Happily Ever….

QRMOne of the most – cough – discussed posts we’ve had on Queer Romance Month recently has been about the happy ever after in queer romance. What the post, and the responses to the post, highlighted for me was just how complex and emotive this issue is. And while that would probably make any normal person STFU, I’d kind of like to talk about it. So the next two QRM-inspired posts for AAR are going to be about the HEA: in this one I’m going to ponder what HEA means in the context of queer romances, and in the companion post next week, KJ Charles is going to talk about why the HEA is valuable and necessary on its own terms. Continue reading

Checking in with Sarah MacLean

imageI was lucky enough to get a chance to sit down and chat with Sarah MacLean while at RWA. (This was before she won the RITA for best historical romance!) I wanted to follow up with her. I’d talked to her in December of 2013 about her challenge to The New York Times and that paper’s dismissal of romance. Since then, Sarah has been writing a regular column for the NYT’s rival, The Washington Post, about–gasp–romance novels.  Continue reading

RWA 2014 – My Wrap Up

riverwalkI think I’ll think of RWA 2014 as the “Can’t we all just get along?” conference (subtitled, “of course we can!”). Or, to paraphrase a Zora Neale Hurston quote, there are conferences that ask questions and conferences that answer. This one answered.

In what way? Well, Carolyn Crane’s self-published Off the Edge won a RITA, and that’s significant. I talked to authors who love self-publishing, and authors who love their publishers. I talked to authors who self-publish and traditionally publish simultaneously. The general consensus is that writing and publishing is still a challenging business, but the challenges have changed over the years; now one of the biggest challenges is finding what’s right for you in a world of so many choices. But there was also a general feeling that whatever your choices are, they’re okay. Self-publishing or digital only publishing are not the romance ghetto; for many they are the smartest financial decision.

What else is afoot? Well, when I attend RWA my primary goal is basically to have my ear to the ground. I want to know what’s happening, what publishers are looking for and not looking for, and what people are working on that they’re excited about. I tweet as many publisher spotlights as I can get myself to and talk to authors formally and informally. Oh, and go to the type of fun and glamorous cocktail parties I rarely attend in “real life”, and talk about books with some of the most interesting women you could ever hope to meet. It’s a tough gig, but someone has to do it.

I felt like the publisher requests this year were somewhat similar to last year. People still see Paranormal Romances as being in somewhat of a downturn (although witches and shape shifters still sell). Virtually every publisher still wants Westerns, and most absolutely want to see unusual settings. Digital publishing has made the business so much more flexible. As for New Adult (which seemed like all anyone could talk about last year), publishers still want it, but they didn’t have last year’s tone of desperation. And at least one publisher said they wanted New Adult, but could we get past college and do something different? At the end of the day, there were fewer hard and fast rules. If your vampire book is well-written and manages to bring something new and different to the table, you can probably find a home for it. And if you can’t? You can always publish it yourself.

On a personal note, I just love connecting with the fabulous group of (mostly) women who write romance, write about romance, and publish romance. I had both serious conversations on how best to help someone who has a child with cancer and less serious conversations about possible sex techniques when your hero’s/partner’s penis is not exactly…straight. I found out that there is a boom in heroes named Trenton, that the fabulous Sarah Wendell has the distribution of surplus review books down to a science (and is clearly the most popular person at her nail salon and pediatrician’s office), and that many of us still have a love/hate relationship with Fifty Shades of Gray. Yes, we talked about the trailer. I sorely missed our own Lynn Spencer, who had to sit this year out, but had a fabulous time with Dabney Grinnan – who was a first timer at RWA and found out that the RITAs are fun. Oh and my favorite image of RWA 2014? Molly O’Keefe with a beer in one hand and a RITA tucked under her arm.

And I am happy to post my workout view photo again this year – I had no luck with that one at Atlanta because my view was from the hotel gym and it was terminally boring. This year I ran all along the river walk and absolutely loved it. Yes, it’s warmer than Denver and sort of smells like a zoo in places, but it’s beautiful and shaded, and you get way more oxygen when you’re not running at 6000+ feet (something that came in handy when I got lost and ran six miles instead of my usual three). Thanks to all for a fabulous conference. See you next year in the Big Apple!

News from San Antonio

I I had to hit the ground running At RWA this year, leaving a family reunion in just enough time to make it to the Literacy Signing. Not the most relaxing way to start off a conference, but then you haven’t really lived until you’ve heard an adorable almiost-three year old call you Aunt “Life”. Nonetheless, I made it just in time and got to catch up with some great authors and hear about their work. Here’s what’s new (at least with authors A-L…sorry, by the time I got to the M’s everything was wrapping up).

Zoe Archer Zoe Archer wrote one of my favorite books last year (Sweet Revenge). She’s going in a new direction next year, and will be publishing Regency set historicals with Avon. They’ll center around women writers, and will be written under a new name to match the new direction – Eva Leigh.

Jo Beverley has been concentrating on her Malloren books recently, but is moving back to her Rogues series. Her next book will be Too Dangerous for a Lady (out next April), and will feature a heroine who is the sister of one of the Rogues who didn’t survive the Peninsular Wars. As she pointed out, it was a dangerous time, and not all would-be heroes or their friends survived it.

Kristen Callihan is continuing with her Darkest London series, which she considers to be more Gothic/Gas Lamp fantasies than Steampunk. Her latest, Evernight, comes out in August. The heroine has to work on (in the mechanical/metaphysical sense) a man who is back or revenge. Two more books are on the horizon – Souldown and Forevermore. And Kristen says it’s harder to come up with her compound word titles than you might think; many of the obvious choices have already been co-opted by YA.

Sherri Browning is working on the next book in her Thornbrook Park series, Affair Downstairs.

Claudia Dain was a name I hadn’t seen in awhile. She wrote some Medievals that received positive reviews here back in the day. With the wonders of the internet, they’re available again. She’s now concentrating on Regency historicals (which she self-publishes) and women’s fiction, which she writes under Claudia Walsh. He regencies are lighter in tone than her medievals, and the women’s fiction emerged because she felt she had a story to tell that didn’t quite fit the romance mold.

Megan Frampton used to write for AAR back in the day. She has a new series coming out with Avon starting this fall – Dukes Behaving Badly, which starts out with The Duke’s Guide to Correct Behavior in late November. She’ll also have a novella in February; novellas are a bit of a theme this year.

Laura Florand is moving from chocolate books to fragrance books. Her new series will feature an old Fragrance family from the south of France and will include four books and a novella. The first of these is Once Upon a Rose. Laura was drawn to fragrance as a theme because she loves rich settings and was able to do extensive research in the area.

Elizabeth Essex is an author I’d love to review – if only everyone else didn’t keep beating me to the punch. Her next book, out in September, is a shipwreck story with a heroine who is near and dear to Elizabeth’s heart. The heroine manages to talk her way into a royal expedition to the South Seas; Essex herself is a former nautical archeologist. It’s based loosely on the voyages of Darwin and Cook.

L.B. Gregg is another novella enthusiast – for her the length really works. Her newest novella with Riptide is part of a multi-author series involving a town in the Pacific Northwest where a werewolf TV series is filmed. Her particular story is bout a barista and an actor in the show.

Blythe Gifford had the first of two royal wedding stories come out in March. She also has a self published book set in the seventeenth century called The Witch Finder. We chatted about fellow Blythes we have known (not many), and Blythe has actually met Anya Seaton’s granddaughter (a fellow Blythe apparently). And all the cooler because Seaton’s writing and the way she showcased love and historical intrigue are what inspired Blythe to write those type of books herself.

Susanna Kearlsey has a new book coming out in spring – A Desperate Fortune. It’s a bit of a departure from some of her other books in that it doesn’t have a paranormal element (although it does have a dual storyline). It’s about a modern day code breaker who starts translating the journal of a 1732 Parisian and Jacobite sympathizer, and learns that the journal is not what it seems. Her next project is set in Colonial Long Island during the French and Indian War. Bonus: The modern day hero is a full-blooded Mohawk.

Caroline Lindon is still writing her racy Regency books, which have featured a mystery about the writer of – essentially – Regency porn. Said writer is about to be exposed…perhaps that’s a double entendre?

Jennifer Lohmann’s next book is Winning Ruby Heart, which has a disgraced Olympic runner heroine and sports caster hero. This piqued my interest as I have a son who runs, and much of our spare time revolves around cross country and track seasons. The heroine was a middle distance runner (5K and 10K for those of you who don’t spend your spring Saturdays watching teenagers run around in circles) caught doping who now runs ultra-marathons. Jennifer was influenced both by the Lance Armstrong Scandal and reading Born to Run (a fairly interesting and provocative book even if you’re not a runner).

Julie Anne Long just wrapped up Lavay’s book, and next up will by Lyon. Her series and her fandom are still going strong.

I’m hoping to catch those M-Z authors elsewhere this conference, as well as others like Tessa Dare and Julie James, who had longer lines. Stay tuned!

The Hachette vs. Amazon Battle: Quality vs. Quantity

book-and-firecrackersIn the battle between Hachette and Amazon, Hachette and those who support it have based their argument upon two simple “facts”. The first is that Amazon is too big. A retailer that large is dangerously close to being a monopoly (or so they say). The second is that Amazon, with their (evil) devotion to pleasing the costumer will destroy the quality of books. Continue reading

Hachette vs. Amazon: Show Me the Money

Blam-Pow160I am no Amazon fangirl. In April 2013 I blogged about my concerns when they took over Goodreads. On the other hand I have what is probably an unhealthy attachment to my Kindle and I visit their site several times a week vis-à-vis books. Amazon seems to be one of the few companies aware that the book world is changing and certainly acts interested in helping readers navigate that world. They not only provide new books cheap but help you get old books and books from overseas. While I may not want Amazon to take over the book world, I certainly want them to be a large part of it. Continue reading

RT20014: The Author interviews, part three

There were countless authors at RT and I met many of them. Those I interviewed, I asked the same three questions.

What is the most interesting piece of research you ever uncovered while writing a book?

How have people responded to you when you tell them you write romance?

If you had to have lunch with one of your characters, who would it be and why?

CourtneyMCourtney Milan:

My next book is called The Suffragette’s Scandal which is about Frederica Marshall who is a recurring character in The Brothers Sinister series. It comes out later this summer. The hero of the book is someone my readers have never met. He is a complete scoundrel, a blackmailer, a man who doesn’t believe in anything at all. Frederica is the most idealistic heroine I’ve ever met so it’s an explosive combination.

In my latest book, my heroine had gone to Cambridge so I was researching women attending Cambridge at the time. They gave a test called the Mathematical Tripos to those who would graduate with Honors. They finally started allowing women to take the test but wouldn’t rank them alongside the men. Instead, they would announce the women separately and then say where they would have fallen in the official ranking. In 1890, there was a woman named Philippa Fawcette who was a badass. She took the test and her results posed a challenge for the announcers. Her score beat out all the men… by 13%. She is one of the reasons Cambridge began to let women be ranked alongside the men.

For a very long time I kept my romance life completely separate from my work life. Then, I quit my day job. All of my friends were completely supportive. I went to a reunion and, afterwards, a guy from it emailed me and said “We all voted and we think you have the coolest job.”

At this point, it would be Free (Frederica). She’s funny, she’s optimistic, and she likes to eat. So we could order everything.

JenniferMJennifer McQuiston:

My latest book is Diary of an Accidental Wallflower–it’s “Mean Girls” set in Victorian London. It’s will come out in late 2014 or early 2015 and is being published by Avon.

In Diary of an Accidental Wallflower, the hero’s a physician who is working on a device to safely deliver chloroform in surgeries. I researched the phases of sedation. I actually found a YouTube video from the late 1940′s and early 1950′s and watched it over and over again. I was interested to learn that many people fight being sedated and may have to be tied or calmed down to get to that final stage of unconsciousness.

I get a lot of raised eyebrows because in my day job I am an epidemiologist at the CDC.

I would have lunch with Carolyn Tolbertson, the heroine of my second book, Summer is for Lovers. First, I would get to go to Brighton in the 1800′s. Second, she was a very unusual woman. She was a swimmer at a time women didn’t swim. She was very true to herself. I think she would be an interesting person to talk to.

EliseCElise Cyr:

My latest–and first–book is Siege of the Heart. It’s a Medieval romance set in England in the aftermath of the Norman conquest. The heroine, Isabel, is English-born but Norman-blooded and is somewhat adrift in this new political climate. The hero Alexandre is one of William’s knights sent to her holding to secure her family’s loyalty. It was released in April of this year by Kensington Books.

It was incredibly difficult to research this time period. It was a time when everything was in the transition, so I had to research the late Anglo-Saxon period, the post-Norman climate in England, and make guesses as to what happened in between. It was an eye-opening experience for me, especially given that the victors write the history.

I’d pick Isabel. She is a twisted mirror reflection of myself. She’s the version of myself I’d like to be.


MeganMMegan Mulry:

My upcoming release is Roulette, which comes out in December, 2014.

The most interesting bit of research had to do with Sharia Law and arranged marriages in Somalia. This still goes on, but the laws are gradually changing to allow mothers to support their daughters’ decisions to decline an arranged marriage. It’s only a minor part of a subplot, but I love learning all these random facts. I also loved doing research into Parisian cheese shops, high-end clothing shops, Van Cleef & Arpels, and private jet interiors.

When I tell people I write romance they are usually super-excited to meet a “real” writer. I am often out socializing with my husband and the conversation frequently leads to the raised eyebrow along with, “So…do you help with research?”

I would love to have lunch with Miki and Rome from Roulette. He brings her take out from Petrossian that they eat in the back of a limo when she is too busy to eat lunch between high-powered meetings in New York City.

Dabney Grinnan

available books mentioned in this post are: