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Past is Prologue, A Brief Look at History of Romance Communities...


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(I could not have written this post without the help of Maili aka McVane and her near encyclopedic knowledge of the history of internet community on romance)

One thing that does not get enough acknowledgment is how past communities on the internet have blazed new trials in romance criticism and readership involvement in books. Michelle Buonfiglio’s piece about good communities and bad communities wasn’t just a swipe at Smart Bitch Sarah but it was an indictment of all communities that foster robust discussion. It raised old and tired arguments and worse dismisses or refuses to acknowledge the communities that formed the foundation of internet communities that we have today.   The main reason why internet is good for romance? Because the community keeps us loyal to and passionate about the romance genre and that results in greater sales. The basis for my post today is threefold:

  1. to honor and give due to those who went before us.
  2. to recognize that critical discourse leads to strengthening of the community.
  3. to enforce that romance needs an internet community of vibrant, contrary, smart readers.
The romance community didn’t start with Dear Author nor did it start with SB or even AAR. There were glimmers of an online romance community in the 80s with Bulletin Boards, Usenet and listservs. We are but one patch of the larger bolt.

My earliest memories of criticism of the romance genre came in the form of reviews at The Romance Reader. (Founded by Leslie McClain.) According to its current owner, Dede, Leslie started the site in 1995. There was no TRR domain but it could be found searching for romance reviews. In 1996, Leslie turned the site over to Dede and TRR still puts out quality reviews today. One of my favorite reviewers of romances was Susan Scribner who introduced me to more than one awesome five heart review during her turn as a reviewer.

Romantic Times had message boards as far back as 1998 although the archives of those conversations do not readily exist. From 1998 to approximately 2002, there were only four main threads but as more readers began to populate the message boards, the more that they wanted to talk about both the good AND the bad of the books they were reading. A month-long debate on the ‘Favourite Books and Authors’ threads gave birth to two to three additional threads to allow ‘critical posts’ of novels. One of those is the still in existence ‘Readers’ Roundtable.’

Laurie Gold, formerly of All About Romance, founded a Prodigy Romance Listserv for fans to engage each other about the genre. When Prodigy died, the list was moved to ONElist and it was renamed AARList. This ultimately morphed into the yahoo group, AARlist. Some time after this, a new yahoo group was announced called “canwetalk”. The list was open to readers only; no authors allowed. It was to be a place for readers to discuss books openly without dealing with or fearing the reactions from defensive authors. This caused a massive uproar.

However, the anonymous poster made a response to a criticism and accidentally revealed herself to be no other than LLB herself. LLB owned up and explained she was fed up with authors not allowing to give readers the freedom to discussion books with freedom and thus tried to create a haven for readers.   Authors were suspicious of ‘canwetalk’ enough to go undercover and “spy” on discussions. One author subscribed under her own name and announced that her “fans” had passed on critical comments from the list to her and so, she entered the list because she wanted to “tell y’all I am okay with negative reviews and anti-romance readers”.

RRA-List is another long running entity, possibly the oldest in existence. Dubbed the RRA-L (Romance Readers Anonymous List), it was founded in 1992 by Leslie Haas and Kara Robinson, two librarians. RRA-L gave out awards at the end of the year which are often cited by authors. Readers and authors alike mingled on this listserv and it was from this listserv that commonplace terms such as TSTL wallbanger, comfort read, and the like were coined. Preeti Singh lovingly maintained that awards list and fostered the listserv along with all the other inhabitants and contributors. The busiest period seemed to be between 1995 and 1997. 1997 was the inception of AAR and it’s possible that many on the list migrated to the open forum that AAR offered.   RRA-L still exists although as a Yahoo group now.

Since early 1990s, Romance readers learned HTML from each other or books to create a web site or CGI for a message board. Romance-focused web sites then began to spring up all over the internet. Online databases of romance novels were formed. Book swapping sites for romance readers developed. Sites that devoted to galleries of romance book covers. Sites that specialised in certain sub-genres. BYRON (Books You Read Old & New) was the result of a passionate romance reader who, with her brother, created a software program as a comprensative book database for romance readers. Although many were author-friendly, review web sites were a common sight.   Serious discussions among readers began.

For nearly as long as there has been an internet, there have been readers coming together to talk about books, both the good and the bad. There wasn’t a typical reader nor discussion. There were discussions of identifying and defining themes (friends-turn-lovers; revenge; beauty and the beast), types (tearjerker, epic, dark), then-unofficial sub-genres (western, pirate, regency, adventure, office), archetypes (Alpha/Beta/Gamma heroes, antihero/ines, experienced heroines), common plots, and pet peeves. There were also many discussions about definitions of terms, types of romance novel, historical fiction, reader types, ethics and the future of the genre.

Readers were quick to embrace or reject a new sub-genre or trend. When Chick Lit became popular, there were discussions in the romance community whether it should be part of the Romance genre, Women’s Fiction or Comedy.   Discussions regarding placement of books within the genre applied to novels such as Robin Schone’s books Awaken My Love (1995) and The Lady’s Tutor (1998) that sparked many an online war over the definition of ‘erotic romance’. Some believe that she (and Susan Johnson to some extent with Bertrice Small) created the sub-genre of erotic romance.

There were even discussions about the conduct and ethics of authors’ online behaviour. There were different types and depths of discussions but all discussions have included both the negative and the positive. You simply CANNOT eliminate negative or contrary voices.   These voices will rise up in different formats and attract readers because we are not solely about sunshine and light. We want to talk about every aspect of romance from the very great to the very ugly.   Debate, even heated debate, is part of what makes the communities endure.

During this period, established authors and long-time readers, some who saw authors as celebrities, did not appreciate a growing number of new-generation readers voicing their less-than-complimentary opinions about romance novels and the flaws of the genre. Some called on their loyal readers to battle with these “anti-romance” readers, which caused tension and flame wars. It took years of several reader-author discussions to create a quiet agreement on how they should conduct their online relationships and revised the ethics of reviews. 2000 brought in a new generation of authors, formerly readers and familiar with the history of the online community, that made it easier for readers and authors to have book discussions and issues.

Even the Princeton conference wasn’t the first academic discussion of its kind. In 2000, Bowling Green State University held a symposium regarding romance. The featured speakers were Jayne Ann Krentz, Jenny Crusie, and Kay Mussell, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at American University, where she served as Professor of Literature and American Studies.

Dear Author is but a microcosm in the universe of romance communities that have come and gone and that have endured. (We, of course, want to be one of those that endure). Dear Author would not be here if it weren’t for those listservs. If it weren’t for TRR and AAR. If it weren’t for Mrs. Giggles. Or bloggers like Rosario, who started blogging in August of 2002! and Wendy, the Superlibrarian, whose archives stem back to 2003, Maili who helped so many of us (including Dear Author) get our start, and launched a whole new era of reader blogs. Readers have never viewed each other as competitors.   Instead, we share information. We riff off each others ideas.     It is this proliferation of strong voices on the internet that has helped, in some small ways, in creating the idea in others’ minds that romance is a legitimate genre; wholly different than porn and worthy of literary recognition.

One of the strengths of the Beyond Heaving Bosoms book is that there are bad works of fiction published under the romance umbrella. Owning that gives us credibility when we say that there are great books in the genre.   But even beyond the embrace of criticism of the genre is the creation of community.   Communities full of readers (of which authors are a subset) help to foster devotion and loyalty to the genre as well as ensuring the improvements and further developments of the genre with a critical eye.

Through these communities we find new authors but even better new reasons why we love the genre, it empowers us to talk to other people, helps shed some of the shame associated with reading romance. It makes us prouder, more articulate, and better ambassadors of the genre.

I would love to hear about what brought you into the romance community. What your earliest memory of it was.   What you like most and what you like least about internet romance communities. How you believe it will evolve.   These are my memories (spurred by Maili). What are yours?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She 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

114 Comments

  1. Maggie Robinson
    May 05, 2009 @ 05:07:59

    Several years ago I woke up in the middle of the night and decided to write. I’d always been a voracious reader, but had somehow stopped reading romances all through the nineties. If I was going to write romance novels, I had to read some again, right? So I picked up Eloisa James, Julia Quinn, Jo Beverley and Loretta Chase books, visited the EJBB (before it was the EJJQBB) and Word Wenches, entered the Avon contest along with a lot of others on the EJBB, found partners for a critique group there, and then wandered around the Internet. While I lurk more often than comment anywhere now, I’ve learned an awful lot (but never enough) online. The more serious I’ve gotten about my writing, the less time I spend online, which will have to change a little as I just got a book deal with Berkley Heat and will have to get “out there.” :)

    I’ve been so impressed by the generosity of the vast majority of published authors. I feel I’ve made friendships even if I don’t know the faces behind the commenters’ names. There’s something for everybody, and it’s pretty overwhelming.

  2. May B.
    May 05, 2009 @ 05:16:20

    My first experience with romance community was with The Romance Reader. At that time I still used UNIX. I lived in Thailand and it was very difficult to access any kind of information about romance. At that time I read romance in secret because in my society romance was frown upon (it still is today). When I first stumbled into TRR, it was an incredible feeling. I could not fully describe. I was like I *finally knew* someone out there read the same thing, that I was not alone or did something wrong by reading romance.

    In some way the internet community liberated me.

  3. KristieJ
    May 05, 2009 @ 05:22:13

    I joined the ‘romance’ community somewhere around 2002/2003 I think. My first exposure was TRR. In RL there were very few of my friends who read romance and no one who went to the lengths I did and I was pretty lonely in my reading life. When I discovered TRR, it was like a light went on and I realized there were others out there like me. Then sometime later I discovered AAR and not only were there book reviews – there was discussion about them though it was a while before I started investigating past the reviews. I lurked for quite a while before actually getting up the nerve to post on one of their boards.
    Then further exploring led me to Laurie’s blog and I thought wow!! Cool!! A way to expand on thoughts as I always kept my comments short on the bulletin boards at AAR. Then I discovered The Big Three in blogland – Maili/McVane, Wendy and Rosario. Not long after that I found myself out of work with time on my hands and thought I’d try and start a blog too. It took 4 attempts before I figured out how to actually get into it and start posting. That was back in February of 2005. Maili was the first blogger to post a link to Ramblings and I still remember with a huge thrill when I saw that. And a huge reason why I’m so glad she’s back! The rest they say, is history.
    I’m not going to get into how my life has changed and been enriched by those exploratory times at the beginning except to say my life has gone in directions I never could have predicted. How much it’s been enriched, would take way too long :)

  4. Mora
    May 05, 2009 @ 06:00:53

    I’m a newer romance reader, so this is fascinating stuff.

  5. Leeann Burke
    May 05, 2009 @ 06:04:21

    I can't remember the exact year that I joined the romance community online. I do know that I started to look around the net for information about new authors and new books in the 1990's. I read romance sporadically during my teens but I became addicted (yep I'll confess I'm addicted)) romance after I graduated from University.

    The first website I remember (not for its boards or reader groups) is Writerspace. I used to get my author/book information from that site for a while before I discovered others like Romance Junkies.

  6. kimber an
    May 05, 2009 @ 06:27:36

    My earliest exposure? As a teen, I borrowed one of my grandma’s Romance novels and thought it was stupid. There was nothing I could relate to. Boycotted the whole genre until my late 30′s.

    What brought me in? THE STAR KING by Susan Grant. The Heroine was a MOMMY! She even had stretch marks and her man loved her just the same. Whoa, the genre had changed and there was something in it for everyone. Been here ever since.

    And, yes, I came back via the Internet. I’d started blogging and stumbled across Susan’s blog.

  7. BevBB
    May 05, 2009 @ 06:37:00

    Well, you forgot one big source. I orignially got online through the AOL service back when it was one of the only ways to get on the Internet. (1994 roughly?) It was also where I got my first introduction to online romance reader groups. They were fairly active but weren’t my primary focus at the time.

    So, it was a fellow reader reader in a fandom on AOL that told me about RRA-l which I joined. That’s where I learned about The Romance Reader. The reviewer I liked the best there was Laurie Gold but it wasn’t long before she left and started doing her own thing on Laurie Likes Books, which later became AAR, and I I followed.

    Somehow I completely missed the entire Prodigy Romance Listserv track. ;)

    Oh, and at one point, I had a website on Writespace and got all involved in all their forums, lists and chats. Never was much on chats, though. They give me headaches. Literally. That site did spin off several excellent sub-genre interest groups that are still in existence today. One in particular, Paranormal Romance has an extremely active Yahoo group and website amoung other things. They’ve done a lot to help authors lobby for more paranormals in romances over the years. ;)

  8. Lynne Connolly
    May 05, 2009 @ 07:08:17

    I write because I read. I started writing endings to books that were less than satisfactory because I wanted to know what happened next.
    So reader came first.
    I’ve been part of the online romance community since 2002, when my first ebook was published, but it was the community that put me in touch with the US market (I live in the UK) and also introduced me to a lot of good friends, some of which I still have today. Robin Greene, and Susan, aka The Duchess (Susan, where are you now?) They were passionate advocates of the romance genre and introduced me to many fine authors. AAR and RRA are still part of my daily reading schedule, but I never really got to grips with the forums.

    When I review, I make a conscious effort to do so as a reader. Did I enjoy the book and if not, why not? I don’t review authors I know as friends, or books published by a publisher that I’m with, to avoid any conflict. I’m trying to communicate to a fellow reader what I liked or didn’t like about a book.

    When I write, I go into the zone, and if the book is accepted for publication, I have to go and promote it. Of all the tasks, I dislike this, and I particularly dislike the “buy my book” kind of promo. I don’t do it much any more. Apart from an informative email and blog, just to tell people it’s there to be bought, I don’t do it to death. I suspect I’m not a natural promoter, but I am aware than when I put a comment on a blog, or make a blog post on something other than the book, I get a few clicks to my website. So thanks for that. And I rarely comment on reviews, but I’m lucky, I don’t get many bad ones, though I do thank the reviewer. I’m at a loss. How do we tell people our books are out, but stop at the “buy my book, it’s the best thing since sliced bread?” approach.

    BTW, what happened to Laurie Gold? She just upped and went and I miss her.

  9. Keri M
    May 05, 2009 @ 07:15:39

    I stumbled onto to DA from an Amazon post that an author had made in regards to the DAM Debacle and she was distancing herself from the entire matter and somehow DA was brought up and I came over here because of that.

    OMGosh I had no idea there was such a community even existed and I had been out on the net since 97, but reading romance since I was 12. Boy have my eyes been opened, it is almost overwhelming sometimes…at least to me it is. I tend to stay with the sites I am most comfortable in, DA, SB, Book Binge, AAR and RTB. I just went through all the messages that RR manage to flame up on RTB site…lord. lol I am more of a reader of sites then a poster. But I do think all of the lady’s that currently maintain these sites as well as the ones of the past because thanks to ya’ll my TBR pile is now way out of control….THANKS!!! :-)

  10. Jayne
    May 05, 2009 @ 07:23:47

    I started with AAR, followed by TRR, followed by Mrs. Giggles. All of which I still routinely check for new reviews. Thanks ladies!

  11. Kristen
    May 05, 2009 @ 07:34:10

    The biggest romance reader community I’m involved in is also the one I co-founded, Romance Divas. And while it is primarily a romance writer’s resource, we are definitely readers. Critical readers at that. When we love a book, we really love it. When we don’t, we dissect it like a formaldehyde frog.

  12. J.C. Wilder
    May 05, 2009 @ 07:44:43

    I joined the LitForum on CompuServe in 1994 or so. They had a very active romance community and from that spawned authors such as Diana Gabaldon, Darlene Marshall, Eileen Wilkes, Shana Abe, Michele Hauf, Diane Pershing and a slew of others. We also had quite a few established authors (Judith McNaught, Katherine Kingsley, JoAnn Ross, Jean Brashear, Karen Pearcy etc) who gave their time and talent to the forum.

    In 95 (or so) I took over the CompuServe Romance Reviews which was the largest review group of the time. We had something like 50 active reviewers and BOY we went through some books. :) We also started the first online chapter of RWA (http://www.rwaonlinechapter.org/) and I still have an occasional bad dream about the administrative end. Don’t say the world Bylaw to me or my head will spin off my shoulders. LOL!

  13. Donna Lea Simpson
    May 05, 2009 @ 07:47:49

    Lynne, Laurie is still on FaceBook, but for various reasons felt it was time to leave the online romance community to others. My feeling is it had become too vicious on occasion for her and she felt it was time to move on. It was just time to back away, and I give her credit for knowing when enough was enough. I miss her too, but still message her on occasion.

    On another topic, unfortunately, too many of my fellow writers are big babies and can’t take criticism. I’d rather have an honest crummy review than a fake great one. My feeling is that then when I do get a good review from whomever gave me a crummy one, I’ll know it is honest and feel good about it. How can anyone feel good about a fake pat on the back?

    I was very new to the internet and found AAR when I was a little down in the mouth about my very first Regency novel, Lord St. Claire’s Angel, only getting a 2 Star review from RT (am I the only one in the world they didn’t like? LOL) The DIK AAR review was so wonderful I drifted on their praise for months. At that point I assumed all reviews from any source were honest, but luckily I was right about AAR. Since then I’ve gotten everything from an A to an F at AAR.

  14. Bonnie Vanak
    May 05, 2009 @ 07:49:56

    There’s a community on Yahoo groups that’s been around quite a while that discusses historical romance. Mostly readers, they welcome authors who are readers.

    I discovered them when I first got published and they are a great source. I found some wonderful Westerns and good HH authors through them.

    The group is called Romance Historical .

  15. vanessa jaye
    May 05, 2009 @ 08:13:25

    Gosh, I started on the eharl site/forum, when there was about 5 threads, if that, and people would actually post their wip for crits. Jane was the first and only ‘hostie’ then. This might have been around 2000, or earlier.

    I was an extreme lurker back then, but many of the more active eharl regulars can be found now, just as active within the larger community. Dee Tenorio (who is still a eharl host), Shannon Stacey, Julie Cohen, Sela Carsen, Cat Brown (owner of Romance Junkies), Amie Stuart, Raine Weaver, Diana Peterfreund, Sasha White and Angela James (Samhain), just to name a few off the top of my head.

    There were the already established authors who jumped in offer advice (the level headed Karen Templeton, comes immediately to mind) But Kate Walker, Alison Kent, Suzanne McMinn and a whole slew of others were also very active/helpful.

    Then there was the great Leslie Wainger–she of the *It’s All In The Execution* fame–then, executive editor of Harlequin/Silhouette )& author of Writing A Romance For Dummies. Even with her schedule, she found the time to come onto the boards to answer questions/offer advice. Eventually more editors established their own threads. Linda Winfree and I met during the launching of HQN by hanging out on that thread.

    When I realized that my voice wasn’t quite suited to category I started to branch out from eharl (and lurk other places. heh), and the Compuserve forums was one of my first discoveries, (in particular, I hung out on their crit circle forum, their review threads and Diana Gabaldon’s forum where she was a frequent poster. AAR became a fast favourite, so did TRR, Mrs Giggles, and RRA-L.

    Alison Kent was one of the first author blogs around and she was(is) simple in terms of discussing the nuts and bolts of writing and publishing. I followed Keishon from the AAR boards when she started up her own Yahoo group for Suspense/Thriller books and have pretty much checked out one site/board or another since. Around the same time, a lot of unpubbed authors started their blogs–Amie Stuart, Larrissa Ione, Stephanie Tyler, Lydia Joyce and Sasha White. I started mine around that time, too, although with a lot less substance than those ladies. A tradition I continue to this day! *g*

    Ellora’s Cave started up and I checked various forums/chats because of their more popular authors (particularly Lora Leigh, and there was a Romantica website that wasn’t affiliated with EC but whose focus was the hotter books/authors that were coming out then). I didn’t stick with those sites/forums because the discussions seemed to be more about hawtest books/scenes and posting hawt pics of half nekkid guys, and a bit TMI re posters sexual preferences and personal proclivities. Not quite my speed, but they were certainly were having fun! ;-)

    I do love the way the online community has grown and evolved. I’ve always loved/gravitated to the sites/forums that tended towards open/honest discussion. I have a brain in my head and I can use it. I don’t need to have info/opinions filtered for me. Certainly, in some cases, better word choice could be used in expressing some opinions, but in no way do I think the voicing of should be censors just to be *nice*.

    Having said that, the only thing that kinda sucks about the online community now, is that it seems like there are far more flamewars (although I've enjoyed rubbernecking with the best of ‘em), too many quick to take offense, and too much said for the effect of saying it, and lifelong enemies made of people you wouldn’t know from Adam over things that in the grand scope of thing make a diddle of difference, and sometimes the tight-knittedness can feel a bit too confining/incestuous/repetitious. (nevermind the danger of mondo run on sentences). None of which is unique to the romance genre, I know. I guess you can’t have the fantastic growth we've experienced without the growing pains.

  16. vanessa jaye
    May 05, 2009 @ 08:21:00

    I think my post was too long. :-/ The dangers of going down memory lane. I might as well add, I’m not sure how I found SBTB (miss Candy, btw), but I did follow Jane via her link because of a comment she left there, and I’ve been coming here ever since. Again, mostly lurking, but pretty much from the begining.

    Can’t remember how I stumbled across Karen, but she’s also a place I visit regularly. And, I love the Romance Divas site. Also been over there almost from the start (once again, lurking. That’s my thing. sue me.).

    Really, I could be here all day naming names/places (Maili, missed you went you took off, glad to have you back). Romancing the blog is another site that’s been around for awhile, and I think I found PBW’s site almost from day one, too. Might have been the awesome trailer/site she put up for Angels Burn that led me to her.

    K, I’m leaving now.

  17. anon
    May 05, 2009 @ 08:25:38

    See? This is an article one might use for research, at least as a place to start. Whether a site is good for research has nothing to do with whether anyone plays nicely.

    –An Anonymous Professor

  18. Maili
    May 05, 2009 @ 08:26:19

    Found RRA-L through DOROTHYL (mentioned by someone in ASG). When I had a AOL account, I tried AOL’s weird structure of readers groups (never got a grip on the structure) and was bored with it quickly.

    Found The Romance Journal (met Susan Grant, Adele Ashworth and a couple of others and readers CW, Elise K and Yvonne there) and came across AAR. Joined AAList and later canwetalk. Was involved with a romantic suspense web site called Kill Me Kiss Me Thrill Me.

    I was an active poster on RT boards and AAR, and mostly a lurker on RRA-L, AAList and canwetalk. I was known as Holly until someone else used the name. I changed it to my current name to avoid the confusion.

    Mrs Giggles was an icon for many of us (and an enemy of the rest) because she kicked the ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say…’ doors down, paving a way for the rest of us reader reviewers. When Blogger.com was founded, it was fantastic to see an explosion of reader blogger community. DA, SBs and the others came along and made it even more awesome.

    I learnt so much from everyone all that time, the warts and all.

    @Donna Lea Simpson

    when I was a little down in the mouth about my very first Regency novel, Lord St. Claire's Angel, only getting a 2 Star review from RT (am I the only one in the world they didn't like? LOL)

    Didn’t they go through a phase giving debut authors a very low grade?

  19. vanessa jaye
    May 05, 2009 @ 08:50:44

    Alison Kent was one of the first author blogs around and she was(is) simple in terms of discussing the nuts and bolts of writing and publishing.

    Alison Kent was/is simply great! Not simple, at all. *g*

    Can’t be arsed to trawl for other typos I may have committed. :-P Please forgive lack of articulation.

    (thanks for unspamming my longassed comment, Jane)

  20. K. Z. Snow
    May 05, 2009 @ 08:55:44

    It’s become increasingly difficult to find sites where thoughtful reviews and intelligent discussion reign. Too many have become so glutted with promo that they’re really not worth visiting. Others seem to favor print over e-books, a stance that invariably drives me away. So I keep coming back to DA, Mrs. Giggles, and, occasionally, Smart Bitches.

    The GLBT (mostly m/m) romance community now has some wonderful blogs and chat loops, a few of which have really taken off. I go to these more and more often, since I both read and write in this genre, and I’ve found a nice balance of civil discourse, worthwhile reviews, enlightening info, and entertainment.

  21. Kelly Maher
    May 05, 2009 @ 09:03:57

    June 1, 1997. I was playing around with my family’s new computer which happened to have AOL & I did a search of their message boards for a few authors I liked. I found the Nora Roberts board and stayed through its transition into the Sanctuary board and then into ADWOFF. It was about that time that I was also made aware of The Romance Reader. I’ve played around in various communities since then, and I have no clue what I’d be doing today if I didn’t have the Internet to connect with my fellow romance readers back then. I probably damn sure wouldn’t be published.

  22. Bad reviews and bad reviewers. « Donna Lea Simpson
    May 05, 2009 @ 09:07:33

    [...] 5, 2009 by Donna Lea Simpson There is an interesting discussion going on at DA (Dear Author) about the origins of romance reviewing on the ‘net, and it brought to mind all the kerfuffle [...]

  23. Gwen
    May 05, 2009 @ 09:11:21

    In late 2006, I found my way to Sybil’s The Good, The Bad, The Unread thru a JR Ward fan forum. I could express uncensored opinions on TGTBTU and LOVED it. Syb has been around a while and has some interesting observations about the early days of reader blogs.

    However, we all often forget how small this community is. It seems large, but in context with readers in general, isn’t. Though it is a ton of fun.

  24. Shannon Stacey
    May 05, 2009 @ 09:24:42

    I think my short kid was close to two years old when I discovered the online romance community. (He’s 8 1/2 now.) We hadn’t had the internet very long and I was using it mostly for genealogy as I’d almost given up on writing by that point. Being in an isolated bubble is tough. Somehow I accidentally searched for something that made Harlequin come up in a search and I was thrilled they had a website. (Remember, I was new to the internet.) A couple of clicks later and I’d discovered eharlequin.com’s community.

    Pardon the melodrama, but it was a life-changing moment.

    I found not only a wealth of information and real editors and authors whose generosity in sharing their knowledge and encouragement blew my mind, but aspiring writers like myself. Women (and a few men—I still get weepy when I think of Sir Jamie, like right now) of all different ages and backgrounds, all struggling together toward publication. Knowing women with jobs and children were carving out time to write and watching some succeed was a huge boost. I also made some of the best friends I’ve ever had there.

    Eventually I branched out and found other romance author watering holes. Some yahoogroups. Then blogging became the thing and we all branched out more.

    I don’t know how it will evolve. I think Twitter’s been an interesting addition to the community dynamic, allowing readers, authors, agents, editors and techie people to all interact easily and without pressure. You don’t have to find the right topic or forum or post to comment. A lot of it’s casual, but I’ve also seen breaking industry news and some intense conversations about the industry and DRM, etc taking place in fast, real-time volleys of 140 characters or less.

    One recent Twitter highlight (for me, anyway) was experiencing RT through Twitter—especially Jane’s tweeting from the Dorchester Spotlight. Not only did she tweet information as the editors gave it, but as people asked questions from home (or wherever they were following from), she asked them and tweeted back the answers. Not only did those of us at home get to live vicariously through the tweets of conference attendees, but we were able to take part in an interactive Q&A session.

    We’ve come a long way, baby. :)

  25. Gay Pride
    May 05, 2009 @ 09:31:58

    What brought me to the romance community was the new trend in m/m erotic romance. And, frankly, I haven’t been impressed anywhere. All I’ve seen are misconceptions that go to the root of gay culture, and too many female authors writing extremely flawed books. Fundamental flaws that only gay men can spot.

    The political incorrectness is astounding. It reminds be of the old Hollywood days when they used to take tall anglo men and dress them up in either black face or give them slanted eyes. This was insulting to the Asian and Afro American communities, and just as insulting to Asian and Afro American actors at the time.

    A female author trying to write m/m erotic romance, or romance, is just as insulting as hiring Brad Pitt to play the lead in the biopic of Barack Obama in black face. No straight woman alive can know, not matter how they try, what it is like to be a gay man. It’s not possible. Just like it’s not possible for any living man to know what it’s like for a woman to live in today’s society that is still filled with sexism.

    So while this feel-good, pat-on-the-back post comes off as light and breezy, you’re mising a few important facts about insulting an entire community with romance novels…and it’s not just one publisher…they are all doing it now. And I’d suggest to the female writers out there who are jumping onto the band wagon of m/m erotic romance…or gay fiction in general…you hop over to the traditional gay publishers and start reading the classics before you start trying to imagine what it’s like to be a gay man. Because until you can figure out how to grow a prostate, you’re never going to get it right.

  26. Wendy
    May 05, 2009 @ 09:36:27

    Which is why I always encourage newbie baby bloggers to not get discouraged. Back when I started? Yeah, it was pretty much only me, LLB, Rosario and I think Alison Kent might have started blogging around that time as well. We were literally the lone voices out in the wilderness (OK, blogosphere). Hell, it was so new that Blogger.com didn’t even have a commenting feature – so most of the time I was just throwing up crap on my own personal Internet wall that nobody was reading.

    I stumbled across TRR in 1999 thru a listserv for newbie librarians. I was the ripe old age of 23 and still recovering from Academic Hell. I had a healthy disdain for the romance genre, but really liked the reviews at TRR – and figured “what the hell?” So I picked up Watermelon by Marian Keyes (technically chick lit), loved it, wanted to have babies with it, and didn’t look back. I kept reading. Nora’s Born In trilogy, When Venus Fell by Deborah Smith, My Dearest Enemy by Connie Brockway….and then I thought – hell I should just start reviewing. So I contacted Dede over at TRR, and reviewed for them from 1999 to 2007.

    And yeah, Susan Scribner rocks the house.

    I was mostly a lurker over at AAR – although would post occasionally. I loved hanging out at the Reader to Reader and Potpourri boards. I completely missed out on the Prodigy and AOL forums, but was a member of RRA-L for a time and fell hook line and sinker for some of the fan forums over at Yahoo Groups. Heck, I’m still a member of a couple of those :-) OMG – and I love Mrs. Giggles reviews. She provided many hours (read: time suck) of amusement.

    Which is probably why I ignored this latest “mean girls” dust-up. I’m been around long enough to know that this is the same tired argument that’s been around since the inception of the online romance reading community. People are just throwing rotten tomatoes at different targets now.

  27. Jane
    May 05, 2009 @ 09:36:57

    @Gay Pride I actually broached this topic in the past, GP. I’m conflicted about it. I know that writers can write about experiences that they haven’t lived, but I do believe that writers with experience have a broader base from which to draw and create authentic characters. I don’t doubt that there are dozens of fundamental flaws in m/m books written by women for women and hopefully there will be people around to educate us on this.

    Sarah from Smart Bitches and I did a bookchat readalong with two gay friends of mine for an m/m novella and their insights were very illuminating. However, without people to educate women, particularly non LGBT women, our misconceptions will only continue. So I hope that the m/m community blossoms as I’ve seen the straight romance community grow.

  28. Kassia Krozser
    May 05, 2009 @ 09:45:39

    Just wanted to add a few missing links in addition to the above: Slake.com was an early experiment in a database-driven site devoted to romance (as was my own early effort — a victim of burn-out ). I think Slake was one of those good ideas that never found itself. I discovered it approximately 1997. And Harlequin has been building online community for over a decade. Before they moved to their own domain, they were part of a site called (I think, you’d have to check) women.com — it was a group of publications with a female focus.

    Deb Stover started a list called READ (for readers and authors) on Yahoogroups in 1998. I believe it’s still in existence. And RW-L, which was a community for writers (also now moved to Yahoo) debuted on the St. John’s server in 1994. Finally, just to add to the community notion: the RWA listservs were originally established in late 1997/early 1998, if I recall correctly. The first of the semi-annual epub wars broke out, give or take, in late 1998!

    Some of these communities were devoted more to writing and/or playing nice (ah, to think the “we only say nice things in reviews” trope has been around for over a decade!), but I figure why not throw them out there are part of the romance community online history?

    (And it’s funny to recall that Laurie Gold went “undercover” on the READ list as well when she heard rumors she was being discussed; she was quickly outed! Ah the scandals that lead to my leaving the romance community for a few years to clear my head!)

  29. Shiloh Walker
    May 05, 2009 @ 09:49:21

    I didn’t start getting involved with the online romance community until I sold my first book, or shortly before. It’s only been a few years.

    IMO, we need to hear about the negative aspects-as a reader and as a writer. Writers can improve on their writing when they are open-minded about what worked, what didn’t work.

    Discussing the positive and the negative lets a reader make more informed buying choices.

  30. Sarah Frantz
    May 05, 2009 @ 10:00:15

    I remember asking RRA-L and one other listserv about scenes in which the hero breastfeeds from the heroine back in 1997. So I was aware, at least, that there was an online romance community, although I don’t think I was too involved in it. I joined LJ in 2003, discovered SBTB from there, and DA from SBTB. But I was involved on Suzanne Brockmann’s now defunct Message Board for a long time before that. I’d say from about 2000 or even 1999. Because I was definitely on the Board for 9/11. So that was my introduction to online romance communities, and for all its implosion at the end, it was a great community of readers. I discovered Ward through Suz’s MB, and Carla Kelly. So, a slightly different trajectory, but online nonetheless.

  31. Gay Pride
    May 05, 2009 @ 10:08:11

    However, without people to educate women, particularly non LGBT women, our misconceptions will only continue.

    So does this mean it’s okay for Brad Pitt to actually play Barack Obama in black face as long as he’s been educated by the black community?

    And you know the answer to that question.

    This is a loaded discussion, probably for another post. And I’m sure there are creative arguments on both sides. My point isn’t about whether or not women authors can do this, it’s more about whether or not they should be doing it in the first place. With the right make-up and education, Brad Pitt could probably portray Barack Obama very well. But should he be doing this?

  32. Jane
    May 05, 2009 @ 10:14:58

    @Gay Pride But to follow your argument to its logical conclusion (and Angelina Jolie did play Marianne Pearl which might be the equivalent of Brad Pitt playing Barack Obama), then no author who is not a person of color could write about a person of color. No author not born of the Renaissance period could write about the Renaissance period. No author who has never lived in Boston could write about Boston.

    Long before there were m/m romances, there have been female science fiction/fantasy writers penning long opuses featuring LG (don’t know abt the Transgender) characters. Are these individuals harming the LGBT community? Do they somehow get it write/better than others?

    I do believe that living the experience that one writes about can provide greater authenticity and emotional connection to the story, but one of my favorite authors, Kathleen Gilles Seidel, wrote about beauty queens, rock stars, lawyers, Olympic figure skating champions with such believability that if you told me she was once all of those things, I could easily believe you.

    Isn’t the truly color free/gender free atmosphere one in which the best person is picked to play a particular character. If we are truly gender neutral and color blind, then if Brad Pitt was the best actor on the planet (and I don’t think he is) and the best to play the part of Barack Obama then shouldn’t the correct answer to your question be “yes, it is okay for Brad Pitt to play Barack Obama.”?

  33. Tina Burns
    May 05, 2009 @ 10:21:20

    I didn’t start reading romance until 2001. I’d read classic romance, sure, but I used to be one of those mainstream romance snobs. LOL. I was working at a library at the time, and in 2002, Lori Foster’s Never Too Much came out and I snagged it before we could put it on the shelf. I’ve been hooked on romance ever since. Within a month after that I was reviewing romance ebooks (my first exposure to erotic romance) and mainstream print romance at Road To Romance. My connections there steered me to Liquid Silver Books and the rest is history. :)

    I’ve been a lurker in the online romance community longer than I’ve been active, but it’s been an invaluable learning venue and tool for me in my daily work as an erotic romance publisher.

  34. anon
    May 05, 2009 @ 10:23:25

    @Gay Pride: I was so glad to see your comment!

    I actually wondered if Jane’s scathing review of “American Star” was relevant to the presumed targeted audience (gay men). While a straight woman might not like the image of a cock rolling out of a lover’s pants like a roll of paper towels, would a gay man? It seems possible.

    I think it would be great if you and your romance reading friends reviewed books with m/m, f/f and other non traditional sex scenes and m/m, f/f/ romances in general. I’d be interested in seeing what the naive writers get right and what they get wrong.

    Did you like “American Star”? Did the “raw meat” comment make you go “eww” or did it resonate?

  35. Maili
    May 05, 2009 @ 10:31:36

    @Gay Pride

    All I've seen are misconceptions that go to the root of gay culture, and too many female authors writing extremely flawed books. Fundamental flaws that only gay men can spot.

    It’s not that unusual in literature. People with disabilities have issues with portrayals of characters with disabilities in fiction and cinema. Same for women with male authors; lesbians with straight authors (and pornography, of course); members of ethnic minorities, teenagers with adult authors, people react to certain portrayals of their countries in fiction… the list is endless.

    I’m not saying it’s right, but sometimes we have to accept it’s fantasy. It’s true that it can be extremely frustrating (and occasionally upsetting) when some readers (and authors) accept a certain portrayal as factual.

    Too many times, I blew up at the romance genre’s portrayal of Scotland and its history, but after a decade or so, I came to terms with it by recognising it as a Scottish fantasy. Even now, I wince when a reader or author pass a fictional fact as an actual fact, but I don’t let it get under my skin any more.

    It’s same with the general portrayal of characters with disabilities in fiction and cinema…okay, I’m still struggling to accept their tendency of portraying a disabled adult as an emotionally wounded, vulnerable or child-like person. It’s insulting as hell.

    The point is, even if some portrayals piss us off, it’s still fiction. :/

  36. Suze
    May 05, 2009 @ 10:38:48

    My first epiphany about reviews being subjective was when I was in high school, competing (with my class) in a one-act play festival. We won the regionals, and the adjudicator told us we handled the farce we were doing just exactly right by being restrained, and if we had tried to go over the top, we would have failed miserably. We went on to the provincials, and the adjudicator there told us we were fine, but really should have gone over the top, and gone wild on stage. Tastes, oh how they vary.

    I started reading romances when I was a Tween, voraciously reading through everything my small local library had to offer. I think the first category I read was Violet Winspear’s Love is the Honey. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that, no matter what genre I’m reading, if there’s not a strong romantic element, I’m not interested. I don’t care much about the guy saving the world if he’s not doing it for/with/because of his (or her, or its) beloved.

    In 1997 I had regular internet access for the first time, and discovered The Romance Reader, which had Other People doing what my friends and I had always done: discuss romances we loved and didn’t love so much. I discovered that I didn’t always agree with reviewers, just like I don’t always (hardly ever) agree with movie reviews.

    I also discovered evanovich.com, and saw my first flame-war-type activity when a bunch of regulars hunted down and banished a teenager from New Zealand because they didn’t like her style. I was never quite sure what about her that offended them so, but it was sure eye-opening.

    Lost my internet access for a few years, and came back on to whole new realms. I came across Smart Bitches in 2005, and since they only had something like 2 reviews and maybe 5 pages of posts, was underwhelmed and ignored them until late 2007, when they blew my socks off. They introduced me to Dear Author and Romancing the Blog.

    I launched out in several directions from links on favourite author websites. Around 2003 I discovered the WTF-fest that was the state of American political commentary, and saw what flame wars REALLY look like. The internet is a vast, vast place, I find. I can’t keep up with my own interests, never mind everybody else’s.

    These days, I check SBTB daily for what’s new and exciting, and generally follow the links there to the rest of the romance world.

  37. Gay Pride
    May 05, 2009 @ 10:38:56

    Isn't the truly color free/gender free atmosphere one in which the best person is picked to play a particular character. If we are truly gender neutral and color blind, then if Brad Pitt was the best actor on the planet (and I don't think he is) and the best to play the part of Barack Obama then shouldn't the correct answer to your question be “yes, it is okay for Brad Pitt to play Barack Obama.”?

    Of course it is…in a perfect world. But I’d love to hear what Spike Lee or The Rev. Wright would have to say about that.

    You can try to turn it around, using courtroom techniques and logic, but it all comes down to the same thing in the end. Because you could also say (and I’m not saying this because I love good m/m romance) that it’s only romance, a genre not taken seriously anyway. And I hate to see that happen so often.

  38. GrowlyCub
    May 05, 2009 @ 10:42:11

    I started with RRA-l in late ’93 or so and was a member of ERA from its inception for many years until the overly kinky crowd took that over and it wasn’t fun any more.

    I did find TRR and AAR, but didn’t like the books Laurie liked so never became involved in that community. From the late 90s to the early 2000′s I kind of dropped out (even though I was still an RRA-l member) because I didn’t like any of the new trends (suspense, chick lit, women’s fic, paranormal) that were taking over the genre completely (or so it seemed). Also, during that time there was a lot of ‘don’t say bad things about a book, you’ll hurt the authors’ feelings, since their books are their children’ talk online which majorly annoyed the hell out of me.

    When Kara and Leslie decided to shut down RRA-l because they felt there were many other romance lists, I and many others did not agree that there was something quite like it out there and so I moved RRA-l to Yahoo. Unfortunately, Kent didn’t allow us access to the archives, so all that history from 199(2)6 to 2007 is now lost. :(

    I can’t remember exactly what got me back into things, but I somehow discovered erotic romance online (stories that concentrated on the character development rather than external plot devices which was what I had been missing from regular romance), joined a few promo lists, then stumbled over SBTB and DA and rediscovered my love of all things romance in June of 2007.

    I’m really glad to be back. I cannot fathom what I did with myself during those 5-6 years when I wasn’t reading any new romance or the blogs… :)

  39. Lori
    May 05, 2009 @ 10:45:13

    You can try to turn it around, using courtroom techniques and logic, but it all comes down to the same thing in the end.

    On noes! Not teh logic!

  40. Bonnie L
    May 05, 2009 @ 10:46:45

    I started reading romance books in 2001 and I waded through a lot of swampy waters because I was buying books based solely on their cover blurbs. I didn’t have very reliable internet service so it never occurred to me that there was a better way to find books that interested me and were satisfying to read.

    Then sometime in 2003, I stumbled upon TRR and the people rejoiced. I could finally get an opinion of a book before spending my money on it. After a while, TRR wasn’t enough (sadly reviews aren’t as plentiful there as I would like) and I started searching for more review sites and discovered AAR and, again, the people rejoiced. Not only could I get new reviews almost every day, but I could also read and participate in fantastic discussions about books. During one of those discussions, someone mentioned Dear Author. Through Dear Author, I discovered Smart Bitches, Karen Knows Best, Rosario, Wendy, and Mrs. Giggles. Truly, my cup runneth over.

    Now I not only can find reviews about books, but I can find several conflicting reviews about each book and I rarely pick up books like I do not like. Also, I have discovered so much about the world of writing books. I am like a cat who lives in a creamery full of canary cages.

  41. Lynne Connolly
    May 05, 2009 @ 10:46:54

    This is a loaded discussion, probably for another post. And I'm sure there are creative arguments on both sides. My point isn't about whether or not women authors can do this, it's more about whether or not they should be doing it in the first place. With the right make-up and education, Brad Pitt could probably portray Barack Obama very well. But should he be doing this?

    This attitude appals me. Carry it to its logical conclusion and it means that all we can write about is what we personally know. That we can’t learn enough to write about things we don’t have experience in. So I can’t write about shape-shifting dragons, or about historical characters, gay or straight, because I haven’t been one?

    To say that the authors need to do more research is fine, more than fine if you offer to help, but to say that we can’t stretch a little isn’t.

  42. Marianne McA
    May 05, 2009 @ 10:48:03

    I imagine I stumbled on the romance community looking for reviews: I think TRR was the first place I visited regularly. I used to read Evanovich’s Board, but never commented because I felt it’d be awkward to do so as an outsider. Consequently, when Suz Brockmann started her message board, I began commenting straight away, so as to become one of the insiders. I think that was the first place where I ever participated, rather than lurked.
    (If we’re doing history, I’m fairly sure there was a pre-board Brockmann community somewhere online, but I wasn’t involved with that myself.)

    That board was my online home for years. And while I hadn’t been an active participant for some time before it ended, I was sad to see it go. I agree with Sarah that it was a great community back in the day: we certainly managed the robust discussion.

  43. BevBB
    May 05, 2009 @ 10:48:34

    @Kassia Krozser: Oh, I remember READ. And wasn’t there a database site that was around for several years that was very popular? And, no, I’m not talking about Byron. This was before Byron.

    @Maili:

    Found RRA-L through DOROTHYL (mentioned by someone in ASG). When I had a AOL account, I tried AOL's weird structure of readers groups (never got a grip on the structure) and was bored with it quickly.

    AOL’s groups were extremely weird. At least what I remember of them. Of course, they were so small and closed, I’m not sure there’s any comparison even with what one found just “escaping” onto the Internet itself.

  44. anon
    May 05, 2009 @ 10:52:20

    @Maili

    I don’t buy the “…it’s still fiction” thing. The racists and sexist cartoons of the 1960′s and 1970′s were just fiction, and I find them disturbing. When I bought the old Johny Quest DVDs, I was appalled at how sexist they were. Ditto with the old Speed Racers. Forget Bugs Bunny. I know it’s fiction; I even like the core stories. But the sexism (and racism) disturbs me.

    I’m disturbed when I see my sex stereotyped through ignorance. Why should gays and lesbians be different?

    Romance writers are sophisticated enough to get strong women right; romance writers are sophisticated enough to get AA and Asian right. Why should we stop there? Let’s get gays and lesbians right. It’s not that hard. Writers love research. Give us the review sites, and we’ll read them.

    @Gay Pride: You’re upset enough to comment on the topic; show us the errors, and we’ll try to fix them.

  45. Maili
    May 05, 2009 @ 10:59:48

    @anon
    Fair enough. I have battled with various readers and authors about the issues that affected me (Scotland & disabilities) for many years. A couple of years ago, I simply gave up. I recognise it may be because I wasn’t good with handling the debates, while knowing that some didn’t want to know because the reality didn’t jive with the popular fantasy. I do wish you and others the best of luck on fighting for your pet issues, though.

    @BevBB
    :D Didn’t you have a web site many years ago? Book Nest or something like it? Or am I remembering different Bev?

  46. Lynne Simpson
    May 05, 2009 @ 11:02:29

    @Kassia Krozser: It has been a while since I’ve heard anyone mention RW-L!

    I was on RW-L for years and loved it. I never got on the GEnie, CompuServe, or Prodigy romance lists, although I had subscriptions to all three services.

    I think the first romance-oriented web site I visited was slake.com, way back in the day, and then I glommed on to Mrs. Giggles a few years later.

  47. rebyj
    May 05, 2009 @ 11:19:57

    I’ve had the internet since 98 but it wasn’t until 2002 (after divorce) that I was able to start reading romance again openly and surfing the web for recommendations and author sites. I didn’t start participating in discussions until 2004 I think. Of course, once I did, I haven’t shut up for a moment!
    I think I started w/ Smart Bitches and RT , I remember hesitating about posting here at DA cuz I thought it was for authors only :/ . Yeah, there’s no requirement for smarts on the web LOL.

  48. Aoife
    May 05, 2009 @ 11:23:39

    Until I found AAR, Smart Bitches and DA a few years back (and not all at once) I can’t say that I found much online that was helpful to me as a romance genre reader. The AOL boards were totally unhelpful, the RT boards echoed the magazine in terms of keeping all commentary happy and positive (and therefore mostly useless), and I never stumbled on any other romance-oriented sites or lists that felt comfortable. Now I visit AAR seldom, although I’ve recently made a few posts there to see if things have changed (they don’t seem to have); SB I check out occasionally; DA is an at-least-once-a-day compulsion for the reviews and intelligent discussions. I check out RtB every once in a while, AccessRomance semi-regularly, and have recently found Racy Romance Reviews and a few other blogs/sites through links. What makes me happy and impresses me is the proliferation of really high-quality reviews and commentary online. There are far too many worthwhile places to visit for me to fit them all in on a regular basis. While I comment seldom, I deeply appreciate the thoughtfulness of people who do, and I especially appreciate the work and passion that goes into maintaining a site such as DA.

  49. Jody
    May 05, 2009 @ 11:28:52

    I can’t even remember when I got online. I think it was in the 90′s. Had to have been, because it was before I got married. I subscribed to RT Mag before I got online, though.

    In the space of a year or so, I got married, got online, took over editing a small romance genre newsletter (Science Fiction Romance Newsletter) that’s now defunct (and boy was that a crash course in people who feel like you shouldn’t write critical reviews!!), started writing fiction with intent to publish, joined RWA, got knocked up (hey, I had to RESEARCH my books)… Ok, that’s veering away from the purpose of the question, but I have definitely been on the front row for the evolution of epubs, erotic romance, the blogosphere, critical reviews of romance, Amazon (I remember when!), social media, and all that jazz. Interesting stuff. How the internet affects communications and personal relationships is interesting in general.

    As for whether or not people should only write what they “know”, that’s dooky. Granted, there’s more research involved if you don’t. That’s what the issue should be, not that people who aren’t such and such shouldn’t even try writing about it. If something is missing the research train, by all means, post a critical review! I hear we’re allowed to do that now.

  50. Robin
    May 05, 2009 @ 11:44:29

    By the time I entered the online Romance community — which coincided with my entering the genre as a reader, too — it was 2003 or 2004? and I was directed straight to AAR, TRR, and Mrs. Giggles. I still love the TRR one heart reviews, even though I don’t feel the site gets enough attention these days. Anyway, so many I encountered on AAR are now blog owners, which I think is cool, even if it has made it tough for me to keep up with everyone as much as I would like.

    Now, as for the issue of authenticity in fiction, if authors could only write their own experience, no one could write more than one book with one character. Clearly that’s not where we want to go, right? OTOH, I agree that it’s important to have these discussions about what constitutes fair portrayals of gender, race, sexuality, religion, etc. — that is, those elements of identity that have overt political as well as personal dimension. Still, though, I think we would be in a far worse place if we overtly discouraged people from NOT writing about those from other identity groups, in part because both insiders and outsiders can offer important insights and raise discussion-worthy issues. And because you can’t see what someone else thinks unless they express it somehow. Plus, would anyone suggest that someone from a politically oppressed group not represent their perceived oppressors? When you reverse the equation that way, I think the nature of the issue is clearer, if not better resolved.

    Also, even if you limit representation to those who have experienced something, you are still no closer to to authentic representation, because we’ve all seen the battles among those who are circumstantially, at least, from the same group, over what constitutes “representative” identity and experience. This beyond the issue of representation more generally, and artistic representation specifically — the questions around what it means to interpret and the function of art in that process of cultural representation and the importance of freedom around artistic expression.

  51. Aoife
    May 05, 2009 @ 11:57:32

    Is there a way to find out why a previous comment has been submitted for moderation? I commented at #48, and didn’t think it was controversial at all!

  52. Jane
    May 05, 2009 @ 12:02:06

    @Aoife It’s the spam filter. I’m not sure why but the blog automatically sticks some comments into the spam filter for moderation. Sorry about that.

  53. TerryS
    May 05, 2009 @ 12:08:46

    It’s been so long ago, I really don’t remember anymore when I started following romance communities. I think the first community was even a fiction community rather than solely a romance community. I do remember Keishon was a regular poster with excellent insights into the books she had read….and I think she was still a student at that time.

  54. BevBB
    May 05, 2009 @ 12:17:43

    @Maili:
    Don’t know if I’m the one you’re thinking of or not, Maili. Maybe this will help. ;)

    After trying reviewing – once – on AAR a long time ago and realizing that wasn’t going to happen again in this lifetime, at least not that way, I did a short-lived something or other there called Beverly’s Book Basket, which oddly enough was more like a blog than anything else way before anyone was thinking that way. At least I don’t believe they were. Whatever, they definitely weren’t the “article” type of stuff that Laurie was wanting or expecting. When I stopped doing that, I started my own site called Beverly’s Book Sanctuary for several years. That was hosted on WriterSpace.

    When blogging became popular, I moved to Bev’s Notes on Blogger then my own domain (bevsbooks.com) and switched to WordPress. I still have that but lately life hasn’t let me do much with it but play around with some other CMP programs, partly to learn about them and partly just for the hell of it. Part of the problem is that I’ve realized recently that I honestly hate blogging. Ironic, no? ;)

    Actually, I tend to think it’s 1) that I’ve been online and doing this entire round of topics related to romance novels for way too long and can almost anticipate how most discussions are going to go and 2) it’s not blogging that I hate so much as the “journaling/diary” aspect of the process. I never could keep a diary as a kid and don’t know why I’d want to do it now. ;p

    That doesn’t mean I don’t like talking about my books, though, and always will. At present I’m having more fun simply lurking and/or posting on favorite sites as the urge hits. Eventually I may get back to something resembling full-time posting but I’m not sure what form it will take. Let’s just say, I’m still thinking about it and continuing to explore all the various romance sites I can find on the Internet.

    It’s all about keeping things simple and I also think it goes to something that was asked in the post regarding how we see the genre evolving. The thing that has always struck me about why I love romances above all other genres is how far-reaching they are at the same time that they have that satisfying ending. When I look over my collection, and that’s what it is – a collection of both fiction and non-fiction – it amazes me just how much the topics covered in the romances and other popular genres I read overlap with the other books I’ve also collected over the years.

    This is something that’s been brewing in the back of my head for the last few years, particularly since my father passed away and I also inherited his collection of books. Romance novels touch on a lot of topics that also impact our own lives and we don’t always give them credit for that. Yes, they are escapism when needed but we can’t forget the rest of our lives either. I’m not sure it’s healthy, but more than that, I believe it may be overlooking a major aspect of that “respect” thing we desire for the genre. I mean, after all, what is more real than romance and everything it impacts in our lives?

    Okay, boy, that was a tangent I didn’t plan on taking but I’ve almost posted about it twice now in this thread and had to restrain myself. I finally just decided to have at it and leave it in. ;)

  55. Aoife
    May 05, 2009 @ 12:21:53

    Thanks, Jane. I was wondering if one of the abbreviations I used had some unknown-to-me meaning.

  56. Jill N. Noble
    May 05, 2009 @ 12:50:57

    The first sites I stumbled upon were RR-L and Romancing the Web. Found them on Way Back – http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.romanceweb.com

    I also stumbled upon Vicki Hinze pretty early on (http://www.vickihinze.com/) and she became a mentor, of sorts. I loved her thoughts on giving back, on self-improvement, etc.

  57. SonomaLass
    May 05, 2009 @ 13:13:49

    I didn’t read romance for many years; after lots of it in high school, I favored mostly historical fiction, fantasy, sci-fi and detective fiction. I always preferred to read books in those other genres that had strong romantic relationships, but the romances I tried just didn’t work for me.

    I came back to reading romance only very recently, as a direct result of Smart Bitches and Dear Author. I became aware of Smart Bitches through the Cassie Edwards plagiarism controversy — I am an anti-plagiarism fanatic, and I was intrigued by what I read on SBTB enough to start following links (including the one to this site) and picking up books. SB Sarah and Candy both had favorites lists I could pick from, and there was this smart and sassy writer standing up proudly against plagiarism (yay!) of whom I had heard but never had read — Nora Roberts. Now romance makes up almost half my reading (and I am a voracious reader!), and these sites are daily stops for me in my internet journeying. Smart readers and smart writers kicking around great ideas and not afraid to say what they think. It’s awesome.

  58. Julie James
    May 05, 2009 @ 14:02:12

    I wasn’t familiar with the internet community until shortly before my first book was published. It’s been nearly a year now, and I feel like I’m at least starting to get a better sense of it. Two of my earliest memories are Buffie at Romance Novel TV and Rowena at The Book Binge reaching out to me– as a debut author who pretty much knew nothing at the time, that meant a heck of a lot.

    As someone who is relatively new to the romance genre, I’m very appreciative of the book reviews and discussions. I agree wholeheartedly with Shiloh that the feedback is helpful to both readers and writers.

  59. Gay Pride
    May 05, 2009 @ 14:39:59

    I read a lot of the comments, and I’m not getting into any of Jane’s reviews. My comment, in general, was directed more toward the romance community. I’m also not a book reviewer, and I’d never try to be one.

    The topic isn’t about whether or not women can write m/m romance. Clearly, they can. And I’m sure many straight women who read their books think they did a wonderful job. But as a gay man, I’ve never read one where there wasn’t a flaw. I hope I do one day. I’ll keep trying. But so far it hasn’t happened.

    I will say this, though. The way men and women interpret romance and sex is very different. And gay men are men, and they think like men. So what might make a woman all warm and fuzzy, will probably make a man, gay or straight, want to vomit. And, there’s a lot of misconception out there about gay men. Yes, some are just like the ones you’ve read about in chic lit. The best friend who loves to shop, is sensitive, and loves shoes. But most aren’t. We don’t have fag hags, we aren’t all hair dressers and florists, and you probably wouldn’t even know we’re gay unless we told you. What you all saw on Will and Grace wasn’t real. It was TV. And I guess we’d better start working harder to show this.

  60. Karen Templeton
    May 05, 2009 @ 14:48:27

    I was writing my first romance, on my first computer, back in ’95 when AOL still “gave” you ten free hours per month…and I spent most of them on the AOL Writing Romance boards. I knew nothin’ and nobody before that, not about RWA or contests or what you were or weren’t “supposed” to do. But through a contact there, I got the name of an editor at Silhouette — and we’re still working together after 12 year and 30 books.

    Once AOL went to a flat monthly fee, I felt better able to explore other sites. Although — between writing and still being a full-time mother five sons back then — I was, and still am, very selective about where I hang out. So I see a lot of sites mentioned above that I’ve never visited, and probably wouldn’t with any regularity. While there’s lots of food for thought on the Interwebs, they can also suck out your soul if you’re not careful.

    However, I do appreciate the variety, in tone and purpose, of romance novel discussion venues out there. Like Goldilocks, I find some too bland and some too over the top, but enough that are that just right — intelligent, fun, stimulating and thought-provoking — to justify my procrastination tendencies. ;-)

  61. BevBB
    May 05, 2009 @ 14:59:12

    @Jill N. Noble: Romancing the Web was a really nice site.

    I’m still trying to remember the name of that romance database site. The only thing I distinctly remember was that it let everyone rate the books and then averaged the ratings. I want to say it was simply Romance Novel Database but I’m thinking that one had an academic connection and the one with ratings didn’t.

  62. K. Z. Snow
    May 05, 2009 @ 15:53:05

    The point is, even if some portrayals piss us off, it's still fiction. :/

    And what Jane said at post 32.

    Bingo.

    How far are writers supposed to carry this “write what you know” stuff? And what about film makers? What did Nathaniel Hawthorne know, first hand, about being an American colonial woman impregnated by a minister and exiled from her community? What did Dreiser, Tolstoy, or Flaubert know about exploited females and their emotional lives? How the hell much, for that matter, did Poe know about being buried alive? The list goes on and on . . .

    Let me tell you something. Female writers of m-m fiction/romance/erotic romance are some of the most ardent and vocal supporters of GLBT rights you’re going to find on this planet. We may not have walked the walk in shoes we can claim as our own, but we sure as shit have walked alongside people who’ve meant a whole damned lot to us. We’ve absorbed their pain and pleasure, enjoyed their humor, shared their triumphs and tragedies as much as humanly possible.

    If it weren’t for people’s capacity to empathize with their fellow human beings and imaginatively render experiences that aren’t theirs, the art of storytelling, in this or any culture, wouldn’t exist. It’s that simple.

    (#34, is your name Ann?)

  63. Kassia Krozser
    May 05, 2009 @ 15:55:05

    @Bev — The only one I can think of from the olden days (and I’m so glad you reminded me about your sites — you might not like blogging, but you are good!) is Slake. They still exist in some manner. Wracking my brain to think of anything else. Brain=not so bright!

  64. Deb Kinnard
    May 05, 2009 @ 16:18:24

    I first jumped on AOL in ’92 (yee gads — was it THAT long ago?) and discovered the writing chats. Then it was on to the iPublish romance-writer message boreds where we gave mutual crit, some small amount of mutual bashing, and much support. Several of those romancers went on to be published, which was the idea of the thing Time/Warner wanted to do in the first place, but they never bought our stuff…time marches on (pun intended).

    I found SBTB and Dear Author through Miss Snark of Blessed and Gin-Soaked Memory.

  65. BevBB
    May 05, 2009 @ 16:44:56

    @Kassia Krozser:

    Yes! Slake. I think that’s the one, although I am not absolutely sure. I was under the impression the one I’m remembering had gone completely inactive if not off-line so if the current Slake.com is it, someone has revived it from the ashes recently. Also I don’t see any ratings there. Or any place to add them.

    When someone (you, Kassia?) mentioned it earlier, I think my brain converted it to Slate which just did not compute at all. ;)

    (and I'm so glad you reminded me about your sites -’ you might not like blogging, but you are good!)

    At babbling on when the urge strikes, no doubt, but thanks. :D

  66. azteclady
    May 05, 2009 @ 17:01:00

    I had been online in one way or another, mostly on newsgroups (and pretty much one hundred percent a lurker) when I discovered SBrockmann’s board. Like Marianne, I was there for 9/11 and until it ended.

    For a long time that was my only experience with romance communities online; the discussions were often varied and passionate (and not just about books either), but other than the occasional check of an author’s website, that was pretty much it for me.

    Then life changed :grin: I don’t remember how I stumbled to the SBTB, but I was there for their first April 1st scare prank and through them I’ve discovered (and continue to discover) many bloggers and authors.

  67. Gennita Low
    May 05, 2009 @ 17:12:35

    I feel extremely old. I remember being part of the RRA-List in the early 90s. Has it really been 16 years since I venture out into Romancelandia? It was the best of times–never had I mingled and chatted so freely with so many great iconic authors back then, many of whom lurk now. Mary Stella, if you’re reading this, we need to drink to good times/memories! ;-)

  68. Karen W.
    May 05, 2009 @ 18:07:48

    I discovered the online romance community through AAR in ’97, which is when I got my first PC. I found the website first and then joined the Prodigy listserv, and the rest is history. :) Kudos and thanks to Laurie and her staff, and thanks to all the great blogs and message boards and listservs who keep it all going today. I don’t know what I’d do without you.

  69. Evangeline
    May 05, 2009 @ 18:28:14

    I have no clue how I found AAR. All I know is that I began reading romances around the turn of the century (how weird it is to say that), and the time I’d spent on the internet morphed from fanfiction/fansites/RPG to discussing romance novels. I’ve existed in various guises since then due to my a love/hate relationship with the internet, but I keep coming back because of this reading/writing community that is like no other.

  70. Evangeline
    May 05, 2009 @ 18:32:19

    Can I say vanessajaye that you brought back some memories! I think my path through the online romance community follows yours to a tee.

  71. Lorraine
    May 05, 2009 @ 18:44:00

    I came upon Romancelandia through Sherrilyn Kenyon’s author website a couple of years ago. That led to other author sites, and then to review blogs.

    I’ve read romance for 20+ years, been dissed for it and suffered the snooty looks of bookstore employees, as have we all. I’d always felt alone in my love of the genre, not knowing anyone in RL who reads romance. Sites like DA and the other blogs I visit are heavenly. It’s wonderful to read posts by people who squee about the same things I do and love the genre. Many of the blogs I visit review books that I’m not really interested in, but I love the feeling of community, of being “around” smart women who aren’t ashamed *at least online* to read romance.

    Thank you Ja(y)nes *and all the Js* for giving me a fun place to visit!

  72. Megan
    May 05, 2009 @ 20:16:02

    I found the romance internet sometime after 9/11, when I was laid off and decided to write one of those books I liked to read. I started reviewing for AAR in July of 2002, and started blogging right after my book sold. Like Jane and some others said, my first exposure to romance blogging was through Maili, TGTBU, AAR, Rosario and Kristie. My first author blogs were Alison Kent and Kate Rothwell, both of whom I count among my internet friends now. So happy sites like DA and SB exist to give voice to people who like to offer critical (not in a pejorative way) view on the romance genre. I cannot stand sycophancy, won’t visit sites that offer only one biased viewpoint.

  73. Sarah Frantz
    May 05, 2009 @ 20:34:26

    @Gay Pride: You know, I’ve never read a het romance that didn’t have a flaw, that didn’t, at some point, make me roll my eyes and go, “Whatever, no one would act like that.” Whatever else they may or may not be, novels at a fundamental level are still a fantasy. So whether you’re a lesbian writing about two lesbian characters or a gay man writing about two gay men or a straight woman writing about whatever, you’re going to push things a little too far, rely on a little bit of magical realism, force your readers to suspend their disbelief a bit more than normal.

    Which is not to say that if you see the same misconception happening again and again in m/m romance written by women that there isn’t a problem. Of course there is. But is there a similar problem in gay romance written by men? Or a different problem?

    Can you suggest some gay romance written by men that has a happy ending? I can certainly recommend some written by women. I’d say that three that I consider the most “realistic” are James Buchanan’s Hard Fall, Anah Crow’s Uneven, and K.A. Mitchell’s Collision Course. But they’re both BDSM books and speak to me as very authentic in that aspect, so maybe I’m just assuming that this means that it’s authentic for the gay male experience as well.

  74. BevBB
    May 05, 2009 @ 21:08:36

    @Gay Pride:

    The topic isn't about whether or not women can write m/m romance. Clearly, they can. And I'm sure many straight women who read their books think they did a wonderful job. But as a gay man, I've never read one where there wasn't a flaw. I hope I do one day. I'll keep trying. But so far it hasn't happened.

    Do you really think we believe all straight men are like every single hero in a m/f romance? ‘Cause trust me when I say that since we’re talking about the history of the online romance community here, I couldn’t even begin point out the number of discussions I’ve seen over the years about charaterization flaws, period.

    Romance as a genre is centered on the characters and that means that we want them larger than life yet still reserve the right to pick them apart when they are. We gripe that they aren’t realistic when they aren’t everyday average and are frustrated when they are everyday boring. Sometimes I honestly don’t know how authors don’t end up going nuts trying to figure out whether they’re supposed to be writing total realism or pure fantasy. And that’s just with characters.

    I suppose in the end it all comes down to good storytelling, plain and simple.

  75. Kelly B.
    May 05, 2009 @ 21:19:39

    Whenever anyone starts talking about how an author can NEVER get it right if they aren’t …. whatever, I remember a book that was required reading when I was in high school (way back in the mists of time).

    It was The Red Badge of Courage, considered the ultimate “realistic” Civil War novel, even though the author Stephen Crane was born after the Civil War and had never seen a battle when he wrote the book in 1895. (He later tagged along with Teddy R & The Rough Riders as a newspaper correspondent in the Spanish American War.)

    Research & a vivid imagination can trump a lack of direct experience.

  76. vein
    May 05, 2009 @ 22:02:58

    I would also add the point of romance, mf or mm, is not necessarily to be realistic. A lot of mm is probably more about a fantasy of emotive men than any actual gay relationship. If is men written for women. Other romance is, of course, more true to life.

  77. Karen Templeton
    May 05, 2009 @ 22:17:50

    Sometimes I honestly don't know how authors don't end up going nuts trying to figure out whether they're supposed to be writing total realism or pure fantasy.

    One of the potential hazards of authors visiting these sites is getting all balled up about how to make everybody happy. And I’m not talking about just hearing criticism of your own work; sometimes a general discussion centering on reader hot buttons can mess with the muse like nobody’s business…if the author lets it.

    Not that I haven’t been influenced from time to time by comments I’ve read in an online venue, but *only* if those comments resonate with me and jibe with my storytelling style. And heaven knows I’ve taken “I don’t like element X because…” complaints as a challenge to approach the element from a different angle…to address the “because” while still writing the story I’m led to write.

    Since it’s obvious no writer is going to be a hit with all readers, all any of us can do is write those stories that define “romance” for us, and for those readers who read the types of stories we write. Less experienced authors, especially, need to take care not to let readers’ individual preferences distract them from their core stories. We can’t possibly custom tailor our books to any individual reader. In the end, what works or doesn’t is first and foremost between you and your editor, who presumably knows that publisher’s reader collective preferences.

    And sometimes that means bending reality a bit — or a lot — to cater to what those readers are looking for. Most women who read het romance novels, even those stories closer to the realistic end of the scale, expect the heroes to be at least somewhat idealized — not perfect, but definitely not average, either. They expect the guys in their books to be more — sexier, better-looking, a strong, take charge type who’s still at least reasonably aware of a woman’s feelings. ;-) IOW, he has to be more than his hormones…and a lot more than probably 90 percent of the guys they know/have dated/may even be married to.

    From that, it’s not hard to extrapolate that a straight woman reading a M/M romance also written by a straight woman probably isn’t looking for reality as much as she’s looking for a story with two heroes, yay! Two idealized, attractive-to-her heroes. As frustrating as it might be for a gay man to hear that — or worse, to read straight-female-written-M/M romance that makes him cringe — the market for this particular subgenre probably isn’t all that interested in “getting it right.” If she were, she could easily — I assume — read the genuine article?

    Not much of an appeasement, I know. But perhaps an explanation, at least?

    (And no, I don’t write M/M, so this isn’t even remotely about me. :)

  78. Lisa
    May 05, 2009 @ 22:46:52

    This is a blast from the past! I started online in 98 with the AOL boards then found a site dedicated to Johanna Lindsey. I finally stumbled on to AAR and Ive been following links ever since. I’ve been reading romance since my teens. I cut my teeth on Lindsey, Woodiwiss, Rogers & McBain.

  79. willaful
    May 05, 2009 @ 23:22:17

    I think my introduction was the yahoo group for Mary Balogh fans, a very nice, civil place to start. :-)

    Honestly what most bothers me about the romance community are the rabid conservatives who just have to use romance boards to express their political views, goodness only knows why. I’m here to talk books, people!

    I’m not crazy about sites that seem mainly devoted to worship of the male figure either, but those are easy enough to avoid, so no big whoop.

  80. Sunita
    May 06, 2009 @ 09:12:27

    I had to go look up the article that started my online experience w/romance; it was an article by a male reader of Outlander published in Salon in 1999. That led me to TRR, which led me to AAR, Wendy, Rosario, Maili, and Mrs. G (not necessarily in that order). It took me quite a while of lurking at AAR before I posted much, but then of course I could not be stopped.

    I’ve read romance novels since I was 12 (The Quiet Gentleman by Heyer started me off), but I’d given up everything but a couple of Harlequin authors and a couple of Regency authors (Edith Layton, Marion Chesney) because I didn’t like the Big Fat Romance books of the 1970s (classics, I know, but what can I say?). Thanks to those sites, I discovered all the great historical and Regency authors I’d missed. And thanks to DA and a couple of other sites, I discovered new category authors.

    I also loved that even in the early days, readers and authors were interested in the craft of writing, not just expressing their emotional like/dislike of books (although that matters too). Paperback Writer was wonderful for that. As of course were many of the posters at the AAR boards! It’s so freeing for someone like me, who has NO romance reading friends IRL, to be able to participate in this community.

  81. Sela Carsen
    May 06, 2009 @ 11:17:41

    Wow! Talk about a blast from the past! I’ve been reading romance since the early 90s, but wasn’t online until several years later. And when I did finally figure out teh Interwebz, I was at parenting sites. I just snuck in reading romance when there wasn’t an infant crying.

    I started out on romance sites the day I decided to sit down and write one of my own. I Googled “How to write a romance novel” (I kid you not, I was that naive) and followed the first link to eHarlequin.

    The Writer’s Lounge had probably 5 pages of comments and I was concerned about jumping into a pool with all those strangers. But if not for them, I wouldn’t be writing today. Vanessajaye, Julie Cohen, Anna Lucia, Sasha White, Michelle Styles, Nell Dixon, Shannon Stacey, Raine Weaver, Portia DaCosta, Dee Tenorio (as mod extraordinaire) and too many more to mention — we were all wandering around together, trying to figure up from down.

    And we did. Eventually. I shoved my foot in my mouth more often than I care to count. When everyone moved to Blogger, so did I (sheeple, much?), but I loved the experience of connecting with people. Mrs. Giggles was the first review site I encountered that pulled no punches, then I found Karen Knows Best, the Good the Bad and the Unread, Maili’s blog and eventually, DA and SB.

    When Savage Ferret Gate broke, I started hitting DA and Teach Me Tonight on a more regular basis until now I’m here nearly every day.

    As a reader, I’ve found books here that I would never have encountered any other way. As a writer, I can’t for a second forget that the people I write for are sharp-eyed and intelligent and I had better step up my game for them.

  82. Sherry Thomas
    May 06, 2009 @ 12:15:49

    @Kassia Krozser,

    Slake.com, that’s the one. I’ve been thinking about it lately. It had The Pedestal–for raising an author or a book to the pedestal–and The Wall, for your wallbangers.

    The Wall was the first place online I knew of that one could go to complain about a book.

    It was also the first place where I ever heard of Lisa Kleypas’s name–the woman who owned the site wrote that she was reading a Kleypas book at lunch time.

  83. (Jān)
    May 06, 2009 @ 12:18:43

    I got my start from TRR and RRA-L back in the mid-90s, and I stuck with RRA-L until it went off the listserv. The most valuable thing about RRA-L was the open honesty of it, though that changed in later years. In the 90s, people talked honestly about the romances they read, and it really allowed the intellectual side of romance to grow.

    I never liked AAR. It seemed too much about personalities, and there the way things were moderated there seemed biased. I think it had the result of chilling discussions that weren’t going the way some liked them to. So I stuck with the places that were for the most part, unmoderated.

    @Gay Pride, you’re missing the point as far as I’m concerned. Many of these m/m books written by women for women have nothing to do with reality. Not everything has to meet western standards, and not everything has to concern itself with addressing reality and issues. Sure, some people are trying to write about the gay community, but I’m really not interested in those. I’m interested in a m/m fetish romance that fits the bill of what I find romantic and erotic. It’s not written to be politically correct, or real life. It’s written to turn readers like me on. Sorry you can’t appreciate or condone it, but BL isn’t written so you will.

  84. anon
    May 06, 2009 @ 13:18:59

    @(Jān): I think you and I are saying similar things. I wondered when I read Jane’s review of “American Star” if she was the wrong target audience. Certainly Gay Pride isn’t the target audience for BL.

    Still, if the gay images in BL are as offensive to gay readers as the Old Skool sex roles are to today’s straight romance readers, maybe a little adjustment isn’t unmerited.

  85. BevBB
    May 06, 2009 @ 13:25:50

    @Sherry Thomas:

    Slake.com, that's the one. I've been thinking about it lately. It had The Pedestal-for raising an author or a book to the pedestal-and The Wall, for your wallbangers.

    The Wall was the first place online I knew of that one could go to complain about a book.

    Oh, The Wall! Was that actually the site that started the use of wallbanger within this community? I knew there was some major reason it was sticking in my head but I was thinking it was the averaging of the ratings.

    @(Jān):

    I never liked AAR. It seemed too much about personalities, and there the way things were moderated there seemed biased. I think it had the result of chilling discussions that weren't going the way some liked them to. So I stuck with the places that were for the most part, unmoderated.

    I don’t have a problem with moderation – in moderation. In fact, I sincerely believe that one of the failings of many blogs, particularly in book related circles, is the belief that comments shouldn’t be moderated at all. Freedom of speech is all well and good but there is such a thing as keeping things on topic. Too many tangents that completely take over threads and visitors start to feel either uncomfortable, unsafe or flat-out frustrated. And then they leave. That happens too many times and a site gets a reputation of being out of control. So, it’s a balancing act.

    That said, in my many years of coming and going from AAR the biggest policy problem I had with them was the one about not wanting anyone to use outside links in posts on the forum. That one drove me up the wall because it’s literally counterproductive to the purpose of the Internet and only created the impression that the site was a closed community. Since that completely conflicted with the impression they were trying to give, at least most of the time, it was confusing to say the least. Thankfully, that one went away several years ago and the change is noticable.

    Many of these m/m books written by women for women have nothing to do with reality.

    It's written to turn readers like me on.

    Okay, maybe I’m having a moment here – but not all of these are supposed to be erotica/erotic romances are they? Isn’t the point for them to be accepted as simply romances, too?

    I mean how would we feel if those two statements had been said about a “regular” romance?

    I’m simply pointing out that confusing sensuality factors with “how real” something is might be a big mistake because I’m not sure it’s a yardstick we’d want applied elsewhere.

  86. Tumperkin
    May 06, 2009 @ 13:55:22

    My intro to the community was that I read a category that took my breath away (in a bad way) in 2006. I googled its name and ‘review’ and that led me to Dionne Galace’s site. Much hilarity and the start of an obsession.

  87. Mary Stella
    May 06, 2009 @ 14:15:26

    I got my first home computer in 1993 and joined Prodigy in early 1994 which is the same year that I joined RWA and NJ Romance Writers. I wasn’t part of the listserve, but was pretty active on the Romance Novels bulletin board on Prodigy. Several of the other romance fans I got to know on that board went on to publish. (Terri Brisbin and Gennita Low (Who wasn’t Gennita yet.) to name just two. Although I was active in RWA listserves, I didn’t really get involved in other romance communities after Prodigy folded until I started blogging and reading blogs in 2005.

    I love talking about books of all genres but am always pretty proud that romance fans are so vocal and passionate about the books we read.

    By the way, even before the 2002 Bowling Green symposium, Penn State held a special conference in 1996 that focused on the romance genre. I can’t remember what they called it but it was very well attended. Jenny Crusie and Mary Jo Putney were the main speakers. I enjoyed the entire experience.

  88. Keishon
    May 06, 2009 @ 18:04:45

    I started on AOL with the Nora Roberts reader board back when Naked In Death had just come out. Damn, how long ago was THAT? There were A LOT of romance communities on AOL that I enjoyed and miss it. One reader gave me a detailed list of author to read with accompanying titles and those are authors I enjoyed reading until they ceased to publish anything further. I started with Blogger (awful platform) and moved to WordPress when Maili did. Been doing this for awhile, too but I am giving it another two years and will just stick to Twitter because sometimes I prefer that to blogging. No joke.

  89. Janet W
    May 06, 2009 @ 21:57:00

    OK, back in the mists of time: I discovered AAR and Mrs. Giggles at about the same time: I printed out Mrs. G’s 90+ rated books and AAR’s Desert Island Keepers, cross-referenced them and I was away to the races. Balogh, Brockmann, Beverley — they still occupy big chunks of my Keeper shelves.

    Rosario, Romancing the Blog, Dear Author, Smart Bitches, Rakehell, Regency Englandbookreviews (out of print Regency reviews) Good Ton, and the wonderful and idiosyncratic Ramblings on Romance with an occasional visit to Azteclady*ville: that’s where I wander now. I belong to the JoBev and MaryBalogh Yahoo groups. I was part of the late lamented Suz board (for me, lamented more prior to Election 08 fever) and lastly, I’ve found a home on http://members7.boardhost.com/bookreviews/index.html?1227190623 the Book Lovers Message Board — everything and anything about books and a host of other topics but giving politics/religion a pass — works for me.

    But AAR/Mrs. Giggles — they got me started and AAR is an every day gotta-check-it-out for me: especially “If You Like” and the genre lists — Troubled Marriages, Marriages of Convenience, Male Virgins — love their lists!!

  90. Tuscan Capo
    May 07, 2009 @ 00:26:06

    Love the kitties photo!
    I found the romance blogs, forums, places by word of mouth around 2006-2007 while in a community for hetro guys who secretly love Romance. Or at least a secret community for hetro guys who love Romance. OR maybe that was secretly hetro guys who love Romance? Hell, I can’t even remember now except my wife directed me. Anyway, just mark me down for knowing about DA and the other places for a couple of years now.

  91. (Jān)
    May 07, 2009 @ 01:52:42

    anon said:

    Still, if the gay images in BL are as offensive to gay readers as the Old Skool sex roles are to today's straight romance readers, maybe a little adjustment isn't unmerited.

    Not in my opinion. Rape sex offends me, but I would never have the gall to tell someone they shouldn’t read or write it.

    I mean really, when we start limiting our creativity because someone might be offended, we may as well just stop writing.

    Okay, maybe I'm having a moment here – but not all of these are supposed to be erotica/erotic romances are they? Isn't the point for them to be accepted as simply romances, too?

    I mean how would we feel if those two statements had been said about a “regular” romance?

    I didn’t mean ‘turn on’ in the sexual sense but in the hippie sense. Well, I just showed my age, didn’t I? LOL!

    This is what I mean: I don’t typically enjoy realistic gay romances, even those written by women, though there are exceptions. Because that’s not the aesthetic I’m going for. I like m/m romances where the men don’t worry about coming out and AIDs and Gay Pride, because I just like reading the romance. And I like it to cater to my tastes in romance, where the guys act like romance heroes and not real men. Because I’m in this for the fantasy. So for me, reality is a yardstick as to how much I tend to like m/m.

  92. BevBB
    May 07, 2009 @ 07:15:42

    @(Jān):

    This is what I mean: I don't typically enjoy realistic gay romances, even those written by women, though there are exceptions. Because that's not the aesthetic I'm going for. I like m/m romances where the men don't worry about coming out and AIDs and Gay Pride, because I just like reading the romance. And I like it to cater to my tastes in romance, where the guys act like romance heroes and not real men. Because I'm in this for the fantasy. So for me, reality is a yardstick as to how much I tend to like m/m.

    Okay, got ya. We’re on the same wavelength then. Earlier I thought we’d somehow managed to jump track from talking about the characters to how much or what type of “sex” was in the books and that would change the focus entirely.

  93. LB Gregg
    May 07, 2009 @ 09:43:00

    Tumperkin~Same here! It was Bam. And I googled JR Ward.

  94. When Gay Lit Snobs Attack | The Naughty Bits
    May 07, 2009 @ 11:54:17

    [...] the well fertilized fields of Dear Author (I’m with Mrs. G, what is it with that site?) comes this… by Gay Pride What brought me [...]

  95. Elisa
    May 07, 2009 @ 13:17:29

    @Sarah Frantz
    Ciao Sarah. I don’t know if Gay Pride will answer you, but there are a lot of romance with an Happy Ending wrtten by men. First of all, I can’t not cite Gordon Merrick and its trilogy, The Lord Won’t Mind, One for the Gods, and Forth into Light. Gordon Merrick was probably the first gay author to write about gay men who finally had an HEA for them. After how we can not cite William Maltese and Victor J. Banis: the famous Ex Harlequin converted gay-straight and again gay trilogy by William Maltese, Goldsands, Tusks and Beyond Machu are all romance with HEA; and Lola Dances by Victor J. Banis is a wonderful gay historical romance. More recent authors, like Bobby Michaels and Matthew Haldeman-Time write wonderful romance, and Bobby Michaels has a really “pink glass” perspective in his story, LOVE wins above all. I can go on and on with wonderful romance written by men…

  96. JenB
    May 07, 2009 @ 13:18:45

    I’m recycling some old material here, but I’m lazy and I think it still fits. I’m wearing my fireproof panties and I took my 5-HTP and caffeinated multivitamin today, so here we go… *deep breath*

    Dear GayPride,

    You’re absolutely right. I used to be a fan of m/m romance, but I’ve seen the light. I’ll probably have to shut down my Yahoo group now and take down all my hypocritical book reviews, and maybe even quit my editing job with a m/m romance press because I realize I have no right to make critical marks on documents I obviously don’t understand.

    Women have no right to write about gay men because we don't relate to them. Women have historically had it very easy, you know. We've never been persecuted or oppressed. We've always been highly valued in society. We've never had our rights violated or our positions belittled. We have no idea what it's like to be in love with a man. We don't know how it feels to be looked down upon for relationships that society doesn't approve of. We don't know how it feels to be at odds with friends and family because of the lifestyle choices we make. We don't know what it means to truly enjoy sex. We most certainly don't understand the mechanics of anal sex and we haven't a clue how amazing it feels (women don't do such things, you know).

    From now on I’ll read, review, and edit nothing but books about married plus-size redheaded twenty-something chicks who live in cheap old houses and do boring clerical work. THANK YOU for helping me understand.

    Love and kisses,
    A reformed m/m romance reader

  97. Elisa
    May 07, 2009 @ 13:27:29

    @JenB

    Yes, you are right JenB, also I should stop to read gay romance, and maybe also tell to all that male authors who send me book to stop, since I can do more damage than anything else reading and reviewing it… and probably I should also say to that male interviewer who posted about me for a gay blog (the first reviewer to be hosted there) that probably he didn’t know what his readers really wanted.

  98. Louise van Hine
    May 07, 2009 @ 14:08:39

    @JenB: you hit the nail very hard on the head there. Women can’t POSSIBLY understand what it is like to be in love with a man, that is for sure! Nor could we ever understand one. And ‘Gay Pride’ speaks for the entire gay community too, because they are all completely the same!

  99. Shiloh Walker
    May 07, 2009 @ 14:34:16

    Here’s my take on the women writing m/m romances:

    1) hypothetically speaking, lets say Gaypride has a male friend that wants to write m/f romances. I have to wonder if GayPride would be equally ready to tell his friend that his friend isn’t allowed to write the typical m/f romance. Because the male hasn’t ever been female. He’s never experienced the things females experience, and he’s never had to deal with things like getting his period, menstrual cramps, being belittled in your job for being female, etc.

    2) m/m is being written for a targeted audience, and the fact of the matter is, the vast majority of romance readers ARE female. That’s the target audience. It’s entirely possible that what appeals to the female reader of m/m is exactly what turns the male reader of m/m off. If the writer writes to please the m/m reader, she could lose a decent amount of her reader base.

    3) I’m a nurse. One of the sub-genres of romance I HATE and ABHOR are medical romances, unless I know the writer is in the medical field. Those outside the field have ideas about what they think the medical field is. They are very often wrong, but there’s a readership for those medical romances and the writers of medical romances write for that target audience. If a writer wanted to get really, really detailed about the medical field, chances are she’d lose some of her readers. But I’m NOT going to tell the non-medical person they have no biz writing in the medical romance area. They can write what they wish-just as I can read what I wish.

    Basically, writers do write to meet a target audience. Generally, within the romance genre, our target audience IS female. That doesn’t mean there’s no room for change-hell, we’d probably love it if more guys would read romance, period. This doesn’t mean if guys with m/m experiences decide to write more m/m romances, we’ll cry foul. Romance isn’t just for women, but what we perceive as romance, a man may not. What a man perceives as romantic, we may not. So if those looking for authentic m/m romances aren’t happy with the ones written by women, I’d say find some written by men.

    if it doesn’t appeal, just don’t read it. Find something that does appeal

  100. Erastes
    May 07, 2009 @ 16:39:17

    it's more about whether or not they should be doing it in the first place

    Unreal.

    I haven’t read all the comments, because my blood pressure doesn’t need the excitement, but that’s the funniest thing I’ve heard in all the posts I’ve heard from baffled gay men who don’t think we should be writing about them. And yes, we have had this argument over and over and over again. I’m sure this won’t be the last time, either.

    Should I, as a bi-sexual woman, only be writing about bi-sexual women then? With no males at all in my stories? How can I write about men at all, if I haven’t got a prostate? How can I write about space, or how can Mulpurgo and Sewell wrote from the point of view of a horse? Have they got four legs? How can I dare to write about characters in another time of history, because I sure as hell haven’t been there. Can I write a story about Henry VIII then? or Edward II? or just two young men who fall in love in whatever time period I choose? Why yes, because I am only limited by my imagination, not by what hangs or does not hang between my legs.

    The bulk of the (happy) mail I get from readers is from gay men. Young, older, closeted, out, leathermen (who proudly say they re-enact the scenes in my stories), men in the army, even . I rather think that they are not only OK with it, but they are enjoying it. In fact, they tell me that they are really, REALLY, happy that at last, there’s something between Gay Lit and Porn. The fact that they can buy a gay romance with gay men in delicious historical clothes, acting out their fantasies really strikes home, it seems. Some gay men have been reading het historical romances because there wasn’t any gay historical, and now there is, they are hoovering them up as fast as any het romance reader.

    Does it have to be realistic? Hell, no. Do we hear wails of derision from the general romance readership when yet another secretary falls for yet another Greek Shipping Billionaire? Romance doesn’t have to be realistic, after all, it just needs to please the reader, and its certainly pleasing mine.

  101. kirsten saell
    May 08, 2009 @ 02:16:30

    From that, it's not hard to extrapolate that a straight woman reading a M/M romance also written by a straight woman probably isn't looking for reality as much as she's looking for a story with two heroes, yay! Two idealized, attractive-to-her heroes. As frustrating as it might be for a gay man to hear that -’ or worse, to read straight-female-written-M/M romance that makes him cringe -’ the market for this particular subgenre probably isn't all that interested in “getting it right.” If she were, she could easily -’ I assume -’ read the genuine article?

    To this, I have but one thing to add in response to Gay Pride: “Lesbo Strap-on Orgy III: The Revenge of Debbie”. (yes, I made that title up, but the sad thing is, it probably exists.)

    Ever wonder how lesbians and bi-women feel every time their sexuality is co-opted for the fantasies of straight guys? If every time you turned on the TV after 9 at night you saw ads for “Guys Gone Wild” where manly men were filled full of liquor and convinced to do each other for the titillation of straight women, then maybe I’d be more concerned about female m/m authors who’ve not yet, in your experience, managed to get everything right.

    Women are as entitled to their fantasies as men are, and as a whole I’ll tell you, they get it a lot more “right” than the porn industry does with female-female sensuality. Just be happy women’s fantasies play out in romance novels involving actual sentient characters, instead of porn clips starring animated sex dolls with teased hair, breast implants and three-inch-long fingernails (something that would probably make most lesbians and bi-women scream and run the other way, BTW. Epic fail right there.)

    We put up with it. Why? Because straight guys are entitled to like what they like, and to have erotic material just for them and their fantasies. Women also are entitled to like what they like, and if that’s love stories about two guys whose personalities better resemble their romantic ideal than the Real Gay Experience, well, they’re not written with men like you in mind.

    Yes, I think we should all try to get it right. But if you want to fight the good fight against the exploitation and co-opting of homosexuality for a straight audience, well, I think the problem is more pressing elsewhere…

  102. anon
    May 08, 2009 @ 13:20:58

    I find it somewhat offensive that a lot of the same people who say non-POC writers should not write POC characters will not enter into a serious discussion of how that is fundamentally different from straight women writing gay male characters. To me, there is no difference. If the argument is that someone who benefits from white privilege has no business writing a POC, then I fail to see how it’s just dandy for someone who benefits from heterosexual privilege to write a GLBT character. And yet some of the people who argue most strenuously about whites writing COC will accept the inclusion of a GLBT character with no questions asked about the orientation of the writer.

    Note: this applies only to those who subscribe to part 1 of the argument. Obviously if you believe that non-POC writers can write POC characters, this does not apply to you.

    @GayPride: my friends and I have thought for years that one day “Will and Grace” will be viewed similarly to “Amos n’ Andy”: groundbreaking for its time, but offensive nonetheless.

  103. JennaJ
    May 08, 2009 @ 13:26:49

    @JenB: you’re my heroine :D.

    @Gaypride: my most cherished piece of reader feedback is from a gay man who praised my books for being so realistic.

    I’m a straight-ish woman.

    So. Do with that as you like.

  104. Don
    May 08, 2009 @ 14:16:24

    I’m still finding the online communities. =-) I’m new.

    @Gay Pride, I just wanted to say, definitely read the classics. Like Mary Renault’s The Charioteer. First gay themed book I read in my life, and it was a watershed moment, and I still treaure it.

    I do have a female author friend who contacted me when she was writing a section of a book that had M/M emotions involved with it, and wanted to talk to me about how it “felt.” She then sent me drafts and revisions, honing it until it was right.

    And in case you were wondering, it had absolutely nothing to do with the physical mechanics. She didn’t even write about the sexual act. She wanted to be emotionally accurate, and worked at it until she got it (to my sense) right.

    Finally — I’m sorry, I know this thread isn’t about this subject — as far as women writing this? At least someone is writing it. Perhaps if women write it and create the market, the men will get off their prostates and start writing something, too.

  105. kirsten saell
    May 08, 2009 @ 15:38:49

    I find it somewhat offensive that a lot of the same people who say non-POC writers should not write POC characters will not enter into a serious discussion of how that is fundamentally different from straight women writing gay male characters.

    I find the whole idea of being prohibited from writing characters who are not exactly like you offensive in itself. I suppose one thing I find more offensive than that ridiculous notion is the hypocrisy of applying it to some groups and not to others.

    It must be frustrating for a gay man to see gay men unrealistically portrayed in fiction, and I suppose because we’re talking about fiction that involves plot/characterization/emotion, it should be held to a higher standard as far as getting it right goes than lesbian porn for straight guys.

    But the standard should be no higher than that applied to any other identifiable group portrayed in fiction. Dude, we’re talking about genre romance. It’s being written to a specific audience. Its purpose is fantasy and entertainment, not an accurate reflection of a gay man’s everyday life–which I would assert is not going to be the same for every gay man.

    Do we jump on every single romance novel out there that has a virgin orgasming from penetration alone the very first time she has sex? If we did, we’d be smacking down a lot of writers.

    Do we yell and scream over every six-pack boasting, pectorally well-endowed, hung-like-a-horse hero who is an expert at oral sex, just because half the guys we’ve been with have had love handles and an average-sized unit and some of them couldn’t find your g-spot without a magnifying glass and a spelunking kit?

    Do we scold and tut-tut over the fact that the majority of RL super-rich business tycoons are middle-aged, paunchy and balding, and some of the most uber-successful are probably borderline sociopaths who wouldn’t know love if it jumped out of the bushes and yelled “Boo!” at them?

    Yeah, we’re often harder on women romance writers who in our collective opinion get female characters totally wrong, but that’s because 1) they’re women and should know better, and 2) women are the target readership.

    But dude, even so, it’s fantasy. And it’s written for women. If some women want to believe the multi-orgasmic virgin exists (which she might, somewhere out there), well, that’s their fantasy.

    If some gay men can enjoy these books, that’s a huge compliment for the writers, but if some don’t, I find it hugely offensive to imply that women are not allowed to write or enjoy material written to indulge their own fantasies when men so clearly are allowed to do so. Just because women’s fantasies involve human emotion and plots more complicated than a porn film doesn’t mean they have to reflect real life. Try reading a het romance and then ask a het woman if it reflects her reality at all. Pretty sure the answer will be no.

  106. Nicky May
    May 08, 2009 @ 17:09:10

    @’Gay Pride’

    I read your post (at 25) with great interest.

    As a transsexual male, I would be fascinated to hear your views on my ‘right' to correctly pen romance between men. While it is true I did not have the privilege or the luck to be born with either a prostate, or those other organs I should have been, your misguided sentiments can be likened to opining that a person in a wheelchair should not write about how it feels to walk.

    Allow me to assure you that I think exactly like a ‘real' man, and I say this with the heavy sarcasm it deserves. I look like and live my life like a ‘real' man. Furthermore, after a little more time goes by, you probably wouldn't even know I was not born male *unless I told you* (assuming, of course, that we meet during polite social conversation).

    With this in mind, I assure you it's perfectly possible to think like a man, live like a man, and heck, write about men …without a prostate. In addition, if that's the yardstick you measure your masculinity by, I feel it's rather a shame.

  107. Lee Rowan
    May 08, 2009 @ 20:40:15

    re: gay pride

    There is some really dreadful characterization of gay men in some books written by women.

    There’s also a shitload of perfectly awful characterization of women in many, many books written by men – especially when it comes to sex scenes.

    There is also some really excellent characterization of same by same, and most of the writers I know either have gay beta-readers or have received favorable feedback from gay men who are not you (you would be astonished, I’m sure, to learn that many gay men do not share your opinion).

    There’s some very good characterization of women written by men, and .. Oh, come off it. The notion that one has to have a prostate or uterus to write about someone who owns same is just ludicrous.

    The notion that you, or anyone else, has the right to tell other people what they may or may not write about is ludicrous. You should join forces with Rush Limbaugh–he doesn’t want anyone writing m/m.

    Who the hell made you the Queen of Censorship?

    I don’t read true-crime books, or the sports page, or lesbian-fantasies-for-straight men or any number of other irritating things. If you don’t like m/m romance, for heaven’s sake, don’t read it.

    Now, while we’re on the subject of people trying to prohibit people who don’t have the genitalia relevant to their preferred field of creative endeavor, just how are we women who weigh more than 98 pounds soaking wet going to stop gay designers from designing preposterous garments for anorexic teenage girls? How dare they?!

  108. Chameleon
    May 08, 2009 @ 22:59:02

    @Gay Pride
    Brought here by a link from the slash fanfiction community. If you don’t know, we’re folks who read/write fanfiction with m/m relationships. More than 90% of us are women.

    Fanfiction is not reality, and has never claimed to have any remote connection to reality. It’s a genre where fantasy is occasionally quite extreme. Do real men act the way most slash characters do? No, often not, they’re loosely based on pre-existing characters, and influenced by the norms of the genre. Do women act the way female characters do in mainstream romance? God no, at least, I hope most of them don’t. Romance, in short, is fantasy. You’re not supposed to use it to learn about the real world.

    There have, of course, been gay men involved in slash, some of whom have given advice. Notably, Minotaur.

    http://www.squidge.org/minotaur/classic/eroc.html

    That’s great, and helps people write sex scenes that at least don’t make knowledgeable people wince in sympathetic pain or laugh in disbelief.

    But in general, the current opinion, or my opinion anyway, is that slash is written by women for women. If men are interested and want to read it, great. But that’s not the intended or actual audience.

    Romance is written with the intent to arouse and entertain. Different people are turned on by different things. M/m relationships written with the intent to arouse women who like fanfic are going to be different from m/m romance written to arouse men without any fanfic interest.

    The obvious corollary here is that a lot, if not most, lesbian porn is marketed to a male audience. It doesn’t always look much like reality. That’s ok. Sure, some guys might get the wrong idea about lesbians, but really, you shouldn’t be taking your cues about the real world from porn or romance. Goodness knows no relationships, or even sexual acts, are portrayed accurately there, straight, f/f, m/m, of any combination thereof.

  109. Topics about Love-stories » Blog Archive » Comment on Past is Prologue, A Brief Look at History of Romance
    May 09, 2009 @ 00:21:41

    [...] Pajamas Media put an intriguing blog post on Comment on Past is Prologue, A Brief Look at History of RomanceHere’s a quick excerpt…to like what they like, and if that's love stories about two guys whose personalities better resemble their romantic ideal than the Real Gay… [...]

  110. Sal
    May 09, 2009 @ 08:43:35

    At one time I worked a switchboard and a colleague read HUGE numbers of romances, mainly Mills & Boon, and passed them along to me. She ADORED them but I found them deeply unsatisfying to read, mainly because I almost always identify with the heroes of books rather than the heroines and most romances are written with the female POV very much in mind, or even as the only POV.

    Eventually I stopped reading them altogether. But I have always written stories so I began to write the romances I wanted to read, in long hand, on lined paper. Now I have discovered m/m romances properly bound in book form and, oh joy, ebooks I don’t have to do it any more [though I will because it's fun].

    Basically I am a market!! Or part of one. Commenter Gay Pride is a different sort of market. Surely there are enough competent authors out there to write the het romances my old colleague wants, the admittedly distorted and inaccurate m/m romances that I feel more comfortable reading AND the grittily realistic type, both het and LBGT, that Gay Pride will approve of?

    There’s a lot of talented authors and a lot of readers happy to hand over the cash, I really can’t see a down side.

  111. Sal
    May 09, 2009 @ 08:54:11

    I have a colleague who adores romances and who used to pass them on to me. After reading a few I stopped accepting them because I just didn’t enjoy them. These were very traditional romances – secretaries marrying bosses, nurses marrying doctors. Some were fluffy, some borderline pornographic. It took a long while for me to realise that the reason I didn’t like them is that they were almost all written with the female POV very much in mind, if not in the first person, but I always identify with male characters. Het romances just don’t do it for me so I stopped reading them. I have always written so I started to write what I DID want to read, long hand on lined paper.

    Now there are proper m/m romances, both bound and ebooks, I don’t have to do that any more [though I'll carry on because it's fun]. It’s a joy that there are the sort of books out there at last that I can enjoy.

    I’m a market, you see. Commenter Gay Pride is a different sort of market. My colleague is yet a different type of romance reader.

    There are a load of talented authors, and masses of readers eager to read what they write. Surely there should be something suitable to every taste within the genre?

  112. Ann Somerville’s Journal » Blog Archive » The thing is, you’re both wrong
    May 10, 2009 @ 04:29:54

    [...] commenter calling himself ‘Gay Pride’ said here: A female author trying to write m/m erotic romance, or romance, is just as insulting as hiring [...]

  113. Angelia Sparrow
    May 10, 2009 @ 11:48:24

    Former multi-orgasmic virgin here (I knew my body well before I had sex.)

    And I’m a Byke who writes GLBT (yes, all four) romances. I know what it is to love a man. I know what lusting for a man I can’t have is like. I’ve had various forms of sex with men. I had a bout of “oh Lady, she’s so HOT!” just last night and, embarassingly, in front of my husband. Did I mention the local Pride committee likes my books and is excited to have me as an exhibitor this year?

    I resent the idea that you can ONLY write what you know. That leaves out the whole idea of research. Admittedly a lot of m/m authors skip the research in favor of The Pretty, esp. those in fandom.

    I’ve never flown a space-ship, lived with a telepathic cat, been further from London than Dover and Stratford-on-Avon, sailed a sloop, fought a zombie, been hit on by a pixie, been arrested, been in a wheelchair longer than an hour, or crossed between a world where magic works to a high-tech universe.

    I write Characters of Color (of ALL colors including blue and orange). I write gay men, straight men, bisexual men, lesbians, bi women, straight women, princesses who aren’t aware they are princes under the skirts, children and telepathic cats.

    And I resent any man who comes into a place and tells the women there “You’re all doing it completely wrong and you should do it to suit ME/Stop Immediately/turn your hand to something else I find better!” regardless of his orientation.

    Excuse me please. I have conjoined twins in love with the torture artist to write.

  114. Deb Stover
    Nov 08, 2009 @ 10:45:27

    I just stumbled across this discussion, because Google Alerts sent it to me–LOL! I see some familiar “faces” in here.

    Yes, READ still exists at Yahoogroups. Drop by and visit. I think some of you have been set to nomail for years. ;)

    ~Deb

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