In July 2004 I attended RWA’s National Conference during what had to have been the gloomiest, muggiest New York summer ever known to a woman in heels and nylons. Even worse, I almost did something very stupid. Actually two. First, I hadn’t signed up for any agent and editor appointments to pitch my 100,000-word contemporary romance known at the time as, “Her Mother’s Daughter.” Second, I almost didn’t attend Harper Collins Avon publisher spotlight during which all of the editors would talk about that their books and what they were looking for.
You see, I arrived in New York having just been rejected by an agent the week before. We had been working together exclusively on revisions for nearly six months. After three drafts, she decided that my book was not a project she could get behind.
On day two of the conference, I knew that drastic measures needed to be taken to achieve my childhood dream of seeing one of my stories in the hands of readers. So I sat down at the Avon Spotlight session and during the Q&A I almost didn’t raise my hand. But I must’ve channeled the spirit of Wonder Woman to stand up in front of 300 people to ask if the editors if they were looking for a book that sounded suspiciously like mine. Selina McLemore, one of the editors on the panel, grabbed the mic and said, “SEND IT TO ME!”
Selina read the manuscript in record time and then we discussed the changes she wanted me to make. I listened with mounting horror as she suggested that I cut the story line of Tamara’s best friend, Isa. But I took one last look at that story and said farewell to Isa after promising her that she’d get her own book. During my lunch hour, at night and on weekends, I trimmed that 100,000-word manuscript down to 89,000 words.
Three weeks later, the book went back to Selina. For two more weeks I pretended that it was perfectly normal to check my email, my cell phone and my answering machine every two minutes. But then on Monday, Nov. 10, 2004 I came home after a really busy day at work and saw that I missed Selina’s call. Talk about a long night.
At 7:10 a.m. the following morning I got a good luck kiss from my husband, went into my office and held onto my good luck rock as I called Selina. While my husband and our two pugs waited at the door, I braced myself for the old line: “We really like your writing, but this book just isn’t Latina enough for us. Keep us in mind for future projects.” So it took a moment for the words to process after Selina said she wanted to buy my book. I might have even asked her to repeat that, but I’m not really sure. I do remember saying, “thank you” and “may I call you back” before hanging up. I think I cried. I know I hugged my husband and then called my mom, my best friend and then my grandma. But I kept thinking it couldn’t be real. The next day, I said yes to Selina’s offer with absolutely no idea that Hot Tamara would become a “Red Hot Read” in Cosmopolitan Magazine, or that it helped other authors publish their books.
Eight years and seven books later, I’m still a bit surprised when a reader emails me out of the blue to tell me how much they loved Hot Tamara. I’ve never quite gotten used to the idea that people I may never meet in person are really reading my words and entering the secret world of my characters! But it’s truly a pleasure to connect with you. For me connecting is what publishing – whether through the traditional publishers or not, print or e-book – is really about. When the reader takes the journey with the characters and then puts it down with a smile on her face, my job has been done. Thanks so much everyone for giving me the opportunity to be in your lives, even if for a moment. I can’t wait for you to read what is coming next!