn kept the registration process and requirements simple. Notifications went out on time. The contest entry form on the site worked like a champ.
Then came the lemons. Not from the reviewers, who love the books and think the series gets better as it builds to its finale in My Heart Remembers. No, the lemons came in the form of typos that affect the national and international distribution of Almost a Bride and Match Made in Wyoming.
McLinn discovered that Books in Print and the computers that rely on it listed Almost a Bride under the wrong author's name -- McClinn (with a double "C") instead of McLinn. Then she learned that not only did Books in Print list the author's name wrong for the second book in the trilogy, they also got the title wrong. With a few careless keystrokes, "Match Made in Wyoming by Patricia McLinn" became "'Match Made in Heaven' by Patricia McClinn."
"The covers [for the books] are right," McLinn said, "It's the computers that have it wrong. So the books readers see in stores will be fine. But if a reader should want to order one of the books and gives the correct author name or title, most computers will say the book doesn't exist. A few spots have fixed the error, but it's very hit-or-miss."
The ISBNs -- the unique, numeric codes assigned to a book on its publication -- attached to Almost a Bride (0-373-24404-5) and Match Made in Wyoming (0-373-24409-6) are correct. So books ordered by these ISBNs, regardless of the author or title listed, will give readers the novel they seek.
McLinn praised her editor and her publisher Silhouette for doing everything possible to rectify the situation for readers and booksellers. "But I've been warned by others that once the error is in the computers, trying to fix it is a little like trying to fill sandbags when the water's already at your throat."
So McLinn decided to make more lemonade to match the idyllic view of Wyoming wildflowers in her books and McQuillen's matted and framed pastel. Her "Wyoming Wildflowers" contest will continue to accept entries emailed or postmarked by February 1, 2002, as planned. Plus McLinn added two impromptu contests that give her readers more opportunities to win while poking fun at the situation in which she finds herself.
Her Web site now offers readers the chance to win books for the most original spelling of "McLinn" and the best fill-in-the-blank for "Match Made in _____." In addition, McLinn said, "Since it takes extra effort to find books credited to the wrong author and listed by the wrong title, and in honor of my July book highlighting the alter-ego of my dog Riley, I'm conferring the order of FIDO -- Fearless, Ingenious, Determined and Obdurate -- on all my readers who persevere."
Riley must feel very proud, even if he doesn't like lemonade all that much.
Jean Marie Ward