by Sharon Lathan
Frequently I have said that one of the BEST by-products to this whole writing thing has been the marvelous people I have become acquainted with. Most of you know by now that I came into my writing and publishing ventures in a roundabout way. I began by freely posting my short-stories and chapters on my website for anyone to read. I suppose there are pros and cons to that approach, but for me the pros so outweigh any cons that I am very happy this was the path fate chose for me. Along the way, as readers from all over the globe found me and read the chapters and commented in the forum, I grew to “know” a few of the regulars. For a long time I was leery of this. I mean, we all hear of the internet dangers and see the exposes on Primetime! But it was a gradually building relationship and in the end there are a dozen or so gals who have stuck with me to this day. All of them are dear to me and precious friends even though I have met few of them face-to-face! We are primarily pen-pals, so to speak, but our friendship is as real as if we lived next door.
Case in point: This past week I was especially blessed to meet one of my original readers. Her name is Elly and she lives far, far away in the magical land called The Netherlands! I no longer recall exactly how Elly and I made the transition from writer/fan to friend/friend, but it has been the latter relationship for well over two years now. Somewhere along the line she began sharing bits and pieces of her life with me. We chatted about all kinds of stuff, as friends do. Naturally she loved my story – I mean, why else would she write to me in the first place? But it was the deeper revelations that touched me.
You see, Elly knows what it is to love a man completely - heart and soul, blood and bone - just as I write it between Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam. She and her husband were together for 42 years. They raised two boys and went through many of the typical trials of marriage. I am sure it wasn’t always blissful. But none of that really mattered because Elly and Paul loved each other with that special kind of love we romance writers create in our stories, all the while hoping it is true and everlasting. Well, it is. Love is a powerful emotion that is meant to grow stronger with passion and devotion not waning but soaring. It can happen, as Elly and Paul proved.
Elly lost her Paul a year ago after a long illness. I was honored and blessed to personally share in her grief; a grief that was tempered by the deep love they possessed. She said that my story comforted and cheered her. I told her that her true-life story gave me strength and conviction to continue writing what I believe in my heart is possible. Frankly, I think I reap the greater benefit!
Knowing all that, imagine how I leapt for joy when she told me that her sons were bringing her to the West Coast of the US for a tour! And imagine how uncontainable my delight when their path toward the Sequoias and Yosemite would bring them to my doorstep! For months I waited with bated breath. Not because I was meeting a “fan” but because I was meeting a friend! AND a whole family of Dutch people! How many of you can say that? LOL!
We only had one long evening together as their touristy schedule was tight. But it was marvelous. We cooked them an American style BBQ of uniquely California Angus beef (the best!) tri-tip. Cooked to perfection as my hubby is an A-Class Q’er. On the Weber with hickory smoked coals and wood chips. Yum! Hungry yet? Valley grown potatoes with the fixins, artichokes from Watsonville, exotic greens salad, and fresh picked San Joaquin strawberries with cream. It was divine! Her “boys” are grown men, twins standing easily 6’4” as they towered over my son, so they devoured the beef. But the highlight was the company. Since I write about another culture than my own, I adore learning how folks from other parts of the world live. One of the advantages of having fans from all over are the intriguing facts I have learned, but that is for another blog day! We ranged from politics to social customs to favorite movies to awesome tasting licorice to European speed limits to so much more. Oh! And we got to see and touch Euros! I know, I’m a geek, but I have never been to Europe so it was really cool. They are so pretty!
It was an experience I will never forget as long as I live. I have the photos to enjoy, the gifts she gave to cherish, and the warmth in my heart that will never dissipate. I can now add Elly to the list of reader/friends I have spent time with that started with Jen from Montana, Kathy from San Francisco, and May from Scotland. I hope someday to add many more to that list.
Thanks for letting me share this with you all. The photos are self explanatory, I imagine, with a note that the blonde girl and “shorter” boy are mine. Now it is your turn to share your reader/fan/friend experiences.