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How Jade Lee changed my life (and I’m not even kidding.)

Warning – this post is pure, unadulterated fan-girl gushing. If you like your gushing adulterated, take a swig of cold, stale coffee before reading.

Once upon a time, I was not a romance writer. I was not even a romance reader. One Christmas, my husband gave me this book as a gag gift:

I read it in the car on a long, dull drive. In it I found colorful characters, an unusual setting (Victorian era China), hot sex, a gripping, fast-moving plot and elements of magic and fantasy. I didn’t know enough about the business of romance to recognize that Jade Lee was melting boundaries, breaking “rules” and making history.  I did know I loved that story, and I devoured her backlist in a matter of days.

Thanks to Ms. Lee, I developed a one-book-a-day habit. I found local authors like Luann McLane and Lori Foster. I discovered Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Johanna Lindsey. And when I wasn’t reading, I wrote.

Fast-forward four years to the 2010 Romantic Times Booklovers Convention. I clawed my way through the crowds of the massive-mega-ultra-jam-packed booksigning to find Jade Lee and enact a scheme of my own: I’d trump Dr. Stevens’s gag gift with another book—this one signed by the author herself.

See how manic I look? See how Jade looks determinedly pleasant and refuses to show fear?

I do believe I squealed. I know for certain I gushed (but not literally). I told her all about Dr. Stevens and his joke.  I cried on her shoulder about a pitch earlier that day in which an editor told me Stone Kissed was hard to categorize, had no hook and would “never” sell. She signed my book, consoled me with grace and optimism, and sent me home to Dr. Stevens.

I expected him to laugh. But he didn’t. “I never thought when I gave you that book you’d be meeting the author one day.” He tucked The Dragon Earl away in his safe where he keeps the journal with our sons’ funny sayings and other sentimental stuff.

And then he turned back to me. “I really think you’re going to do this. You’re going to sell that novel.”

A month later, I did. Carina Press  (“Where no great goes untold”) prides itself on unusual historicals, fang-optional paranormals and stories that stretch subgenre boundaries (you know, like Jade Lee does.)

Was that the last I ever saw of Jade?

Of course not. Last weekend, I gushed (figuratively!) over Jade at the 7th Annual Reader-Author Get-Together sponsored by Lori Foster and Duffy Brown in Cincinnati, OH.

Jade’s hilarious, always smiling and cracking jokes. She loves what she does and it shows in every word and gesture. I was on my way out the door Sunday, exhausted and foot-sore from a long and exciting weekend when she smiled at me (at me!) and suggested we eat breakfast.  Although I’d already said my goodbyes in the restaurant, I turned back.

You know what I learned? In addition to being a superstar, Jade Lee is a person. We discussed the perennial problem of trying to connect with readers. We discussed real bacon. We discussed a possible super-secret project…

OMG! I discussed her PROJECT with JADE LEE!

….Sorry. Anyway, the gilding rubbed away and I saw the Real Woman Within.

So now, I’m all cool and stuff. Composed. Dispassionate. In fact, I need to find a new idol. Yup. I need someone at whose knees I can kneel, upon whose covers I can gaze with longing.

There’s something about this Kathy Lyons chick that appeals…

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79 Responses

  1. Keri, what an amazing story about two (or, well, three) amazing authors 🙂 – and kudos to Ms. Lee for not showing fear. 🙂

    I have recently undertaken the daunting project of discovering what makes an extraordinary hero (it’s a tough job, but a girl has to do what a girl has to do). I will be adding Jade’s latest to the research sample!

    • She has Chinese and biracial heroes and heroines, which we don’t run into much. She also deals with differences in cultural values – and how honor, strength and love transcend even these.

  2. So great to meet the person who brought you to romance. Nice story and I love the passion readers and writers have for one another.

    I met Jade several years ago at our local conference. She and Elizabeth Hoyt had driven down to Louisiana together – I remember being struck by how much fun they’d seemed to have on that drive. Keri Ford and I attended her workshop and tried to decipher what objects our h/h would be and how they would relate to one another. I believe Keri’s h/h was coffee and cream – we had fun with that one. tee hee. Jade was great and very passionate about writing. I won a critique from her which was cool. Jade Lee read my work! And she made insightful comments on a book that I did sell to Superromance, so, yeah, I’m fond of Jade.

  3. I too had the pleasure to meet Jade Lee and she was awesome! She was such fun to be around and could crack a joke so quickly about most anything. I am so glad you had the opportunity to meet one of your favorites. There is nothing greater than coming face to face with one you admire.

  4. Great post Keri! As always, you’re that elusive mix of hilarious and inspiring. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  5. I had the honor of meeting Jade Lee in 2006 in Atlanta at the RWA national conference. She and Marjorie M. Liu were chatting together in the goodie room and I believe I got books and goodies from both lovely ladies.

    I had been a fan of hers even before meeting her but that definitely made me want to read more of her books.

    I had the pleasure of riding to a luncheon with Jade while at the Lori Foster Get Together this year and was thrilled to be able to hear her talk shop with the other authors there. She impressed me with her knowledge of the industry and how down to earth she was with us regular people. Of course I had to get 4 more of her books while at the conference so I could have autographed copies to keep.

    Can’t wait to start reading her Kathy Lyons work! Know it will be awesome!

  6. I think it’s tie between Dr. Stevens and Jade Lee for who claims the hero spot in that post! (And please tell me you & Ms. Lee are both fans of real bacon)

  7. I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Jade Lee at the 2006 Fun in the Sun conference in Miami (I think this might have been the last one before they started taking the conference on a cruise boat.) We spent some time chatting in the bar about books and an incredible plot she had in her head (that she’s never written – which is too bad because it was AWESOME.)

    She is the nicest person. I do understand your fangirl reaction…I have it too!

  8. Aw…thanks for sharing Jade with us, Keri! And what a great photo of you two! And I know the feeling of the “OMG, I discussed her PROJECT with Jade Lee.” I had that same experience with Monica Burns when she asked me to brainstorm with her last year, 2010! I believed I squealed inside that day!

  9. I had a great time meeting both Keri and Jade at the Lori Foster event. And Keri, having read Stone Kissed and loved it, I’m glad it found a home at Carina Press. Keep writing!

  10. Too funny, Keri! I have a similar obsession with Suzanne Brockmann. I also came to romance later in life through a fluke. My first romance was a Johanna Lindsey. And now I need to go find some Jade Lee. You had me at “hot sex”. 😉

    • Oh, honey. You are in for a treat. Start at the beginning with Devil’s Bargain, then go to the Tigress series. Though I haven’t read the Katherine Greyle books, so that might be even better place to start.

      • Kathy Greyle isn’t sexy. Kathy LYONS (my harlequin name) is as is Jade Lee. And the Kathy Lyons / Jade Lee books are mostly still in print. I’m still working on getting up my backlist from Dorchester. Give me a few months and you’ll see what I do with my backlist!

  11. Love this story, Stevens! and yes! Liz–he was coffee with cream *giggles* that class was so much fun. In fact, while at Lori Foster’s this year, i saw Jade walk by and leaned over to the person next to me and said, “she gives GREAT workshops’

  12. OMG! Another Jade Lee groupie! What a fabulous story!

    I did read romance, but never thought of writing one. One road trip up to Northern California, I saw Hungry Tigress in a rack at Pea Soup Anderson’s. What is this? A romance set in China? I bought the book and devoured the rest of her books too. Then I was inspired to try to write my own historical romances. Until then, I didn’t realize how groundbreaking the series was and that Jade Lee was pretty much the only author doing something like this and what kind of balls it took to do it.

    I never sought her out at signings because I was too shy (this is a weird thing about me and favored authors that I’ve since gotten over). The day I sold happened to be the literacy signing at RWA 2009. I went up to Jade with my copy of The Concubine to get an autograph and to thank her for her lovely Tigress series. (I get shivers just thinking of this) When I stood next to her to take a picture, I couldn’t help it. I was totally shaking! “I’m sorry,” I told her. “I’m trying not to cry!”

    Thankfully she was totally cool about it. Must be a common thing, people going fan girl on her.

    • Jeannie,
      I’m beginning to think Jade has a groupie in every port! I’m glad we didn’t know “You can’t do that!” before we read and fell in love with her books. Because my reaction (when I was later told, “you can’t do that”) was, “Oh, yeah? Watch me.”

      It’s worth a few tears, isn’t it?

    • I can’t tell you how RARE it is for people to go fan girl on me. My ego is just bursting today because of you all!

  13. Good Lord, I had no idea people even remembered meeting me. That’s the curse of being part of a large family. You’re never convinced anyone remembers you no matter how loud and obnoxious you get.

    First let me say, Keri, that you’re awesome! And you don’t need to thank me for changing your life. It would have happened with any romance novel you happened to pick up. But nevertheless, I’m extremely grateful that it was my book! (and I’m off to order Stonekissed!)

    Jeannie knows how much I adore her. Cindy, Deb, Scamps and Liz a big waving hello to you! You gals are great! And Cynthia…what was the story I never wrote? (there have been so many…)

    Okay, I have to get back to work, but BIG HUGS TO ALL OF YOU! This was exactly what I needed today when I really didn’t want to write at all!

    • I bet it involved a mosquito.

    • Happy writing! And reading!
      And thanks for coming by to give us a wave.
      If you feel a heavy weight wrapped around your legs at RWA, please don’t kick too hard. Just tell me you have to use the bathroom, and I’ll let go. Probably.

      • I’m more likely to pick you up and haul you to Starbucks where we’ll get good and caffienated and make up MORE stories neither of us has time to write!

    • Jade – we were talking about a Blaze idea. Dream research. Next door neighbor has crush on researcher. He keeps showing up in her apartment (I remember one time him being dressed as a pirate and making jokes about climbing on his mast). I think he was having out of body experiences while he dreamed. Any memory of this?

      • OMG, not only do I REMEMBER it, but I’m in the middle of WRITING IT! I just sold it to Blaze. Working title: Her Wildest Dreams. It’s due August 1 to be released as a Kathy Lyons book September 2012. This is too, too funny!

  14. awww, Keri! I LOVE this story. Jade is wonderful, amazing and adorable. She has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know. Somehow she knows when I’m hurting or having a bad day and she gives me a call, talks to me, makes me laugh and brightens my days. I can’t imagine my life without her constant presence, I’d be lost!

    Kim, Jade’s loyal and adoring dominatrix 😉

    • Kim,
      I was just telling my Task Liberator she should follow you and learn the ropes from the best. I will let Laura know “dominatrix” is in the job description, too.

  15. LOL! I like Task Liberator. That’s the truth!

  16. How amazing to meet the author who inspired you to read and write romance!! That look on your face? I think I might have worn it once or twice, lol.

  17. Great post, Keri!! Thanks for sharing this!

    Now we can get all fan-gurl-ly over you *plotting just how much I can get away with at RWA* (cackle, cackle)

  18. I will never tire of your story, I will brag to say I was with you when you had your “Jade-in-person” experience. Seeing how much it meant to you simply confirmed for me how passionate you are about your love of romance and writing. HA! You go!

  19. Keri,

    what an awesome post. I am total fan girl when it comes to authors I love. I get all giddy when one of them asks me if I would be interested in reviewing their book. I’m starting to develop relationships with several of my favorite authors and it’s been fun.

    I don’t write books and didn’t write reviews till I started writing for the blog. It’s been fun getting to know the girls here and the authors I’ve met along the way.

    • Heather,
      Meeting wonderful writers is the best part of conferences. My goal for RWA national this year is to cling to as many legs as I can wrap my hands around.

      Boy, that looks odd in print…

      (Of course, Jade peels me off someone to go for Starbucks, I’ll let go in a hearbeat!)

  20. THANK YOU SO MUCH EVERYONE! This has been an awesome boost to me today. And to just show that the universe prepares us for what’s to come, I just received an I DESPITE YOUR WRITING email. Her reasons were actually rather eloquent and I can respect her opinion. But no way would I have been able to handle that tonight without you all preparing me today.

    So thank you again. I cherish each and every one of you. And Keri…I’m off to buy your book! So when we next meet I can gush over you!

    • Jade,
      I’m headed to RWA and I will. hunt. you. down.

      Re: your “eloquent” non-fan. I’ve got to wonder where her wound is? Why take the time to compose such an e-mail if you didn’t strike a chord and make her face something she didn’t want to look at? Something about your book connected very deeply with that woman–and she didn’t like it. Most people just put book down and never mention or think of it again.

      But whatever she recommends you “correct” in your writing – don’t. Because I LIKE the way your books connect with me (and so does Jeannie and Cyndi and and and). So thank you!

      • You’re right. I did strike a chord with her and not in a good way (from her perspective). We ended up having a cordial email conversation and all is as well as it could be.

        It’s funny because she was reacting to what I call the “darkness” inside my books, especailly the tigress series and some of the other stuff I was writing at the time. And frankly, I look back at those books and I see it as well. I was playing with some very dark themes, in part because I wasn’t as happy a person as I am now.

        But the good news is I’m still growing as a writer/artist. I’ve explored that way. Now I’m going a different way (in part). Just wrote an extremely lighthearted love scene. Never done one that happy before. It was a lot of fun! Cool huh? That after 30 books, I’m still surprising myself. Because, you know, that’s what it’s all about–entertaining myself! Who cares if you like it! (That’s a joke, btw, I care! I love you all! )

  21. Love this post, and totally loving your Dr. Stevens right now!

    • Crystal,
      I get great support from him (although we’re still working on the, “When I’m writing, I can’t come out and play,” issue). I know so many writers who get undermined by their spouses and keep powering through. I really admire those folks.

  22. I’m thrilled to say that the book that would not sell is on my Nook. Now I guess I need to try those Jade Lee books.

    • Tia,
      You do! You can find them used, at the library, or borrow from me 🙂 . A lot of Jade’s backlist is through Dorchester, and they’re a bit of tangle right now as far as sales, authors’ rights, etc. are concerned.

      And I’m thrilled you got the book that would not sell, too! I think Carina took up some of the daring vision of Dorchester years ago – but with the business savvy of Harlequin behind it, IMHO.

  23. I’m reading Hungry Tigress now. What a story!

    I can’t believe Jade was at Lori Foster and I didn’t meet her. I’m now a fan-girl too.

    *blushing* there’s lots of stuff I’m learning about Victorian China, whew!

    Please share your other books.

    • Thanks to Ms. Lee we can all go back there again and again and again, Mary!

      • My copy of the book was actually named, “White Tigress” Just finished it and am wondering if there is a sequel in America. Great writing and such an interesting cultural and historical perspective. (like reading Playboy for the articles, right?)

        • Actually Mary, White Tigress is the first of a six book series. Hungry Tigress is the second. You can find out more on my website: http://www.jadeleeauthor.com Sadly, the books are out of print right now, but if you’re patient, I’ll get the ebooks up. Hopefully by the end of the year. I’ve got a LOT of backlist to convert to e-book.

  24. Keri and Jade – So sorry I’m late! (Curse you, Daily Digest!)

    The two of you were a hoot at Duffy Brown’s Mystery Party, which was also my daughter’s introduction to my writing world. You two made a big impression on her! (And I mean this in a good way…)

    Keri introduced me to Jade’s books, and I’m working my way through her backlist now, while trying to keep up with the new releases (and alter-ego releases), too.

    I first met Jade at RT last year – I’m not sure if she remembers. I walked past her, did a double-take and then charged back. “You’re Jade Lee!” I informed her, which no doubt came as a big surprise. “You have to meet my friend Keri! Her husband gave her one of your books and hooked her on romance for life!” I continued babbling on for awhile (it’s a gift) and managed to run into Jade a few more times when Keri wasn’t with me. When they finally met, I don’t know who was more excited – them or me. Okay, Keri was more excited, but it was close!

    These two amazing ladies are BOTH great writers. Keri, we all owe your lovely husband a huge thank you for bringing Jade into our lives!

  25. P.S. I can confirm there was squealing at that book signing.

  26. Okay, you all, we’re going to have a huge It’s Keri! It’s Becke! It’s Jade! Starbucks event at RWA. And it’s anyone who wants to join us in the squealing! THURSDAY, June 30 8:00 AM HOTEL STARBUCKS. Who’s coming???

  27. Count me in! Are you coming to Lori’s event next year? My daughter had so much fun she wants to come next year, too. And I hear Duffy Brown’s Mystery Party is going to have a Prohibition theme next year. Anyone for bathtub gin?

    • That is, count me in for FUTURE coffee meet-ups. 😦

    • Yes, i’ll definitely be at Lori Foster’s next year! And the mystery party was a BLAST! But do I get to be Keri’s sexpot girlfriend again? Keri, what was your game name? I just remember I called you My Bubba Boy, but that wasn’t your game name.

      • Hollis. And you were Ja-NELLE!

        I saw you pop up when I shouted that, and thought, “Oh, em, gee, I get to FLIRT with Jade Lee.” Many fantasies that shall remain unspoken were fulfilled that night 😉

  28. LOL! You two were a hoot!

  29. I miss so much fun when I have to work! 😦

    Great post, Keri! I first met Jade at Celebrate Romance in Columbia, SC in 2008. She and Elizabeth Hoyt led us in a very rousing game of Romance Jeopardy. Honestly, I’m not sure I’ve laughed that hard since! lol! She’s an absolute doll and I enjoyed getting to know her over that wonderful weekend…except she kept trying to steal my dragon (a gift from Vicki Lewis Thompson) but I forgave her ’cause she’s just so darn nice! 😉

    I’ll be in NYC for #RWA11. Can’t wait to see Jade again and finally get to meet you, Keri! You know how much I *loved* Stone Kissed and your tweets keep me smiling every day!

    ~PJ

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