Forget George Eliot: now it’s male authors disguising their sex to sell more books

21 July 2017

From The Guardian:

Riley Sager is a debut author whose book, Final Girls, has received the ultimate endorsement. “If you liked Gone Girl, you’ll love this,” Stephen King has said. But unlike Gone Girl, Girl on a Train, The Girls, Luckiest Girl Alive and others, Final Girls is written by a man – Todd Ritter. This detail is missing from Riley Sager’s website which, as the Wall Street Journal has pointed out, refers to the author only by name and without any gender-disclosing pronouns or photographs. (His Twitter avatar is Jamie Lee Curtis.)

Ritter is not the first man to deploy a gender-neutral pen name. JP Delaney (real name Tony Strong) is author of The Girl Before, SK Tremayne (Sean Thomas) wrote The Ice Twins and next year, The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn (AKA Daniel Mallory) is published. Before all of these was SJ (AKA Steve) Watson, the author of 2011’s Before I Go to Sleep.

“Literally, every time I appear in print or public,” Watson says, someone asks about why he uses initials. It was his publisher’s decision to avoid an author photo and to render his biography non-gendered. He has never hidden, but when Before I Go to Sleep went on submission, editors emailed his agent and asked, “What is she like?” Watson found the mistake flattering. Withholding his full identity was a way “to reassure myself that the voice worked”, he says. In the world of romance novels, male authors have long disguised their gender. The Glaswegian author Iain Blair wrote 29 romances as Emma Blair. Jessica Blair is really Bill Spence, Alison Yorke is Christopher Nicole and Dean Koontz has written as Deanna Dwyer. As an undergraduate, Philip Larkin wrote erotic novellas under the name Brunette Coleman.

. . . .

The recent spate of men writing with gender-neutral names seems commercially driven. It is not a necessity for acceptance, as the Brontë sisters or George Eliot felt their pen names to be. However, there are earlier examples of men who wrote as women to give voice to “female” issues at a time when recourse to the females themselves proved elusive or unthinkable. In 1747, Benjamin Franklin published “The Speech of Miss Polly Baker”, and essayist Samuel Johnson presented himself as “Misella”, a sex worker, in 1751.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Five Things to Know About Bath, Jane Austen’s Home and Inspiration

19 July 2017


Jane Austen sadly died on this day 200 years ago–leaving behind a legacy of six game-changing novels. Although Pride and Prejudice, which takes place in the countryside, might be her most well-known novel today, her two books set in the historic city of Bath capture a unique Georgian metropolis. Northanger Abbey and Persuasion both have the spa town as a primary location.

“Oh! Who can ever be tired of Bath?” asks the protagonist of the former novel, which was written in 1803 but first published years later. The town in which Austen’s characters tryst, shop and party is a bustling place full of aristocrats who come there to see and be seen, to exhibit fashions and socialize and to enjoy the health benefits, both real and putative, of the sulfur baths.

. . . .

“Although Austen enjoyed her early visits to Bath she was not at all happy when her father moved the family there, and she often satirised its social scene of balls, promenades and assemblies,” writes Margaret Ward for the Irish Times.

She lived for a time on Gay Street, right near the city center, Ward writes, “but had to move to less elegant lodgings as her family’s financial circumstances declined, a theme that found its way into her second Bath novel, Persuasion.” Austen’s own fabled love affair may well have taken place in Bath.

In a way, even if she did not always appreciate it, Bath offered her a perfect setting: It was an entire town devoted to forwarding the pursuits about which she wrote best–socializing and contracting arrangements like marriages.

Link to the rest at

The Book Blind Taste Test – Pick a book… any book…

16 July 2017

From All About Romance:

I have always loved libraries, but I admit I had fallen out of the habit of using my local one recently. One of my dear friends is a middle school librarian and she (appropriately) shamed me a bit for it, telling me the best way to make sure libraries stay around and keep their funding is to use them. So, a few months back, I started building weekly trips to my local temple of knowledge into my schedule and added a particular challenge to myself. I would walk directly to the New Releases section and pick up the first book by an author I didn’t recognize.

This has led to some real gems (Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinsborough was one) and some duds (which I will leave out for politeness). I told the AAR Staff about my new project and several of them jumped on board, saying it sounded like a great challenge. So many other staffers joined me, in fact, that we’ve decided to make it a regular blog.

The parameters of the project are fairly simple: you must read one book by a new-to-you author, either one you’ve never heard of or one you’ve been meaning to get to, and give it at least fifty  pages. For AAR, our additional rule is that the book involves women; written by one or has one as a protagonist. How you acquire the book is up to you; library, bookstore, TBR pile that is threatening to overrun your house. Just make sure you haven’t read the author before.

Link to the rest at All About Romance

The Pride and Prejudice of 21st-Century Literary Critics

16 July 2017

From The Wall Street Journal:

Two hundred years ago this Tuesday—July 18, 1817—the beloved novelist Jane Austen died at 41 in Winchester, England. That her era is not our own is part of the attraction. Hollywood’s Austen adaptations, more than 70 and counting for film and television, beguile with elegance, manners, green countryside, candlelit balls, handsomely dressed ladies and gentlemen—and, of course, romance.

Alas, this pleasant vision of Austenworld gets it all wrong, as literary critics insist they have discovered. Far from celebrating the genteel society presented in her novels, Austen was an angry subversive who “repeatedly demonstrates her alienation from the aggressively patriarchal tradition,” according to an influential feminist study from 1979, “The Madwoman in the Attic.”

Another critic, who wrote a book on Austen’s novel “Persuasion,” exults in an interview that its heroine has “few options in the repressive society of her time” yet still “escapes from the toxic systems of rank and gender that control her woman’s life.” Curiously, she escapes by marrying a man she has doted on for eight years.

. . . .

From the cloudy heights, academic jargon trickles down to street level. A paperback edition of “Sense and Sensibility” touts its “powerful analysis of the ways in which women’s lives were shaped by the claustrophobic society in which they had to survive.” So much for romance.

We might better mark this bicentennial by revisiting Jane Austen in her own time, without nostalgia or reinvention. She grew up in the crowded rectory of a rural village. Never married, she remained close to her many brothers and beloved sister, Cassandra. Her circle otherwise comprised local gentry and a maze of aunts, uncles, in-laws, nieces, nephews and cousins.

All fell under her quick observation. In one letter to Cassandra, Austen describes a guest at the ball she attended as having a “broad face, diamond bandeau, white shoes, pink husband, & fat neck.” In another letter, a local clergyman is said to appear “in such very deep mourning that either his Mother, his Wife, or himself must be dead.”

. . . .

Austen’s assumptions were old-fashioned Tory, her political interests slight. Her novels dramatize not social ills, but individual failings: vanity, greed, pride, selfishness, arrogance, folly. For all her humor and wit, she was a rigorous moralist. Adult life demanded adult behavior: self-awareness, propriety, kindness, good sense.

. . . .

Urged to aim higher, to write a serious historical romance, she replied firmly: “No—I must keep to my own style & go on in my own way.”

That was enough for Austen, and for 200 years it has been enough for readers. But a book out this past May, “Jane Austen, the Secret Radical” reveals that her novels “deal with slavery, sexual abuse, land enclosure, evolution, and women’s rights.” The evidence? “I offer flashes of an imaginary Jane Austen,” the critic admits, “glimpses of what the authoress might have been thinking.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

Erotica publisher, author charged for manipulating book sales

17 June 2017

From the Weld County District Attorney:

A Johnstown woman who publishes and writes romance novels is facing nearly two dozen charges after altering her clients’ book sales and pocketing the stolen royalties.

Jana Koretko was arrested and charged Monday with five counts of money laundering, four counts of felony theft, nine counts of computer crime and three counts of tax evasion.

According to the arrest affidavit, Koretko owns JK Publishing, primarily exclusive to romance and Erotica authors, and is accused of stealing more than $125,000 from multiple clients over a two-year period.

The Weld County District Attorney’s Office was first notified of the alleged scheme in August 2015 when one of the company’s authors noticed several discrepancies in her royalty payments. After further investigation, authorities learned Koretko was manipulating the monthly and quarterly sales reports from E-book retailers, like Amazon, iTunes, Barnes and Noble and Kobo, to indicate lower sales.

In some instances, she even inflated or exaggerated book sales to make the authors believe the novels were doing well or becoming bestsellers.

Over the course of the investigation, 15 authors were identified as victims in Koretko’s alleged scam. It was also determined she under-reported book sales by more than 10,000 books, resulting in more than $125,000 in royalty losses to her clients.

Link to the rest at Weld County District Attorney and thanks to Kris for the tip.

PG never thought about criminal prosecution for publishers who cheat their authors.

He really likes the idea.

Is Hot the new Warm?

19 May 2017

From All About Romance:

One of the things readers consistently tell us they like are our sensuality ratings. They’ve been a part of AAR since its inception and we think they help readers find books they love. We’ve not revised them, however, in quite some time and, with the trend towards more sex and more graphic sex in romance, we feel we may need to.

Here are our current definitions:

Kisses: Kisses only. Many of these books are quite simply “sweet.”

Subtle: No explicit sensuality. Kissing and touching, but physical romance is described in general terms or implied. The emphasis is on how lovemaking made the characters feel emotionally, and not on graphic description.

Warm: Moderately explicit sensuality. Physical details are described, but are not graphically depicted. Much is left to the reader’s imagination.

Hot: More explicit sensuality. Sex is described in more graphic terms. Hot books typically have more sex scenes and are more likely to depict acts beyond intercourse.<

Burning: Extremely explicit sensuality – these books are often erotic romances or flatout erotica.

We’ve thought about narrowing the system down–this would only be for 2017 and beyond–to Subtle, Warm, and Hot. We’ve also considered leaving the four of the five levels in place and getting rid of Burning.

Link to the rest at All About Romance

You can share your opinions about AAR’s ratings system at the link.

PG has lead a largely monk-like and innocent life, so he had no opinions or knowledge of sensuality ratings. So he did some research.

RomCon’s Heat Scale ratings are:

1) None
2) Sweet
3) Mild
4) Hot
5) Wild Ride
6) Blood Thirsty

Harper Impulse’s A Romance Rookie’s Guide to Heat Levels lists:

  1. Sweet
  2. Moderate
  3. Sensual
  4. Erotic

Author Tori MacAllister discusses Romance Times’ list:

  1. Scorcher
  2. Hot
  3. Mild

PG found several references to Simon & Schuster Great Balls ‘o Fire ratings and a related flamometer system, but was unable to locate technical specifications other than one reference to a 1-5 Balls ‘o Fire scale.

Since this is such an ambiguous area, PG decided to create the Last Romance Rating System You’ll Ever Need:

  1. Buick – your grandmother’s idea of romance
  2. Cast Iron Skillet – for outdoor enthusiasts
  3. Springbok – lots of running and jumping
  4. Committee – an agenda is involved
  5. Amoebic – there’s always a split at the end

PG waives all of his intellectual property rights to the Last Romance Rating System You’ll Ever Need (LRRSYEN) and irrevocably places it in the public domain for the free use of all raters, amateur and professional.

A ripped Col. Sanders stars in KFC’s first romance novel

8 May 2017

From USA Today:

With rippling muscles and that signature silver mane, Col. Sanders becomes “a handsome sailor with a mysterious past” in KFC’s first bodice-ripper, a romance novel.

The fast-food fried-chicken chain dips into the sex-charged world of romance literature with its book, Tender Wings of Desire. The book can be downloaded for free from Amazon and 100 Facebook users will be offered a hardback copy.

The novella is part of a promotion around Mother’s Day, which KFC says is one of its biggest selling days of the year.

“The only thing better than being swept away by the deliciousness of our Extra Crispy Chicken is being swept away by Harland Sanders himself,” said George Felix, KFC U.S.’ advertising director. “So this Mother’s Day, the bucket of chicken I get for my wife will come with a side of steamy romance novel.”

Link to the rest at USA Today and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

That Day I Decided to Stop Chasing the Bestseller Lists

19 March 2017

From author Marie Force:

I’ll admit it. I’d become a bit of a whore for it, and I’m not proud of that. After the first time it happens, it becomes a little addicting, the high of realizing you’re one of the top-selling authors in the country in a given week. Wowza. I vividly remember the day I first made the USA Today list in November of 2012. It was Thanksgiving Day, and I hit no. 99 with Fatal Deception, the fifth book in my Fatal Series. I was overwhelmed and thrilled and incredulous at how I’d gone from being one of the most rejected authors I knew to a bestseller in only a couple of years.

Then it got better.

Waiting for Love, book 8 in my Gansett Island Series, hit no. 6 on the New York Times’ ebook list in February 2013.

What a thrill, especially when you consider that book 1 in the Gansett Island Series was rejected EVERYWHERE. So not only was it thrilling to have an indie-published book in a series that no one wanted, except my readers of course, be the first to hit the New York Times list—and in the top 10, no less, it was also extremely vindicating.

. . . .

I went on a bit of a tear with the bestseller lists after Waiting for Love hit. Over the next three years, there were another 26 NYT bestsellers and more than 30 USA Today bestsellers along with many Wall Street Journal bestsellers that I haven’t been as good about keeping track of. In short, I was on a roll, and it felt good. It was validating and vindicating and exciting—and incredibly stressful.

EVERYTHING was timed toward making the lists—release days and release week contests and promotion and advertising. It became a mini form of MADNESS that overtook my life every time a new book was released, and then came the breathless wait on Wednesdays for the lists to be released to validate what I already knew based on the sales—my book was a bestseller. I won’t deny that it was fun to celebrate the lists, and add to the collection of covers on my wall that my agent started as a tradition for each new listing, but I’ve known for more than a year now that this whole thing was starting to get a little out of control.

And that became VERY clear to me last summer. I was on vacation with family and friends in Block Island, my no. 1 happy place in the world, where I spent an entire Wednesday afternoon at the beach stressing out about how my new Fatal book would do on the bestseller lists.

. . . .

Earlier this year, in a move no one saw coming, The New York Times eliminated its ebook list, among many other lists that were cut. I want to say, for the record, that I totally disagree with this move, and it infuriates me that the NYT has basically given the shaft to authors who are KILLING IT on the digital side, which we all know is the future of the book business. They also eliminated the mass-market paperback list and made some other questionable moves that left a lot of people scratching their heads and wondering why. Now we’re hearing that USA Today is considering eliminating its bestseller list, too.

I feel for the scores of authors who had the NYT list as a “someday” goal. I hate that it has become almost impossible for authors who are nearly 100 percent digitally published to make the NYT list, even if they sell 25,000 books in a week. I always thought USA Today is a much bigger deal because it highlights ALL the books sold in the country in ALL formats on one list. Because it takes a lower number of sales to score a spot on the back end of the list, USA Today has been viewed by some as somewhat of a stepchild to the vaunted NYT. But I think most authors would agree that hitting the top 50 on USA Today is a pretty big deal when you look at who else is with you on that list on any given week.

If you are an author who is yet to hit a list and that is your goal, I want you to know that I fully support your goals and aspirations, and I understand them completely. I understand the need for that feather in your cap because I once had the same need for the feather. I am rooting for ALL of you to get there someday if that is what you want, and I will always celebrate my author friends and colleagues who make the lists.

Link to the rest at Marie Force Blog

Here’s a link to Marie Force’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Three Award-Winning Romance Novelists Discuss Their Craft

13 February 2017
Comments Off on Three Award-Winning Romance Novelists Discuss Their Craft

From The Los Angeles Review of Books:

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, three notable romance authors interview each other about the the art of storytelling and share their thoughts on the popular genre. Laurelin Paige is the New York Times Bestselling Author of Chandler, CD Reiss is the New York Times Bestselling Author of Marriage Games and Separation Games, and Vanessa Fewings is the USA Today Bestselling Author of Enthrall Secrets.

. . . .

LAURELIN PAIGE: What’s a common misconception about your career as a romance writer?

VANESSA FEWINGS: I find a common misconception is that authors are simply churning out similar sex scenes. Romance authors are passionate about the written word, and that leads them to inject originality into each intimate encounter.

Every character and every couple brings different elements into the passionate scenes. These are delicately crafted narratives we’ve created with character arcs to ensure a moving experience. We’re dedicated to telling stories that will stay with our readers long after they’ve finished the book.

LAURELIN PAIGE: What do you enjoy most about the indie romance community?

VANESSA FEWINGS: The indie romance community has a great bond between readers and authors. There’s a real passion for our genre. This dynamic network is also very welcoming and nurturing to new writers. When indie authors strike deals with top publishers, they bring this platform with them, proving this world has an extraordinary influence on this ever-evolving market.

. . . .

Why do you think romance readers have responded so positively to self-published authors?

LAURELIN PAIGE: It’s like going to a restaurant. With literary fiction, you’re getting the tasting menu. It’s different and surprising every time. And if you’re feeling adventurous, that’s exactly what you want. Romance, though, is comfort food. It’s your mom’s spaghetti. It’s the ice cream after a long day. It’s the familiarity that warms your heart, every single time. And if I’m involved there’s going to be a lot of sex and psychological examination as well.

Link to the rest at The Los Angeles Review of Books

Romance novels: One of publishing’s hottest trends

13 February 2017


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