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Last July I met one of my erotic romance writer heroes at the Romance Writers of America “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing in New York City. RWA annually hosts a massive book signing for hundreds of romance authors at their annual convention. This year they raised over $48,000 for ProLiteracy Worldwide, Literacy Partners, and Literacy Assistance Center. Added to the previous 24 years of the Readers for Life annual event, the total raised for literacy is over $900,000. Almost a million dollars.

I volunteered to be an author’s helper at the 2015 event, not knowing what author or authors I might be assigned. When we were told to fan out and find author tables in that massive ballroom, volunteers were the only ones there. I trotted around the outer walls of the room, scanning author names, and it was a who’s who of New York Times bestselling authors. Just past the Nora Roberts table I skidded to a stop.

Maya Banks the author card read. My hero, one of my very favorite erotic authors. Way ahead in the other end of the room were tables for Kristan Higgins and Jill Shalvis, two more of my heroes, and whom I’d met in 2014. Maya was n’t there in 2014, and the chance to meet her was too good to be true.

I knew from her book jacket photos what she looked like, and I was a bundle of nerves waiting as authors and their assistants started pouring in. Nora Roberts swept in with her people to the table next to me, and I saw her volunteer gulp nervously.

A few minutes later a tiny beautiful woman and assistant arrived. Maya Banks was all friendliness, kindness, and “a real person” as my friend Linda would say. Over the next couple of hours her personal assistant and I greeted Maya’s fans, watching as she greeted each person with genuine interest and patience.

More than a few people were overwhelmed to meet her, and I completely understood. Heck, they had me leaking some tears too. By the end of the evening, she was one of the few authors left, still talking to fans, still listening to their stories. It was a lesson in how a writer wins faithful fans, and respects them too.

I walked with her out to the floor lobby and she gave me a hug goodbye. Me. Maya Banks hugged me. I almost levitated into the air and floated up to my hotel room.

One of the things that I took back from RWA’s 2015, besides the lessons learned in my craft, friendships made or renewed, and how freaking huge NYC is, was there’s a real woman, a wonderfully creative and wise person behind the Maya Banks author personae.

This week my first erotic contemporary romance was published by Evernight Publishing, and Maya’s influence through her writing is what got me there. The Coffee Prince would never have been put to page if not for the hours spent reading her books, and our chance meeting in NYC.

Thanks for your sweetness, kindness, and inspiration, Maya. Hope to see you in 2015.