Romance

Exciting News: Samhain Set to Keep Publishing!

26 June 2016

From RT Book Reviews:

Romance is Alive and Well at Samhain!

In early 2016, Samhain Publishing announced it was closing its doors, but after several months of analysis, Samhain is moving forward with the publishing company- much to the delight of their authors and fans! The publisher currently has 2500 titles available in print and digital, and is now gearing up to acquire and publish new titles in 2017.

After the announcement that they were closing, Samhain never stopped exploring alternatives.

Link to the rest at RT Book Reviews and thanks to Toni for the tip.

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It’s Frustratingly Rare to Find a Novel About Women That’s Not About Love

22 June 2016

From The Atlantic:

I came of age without a literary soulmate. Growing up, I read every book recommended to me. Nick Carraway’s lucid account of the 1920’s seduced me. Huck Finn’s journey up the river showed me the close link between maturity and youth, and Ray Bradbury taught me to be wary of big government as well as the burning temperature of paper. While the male characters of literature built countries, waged wars, and traveled while smoking plenty of illicit substances, the women were utterly boring.The assigned, award-winning, cannon-qualified books about women were about women I didn’t want to be. Jane Eyre was too blinded by her love for Mr. Rochester, as were all of the Bennet sisters in Pride and Prejudice. Hester Prynne of The Scarlet Letter was too maternal, and no one wants to grow up to be Anna Karenina. These women wanted to get married and have kids. They wanted to whine for 300 pages about a man who didn’t want to be with them. They wanted, it seemed, to be supporting actresses in their own stories. Their stories were equally about the men who shaped them as what they themselves wanted.

These female characters had love stories of heartbreak, but no stories of solitary self-discovery. Like many young adults, I didn’t necessarily want stable. I wanted to drive On The Road and stop off in small towns and drink more than was probably appropriate. I wanted to question who I was and be my own Catcher in the Rye. There are no Jack Kerouacs or Holden Caulfields for girls. Literary girls don’t take road-trips to find themselves; they take trips to find men.”Great” books, as defined by the Western canon, didn’t contain female protagonists I could admire. In fact, they barely contained female protagonists at all. Of the 100 Best Novels compiled by Modern Library, only nine have women in the leading role, and in only one of those books–The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark–do the leading women strive to do more than find a husband or raise their children. Statistically, one percent of the Best Novels are about women doing something other than loving.To be clear, I love a beautifully told love story. I cry during The Notebook and love Mr. Darcy. I’d just as soon advocate for the banning of metaphors as I would for the banning of stories about love (which is to say never). Love stories are needed because they mirror real life. Men and women alike search for and find partners–be they for a moment or a lifetime. Love stories are huge plot lines in real life, but they aren’t everything.

These days, most women develop personal lives before love lives. They struggle, make decisions, and grow up long before they worry about finding a life partner. Women are getting married later with the average marrying age at 27 according to the most recent Pew Report. That’s four years older than in 1990. Additionally, women’s roles in the workforce have changed radically in the last 50 years. Though incomes between men and women still remain unequal, more women are joining and staying in the workforce, even after they have kids. Their literary counterparts, however, don’t reflect that.

. . . .

There are not many books that star a woman without a man to hold her hand and guide her, or a mess of domestic tasks for her to attend to as her first priority. In the 33 years since Housekeeping’s publication, few–if any–books have mirrored Robinson’s example. Female protagonists like Orleanna Price of Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible or Margaret Atwood’s Offred in The Handmaid’s Tale, participate in political agendas, fight in wars, and generally have goals other than their love lives. Likewise, some popular fiction has begun to feature leading women with larger career goals and less focus on love. Skeeter of The Help by Kathryn Stockett chooses her career over love as do Edna Pontellier of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening and even Andrea Sachs of Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada. These women and their goals are the main thrust of these novels, but they all include a love subplot.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic and thanks to Dave for the tip.

PG came of age in a different century, but he doesn’t remember caring about the gender assigned to any fictional character in any of his early reading. Scout would have been equally cool and interesting as a boy. Gatsby was as driven and destroyed by passion as Anna K.

PG also disagrees that only a woman author can create an accurate female character. He remembers one of his professors in college (a lovely old woman) saying that Theodore Roethke’s Mediations of an Old Woman was uncannily accurate at capturing the hidden thoughts and feelings of an old woman.

The Western literary canon preceding the twenty-first century is what it is. Absent the unlikely discovery of a new literary genius in a pile of dusty manuscripts, we’re not going to find a striking 18th century female protagonist choosing career over family.

The authors of the 18th century wrote in the context of that age. Elizabeth Bennet would have been a fascinating character in any age, but in the early 19th century, her material self-interest was tied to marrying the right man. If she were going to have any significant personal independence of the kind 21st century women may seek in their careers, Elizabeth’s adult life had to begin by marrying money. Absent such a marriage, her world would become immensely more constrained. Jane Austen certainly understood that, as did her contemporary readers, male or female.

In 21st century America, if you don’t finish high school and go to college, your prospects in life are much narrower than for those who do graduate from college. Some future observer may find this arbitrary condition extraordinarily boring and limiting for one or more identity groups, but that’s the context for our world. Authors who write books set in today’s world will either explicitly or implicitly recognize the class distinctions between a high school dropout and a college graduate (or a Harvard graduate vs. a degree from The Tulsa Welding Institute).

Elizabeth Bennet’s indefatigable determination to not compromise love for money is a terrible career move. It’s like becoming a welder instead of an investment banker. She’ll be giving up income, promotions, influence, a large apartment in a fashionable neighborhood, travel, independence, social status, etc., all for the simple pleasures of living in a shower of sparks joining pieces of metal together day after day.

The true distinction between contemporary heroines with ambitious career goals and important political agendas and Elizabeth Bennet is that Lizzy is interested in love.

Fiction written in the 18th century about subjects other than fundamental and timeless human emotions has disappeared. On the other hand, PBS could not survive without Jane Austen and the Brontës.

There is a reason that romance outsells every other genre, including women’s fiction. It’s the same reason that people read and reread Jane.

“We are all fools in love.”

Overcoming Awkward Fear of the Romance Genre

13 June 2016

From BookRiot:

I have a somewhat complicated relationship with romance novels.

I respect them, I know they’re there, have read a few, but past experiences have left me well, a little traumatised.

Let’s start from the beginning- the actual beginning, before my mum gave birth to me, in fact.

Due to illness, my mother had to be in hospital when she was pregnant with me for the last month of her pregnancy. So you can imagine she was going a little bit stir-crazy being cooped up in a bed with nothing to do. In comes my Nan. Nan is an avid reader, of only one genre. Yeah, you guessed it- romance novels. This is Mills and Boon and Harlequin Romance stuff. ‘Stick Books’, as my Nan calls them. Anyway, Mum read a bunch of these in the days leading up to giving birth to me, and it was in a Mills and Boon novel that she came across the name ‘Carissa’.

. . . .

Fast-forward to me being a precocious eleven-year-old, stocking up on the maximum amount of Sweet Valley High and Baby-sitters Club from the school library before going to stay with Nan and Pop in rural Australia. In true Carissa-style, I’d read all of these by day three. So I had to raid Nan’s book collection for the remainder of my time there. I read one of these books, and oh my goodness gracious, there was some romance going on. It wasn’t graphic, like Fifty Shades of Grey, but it was all soft-lighting, laying a woman down by the fire and whatnot. And all the sex they had was passionate as hell.

. . . .

As a teenager, the only real love stories I ventured into, were by VC Andrews , which were dark and complex. Apart from the Wildflower series, I would be tentative about letting teenagers read anything else by her, because it’s a wee bit intense and there are some horrific stories of abuse of women within them. TheWildflower stories were more coming-of-age than romance, but I found that there were more realistic depictions of relationships, particularly within the titles Misty and Star. However, during my teenage years, my favourite relationship within a series was with Lee and Ellie in The Tomorrow Series by  Aussie YA writer John Marsden.

. . . .

Fast-forward a few more years when I’m dating a guy, and his mother finds out I like reading. She loans me her entire Nora Roberts In The Garden trilogy. Considering I was on a bit of a Patricia Cornwell and Kathy Reichs kick at the time, I found Roberts a little bit soap opera-ish.

. . . .

In university my beautiful best friend introduced me to Phillippa Gregory, a lady skilled in the art of historical fiction. You might be familiar with her works that have been made into films such as The Other Boleyn Girl (which they grossly mis-cast the role of Henry, who was supposed to be a borderline impotent old man, not sexy Eric Bana), and also the The White Queen, The Red Queen, and The Kingmaker’s Daughter will be adapted into televised dramas for the BBC. I have to admit, that The Constant Princess was my favourite.

Link to the rest at BookRiot

Publisher Threatens Writers Association With Defamation Suit After Being Kicked Out For Not Paying Royalties

1 June 2016

From TechDirt:

Back in 2014, erotica publisher Ellora’s Cave sued the person behind the influential and respected website Dear Author for defamation in response to a post questioning the imprint’s financial stability and detailing multiple authors’ claims that the publisher wasn’t paying out royalties in a timely manner.

Dear Author based its post on statements from Ellora’s Cave writers, as well as public records, which included a handful of tax liens against EC founder Tina Engler (a.k.a. Jaid Black). The post was a balanced and sobering examination of the publisher’s financial problems and included plenty of citations for every assertion it made. Rather than address the issues raised by the post, EC/Jaid Black decided to sue.

. . . .

The RWA has basically cut Ellora’s Cave off for violating its Code of Ethics — which includes things like not paying royalties on time. It has banned EC from RWA conferences and forbidden it from using the group to recruit new writers.

The last lawsuit apparently didn’t reverse EC’s downward trend. Apparently, the publisher has enough money to fund litigation, even if it’s still having trouble paying its authors. Nate Hoffelder of the Digital Reader has rounded up comments from EC authors indicating the publisher is anywhere from 8-11 months behind on royalty payments.

Link to the rest at TechDirt

Ellora’s Cave Now Threatening RWA With Bogus Defamation Lawsuit

23 May 2016

From The Digital Reader:

The romance publisher Ellora’s Cave has moved on from trying to silence book bloggers with a SLAPP lawsuit; now it is reportedly making threats against the Romance Writers of America.

The RWA is the leading writers association for the romance genre. While it has no legal authority, it does have considerable industry clout. It can sanction publishers for violations of the RWA’s Code of Ethics for Industry Professionals, and has done so in the past when publishers cheated  authors out of royalties or otherwise tried to exploit authors (Harlequin and DellArte Press, for example).

Throughout Ellora’s Cave’s ongoing financial problems, the RWA has been pressuring the publisher to pay authors overdue royalties or release the authors from their contracts. The RWA has banned Ellora’s Cave from conferences and forbidden the publisher from contacting RWA chapters to recruit new authors.

. . . .

Author Kellie Jamieson has revealed on Facebook that Ellora’s Cave is making legal threats against the RWA. On Thursday she published part of a notice which she says the RWA sent out.

RWA has repeatedly contacted management at Ellora’s Cave to demand payment to authors. RWA has also requested that the publisher revert rights if it is unable to pay authors in full. The response we received was a letter signed by Steve Mastrantonio, attorney for Ellora’s Cave, in which he states, “any premature comment by RWA that Ellora’s Cave is in breach of their agreements is reckless, false and Defamatory.” Mr. Mastrantonio asserts that Ellora’s Cave is paying authors as it should, and “any false comments by RWA to harm his clients reputation will be dealt with in a forceful manner.

In light of Ellora’s Cave’s lawsuit against the Dear Author book blog, that is not a legal warning so much as it is an outright threat, an attempt to silence the RWA through legal intimidation.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

Google Is Feeding Romance Novels To Its Artificial Intelligence Engine To Make Its Products More Conversational

6 May 2016

From Buzzfeed:

“Her blouse sprang apart. He was assaulted with the sight of lots of pale creamy flesh bursting out of a hot pink bra, the cleavage high and perky. It was a gorgeous surprise, all that breast she’d been hiding under her crisp tailored shirts.”

That passage may not turn you on, but it’s certainly working for Google’s artificial intelligence engine.

For the past few months, Google has been feeding text like this to an AI engine — all of it taken from steamy romance novels with titles like Unconditional Love, Ignited,Fatal Desire, and Jacked Up. Google’s AI has read them all — every randy, bodice-ripping page — because the researchers overseeing its development have determined that parsing the text of romance novels could be a great way of enhancing the company’s technology with some of the personality and conversational skills it lacks.

And it’s working, too. Google’s research team recently got the AI to write sentences that resemble those in the books. With that achievement unlocked, they’re now planning to move on to bigger challenges: using the conversational styles the AI has learned to inform and humanize the company’s products, such as the typically staid Google app.

. . . .

Romance novels make great training material for AI because they all essentially use the same plot to tell similar stories with different words. “Girl falls in love with boy, boy falls in love with a different girl. Romance tragedy,” Dai said. By reading thousands of such books, the AI can detect which sentences contain similar meanings and gain a more nuanced understanding of language. Romance novels work better than children’s learn-to-read books, since they offer a broad range of linguistic examples for the AI to draw from.

. . . .

After ingesting those romance novels, Google’s AI engine composed sentences of its own using what it learned from them. It then evaluated these new sentences against the original text. The process was repeated over and over again, with the AI self-calibrating as it went along — writing better and better sentences.

Link to the rest at Buzzfeed and thanks to MKS for the tip.

A hunger for romance in northern Nigeria

4 May 2016

From The BBC:

Women and girls in northern Nigeria have a voracious appetite for romantic fiction that is taking on conservative attitudes in this largely Muslim region.

Written in the local Hausa language by women for women, Kano city’s equivalent of the Mills and Boons industry, known as “Litattafan Soyayya”, is a booming business.

“I read these novels to know how to handle complex life issues, like courtship and what life is in the matrimonial home,” says 23-year-old Hadiza Ibrahim Kabuga.

One of the bestsellers, A Daren Farko, meaning “On the First Night”, is especially popular with girls and young women about to be married – detailing what they can expect on their first night in the marriage bed.

The novels are a way for women to talk about issues not openly discussed in northern Nigeria.

. . . .

“In my writing I give more attention to women’s issues, like marriage, polygamy and education,” says Fauziyyah B Suleiman, who has written 32 novels and makes enough money to live by her writing.

. . . .

One called Rumaysah deals with polygamy and the complications that come with it.

Rumaysah is a woman driven by jealousy who is determined to stop her husband from taking a second wife and ends up murdering him.

The trickery and subterfuge of life in a polygamous family is also raised by many of the novels.

Others will, for example, chronicle the rise of an illiterate child bride who rebels against her family to get an education – ending with her becoming aware of her rights within and outside the family.

“Such novels bring to the fore the much-needed change in the way women are treated in Hausa society,” says literary critic Murtala Abdullahi.

. . . .

The novels sell for about 300 naira ($1.50, £1) each and can be bought at book stalls in all markets.

“Every week at least five new novels come on to the market – some selling in their thousands,” says Ali Mai Litattafai, who runs a bookshop in old Kano city.

“In the past people had the wrong impression of issues such novels raise, but now people have realised that they are for the good of the society.”

At one of the shops I met a boy who came to pick up the latest novels for his mother – some women here stay at home as they are not allowed to mix with men in public.

Most of Mr Litattafai’s customers are married women, some of whom buy in bulk and then loan out copies of the romances in their neighbourhoods for a small fee.

It is usually about $0.70 to borrow three books for a week.

Link to the rest at The BBC and thanks to J.A. for the tip.

Authors out of thousands of dollars after event is abruptly canceled

30 April 2016

From 12 on Your Side:

A group of romance authors contacted 12 On Your Side after an event, which many of them had already paid for, was abruptly canceled.

It appears refunds will not be happening.

It’s a debacle and the alleged reason given for the cancellation reads like an excerpt from a horror novel.

Lauren Calhoun is accused of canceling a big affair for romance authors and readers after the event planner collected registration fees through a Paypal account.

Best-selling author and alleged victim Carey Heywood says, “There were people traveling from Canada to attend this event.”

Calhoun’s online profile says she’s an open book but the authors say she’s hiding.

Calhoun isn’t answering emails, calls or Facebook messages from them or from 12 On Your Side.

. . . .

The meet-and-greet was set for April 30th but, a mass e-mail on April 13 from Calhoun said the event was canceled because of alleged terror threats.

Calhoun added she was sorry and would issue refunds but now, no one can get a hold of her.

“Not only did you steal my money, but now you’re lying to me as well,” Allen said. “We know there was not a terrorist threat against the event.”

. . . .

“I don’t think she intentionally set out to scam us but I think she used our money fraudulently,” Lynn says. “I definitely think it’s criminal. I mean we’re talking over $10,000 easily.”

Link to the rest at 12 on Your Side and thanks to Suzie for the tip.

The closing of Harlequin Blaze / Harlequin Historical

27 April 2016

From Dear Author:

Harlequin Blaze will be published until June 2017. All Blaze titles will continue to be available for purchase at Harlequin.com and digital retailers (hence no rights reversion). Harlequin is opening a new line:

Harlequin is thrilled to announce the launch of a new sexy, contemporary series in July 2017.  After carefully studying the market and monitoring reader feedback to our books and to competitive books, we are developing a series with a fresh new approach to the “passion” positioning. We will have more information to share with you in the near future.

With the launch of this sexy contemporary series, we have made the decision to end the publication of Harlequin Blaze, effective June 2017.

In addition, as of July 2017, in North America, Harlequin Romance and Harlequin Historical will be available exclusively through online retailers, in both print and digital formats, and in print through our Direct-to-Consumer channels, where sales are strongest. There is no change to the availability of either series in Overseas markets.

Link to the rest at Dear Author

Proposed Settlement in Harlequin Class Action Suit

20 April 2016

A proposed settlement of the class-action suit by Harlequin authors against Harlequin for underpayment of royalties has been released.



HQ-Settlement (Text)

For more information, go to Harlequin Settlement and thanks to JoAnn for the tip.

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