My husband thought it was terrific. His wife the erotic romance writer. He told ALL his friends. They started calling me Samantha. The first time that happened I thought the person had forgotten my name and I corrected him. He winked and said, “Yes but Samantha is so much more exciting, according to your husband.”
I was torn between wanting to hit my husband or hit his friend. Writing was serious business! I was an intellectual! I soon got off my high horse. A well written book is fine. But in the erotic romance business the readers want emotion, characters they can care for, and lots of hot and interesting sex. Dithering over things like description, pacing, and atmosphere held me back. My editor told me to stop mucking around and Just Write!
Fine. I could do that. I had to adjust my attitude, but I was used to that. Anyone who has had kids knows that having an attitude is setting yourself up for a hard fall. Who can feel young and glamorous when your kid asks you what it was like living with the dinosaurs? Or when they see you in your bathing suit, their eyebrows go up, and they blurt, “You’re so fat!” (And the minute before you’d just been thinking how well you looked.) So attitude wasn’t the problem. I put my dreams about writing ‘literature’ aside and wrote...and published over fifteen erotic romance books.
But having kids also meant they were always begging me to write a story for them. So I did. I sat down and wrote ‘The Secret of Shabaz’. It was one of the hardest books I wrote. I wanted it to be for all ages, especially for teens – that group of children with an attention span of about thirteen seconds. I wanted it to be fun but at the same time I wanted to give readers something to think about. I love fantasy, so I wrote a magical tale full of adventure, a dash of horror, a pinch of romance, and with a heroine I would have wanted as a best friend. I finished it after two years of writing on it between erotic romances and sent it to Medallion Press. They loved it.
I was on cloud nine. I was a published author of a YA book! Now I could tell my whole family, even the ones who had weak hearts. This was exciting. I started getting an attitude again. I was going to NY for the summer, what better way to kick off the new book than with a book signing in a big bookstore? I looked up bookstores in the neighborhood and called them. Two agreed. I gave them the ISBN numbers and practised looking modest. (Hard to do – I was getting an attitude.) I found a passage to read that was not too long, not too short, and had some humor in it. Perfect. I found a little black dress that made my tummy almost look flat. I asked all my family and my friends living nearby to come. I brushed my teeth.
I arrived on time.
The bookseller had set up a little auditorium with a table and MY BOOKS sitting upon it. I had a poster the publisher gave me which I propped up near the books. I sat on the chair. I waved to my parents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles...and several strangers. The strangers sat up front. My family, in an élan of generosity, left the whole front row free. I introduced myself, picked up my book, and started to read.
The man front and center opened his legs wide.
He had on baggy shorts. He lifted them a bit to make sure I noticed he was not wearing any underwear.
I lost my place in the paragraph and had to start over. My first book signing and I was getting flashed.
I was determined not to let that little detail ruin my book signing. I would have understood if it had been for my erotic books. But this was a kids’ book, for goodness sake! My glamorous life as an author was taking another beating. I was at my first signing, damn it. I wasn’t going to let some pervert ruin it. And then the bookstore’s cat jumped on the table and sat on my pile of books. It wasn’t comfortable there. It jumped down and prowled around the table as I read. There were several titters. And I hadn’t gotten to the funny part yet. I risked a glance at the audience. Wrong move. Flasher had pushed his shorts up and was practically waving his equipment at me. The cat jumped down to my lap. Better. I kept reading. I didn’t miss a beat. Then the cat got bored and left. I finished reading and stood up, determined not to look at Flasher and ask the audience if anyone had any questions. There were more titters. I looked down. There was cat hair all over my black dress. It looked like I was wearing a gray apron. Resigned to my fate, I asked if there were any questions. There was a long silence. One person raised their hand.
“Yes, mom?” I said.
(to be continued...)