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


Dear Author

Monday Midday Links: Romance News I Gathered in New York

Romance gossip I picked up in New York (unattributed to protect the innocent).

  • The next hot thing appears to be the straight contemporary patterned after the Virgin River series by Robyn Carr.   Several houses are trying to capitalize on this through marketing and repackaging.   Mariah Stewart of Ballantine and Toni Blake from Avon are examples of this.   The Toni Blake cover changes are striking.   Here are her past covers and this is the cover for the upcoming “Sugar Creek” novel.    Robyn Carr’s books remind me of the trope that Suzanne Brockmann perfected and that is the slow build of a number of interconnected relationships over a period of books. In some sense, Carr’s band of alpha men (almost all are former military which is kind of ironic because military man does not equal alpha, but whatever) are different incarnations of the SEAL Team, Brotherhood stories that made Brockmann and Ward so popular.   This will give me a good excuse to read Blake. I have heard good things about her last book.
  • Speaking of Ward, her next Black Dagger Brotherhood book featuring Xhex and John is put to bed and ready for publication.   I have no spoilers.
  • Suzanne Brockmann is publishing a straight contemporary (with maybe some suspense) in mass market form this summer. It will NOT be tied to her existing SEAL series.   I was told that this was more like her early books like Hearthrob and Bodyguard.
  • Some publishers were taken aback by RWA’s extensive questionnaire that forms the basis of who is determined to be a “qualifying market.”   Some of the publishers who have responded have done so with vague answers and some have not responded at all.
  • Obviously this was done because of Harlequin’s foray into the vanity publishing/publishing services market with Dell Arte Press.   One thing I was told was that there was never any referral link in the rejection letter.   Maybe it was considered at one time but it was never implemented.   It is in the Thomas Nelson rejection letters, I believe, so that might have been how it became “fact”.   Harlequin could have done a better job of explaining that, though.
  • Harlequin was very pleased with its giveaway last year and continues to see success in its digital programs. In 2010, Harlequin has a goal of digitizing 2010 backlist titles.   They will need suggestions.   I’m going to open a thread next week for this.

A new author coop called A Writer’s Work has opened and will sell ebooks direct to readers.   Nicole Byrd, Jasmine Cresswell, Lori Handeland, Holly Jacobs and Patricia Rice are familiar to me. The other authors are Fran Baker, Becky Barker, Ginger Chambers, Kathy Lynn Emerson, Elizabeth Kary, Patricia McLinn, Leigh Riker, Karen van der Zee.   You can download the books for a 72 hour period via a download link sent via email.   The downloads are in epub and PDF.   At the recommendation of Shannon Stacey and Jaci Burton, I purchased four Patricia McLinn books.

Are these works protected?

Absolutely – by copyright laws.

However, we are offering these works without electronic passwords or encryption or DRM (Digital Rights Management) because of the difficulties they impose on readers. We are hopeful that, in turn, readers will honor our rights. If we find that trust is abused, we will need to revisit this decision.

I love this idea and hope it succeeds.   I’ve bookmarked it, but I wonder how I will remember to return month after month?

The first Dell Arte Press book has shown up at Amazon. It does not look good. The blurb is almost laughably bad.   I thought it was curious that there was already one used copy and that there were no digital copies. Seeing this blurb, I think it is a good thing that there was a push by Harlequin authors to have the Harlequin brand removed from Dell Arte.   I know I didn’t fully appreciate the branding thing at first,but you don’t want this kind of work to be attached to the Harlequin brand.

Samhain is offering its freebies to both Barnes and Noble ebook readers and Kindle readers.

  • 3/1/2010 to 3/14/2010: Operation Sheba: Super Agent Series, Book 1 by Misty Evans
  • 3/15/2010 to 3/28/2010: Male Call: Hot Zone Book 1 by Denise A. Agnew

Grand Central isn’t doing many of their ebook specials like they had last year. This month’s special is A Field of Darkness by Corneille Read for a price of $2.99.

Dorchester and Ellora’s Cave are doing audio. From Dorchester press release:

Audio Realms is now producing paranormal romance audio versions of novels by New York Times bestselling authors C. L. Wilson, Nina Bangs and Katie MacAlister, as well as some of the more groundbreaking names in horror and paranormal romance. In addition to listings, readers will now be able to visit for classic sci-fi, fantasy and horror, for urban horror and for paranormal and other romance. To purchase audio books in downloadable MP3 format, readers can

There is no press release from EC but you can see the audio titles here. H/t to Anne Douglas.

The Australian Romance Readers Association released its 2009 survey results. (Why don’t we have a RRA?) The results show that the readers are primarily between the ages of 21-55, read 1-10 books per month, and read primarily romances. It’s a PDF download with pie charts for each data point. H/t to Sarah M for the link.

Maili pointed us to this article describing an archeological find placing multicultural characters in Britain during the Roman period.

The Ivory Bangle Lady remains were found in August 1901 in a stone coffin unearthed in Bootham, where a group of graves were found. The grave has been dated to the latter half of the fourth century. Items buried with the Lady included expensive luxury items such African elephant ivory bracelets, beads, pendants and other jewelry, a blue glass jug, a glass mirror, and Yorkshire jet. A rectangular bone mount, possibly for a wooden coffin, was also found in the grave. An inscription on the bone, "Hail sister, may you live in God," suggests the woman held religious beliefs and may have been Christian. She is believed to have been one of the richest inhabitants of the city.

Will research like this allow for more diverse historical romances?

Motoko Rich tries to explain the economics of book publishing for us. I have a few emails that say, in summary, that the cost of publishing a book varies wildly that no generalizations can be made. For what it’s worth, I think these articles can be helpful because, hopefully, it will generate more discussion and more information being provided.   Numbers based on a hardcover of $26

  • Bookseller pays publisher half ($13)
  • Print, storage, and shipment is approximately $3.25
  • Cover design, typesetting, copyediting: $.80
  • Marketing: $1
  • Author royalty: $3.90

Costs decline on a per unit basis the more copies sold except for the print/storage and shipment, I presume.    Unearned advances can actually result in a much higher royalty for an author.

A consultant to the publishing industry argues that high ebook prices can slow ebook adoption. This is probably true if BISG data is correct in that affordability is one of the driving factors behind readers moving digital.

Kassia Krozser provides a great recap of Tools of Change and the challenges ahead.

I've watched this conference evolve from a curiosity to a conversation. The "tools" of "change" are not always apparent. Sometimes the tool is as simple as attending something outside your wheelhouse; sometimes it's hearing how someone else does something and realizing parts will work for you. It's the "tools, not rules" thing. If anything, this year's TOC highlighted the need for even more nuts-and-bolts discussions -’ and there were quite a few of those mixed in with equally important long-term vision sessions.

I have dozens of more links to blog about but I think this is enough to digest for one day. It’s great to be back blogging again!

Dear Author

REVIEW: Covet by J.R. Ward

Dear Ms. Ward,

I don’t even know where to begin. While it’s true I’m a fan of your Black Dagger Brotherhood series, I stopped making any claims about its purported quality many books back. Romance? Unlike most readers who thought the first books were romance, only for later ones to shift into the urban fantasy category, I never believed the series belonged in the romance genre in the first place. So I took it with a very large, very heavy bucket of salt when I heard that your new series, starting with Covet, would be more romantic. Sorry, but it’s true.

Jim Heron is an ex-military assassin, jaded and cynical about life. He drifts from one place to the next, putting down no roots and trying to stay out of trouble. He’s currently employed as a construction worker but when the mansion he’s currently helping to build is completed, he intends to move on. Then on the eve of his fortieth birthday, he hooks up with a woman at the club, Iron Mask.

What he thought would only be a pleasant memory unfortunately leads to more, just not in the usual way. The next morning, the woman shows up at the construction site on the arm of his boss, Vincent DiPietro, who will one day live in the mansion Jim’s helping build. As expected, this is awkward but Jim takes graceless reactions to a new level: he gets into an accident on-site and electrocutes himself.

This sends Jim into the afterlife, sort of, where he meets four angels who tell him the score. This is the final end game between heaven and hell. Jim, because of the balanced amount of light and dark in his soul, is a sort of neutral player whose role is to save (or damn) seven souls. Best out of seven wins. If he saves more souls, the world and the people who live in it can continue on as we know it. But he fails and loses more souls instead, the world as we know it will cease to exist at all.

At any rate, Jim is sent back to earth with his new mission and his first assignment is none other than Vincent. And if the novel’s title is descriptive of anyone, it’s Vin. Growing up from virtually nothing, as an adult, Vin likes surrounding himself with the very best money can offer — furniture, cars, real estate, and women. One woman, in particular — his girlfriend, Devina, and yes, I am not joking; that is indeed her name. Vin plans to make things official and ask her to be his wife but even though he’s bought an expensive diamond engagement ring, he finds himself unable to pop the question. Something is holding him back. And he soon discovers what when he reluctantly goes to the Iron Mask with Jim and meets the head prostitute who works there, Marie-Terese.

A few years ago, Marie-Terese escaped a bad situation. She’s free of a controlling, abusive husband who lives on the wrong side of the law and now has complete custody of her son. There’s only one catch. She has to live under an assumed name to avoid the notice of her ex-husband’s former associates, and she has massive debt due to lawyer and private investigator fees. She’s managed to whittle down the debt but to do so, she’s had to work as a prostitute, a profession which is killing her slowly inside day after day. She swore she’d never get involved with men and especially not with anyone who reminds her of her ex, but then she meets Vin.

Jim thinks the way to save Vin’s soul is to matchmake him with his long-suffering girlfriend, Devina. But Vin finds himself falling in love with Marie-Terese and vice versa. To complicate matters even more, Devina is not at all who she seems, someone is killing people who get involved with Marie-Terese, and Vin’s long dormant psychic abilities have reawakened. And what those abilities are telling him is that Marie-Terese’s life is in danger.

If you find yourself thinking my summary of the book sounds convoluted, you’d be correct. But in my defense, I also happen to think it’s reflective of the novel itself. This book meanders. I can’t think of any other way to put it. We hop from one storyline to the next, and unlike the Black Dagger Brotherhood novels, I wasn’t invested in any of them. Or even one of them. Jim, Vin, or Marie-Terese? I couldn’t have cared less about anyone.

To be honest, however, I was most disappointed by Marie-Terese. I liked the brief glimpse we’d had of her in Lover Avenged but in that book, my impression of her was that of a no-nonsense, tough woman who has to do what she does to survive. In Covet, I find her tedious and annoying in her constant emo whining. I think I’m simply done with prostitute characters who feel sorry for themselves and self-flagellate every five minutes. In Marie-Terese’s case, it was made even more trying by the fact that for all she complained about her situation, she was in no way trapped by it. She had a standing offer from a good man who’d help her, no strings attached. It’s too difficult for me to feel sympathy for a character who chooses to martyr herself on the altar of the sex trade. Oh, and as an aside? Her real name? I must have different standards but with the way she went on about it, that wasn’t at all what I expected her “beautiful” real name to be.

For those readers who want to know, I wouldn’t consider this novel a romance. I think it’s even less of a romance than the Black Dagger Brotherhood books and I didn’t even think that was possible. But unlike the BDB series, this novel lacks the multi-layered background storytelling that keeps me reading despite a lack of interest in the main storyline. It’s trying to, I think, with the framework of Jim’s work to save seven souls and the “romance” storyline between Vin and Marie-Terese and the implication of Devina’s true loyalties, but it all reads as cursory and shallow. When I finished the novel, I’d be lying if my immediate reaction wasn’t, “…what did I just read?” Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t the dreaded WTF reaction. It was merely a slight sense of bewilderment. I asked part-time reviewer, Nonny, what she thought and she had much the same reaction. I wish I could articulate what exactly it was about the book that left me so unenthused but it’s fairly accurate.

I also have to get this off my chest. What was up with the Black Dagger Brotherhood cameos? Even though I had advanced warning this would be happening, I still found myself thinking it was self-indulgent. Trez, I could understand, because he owns the Iron Mask and Marie-Terese works there, but Phury? Butch? I know it was intended as an authorial wink of sorts, but they kept tossing me out of the book. It’s hard to suspend disbelief if I keep coming across passages in which the author might as well be yelling, “Hey, I write this other series too and this conspicuous character here is in it!”

As you can probably surmise by all this, I wasn’t too impressed. I’m still having difficulty reconciling the vampire cosmology and the Christian cosmology co-existing but that’s not too surprising. I’ve been having that problem since the introduction of Lassiter in Lover Enshrined. But despite all that, I already know I’m still going to end up picking up your next book, whether it’s a Black Dagger Brotherhood installment or the next novel in this angel series. There’s no denying that your novels are compulsively readable, and you’re still a habit I can’t break. C

My regards,

This book can be purchased at Amazon or in ebook format from Sony or other etailers starting tomorrow.