Monday, December 19, 2011

CULTURE SHOCK AT RT

In the good old days of publishing, pre-midlist crisis and the scramble to survive by the big publishers, Romantic Times Magazine (RT) held a convention every year for romance writers. This year it will be held in Chicago.. I'm sure that it's not what it used to be.

In those days we romance writers ruled the publishing world. We sold more books than any other genre, even the mystery/thrillers that are so hot today. And we knew how to have a good time. The first RT conference I attended was in April of 1994. My first book with Topaz wasn't due out till October, but my editor wanted to meet me and asked if I could come. Who could turn down an invitation like that?

So I flew out of our small airport here in the Ozarks not knowing what to expect when I arrived. I'm trying now to remember where it was. I attended several: in Dallas, Nashville, Ft. Worth, and ??? Louisiana. They are all a whirl in my mind today. There's been a lot of water pass over the dam since then. But what I do remember are the cover models.

My mouth fell open when I saw them, most of them attired in very little, just like they appeared on book covers. And were they ever sweet. Many of them carried around a bundle of long stemmed roses to hand out to the authors. My cover model the first year was the Topaz Man himself, Steve ????. I was surprised to find him in jeans and a flannel shirt, and that's how he posed with me for a photo. I later wrote in my journal that ny mother would have been proud of Steve. His manners were perfection, yet he didn't appear to be acting the part. In later years when the Topaz Man was Mr. Universe, he posed with me dressed in very little. It was like being held by a finely formed marble statue.

These guys had a ball, too. There was a stage production where they danced and writhed around on the floor and posed with the young ladies who were very beautiful and sadly mostly ignored by the huge, almost all female group of writers. I later learned that this part of the program was to get writers to request certain of the models for their upcoming books.

By the time it was over, I was truly in culture shock. I had flown from a small Arkansas town environment into a group of naked men and squealing writers, and I wasn't quite sure how to react.

When the next convention rolled around, at least I knew what to expect. And I had a book out and another on the way. Georgina Gentry told me that I would be a star of Topaz, but sadly that wouldn't come true. There wasn't time. But I didn't know that yet, so the fire burned hot in me. We were at Ft. Worth the second time because I remember going to a dinner at the Stockyards, held for all the Topaz writers and The Topaz man. It was an orgy of food. We ate from 8-10 o'clock, all the while chattering wildly. There were only two men there, Steve and one of the writer's husbands. Being there was a surreal dream.

At the book signing event, I wore my Topaz Man T Shirt and it was a wild day. The publisher supplied boxes of books. Buses pulled up outside in a steady stream, letting off readers who filled the huge arena. We signed books, T shirts, some on people's backs, book marks, anything they could lay their hands on. It was one of the wildest experiences I've ever had.

For me, those days are gone, but I don't regret their passing, I appreciate the memories of that fleeting experience in a world I never knew existed. Now I'm content to hold my presentations and meet authors and readers and talk to them about my books and their stories. The conferences I attend are exciting but much more sedate than an RT convention, but I enjoy them. Every phase of our lives should hold great meaning for us, and we shouldn't be sorry when one passes because another awaits.

How Women Won the West
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3 comments:

Luna Zega said...

It sounds like the Romantic Times conferences are/were my kind of conference! I think they've all toned down a bit. Nothing that exciting happens at the RWA conference. Maybe we should add a cover model component to the NWAWW free conference in March, OWL and OWFI. What do you think?

Velda Brotherton said...

Luna, I like it. Imagine Dusty in a G String. How about Greg in only his long black coat? Those guys were nearly naked. I do have a photo somewhere of me with Mr. Universe who was the cover for my last book with Topaz. I didn't even know where to touch he had so much skin, hairless as a newborn baby. Dare we discuss this aloud at the meeting?

Velda Brotherton said...

Luna, I like it. Imagine Dusty in a G String. How about Greg in only his long black coat? Those guys were nearly naked. I do have a photo somewhere of me with Mr. Universe who was the cover for my last book with Topaz. I didn't even know where to touch he had so much skin, hairless as a newborn baby. Dare we discuss this aloud at the meeting?