This past weekend was tremendously exciting for me and I have to share my adventures with you all. The Romance Writers of America (RWA) held its 28th annual conference in San Francisco this year. Now, I am not a member of the RWA (yet) for several reasons, the main one being ignorance, I suppose, as this whole publishing venture as a career is still so new to me, but also because – as you all probably know – I am not a ‘romance’ reader in general. In fact, even though I will readily admit that my tale is extremely romantic, I am still not sure if it falls into what is commonly thought of as a ‘romance’ novel. I am beginning to alter that frame of mind, but up until this weekend I simply gave the idea of joining an organization such as the RWA little thought. But, I will talk more on that subject at a later date! The point here is that Sourcebooks has a large and very successful imprint division called Casablancathat covers all their romance genres, including the Austen/Regency novels – of which yours-truly is a part of! So naturally there were representatives from Sourcebooks at the conference, and this is where it gets exciting for me!
All the Sourcebooks Casablanca authors were invited to join our editor, Deb Werksman, for a dinner in our honor. Even though I did not plan to attend the conference, I was encouraged to come, and since SF is only a few hours from where we live, I jumped at the chance! Along with the delightful prospect of finally meeting face-to-face the person who I have spoken to almost weekly for the past year and who has nearly single-handedly made this dream a possibility for me, was also the thrilling opportunity to meet the publicist, Danielle Jackson, who will be handling the marketing aspects when the official version of Two Shall Become One ~ Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy is released next spring. The truth is that I refused to dwell overly on what would occur while in SF, deciding to just drive on up and go with the flow, as they say! At the least, I told my skeptical self, I will probably get a fine meal out of the deal! Ha!!
Well…I got WAY more than that and am still reeling from the experience! It all began with my meeting with Danielle. I arrived at the SF Marriott, a fabulous hotel in the financial district where the RWA conference was being held, to be greeting by a veritable sea of women! It was chaos! The noise level was intense, but the excitement of innumerable people all tied to the world of romance and publishing hobnobbing together was palpable. Danielle turned out to be this absolutely adorable young lady in her mid-20s, petite and cute as a bug, but with vast amounts of energy and enthusiasm! And, I am overjoyed to relate, very savvy at her job! She had me in a whirl at all the plans for getting the news of my book out to the masses of hopeless romantics who have not yet discovered me. It was amazing and it was the first real, tangible step toward me finally grasping that my sweet tale will really be a book promoted and taken seriously. Wow! I realized how ignorant I am, but luckily the Sourcebooks’ philosophy is to teach and include their authors in all aspects of the process. I am up for that!
After our meeting we gravitated to the raucous lobby where eventually I was introduced to Deb Werksman. What a fabulous moment! She was effusive in her enthusiasm, grabbing me for a big hug and warm welcome. My husband had asked me a few days before what I thought she looked like. How does one tell an appearance from talking on the phone? No idea, so I had no mental image at all. But one thing that did shock me was how tiny she is! Barely 5’3″, petite with tight curly hair, I never would have imagined the dynamo I talk to who transmits currents of oomph and know-how through the telephone wires would be such a slip of a thing! But the voice I instantly recognized even if it was a faint whisper over the din! True introductions had to wait as the clamor was deafening and the limos were ready.
Did I say ‘limo’ as in limousine? Yes, siree Bobby! 3 limos!! Ok, I did not stand up and hang out of the moon-roof and shout like a maniac! It was suggested – not by me – but we managed to control ourselves! Nevertheless, I was glad to know I was not the only geek getting a thrill out of being in a limo!! For the first time ever, I might add! Sadly the drive to Fisherman’s Wharf was not long enough to break into the champagne. Only time for introductions and casual conversation, but I will give more details on the fabulous fellow-authors I met in a bit. Dinner was at Ana Mandara, a five-star Vietnamese restaurant, and if ever in SF you have to eat there! The food was to die for and the atmosphere heavenly. However, as astounding as the ambience and cuisine, the real rush for me was being surrounded by my newly discovered peers and friends.
And, an incredible, truly mind-blowing bonus that I absolutely did not expect, was meeting the owner/founder/CEO/publisher of Sourcebooks, Dominique Raccah! I had no clue that she was going to be there! What a thrill as we were filing into the restaurant and it was brought to my attention that the woman steering us in to our seats with smiling fervor was her! The Sourcebooks Story, a short essay on the main website, recounts the tale of this remarkable woman who started her company in 1987, from her bedroom, and has lovingly managed to make it the largest, independent, women-owned company in America! I was, I will confess, hugely star-struck! But instantly in those initial few minutes as our group of 15 shuffled around the table, more interested in chatting than sitting, it was clear that she was warm, genuine, amiable, and just….normal!The kicker, for me, was when we finally met. I, through dumb luck and a bit of conscious maneuvering, ended up on the opposite side of the narrow table from Dominique, and Deb. Our eyes met as we were taking our seats and I quelled my extreme nervousness and timidity to lean across with my hand extended and say my name. Let me say right up front that I frankly, in total honesty, did not expect her to have a clue who I was. As gracious and gregarious as she obviously was, I truly expected a polite nod or mild greeting that deftly hid her obliviousness. Well, my reception shattered that idea and I am still not sure if I dreamed the whole episode or not! Her face literally lit up with an enormous smile, arms opened wide, and she lifted her voice above the tumult to declare, “You’re Sharon Lathan? That’s who you are? I can’t believe it is you! I am so happy to finally meet you!!….” And on and on, as I stood there with my lower lip on the floor and face bright red, while everyone ceased talking to stare as Dominique leaned bodily across the table to give me a hug! It was….surreal! Several of the ladies began asking me, “Who are you?” – to which I could not answer except to shrug in shock as Dominique was turning to the others and gushing on about my ‘wonderfully romantic stories’ and ‘bestselling eBooks’ and that I ‘drove 4 hours just to be here’ and I can’t even remember what all else. All the while Deb is standing by Dominique’s side with a huge grin and adding to the hoopla with lavish praise of The Darcy Saga. It lasted probably only a minute or two before conversation resumed and we took our seats, but it is a span of time I will never forget!
Now, let me be clear that I was the newbie at this function. All the other authors were attending the conference, had already met Deb and Dominique, and most likely received the same enthusiastic greeting. As stunning as it may sound coming from two such powerful and busy women, these are ladies who truly care about their authors, and everyone who works for them. Phrases such as ‘the Sourcebooks family’ were tossed liberally, but one gets the definite impression that it is not lip-service. Everyone was wonderful! Even though the big table and the constant hubbub did not allow in-depth conversation with each person, the atmosphere was friendly and exuberant. I met a wealth of amazing women, and I want to share a bit about them.
The above photo was taken of the Casablanca group. Again – she admits with a shamed countenance – I do not read romance (Although I think that will be changing!), but if the personalities of these ladies is any indication, not to mention the story-blurbs I heard, I can wholeheartedly recommend any of the novels they have written. I am so proud to be a part of this team! And I can now assert that my pre-conceived prejudices against classic ‘romance’ as fluff with no filler have been radically abolished! So, going from left-to-right and starting in the back row:
Michele Ann Young: The only other Regency writer present. She has a page on Austen Fans and a terrific blog called Regency Ramble. I deeply regret that we only spoke a few times and I did not realize who she was until later. Wow! The story swapping and picking of the brain I could have done.
Linda Wisdom: Veteran Harlequin/Silhouette author with over 25 novels to her name. So sweet looking, but it was she who suggested shouting “I’m the queen of the world!” from the limo roof!
Dominique Raccah: Chief Excitement Officer of Sourcebooks!
Amelia Grey (Gloria Skinner): Writing under her real name – Gloria – and as Amelia Grey and Charla Cameron, this sweet Southern belle is highly prolific in the romance world. Good thing I did not discover this until after I got home or I would never have had the huevos to wear the badge she lent me to get into the RWA conference on Saturday!
Beth Cornelison: Newest Casablanca family member having just signed 2 weeks before this event. Harlequin writer since 2005.
Sharon Lathan, your Humble Authoress! I look like a giant and was indeed stooping a bit, but am only 5’8″! Guess all the taller folks were sitting down.
Danielle Jackson: Sourcebooks Assistant Publicist. Isn’t she too cute?
Deb Werksman: Editor-in-Chief. Her husband, Jeff Yoder, romantic comedy writer and really-nice-guy was also at our gathering.
Robin Kaye: Can’t wait to read Romeo, Romeo! She was a kick in the pants! Personality plus and so sweet. A newly published author like me.
Marie Force: My new buddy! We hit it off great and I just love her. Her first book ever, Line of Scrimmage, comes out in September. Yeah, Marie!!
Malena Lott: Two-time novelist of humorous women’s fiction and just a lovely lady. Class with a capital C. She made me welcome in the limo and at dinner as my nearest companion.
Judi Fennell: Newbie like me. Writer of mermaid romance stories! I gotta check that out!!
Loucinda McGary: Paranormal romance writer with her first novel being released soon!
All of these gals, and several more who could not attend the RWA or author’s dinner, formed a blog page several months ago. It is called Casablanca Authors and I have been asked to join and contribute! I am very honored and extremely excited. It was all such a whirl and my only regret is that I did not have the time to chat with everyone amid the commotion. That and the fact that the one picture I took with Deb and Dominique has my eyes closed! *sob* I did have lunch with Marie Force the following day, after the Sourcebooks Spotlight, and that was another highlight of my trip. My eyes were opened to the wider world of not only Casablanca authors beyond the Austen Fans group, but the Romance Writer community in general. I learned so much, even in my short spell roaming around the Marriott lobby, and I cannot wait to be a part of it all for real. I do not know if I will be able to financially work in the conference in Washington D.C. next summer, but I sure want to try! In the meantime I hope to embrace what I am beginning to believe is part of my future: that is, being a legitimately published author!
My last hurrah was attending the Spotlight on Saturday. Both Deb and Dominique insisted I come if possible and were ready to do whatever it took to sneak me in if need be, when Amelia graciously stepped in and offered her badge since she had to leave. I was deeply touched, if a bit embarrassed. But, I went! I kept the badge turned around because I was so afraid folks would come up and start talking to me about ‘my’ books! Ha!! Felt like a fraud and kept waiting for some big Fabio-looking, naked-chested bouncer to discern the invisible ‘faker’ stamped on my forehead, but alas that never happened! May have actually been fun, I suppose, but instead, I got to sit for a blissful hour next to my new friends while Deb and Dominique talked about Sourcebooks and the Casablanca romance line. All the while my ‘new’ book cover for the conventional printing of Two Shall Become One flashed hugely on the screen! Yep, you heard me!! My new book cover!!! I and The Darcy Saga were even personally mentioned as Deb gave her salesman pitch to the 300-some-odd women in the room. Talk about a rush and moment I will never forget. To be listed both visually and verbally alongside Georgette Heyer, Linda Berdoll, Amanda Grange, Abigail Reynolds, and the wealth of contemporary writers in such a prestigious and public forum is beyond the words for me, a writer, to convey. I still think I am going to wake up!
So there you have that portion of my recent excursion. I will write a follow-up on my family fun in the City-by-the-Bay later. As for the new book cover, since I know you will all be asking, I do not have an image in my possession as yet. This weekend was the first I saw it! Deb and Dominique were elaborate in their praise and sure I would just adore it! I can say that about 90% of me is indeed adoring and in awe, but I do have a problem with the ‘Darcy’ they chose. He is in no way Matthew Macfadyen – and I understand he cannot be a carbon-copy as much as I would like that – but let’s just say that ‘manly’ is not a term I would apply to this image. And we all know that My Darcy must be Manly! Amen? So that needs to be addressed before I will be 100% happy. But, nevertheless, with gay-Darcy and all, it was fabulous to see my cover boldly displayed and is one further step toward the reality of TSBO in bookstores everywhere come Spring of 2009! Whoo Hoo!