Archive for the ‘Online’ Category

It’s Time to Revamp our Sensuality Ratings

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

AAR’s sensuality ratings have come under discussion lately due to the changing nature of the romance industry in general. With the recent proliferation of racier novels, what was once declared Hot may now be considered barely Warm by our readers. The language used in love scenes, once a deciding factor in rating, has also changed drastically in recent years.  Quaint euphemisms such as “manhood” or “heated channel” have fallen by the wayside.

If we update our sensuality ratings in response to changes in the industry, what sort of changes should we make?

One issue under discussion was possibly adding another category after Burning.  For instance, Penelope and Prince Charming by Jennifer Ashley was given a Burning rating because of some mild anal play and very frank love scenes. But does PaPC compare to Sarah’s Seduction by Lora Leigh which would be given the same rating by today’s rules?

And how should language affect rating? In the not so distant past the words “cock” and “clit” were pretty rare in mainstream romance, their presence garnering a Hot rating just on principal. Is it shocking to read a review rated Warm, only to find language once considered very blue when you read the book? Conversely, some readers may be disappointed to purchase a book rated Burning because of language or one delicately described incident of alternative lovemaking, when their hope was for something more raunchy.

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Deal Breakers: Have We All Gotten a Bit Too Cranky?

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

stock-vector-policeman-yelling-stop-retro-clip-art-58890815Even a casual visitor to the AAR message boards quickly learns one thing:  We are an opinionated bunch.

And in just about every thread somebody posts about a plot device they loathe.  Be it a couple who jumps into bed right off the bat or an arranged marriage, the list of plot devices that we loathe seems to number in the thousands.  Maybe millions.

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit here, but not by much.  We’re a bunch of cranky pants.

And, when you think about it, we’re leaving authors with little to nothing to work with.  Because constructing a plot that doesn’t feature any of the devices that someone loathes would be nearly impossible.

Here’s what I think:  We’ve gotten so narrow in our list of what we’re looking for when we read, that we’re denying ourselves a whole lot of good stuff.

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Romance Author’s Web Sites: An Update of Essentials and Fun Extras

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Screen shot 2011-11-14 at 2.28.18 PMThree years ago I posted here about romance authors’ Web sites and listed four essentials: (1) a complete listing of the author’s books, and connections for those in a series; (2) news of upcoming books; (3) a brief bio; and (4) a method to contact the author (email link or form). These are all still essentials for me. They can be fairly brief and hopefully require little time for updating. I’ve visited a lot of author Web sites in the intervening three years and have some other essentials I’d like to add. I’ve also discovered some fun new extras at other authors’ Web sites.

First, it’s vital that the Web site be current. I immediately leave an author’s site if I discover that their homepage features as “new” a book that was published one or more books ago while failing to mention their latest release. I expect that a News tab will actually have recent (not necessarily daily or even monthly) news. Even something as simple as news about an upcoming – or recently published – book works here. What doesn’t work is “news” of books published or awards won years earlier.  Many authors have extra sections including one for Appearances or Upcoming Appearances. These are of particular interest to me when I prepare AAR’s monthly booksigning post. However, events that occurred months, or years earlier, don’t really qualify as “upcoming,” and call into question the content of the entire site.

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It Was a Dark and Stormy Night…

Friday, July 29th, 2011

eblWith the relentless bad news lately, what better time for a little pick me up in the form of the Edward Bulwer-Lytton contest winners announced just this week?

For the last 29 years, San Jose State University has held the annual contest that asks contestants to submit opening lines for imaginary novels with the goal that they be as bad as possible. The contest was inspired by the great Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who penned the immortal “It was a dark and stormy night.”

So, without further ado, let’s enjoy the grand prize winner:

Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories.

Sue Fondrie

And the runner-up:

As I stood among the ransacked ruin that had been my home, surveying the aftermath of the senseless horrors and atrocities that had been perpetrated on my family and everything I hold dear, I swore to myself that no matter where I had to go, no matter what I had to do or endure, I would find the man who did this . . . and when I did, when I did, oh, there would be words.

Rodney Reed

The Bulwer-Lytton contests also chooses winners in genre categories.

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The Game of Love: Romance, Authors, and Casual Games

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Mamlambo reported that in 2004 “at the annual Game Developers Conference in San Jose, California, three top game designers were given a challenge – to architect a game with a love story.”  Not surprisingly, the three whose stock in trade revolves around guns and mayhem had a difficult time doing so.

In fact, “Ultima producer Warren Spector struggled to come up with a love story game premise that did not involve giving the characters a gun. After a lot of research on the nature and physiology of love, he came to the conclusion that a true love story was impossible to develop.”

Obviously Spector doesn’t know how to use Google because games surrounding love and some based on romance books not only exist but are bought and played by casual gamers. Most are hidden object or puzzle games in which players not only don’t have a gun but also don’t need one to complete their objectives.

Norah Roberts’ Vision in White may have been the first of the romance author-generated games. In it the player aids Connecticut wedding photographer Mackensie find love—just like the plot in Roberts’ 2009 best-selling book.

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You Can’t Review Your Friends. You Just Can’t.

Friday, May 20th, 2011

maskOkay, so maybe it’s just me who can’t, but I really don’t think so.

It’s hard to remember these days, but the respect and credibility we now take for granted for this online thing we do didn’t come without a battle. When Laurie Gold started All About Romance, online reviewing was still, with the exception of The Romance Reader, made up of sites producing happy-happy-joy-joy reviews.

But Laurie Gold fought.  And fought.  And sometimes she got knocked back on her face and there were certainly missteps along the way, but, for the most part, there is now general acceptance from authors and publishers that honest reader reviews are good for romance.

It wasn’t easy getting here, but it happened.  Welcome to the new world, romance readers!

With that said, the happy-happy-joy-joy review has its place and its audience and those sites are upfront enough about what they are that readers who want a friendly approach are happy and those looking for honest reviews know to avoid them.  No harm, no foul, so I’m not talking here about the softball sites.

Here’s the thing that’s making me increasingly uncomfortable: With Twitter bringing authors and reviewers closer than ever before, a line that used to be hard is now getting blurry.

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The People We Hate to Love

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

During my life I’ve been a critic and/or a reviewer of books, movies, theatre, live events, and art.  I’ve written a weekly book review column as well as a weekly art critic column.

Everywhere I’ve worked and for everyone who edited my writing, what a critic or reviewer is and should do has been a bit different.

In the early ‘70s, my editors saw the job as that of critic, the point being to give an honest critique of art pieces I saw in local galleries. Critique, in this case, meant being harsh. I tended to write my columns only about pieces I liked and avoided technical art language in favor of the language used by everyday people. I tried to describe the art in terms of how the piece made me feel, not how the various art elements worked in the piece. Oddly (to me), my columns produced positive letters to the editor, which, of course, made my editors happy.

When I switched newspapers, I became a critic at large, being assigned various entertainment events to cover. This included people like Tony Orlando and Dawn or Liberace, family events like the Ringling Brothers Circus, and generally any event other critics couldn’t cover.

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Yes, Virginia There are Legal Free eBooks

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

300-thumb-lifestyleIf this is Tuesday, there must be a new controversy about eBooks. Recently, the Technology section of the Washington Post reported that both Amazon was selling Project Gutenberg titles in their eBook stores. This was picked up by other sources, including the Huffington Post. Amazon bashing ensued. People quickly found similar titles available on Barnes and Noble. Of course, B&N bashing ensued as well.

As usual, the blame, if there should be any, was misplaced. Many people were pointing fingers at  Amazon and B&N, forgetting that in most of these cases, they aren’t the publishers. These titles were put up by people selling PG titles through CreateSpace at Amazon or PubIt at B&N. Just copy the text from Project Gutenberg, reformat it, and upload it for sale at Amazon and B&N. Presto, you’re a publisher. It’s not illegal, and it is allowed by the Project Gutenberg license, but some argue that it’s unethical. After all, the PG volunteers put a lot of effort into scanning and proofreading the eBooks, only to see someone selling the very same editions.

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Looking for a Few Good Women (or Men)

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

image1fullWhen I was at the RWA conference this past summer, someone asked me how long I’d been reviewing online. “Since 1998,” I replied. Then saw the double take. “1998???”

Yep, that long. I’ve watched AAR go from renegade to respected institution. I’ve seen perceptions of online reviewers change from the Rodney Dangerfield-esque days of “No Respect” to, well, respect. I’ve reviewed in three separate decades of my life, starting in my twenties, continuing through the entire decade of my thirties, and now entering my forties. I’ve watched trends, authors, and publishers come and go.

The point of this is not that I am getting old (my kids remind me of that often), or that I’m a dinosaur by Internet standards, but that I’ve seen a lot of people come and go over twelve years. Not only on AAR, but elsewhere. Life’s complicated, and it’s busy. People have babies, lose jobs, get jobs, move, and burn out. Hang around awhile, and you’ll appreciate what it takes to maintain your interest, your passion, and your love of romance year after year. (Just ask Ellen, who has been at AAR longer than I).

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Publishers: Take my Money. Please.

Friday, November 12th, 2010

kindlebooksDisclaimer:  This is a rant from a consumer’s point of view.  No wait, a pissed off consumer’s point of view.

Dear Publishers:

As one of your very best customers who routinely buys multiple books each month, you should care what I think, right?

So, here goes:  Stop making me feel as if I’m doing something wrong – something lesser – when I buy an eBook.  That’s exactly how I feel when you:

  • Hold back an eBook release date until after a print book is published.
  • Eliminate any discounts – the kind of discounts found everywhere on print books – by your stupid Agency Pricing model.
  • And, God forbid, charge more for an eBook than a print book. What – I mean what the hell – are you thinking?

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