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

RomanceLand Presents The Long Goodbye Starring Ms. Adele Ashworth

Funny Pictures

Dear Ms. Ashworth:

Thank you for the prank you pulled on AAR this past holiday weekend which just last year was a place you vowed never to read again or post at again. At first, I was all worried that you were serious when you went after a reader complaining about your books being wallpaper historicals. But when I got to the end of the first page of posts and you were all “I don’t belong here anymore” and “I won’t post on these boards again“, I knew you were just pulling our legs and that your posts were one big joke.

Good one.

I admit to falling for your serious tone initially. I was foolishly worried that you were once again trying to belittle a reader who had a few, seeming innocuous comments about your writing. I felt sure that you remembered how poorly the past attempts went at trying to make the small things seem . . . well, small until a big old author spotlight shone on them.

Remember when readers were outraged about you changing your widow into a virgin widow and how you thought that was so small and minor that you were compelled to write a huge editorial for AAR to point out how wrong, wrong, wrong those readers were? And then when some readers were unhappy with the grammar and punctuation in Duke of Scandal, you felt compelled to write an open letter to readers who were so silly as to want grammatically correct books? “An author can write a sentence any way she wants to, dangling modifiers included. I find it extremely insensitive the way some of these discussions progress.” is I think what you said.

And remember how both times you promised that you weren’t going to participate in AAR boards anymore because people didn’t understand the points you were trying to make? And you made the big exit only to come back the next time your books were mentioned on the boards?

When you did this a third time over the historical accuracy issue, I realized that no one would do the same thing over and over and over so this was really just a big joke on all the readers at AAR. Possibly it could have been that you felt bad for Cornwell and perhaps wanted to take the light off of her. Personally, I would have pointed it to Jacquelyn Frank’s rant against Romantic Time’s editing staff for “ruining” her ode to her fans.

Unfortunately, the article I wrote was sliced and diced, and rather poorly at that, and so the true point and feeling of it was obliterated. It was meant to be a major ass-kissing, slurpy, lovey-dovey homage to all of you. Honestly, I had put all my heart and humor into it, not realizing there was a 500 word limit (and after all, how does one limit their love for their readers to 500 words??) and it was reduced without a final consult with me. Am I angry? Oh yeah. It sounds awkward and dorky, with references to things no longer there. Will it kill me? No. But that isn’t the point. The point is I was trying to do something nice that I knew you all would get to see and now it’s kinda ruined for us both.

Cornwell’s “they don’t call it the VAST Right Wing Conspiracy for nothing” complaints could have provided us giggles for well into another week. But you could have been taking one for the writing team and falling on your sword with your “goodbye cruel world” (my words, not yours) posts.

I like, particularly, how you employed most of the nonsensical arguments that authors like to toss out there in belittling the opinions of readers.

I don’t have any other complaints. and I sell lots and lots.

TDI was my best selling book to date, and I’ve received more reader mail on this book than all my others combined. Not one reader commented on the history, but every single reader who wrote me personally commented on the characters, even some on the opera angle.

This is how I translated this phrase (before I realized it was a joke): Those readers who choose not to comment on the characters or the opera aspect are not very smart because the opera and the characters is important. Not minor historical details because if minor historical details were important readers would email me about it and I wouldn’t go all “you’re pedantic” on their asses like I am doing now.

I am secure in my writing and have a very thick skin.

The grade and review didn’t bother me (after so many books, an author usually develops *very* thick skin), but I knew there would be some fallout over the story. There always is. . . .But what made me laugh (and I mean literally laugh) when the fallout began over historical inaccuracies in TDI was when readers complained that the “champagne flute wasn’t invented yet” and “women didn’t use cosmetic brushes in 1870.” It was truly a head-scratching, WTF? moment for me. I worked very hard to create a believable romance, with accurate historical detail and the most believable dialogue possible considering the time period and storyline –" and yes, I took some creative license with a heroine-opera-singer-who’s-secretly-an-earl’s-sister-but-nobody-knows-who-she-is, kind of thing. But I never expected to frustrate readers because I had the hero drinking from a champagne flute instead of a glass in chapter one. The point is, I would never think of checking something like this.

Translation: So what that I have historical inaccuracies? These details are minor. The fact that a reader choose to provide these as examples in a thread that has nothing to do with me and everything to do with historical accuracy in romance books shows that some people have nothing better to do than walk around with a red pen unfairly attacking authors in a very disruptive way. I choose to ignore the fact that the entire conversation about historical accuracy was amply defended on both sides. I also choose to ignore that the gravamen of the complaint by the one reader was that the book did not work for her.

We all have our personal quirks and hot button issues. I generally won’t read lawyer stories. Robin has this thing about grammar. Jayne hates the faux Scottish dialect.

Because you don’t understand me, I am going to go away because you don’t share the same love for the romance genre that I do.

This used to be my favorite place to “hang out” as a reader and writer of romances, but clearly, as a “wallpaper historical writer” I don’t belong here anymore. I won’t post on these boards again. . . . I guess the fact that I (and every author) can’t please everybody is a reason not to post here anymore. No matter how well I’ve tried to explain myself (about this and other things I’ve written — Beware the Virgin Widow! Smile ), someone finds an argument with it. I simply cannot explain myself without someone arguing my approach, research, explanation, or writing abilities. I’m sure part of that is the nature of the boards, but there are a lot of readers who are just not happy with the romance genre at all anymore.

Translation: Despite the fact that I promised at least once before, if not more, never to come to AAR again, this time I really, really mean it because all you readers who are critical of the genre don’t love it in the right way, in the positive – “If you haven’t got anything to say, don’t say it” sort of way. I actually believe that I can please everyone and if I can’t please you, you don’t deserve my company.

You are probably right, Ms. Ashworth. Those fans at AAR who study the romance genre, who are passionate about it, don’t love it the way you love it. I suspect that the historical accuracy brigade is probably a tool of the Pentagon. Along with the cabal of readers who want good grammar and non virgin widows.

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

141 Comments

  1. Jan
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 06:35:16

    I can kind of see where she’s coming from, because some readers get their panties in a bunch over the most trivial things. (they’re like the dweebs you just never ever want to see Star Wars with because not only do they miss out on the point and the fun of the movie, they spoil it for everyone else they’re with).

    But. If I were writing a dinner party scene that took place in the Regency era, I’d find a couple of books that described dinner parties from that time in detail and use the equipment and sorts of menu items they described. Any time I’d use something for a scene, like a trip in a coach, I’d read up on coaches and road trips and try to work in some actual details. I wouldn’t make stuff up. It just seems common sense to me.

    That sounds like I’m disagreeing with myself, but it’s a writer vs reader thing. I think a writer should take responsibility and try to be as accurate as possible. It’s really not that difficult. But I think readers needs to chill a little, especially if they want to be able to enjoy a variety of books, and understand that writers are human and will miss things. (Besides, do picky readers really want to sound like that Star Wars dweeb that everyone can’t stand? Because they often come across that way.)

    Er, it is pretty silly though that she keeps stalking out of the room and slamming the door behind her only to sneak back in and do it again. Big exits really only work the first time.

    ReplyReply

  2. Kat
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 06:35:37

    I haven’t read any of Adele Ashworth’s work, so my comment is a general one about historical (in)accuracy. I think it’s fair enough for an author to slip up and get details wrong. One would hope those things will be picked up through research, editing and even beta readers, but they can still slip through. However, if a reader gives feedback about the inaccuracy, I don’t see why it can’t be taken with good grace and the error fixed in subsequent print runs. If you look through Eloisa James’s site, for example, she includes bits of trivia about details that she got wrong and corrected in later print runs or in subsequent books (under the heading “Mea Culpa”).

    Some readers care about historical accuracy, and some don’t. But saying that those who do are expecting too much does, I think, a disservice to readers in general.

    ReplyReply

  3. Jan
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 06:45:10

    Kat, for me it’s all in how it’s done, and so often on romance boards it’s done by readers ranting and throwing tantrums because of a detail like the shape of a glass. They so often act condescending and snotty, when a polite note to the author would do just as well.

    I should say that this kind of attitude is by no means restricted to romance readers. Groups of readers of all kinds of books have these sorts as members. Especially SF.

    ReplyReply

  4. Kat
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 07:04:30

    Yeah, that’s fair enough. I imagine it would be galling if someone eviscerated one’s novel based on glassware. I would, however, make a distinction between historical accuracy and canon/world-building in sf/f or paranormal books. In those cases, I think it’s incumbent on the author to get all the details right and take it with good grace when readers spot inconsistencies.

    ReplyReply

  5. Kristen
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 07:45:20

    I love historicals, but I generally don’t give a hoot about accuracy. I’m not reading for a history lesson, I’m reading to be entertained. Now if someone retires to the library and flips on the telly, I’m going to notice that. Glassware? Not so much.

    I do think PDWs (Public Displays of Whinery) should be avoided at all costs. Regardless of what your readers think, you’re still selling books and you’re still published – a problem many of us struggling writers would gladly take off your hands.

    ReplyReply

  6. Laura Vivanco
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 08:37:19

    I know you’ve used LOLcats plenty of times before, but this time it seemed particularly apt given that underneath her name in all of her AAR posts Adele Ashworth has a photo of a little girl holding a kitten.

    ReplyReply

  7. Charlene Teglia
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 08:56:43

    Hmm. Kind of off-topic, but the issue about details has me mulling over something Elizabeth Bear posted recently on “fabulous reality”. How just the right details make fiction so vividly real. Most authors I know are incredibly OCD about details, probably because they can make or break that necessary suspension of disbelief. The devil IS in the details.

    ReplyReply

  8. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 09:01:11

    Awwwwww…. look at the kitty.

    ;) Sorry. I have nothing meaningful to add, I don’t read the AAR message boards or much in the way of historicals, so I can’t comment about much of anything but I really, really love the kitty.

    ReplyReply

  9. vanessa jaye
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 09:29:42

    I’m in line with Jan here; sometimes I think folks get their knickers in a twist over a fairly inconsequential item, jarring though it might be. They’re so focused on some small weedy sapling error, that they don’t see the story forest. It’s a book, not a diagnosis. If it's ticking you off, it's not doing its, entertaining you. But the darn book down. End of story (pun intended).

    I honestly don’t think Ms. Ashworth’s response was all that bad, it (they) were quite rational when read objectively. Her mistake was she should have only posted once–if she *really* felt the need to do so –said her piece, and left it alone. These things can become a feeding frenzy, which never seems to die as much as lie (lay?) dormant for a while till the next flare up or the pot is stirred again. As an author, why stir your own pot? Especially when it's probably your behind getting roasted.

    We all know that the majority of readers are not online reading blogs, messageboards and the like. Only the hardcore users. *gg*. So while it doesn’t hurt for an author to pay some attention to the cyber-citizen readers who love the genre so much, in the end, they're a minority sliver of pie. (god, I feel like I’m braiding metaphors here into a very clumsy french knot. gg). If indeed her sales are not reflective of a dozen or so critical posts on a couple of websites, she needs to, as Jay-Z says: dust that dirt off her shoulder.

    Once someone feels strong enough about something to post their opinion, they’re rarely going to change minds no matter how often opposing opinions are posted. In fact the opposite is often true, the opinion becomes more entrenched, or the focus of the whole discussion shifts to another point of dissention. Did I mention the feeding frenzy phenomenon?

    ReplyReply

  10. vanessa jaye
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 09:32:42

    Argg!! on those damn typos. That should read: It's a book, not a diagnosis. If it's ticking you off, it's not doing its job, entertaining you. Put the darn book down. End of story (pun intended).

    ReplyReply

  11. Jaci Burton
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 09:37:30

    poor wet kitty. clearly didn’t think that one through before plunging in.

    ;-)

    ReplyReply

  12. Keishon
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 10:16:16

    Where I work, we take complaints seriously. The best thing Ms. Ashworth could have done was take responsibility for it and move on. OTOH, must agree with Jan and Vanessa: some readers drive me crazy with the need to nitpick at everything.

    ReplyReply

  13. Jennifer McKenzie
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 10:17:51

    *Sigh* It’s tough not to get upset or frustrated when things that aren’t right get noticed by readers. BUT readers have a right to say what they think. And readers who are very focused on historical accuracy have a right to never buy another Ashworth again.
    I’m with Kristen. I don’t get my panties in a wad over glassware. My big thing is dialogue and even then, it has to be VERY obvious to get my attention. I love Julie Garwood, but I’ve seen comments from other readers that she gets details wrong. *shrugs* I still love Julie Garwood.
    If Ms. Garwood started slamming her readers for correcting the details? That might make a difference.

    ReplyReply

  14. azteclady
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 10:19:15

    I would think that “growing a thick skin” would involve not reacting in a way that invites comparison with whining children.

    While I agree with Jan and others that there are good ways to word one’s issue with any given book (be it historical inaccuracy, poor copy editing, etc.), I think the onus is on the author to be able to ignore the form of the complaint and see whether there’s substance to it.

    After all, for most of us reading is not a career (i.e., our mortgage money doesn’t depend on it), while most writers are hoping their writing will eventually support them.

    ReplyReply

  15. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 10:55:09

    As I reader I was (and am) one of the ones who would be bothered by the glass being radically incorrect. As a writer (and research wonk) I'm most bothered the author's response. Her comment “The point is, I would never think of checking something like this.” is telling, and quite frankly puts me off more than the error itself.

    The devil is is the details, and so is my ability to sink into the world the author builds and thus enjoy the story. When incorrect details keep popping out at me I'm thrust out of the story time and time again.

    At least the reader had the decency to point out SPECIFICALLY what bothered her. Many times you just get vague comments like “So-and-so writes wallpaper historicals” or “Her books are sooooo historically inaccurate” and you have no idea WHY the reader thinks this, or WHAT brought them to this conclusion.

    ReplyReply

  16. Keishon
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 10:55:59

    I love Julie Garwood, but I've seen comments from other readers that she gets details wrong. *shrugs* I still love Julie Garwood.

    Exactly. For all the readers out there complaining about historical accurateness, Garwood’s historicals often make these “best of” and “top 100″ romance lists – each and every time, because in the end, most readers don’t care. I am flexible: I can read wall paper and still enjoy it for what it is at the heart of it: a romance. I love Roberta Gellis and I’m sure no one has found or tried to find any errors in her romances. Hee. None of her romances made the all important romance readers best romance list despite that her work is more historically accurate and solidly researched.

    ReplyReply

  17. Lynne Connolly
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 11:01:25

    I am a writer and I am a nitpicker. I don’t intend to take a 12 point program to cure it.
    I am a historian, too. But as a writer I see keeping any historical I write as accurate as I can as a duty of care to my readers. It’s my job to do it, just as it’s my job to create believable characters and a good story.
    I don’t write for one reader, I write for a bunch of ‘em, hopefully a big bunch so I have to try to appeal to the largest bunch I can. I know historians read novels and there are a group of writers historians are warned to avoid if they want their blood pressure to remain normal.
    Can we just put paid to the “I don’t want to read a history book” comment? If you read a novel that reads like a history textbook, that’s bad writing, pure and simple. If you read a Sci Fi novel that consists of long lists of rocket ships and how they work that’s bad writing too, as is the fantasy novel with pages and pages of backstory and explanation.
    But what I expect in historical novels that I read and enjoy is some similarity between the historical period in the book and the one that actually existed. Not for any pernickety reason but because I want to be transported to a different age when people thought and acted differently. I don’t want same-old same-old.
    I have to admit I only read one book by Ashworth and it was a wall-banger for me, complete with jerky hero, TSTL heroine and a glaring historical inaccuracy that the plot depended on (the hero ‘giving up’ his title. They can’t).
    The worst inaccuracies are ones that the plot depends on or that are repeated throughout the book. That’s why some readers get upset about title errors, because if a duke is addressed as “your lordship” on page one, you can bet he’ll be “your lordship” on page 385. And stupid names, for the same reason. Or when an illegitimate child inherits a title (impossible, though he can be awarded one) or when a title holder chooses the person who can inherit his title when he’s gone (another impossibility).
    And I have to come clean here. I’m British and sometimes it really hurts to see my history used like this. I’m very careful to keep my American-set novels as close to reality and accuracy as I can (I usually try to find some US beta readers preferably living in the place where I set the book) so I’d love the same courtesy in return.
    I’m not looking for perfection, just a reasonable approximation of reality.

    ReplyReply

  18. Keishon
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 11:03:10

    The champagne flute glass wouldn’t have bothered me or the majority of the readers out there either because knowledge this detailed is not something anyone goes around thinking about while reading a historical romance novel. While I can appreciate an author willing to do the research and make sure everything is right – in the end, if the story doesn’t entertain me, who cares how historically accurate the book was? Let’s be for real here.

    ReplyReply

  19. anu
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 11:11:34

    As a writer (and research wonk) I'm most bothered the author's response. Her comment “The point is, I would never think of checking something like this.” is telling, and quite frankly puts me off more than the error itself.

    Disagree. I interpreted AA's comments as explaining-’albeit, in a clearly frustrated tone-’what the hunt for accuracy looks like on the author's end. And she's got a point. Writing about a different time or place-’you can do all the research in the world, but there are a million tiny, nuanced details of setting, manners, dialect, wardrobe, culture, interactions that you just never even think to pin down. Now if the flute had been overtly important to the story, characterizations, and plot, I can see where you're coming from. But to say that it's telling-’what's it telling you, that she does shoddy research? Her point is that you research til you're drowning in it, and there are still details that you miss. Ashworth’s style doesn’t work for me, but it’s clear that she does her research, and it’s obviously important to her.

    I don't expect authors to get every little thing right, nor do I expect them to try. I expect them to get right that which speaks to the story, the characters, and the plot. Yes, setting is certainly a big part of that. But champagne flutes? I wouldn't miss it either way if wasn't important to the story.

    ReplyReply

  20. Janice
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 11:49:11

    eh.. this is one of those things where people have strong opinions and there is no right/wrong. It depends on what your threshold for historical accuracy is. And everyone argues their opinion and can’t really change someone else’s and there is a lot of posting and people getting angry and me getting tired and going to another website.

    ReplyReply

  21. azteclady
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 11:51:06

    I don’t expect authors to get everything right either–and I’m one of those who wouldn’t have caught the champagne flute–but by golly I expect them to behave better than dissing the readers who do catch these mistakes.

    ReplyReply

  22. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 12:24:36

    No, anu, I think her point is that researching the small stuff isn’t worth her time, or that knowing this stuff is unnecessary. Add this to the glaring historical errors pointed out by Lynne and I'm left wondering just what she does bother to research? *shrug* I guess it's all in how it hits you (meaning that yes, Janice is right).

    ReplyReply

  23. Karen Scott
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 12:45:39

    Hey another Adele Ashworth Reader Bashing episode. I was afraid she wasn’t going to keep up the trend this year. Good to see some things don’t change.

    ReplyReply

  24. Chicklet
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 12:57:01

    …but by golly I expect them to behave better than dissing the readers who do catch these mistakes.

    Precisely. An author may feel that readers are being too nitpicky, but saying so only makes the author look whiny. Especially when said author has done the fandom flounce multiple times.

    (Fandom flounce: Announcing that you are leaving fandom forever and ever because everyone here is JUST SO MEAN. Doing a fandom flounce and then coming back makes observers laugh even harder than they did when you flounced in the first place.)

    ReplyReply

  25. TeddyPig
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 13:16:01

    I like the kitty better. Than the hissy fits.

    ReplyReply

  26. veinglory
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 13:19:44

    Having written an inaccurate historical myself I don’t see any point in suggesting people shouldn’t criticise this failing. You did it wrong, it’s a fair cop. It’s like blaming the police man for catching you shoplifting and calling him a pedant because it was only a box of tic tacs–or blaming the umpire for being all caught up in the actual rules rather than just loving the beauty of the game. A mistake is a mistake and you acknowledge that and move on.

    ReplyReply

  27. mara
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 13:20:13

    I also got the impression Ashworth felt researching the small stuff wasn’t worth the effort it might require. Tsk tsk.

    Sure, it takes time to research small details like this. So? It takes time to do anything accurately and well. Writing historical fiction demands more than a good imagination. You have an obligation to get the details of history down as correctly as you can. It was a “head-scratching, wtf” moment for me when she said she wouldn’t even think of checking a detail like that. If you’re not going to review your work thoroughly, with an eye to catching even a tiny mistake like the type of glass your character drinks from, why are you even writing historicals? I don’t understand that. Half the fun in writing them is getting the details right. A lot of the satisfaction and pride in craft comes from knowing you’re accurately recreated a time period you never personally experienced. Mistakes can be made, sure; but to blow it off the way Ashworth does? To me, that’s just terrible.

    There’s no integrity in defending sloppy work. That Ashworth does so, instead of conceding that she made an error that needs correcting, tells me she’s producing the kind of work I wouldn’t care to read. She’s just lowering the bar, as far as I’m concerned, and it’s a bar that doesn’t need to be lowered any further.

    ReplyReply

  28. Robin
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 13:55:37

    You know what I couldn’t care less about? Whether Roarke from the In Death series wears boxers or briefs (or goes commando, for that matter). Don’t. give. a. flying. anything. But some readers of the series seem to care enough to argue the matter extensively. Back and forth, on and on, they debate. But no one comes charging in to wave the finger of ‘you’re being too picky’ or ‘you’re not reading the series the right way’ — I guess because their discussions are so obviously homage to the series.

    I also didn’t care about the champagne flute. But I care a lot about readers being able to vent about stuff on a READER board. To me, it seems far ruder to consider writing a private note to an author to correct her than to talk with other readers about the details in a book that bug you.

    Some people think historical details are insignificant. Some people think grammatical coherence is insignificant. Some people think copyediting is insignificant. Some people can’t stand heroes with moustaches or heroines with red hair. Isn’t it better to talk about all that on a READER board, and to be able to feel safe doing so? And in safe I mean not having the author show up and, IMO, suggest that a reader who gets caught up on something in the first few pages of the book — something that perhaps the author thinks is insignificant — isn’t reading the genre the right way, somehow? Because I think that’s what Ashworth was intimating, from her (oft-repeated) assertions that her books sell (ergo, your nitpicky opinion doesn’t matter), she writes and reads Romance for the “story” (ergo if you think stuff is important I don’t you’re reading wrong), and writing Romance is hard (just you try it — and IIRC she actually said this once straight out).

    No kidding writing good Romance is difficult. My job is difficult, too. Most work is, else it wouldn’t be called work. And of course Ashworth is entitled to her opinion and to her research (or lack thereof as the case or cup may be). Authors make mistakes, readers make mistakes, editors make mistakes — it happens. I very much agree with Ashworth that it’s important to enjoy the romance and the story. But for each of us what it takes to do that may be different. I get pushed out of a story when, for example, I find no fewer than ten grammatical, punctuation, and proofing mistakes within the first ten pages of a book. The reader who commented on the champagne glass (which was within the first twenty pages, I think) got bugged by that. Maybe she collects glassware or is a crystal historian. I don’t know. I don’t even know if she was correct. I know I spent about fifteen minutes recently trying to figure out if they had scented candles in Georgian England after a reference from the latest Eloisa James book. Why? Because a) I was clearly not completely engaged at that moment, and b) candlemaking is a bit of a hobby for me, so I was curious for reasons that had nothing to do with the book. I’d still love to know the answer to the question, too, as I couldn’t find it through Googling.

    Anyway, I think I’m just tired of the insinuations that readers who are “too critical” or “too nitpicky” (let’s define that one — seriously) aren’t just as much fans of the genre as those who debate the state of Roarke’s underwear. And I read Ashworth’s intervention on the AAR board as just that kind of insinuation — whether she meant it that way or not.

    And dammit I wish those old threads were still available online! Although during last year’s fiasco Laurie deleted a good chunk of the thread after someone called “anonymous author” posted, and unfortunately she deleted a wonderful post by commenter “Emma” that I thought was thoroughly brilliant and a wonderful meditation on the integrity of the genre.

    ReplyReply

  29. Robin
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 14:17:10

    An author may feel that readers are being too nitpicky, but saying so only makes the author look whiny.

    A number of authors have enjoyed healthy careers by not writing historically pristine Romance, and more power to them that they have found a niche in the market. But to me, if you’re selling well and you’re happy with your own books, why blast readers who aren’t? Especially when they aren’t addressing you directly? Just because you don’t feel the need to research x, y, and z doesn’t mean that readers who think those things are important are violating some universal reading contract. Maybe Ashworth’s sales go up when she takes readers to task on AAR, though, because it’s happened with her last three books. And she says she doesn’t care about negative reviews and such.

    ReplyReply

  30. Karen Scott
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 14:23:16

    I don’t even know if she was correct. I know I spent about fifteen minutes recently trying to figure out if they had scented candles in Georgian England after a reference from the latest Eloisa James book.

    Wasn’t scented candles an American discovery?

    Going to look!

    ReplyReply

  31. Robin
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 14:32:40

    Wasn't scented candles an American discovery?

    Going to look!

    The New England colonists innovated Bayberry candles, but I don’t know beyond that.

    ReplyReply

  32. DS
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 14:32:58

    Psst: http://www.craftcave.com/candle/history.shtml

    But it depends on the scent.

    ReplyReply

  33. DS
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 14:38:58

    Hit the submit button too fast. I miss the edit feature. Bayberry candles have a nice scent. I’m not sure what a Native American camp with people burning candlefish would have smelled like but I’m sure it wasn’t pleasant.

    ReplyReply

  34. Robin
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 14:48:56

    Thanks for the link, DS.

    Here’s the reference in the book:

    Fletch couldn’t go home. In fact, he could never go home. Lady Flora was there; she was always there. His drawing room was filled with scented ladies and their delicate laughter. If he ventured home for dinner, the meal would be fraught with unfamiliar foods and servants he’d never seen before. He had the impression that most of his household had left. The house smelled different: scented.
    “Candles,” Quince told him when he asked. “Lady Flora feels that every room should have its own ambience.”

    I know it’s completely stupid, but I tend to be curious about completely stupid stuff.

    ReplyReply

  35. Rebecca
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 15:06:26

    What this boils down to for me was this

    Google “champagne flute”? Who would spend the time to do that?

    A curious reader would spend the time, and I don’t think it’s ridiculous for an author to take the time to do it, too. She’s acting like Googling takes as much effort as getting in her car and driving 30 miles to the nearest library. Yes, some obscure facts can take time to research by Googling, but I don’t think the history of the champagne flute is one of those. I bet I could find the answer to this in one minute or less.

    An author that wants me to believe the story she’s writing is insulting me when she can’t take one minute or less to make sure she gets her facts right.

    Unbelievability in the historical romances published these days is why I can’t read very many of them anymore. Could it also be part of why the sub-genre has been on the decline?

    ReplyReply

  36. Joanna
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 15:16:02

    Firstly – there are historical authors who are very accurate; there are those who are not. Those who are not should not get involved in threads on reader blogs about historical accuracy in their novels. That is a no-brainer.

    Secondly – mistakes and anachronisms do bother me but I will overlook them if I am really enjoying a book. By contrast, if the book is crap, I will nitpick every little thing. I have read one Ashworth book and the only reason I finished it was out of a kind of appalled fascination at how bad it was. That’s just my opinion. She sells books so obviously other people rate her. But this might explain the degree of nitpicking on the blogs.

    ReplyReply

  37. K. Z. Snow
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 15:17:21

    I feel, in a way, sorry for Ms. Ashworth and for any author of historical fiction. (Had she handled herself better in this situation, my sympathy would be somewhat deeper.) From what I’ve been able to gather, fans of historicals are among the most vigilant citizens of Romanceland, and their standards are exacting.

    I wrote a paranormal contemporary that had an ancillary but important historical element. And I nearly drove myself batwacky doing research. Don’t get me wrong–I loved doing the research, which I found absorbing nearly to the point of addiction. But that was the problem. I realized after a while that I could easily sink many, many months–hell, years–into mining the fourteenth century. In fact, the research could have consumed far more time than the writing itself. So, at some point, I simply had to draw the line and cut myself off.

    Maybe authors of pure historicals also feel that way. I mean, let’s face it, distinguished, tenured history professors devote their freakin’ lives to learning about other times and places . . . and still don’t know it all. Should writers of popular commercial fiction be held to a higher standard? I think not. Far as I’m concerned, as long as they get most of their facts straight and, more important, evoke a sense of period through adroit handling of narrative and dialogue, they’ve done well.

    (You all should check out some of the interviews with Eloisa James and Mrs. Giggles’ reviews of her earlier work. As Mary Bly in real life, this author is a Fordham University professor of Renaissance, and specifically Shakespearean, literature. Yet when she started writing historical romance, even she got stuff wrong!)

    ReplyReply

  38. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 15:30:21

    She got stuff wrong because she wrote in a period she’d never researched and she assumed that romance readers didn’t care about the history (note that she begged and scrambled to fix the errors in the second printing). I doubt if she’d have made as many errors if she’d written a romance set in the court of Elizabeth I (or maybe she would, since she’s a literature professor, not a history professor).

    ReplyReply

  39. Laura Vivanco
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 15:38:08

    I’d probably not notice the candles (other than to think they sound irritating) but this sounds a bit odd to me: “the meal would be fraught with unfamiliar foods and servants he'd never seen before.”

    I can see how the meal (i.e. the mealtime) could be fraught (i.e. tense) as a result of there being unfamiliar food and servants. However, because of the lack of punctuation after “fraught,” I was reading this as “fraught with food and servants.” That just sounds weird, whether “fraught” is understood to mean “upset” or “filled with.” I think it would work better with a comma: “the meal would be fraught, with ….”

    And now that I think about it, having a character named after a fruit could be distracting too. I also don’t find the title “Duke of Fletcher” very convincing, because I can’t think of any places in the UK that it could come from, and as a surname it doesn’t sound aristocratic (since “fletcher” means “maker of arrows”, like “thatcher” means “maker of thatches”).

    I’m just mentioning all this because it’s a demonstration of how different people can be pulled out of a story by different things, and how varied those things can be. On the other hand, it’s not entirely fair because I was reading that paragraph out of context and possibly if I’d been reading quickly while engrossed in the story, I might not have noticed all of them.

    ReplyReply

  40. Bernita
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 16:09:53

    Since apothacaries and such have been making salves and ointments using beeswax and animal fat for a long, very long time, I imagine scented candles have been around forever too.
    Stands to reason.

    ReplyReply

  41. Robin
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 16:14:39

    I mean, let's face it, distinguished, tenured history professors devote their freakin' lives to learning about other times and places . . . and still don't know it all. Should writers of popular commercial fiction be held to a higher standard? I think not.

    The standards in academic writing are MUCH higher, though. If a scholar publishes information inaccurately, someone will call them on it publicly (usually in an article or book). Scholars are challenged constantly for their opinions and conclusions, as well, and if authors think that critiques of their books feel personal, I wonder how they’d feel about being criticized regularly in the strongest possible terms for their *opinions* — which is basically how academic research proceeds.

    Of course people make mistakes and sometimes rely on incomplete information to create their positions — whether that be academic arguments or fictional settings. I don’t think readers of either expect perfection. I think this whole discussion simply turns right back to whether or not Romance is a genre that *should* be critiqued, and if so, whether there are limits or rules for such critique.

    ReplyReply

  42. Julie Leto
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 16:17:07

    K.Z…thank you for saying what I’ve been thinking all morning as I follow this thread.

    I have a paranormal series coming out that features a historical character from the Georgian period. I’ve done a ton of research, particularly in word usage for his dialogue. Writing scenes from his point of view were exhausting. Yes, I tried to get it right but after a while, you just have to get on with telling the story. I’m not a historical writer, but I’ve tried very hard to be true to the period’s spirit.

    I contacted several people in trying to decide how a group of men from 1747 England would react to a brother making a sign of the cross. Was it shocking? Was it a sign of papism? Or was it a hold-over and not something anyone would have even noticed? I contacted Anglican clergy and even a historian affiliated with the Anglican Church in England. All this for a sign of the cross?

    That’s insanity. I ended up taking it out.

    I know there are probably errors in my book, no matter how many books I read, how much I googled, how many times I consulted with Jo Beverly (the woman’s a font of knowledge and INCREDIBLY gracious with her time). I tried my best. When I read historicals and happen upon something that doesn’t quite ring true for me or even that I know to be incorrect, I let it go. Only if an author makes error after error after error would I stop reading.

    History can also be contradictory. One person may insist a certain thing to be true when in reality, it is not. I’ve run across such anomalies in research before…learning things that I knew readers would think were wrong when they were not. I’ve usually left such things out, but it has taught me to give authors the benefit of the doubt and not get mired in the details to the point where I can’t enjoy the story.

    I’m giggling, thinking about how much research I did in order to make it believable that my hero would not only know what coffee was in 1747, but that he would have tasted it. I made it work by having him travel extensively to Italy, where they were already drinking it like crazy. Or maybe it was Istanbul. I don’t remember…I just remember that I covered it!

    ReplyReply

  43. Robin
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 16:18:55

    And now that I think about it, having a character named after a fruit could be distracting too. I also don't find the title “Duke of Fletcher” very convincing, because I can't think of any places in the UK that it could come from, and as a surname it doesn't sound aristocratic (since “fletcher” means “maker of arrows”, like “thatcher” means “maker of thatches”).

    I wondered about the whole title thing, too, Laura, but I still don’t understand that whole system so had no clue whether James’s references were correct or not. I need to sit down and figure all that out, but it seems so intimidating for some reason, lol. The whole surname v. title thing totally confuses me, especially when characters are referred to familiarly by either.

    ReplyReply

  44. Julie Leto
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 16:51:42

    The study of literature would likely give her more than enough knowledge about history. When I was in college and studying American literature (primarily the Romance period, oddly enough) I was pretty much an “expert” on all aspects of life at that time. You had to know the politics and the culture and the music and the mores, etc. in order to understand the context of the work. Many lit majors also minored in history for this very reason.

    Of course, I’m sure I’ve forgotten it all by now.

    ReplyReply

  45. Jill Myles
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 17:00:22

    I think Eloisa James mentioned that she had glossed over some historical accuracy in some places to ‘create a mood’ instead. Or maybe that was Kleypas. I don’t recall.

    At any rate, are historical inaccuracies okay if the author mentions it in an author’s note at the end of the novel? I’ve seen those before and it’s never bothered me.

    ReplyReply

  46. vanessa jaye
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 17:01:30

    I’ve been following this whole discussion more or less through email, and since I’m here I’ll just say I’m 100% on board with anu and K.Z.

    But what drew me back online was this:

    I don’t think readers of either expect perfection

    I’ll have to disagree here. I’m sure if you asked point blank if perfection is expected, you’d get a negative answer. Yet, I have the distinct impression that historical romance readers who get vastly and continually irritated by certain errors (perceived or real) are in fact expecting *no* errors at all. Any fact– no matter how obscure or small– that they know or feel is easily verifiable, should never be screwed up or missed, by the author. If not perfection, then darn close to it, is what they'd like. Problem is, perfection takes time, time that could be spent delving into character, or fleshing out plot, or polishing voice, or a multitude of other elements that bring the magic to story-telling and the romance. I'm not advocating carelessness, or underestimating reader intelligence, etc., but at some point, the author just has to get on with telling the story as per Julie Leto's comment.

    Granted, Ms. Ashworth was frustrated and that frustration came through in the tone of her posts (as perhaps sarcasm?). And it didn’t help that she tried repeatedly, and fruitlessly, to make her point. But I honestly don’t think she was dissing readers. I got the feeling she was really genuinely perplexed that a small fact, that didn’t *even occur* to her to check, should cause such a fuss.

    Having said that, considering her previous experience on the AAR reader messageboards, it might do her well to stay away from them. As Robin pointed out, they are for folks to talk freely about books, good, bad, indifferent; the chances of an author reading a comment that stings, or worse, are better than average.

    ReplyReply

  47. adele ashworth
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 17:19:23

    Hi everybody. Please forgive my intrusion here, but I wanted to post a couple of comments.

    First, I was never trying to whine at AAR. I was really, *really* just trying to explain myself. I would never, EVER diss a reader. I was really frustrated, but it doesn’t matter how much I say that because for some reason it never comes across that way. I wasn’t trying to be sarcastic, and I care more than any of you can imagine about readers enjoying my books. I wish that somehow I could get that across, but the more I post, the more people seem to take my comments the wrong way.

    I don’t make much money doing this. I love my work, and I try very hard to please everyone. I feel horribly if someone spends $$ on my books and doesn’t like them, or feels the research wasn’t done appropriately. As for the champagne flute… honestly, I never, EVER, even imagined looking something like that up for historical accuracy, and I apologize.

    I wish there was a better way for me to explain myself, but the truth is, authors are far less arrogant than they are humble and insecure. We’re creative people, not go-getters. It hurts us more than you know when we’re thought about in any negative light.

    As for the picture on my posts at AAR… that’s my daughter, Caroline, taken about three years ago, when she was seven, and her kitten, Fifi (whom she named). I picked that picture because I loved it.

    Thanks to all of you, and I wish you all the best,
    Adele

    ReplyReply

  48. K. Z. Snow
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 17:27:38

    Yes, Kalen, very true about EJ, which is why I really admire her (aside from the fact she can turn a damned good phrase!) But just to play devil’s advocate here, it could be argued that a multi-credentialed academic–and her credentials ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at–should know better than to make foolish assumptions about readers and should have a much healthier respect for the value of research. Moreover, literature and history are intertwined. So Ms. James pretty much stepped in it all around . . . and knew she did.

    My point is simply this: Even the most intelligent and well educated authors make mistakes. It’s how writers deal with the realization of those mistakes that separates the true pros from the hacks. If, after seeing the error of their ways, they can gracefully say “Mea culpa” to their readers–maybe even poke a bit of fun at themselves–and then go about correcting their ways with dogged determination and a commitment to future quality, I applaud them.

    Fallibility has never bothered me. But egotistical defensiveness has.

    ReplyReply

  49. SandyW
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 17:28:52

    I couldn't stand it any more. I just went on a 10 minute stroll through Google. Saw lots of champagne flutes for sale. Heard about Marie Antoinette's bosom more than I really wanted to.
    Found a web-site (http://www.champagne.com/en_don_effervescence.html) that says:
    “Always served chilled, Champagne wines were first enjoyed from conical glasses with stems. During the 19th century, the shallow Champagne saucer or coupe became fashionable, but true wine lovers still preferred the ‘flute'.”
    The site claims to be “The Official Website for Champagne Wines,” associated with “Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne.” My French is non-existent, but that sounds fairly credible to me.

    Also, the Online Etymological Dictionary (http://www.etymonline.com) says that flute “Meaning “tall, slender wine glass” is from 1649.”

    So, if I were writing a novel set in England in the mid-1800's, I would feel fairly justified in my characters drinking champagne out of flutes. However, if I were writing that book, I would probably have my characters using the saucer-shape. Would I have looked it up in the first place? Maybe.

    Anyway, my curiosity is satisfied.

    ReplyReply

  50. Karen Scott
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 17:31:49

    As for the champagne flute… honestly, I never, EVER, even imagined looking something like that up for historical accuracy, and I apologize.

    Historical innacuracies really don’t bother me, but my pet peeves are usually character driven to be fair. I suspect that if you’d just posted a short paragraph apologising for the innacuracy, without seemingly trying to shove a broom handle up readers bottoms, I don’t think the shitstorm would have happened.

    It may be an idea to put a disclaimer about historical innacuracies in future books though, if you don’t already.

    ReplyReply

  51. Laura Vivanco
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 17:36:14

    As for the picture on my posts at AAR… that's my daughter, Caroline, taken about three years ago, when she was seven, and her kitten, Fifi (whom she named). I picked that picture because I loved it.

    Caroline looks very sweet, and it is a lovely photo. The LOLkitten’s rather cute too. I just wondered if Jane had chosen the LOLkitten because of your photo, but given that she’s used them before, I suspect she just wanted to use a LOLkitten.

    ReplyReply

  52. azteclady
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 17:43:13

    K. Z. Snow commented,

    It's how writers deal with the realization of those mistakes that separates the true pros from the hacks.

    Exactly.

    ReplyReply

  53. Robin
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 17:55:44

    Yet, I have the distinct impression that historical romance readers who get vastly and continually irritated by certain errors (perceived or real) are in fact expecting *no* errors at all.

    If that were true, no fan of historical Romance could read historical Romance, IMO. I doubt I’ve read ONE historical Romance that was error free. And I can tell you from my experience — as a reader who reads and prefers historical Romance — that the books in which I get frustrated by historical errors are those I’m not very engaged in to begin with. That doesn’t mean another reader won’t be enraptured by those same books. But if I’m already unable to connect to the storytelling, I’m gonna be in a somewhat detached state of mind, making me less likely to skip over inaccuracies. And as a reader for whom most of my very favorite Romances evah are in the historical category, it sucks those proverbial donkey balls to be thrown out of historical Romance novels by the history itself. And different readers are different in what pulls them out of a story.

    As I’ve said a few times, I really think this discussion goes back to that persistent question about the value of Romance as a genre compared to other genres. And personally, I do think it’s insulting to the genre to suggest that ‘it’s only Romance’ and history doesn’t really matter in historical Romance (not that you’re doing this — just that I’ve seen it asserted more than a few times). It’s sort of an interesting dilemma how there are arguments for more respect for Romance articulated simultaneously with those calling readers out for having expectations that are too high for ‘mere Romance.’

    I so totally understand how frustrating it must be for authors to see many of the comments readers make about their books. In fact, there are times I’ve wanted an author to publicly clarify a point of history when I’ve had a question or been involved in a discussion about a book. But ultimately, I think authors need to write the books they write regardless of what readers think or say. Because to me it’s a bit like parallel universes in these author – reader activities. Both authors and readers do what they do, and there will never be an author who pleases every reader or a reader who is pleased by every author’s books.

    ReplyReply

  54. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 18:13:34

    The study of literature would likely give her more than enough knowledge about history. When I was in college and studying American literature (primarily the Romance period, oddly enough) I was pretty much an “expert” on all aspects of life at that time. You had to know the politics and the culture and the music and the mores, etc. in order to understand the context of the work. Many lit majors also minored in history for this very reason.

    Yes, but this is History with a capitol H, as opposed to history with a small h. The devil's in the details of daily life, and that's what frequently trips people up. I don't think that the study of literature is all that likely to enlighten you about many of those details (nor is the study of history, unless you're in a program that focuses on applied history, of which we have a grand total of one here in the U.S.). I certainly have degrees in both literature and history (as well as philosophy and creative writing) and none of that prepared me answer a question about how a dairy was run in Georgian England.

    It's easy to Google dates, famous people, etc. It's a bit harder to find out how a candle was lit, or even how a horse is ridden, or even how it feels to be in the clothes . . . how many heroines have you seen climb a tree? Now think about the fact that the corset she's wearing has a busk, so she can't bend at the waist. And the sleeves of her gown and straps of her corset limit the upper range of arm motion. Now tell me how she got up that tree?

    I'm not disparaging academics, I'm one myself, I'm just saying that being an academic doesn't mean you're also knowledge when it comes to applied history (with a small h).

    ReplyReply

  55. adele ashworth
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 18:23:11

    Wow. I must confess here that I wrote my first post before actually reading the Dear Author blog post (I “jumped” here from another blog and it took me directly to the comments).

    That said, I’m absolutely speechless after reading Jayne/Jane’s original blog post. To take apart things I said and do “translations” that attack me is… I can’t even find a words to describe my feelings as a human being. Did I wound you in another life or something? I’m really, really just speechless at what I perceive as hostility and loathing. Or something. I just really can’t believe what I’ve just read about a person you don’t even know.

    I won’t take the time to take your post apart and explain myself because it’ll no doubt only add fuel to the fire. One thing I must say, though, is that it might help to check *your* facts before you post sarcastic comments to someone. Example: you said, “you thought that was so small and minor that you were compelled to write a huge editorial for AAR to point out how wrong, wrong, wrong those readers were?”

    No. I wasn’t compelled to point out to readers how wrong they were. Laurie Gold ASKED me to write a piece on the Virgin Widow for the ATBF because of the stir my book created, and I said I would. She thought it would make for interesting dialogue and unfortunately for me, I thought so at the time.

    To think I hold *any* reader in such silly, slight regard is beyond reproach. You’ve put words in my mouth and made me a punchline — including a picture of my daughter, which I find appalling. I’m absolutely struck dumb by the hatred (and sarcasm) aimed at me — personally — in your post.

    I’m a middle-aged, divorced woman trying to make a living in Suburbia, USA. I attend terrible high school band concerts and boring PTA meetings just like other middle-class moms. I don’t regard myself as special, and I’m certainly not rich or making substantial money from writing romance. I do this because I love it. The fact that I’ve created such enmity from posts on a bulletin board is incredible to me, and all I can do is apologize for a final time for whatever I’ve done or said that has left such a severely negative impression about me.

    That said, no, I won’t be posting on the AAR board ever again. You’ve clearly made your point, and anything I could ever offer from this point forward would only leave me apprehensive about how readers might perceive what I have always thought were thoughtful comments.

    So now I’ll slink away into the background.

    Sincerely,
    Adele Ashworth

    ReplyReply

  56. Laura Vivanco
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 18:42:45

    You've put words in my mouth and made me a punchline -’ including a picture of my daughter, which I find appalling.

    I was the only one who mentioned the picture of your daughter, and that’s because I’d been following the threads at AAR and noticed the picture and that it included a kitten, and I wondered if there was a subconscious image association going on which prompted Jane to post a picture of a kitten. But Jane has often posted LOLcats in the past, so that probably wasn’t her reason at all.

    I don’t think anyone intended any of these comments to be snide or nasty about your daughter or either of the kittens. They all look very sweet, as I said.

    ReplyReply

  57. Karen Scott
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 18:55:51

    Wow. I must confess here that I wrote my first post before actually reading the Dear Author blog post

    Here in Blogland, that kind of oversight will always come back and bite you in the arse.

    ReplyReply

  58. Kristie(J)
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 19:25:36

    I must confess to being surprised myself at the hostile tone of this post. I read through much of the thread and nowhere did I get the impression that Ms. Ashworth was in any way shape or form dissing readers. I thought she was expressing frustration that she (and NO ONE) can please all of the people all of the time. The whole flute thing was JUST AN EXAMPLE.
    And I also didn’t see where she is saying she doesn’t care about historical accuracy, but rather that she can’t get EVERYTHING.
    An example – while not the same at all, does explain what I’m trying to say.
    My husband was a neat freak and I’m not. He would get on my case about the house not being neat enough on occasion and every so often I would spend HOURS AND HOURS cleaning it so it would be perfect when he got home from work. Inevitably when he got home, he didn’t notice how clean it was, the vast amount of time I spent trying to get it right; he found the one thing I just happened to miss. Used to frustrate me to no end.
    I think that’s what Ms. Ashworth was trying to say, that no matter how much research she did, she couldn’t get it ALL right because we aren’t perfect machines who obsess over the smallest of details.

    ReplyReply

  59. Michelle
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 19:26:35

    First I love the kitten picture. Poor wet kitten.

    However, I did feel this blog topic was tacky, unkind and almost gleeful. Won’t stop me from visiting the site, so I can’t proclaim any moral superiority on my part.

    ReplyReply

  60. vanessa jaye
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 19:47:47

    Robin, Historical Romances are my absolute favourite read, also. And I agree that if a book is not engaging you (general you, not specific) then you’re more likely to get distracted by errors and nitpicks. I guess that I’m wired a bit differently in that I would distracted by the *lack of* whatever it is that should be holding my attention. Pacing off? Thin and/or unbelievable characterization? Inconsistency re plot development? Lack of chemistry? Awkward phrasing? Writerly ticks that become pet peeves (don’t even get me started on ‘his cock twitched’). Those are the things that I’ll start to obsess on, rather than wonder if, indeed, the heroine’s gown could/would have been made out of such and such type fabric during that era, etc.

    I have no problem regarding the critiquing of the genre. It’s just that the dynamics between the romance author and (some) fans almost makes it impossible because things can never quite stay in the ‘objective’. It almost always devolves into snarky personal attacks, or accusations of personal attacks, or highjackings by swarming mary-sueish fans, or finger wagging admonishments to play nice, etc.

    Ms. Ashworth, I don’t think anyone accused you of being sarcastic. I know I put it in brackets, with a question mark, in reference to how your ‘frustration’ might have been misinterpreted as such and was the reason why folks believed you were condescending /dissing your readers.

    You know, for most of this year I've tended to not comment publicly on posts that I'd bet money on were going to generate a lot of heat. After awhile online, you're sure to get your fill of the train wrecks. Different trains, same wrecks. But gotta say I'm really surprised at the legs on this one.

    ReplyReply

  61. vanessa jaye
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 19:50:54

    Kristie, great–and very clear–analogy. That’s exactly how I thought Ms. Ashworth felt.

    ReplyReply

  62. Robin
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 19:57:26

    I read through much of the thread and nowhere did I get the impression that Ms. Ashworth was in any way shape or form dissing readers.

    I am not a snarker by nature. I don’t do it well and I often don’t get the humor of it. But I do understand what I read to be Jane’s anger, because I got angrier and angrier at the threads on AAR. Now you and I will probably disagree on this, Kristie, because you expressed some confusion at what you referred to as “anal-retentive readers,” but I felt like the comment on the champagne flute was basically a hiccup on the DI thread, and basically started a brief discussion on whether the details were accurate or not. And while I appreciate Ashworth’s message of authors not being able to catch absolutely everything, I was put off by comments like this:

    TDI was my best selling book to date, and I’ve received more reader mail on this book than all my others combined. Not one reader commented on the history, but every single reader who wrote me personally commented on the characters, even some on the opera angle. And while there have been a few people who’ve stated their personal complaints or questions over a plot point or characterization, nobody has ever complained about the historical detail being inaccurate. That’s not to say all my detail is historically accurate or that romance readers just don’t care about that stuff, but that readers are far more passionate -’ in general -’ about the romance than they are about what year the modern champagne flute (or toothbrush, or comb, or horse-hair cosmetic brush) made an appearance.

    All I said was that readers enjoyed the story; as well as it sold, I didn’t receive any complaints about small, insignificant details, like what the hero drank champagne from in chapter one. I care far more about the books I write than whether they’re “selling well.” I don’t make a lot of money as an author, and I research the details in my stories. But looking up something like the history of champagne flutes when the story is about opera and music is ridiculous. Nobody has time for that.

    This is all a long way of saying that even though I know CSI is probably partly accurate, it’s also trumped up to be entertaining. When I watch Forensic Files, I want accuracy; when I watch CSI I want entertainment. And I don’t sit back and take notes with a red pen. Even though I know some of the crimes and ways of solving them are fortuitous and fantastical, I take it for what it is — and enjoy the story.

    I honestly don’t know how you can read those comments as anything but critical of the reader who commented on the champagne flute, as well as any other reader who points out anything “insignificant” — whatever that may be. Like the “anonymous author” who, during the scuffle over the last Ashworth book and its copyediting issues, basically suggested that reader standards for good grammar are too high. Admittedly, that conversation is still playing in the background for me, and it’s certainly coloring my reaction to the conversation this time around. But I really and truly read Ashworth’s comments as a strong suggestion that readers aren’t appreciating the genre properly if they comment on certain details in its books — be those details about history or grammar or whatever. And when I infer that sentiment from an author, it has a much different tenor than when another reader says it, IMO. And, IMO, it was implied more than once, and has been implied by more than one another in various forms an in various venues. And as a reader, it always comes across to me as an instruction on how the genre should be read in order to be seen as a “real” Romance reader.

    ReplyReply

  63. Robin
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 20:13:26

    But gotta say I'm really surprised at the legs on this one.

    I’m not. A lot of what goes on in Romanceland frustrates or amuses me to a very moderate level. But this go around as to reader expectations in the genre really gets me going. History, grammar, page length, whatever, I see it as a version of the same thing.

    I guess that I'm wired a bit differently in that I would distracted by the *lack of* whatever it is that should be holding my attention. Pacing off? Thin and/or unbelievable characterization? Inconsistency re plot development? Lack of chemistry? Awkward phrasing? Writerly ticks that become pet peeves (don't even get me started on ‘his cock twitched'). Those are the things that I'll start to obsess on, rather than wonder if, indeed, the heroine's gown could/would have been made out of such and such type fabric during that era, etc.

    LOL, that makes sense. I’ve read a couple of books set in historical periods I know a little bit about, and in addition to those things I have also been bugged by the history, because I saw the bad history as serving the other stuff that frustrated me. God knows I will argue to the death over stuff I feel is or isn’t supportable in the text of a book. So I cannot criticize authors with strong opinions. I’ve been directly challenged by a few of them. And I can’t defend every reader out there, as I’ve been vocal about instances where I thought readers stepped over the line, too (and I’ve been accused of that, as well). But I really do feel passionately that there is a certain resistance to reader critique, and a defense of ‘it’s only entertainment’ or ‘it’s only Romance,’ both of which make me nuts, because they always sound to me like assertions that the genre is less than, somehow.

    ReplyReply

  64. Brenna
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 20:36:00

    You know what I couldn't care less about? Whether Roarke from the In Death series wears boxers or briefs (or goes commando, for that matter). Don't. give. a. flying. anything. But some readers of the series seem to care enough to argue the matter extensively. Back and forth, on and on, they debate. But no one comes charging in to wave the finger of ‘you're being too picky' or ‘you're not reading the series the right way' -’ I guess because their discussions are so obviously homage to the series.

    LOL, Robin, I am a fanatic In Death reader and I can't even remember if Robb ever mentioned what Roarke's underwear is. Maybe in one book or two, who knows. I do know that J R Ward seems to have a fetish for boxers given the number of times it has been given prominence in her BDB books, but I don't remember anything about that in the In Death books. Eve's underwear probably, but not Roarke's. I do recall some people speculating whether Roarke wears boxers or briefs and even discussing it but there was probably no criticism about it or nitpicking because it has more to do with what people like to think Roarke wears and not because it has something to do with accuracy or research. And, you're quite right, it is obviously a homage to the series.

    As for historical accuracy or research or whatever else we would like to complain about, I quite agree that people tend to nitpick if they don't like the book but if they do, then they are quite very forgiving. I'm reading Georgette Heyer's The Devil's Cub and I'm a bit irritated that she does not seem to do any math regarding the age of her characters w/c does not really add up. But I like her books (just recently discovered) so I'm trying to forget that Leonie was 19 and single when she came to England in These Old Shades, while she's 40 in the sequel with a 24 year old son.

    ReplyReply

  65. adele ashworth
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 20:40:53

    Robin, would you email me privately? AdeleAshworth@yahoo.com

    thanks,
    Adele

    ReplyReply

  66. xina
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 20:57:21

    I never post here and only lurk, but the blog entry seemed to be a “bait the author” so she will respond. And she did. I was sorry to see that, but can’t blame her for defending her work. Personally, I didn’t think her posts at AAR were that bad, and I don’t think she is an author who is behaving badly. As for her historical errors? I didn’t notice, and I’m sure 90% of her readers didn’t. So, what is her crime? Being defensive in her response or that she appeared at AAR after she said she wasn’t coming back. Who cares? She changed her mind…whatever.

    ReplyReply

  67. anu439
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 21:22:48

    About Adele Ashworth’s being an ABB.

    I think Jane is totally wrong to label Ms. Ashworth an Author Behaving Badly. In this case, the label is stretched to such an extent that it loses all meaning. I mean, c'mon. The title of Author Behaving Badly has a long, proud, and noble history. Some truly heinous wrongs have been done in its name. Once upon a time, you had to go on a rampage in defense of your jailed husband to get into the club.

    Certainly, I do not think Ms. Ashworth's transgressions are worthy enough to let her lay claim to the great tradition of ABBs. I mean, she disagreed with readers, that's what it comes down to: Some readers thought X was important, and she said nope, it's not important enough to worry about, why're you stressin'.

    This is what counts as ABB now? That's all it takes? Damn, I guess it's true, us kids these days really don't know what it means to work for something, even for such a great prize as the mantle of ABB. That a tradition that has brought us all such trainwreck-loving joy should become weakened enough for a bit of “You're Wrong” and “I'm taking my marbles and going home” gets you into the Hall of Shame… Is nothing sacred anymore? The Jaid Blacks of the genre mock all you pansies.

    ReplyReply

  68. azteclady
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 21:58:41

    any, that’s seriously funny (to me at least) and yet… I still believe that, regardless of whether the original post here was justified, Ms Ashworth should have left well enough alone–here and at AAR.

    ReplyReply

  69. Elizabeth Boyle
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 22:33:28

    I’ll state right up front that Adele is a very good friend of mine, so my comments may color what I am about to say, however, this blog is really appalling, and exactly why I never post or ever read the boards over at AAR. I’ve been told there are many wonderful discussions over there, but actions like these do nothing to entice me to participate.

    Did you, as the author of this blog entry, sit down look at your words and feel proud of them when you wrote them? Did your snarky, nasty tone make you feel good about your writing? Because as working authors, Adele and I, and all the rest of us who work darn hard to write books that people will enjoy– would never sit down and write such venom and expect anyone to ever read us again. You should be ashamed of yourself.

    Mistakes do happen. Pushing publish on this blog entry was yours.

    ReplyReply

  70. veinglory
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 23:01:38

    So for those playing ABB bingo we have
    A3) The counter attack
    B2) Rallying others to join the counter attack
    D7)’I hope you’re proud of yourselves’ guilt trip
    I am not quite sure if ‘you’ll be sorry’ counts as a sinister threat and no-one has mentioned libel yet. But of the next commenter will be good enough to refer to the Nazis I’ll win the toaster oven

    ReplyReply

  71. anu439
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 23:03:43

    Kalen, just saw your post:

    No, anu, I think her point is that researching the small stuff isn't worth her time, or that knowing this stuff is unnecessary. Add this to the glaring historical errors pointed out by Lynne and I'm left wondering just what she does bother to research? *shrug* I guess it's all in how it hits you (meaning that yes, Janice is right).

    I just don't see it. I went back and re-read the thread, and I did not at all get the sense that Ashworth dismisses the small stuff. She and several authors said that they spend hours tracking down the smallest stuff-’regardless how heavily it weighs in the story. But as has been said umpteen times by now, there is so much that you don't know that you don't know. She said that she tries not to sweat it anymore, that she does however much she can and that she thinks to, and then writes the story as she sees fit. And she doesn't apologize for it. Maybe that's the problem, that she doesn't express regret and apologize for what may or may not be an inaccuracy. There's no, “Oh my god, the flute! How did I miss the champagne flute?!”

    But that strikes me as pretty disingenuous on Ashworth's part, anyway. That she let fly a post rife with defensiveness and frustration tells me that she very much takes it to heart, that it all matters to her, as I bet it matters to most authors.

    What I don't get is why people would have a problem with her expressing her opinion. The “I'm never posting here again” thing, sure, that got an eyeroll from me. But the substance of what she said continued the conversation on accuracy. She posted to disagree that the flute was as big a deal as some thought it was. Lots of readers did the same thing, both on the threads at AAR and now here. Why can't she do the same? I saw people on those threads having a conversation loaded with different opinions. Possibly, it could be elevated to an “argument.” But so what if it is? That's what we're supposed to do, argue about the big and small stuff! I saw no signs of a chilling effect. The conversation didn't stop when she weighed in, she in fact kept it right on rolling, and lots of people posted both for and against. Seemed to be situation normal, certainly not worth an entire blog post chiding her behavior.

    What is worth a post is the topic of historical accuracy. This is a discussion with no end and no resolution, and that's as it should be. Me, I have no set opinion on it. I always want more accuracy than, I want more details to be right than wrong. But the most important truth to me is the one the author wants to tell about two people falling in love and learning how to love each other. As long as the author stays true to the story and the characters, I'll go wherever he or she leads. That's true for me in any genre.

    But what counts as “truth” is different for everyone and even from every book. Worldbuilding, plot contrivances, and illogical motivations are my big hang-ups, as grammar and accuracy are issues for others. The only thing that we all can agree on is this: It's all about the story and the author's talent in conveying it. Bottomline.

    Some books, I gloss right over the anachronisms because I'm in love with the h/h or the dialogue or whatever. With others, I'll pick so many nits, there's nothing left to read. I absolutely think it's valid to nitpick, whether about champagne flutes or aristocratic titles or anything else that makes you wonder. I just think that going the opposite route-’saying, yeah it's fudged, but it's no big deal-’doesn't necessarily equate to uncritical reading. Sometimes, you pick and choose what levels of authenticity will satisfy. I don't think that means that as a writer, you don't try you're damnedest, nor that a reader is always lazy, just that there's a point where you have to let it go, wherever that point may be for each of us.

    And it's not exclusive to the romance genre, either. From movies like the Patriot to the WWII movie U-571 to Shakespeare in Love to Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series-’in which plot contrivances go against the logic of the world Jordan himself created!-’everybody across the arts argues about the distance between “authentic” and “accurate.” How much does one impinge on the other, and how much does it matter-’it's up for debate everywhere.

    ReplyReply

  72. Chicklet
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 23:30:38

    But if the next commenter will be good enough to refer to the Nazis I'll win the toaster oven

    E8) “I’ll be sure to write every book trying to please the trivia-Nazis. [/end sarcasm]”

    (I expect a bagel tomorrow for lunch, lightly browned. *g*)

    ReplyReply

  73. TeddyPig
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 23:45:04

    Bingo!

    ReplyReply

  74. Ann Bruce
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 00:52:43

    Man, spend one day stuck at the airport because of a snowstorm and I miss all this!

    I’m a nit-picky reader when it comes to grammar, character inconsistencies, French, and GLARING historical inaccuracies. Generally, I’ll give the author the benefit of the doubt–unless they try to dismiss me as a reader and the errors as trivial. I had one author who drove me absolutely nuts with French errors on every other page, but when I emailed her about it, she was gracious and self-deprecating and I continue to buy her. And she’s corrected the mistakes in her newer books.

    ReplyReply

  75. December Quinn/Stacia Kane
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 05:08:11

    The irony here is, given that several people have researched the issue and discovered the detail which started the whole thing is true (champagne flutes were in use in that period), had Ms. Ashworth stayed mum…everyone would have just assumed she’d done her research and been correct.

    Which is, as Julie Leto pointed out above, so often the case. I had a heck of a time with my medieval, with people insisting my research was incorrect (although they had nothing to back that up except an “everyone knows” argument). In my first (trunk) novel, the hero and heroine in 1250 England have a discussion about her saddle, and how she can be expected to ride astride. Contrary to popular belief, the sidesaddle was in use at that time–when Empress Matilda escaped from a castle in Oxford almost a hundred years before, chroniclers made snotty comments about her riding “like a man”, and there are extant carvings etc. that show women riding sidesaddle–but so many people believe the sidesaddle wasn’t invented until the 15th century that I eventually decided to leave the entire question out rather than have a reader think I was being anachronistic when I wasn’t.

    It’s a fine line, I guess…

    ReplyReply

  76. Nora Roberts
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 07:49:58

    I can see both sides of this so clearly.

    Readers can and will nitpick, and are entitled. They spent their time, and mostly likely their money on the book. Writers can and will become frustrated with nitpicking. And are entitled. They spent a great deal of time and effort to produce the book.

    For me, it’s all about approach.

    I think the champagne flute/glass–particularly since it appears it was a toss-away line (and which seems to be accurate anyway) was a silly complaint. I understood–or felt I did–AA’s meaning in she didn’t think to check the accuracy of it. I once had characters pumping their own gas in Oregon. Not because I was lazy, but because I was oblivious and had no idea that self-service gas was state regulated. I simply assumed since I had to pump stupid gas in MD, everyone did. Mistake–and I got called on it. Did it matter to the story? No, not a bit. And my reaction was: Crap, I coulda, shoulda put an attendant in the scene. But I didn’t think to check on that detail. So I understand that completely.

    I think Jane reacted to AA’s frustration and over-reaction. It’s so much about tone. My feeling is both blogger and writer are justified in expressing opinion–but both the tone of the blog and the tone of AA’s self-defense headed into harsh territory. I can even get why each delved into the harsh.

    Adele, if you’re listening, I understand your frustration, and I understand the instinct to defend yourself. It’s been my experience that it’s far better to vent some of that frustration off-board to pals, until you’re able to address the criticism or the reader’s point more objectively. If you state you’re leaving the board, or will never comment there again (I did that myself on a site years ago), you’re probably inviting snark.

    It may not seem altogether fair from our side of the page, but reality isn’t always balanced and fair.

    Jane, I understand exactly why (or think I do) you took AA’s comments as you did and blogged about it. The tone of the defense, the comments about this being a popular book, the complaints about nit-picky readers. It puts readers on the defensive.

    I feel your column could have been more balanced, given the nature of the initial complaint. But that may be just me as I, again, found the complaint silly. Would I have addressed the complaint differenty (or at all)? Yes. But we all have our different styles and our individual thresholds.

    ReplyReply

  77. Terri
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 08:57:49

    I think this post was totally uncalled for. I’ve read the threads referenced in this post where Ms. Ashworth engaged in what I considered to be open, honest discussions with readers. She made an effort to explain herself (which she didn’t have to do and perhaps shouldn’t have done given the resulting firestorm), but isn’t open discussion exactly what you want over here at AAR? A little give and take, a little contact between authors and their readers, a mish-mash of opinions that garner you more and more comments and readers? Even better when served with a side dish of controversy, obviously.

    Is an author not allowed to be a person? If Reader X approached Ms. Ashworth at a cocktail party and asked about the inaccuracy of the champagne flute, would Ms. Ashworth not be allowed – nay, expected – to provide an explanation and/or opinion as to why she thought it a minor detail at the time, and was much more focused on the overall 300+ pages of the actual novel and how people might enjoy it? You may agree or disagree with her thoughts and comments, but it’s highly doubtful that the cocktail party would have degenerated into public ridicule like this. Cyberspace provides a wonderful platform for discussion, but sometimes comments are taken completely out of context. The nuances of conversation don’t always translate.

    In my opinion, Ms. Ashworth has given you exactly what you wanted, and more, and you’ve flayed her for it. The scent of blood from her wounded feelings has created quite a stir, and prompted this gleefully spiteful attack. Stir the pot, then sit back and watch the comments roll in. Never mind the woman who’s bleeding in the corner – the woman who just wanted to entertain her readers and have a nice life, never knowing that a champagne flute would drag her down.

    I have a sudden urge to go rent the movie “Mean Girls”.

    ReplyReply

  78. Barbara B.
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 09:50:56

    Terri said-
    “Never mind the woman who's bleeding in the corner – the woman who just wanted to entertain her readers and have a nice life, never knowing that a champagne flute would drag her down.”

    How the hell has this blog prevented Ms. Ashworth from entertaining her readers and having a nice life? She says herself that the book’s selling well and that she’s gotten quite a bit of positive feedback about her current book. It’s entirely her choice if she gives more weight to the criticism than the praise. I hope Ashworth doesn’t need universal love and approbation to “entertain her readers and have a nice life”. She’ll never have it. It doesn’t happen. It would be wise to accept that fact and move on.

    ReplyReply

  79. Janine
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 10:37:09

    I’m in agreement with Nora Roberts on this one. I see both sides of it, and have sympathy for both. I think it’s so easy to misspeak on the internet, especially since we don’t have body language and facial expressions to aid us. Ashworth’s posts at AAR and Jane’s blog here both made me cringe a little when I first read them. Though I must add that the attempts to lay guilt by Ashworth’s defenders aren’t helping her cause.

    ReplyReply

  80. Jane
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 11:17:54

    I am not going to apologize for the tone of the article nor for what I said because that would be completely disingenuous. I believe in what I wrote and the reason I wrote it in the sarcastic tone is that I actually felt that it was less combative than what I originally wrote.

    Anu is right, of course, Ashworth’s "I’ll never post again" proclamations aren’t up to the standard set by Jaid Black. In the pantheon of ABB behavior, it’s on the weak side, but I like to lump all these posts under one tag.

    I find it offensive anytime an author says, in response to criticism, that it seems that "there are a lot of readers who are just not happy with the romance genre at all anymore." That phrase is one that hopes to perpetuate the fannish community rather than a critical one. Coupled with the claim that Ashworth stated "I don’t write historical fiction; I write historical romance", the charge to readers is that the romance genre is not on the same level of other fiction. That readers are holding the romance genre and its creators to a standard of excellency to which authors don’t want to be measured.

    Which is two faced to me. On the one hand, romance authors want to be taken seriously as a genre; to not be insulted in the mainstream media; to be viewed as worthwhile literature and on the other, readers who take issue with historical details, grammar or plot devices that make a book more commercially appealing, are nit picky and not in line with those who truly love the genre?

    If this was the first time Ashworth had made these statements, I wouldn’t have posted a thing. This, however, is patterned behavior which occurred for Duke of Sin, Duke of Scandal, and now The Duke’s Indiscretion.

    What is the point of saying "It was truly a head-scratching, WTF? moment for me" or "Not one reader commented on the history" or "TDI was my bestselling book to date" or "I didn’t receive any complaints about small, insignificant details, like what the hero drank champagne from in chapter one" or "But looking up something like the history of champagne flutes when the story is about opera and music is ridiculous" or or "I don’t understand the animosity from those who open the book on page one and start taking notes with a red pen" and "This isn’t about a genre we all know and love anymore, it’s about finding flaws — period" if not to say to the reader who is being picky – you are out of line?

    What is the point of saying "I won’t post on these boards again"? Because that reads like someone is trying to guilt the readers/posters into apologizing for being picky readers. Just like I wondered what does the marital status, PTA participation have to do with anything?

    What is the point of picking out one post out of 47 (now 90) that discussed historical accuracy in romance books which referenced many authors inluding Heyer and Kleypas as if Ashworth was the only one being discussed.

    I don’t have any problem with Ashworth expressing her opinion but she didn’t stop there. She went on to suggest that if it wasn’t important to her and all her other readers, why is it important to this one out of step picky reader. Her posts were not about the champagne flute. Her posts were about why are readers being so critical and that those that are simply don’t love the genre the RIGHT WAY.

    ReplyReply

  81. DS
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 11:54:00

    Nice parsing of the issues (I hope I’m using that word right!) I think the point was getting lost although it seemed to me that there was very little real interest in the flue question.

    Funny, no one jumped on the make up brush– most brushes at that time were made of hog’s bristles so they were not soft enough for applying make up. A haresfoot was used. I presume the claws were removed.

    ReplyReply

  82. Jill Myles
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 12:11:43

    A haresfoot? Gross!

    “Let me just powder my nose,” Charlotte said, and rubbed Bunny Foo-foo’s toes across her freckles.

    Barf!

    ReplyReply

  83. adele ashworth
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 12:23:05

    Jane, I apologize for offending you. I really, really can’t understand ANYONE being this angry for something *I* said in a post on a BB. I’m flabbergasted and heartbroken for offending *any* reader by my explanations. I swear that was never my intention. I don’t know how to put it any more bluntly. I’m sorry.

    Adele

    ReplyReply

  84. Anon 76
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 12:43:53

    Gurgle,

    Writing historical accuracy is darn hard work. Picking and choosing the right words, studying the politics of the time, not to mention bathing, eating, decor, and the like.

    I nearly cried while researching word origins and their periods of origin. Who knew that beauty wasn’t a word yet invented by the time of my story.

    So, in honesty, I do feel great sympathy for authors who cheat the margin. I might or might not have researched the flute thing, based on where my priorities were at the time.

    ReplyReply

  85. vanessa jaye
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 12:51:57

    I guess I didn’t have such a strong reaction to Adele’s comments because she might have been speaking to (for?) me. I am most likely her “type” reader.

    It’s not that I’m not discerning, but when I pick up a Historical Romance I want the history to serve the romance. On the other hand, when I read Historical Fiction, I want enough story to frame the History and bring it alive through the various details.

    While, yes, I love when I stumble across a romance that has all those little touches that lend extra verisimilitude to the story. But if given a choice, I would much rather a romance that feels real with nuanced emotion and complex/deep characterization, etc, and *just enough* historical detail for the world-building to be grounded and the rules/consequences to carry weight, without bogging down the pacing. That’s it. That’s enough history for me re a romance novel. If there's more details, fantastic (as long as I don't begin to wonder where the hell the relationship between my H/h went, and why I seem to more than I ever wanted to about 19th century watch-making).

    I think that’s what Ms. Ashworth was driving at, or at least that’s what I took away. Not that there’s a right way to read a romance; nor that the correct details were unimportant, just that their importance are measured to service the story/romances she writes.

    When someone is on the defensive, it's probably a good thing to read between the lines and give a little leeway re benefit of doubt, especially when we don’t have the filters of facial expression, body language, etc.

    ReplyReply

  86. Nora Roberts
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 13:57:02

    ~Though I must add that the attempts to lay guilt by Ashworth's defenders aren't helping her cause.~

    God, ain’t that the truth? That kind of response leaves no room for middle ground, or understanding the other pov. At all.

    I do think it’s a mistake for a writer to defend by saying the book was/is popular or well-received by others. It doesn’t matter. This reader, or this set of readers, didn’t like, wasn’t satisfied, had questions. So that’s the point to be addressed. And that sort of reply puts that reader’s, or set of readers’ back(s) up. Easy enough to see why.

    Criticism of the work, or the research into the work can and does sting. But it doesn’t destroy.

    Way back I had a reader post on a board complaining about one of my books because I said the heroine wore slacks–and the reader felt, strongly, I should’ve said pants. My initial reaction was: Huh?? But I remember responding in what I thought was a light-hearted manner.

    And got hammered by many of the readers on the board. I’m sure I got somewhat defensive as the thread ran on, though I remember trying to keep it light. Until I had to stop, just step away because for whatever reason this exchange was going down the toilet and making the reader, and me, angry.

    Obviously I didn’t see the point of her serious annoyance with my word choice–but in hindsight I realized I simply should have addressed that–her dissatisfaction instead of however jokily trying to brush it off. The fact that I remember this exchange illustrates that it stung–and stayed with me.

    It taught me a lesson (I had to learn more, but it taught me at least one.) And I made a point in future books to have the heroine wear pants. No slacks.

    Today, it’s unlikely I’d respond at all. But I’d think about the comment, and consider the reader’s pov. I’d still think it was nitpicky, that it had nothing to do with the story–but if it yanked the reader out of that story, I’d be smart to ask myself if the nit picked was valid.

    We need to be able to respond. I feel the writer/reader dialogue on sites like this is so healthy and interesting. But the reality is writers need to think carefully before responding, and take a little extra care in tone and approach.

    ReplyReply

  87. DS
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 15:34:16

    Ms Roberts, excuse me while I fangirl you– and I don’t even read your books that often.

    You look good, write bestsellers and come across as emotionally healthy and resilient on the internet.

    FTW!

    ReplyReply

  88. Bernita
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 15:48:40

    I agree with DS.
    I feel a fangirl squee coming on everytime I read one of your posts.
    Thank you for your good sense and equitable attitude.

    ReplyReply

  89. anu
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 16:11:25

    Jane,

    I don't have any problem with Ashworth expressing her opinion but she didn't stop there. She went on to suggest that if it wasn't important to her and all her other readers, why is it important to this one out of step picky reader. Her posts were not about the champagne flute. Her posts were about why are readers being so critical and that those that are simply don't love the genre the RIGHT WAY.

    So what? Just cuz you disagree doesn’t mean that she’s wrong or is insulting to readers. It’s a debatable point, one that’s more worth a post than the one you chose to put up.

    Ashworth expressed her point-of view. She presented an explanation, (however flawed it may be) with arguments embedded in it, that those who sweat the small stuff are missing the larger picture, which is the romance. Posters by various turns argued against and supported her position, and it was a debate like so many others, including those arguments about previous Ashworth books.

    Those posters responded to Ashworth's comments; you insulted her. They argued her position; you attacked her. If you'd rebutted Ashworth's arguments, there'd be no problem with your post. Because your position (that not valuing accuracy highly diminishes the genre as a whole) is just as arguable as hers. But you didn't present an argument. You escalated what was a run-of-the-mill conversation in one place into an attack in another, distorting the debate rather than contributing to it..

    I think the reason for that lies in earlier in your comment.

    In the pantheon of ABB behavior, it's on the weak side, but I like to lump all these posts under one tag.

    In my book, this is a problem because you're doing more than simply categorizing your posts. Your broad lumping of posts denies the wide spectrum of opinions that authors legitimately espouse and participate in.

    You need to check your ABB radar.

    ReplyReply

  90. Jane
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 16:41:08

    anu – I appreciate your comments but don’t see it in the same manner as you, obviously. However, if your issue is with the “tags”, those are overbroad and used merely as an organizational tool.

    I’m of the mind that tags need to be overbroad rather than narrow because otherwise the blog would have five thousand tags instead of the hundred it currently has and I don’t find that to be useful. I purposely removed any ABB reference in the title and the post (in contrast to what I did in the early days). I think I’ll change the tag to something else (as opposed to the offensive to some contents that I am not going to change).

    ReplyReply

  91. JupiterPluvius
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 16:49:06

    The correct answer to “You got that wrong about the champagne flutes” is “Thank you for the information.”

    “I can’t be bothered with that stuff” is never the correct answer. EVEN IF THAT’S WHAT YOU THINK.

    David Letterman used to have a running feature where people would review popular movies based on how well they depicted their professions. My favorite was the welder who pointed out all of the welding inaccuracies in Flashdance. (My dad says that this was also a feature on the old Steve Allen show.)

    Now, one doesn’t want to be Comic Book Guy from “The Simpsons”, but if a reader bothers to share this information, you thank them for it. They’re paying your salary, after all.

    ReplyReply

  92. Leslie Kelly
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 17:27:39

    Umm…I always say slacks if I’m referring to dressy, two-legged garments worn by a woman. Oy. Thanks for adding to m neuroses, Nora.

    FWIW: I understood Ms. Ashworth to mean exactly what Nora meant when she mentioned the gas station thing. Not that it was stupid, or beneath her or not worth her time to research the flute. But that it was so off her radar that she hadn’t even considered she *might* have it wrong (which she didn’t.) Being caught up in the big picture–researching things like which opera might have been written in time for her characters to know and perform it–it is possible to simply overlook the smaller ones that don’t leap out at you. (One reason I will never attempt a historical…though I did enjoy researching prohibition for a ghost character, especially the rumors about John Dillinger’s, ahem, size. Alas, urban legend…)

    That said, the defense/reaction/overreaction/arguing/stalking away/having friends defend you only EVER leads to exactly what we’ve seen here and is just never ever ever worth it. You bitch to your friends and move on.

    ReplyReply

  93. Leslie Kelly
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 17:40:45

    Oh, PS, Jane…since this whole topic is about readers respectfully pointing out errors, may I ever so respectfully mention:

    “until a big old author spotlight shown on them”

    should perhaps read “shone.”

    lol!

    ReplyReply

  94. Miki
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 18:28:31

    And I made a point in future books to have the heroine wear pants. No slacks.

    First off, I’m with Leslie. What’s wrong with “slacks”?

    Second, it’s funny that Nora used this example, because I’ve noticed in her In Death series how seldom she uses “pants”. Usually, Eve or Roarke are putting on “trousers”. I always assumed it was intentionally used so the books wouldn’t have to be revised for UK readers.

    ReplyReply

  95. Libby
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 19:00:34

    I’m really torn on the accuracy issue. The debate about the importance of historical accuracy and research is really intriguing, so I’ll weigh in a little, based on some personal knowledge and credible sources :)

    On one hand…If the cops (my husband is one) wasted their time tracking down television writers and/or producers of police shows to correct every inaccuracy they saw, we’d be living in anarchy. In other words, they have better things to do, bigger fish to fry, and you get the picture here. (I do love the Flashdance welding example, though LOL) Besides, I’m sure the producers of these shows would tell the well-meaning cops to go to hell instead of thanking them, and possibly add something along the lines of, “You do your job, I’ll do mine, amen.” It’s what they write, and it’s what people like to watch, and they make a bajillion dollors off it. Trust me when I say that NOBODY would want to watch a real crime investigation, they’d be bored and grossed out of their ever-lovin’ minds! The producers are giving the people what they want, which is a suspension of reality so they can take time off from the real world to be entertained for a while. And I do want to add (you know, while we’re picking on the importance of being so precise, here) that I have to block out of my mind the fact that men and women of yore didn’t have such great dental hygeine…do we want the authors to go into that for the sake of being 100% true? Think about it–do you want to hear about your beautiful heroine kissing an otherwise handsome man who is missing most of his teeth, and the ones left are gray and about to fall out? Think of the pus! How romantic is that? Please excuse me while I calm the excessive gagging reflexes going on right now.

    On the other hand…Back to my original example, the real police are left with the aftermath of CSI and such because so many of these shows are on the air, spreading untruths and exaggerations about the profession. After talking to my husband and doing other research, I’ve found that jury pool selection has sometimes had to include questions as to whether the people watch CSI. So many people actually believe after watching police shows that physical evidence like DNA and fingerprints are the only way to determine somebody’s guilt or innocence (and there are numerous other examples). My husband has told me that people are seriously pissed off when their cars get broken into and the police don’t cordon off the scene with yellow tape and start swabbing for fingerprints and DNA. And to give the most extreme example, do you have any clue how hard it is for a police officer to explain to a grieving family that they may not have answers for months about their loved one’s death…if ever? So yeah, in this case I think it sucks for the experts in the field to have so much misconception out there about the alleged reality. I know these are extreme examples, but sadly they are true.

    Now that I’ve shown you both of my hands, I will close by saying that not everybody is going to get everything 100% accurate, no matter how much work they put into it. Small details won’t be considered, and even the big ones can be ignored. Honestly, I don’t think a champagne flute is a big deal, but somebody who is an expert in Regency Britain or is an antiquities expert or whatever will give a big crap about it, and that’s fine. I will get pissed when I see a crime scene technician walk into a big bloody gross crime scene wearing Prada (I don’t know any cops who can afford Prada unless it comes from a knockoff party, btw) without any sort of biohazard gear and that’s because my field is in infection control; but somebody who doesn’t know anything about microbiology is more concerned with how cool the scene looks on TV, and if they’re being entertained. Does it offend me to every molecule of my mortal being to see this stuff? Give me a break!

    I think in every case involving debatable facts, people can go back and forth as much as they want, but does it always mean that both sides will come to an agreement? No way! But it’s nice when they do.

    ReplyReply

  96. The Lurker
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 20:28:33

    Good god Jayne, who pissed in your Cheerios this morning? You sure are a cranky bitch. I know you are usually rude but this takes the cake. My god, get a life.

    ReplyReply

  97. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 21:05:16

    Man…. I read maybe ten comments of this thread before my eyes went and crossed on me.

    The way I see it, bottom line, when an author responds to criticism online, it can be a tricky road and sometimes it’s often best to either not respond or simply offer an apology.

    Getting defensive, while easy to do sometimes, rarely solves anything and often causes more problems.

    ReplyReply

  98. Jayne
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 21:20:49

    Actually nobody pissed in my Cheerios as I don’t eat them. Nor did I write this post. I believe you need to address your comments to Jane.

    ReplyReply

  99. The Lurker
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 23:11:35

    Jane or Jayne, a rose by any other name is just as bitchy. ;)

    ReplyReply

  100. veinglory
    Nov 28, 2007 @ 23:39:02

    “pants” in many areas means specifically underwear. Which can paint rather a different picture ;)

    I find it ironic that some people who think Jane was being insulting think the correct response it to be even more insulting. Way to claim the moral high ground LOL.

    ReplyReply

  101. Seressia
    Nov 29, 2007 @ 01:09:44

    Weird, when I hear “slacks” I think:

    a) Sleestacks from Land of the Lost
    b) 70′s polyester suits

    So if I were to see that term used in a contemporary these days, I’d scratch my head in wonder. But then I’m in the South and a child of the 80′s. I haven’t read many historicals of late, but when I did, I liked getting a feel for the era in which they were set, and I assume that the author has done his/her research and knows what they’re writing about. I don’t watch CSI (couldn’t suspend my disbelief that far), but I do watch The First 48 on A&E, and Dr. G, Medical Examiner on the Science Channel in which real detectives work real cases and I find it fascinating.

    As a reader/spectator, I know I have to suspend my belief at lot whether reading or watching a movie (like Hitman). But the creator has to make it easy for me to do it. As an author, I try to make the way smooth for my readers. If I get something wrong and they let me know, I’ll swallow it down and silently go on my way.

    ReplyReply

  102. tate
    Nov 29, 2007 @ 01:23:23

    Another author eviscerated, laid low and (dare I say it?) libeled. Will this be another author that’s “e-terminated”? I hope not. I hope Ms. Ashworth quits apologizing to people that are beyond human compassion. I hope she says a big Fuck YOU to the lot of you “meangirls”. I hope she thumbs her nose at all of you with a champagne flute in every damn historical she ever cares to write. Jayne/Jane?, how do you sleep at night? Shame on you all you people that agree/ass kiss “Dear Author” etal. Sycophants one and all.

    ReplyReply

  103. Nora Roberts
    Nov 29, 2007 @ 05:46:08

    ~I find it ironic that some people who think Jane was being insulting think the correct response it to be even more insulting.~

    Amazing, isn’t it? Yet inevitable from certain sources.

    ReplyReply

  104. Christine Merrill
    Nov 29, 2007 @ 09:29:18

    As a reader/spectator, I know I have to suspend my belief at lot whether reading or watching a movie (like Hitman). But the creator has to make it easy for me to do it.

    Seressia, I think I love you. Just saying.

    Because that’s a beautiful way to put it.

    I don’t think there are any historical authors out there who sit down at the computer thinking, “Today, I will half-ass my way through the Regency, and pick up a check for it.” But there are different levels of research for different stories, and different parts of stories. And even when you think you know it all, you end up making mistakes.

    Hopefully, the longer you write, the more you learn, and you shouldn’t make the same mistakes over and over again. But the fear of making any mistakes at all will paralyze you before you start.

    Unless this is a primary document, something written in the time period that it is set, you can pretty much guarantee that it’s not 100% trustworthy. And even primary documents, can be inaccurate, because, as they say, “History is written by the winners.”

    But I think the ultimate goal of historical writers is to keep the margin of error low.

    ReplyReply

  105. Catherine
    Nov 29, 2007 @ 11:51:27

    Why is it that when someone is insulting the author of this post they cannot take the time to make sure they actually know who the author is? People keep saying Jayne, but if they would take a second to actually look they would realize it is Jane who wrote it. Having the correct name might actually help you sound more intelligent and give your argument more consideration IMO.

    ReplyReply

  106. anu
    Nov 29, 2007 @ 12:48:29

    Just a guess, Catherine, but I doubt “intelligence” is a factor in their posting.

    Er, and I hope I'm not included in the “those who criticize the insulting are insulting in turn” camp. I do believe Jane insulted AA. But as long as I present my opinion sans vitriol, I believe it has as much value as anyone else's, whether I disagree with DA or anyone else.

    Jane, I would be interested in a post from you or Janet re: the significance of accuracy (vs. authenticity) to the genre, and why it carries as much weight and consequence to Romance (or the status of Romance) as you both seem to believe. It's been done umpteen times, but I don't think it ever gets old.

    ReplyReply

  107. Jane
    Nov 29, 2007 @ 13:20:49

    anu – I actually planned on doing it next week in response to two publishing folks who kind of intimated (well, one flat out stated it), that readers don’t want quality fiction.

    Perhaps with that article playing loudly in the background, my own feelings were amped up when reading Ashworth’s “I don’t write historical fiction” statement.

    I was thinking about your comment quite a bit last night because I think you made some sense. When I originally wrote the post, it was more in line with my comment above than the post that I posted. I wrote that last week and then revised it about three times because I actually felt that it was more combative. But I feel like apologizing would be dishonest because in examining my intentions, I can’t honestly say that I am sorry – it would be like saying I’m sorry I got caught rather than being truly remorseful.

    I’ve re-read the article a few times now and I can’t clearly see what is so objectionable that I’ve written in comparison to what I’ve written in the past. It might be that my frame of view is simply coloring my reading of it. Part of me thinks that the objection is that people, like you, anu, feel that the rhetoric does not match the actions. I.e., Ashworth’s behavior was not sufficiently egregious to deserve the mock.

    That may be true. I saw it differently and therefore to apologize for doing something that I know I am apt to do again would be completely wrong.

    I can’t even say I’m sorry for making Ashworth feel bad because that would be hypocritical. I know that when you make light of someone that feelings are bound to be hurt, just as I know when I write a negative, scathing review that someone’s feelings may be hurt. It is not my intention to directly cause hurt feelings but I realize that a byproduct is hurt feelings. I don’t know if I am explaining this very well. I don’t think about the author when I write my reviews or my LOP because I think if I did, I would be contributing nothing – in essence I would be Harriet Klausner.

    To me, saying “I’m sorry” means that you are going to change your direction – 180 degrees from the action for which you are sorry.

    I don’t mind at all that people are being critical of me here. Criticism serves as good feedback and I can say that I will think of this incident the next time I post, but I won’t say that I won’t be sarcastic or mocking in the future because that would simply be untrue.

    If people choose to stop reading the blog for this post, that is completely fair and understandable. This is my personal blog and I use it to vent my frustrations about the romance industry. I truly had no idea anyone would visit other than my blogging partner, Jayne, and a few of our friends and when I blog I think that is my audience.

    I oftentimes forget that DA and its writers are held to a higher standard of blogging because of the large audience. I need to accept that and work to meet that high standard – whatever that may be.

    ReplyReply

  108. Robin
    Nov 29, 2007 @ 13:46:51

    I would be interested in a post from you or Janet re: the significance of accuracy (vs. authenticity) to the genre, and why it carries as much weight and consequence to Romance (or the status of Romance) as you both seem to believe. It's been done umpteen times, but I don't think it ever gets old.

    I recently did a short piece on this topic at RTB, anu, which reflects a distilled version of my views on the subject of history and Romance. But as Jane said, we have been planning something, not directly on history, but on reader expectations and Romance (and my next RtB column, in Dec. will be on the reader expectation issue, as well). As for the history issue, specifically, I know Jane has no objection to any of us writing letters of opinion, so perhaps I will try to write something here. I’ve been working on trying to shorten my sentences and paragraphs, lol. One thing I will say here, though, is that I agree with Vanessa Jaye’s statement, “when I pick up a Historical Romance I want the history to serve the romance.” It’s just that for me, the more I feel transported into a different world, in which the characters function as part of that world, the more likely I am to suspend disbelief. That doesn’t mean I’m looking for a textbook, just that for me characters should emerge from the setting of a book, not be pasted onto it.

    ReplyReply

  109. Catherine
    Nov 29, 2007 @ 13:51:11

    Jane, I don’t think you should be held to a higher standard just because you have a large audience. Large or small it doesn’t matter, it’s still your blog. All the content in it is yours to choose. Frequently e-reader information is posted, and I don’t find that particularly thrilling. However, I don’t bitch at you for not posting about something I think you should (that would imply it was my blog instead of yours), I just skip the ones that don’t interest me and look at your other posts.

    I guess the main point I’m trying to express is that it is your post and you can do what you want. Blogs are generally formed (correct me if I’m wrong in your case) to instigate discussion in areas that interest the blog creator/author. For someone to bitch at your content is… odd. If you don’t like the content don’t read it. You didn’t pay to visit this site so she’s not cheating you out of anything. Get over it.

    *I would just like to add that the people that disagree with your opinion in your post are not the ones I’m speaking about. Different opinions make the world go ’round. It’s the ones that imply that you are wrong for even posting about it because they think it’s beneath you that I was referring to.*

    ReplyReply

  110. Annie
    Nov 29, 2007 @ 15:36:15

    Jane: I don't think about the author when I write my reviews or my LOP because I think if I did, I would be contributing nothing – in essence I would be Harriet Klausner

    Hmmm. I think it’s quite a leap to go from not thinking about an author when writing reviews or diatribes about them and comparing yourself to Harriet Klausner (who only writes reviews for books she likes). That excuse sounds a bit lame to me.

    It seems a little ironic, too, considering that at least some of the complaints leveled against Ashworth here and at AAR are over her not seeming to think about her readers and their desire for historical accuracy when writing her books, even when readers complain about it or find it off-putting. Basically she’s been taken to task for not considering the issue to be “important enough” and/or being dismissive in her comments to readers who complain. Your comment here seems a little like the pot calling the kettle black in that light. What’s good for the author should be good for the blogger as well, especially when the author is writing a piece of fiction and the blogger is writing about a real live person.

    I guess I can’t help asking: how can anyone write about a subject (in this case an author and her views/reactions to the historical accuracy issue, especially when you’re going to lampoon/mock them) and NOT think about that subject’s reaction to what you’re writing? Saying that the author’s hurt feelings after a blog like this are simply an unpleasant and unintentional by-product is disingenuous. You’ve employed the same kinds of excuses for which you’ve taken Ashworth to task. Poor form.

    ReplyReply

  111. azteclady
    Nov 29, 2007 @ 15:51:39

    Why does a blog owner/contributor have to apologize when s/he doesn’t change his/her posts in order to never, ever, hurt the delicate feelings of anyone? (author, reader, fellow bloggers, commenters, etc). Why does Jane have to justify the tenor/tone of her ABB posts? or what behaviour she chooses to highlight in such posts?

    As far as I’m concerned: no reason whatsoever. Their space, their rules.

    As far as “what’s good for the author should be good for the blogger’ goes… I have to go back to writers being held to professional standards whereas bloggers are readers expressing their opinions. It’s no use crying that such attitude is not fair–the world rarely is fair after one leaves childhood behind, isn’t it?

    Of course, just like with authors, one can stop visiting/reading any particular blog whose tone/tenor offends *shrug*

    As for Harriet Klausner… I believe she likes EVERYTHING that passes through her hands, whether she actually retains anything from it or not. So in that sense, HK contributes exactly nothing to a conversation on books.

    ReplyReply

  112. Belinda
    Nov 29, 2007 @ 16:40:02

    It’d be easier to work up “compassion” for Ms. Ashworth if this was the first time we’d all been through this, but as Jane pointed out in her blog post, it’s an annual event. As I read what she said, it’s the repetition, not the particulars of the current argument, that is the crux of the matter. So far, we’ve established that readers shouldn’t comment on Ashworth’s plot, grammar or historical accuracy. Heaven knows, I hope the cover of her next release is a nice one, that’s just about the only thing left to wrangle over.

    ReplyReply

  113. Karen Scott
    Nov 29, 2007 @ 16:42:51

    Another author eviscerated, laid low and (dare I say it?) libeled. Will this be another author that's “e-terminated”? I hope not. I hope Ms. Ashworth quits apologizing to people that are beyond human compassion.

    Hey Jane, they cannot resist, no? *g*

    ReplyReply

  114. Robin
    Nov 29, 2007 @ 17:01:53

    As far as “what's good for the author should be good for the blogger' goes… I have to go back to writers being held to professional standards whereas bloggers are readers expressing their opinions.

    I remember reading a comment on a blog quite a while ago that went something like this: ‘this author is the kind of person who picks up men at funerals.’ Now is there anyone who doesn’t think this is a *personal* insult? I was so appalled by it that I still remember the experience of reading it and recoiling.

    Now, if I write a review in which I say that I feel author x did an incredibly poor job representing history, that’s not personal, because I’m not commenting on the *person* of the author — obviously I have to refer to the author, because it’s her name on the book. And obviously, since she wrote the book, by invoking her name I’m referring to her as the author. But I’m commenting on the book, and by implication, on the author *as author* not as parent, friend, PTA mom, knitter, etc. Those things that fall within the public circle of professional authorship are, IMO, of a different character than those things that inhere to the *person* of the author.

    If I find a book lacking, it’s not because I’m chiding the author for not considering *me* as a reader when she wrote it. Although if she makes public comments about readers TO readers, and I’m a reader, I think that’s a different kind of situation, even if the roles of author and reader still stand intact. When an author is writing her books, though, I don’t want her to be thinking about me — I want her to be thinking about the integrity of her story and characters. IMO, my right to love or hate a book, complain or praise, depends in part on an author’s right to write what works for her. It’s as if we inhabit parallel worlds (I don’t know how else to put it, and the only other metaphor I have is the Israelis and Palestinians, but I’m not really wanting to follow that one right now).

    Anyway, we exist separately, even though we are aware of each other and interact on occasion. The published book seems to inhabit the space between these two worlds. Authors author and readers read, and sometimes the book brings us into harmony and sometimes it sets off a skirmish, as do public board and blog comments related to books, to genre talk, to industry talk. Sometimes there’s fighting within each world, too.

    If I write a negative review, I can’t say I wouldn’t expect an author to be insulted *as an author,* just as I get insulted sometimes *as a reader.* But I do think that’s different than insulting or being insulted *as a person,* even though our personal feelings may get hurt sometimes, because it’s tough not to feel that sting personally. But I don’t think the insult is necessarily directed personally, if that makes sense.

    ReplyReply

  115. Mary Reed McCall
    Nov 29, 2007 @ 19:27:48

    You have an obligation to get the details of history down as correctly as you can. It was a “head-scratching, wtf” moment for me when she said she wouldn't even think of checking a detail like that. If you're not going to review your work thoroughly, with an eye to catching even a tiny mistake like the type of glass your character drinks from, why are you even writing historicals?

    Two points of clarification for anyone who may be interested:

    Firstly, the champagne glass detail in Adele’s story wasn’t in fact incorrect. The reader who was bothered by it was mistaken in thinking it historically inaccurate – which is probably beside the point in terms of that reader’s overall reaction to the book, but it is nonetheless the truth. A few posters over at AAR have pointed this out as well, with links to sources detailing the history of champagne “flutes”.

    Secondly, it will surely come as no surprise that I know Adele personally, considering that we both have written for the same publisher and in fact shared the same editor for many years. While I’ve decided to refrain from offering my personal thoughts on this latest bbs/blog situation, I do feel compelled to offer a point of clarification to the comments being bandied about regarding Adele’s response to her view of historical romance writers’ obligation to be as historically accurate as possible. I can assure you that, contrary to the apparent conviction held by Kalen Hughes and a few others here, when Adele said she would “never think of checking” something like the detail of the champagne glass in one line of the first chapter of her book, she meant it simply never occurred to her to check it (i.e. it was off her radar as something that needed checking). She, like most of us who write historical romance, is diligent and concerned with getting as many details right as she can. She certainly doesn’t have and never has had in all the time I’ve known her an attitude that some details are beneath her notice. She simply didn’t think to engage in research regarding that particular item – though as I mentioned in the previous paragraph, it turns out she wasn’t incorrect in the detail after all. To some of you this may be as egregious as if she did find the detail beneath her notice…but at least you can be miffed about the facts of the situation rather than about the supposition.

    Rest assured I have no intention or desire to try to change anyone’s opinions about anything. Each person will think and respond to this or anything else as she sees fit – including me – which is as it should be.

    –MRM

    ReplyReply

  116. Lynne Connolly
    Nov 29, 2007 @ 20:16:31

    You said:

    “I can assure you that, contrary to the apparent conviction held by Kalen Hughes and a few others here, when Adele said she would “never think of checking” something like the detail of the champagne glass in one line of the first chapter of her book, she meant it simply never occurred to her to check it (i.e. it was off her radar as something that needed checking). She, like most of us who write historical romance, is diligent and concerned with getting as many details right as she can.”

    But why didn’t she check the more obvious errors in her work? Champagne flutes are pretty much excusable if the book is a good read, but why didn’t anyone involved with “When it’s Perfect” discover that a peerage cannot be given away, bestowed or bequeathed to anyone else? That’s a pretty big mistake to make.

    I can’t quote any other errors firsthand because that was the only book by Ms Ashworth that I read. Anyone who imagines that an earl could, previous to 1963, disclaim his title has some serious gaps in their research. And this was an important part of the book, not a throwaway.

    On the other hand I can’t help thinking that a lot of errors can be forgiven freely if the book is so engrossing. So maybe the readers weren’t fully engrossed for one reason or another. I can think of two books I have on my keeper shelf that contain errors, but they were forgiveable errors, partly because the plot didn’t depend on them, partly because the author didn’t make the same mistake again, partly because the books were such good reads.

    And no, I’m not perfect, either. On the first page of my first published book, set in 1752, the hero said “Hello” to the heroine. As many people subsequently pointed out to me, “Hello” wasn’t invented as a form of greeting until the invention of the telephone. I was delighted to discover that snippet and never did it again. I was more than glad to correct that in the recent reprint, although I was vaguely tempted to leave it there for old times’ sake!

    ReplyReply

  117. Bonnie
    Nov 29, 2007 @ 21:11:05

    I have a simple question:

    Does this kind of shit go on in every genre?

    I ask this because if it’s more of a Romance thing, then I can understand why it’s not taken seriously.

    I liked Jane’s post. I thought it was funny. But at the same time I can see that it was like dropping a match in a barn with a fresh delivery of straw. But, hey, it’s her blog and it’s her right to demonstrate her opinions in any way she likes.

    You know… I was going to try and say something all sweet and sugary about the AA but… I’m not going to do that. And this is just my opinion and I’m just being honest.

    I think she behaved badly. Sorry, I do. I think she should have logged off, shut down her computer, called a pal and had a couple of glasses of wine and left it at that. I don’t want to read my favorite authors brawling with readers. It’s beyond a turnoff. And most likely a deal-breaker.

    ReplyReply

  118. Michelle
    Nov 29, 2007 @ 21:20:32

    What is a turnoff and deal breaker with me is when other authors take great pains to point out other authors mistakes and point out the delights of their own books.

    ReplyReply

  119. Seressia
    Nov 29, 2007 @ 23:09:15

    Thanks, Christine!

    I’ll be interested in next week’s post on accuracy in historicals. Like I said, it’s been a while since I’ve read them (can’t really think of why I stopped) but I read them with the assumption that the setting (and we’ve all been in craft workshops talking about the importance of setting) is accurately framing the story.

    I like being able to slide slowly away from my reality and fall into a story and I really don’t like being jarred out of my groove.

    Is it really true that face brushes were made of haresfoot?

    ReplyReply

  120. eggs
    Nov 30, 2007 @ 01:23:44

    Lynne Connolly said:

    “And no, I'm not perfect, either. On the first page of my first published book, set in 1752, the hero said “Hello” to the heroine. As many people subsequently pointed out to me, “Hello” wasn't invented as a form of greeting until the invention of the telephone. I was delighted to discover that snippet and never did it again. I was more than glad to correct that in the recent reprint, although I was vaguely tempted to leave it there for old times' sake!”

    It’s interesting that even though this factoid about “hello” is wrong (wiki will do for this reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hello), you still went ahead and changed the text of your book in the next edition. Did you do this because you were just sick of people contacting you with the (incorrect) telephone story or because the telephone story was a detail that it didn’t even occur to you to check, seeing as “everyone” knew it was true?

    It opens up the question of whether authors who actually do their research will end up changing their stories to fit with facts that they know to be false – just to meet the expectations of common ignorance. (FWIW, I didn’t go looking this “hello” thing up as a gotcha – my husband used to work for Bell Labs and I have “enjoyed” endless hours of stimulating conversation about the history of telecommunications.)

    ReplyReply

  121. Robin
    Nov 30, 2007 @ 01:45:19

    It opens up the question of whether authors who actually do their research will end up changing their stories to fit with facts that they know to be false – just to meet the expectations of common ignorance.

    This is one of the reasons I love the footnotes in those old Susan Johnson historicals. The info is there if you want to read it, but it’s tucked in at the end of the book if you don’t.

    ReplyReply

  122. Lynne Connolly
    Nov 30, 2007 @ 06:48:28

    “It's interesting that even though this factoid about “hello” is wrong (wiki will do for this reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hello), you still went ahead and changed the text of your book in the next edition. Did you do this because you were just sick of people contacting you with the (incorrect) telephone story or because the telephone story was a detail that it didn't even occur to you to check, seeing as “everyone” knew it was true?”

    I did it because, after I was told, I went and checked it in three separate places, not all of which were online. I didn’t count wikipedia as a resource because it’s not always trustworthy. I also did a concordance on several 18th century novels and I didn’t find “hello” in one of them.
    So readers alerted me to the fact, then I went and checked it for myself and what I found satisfied me that they were right.
    I always try to go on “common usage” and what was normal at the time, not on strange and wonderful aberrations that are done by people determined to prove you wrong. I’m not an academic here, just someone trying to capture the essence of the time.
    Even the wiki reference confirms what I discovered. It says references were found back to 1849 – and my book was set in 1752. But I never use wikipedia as a primary research tool, though I might check it for factoids along the way and then confirm it by finding it somewhere else, preferably offline.
    And yes, “Hallooo” was a term that was well known at the time, but it was bellowed across the hunting field, not used as a form of greeting in the ballroom! That was where the telephone term was taken from.
    I love words!

    ReplyReply

  123. Christine Merrill
    Nov 30, 2007 @ 08:32:00

    Is it really true that face brushes were made of haresfoot?

    I’ll go with ‘probably.’

    This is the problem with research. I went hunting, and on a quick search, I could find primary sources back to the 1880′s or so. But they were theatrical make-up. I would assume that they didn’t have something better in 1800 and then switch to bunnies.

    But…

    The other sources I found, on a quick search, were in fiction. I can’t trust them.

    Mostly, before I even worried about it, I’d ask myself, “Who is s/he, when is s/he, why is s/he wearing make-up? Because I think there wasn’t much make-up in use, in my period, except for actors and whores. And people weren’t using white lead anymore, but was that a powder or a cream?

    So, in checking one detail, I could easily spend two days or more. Not saying that there aren’t details I’d do this for. But there are some details I might go with the common wisdom on, sure that I ‘knew’, only to find out later that the common wisdom was wrong.

    Personally, I’d rather head off to see a costume historian, to talk about the history of closures. I’m going to use that detail more than once, so it’s worth some extra time.

    I was a reference librarian. After several years of ‘looking things up’ for a living, I am a lot less confident in proving things 100%.

    ReplyReply

  124. Annie
    Nov 30, 2007 @ 09:28:25

    Why does a blog owner/contributor have to apologize when s/he doesn't change his/her posts in order to never, ever, hurt the delicate feelings of anyone? (author, reader, fellow bloggers, commenters, etc). Why does Jane have to justify the tenor/tone of her ABB posts? or what behaviour she chooses to highlight in such posts?

    I didn’t say she should. I just said I thought the post was poor form, just as I would feel it would be petty and negative if someone was to say the same thing this post says out loud at a gathering of romance-reading friends. I still feel that way.

    And let’s face it, a blog like this one may be “personal”, but it is clearly put out there to be read by others. If Jane didn’t want others to read what she wrote, she could write her thoughts and frustrations down in an old-fashioned paper journal and no one would ever be the wiser to them.

    As far as “what's good for the author should be good for the blogger' goes… I have to go back to writers being held to professional standards whereas bloggers are readers expressing their opinions. It's no use crying that such attitude is not fair-the world rarely is fair after one leaves childhood behind, isn't it?

    I never said anything about fair or not fair. I simply pointed out that I found Jane’s “explanation” disingenuous, when some of the blog’s other readers called her on the tone and content of her post about Ashworth. I still think it is. Of course there’s a difference between a published author and a blogger. I should hope so. But Jane took Ashworth to task for flaws she perceived in Ashworth’s attitude toward historical accuracy and hypocrisy in saying she would never post again at AAR and then did. I found Jane’s “explanations”, when she was confronted about this post’s biting tone and labeling of Ashworth as an “author behaving badly” to be in turn hypocritical. That’s my opinion, which a blog clearly solicits, if the blog has a place for its “readers to comment”. This one clearly does.

    ReplyReply

  125. azteclady
    Nov 30, 2007 @ 12:04:46

    Obviously you are invited to share your opinion here, and so am I to disagree with it.

    Any blog that can be read without secret handshakes or by invitation only is clearly meant to be read by a wide readership. Doesn’t mean it’ll GET it, though.

    My point earlier was that I don’t see why Jane should be held responsible (i.e., to a higher standard) simply because more people read her blog than say, my friend Art’s. It would seem, in fact, that quite a few people like Jane’s style (whether they always agree with everything she says or not). Witness the generally positive attention DA garners around the blogosphere.

    As for this:

    (snip) I thought the post was poor form, just as I would feel it would be petty and negative if someone was to say the same thing this post says out loud at a gathering of romance-reading friends.

    Petty? Hmmm… Negative? Does that means that (romance) authors’ behaviour should be exempt from criticism? or that good manners should trump expression of personal views?

    Or, perhaps, it is the manner in which such criticism was expressed that you find objectionable (poor form)?

    I certainly hope it’s the third choice, because either of the first two effectively stifle any meaningful discussion of the genre, IMO.

    ReplyReply

  126. Robin
    Nov 30, 2007 @ 12:09:37

    This is the problem with research. I went hunting, and on a quick search, I could find primary sources back to the 1880's or so. But they were theatrical make-up. I would assume that they didn't have something better in 1800 and then switch to bunnies.

    In the Ashworth book, the cosmetics were being used by the heroine, a lady who was leading a double life as a famous opera singer. So it WAS a theatrical context.

    But in general I agree with you that it’s terribly difficult to get all the details correct because of the fallibility of sources and the perpetuation of errors through secondary sources. I think we could still argue about the champagne flute for days and days — was it used during the Victorian period popularly, even though it was in existence (what I’ve read is mixed, with some sources saying that the coupe was in popular use because of Victoria’s preference, etc.). Which I think it why when readers start to question details it’s a signal that — for whatever reason — the world building in the novel isn’t working for them. And that’s where I think we get into the importance of *authenticity* rather than *accuracy,* which, of course, is subjective. What one reader will find boring and unengaging, another will be in raptures about. And thank goodness, since it allows for more diversity in the genre and the market. Ultimately, though, some of us weren’t put off by the admission that an author wouldn’t look up the use of a champagne flute; it was more the ‘what do we read for’ comments. Which I and other have already pointed out, so I won’t repeat them.

    But Jane took Ashworth to task for flaws she perceived in Ashworth's attitude toward historical accuracy and hypocrisy in saying she would never post again at AAR and then did.

    Actually, what Jane took Ashworth to task for, in addition to the thrice uttered threats to leave AAR, was her reaction to readers who are critical of her books. In this case it was the history. Last time it was the grammar and copyediting. The time before that it was the virgin widow construct. It was for comments like this one, which she made to a reader on her website (in a now defunct blog-type page), after an incident on the AAR Reviews Board over her last book, when the reader said that the criticism directed at the grammar/copyediting in the book was “ridiculous”:

    Ashworth: “Oh, [reader], thank you so, so much! In
    defense of AAR, I still think it’s an excellent
    website for readers and reader opinions. BUT… yeah,
    I got raked over the coals by a few readers last week,
    and I’m still reeling. Sorta. I think there are just
    some readers who *enjoy* dissecting a book to *prove*
    whatever point is on their agenda. :::sigh:::

    But what’s most important to authors and publishers is
    the readership, like you, who love our stories,
    heroes, romances. I really appreciate your kind words;
    you’ve boosted my desire to get Colin’s story done! ”

    A comment that echoes those she has made several times on a reader board, to readers, about readers who aren’t really “important.” I realize that those readers who agree with Ashworth won’t find her words offensive. And those who haven’t heard the same comments three times might also not think it’s so bad.

    As to Jane’s tone, I am a wuss when it comes to sarcasm, but I can’t help but find a certain irony in the way some comments (I’m speaking in general here) express outrage over the post’s sarcasm in tones that not only match but EXCEED the sarcasm they’re supposedly so horrified about. Let alone the fact that these posts bring out those who claim they otherwise never comment or only lurk or whatever, but who are obviously still READING these posts they claim such offense to.

    But still those comments stand here along with yours. And Jane has taken the heat for the choice she made to write the piece the way she wanted. She hasn’t engaged in the “throw the rock then hide the hand” type of posting. She hasn’t gotten angry at her critics. She hasn’t threatened any commenters or told them their views were unimportant, illegitimate, or mean. I don’t understand the logic of your characterizations of her being disingenuous or hypocritical, but in any case, your comments still stand, and Jane has taken responsibility for what she wrote. IMO that’s the antithesis of what she was complaining about, and even if I wouldn’t have written the post the same way, I respect the way Jane has responded in its aftermath. No handwringing, no going after the hecklers, no ‘I didn’t mean to . . .,’ no apologies merely for the sake of apologizing, and IMO no defensiveness (an explanation isn’t necessarily a defense). That you don’t see it that way is a view you’re obviously entitled to and entitled to express. At this point, I doubt there’s anything the critics of this post would be satisfied with, even if Jane did come out with a completely disingenuous apology. And most importantly, perhaps, Jane didn’t launch any attack on the *person* of Ashworth — which is more than I can say for some of her detractors.

    ReplyReply

  127. Anon 76
    Nov 30, 2007 @ 12:23:34

    I’ve learned one very important thing when it comes to historical research. You can chase for truth forever, and still not be 100% certain that what you are about to write is correct.

    You see, everyone has their own viewpoint, even the historians we look to from past centuries to provide us with said “facts”. Often, they too relied on previous accountings from yet another historian. The farther back in time you go, the more murky the whole thing gets.

    I liken it to that children’s game where you sit in a circle and the first person whispers a sentence or two to the next person in line. And so on and so on. By the time the game reaches its end, the original message could be entirely altered.

    The only difference is, when recounting history, those breaks in the actual communication of events lead to shoot off branches, members of whom swear that they have the right of it and no one else.

    I’ll chase certain facts for a long time, mostly dates of battles and what not. But I’ll only go so far when it comes to certain details of clothing and other things. You see, one historian will say that by 1330, this garment was never worn, while another will say it was still in use, though fading in 1350. So you study some more, and find more people on either side of the fence. Hence you split the difference as 1340 or so.

    This in no way means I’ve been lazy about it, but dang. Even when researching battles, one opponents accounts rarely if ever coincides with the others.

    As an author, all you can do is try with all your heart to hit the right stride, and not take personally if someone else’s take on history differs from yours. Don’t turn it into a battle of the circle, where some hear one thing, and some another. Smile and say, thanks.

    ReplyReply

  128. Annie
    Nov 30, 2007 @ 13:25:26

    Or, perhaps, it is the manner in which such criticism was expressed that you find objectionable (poor form)?

    I certainly hope it's the third choice, because either of the first two effectively stifle any meaningful discussion of the genre, IMO.

    Although this was phrased as a hypothetical question (I hope, anyway…for if it was not, you would have effectively silenced anyone who did for whatever reason espouse choice one or two by the way you wrote your reply), I’m going to reply anyway and confirm that, yes, choice three was what I meant. There are ways to express the kind of criticism Jane felt compelled to offer in her blog that are far more effective, IMO. As it stands, if there are any other blog readers out there like me (and I certainly hope I’m not the only one, but it wouldn’t be the first time, I suppose), then whatever message Jane may have hoped to make was (mostly) lost in the distraction of the sarcasm heaped upon it and what – I’m sorry you won’t agree with me on this Robin, but it’s the way I feel – I see as the quite personal go-for-the-juglar tone of the post as a whole.

    That’s all I was trying to say. I’m not primed for, nor do I wish to engage in a lengthy discussion about why I feel as I do. I can be proved right or wrong a thousand ways to Sunday, I’m sure, depending on who was doing the proving. And this is so simply because what I am feeling is the result of my own personal interpretation of what I read at this blog. Just as each book picked up by a reader is interpreted individually, BTW.

    We’re fortunate in that there are many, many blogs out there, and as someone said in defense of Jane, no one is forcing me or anyone else to read this one. A point well taken, I will add, and perhaps best taken now, by me.

    ReplyReply

  129. azteclady
    Nov 30, 2007 @ 13:33:40

    Annie, my apologies if the way I phrased my questions, and opinion, seemed to be geared towards silencing whomever disagreeing with me. I was honestly wondering where you were coming from, no more.

    On the other hand, it is my opinion that putting romance writers above criticism and/or playing by the “say something nice or remain silent” are surefire ways of stifling conversation about romance as a genre–I would appreciate suggestions on how to express that opinion without silencing those who disagree with me.

    ReplyReply

  130. Annie
    Nov 30, 2007 @ 15:23:40

    No apologies necessary, azteclady. It’s probably my flawed interpretation of what you were saying, and I think it’s what often hampers many blog or bbs interactions – the lack of ability to read body language, facial expression and the like. It all adds up to the much stronger likelihood of misinterpretation.

    As for suggestions, I’m not sure I have any tangible ones to offer, but rather some thoughts in general on blog and bbs interactions. While I completly agree with you on the negative result of following the “if you don’t have something nice to say don’t say anything at all” precept and certainly agree with you that romance authors (like any other author) are not in any way above criticism, I also think there’s been a shift to the other end of the spectrum on many message boards and blogs to something just as unproductive.

    To me, offering criticism with this kind of hefty dose of sarcasm (that sometimes crosses over to cutting invective) all while hiding behind the mask of writing something that’s supposed to be “witty” or “clever” is just as pointless as blowing sunshine up someone’s skirt, but is in fact worse in many ways, because with it comes the kind of fallout that is very hurtful, yes, to those being mocked, but also to the genre as a whole, I think, in that any message that might be gained and perhaps employed to the betterment of the genre gets lost.

    Now, maybe Jane just wanted to vent and slice and dice, with no eye toward offering true criticism (which by nature, I think, is usually offered in hopes of pointing the way to improvement in some area). But if the idea is to truly criticize, I have to ask what’s to be gained by slathering on the sarcasm/slicing and dicing so thickly? Who “learns” anything from it, and what does the genre gain from it? Will it “teach” authors to behave better or write better – or simply cause them to flee en masse from interaction on blogs and message boards? In my opinion the kinds of sarcastic posts that have been bothering me lately most often serve simply as a chance for the writers of them to vent frustration (which is better served, I think, by doing as one of the posters in this thread suggested Ashworth should have done…log off, vent to a friend and have a few glasses of wine), or to feel clever by having been so “witty”.

    My suggestion is to criticize and call to task, certainly, but in a more constructive rather than such a sarcastic, cutting, aimed-to-be-hurtful-to-an-individual-regardless-of-claiming-it’s-not-meant-to-be-taken-like-that-at-all way. Something might actually gained/learned/improved by putting on the brakes a little in this regard. Otherwise, it’s just another forum for blasting and venting for the sole sake of lashing out to get it off your chest.

    But that’s just my opinion. This isn’t my blog and Jane and Jayne have every right to fill it with any kind of posts they like. I’ve found many of the posts here in the past to be interesting and thought-provoking, reviews and commentary alike. This one really crossed the line for me (and for at least several of the other blog readers, if the comments section is any indication). But that’s our problem, not Jane/Jaynes’.

    And now I’ll shut up. I wasn’t intending to post in the comments further, but I wanted to do you the courtesy of addressing your question. Hopefully I’ve accomplished that to some degree, anyway.

    ReplyReply

  131. Robin
    Nov 30, 2007 @ 16:24:38

    I've learned one very important thing when it comes to historical research. You can chase for truth forever, and still not be 100% certain that what you are about to write is correct.

    Absolutely. As a literary and cultural historian, I really do understand this, and I think in some ways it creates dual expectations in me as a reader. On the one hand, I know how hard it is to represent history in a way that’s “accurate” (since so much IS a matter of interpretation and POV). But OTOH, I expect that authors who choose to write historical fiction — Romance or otherwise — do so because they love history and have immersed themselves in the period that theoretically gives birth to their characters and story. Part of which means doing some of the heavy lifting of historical research, IMO.

    However, because so much in history IS about who’s saying it and why, no author is going to get it 100% “right” — it’s impossible. But, I think that a book can reflect an engagement with the history, a place in the conversation of history, so to speak. Which may mean a kind of holistic view drawn from multiple (not EVERY, mind you) sources that shows that the author has engaged herself in the dialogue around a certain place and time. And I think that comes through in the writing, the characterization, and the plotting, as well as the setting details. Not that it always succeeds for the reader, but I think it can create that sense of “atmosphere” people are talking about.

    I don’t know if this is an example of what I mean or not, in Ashworth’s Duke’s Indiscretion, the heroine is an opera singer with a grand passion for that art. The book is dedicated to Ashworth’s grandmother, an opera singer and “my favorite vocal instructor.” And that dedication made great sense to me after reading the book, because all the details around the opera house, the music, the singing were rendered with such passion and care. Those were the passages in the book that I really enjoyed reading, because they stood out to me and took me to that place being described. I have no idea if they were “accurate,” but they sure did engage me, in part because at those points the book felt so engaged to me.

    The relationship between history and Romance is obviously extremely complicated, not only because of the history itself, but also because of the author’s vision, the book itself, and the readers’ reactions. All I know is that for me, reading historical Romance is a chance to see characters *of a different time and place* live a life I’m getting a window into through the book. And while it’s obviously not all about history, I think history plays a significant role as a conversation an author of historical Romance participates in to some degree. The exact degree is up to the author, and god knows I’ve enjoyed a number of books that are quite lite on the history, because they’re roaring good reads, and more often than not, they capture some sense of history, either because the authors has been super-lucky in channeling, super-skilled in crafting, and/or familiar enough with the history to render some essence that feels authentic to the reader.

    That champagne flutes are important to some readers is clear, and I think we all have those things that we do or don’t notice. When I get really frustrated is when I — the amateur in many of these instances — can pick out obvious and persistent mistakes, horrible accents, REALLY obvious anachronisms, or stereotypes masquerading as historical types. But since I’m pretty picky about copyediting and the like, I can understand how another reader might be picky about cosmetics or titles or psychological terms, or introductions, or whatever. If an author is truly happy with and confident in what she writes, then I’d hope that would eclipse any reader who isn’t, for whatever reason.

    ReplyReply

  132. Robin
    Nov 30, 2007 @ 16:26:57

    I'll be interested in next week's post on accuracy in historicals.

    Actually, Seressia, next week’s column will be on reader expectations in general, although it will dovetail with some of the issues in this discussion. I’m sure, though, either Jane or I or both or someone will write a column on historical accuracy sooner rather than later.

    ReplyReply

  133. Maria
    Dec 01, 2007 @ 02:20:32

    Can anyone imagine Jeff Bezos saying this:
    But what made me laugh (and I mean literally laugh) when the fallout began over flaws in the Kindle was when readers complained that the “it is ugly” and “it is too high priced.” It was truly a head-scratching, WTF? moment for me.
    I don’t believe that any Amazon customer dissatisfied with the Kindle would read that and not feel insulted.
    Products (e.g., books, ebook readers) are bound to be critized by consumers. AA could have asked the readers who posted about historical innacuracies what their sources were so she could verify that they are correct, she could have done what Eloisa James does, she could have ignored the criticism, she could have vented to her friends in private, or had another similarly professional response. Instead she went passive-aggressive for the third time. It’s really hard for me to respect someone who does this repeatedly.

    ReplyReply

  134. Anon 76
    Dec 01, 2007 @ 10:24:18

    EXACTLY, Robin

    And sometimes that whole “channeling” thing gets you in trouble. You get so immersed in your character’s head that you “see” things the way they do.

    A simple “for instance”. If you write about a woman in say, 14th century England, and she’s lived a life without the frills, perhaps on a farm or something, well she has a different take on the world. Now, at this point in time, many new dye techniques were in use (many introduced by travels to other lands). So, for this woman, to travel to court and see all the new colors and fabrics would be a wondrous thing.

    Do these colors and fabrics match what we have today? No way. But to her they are as vibrant as the colors of the rainbow.

    For a writer, the trick is in trying to bridge the gap between our modern sensibilities, and the historic ones. To bury the reader so far into your world that these things are easily accepted.

    And boy howdy! That’s tough. LOL.

    Go too far and you look as if you are slapping the canvas with modern paint. Not far enough and the reader isn’t engrossed in the time period.

    A tricky tight-rope, but one I will forever try to walk because I adore the genre. (You can probably guess that it is also my favorite genre to read. Wink.)

    ReplyReply

  135. Liz L
    Dec 01, 2007 @ 14:30:39

    Now that all of the silliness has died down, I thought I’d write my cold-hearted capitalist two cents.

    Nowadays, it is true than any publicity is good publicity. When I go to Borders, the shelves are glutted with new Romances and aside from a very small and select list of authors that I buy because of previous good books, I find it difficult to wade through book after book to choose one I will pay money for. Developing emotional relationships with consumers is a great marketing strategy (read Anne Elizabeth Moore’s “Unmarketable” for a fascinating examination of that marketing trend) but in the end I am a poorish college student with eight dollars in my pocket and seven hundred near-indistinguishable books in front of me. A book that sparks any sense of recognition in me, even if it’s negative recognition, warrants a closer look. I’ve bought numerous books based off negative word-of-mouth publicity and enjoyed them and gone on to buy many more books from those same authors. When a book is vigourously debated on the AAR boards, or sets off a flurry among the blogs, I’m generally left curious about what all the fuss was about and willing to spend my money on the book in question.
    I will add a caveat to this wonderful-for-authors phenomenon. The free publicity generated among networks of romance-fans who are willing to buy books, romance-fans who lurk at AAR and read two or three blogs on a regular basis, is something that no publisher can buy and no advertiser can replicate. We not only buy books ourselves, but we also encourage our not-quite-so devoted friends to read and buy! new and out-of-the-way romances themselves. But nothing leaves me, as a reader and a book-buying person of reasonable intelligence, colder than being scolded by an author online. I have been at the fringes of numerous author scolds, and I’m always surprised when some interesting and out-of-the-way (and free publicity-generating!) conversation I’m having online with other readers attracts an angry and defensive author. It is rather like suddenly facing the wrath of some demi-deity who has come to smite you from on high! (I like the word smite. Is the past tense smote? I wonder…) One example stands out clearly for me. There was an enormously silly flameout on the AAR boards between two authors of dubious emotional stability. In the course of the brouhaha (yet another word I write with fondness) one of the authors belittled all of the readers who voiced expectations for historical accuracy in romance novels. Her tone was sneering and her words were written to make me feel stupid. I don’t know her from Adam. I certainly cannot hold her accountable to any reasonable standards of courtesy. All I can do is never, ever again pay money for any of her books (and you can bet your bottom dollar I don’t) and never, ever recommend her books to friends. A small drop in the bucket I’m sure, as she repeatedly reminded all of the people present on the board that she was Ms. Hot Stuff and sold large amounts of all her books and was on all sorts of fancy lists, but it soothed my wounded pride.

    That’s the way your average reader (not a big name blogger or an industry insider or another author) experiences all of this silliness.

    BTW, the florid rhetoric, the melodramatic monologues, and the ironic invocation of Godwin’s Law (aka Godwin’s rule of Nazi analogies) has provided enormous free entertainment for an apartment full of college girls taking their finals. As we’re probably younger than the majority of y’all and thus are looking up to you to set an example and all that, all I can say is, “For shame!”

    ReplyReply

  136. Christine Merrill
    Dec 01, 2007 @ 18:04:49

    I'm always surprised when some interesting and out-of-the-way (and free publicity-generating!) conversation I'm having online with other readers attracts an angry and defensive author. It is rather like suddenly facing the wrath of some demi-deity who has come to smite you from on high!

    Do you want to know the sad truth?

    Let me start out by saying, I am not speaking for all authors, everywhere. I can only speak for, oh, let’s say for example, me. But I think I may be average, (which is pretty scary, from this end).

    Authors google themselves.

    It’s not really in an attempt to feed our ravenous egos. It’s really just a general attempt to keep track of our career, coupled with curiosity to know what people are saying about the latest book, and if anyone but our mother is reading it,

    coupled by ego.

    But you can set up Google alert to mail you, whenever your name is mentioned. And then, if you want, you can go and look. And if the reviews have lots of stars, and the news is all glowy and wonderful, then we dance around the office, and show the kids, until they say, ‘Jeez, Mom. Stop it. This is creepy.’

    And if the news is bad? We get what we deserve for looking, I suppose.

    If we were actually demi-deities, if we saw something we didn’t like, we would immediately shake it off, and move on. But we aren’t gods. We’re (and by this, I mean I) are often those day-dreamy, sort of geeky introverts from Jr. High. Only now, we have publishing contracts.

    And although, from reader to author, it looks like we should be secure and ‘professional’ when we are the topic of conversation, there is a certain level of freak-out in knowing that people we don’t know from Adam, are talking about us at all.

    I’m never going to say that readers, fans and bloggers shouldn’t be allowed to talk. Although I have listened in on discussions (about other authors, thank God, and not acusing this site of any such thing) that included insults to dyed hair, and a critique of the Photoshopping on back cover photos. Stuff that did not involve the books at all. Stuff that was gossip, pure and simple.

    Really, you can, and will, say whatever you like. People are curious. And people talk. That’s the way of the world. And I’m not going to swear that I never gossip, and am too mature to listen to it. That would be a total lie.

    It’s just that you may think you’re talking in private. But the person you’re talking about is often standing right in front of you, listening to every word. Unless you ban all authors from your blogs, we will be sitting at our desks every day, reading for entertainment and to keep abreast of the industry (since you usually get the important news before we do). And we read the reviews and comments to see what you are saying about our friends, about our enemies, and about us.

    And while, as bloggers, you may feel like fan writers, there are some blogs that end up being more like the varsity cheerleading squad. It’s great to have them on your side, but hell on earth if they don’t like you.

    I’m really hoping I’ll always go for the ‘drink heavily and whine in private to friends’ route. But knowing that a negative discussion might blind-side me someday, I can also sympathize where the mildly defensive rant, or the full on, train-wreck, psycho meltdown, comes from.

    ReplyReply

  137. anu439
    Dec 01, 2007 @ 18:18:08

    Jane,

    I can't even say I'm sorry for making Ashworth feel bad because that would be hypocritical. I know that when you make light of someone that feelings are bound to be hurt, just as I know when I write a negative, scathing review that someone's feelings may be hurt. It is not my intention to directly cause hurt feelings but I realize that a byproduct is hurt feelings. I don't know if I am explaining this very well. I don't think about the author when I write my reviews or my LOP because I think if I did, I would be contributing nothing – in essence I would be Harriet Klausner.

    I enjoy mockery, satire, and dark humor. It's fun, entertaining, and feels almost righteous when directed at someone or -thing that really deserves it. In this case, I just felt that your target didn't deserve the mockery. I dunno know, maybe if you'd stuck to the theme of the “Long Goodbye,” I would've been more receptive. But your focus was obviously on the “taking readers to task” angle of Ashworth's comments. And I didn't have a problem with those comments because I believe I understood where she was coming from.

    Ashworth's voice and style jangle my nerves, so I'm not her audience. To the extent that she takes too much license with history, perhaps sticklers for accuracy aren't her audience either. If that's her writing POV, it's logical to me that she would say that some ask for too much. Even as I partly disagreed with her, I still thought her points reasonable. Plus, the tone of her posts made clear that she really does give a damn about her fans and her research-’whatever the accuracy in her books! So taken as a whole, yeah, I felt your rhetoric didn't match the actual situation.

    And because it was the mockery that missed, it felt like a sledgehammer taken to a situation that really didn't call for it, making the attack come off as more personal than it would've otherwise. It's like with insult comedians: Sometimes, the humor's really on and it works; other times, the jokes aren't funny, they're just mean.

    And this?

    I oftentimes forget that DA and its writers are held to a higher standard of blogging because of the large audience. I need to accept that and work to meet that high standard – whatever that may be.

    Well played;). DA has earned a level of credibility and respect from both readers and industry insiders. It’s up to you and your fellow writers how you use what you’ve earned.

    ReplyReply

  138. anu439
    Dec 01, 2007 @ 18:22:49

    Robin,

    It's just that for me, the more I feel transported into a different world, in which the characters function as part of that world, the more likely I am to suspend disbelief. That doesn't mean I'm looking for a textbook, just that for me characters should emerge from the setting of a book, not be pasted onto it.

    I agree completely. I'm more drawn to these types of historicals than the wallpapers. But a story can win me over despite the tacked-on sense of history. Not right now, though. I'm burned out on the sameness of the historicals, and am currently reading outside the sub-genre.

    All I know is that for me, reading historical Romance is a chance to see characters *of a different time and place* live a life I'm getting a window into through the book. And while it's obviously not all about history, I think history plays a significant role as a conversation an author of historical Romance participates in to some degree.

    We're only getting the author's take on how “characters *of a different time and place* live a life.” It's one person's interpretation, based on how they view that period, what facts or research they believe to be important enough to include in the story. This is why I don't necessarily think that not valuing all levels of accuracy=don't give a shit about the readers/genre. Those authors are writing their stories for a particular type of reader, one that may value the h/h in pretty dresses and Hyde Park pageantry over period-appropriate dyes for clothing. Their focus is different, but it has a place in the genre. It doesn’t mark the degradation of it.

    ReplyReply

  139. Liz L
    Dec 01, 2007 @ 20:37:47

    While have been known to gossip (and, let’s be real, who hasn’t) I will say that I’ve never had an online (or an offline!) conversation about an author’s attire, or hairstyle, or children, or marital situation, or anything else that could be construed as uberpersonal. It has been my experience that these sorts of conversations explode on blogs and websites run by people somehow involved in the industry or by other authors, sadly enough! Take, for example, the debate over costumes worn to that one industry-function-thing, where most of the mud flying around was being thrown by other authors!
    When these things crop up, I roll my eyes, get a cheap laugh from the ridiculousness of it all, and head for cover. I think most reasonable romance readers do the same, as we have little stake in any of it. In the end, all we want are lushious fun books filled with Darcy-esque hunks and a few hours of reading pleasure.
    And then, of course, we want the extra hours of book-discussing pleasure, which I can only conceive of as a compliment to the author, much as a burp, however unpleasant, is a compliment to the chef. I wouldn’t spend so much time and energy talking and writing about romance books if I didn’t think they were worth that time and energy. When I gush, when I rant, I am paying both the genre and its authors the ulitmate compliment of caring enough to devote not only my attention, but my critical attention to the books. Y’all have engaged my brain cells, which should have been fried by my classes, so extra points to every author that has inspired me to care enough to write enough to fill page upon page on topics ranging from sexual assault and romance to whether or not Mr. Darcy is, indeed, my soulmate.
    The day I snark about some stranger’s haircut (when she’s not a famous actress but rather an author and fellow romance nerd)- that will be the day when a tongue-lashing from an author is warranted. However, previous author scolds that I have weathered have all been more in the vein of, “Don’t talk about sexual assault OR Mr. Darcy. Don’t think critically about the book that I have written and you have paid money for. Who do you think you are?” My answer has been and always will be, just some girl who’s dishing about one of her favorite things in the world (romance novels!). Go away and leave me in peace.
    I don’t stop by romance novelist blogs and leave nasty messages. I don’t gossip about author’s haircuts or RWA events (unless, of course, I think said events are heterosexist). And I’m not defending the empty-headed and quite boring posts that address these topics. What I am defending is my perfectly legitimate right to read romance novels and then state my opinion about said novels. Because it has been my experience that there are authors who feel not only justified, but righteous, about raining on my parade.
    They can rain all they want, and that’s just dandy. But they should know that such behavior is unappreciated and that I do not buy books from people who have insulted me. No hard feelings, but that’s just the way it works.
    As for the compulsive gossips, well, they are mean and vapid but they exist in every community and mother’s advice, however unsatisfying, is always best. Just ignore them.

    ReplyReply

  140. Robin
    Dec 02, 2007 @ 13:48:31

    We're only getting the author's take on how “characters *of a different time and place* live a life.” It's one person's interpretation, based on how they view that period, what facts or research they believe to be important enough to include in the story.

    Absolutely. It’s always an interpretation and translation, and as Anon76 said, the author has a difficult balancing act between what she sees through her characters and what the reader will see. As, I suppose do ALL authors, and I think we could make some interesting observations about realism in contemporary Romance, as well.

    This is why I don't necessarily think that not valuing all levels of accuracy=don't give a shit about the readers/genre. Those authors are writing their stories for a particular type of reader, one that may value the h/h in pretty dresses and Hyde Park pageantry over period-appropriate dyes for clothing. Their focus is different, but it has a place in the genre. It doesn't mark the degradation of it.

    Oh, I totally agree that the genre has room for all sorts of books, and just because one author’s vision of historical Romance is not another’s (or particular readers), it doesn’t mean the genre has jumped into the proverbial hand basket to hell. And if you thought that was the point I was making, then I wasn’t clear. I can’t list all the books I’ve read and loved that don’t replicate a perfect historical vision, starting with the great Windflower (let’s have a go at pirates as the perfect democracy, for example, and then move on to Rand Morgan as a revision of Prospero).

    I think the essence of my frustration and objection to Ashworth’s most recent and past appearances on the AAR board are connected to what you referred to as “her fans” or what I’d call “her readers.” Isn’t that kind of a strange concept when you think about it? Who are an author’s readers? Is it an exclusive club that one must join? Does the author get to decide or the reader? And if an author decides you’re not her reader, does that give her permission to publicly post your private email? Does it give her permission to say to you, “Since you think you know the English language so well, please, write a book yourself. It’s not as easy to do as you may think”? Or to accuse you have having “an agenda” or of not reading the genre the right way?

    Of course any author is entitled to those views, and she can even express them, but if she does so publicly on a reader board, several times over, I’m going to register my reaction that I think they’re really insulting. And as much as I understand the fan-centric culture in Romance, to me, reading a book makes me that book’s reader. Period. In fact, if I’ve ever articulated something along the lines of “I’m not the reader for this book,” I realize now that I don’t really believe that. A book may not speak to me, but if I read it, I believe I’m that book’s reader. Because in the most literal sense I am.

    Now an author may not perceive me as “her reader,” which seems quite natural and logical to me. I wouldn’t expect anything less or more of an author to be thrilled by and to embrace those readers who love and understand her books as she hopes they will (and privately curse, rail against, and perhaps even mock those readers who don’t appreciate her genius). Although again, I think there’s more than a few steps between embracing those readers who get your work and suggesting that those who don’t aren’t reading the genre correctly or appreciating it properly.

    But essentially, this is really about differing paradigms — about my paradigm and Ashworth’s. About your paradigm and mine. About the belief each of us obviously holds that the other is not recognizing what is so clear to each of us. Obviously this is a hot button for me — this sense I’ve been getting from authors (and readers) that if you don’t read the genre a certain way you’re not a “real” fan of the genre (and obviously it’s not just this latest scuffle that informs my feelings on the subject). And hey, I readily admit that that frustrates me as someone who spends a lot of money on books, a lot of time reading, and a lot of thought writing reviews and commentary. For nothing more than the love of reading, of books, of thinking and talking about books and reading.

    That doesn’t mean I think authors should just suck it up or “shut up and write” or stay silent in public forums. It doesn’t mean I think you shouldn’t criticize or disagree with me or with Jane. Hell, Jane and I disagree readily enough on various topics and approaches to things. Had we been in the same room during the great HEA debate, there may have been some violence involved, lol. But jeez, when I’ve bought one book or three of an author’s books in a row, it stings just a tad to feel that I have to read them a certain way or face her public wrath.

    ReplyReply

  141. deedee
    Dec 26, 2007 @ 20:53:57

    I’m mainly a lurker here, but wanted to comment on this. Anu has eloquently stated my basic position on this. I’m of the camp that thinks a detail like a champagne flute in an unimportant scene is not worth posting about. When I read posts about incredibly particular things like that I roll my eyes. If I want history, I read history. In historical romance, I want history to serve the romance, but I’m generally not going to notice such a detail. If I do notice, I’m certainly not going to let it get in the way of a good story.

    I’m not an AA fan. I loved Winter Garden, read and didn’t care for her next few, and haven’t read any of her novels in several years. So, I’m definitely not a fangirl coming to her rescue. I remember reading the champagne flute post on AAR. I thought it was silly to even post about such a detail. Then AA responded and the stuff hit the fan.

    In general, it’s a bad idea for authors to respond to critisism on message boards. Unless they are completely obsequious and claim mea culpa, they can’t win. Any attempts to defend or explain almost always result in being accused of defensiveness, disrespect of the reader, etc. I’m amazed at how personally people take this stuff. Knowing AA had been around the block, I was surprised she kept posting and posting in the AAR thread. I would have expected her to see that there was nothing she could do to salvage the situation — the only damage control was to bow out of the thread. Given that, I was even more surprised to see her post here.

    That’s one of my main points — unless they are prepared to basically say they made a mistake, it was careless, they will try not to do this in the future, and thank the posters for bringing it to their attention, an author should not jump into reader threads critical of their books — unless, of course, they like to brawl. :)

    My other main point was this Dear Author entry. I’m sure the author of it thinks it’s witty and clever — but it didn’t work for me. It strikes me as junior high mean girl writing. I outgrew that about 25 years ago. Today, as a grown woman, I respect people who can be strong and assertive and confrontational, all the while keeping it above the belt. That’s impressive and constructive. This piece was neither.

    ReplyReply

Leave a Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

%d bloggers like this: