Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Thursday Midday Links: The RITA Version

Earlier this week, the RITA nominations were announced. We collected some of them here at DABWAHA and the full list is here.   First off, congratulations to the RITA nominees.   To the authors, this is akin to receiving an Oscar nomination.   I understand that readers don’t necessarily feel this way but I do want to take a minute to congratulate the nominees on an honor that is very meaningful to them.

To readers, this is another list full of books, the validity of which they agree and disagree about.   Here are some of my thoughts.   One thing I like to do is look at the category selections because those nominations are generally for strong books. The majority of RITA voters are category writers and they know category writing. What I feel isn’t well represented is the paranormal sub genre. The paranormal writers aren’t allowed to judge this category and I think it shows. Instead of deep rich works with great world building, we get wins like Gwen Cready’s time travel fan fic, Seducing Mr. Darcy, and Anne Mallory’s The Earl’s Pleasure, a ghost romance. (and I really like Mallory’s writing).

  • Unchained: the Dark Forgotten by Sharon Ashwood Edited by Laura Cifelli, NAL/Signet Eclipse
  • Sins of the Heart by Eve Silver Edited by Tara Parsons, HQN
  • Marked by the Moon by Lori Handeland Edited by Jennifer Enderlin, St. Martin's Press
  • A Highlander's Homecoming by Melissa Mayhue Edited by Megan McKeever, Pocket
  • Enemy Within by Marcella Burnard Edited by Leis Pederson | Book Link
  • Water Bound by Christine Feehan Edited by Cindy Hwang | Book Link
  • Immortal Sea by Virginia Kantra Edited by Cindy Hwang | Book Link
  • Rebel by Zoë Archer Edited by Megan Records | Book Link

The historical and the contemporary categories are pretty interesting as well. Victoria Dahl received a double nomination. (I think she received a double nomination last year?) I have to say I was surprised because Dahl’s heroines in both books are unusual. Dahl’s heroines have been castigated by readers for being amoral and unlikeable. (I’m a fan, full disclosure). Sherry Thomas was also nominated for His at Night and Joanna Bourne for The Forbidden Rose. Newcomer, Kaki Warner, received a historical nod for one of her epic Westerns.


  • A Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James Edited by Carrie Feron, Avon
  • Countess of Scandal by Laurel McKee Edited by Alex Logan, Forever
  • Last Night's Scandal by Loretta Chase Edited by May Chen    |    Book Link
  • Open Country by Kaki Warner Edited by Wendy McCurdy    |    Book Link
  • The Forbidden Rose by Joanna Bourne Edited by Wendy McCurdy    |    Book Link
  • A Little Bit Wild by Victoria Dahl Edited by John Scognamiglio    |    Book Link
  • Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah Maclean Edited by Carrie Feron, Avon    |    Book Link
  • HIS AT NIGHT by Sherry Thomas Edited by Caitlin Alexander, Bantam Books    |    Book Link


  • And One Last Thing by Molly Harper (Gallery Books; Jennifer Heddle, editor)
  • Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts (Berkley Trade; Leslie Gelbman, editor)
  • Lead Me On by Victoria Dahl (HQN Books; Tara Parsons, editor)
  • Not That Kind of Girl by Susan Donovan (St. Martin’s Press; Monique Patterson, editor)
  • Nothing But Trouble by Rachel Gibson (Avon Books; Lucia Macro, editor)
  • One Fine Cowboy by Joanne Kennedy (Sourcebooks Casablanca; Deb Werksman, editor)
  • Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis (Forever; Alex Logan, editor)
  • Still the One by Robin Wells (Forever; Selina McLemore, editor)
Remember Brian Keene’s calls for a Dorchester Boycott because Dorchester keeps selling his books, books they don’t own the rights to?   Dorchester has now said that it isn’t their fault, but the retailer. The retailers aren’t talking so it is easy for Dorchester to point the finger.   Chris Keeslar told Publishers Weekly that Keene will get the money that is owed to him.   The problem is that Dorchester owes money to a number of authors, including Keene, and they don’t have the funds to pay those authors at this point:
Anthony acknowledged that in rebuilding Dorchester the company has had to "prioritize its cash flow." This has resulted in not all authors being paid the money they are owed and that Dorchester had committed to pay when Anthony took over from John Prebich last November. "All authors will be paid in full," Anthony vowed. The Keene controversy has been a setback to Dorchester's turnaround efforts, but Keeslar said Dorchester is committed to rebuilding.
This link was tweeted by author Susan Mallery. Apparently heartbreak can cause physical pain.

Participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans while they:

•Viewed photos of their ex-partner and thought about how they felt during their breakup.

•Viewed a photo of a friend and thought about a recent positive experience with that person.

•Wore an arm device that created tolerable pain sensations to measure physical pain reactions.

Researchers compared the findings with 500 scans of other people’s brain responses to physical pain, emotion and other psychological processes.

“We found that the intense experience of social rejection activates regions of the brain that are involved in the sensory experience of physical pain,” Kross says.


Author Sarah Mayberry pointed to this article relating the rise of ebook interest following the collapse of a major brick and mortar bookselling change.

The Australian arm of Canada-based e-books company Kobo estimates there has been at least a 30 per cent increase in traffic to its sites, generating "good" sales, since REDgroup Retail slipped into voluntary administration in February.

“The mere fact that there is all this speculation whether e-books had pushed REDgroup into administration drove a lot of people to look at e-books," said Kobo's Australian head Malcolm Neil. "We actually saw a huge sales spike in the couple weeks afterwards."


Random House had a very good quarter and much of it is due to the rise of digital book sales.   I’m not sure if this will decline now that RH has adopted Agency pricing.

Random House Group (RHG) revenues were up 6.1% in 2010 compared to 2009, to €1.8bn ( £, with worldwide digital sales up 250% on the previous year.

Operating earnings before interest and tax (Ebit) for Random House also rose to €173m ( £152.6m) from €137m ( £120.8m) in 2009.

RHG expanded its e-book programme to include 25,000 titles worldwide by the end of 2010. In the United States, Bertelsmann said as much as half of first week fiction sales were now in digital.


I haven’t tried this out yet, but it intrigues me.   Asus Eee Pad Transformer is soon to hit the US shores.   This is a tablet and laptop in one because the screen (or tablet) detaches from the keyboard base.   I suspect that the internal guts of the Transformer is netbook and I gave up on my netbook.   At $400, though, this might be a decent replacement for the iPad.


Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. kreads
    Mar 31, 2011 @ 11:46:42

    I know it’s common to compare the RITAs to the Oscars but I think the more apt comparison is to the Grammys, where popularity often trumps artistic quality.

    (Which is not to say that a book can’t be both well crafted and popular. Of course it can. But when a movie is nominated for an Oscar, I have a reasonable expectation of the level of craft that went into making the movie. When a book is nominated for a RITA, I have no such expectations.)

  2. library addict
    Mar 31, 2011 @ 12:25:47

    I'm not a huge reader of paranormal. Do you think the picks suffer because the world building that attracts readers to the best in paranormal (Nalini Singh, Patricia Briggs, etc) is normally part of series? And that very world building that makes the series multi-layered may be too “intrinsic” to readers who pick up one book in the middle of a series? I'm not explaining that very well, but hopefully you'll get the gist.

    It seems to me most of the nominated books are stand-alone titles. But as I don't read a lot of that genre, I may be wrong. Also not a fan of books with Austen characters (I like the originals), and those seem to get nominated in this category a lot.

  3. JB Hunt
    Mar 31, 2011 @ 13:00:24

    I can’t believe Meljean Brook’s The Iron Duke didn’t make the RITA list. (I’m assuming it was submitted, but it might not have been.)

    If you’re looking for a well-crafted, powerful tale and a richly imagined world, you can’t do better than The Iron Duke.

    And where is Nalini Singh?

    Two of the brightest stars (in terms of talent and popularity) writing Paranormal are absent from the list?

  4. DianeN
    Mar 31, 2011 @ 13:49:14

    I think what bothers me most about the RITAS is that books must be submitted for nomination. How can any book be voted “best” if not all of the actual best books of the year are even being considered? I guess it’s a nice honor, but does it really mean anything? Whichever nominee wins best paranormal romance will probably be secretly relieved that her book didn’t have to go up against Meljean’s!

  5. vi
    Mar 31, 2011 @ 14:33:28

    Yet again Nalini Singh was robbed. Meredith Duran’s phenomenal “Wicked Becomes You” keeps getting overlooked. And don’t get me started on Meljean Brook. At the very least she deserved a nom for Here There Be Monsters.

    Oh well, I’m sure their lives went on despite the injustice and so will mine.

  6. Ridley
    Mar 31, 2011 @ 14:33:51

    @kreads: +1

    I bemoan the lack of a good reader award for romance novels. DABWAHA is as much a poularity contest as the RITA, if maybe a bit more relevant, and the RomCon award (readers’ crown?) seemed totally random to me.

    I wish there was a better way to honor authors who write those high-risk/high-reward books that become classics. It would be nice to have an easy way to compile those romance “must reads.” I know when I first started reading romance in 2009, I wished for a guide to the genre canon. There are so many romances, it’s daunting to figure out where to start.

  7. kreads
    Mar 31, 2011 @ 14:35:18

    I totally agree about The Iron Duke (but then again, I can’t believe it got knocked out of the DABWAHA. I had it going all the way.)
    Nalini Singh is missing, Ilona Andrews, Gail Carriger – all of whom came out with strong offerings last year. I find it hard to believe that Christine Feehan has written something better than the aforementioned authors.

  8. kreads
    Mar 31, 2011 @ 15:14:20


    I wonder if the lack of good reader awards is due to the lack of good critical reviews. I mean, I know there are some places that aren’t afraid to look at romance novels with a critical eye (like DA), but there are even more who are afraid to hurt the authors feelings because the author worked so hard and it’s a lot of work to write a book and critical reviewers are “mean girls”, etc. If the community is afraid to look at romance critically, it’s not surprising that their awards reflect that.

    Or maybe the lack of good reader awards has fostered a shallow, if-you-can’t-say-anything nice, after all, it’s only a romance, atmosphere. The fish stinks from the head…

    Not sure, I’m gonna have to think on that.

  9. FiaQ
    Mar 31, 2011 @ 15:22:05

    @JB Hunt:

    I can't believe Meljean Brook's The Iron Duke didn't make the RITA list. (I'm assuming it was submitted, but it might not have been.)

    According to one commenter in a post about the RITAs at SuperWendy’s blog, The Iron Duke was apparently submitted.

    EDITED: used a wrong word (‘indeed’ when it should be ‘apparently’). Need a cuppa.

  10. Amber
    Mar 31, 2011 @ 15:35:38

    I am surprised by the Feehan inclusion, too, considering the majority of reviews I’ve read (and my own experience) were negative. It could also be that Feehan’s choice of a mildly autistic heroine was what won judges over. It was a pretty gutsy choice, even though the book ended up not working for me.

    I think the RITAs might look very different if the books were sent out without the authors’ names on them. Because it does, to some extent, seem like a popularity contest at times.

  11. JB Hunt
    Mar 31, 2011 @ 16:32:51

    @FiaQ: Thanks for the scoop.

    @kreads: I picked The Iron Duke to win DABWAHA, too!

  12. peggy h
    Mar 31, 2011 @ 18:41:51

    I was so certain Iron Duke would sweep all kinds of book awards (including DABWAHA–my bracket is totally decimated) so the fact it didn’t make the list for the Ritas was really disappointing.

    To follow the trend of comparing the Ritas to other awards, I think it’s really more like the Emmys. Once you get in on the nominations one year, you seem to be more likely to be nominated again! (Though as a fan of both Sherry Thomas and Victoria Dahl, I admit I’m happy to see them both nominated again this year!)

  13. SonomaLass
    Mar 31, 2011 @ 20:17:22

    Sad as I am that Iron Duke wasn’t nominated, I’m simply shocked at the absence of MeljeanBrook’s novella, “Here There Be Monsters” on the list. I know it’s a screwy system, but there’s NO WAY any other story from that anthology should be nominated over that one.

  14. k reads
    Mar 31, 2011 @ 20:36:00

    Agreed. As much as I loved The Iron Duke, I thought Here Be Monsters was even better.

  15. Evangeline Holland
    Mar 31, 2011 @ 21:04:15

    The current romance reader awards are spread out amongst a variety of, well, “factions”–we have Dear Author’s annual picks, All About Romance’s Top 100 list and annual round-up, Romantic Times has its own best of the best list, etc etc. The fan/reader-based awards in other genres (Hugo, Anthony, etc) are usually attached to fan conventions…and the aforementioned RT and RomCon are presently the only large-scale fan/reader conventions for romance.

    I agree with the assessment of the PNR RITA category, but what can the RWA do if a large majority of their published authors are category romance writers? Also, reader-based awards tend to ignore H/S novels, so wouldn’t they be slighted if the RITAs were opened to reader nominations (their presence on major review sites are only fairly recent, and I’ve seen a number of romance readers still turn up their nose at the category romances)? The RITAs are what they are, and I feel the only thing we can do is to support them simply because they are a list of nominated/voted romances from the genre’s official writers’ organization.

  16. k reads
    Mar 31, 2011 @ 22:44:46

    @Evangeline Holland:

    I don’t know that opening up the nominations to readers would make things better. It would probably just bring a new set of problems to the process.

    But as a reader, I don’t feel I need to support them just because they come from an official writers’ organization. My interest in the RITAs is – will it help me to find new authors, new books and new recommendations? And the answer to that is – no, because I just don’t trust their nominations. (Not just the PNR category but across the board. And I learned that the hard way.)

    Perhaps the best thing the RITAs could do would be to have nominations come from people who are knowledgable about the sub genre they are voting on. (I don’t really know how the RITAs work but that seems like a no-brainer to me.)

  17. Honeywell
    Mar 31, 2011 @ 23:13:10

    I think I might be interested in the RITA if they would make a list of the titles that were submitted in each category available–they said 1,100 this year so it’s not a lot. Every year I’ve seen the nominees my reaction is always the same, “Who are they and why didn’t this author make it?”

    Maybe if the process was more transparent I wouldn’t assume that merit was at the very bottom of a long list of criteria the books are judged on. As it is now I think the awards are nice for authors but are pretty useless for readers.

  18. Evangeline Holland
    Apr 01, 2011 @ 03:50:16

    @k reads: @Honeywell: The rules are on the RWA website.

    From what I recall, there is no nominating committee–authors submit their books with the $40 entry fee ($80 if you are not a RWA member), the books are then sent to those eligible to vote for the RITA (published authors). One can opt out of particular categories, but one cannot judge books in the category in which one has entered their own book or books (i.e. Victoria Dahl couldn’t judge books submitted to the contemporary romance and the historical romance categories).

    If you look at the Hugo Awards or the Anthony Awards, their entry and judging criteria/process shows little difference from the RITAs. I admit my bias: I am a writer who hopes to win a few RITAs in the future; however, every year I’m left baffled by the reaction the nominations arouse. I’m also baffled by the assumptions that something is amiss in the nomination process when most other major literary awards are never a free for all.

    Is there disappointment because we are too close to the genre? Are we pickier because we are in the trenches with romance authors and publishing professionals? If one were a general romance reader, who bought only their favorite authors or all of the books in their favorite category line, wouldn’t the RITAs be viewed simply as a list of books members of the RWA considered the best of 2010? I am very curious about this because I look at the RITA Awards as a list of books which garnered the highest percentage of votes from the organization’s members, and if some books fail to make it, they just happened to miss the top percentile–or, they just weren’t entered into the contest.

  19. Jane
    Apr 01, 2011 @ 07:21:57

    @Evangeline Holland This is an industry award and it is meaningful to the industry but I can’t see it becoming meaningful to the readers. There is no place for the readers in this award. Further, when it is such a luck of the draw / popularity thing, it’s hard to be enthused about it.

  20. Jane
    Apr 01, 2011 @ 07:25:00

    @Ridley My feeling on the DABWAHA is that we throw up what we believe are 64 of the best books in one year. From there, it is kind of a free for all, but we have heard a lot of complaints this year about the extent to which it has become a popularity contest and are going to look into doing something about it next year.

    I would love to see something like the UK’s RNA awards which draws from a huge pool of readers: authors, editors, readers, in forming a short list and then those books go on to a judging panel who judges all of the same books.

  21. k reads
    Apr 01, 2011 @ 09:42:41

    I thought DABWAHA was supposed to be a popularity contest, am I wrong on that?
    Anyway, I do think the 64 books chosen are some of the best of the year and most, if not all of them, deserve to be on the list. (Unlike the RITAs.) And I also think it was smart to open up the nominations for a reader’s choice. So if DABWAHA is a popularity contest, at least it is a popularity contest involving the cream of the crop.

  22. anonymous
    Apr 01, 2011 @ 14:06:18

    Up until around the late 90’s, RITA voting was open to any RWA member who wanted to volunteer to judge. Then the rules changed and it was only published authors who judged RITAs.

    I asked the RWA President at the time for the reason for the change, and she said published writers wanted to be judged by their peers and not unpublished authors. But, saying that, I did hear a lot of published authors who were against the decision because they felt that when you limit it to just published authors, you open it up to popularity contests (cliques, large chapters, etc) and you lose the diversity of a readership (unpubs) that is widely read.

  23. Karen Templeton
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 10:55:52

    First, a disclaimer: My books have made the RITA finals three times since 2002, and one of them won its category in 2009. So obviously I’m not completely objective. :)

    However, I have never understood the claims that this is a popularity contest, especially given the way the contest is run — and the fact that, every year, so many readers remark that they’ve never heard of many of the finalists, heh.

    So, for those of you unfamiliar with the process, here’s how it goes: Every author who enters the contest is expected to also judge (and the vast majority do). Not in her own category, obviously, which would be serious conflict of interest. But since we can opt out of categories we’re not familiar with/could not fairly judge, that still leaves us with plenty to chose from. Many authors write, or have written, more than one subgenre; most of us read very widely across the board. For instance, I write primarily category romance (although I actually read very little of it anymore) but I’ve always read a lot of women’s fiction, single title (both of which I’ve also written), mainstream, mystery. So I’m comfortable judging those subgenres, because I’m familiar enough with the structure, etc. to know what I’m looking for in a “winning” book — besides which, things like voice, pacing, etc. are the same no matter what the book says on the spine. I *don’t* judge paranormal because a) it’s not my thing, and b) I’m *not* familiar with what makes a paranormal work. But that’s not to say other category writers aren’t. As I said, we don’t just read what we write. ;)

    For the first round, we each send in five copies of our books, which are then divvied up into packets with up to eight other author’s books and sent out to five judges. Five RANDOM judges. Who, more likely than not, do not know those authors personally, or may not have even heard of them. After all, the handful of gals at the RWA office stuffing books into boxes has no clue who knows whom. And in fact, in the ten+ years I’ve been judging, I’d say 80 percent of the books in my judging packet have been by writers completely unfamiliar to me. (Besides which, even if they were, the name on the cover does not influence how I judge the book.) The judging simply cannot be influenced by chapter or any other kind of bias, even if you allow for the occasional judge who might squee at getting a Big Name She Already Loves and automatically giving the book a 9 (the top score). The odds of that happening with all five judges, however, is virtually nil, since we don’t all love the same writers any more than “regular” readers. ;-)

    For the final round, we send in an additional five copies, which then go out to five *different* judges. IOW, to win, you have to get ten people to say “I love this book.” Not so easy, trust me. ;-)

    No awards contest — in any medium — is completely flawless. Don’t we all grumble about Oscar nominees and winners every year, wondering why our faves didn’t make the cut, or why this actor won over that one? (And BTW, since it’s impossible to judge performances without knowing the performer’s identity, why should books be judged any differently?) IMO, reader awards — which are certainly viable and important — are far more likely to skew toward popularity, because voting is more likely to be based on authors/books most readers already know about. At least with the RITAs, judges are handed books to read they might not have considered before, or even heard of. True, not every romance sporting that year’s copyright is in the running, but a random sampling of more than 1000 titles isn’t small potatoes, either.

    What winning the RITA says to me — as a reader, first, not just a writer — is that here is a book that ten random people scored high enough to win that particular prize. So, if the subject matter appeals to me, that book might be worth a look. Doesn’t mean there aren’t other books out there equally, if not even, more worthy of my time, just that this is one way of spotlighting books that other people have liked. And, as a writer, I do know readers have given my books a whirl *because* I won a RITA, and that it has helped to grow my readership.

    Which is never a bad thing. ;-)

  24. Stumbling Over Chaos :: Linkity for the April Fools (feel free to interpret that however you’d like)
    Apr 05, 2011 @ 19:00:22

    […] and publisher news from Dear Author and […]

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