Romance author trademarks the word ‘cocky,’ sending other romance writers into an uproar

From The National Post:

Here is a list of just some popular romance novel titles: Cocky Bastard, Cocky Chef, Cocky Biker, Cocky Fiancé, Cocky Cage Fighter, Cocky Client, Her Cocky Doctors, Mr. Cocky, My Cocky Cowboy, The Cocky Thief and, my personal favourite, simply, Cocky.

Notice a pattern? Yes, romance literature loves a rugged, arrogant heartthrob. And a double-entendre.

 But with an entire 17-book series based on a pair of, well, cocky bastards, writer Faleena Hopkins decided to trademark not just the title of her series, Cocker Brothers of Atlanta, but the word “cocky” itself.

It’s worth noting that Hopkins’s trademark for “cocky” is as a word mark, meaning a text-only logo treatment of the word. Hopkins has a specific font and style for her use of the word, so if others use that same style, they’d have a problem.

. . . .

Despite this, and what looks like a misunderstanding of her own trademark, Hopkins has been sending various romance authors, including Nana Malone, Jamila Jasper and Claire Kingsley, who have used the word “cocky” in their book titles, copyright notices and cease-and-desist letters, even regarding those books that were previously published.

On Twitter, Hopkins defended herself against claims of copyright bullying, saying, “Copying a series to be found in keywords is the money grab. They keep their money and everything if they retitle. I am taking nothing.”

Link to the rest at The National Post

Romance – Indies vs. Traditional Publishing

From a commenter on TPV:

The current buzz in author loops which serve romance: that traditional publishing and agents are ceding the ground to indies because they can’t compete financially. In response, they are steering their stable to women’s fiction, especially bookclub women’s fiction, because these books still command semi-reasonable advances and are comparatively print-centric.

If true, that will be a seismic shift in the publishing landscape.

Also, most romance writers are skeptical about their readers being willing to follow authors to a different genre. So if women’s fiction flops, you can see where things are headed in the next few years or months…

Do Romance Authors Receive Worse Treatment from Publishers Than Anyone Else?

PG is trying to extricate a client from a nasty publishing contract with a large romance publisher. Both the client and the publisher shall remain nameless.

PG is frustrated. The client is frustrated.

PG has conducted extrications from enough publishers to have come to a conclusion.

Across the broad range of different types of books and different varieties of publishers with which PG has dealt, as a group romance publishers are the worst. Worst contracts, worst behavior, worst attitude towards writers.

A public event PG can talk about began in 2012 when a class action was filed against the company on behalf of Harlequin authors who signed book contracts with Harlequin between 1990 and 2004. The suit was filed in 2012 and settled in 2016. You can find information about the settlement of the class action at Harlequin Class Action Settlement.

The lawsuit was based on Harlequin’s practice of sublicensing e-book rights through a Swiss subsidiary, which resulted in authors receiving 3% to 4% of net profits from their works rather than the 50% Harlequin agreed to pay in its publishing contracts.

PG has previously blogged about this case. You can see prior posts, including some court documents, by Clicking Here

Basically, the story was that HQ didn’t mention ebook royalties in its publishing contracts. Those contracts included a catch-all clause which essentially said HQ could license other rights and split the proceeds on a 50/50 basis with the author. The contracts also included a provision which said if HQ licensed the other rights to an affiliated entity, the royalties paid to the author had to be equivalent to market rates for licensing those other rights to a company not affiliated with HQ.

When ebooks appeared on the scene, rather than asking its authors to sign new contracts or ebook addenda to their existing contracts, HQ decided to license ebooks to a related Swiss company for a royalty of 6% of the cover price. The Swiss company then sublicensed each book to HQ print and ebook companies to distribute, so HQ-Switzerland kept 94% of the ebook proceeds and paid 6% to HQ-SorrySucker.

Under the “other rights” clause in the publishing contract, the author would be paid 50% of the amount of the license fees received by HQ-SorrySucker. HQ-SorrySucker paid the authors 50% of 6%. Even English majors know that results in a royalty paid to the author of 3% of the cover price each ebook.

This was at a time when Amazon would license ebooks from authors under KDP for royalties of 70% of the cover price. If HQ-SorrySucker had taken the normal route taken by other publishers, HQ authors would have received royalties at the rate of 35% of the cover price.

The following is from an Amici (the plural of Amicus or Friend of Court) Brief filed in the case by Romance Writers of America and the Authors Guild:

In the spring of 2011, Amicus The Authors Guild began receiving reports from its members that their e-book royalties from Harlequin were extremely low. These members believed Harlequin was self-dealing by licensing e-book rights to one of its corporate affiliates for 6% of the cover price (i.e. suggested retail price). Because the royalty payable to the author under the “all other rights” clause is 50% of the amount received by the publisher, a 6% royalty to the publisher results in a royalty to the author of only 3% of the cover price – far below the customary range for sales in secondary media. The Authors Guild contacted Harlequin to voice these concerns and to request a copy of Harlequin’s inter-affiliate license agreement. Harlequin declined to provide the document on the ground that it was proprietary.

During the same timeframe, Amicus RWA was also in communication with Harlequin regarding e-book royalty issues. Harlequin  provided to its authors, RWA, and other industry participants the following explanation of Harlequin’s inter-affiliate licensing practice:

Our authors contract with Harlequin Books SA (“HBSA”), our related Swiss company.  HBSA licenses  the right to publish an author’s work in print and digital to our operating companies and to third-party publishers, which then bring books to market in their country (incurring costs of translation, production, distribution, marketing, branding, etc.). In return, HBSA receives a license fee.

The NAR [net amount received by the Publisher] is the license fee. For editions where the author is to be paid 50% of NAR, the author’s royalty is therefore 50% of the license fee received by HBSA. The license fees are expressed as a percentage of cover price. Historically they ranged from 6% to 8%. The author’s 50% share of that fee would then equal 3% to 4% of the cover  price.

As noted, the publishing contracts at issue require that in any affiliate licensing arrangement the “Publisher” must receive license proceeds that are “equivalent to the amount reasonably obtainable by Publisher from an Unrelated Licensee for the license or sale of the said rights.” Based on their considerable reservoirs of knowledge and industry data sources regarding royalty rates in the publishing industry, the Amici confidently represent  to this Court  that  the  6% to 8% royalty that Harlequin Enterprises elects to pay to  its Swiss “Publisher” subsidiary is a small fraction of the proceeds that the “Publisher” could obtain from an unaffiliated licensee in the open market for e-books.

. . . .

Generally speaking, a book publisher makes money by exercising the rights that it has licensed from the author of a given work, through the sales of books or sub-licenses of publication rights in various sales and distribution channels.

Historically, the primary sales channel for print book publishers was through retail book stores. In the modern era of e-books, publishers sub-license their digital copyright rights to online “e-tailers.” The most well-known e-tailers of e-books are Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple, but there are many others in the field.

There is no hard and fast rule or convention in the publishing industry on the royalty rates or license fees paid by e-tailers to publishers for e-books. There are, however, numerous sources ofdata on the market’s behavior. In the experience and collective knowledge of the Amici, publishers are almost universally able to extract from an e-tailer at least 50% of the cover price of an e-book. A 70% split for the publisher is quite common and can be obtained even from industry power­ houses such as Amazon and Apple.

It is clear to the Amici that if the Harlequin’s Swiss “Publisher” subsidiary operated as a normal market participant, it could readily license the new e-book versions of its backlist for license fees of 50% to 70% of the cover price of each work sold. In this scenario, the 50% royalty payable to authors under the 1990 to 2004 publishing agreements would be 25% to 35% of the cover price of each work sold. Instead, however, the Swiss “Publisher” licenses the e-books to its parent, Harlequin Enterprises, for 6% to 8% of the cover price, and the authors’ 50% royalty is thus only 3% to 4% of the cover price. From the perspective of the Amici, it appears that Harlequin Enterprises has simply siphoned off 42% to 64% of the cover price before the money reaches the Swiss “Publisher” subsidiary, so this amount will not have to be split with the authors.

PG has calmed down now, but he still wonders whether romance authors are treated worse than other authors by the publishing establishment.

PG does know Amazon loves romance authors and it shows its love by paying them money.

PG has never had a client ask him whether he thinks the author can make more money from HQ than from Amazon.

PG was not a math major, but he could probably figure out his answer to that question without a spreadsheet.

8 Pride and Prejudice Sequels For The Discerning Jane Austen Fan

From Bookriot:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a reader who finishes reading Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice is in want of more to read. We already prepared one list of what to read when you want more Pride & Prejudice… and we still want more! What was married life like for Lizzie and Darcy? Whatever became of Mary and Kitty Bennett? Did Georgiana Darcy or Caroline Bingley ever find love… perhaps with one another? How would the story unfold in a contemporary setting? Or with teenage characters? Luckily, there is no shortage of options for the P&P enthusiast. Here are some of our recent favourite Pride and Prejudice sequels.

Pride And Prescience: Or, A Truth Universally Acknowledged by Carrie Bebris

Interestingly, many storytellers imagine Lizzie and Darcy’s married life will find them solving murders. In this, the first of the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries, the newlyweds begin their new amateur sleuthing career with a mystery involving their in-laws, the Bingleys. As the series progresses, the Darcys encounter mysteries involving characters from other Austen novels, too!

. . . .

Miss Darcy Falls In Love By Sharon Lathan

Darcy’s younger sister Georgiana played a small but notable role in the original novel; here, she takes centre stage. Embarking upon a concert tour of the continent, Georgiana finds her heart torn between two men she meets in Paris. Set in post-Napoleonic Empire France, this is a riveting love story that enters a world of passion where gentlemen know exactly how to please and a young woman learns to direct her destiny and understand her heart.

Link to the rest at Bookriot

The Billion-Dollar Romance Fiction Industry Has A Diversity Problem

From National Public Radio:

The romance genre is a juggernaut that continues unabated.

It’s a billion-dollar industry that outperforms all other book genres, and it’s remarkably innovative, with a strong tradition of independent and self-publishing.

It’s also an industry that’s been grappling with a diversity problem. The RITA Award, the top honor for romance writers awarded by the Romance Writers of America, was awarded this week, and the organization acknowledged that in its 36-year history, no black author has ever won the prize. According to the RWA’s own research, black authors have written less than half of 1 percent of the total number of books considered as prize finalists.

“It is impossible to deny that this is a serious issue and that it needs to be addressed,” said the organization in a statement. “Educating everyone about these statistics is the first step in trying to fix this problem. We know there are no perfect solutions but ignoring the issue is that not acceptable.” There’s certainly no lack of black readership: A Pew Research survey from 2014 found that the person most likely to read a book of any genre is a college-educated black woman.

Alisha Rai, the south Asian author of the three-part Forbidden Hearts series and nearly a dozen other romance novels, has been reading and writing the genre since she was a teenager. She tells NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro about her own experience with readers, publishers and writing about race.

. . . .

On systemic issues in the genre

I’ve heard horror stories from other authors [of color] about, you know, sitting at a table at the RWA national conference and people who are there will get up and walk away from them. In a lot of ways, it’s like going to a water cooler and being turned away from that water cooler. And when you’re in this industry, it’s a very solitary life. We write, and we keep to ourselves in a lot of ways; we’re a little bit like hermits. And this is our way to see our colleagues, is to go to these meetings and conferences. When you feel like you’re not a part of it, it’s very demoralizing.

The organization is composed of so many people, it is hard to get everybody together and moving in the same position, and I understand that progress can be slow. … This is the first year that I’ve even joined RWA, because I felt sort of a tentative hope that maybe we are moving forward, maybe I wouldn’t feel so left out constantly.

. . . .

On her own experience with publishers

Getting published was pretty tough. My first book was more sort of on the sexier side, and the heroine was south Asian. … You sort of fall into an internalized trap, all of my characters [before] were always white, and my heart just wasn’t in it. So I felt like, this wasn’t a book I hadn’t see anywhere, so I want to write it. … I shopped the book around [with different publishers], and I was told to change the characters’ ethnicities. “We can take this if you can edit it.” … It is disheartening to hear, “Well, we can’t really connect to her, but we can if you make her white.”

Link to the rest at NPR

PG suggests the problems of the romance industry must be laid at the door of the traditional publishers in the romance industry. They have decided and continue to decide which authors are published and which are not. Which material will be included in those books and which will not.

If asked which segment of the traditional publishing business has treated its authors the worst, without hesitation, PG would name romance. Exhibit A (there are others) would be Harlequin, which settled a large class-action lawsuit by its authors for substantial underpayment of royalties over several years.

Romance publishers are the single best reason for authors to self-publish. There’s a lot of money to be made in romance and indie authors are earning far more of that money than their traditionally-published counterparts.

Romance community be warned: Amazon is stripping rankings from titles

From Hypable:

A big blow to the romance community has surfaced as romance and erotica authors are having their titles on Amazon stripped of their ranks and reviews.

Towards the end of March, the romance community began to notice romance and erotic novels being stripped of their ranks and/or reviews, without an explanation.

Although Amazon has yet to make a statement about what’s going on, it’s clear that any book that contains adult content could be stripped. Of course that’s devastating to both authors and readers. Both of these things allow authors to successfully sell their works and helps readers to find titles they would be interested in.

In an effort to try and save their reviews and rankings, some romance/erotica authors have taken to removing any keywords that might cause their titles to be stripped. For those that have published in the erotica category, it might prove even more difficult to protect their books from these changes.

Since Amazon isn’t being transparent about what is happening, it’s not clear why these novels are being stripped. Many authors believe it could be in response to the FOSTA bill, while others believe it could be an internal update from Amazon to push these books off the ranks.

The Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) was touted as a bill to make everyone safer by creating accountability for internet companies. However, the bill was met with great backlash for many reasons, including the amount of censorship it would allow.

As the Electronic Frontier Foundation explains, the bill will “force online platforms to police their users’ speech more forcefully than ever before.”

One of the first major impacts of the bill was that Craigslist pulled down its personal ads section. And shortly after, the romance community started noticing abnormal activity on Amazon regarding erotica titles, as well as romance titles.

Link to the rest at Hypable

We Need More Books Without Romance

From Electric Lit:

The genius of the Bechdel test is that it doesn’t sound like a challenge. How difficult can it be to write a movie with two named female characters who talk to each other, just once, about something that isn’t a man? Clearly, though, it’s more rare than it sounds. You really have to think to come up with examples of movies that pass the test — and it’s only when we’re forced to provide them that we realize it shouldn’t be this hard.

Such was my experience brainstorming novels without romantic subplots. In January, “Tired Asexual” wrote to Slate advice columnist Dear Prudence, looking for suggestions of books that didn’t include the pursuit of romance. Helpful readers responded with a short list, many from young-adult fiction, but, surely, the list of eligible novels had to be much longer.

. . . .

For my own test, I developed the following criteria:

  1. The novel is not young adult fiction or science-fiction/fantasy. (There are plenty of YA books without romantic subplots, both because intended readers are younger and because recent YA authors are more likely to incorporate characters along the sexuality spectrum.)
  2. The novel is not “about” romance, and romance — or yearning for romance — isn’t a major plot point even if it’s there. So, maybe there’s a couple, but their relationship is taken for granted and the book doesn’t focus on its evolution. Maybe someone goes on a date, but dating doesn’t move the story forward.
  3. The novel has no explicit sex scenes or sexual themes (including sexual assault, even if it’s not described).
  4. The novel doesn’t present romantic love as necessary and central to flourishing. This last requirement is crucial. Even if there are no sex scenes and nobody goes on a date, if the main character is constantly thinking about how he should be dating or what a loser he is without a romantic partner, the novel is disqualified.

Go ahead, see what you come up with.

Link to the rest at Electric Lit

For the record, PG is in favor of romance and romance novels.

That said, he does not require romance in books he reads. There is little romance in accounts of the battle of Iwo Jima or the invasion of Gallipoli and even less romance in Title 17 of the United States Code.

Where are romance novels headed given the current state of women’s issues?

From The Chicago Tribune:

Romance is a genre about women, by women and pored over by women — 84 percent of readers are female, according to Romance Writers of America.

It’s a $1 billion industry, and 35 percent of romance book buyers have been reading them for 20 years or more, according to RWA.

So after a year when persisting and resisting were the norm — what does this world of fiction look like? Have romance novels evolved given the current social/political climate? The answer to that is yes, but not in a “big boom” kind of way, said Joanne Grant, editorial director of the Harlequin Series.

“I think this is something that will continue to shape romance over time, but I also feel strongly that this is a conversation we’ve been having over the course of years,” she said. “It’s not a new thing for us to pause and look at our male/female dynamics: how we portray sex, consent, how do we keep the fantasy alive while making sure that the heroine is relatable in the 21st century?”

. . . .

Author Beverly Jenkins, who has made her name in African-American historicals, said such work is ongoing. The Belleville, Mich., writer whose first book was published in 1994, said current writers of romance are “bringing a different mindset, a different focus to the story,” where consent is the thing. But she also mentions that, as things evolve, the main purpose of romance is consistent. “Romance offers that comfort read, but it also offers resistance. You have a lot of feminists who are writing romance, Alisha Rai, Alyssa Cole, Sarah MacLean, and they’re all putting that kind of thread through their books. Resistance has always been there. Women have always had to resist in order to get what they want out of life,” Jenkins said.

. . . .

From the 1972 book “The Flame and the Flower,” the romance genre was born on a mass market scale, and from its pages of forced seduction came the metaphor for the women’s movement, she said. “Most scholars of romance will tell you the arc of this book is kind of a metaphor for the women’s movement in general, meaning, if you look at the hero as society and the heroine as women, ultimately, equality is the goal between them,” MacLean said. What followed, said the author of “The Day of the Duchess,” were workplace romances of the 1980s, romance of the ’90s, where the good guy was born amid cultural satisfaction, and the world after 9/11 that saw the rise of paranormal romance. By the late 2000s, there was the economic crash, and we saw the rise of “Fifty Shades of Grey” and the billionaires, MacLean said.

“Literature likes to see women martyred, and they like to see people of color martyred, and queer people martyred and disabled people martyred, but romance doesn’t do that,” she said. “Romance has often been the only place in media where women can see themselves at the center of the story triumphing. … There’s a lot of power in happily ever after. In 2017, I think many of us came to a place where we realized that the best way for us to resist was for us to tell stories where we win, and the best way to show the other side that we will survive them is to show ourselves in happiness … because happiness is torture in its own way.”

Link to the rest at The Chicago Tribune

With Romance Novels Booming, Beefcake Sells, but It Doesn’t Pay

From The New York Times:

Jason Aaron Baca is good-looking, not handsome like the Ryans (Gosling and Reynolds) or rugged like Daniel Craig, who is fetching in a tailored Tom Ford suit. But when Mr. Baca, 42, slipped on a pair of dark aviator glasses recently, he looked remarkably like Tom Cruise in “Top Gun.”

He was dressed for work in a khaki military jumpsuit. And even though it was barely noon, he had already stopped by the gym to make sure his biceps and legs looked combat-strong. His assignment: To be a military helicopter pilot saved in a crash by a female rescuer with whom he once had a torrid affair. Now that they’re reunited, their passions have flared.

Mr. Baca is a cover model for romance novels. He has been on nearly 500 book covers, by his own account — one of scores of men like him vying to be heroic heartthrobs. Not since the flaxen-haired Fabio Lanzoni dominated drugstore book racks in the 1980s and 1990s, with his lion’s mane and bulging biceps, have cover models been in such demand.

“Look at me like you are really mad at me,” cooed Portia Shao, his photographer that day. “Show me your good side.”

. . . .

After a few more clicks of the shutter, he and Ms. Shao paused to examine his work on a 2-by-4-foot television screen. “It looks good because it has everything,” Mr. Baca said. The smoldering gaze. A glimpse of his six-pack abs. Mr. Baca had even thrust his pelvis forward, a trick he learned to make his stomach appear flatter and ensure the ladies looked, well, you know, there.

Romance writers and publishers, as it happens, are among publishing’s most innovative participants. They were early to digital serialization. Booksellers, too, now crowdsource ideas to find fresh writers. And if you want to explore a virtual relationship, you can try a romance-novel app.

. . . .

“I never thought I would say this,” said Liz Pelletier, the chief executive of the romance novel company Entangled Publishing. “But I am so tired of looking at men’s abs. I don’t know if these ones are sexier than those other ones.”

“It used to be that everyone wanted Fabio,” she added. Today, though, individualism prevails. “Readers don’t want every book to have the same face.”

. . . .

Sexy still sells. At Brazen, Entangled’s more risqué fiction line, Ms. Pelletier said book covers with male models sold three times as much as with a woman alone. And for new authors in particular, “the cover is really critical,” said Dianne Moggy, vice president for romance fiction at Harlequin.

. . . .

Unlike the Fabio era, when covers were painted by hand, today they are more assembly line than art. Consider Daemon Black, a space alien with dark curls and emerald green eyes who is the hero of Entangled’s Lux series, written by the New York Times best-selling author Jennifer L. Armentrout. In 2011, Pepe Toth saw a photograph of himself and his then model girlfriend, Sztella Tziotziosz, on the cover of “Obsidian,” the first in the Lux series, published that December.

Mr. Toth, 26, then living in his native Hungary, had been transformed into Daemon Black without his knowledge. “I thought, what kind of book is this?” he said in a recent interview.

. . . .

 If covers were hand-painted in acrylic back in the Fabio era, the tool of the trade today is Photoshop. Heads are cut off midface if a model is overexposed. Parts of different photos can be pieced together like a Picasso portrait. Toes, too, are deleted if they clash with the book’s title.

For Mr. Baca’s helicopter-pilot shoot in Santa Cruz, Eileen Nauman, a writer better known by her pseudonym, Lindsay McKenna, emailed a series of guidelines. She wanted to see him looking alert, with a “slight, playful, teasing smile” and, she wrote, with his “flight suit open to sternum, showing off your great body, but nothing too flagrant or obvious.”

. . . .

 Few romance models, if any, make enough money to eke out a living. Mr. Baca, for example, works at the Housing Authority of the Santa Clara County, Calif., as a customer-service clerk. And although he has an agent, he said he earned only $20,000 in his best year. This, despite the fact that he is a tireless self-promoter who fancies himself the next Fabio. Industry executives say it will be difficult to topple the king. “Nobody did it better than Fabio,” said Allison Kelley, executive director of the romance writers group. “He really did create the brand.”

Link to the rest (yes, with pictures) at The New York Times

Ripped Bodice’s Racial Diversity in Romance Report Reveals Grim Numbers

From Book Riot:

Romance publishing has a serious diversity problem and we now have the data to prove it. Readers of the genre know the challenge that finding traditionally published romances by authors of color can be. However, up to this point, there hasn’t been actual data on the issue. Enter the lovely ladies of The Ripped Bodice, the only romance specialty store in the country. Bea and Leah Koch crunched the numbers and published their first “The State of Racial Diversity in Romance Publishing” report, based on 2016 new releases. It’s pretty startling stuff. The report looks at racial disparities in mainstream romance publishing and is accompanied by some pretty rad infographics to show readers just how completely horrifying their results were.

The Koch sisters say that they became “increasingly aware” of the problem of racial disparity in romance publishing through their interactions with customers of The Ripped Bodice. People were coming into the store looking for books by authors of color that were traditionally published, but Bea and Leah were running low on suggestions.

“We have found it difficult to continue the conversation about diversity in romance without hard data,” says report co-author Leah Koch. “For many years the common refrain from publishers has been ‘we’re working on it.’ Every year we will track industry growth and see if that promise rings true.”

 “Honestly we were shocked at how abysmal the numbers are,” says Bea Koch. “We thought they would be bad, [but] we didn’t think they would be this bad.”

Twenty publishers were invited to participate in the process. More than half of those invited actively engaged in the process and contributed statistics and information on racial diversity for the study.

. . . .

“While many groups are still woefully underrepresented in the romance genre, including people with disabilities, marginalized religious groups, and members of the LGBTQ community, we had to start somewhere. This is a difficult subject to discuss, but racial discrimination is one of the largest barriers to equality in any professional industry. Publishing is not immune.”

. . . .

“It’s too important. We have to start with laying out the facts. This is the genre we love and have devoted our lives to. We all need to do better. The traditional romance publishing industry is going to collapse if it doesn’t start hiring authors that reflect the current U.S. population. We’re hopeful that by contributing this data to the discussion, we will start to see real change.”

Link to the rest at Book Riot

PG says the traditional romance publishing industry is already collapsing because more and more romance authors have learned they can give up their day jobs and/or earn a better living by self-publishing.

And none of the indie publishing platforms discriminate against authors on the basis of race.

The Taming of Lady Kate

Mrs. PG likes Bookbub and, apparently, Bookbub likes Mrs. PG because it’s running a free book promotion for another of her Regency romances.

The title of this book is The Taming of Lady Kate.

What’s this book about? You can read what it says on Amazon, but PG has a unique perspective on Mrs. PG’s books that he will share.

There’s a gal named Kate. She’s dead now because she lived a long time ago.

While Kate was alive, she had a problem. If she wanted to inherit a bunch of money, she had to get married. At about the same time, a guy named Jack had the same problem so they shared a common interest.

You might think that Kate and Jack hired a Hollywood lawyer named Manny to write an iron-clad prenuptial agreement, but you would be wrong. When Kate and Jack really needed a good Hollywood lawyer, there weren’t any lawyers in Hollywood. There weren’t any movie stars there, either. Hard to believe.

So there’s no prenup negotiation drama in this book. And nobody named Manny.

But PG digresses.

Jack is a Marquis and Kate is a Lady (no, not that kind of Lady).

Kate wants to marry some other guy, but her dead father says no (in his will), even if they get a prenup.

Kate is a spunky gal. Jack likes spunky gals. They have that in common even if she’s not a Marquis.

The things that Kate and Jack have in common are piling up.

PG won’t spoil the ending of the story by saying what they do instead of getting a prenup.

Here’s a picture of Kate. PG forgot to ask Mrs. PG if her hair is really that color or if she has it done by Rex of Hollywood.

 

Here’s where you can get The Taming of Lady Kate. It’s free right now, but you have to read the book to understand why Kate accepts taming.

The PG’s appreciate your support.

UPDATE

PG checked Mrs. PG’s Author Rank and her new book’s ranking in the early evening of today’s Bookbub campaign. He was pleased to find the following:

Author Rank
#5 in Kindle eBooks > Romance > Historical Romance
#10 in Books > Romance > Historical
#81 in Kindle eBooks > Romance

Taming Lady Kate Book Rank
#6 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)
#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Romance > Historical Romance > Regency
#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Romance > Inspirational

Thanks to all TPV visitors who downloaded.

Amazon removes abuse-themed e-books from store

From the BBC:

Retailer Amazon has removed several abuse-themed e-books from its Kindle Store after a report highlighted titles depicting rape, incest and bestiality.

Titles such as Taking My Drunk Daughter had been on sale.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble both say they are removing books found by technology news site The Kernel, but many others still remain, the BBC has found.

WHSmith and Kobo, which feature titles with similar themes, are yet to respond to requests for comment.

The BBC found that on Amazon’s store, the search function automatically suggested explicit topics to users typing seemingly innocuous keywords – without age verification taking place.

Amazon has not responded to the BBC’s request for comment on the issue, except to confirm that the specific books listed by The Kernel had been removed.

Barnes & Noble said in a statement the titles were “in violation” of its policy on content offered in the NOOK Bookstore and were in the process of being removed.

“When there are violations to the content policy that are brought to our attention, either through our internal process or from a customer or external source, we have a rapid response team in place to appropriately categorize or remove the content in accordance with our policy,” it said.

Justice Minister Damian Green told the BBC “the government shares the public’s concerns about the availability of harmful material.”

Link to the rest at the BBC and thanks to Nate at The Digital Reader for the tip.

Pemberley, Manderley and Howards End: the real buildings behind fictional houses

From The Guardian:

Howards End, Manderley, Brideshead – some fictional houses are as unforgettable as the characters who inhabit them. They can provide a sense of identity, as in the novels of Walter Scott, which were set in a time when a man was distinguished by the land and house from which he got his name. They can convey ideas of personality, as Charles Dickens’s living spaces reflect the quirks of his characters. They can offer us symbols of social status, as with Jane Austen’s Pemberley, or some tangible link to the past, as so ardently forged by writers such as Evelyn Waugh.

The house that commands the fictional centre of a story exerts a power over the characters: their behaviour, aspirations and fate. In my research into houses in British literature, I wanted to find out what drove authors, from Austen to Alan Hollinghurst, to home in on a particular house or type of house as the focus of their fictional worlds. The British may not have the monopoly on house-centred stories, but the literature is filled with thinking, writing, and imagining houses in ways that betray a particular consciousness of house and home. Some of the most celebrated novels, such as Howards End or Brideshead Revisited, signal this from the title, while others sneak us in through the back door, as it were, so that we understand the importance of the house only once we’re ambling along the passageways, scrutinising the furnishings. But once over the threshold, fictional houses have us in their spell. As Daphne du Maurier said of Menabilly, the house that inspired her characters’ devotion to Manderley, it possessed her “even as a mistress holds a lover”.

. . . .

Godmersham Park, Kent:
Jane Austen 

The daughter of a vicar, Jane Austen grew up in a household of more modest means than many in her circle. She attended parties, balls and other social gatherings at plenty of grand Hampshire country houses, writing to her sister Cassandra in 1800: “I believe I drank too much wine last night at Hurstbourne; I know not else how to account for the shaking of my hand today.” But it was Godmersham, in Kent, and the smaller, less spectacular but still impressive Chawton House in Hampshire, two properties inherited by her brother Edward after he was adopted by childless relatives, that helped her to inhabit the world of her more privileged characters.

In Edward Austen’s day, Godmersham had 5,000 acres of land (today it still has 2,000). The house was built in 1732 by the Knight family, who added two wings in the 1780s before Edward inherited the property in 1797. It still has several wings and retains its elegant Italianate style. It is sometimes speculated that the more famous Chatsworth in the Peak District was the inspiration for Mr Darcy’s Pemberley, but it was at Godmersham that Austen experienced living in a large house, with many servants and entertainments. She spent long hours writing letters in the library, and the vicarage – still extant on the property – is thought to have inspired Mr Collins’s house in Pride and Prejudice. The place was luxurious to Austen: “I have no occasion to think of the price of Bread or of Meat where I am now; – let me shake off vulgar cares & conform to the happy Indifference of East Kent wealth.” By contrast, writing in 1798 from the rectory at Steventon in Hampshire, where she grew up, she complained: “People get so horridly poor & economical in this part of the World, that I have no patience with them. – Kent is the only place for happiness, Everybody is rich there.”

. . . .

Rooks Nest, Hertfordshire:
EM Forster

Few can read Howards End without longing for a golden afternoon in the garden of an English cottage. The house represents the England of the past, threatened by a modern world in motion where motorcars speed people through a landscape they have no time to appreciate. “Only connect” is the motto of the book, and conveys a possibility for spiritual fulfilment that Forster felt strongly could be imparted through the life of a house. He was very clear about the inspiration for the house of his eponymous novel – Rooks Nest, his childhood home. After his father died of tuberculosis, when Forster was not quite two, his mother decided it would be healthier to move to the country. In 1883 she took the lease on Rooks Nest, near Stevenage in Hertfordshire, where they lived for the next 10 years. The house had belonged to a family named Howard, who had farmed there for three centuries. Forster began memorialising it while still in his teens. “I took it to my heart,” he later wrote, “and hoped … that I should live and die there.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

The Enduring Legacy Of Jane Austen’s ‘Truth Universally Acknowledged’

From National Public Radio:

Shortly after Amazon introduced the Kindle, they put up a page with a ranked list of the most frequently highlighted passages across all the books. It’s not there anymore, but when I first looked at the list in 2013, the opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice was in third place. That was all the more impressive because eight of the other top 10 finishers were passages from the Hunger Games series, which was the hit of the season that year, as Austen’s novel had been exactly 200 years earlier.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

We can argue about whether that’s the most famous first line in English literature or whether the honor belongs to the opening sentence of Moby Dick or A Tale of Two Cities or 1984. But there’s no other opening sentence that lends itself so well to sampling, mash-ups and adaptation.

If you’re looking to add a literary touch to your article on pension schemes or emergency contraceptives, you’re not going to get very far with “Call me Ishmael.” But “It is a truth universally acknowledged” is always available as an elegant replacement for “As everybody knows” when you want to introduce some banal truism.

. . . .

Yet my guess is that a large portion of the people who adapt that sentence know perfectly well that the original version is anything but straightforward. It may be the single most celebrated example of literary irony in all of English literature. Pick up a paperback of Pride and Prejudice at a garage sale and it’s even money you’ll find the first sentence underlined with “IRONY” written in the margin.

The sentence may look like a truism, but the first part actually undermines the second. In her book Why Jane Austen, Rachel Brownstein points out that if the novel had begun simply with “A single man possessed of a good fortune must be in want of a wife,” we’d snuggle in for a stock romantic story. We might expect the next sentence to describe an aristocratic Colin Firth lookalike galloping full-tilt toward the Bennets’ house at Longbourn.

But prefacing that clause with “It is a truth universally acknowledged” implies that’s only what most people say they believe — after all, if everybody really does accept it, why bother to mention the fact? In fact, as Austen says in the following sentence, nobody really cares what the wealthy man himself thinks he needs. There’s only one truth that matters to Mrs. Bennet and the other families in the neighborhood — that a daughter who has no fortune must be found a well-to-do husband to look after her, which Mrs. Bennet has made “the business of her life.”

Link to the rest at NPR

There’s No Such Thing as Historical Fiction

From The Literary Hub:

It might sound odd to say it, but there is no such thing as historical fiction. And yet if you write a literary novel set in the past, let’s say before the 1950s—though in truth, it might well be much later than that—it is a label impossible to escape. The agents, book scouts and publishers with a wistful sigh shunt you into the historical trap. The author, as the novel is brought to book, might be surprised to discover the term appearing in the jacket text forewarning the unwary reader. Watch then as the book is published and reviewers rush to box the novel as historical fiction.

The novelist bristles because the term denotes a difference. Whichever way one looks, “historical fiction” in code, category and casual shorthand, is a term that sets it apart from the contemporary novel. It is assumed, generally speaking, that the contemporary novel speaks of the times we live in, and the historical novel does something else. It is not uncommon to read journalists lauding a contemporary novel for showing us how we live now.

. . . .

Let’s suppose you are a novelist writing fiction set in an historical era. Ask yourself this question: What reader from 1817 would recognize themselves in a novel written 200 years later? That reader would collapse in a cold swoon and wake up bereft and bewildered. The novelist can expertly summon a voice. They might evoke with uncanny accuracy the morals and codes of an era. For sure they will step carefully through the minefield of anachronisms—or blow themselves up in the name of revisionism. But any idea of an authentic past in the novel is illusion—the historical novel is an act of prestidigitation.

The novel itself is formed by unspoken rules that govern what a modern reader will recognize, borne by the history of all the novels written before it—(“The ugly fact is books are made out of books,” as Cormac McCarthy once put it). A novelist can summon what the reader believes to be an authentic past but it is an impossibility to write truthfully of any other time than your own.

. . . .

Of course, we read the “historical novel” and marvel at its simulation of the past. But pay attention and you will see the historical novel can speak with cool clarity about what is timeless in the present. The modern novelist through the prism of the past seeks to remove the reader from the noise and rush of the now. A space is made around the reader. The novelist says, let us not be concerned with who we are now, but what we are always. For the historical novel, if it sees clearly, can show us how the modern world is governed by ancient forces: power versus weakness, truth versus falsehood, life versus death. And always there is the problem of living: how can we live well, or how can we survive within a world ranged against such enormous forces?

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub 

“It is an inescapable fact that the consciousness of the writer, the deeper meanings of language, and any articulation of a world view, are shaped by the heat and pressure of the times the writer lives in . . . .  A novelist can summon what the reader believes to be an authentic past but it is an impossibility to write truthfully of any other time than your own. . . . Historical fiction is contemporary fiction and cannot be anything else.”

PG wonders if this means reading a Jane Austen novel is a completely different experience from reading a novel written by a skilled author of regency romances in 2017.

Does the modern reader misunderstand a great many of the fictional events, circumstances and emotions Jane writes about because her consciousness was shaped by a far different time and society than those in which a modern reader lives?

While Mrs. PG is an expert author of regency romances and PG is not, PG understands the experience of reading a good regency created by a modern author and the experience of reading an Austen novel is similar. Indeed, due to the fixed number of Austen novels and the desires of many readers not to end their experience with the Regency world after they finish the last one, many modern regency romances sell quite well.

As illustrated in the last quoted paragraph PG excerpted, at the end of the OP, the author describes a different view, one with which PG agrees, “Does the historical novel steal a trick from the classical novel? Perhaps it does. If you declutter the novel of the contemporary tumult, it will seek the same unswerving truths that hold us true to the classics.”

PG posits that human nature doesn’t change with the passage of decades and centuries. The surroundings, technologies, manners of speaking and writing, contemporary social expectations, etc., will certainly change, but human nature will not.

We recognize the nature of the characters that Jane describes from our own experiences with 21st century humans. The emotions Jane illustrates are the same emotions we have felt and still feel.

And isn’t that lovely?

Cosplaying Jane Austen

From The Atlantic:

Jane lies in Winchester
Blessed be her shade!
Praise the Lord for making her,
And her for all she made.
And, while the stones of Winchester—
Or Milsom Street—remain,
Glory, Love, and Honour
Unto England’s Jane!

— Rudyard Kipling

On a spring afternoon 25 years ago, my mother took my baby sister and me to the grave of Jane Austen at Winchester Cathedral. It would have been 1992, and quite late in the spring, as photos of that day have me in short sleeves and my sister wearing a summery little dress in her stroller. She was 2, I was 6, and Austen had been dead for 175 years.

The grave left little impression on me at the time—I didn’t know much about Austen, except that she was my mother’s favorite writer and that she had died not far from where we stood and that her bones were now beneath us. In the days when England’s church was allied with Rome, Winchester had been consecrated to Saint Swithin, and—as Mom explained—it was three days after the Feast of Saint Swithin in 1817 that Austen breathed her last in that city, under the care of better doctors than could have been found closer to the Chawton cottage where she spent the last eight years of her life. The tombstone says a lot of nice things about her character but doesn’t mention once that she was a writer. My mother, an English professor whose expertise is the British novel in the 18th and 19th centuries, told me that this was an odd omission, and I wondered whether Austen’s ghost lurked, displeased, beneath the stones of the cathedral.

What my mother did not tell me, and what she could not have known, was that, two decades later, I would find myself putting on Regency costumes and attending balls and banquets across North America, nor that—in a curious inversion of roles—I would eventually persuade her to dispense with academic self-seriousness and actually start wearing the costumes herself. All of this happened after I had joined the ranks of those enthusiastic literary necromancers who regularly summon Austen’s ghost.

These are the fans and disciples of Austen, known collectively as the Janeites, a term coined in the 1890s by the critic George Saintsbury. In the 21st century, they pop about the globe, now visiting Austen’s grave at Winchester, now visiting her haunts in Bath, now attending the annual general meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA), where hundreds of Janeites materialize each year in Minneapolis or Montréal or Washington, D.C., to exhibit their finest examples of Regency formalwear, to hear the brightest Austen scholars talk about their ideas of the author—was Austen a secret radical? was she a reactionary? was she queer?—and to dispute those ideas with the proprietary vim of a family member.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

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

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

From Smithsonian.com:

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 Smithsonian.com

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

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

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

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?

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

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

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

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

We announce Samhain Publishing will be closing

From Samhain Publishing:

It’s with a heavy heart that we announce Samhain Publishing will be closing at the end of February. Due to the declining sales we’ve been experiencing with this changing market we’ve come to the sad conclusion it’s time to call it a day.

The last of our new titles launch February 21st; I hope you will check them out and support them as you have so many other Samhain titles through the years.”

Link to the rest at Samhain Publishing

San Antonio Rekindles that Loving Feeling

From the Amazon Press Room:

Love reigns at Amazon.com as the company today released its annual list of Top 20 Most Romantic Cities.

The list is determined by a compilation of sales data from cities with more than 100,000 residents on a per capita basis and includes purchases of romance novels and relationship books (both Kindle and print); romantic comedy movies (DVDs and digital); a curated list of romantic music, including artists like Adele, John Legend, Ed Sheeran, Drake, Brad Paisley and Barry White (CDs and MP3 format); as well as the sales of sexual wellness products.

The Top 20 Most Romantic Cities in the U.S. are:

1. San Antonio, Texas 11. Columbia, S.C.
2. Miami, Fla. 12. Vancouver, Wash.
3. Alexandria, Va. 13. Gainesville, Fla.
4. Orlando, Fla. 14. Seattle, Wash.
5. Salt Lake City, Utah 15. Scottsdale, Ariz.
6. Knoxville, Tenn. 16. Tampa, Fla.
7. Cincinnati, Ohio 17. Las Vegas, Nev.
8. Pittsburgh, Pa. 18. Portland, Ore.
9. Atlanta, Ga. 19. Round Rock, Texas
10. Ann Arbor, Mich. 20. Rochester, N.Y.

Some of the interesting findings in Amazon’s romantic data revealed that:

  • Lovers in Seattle and Atlanta set the mood without delay, ordering more Romance novels using Prime FREE Same-Day Delivery than any other city on the list. Top Romance titles included “First Comes Love” by Emily Giffin, “The Rosie Project” by Graeme Simsion and “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes.
  • Kindle Unlimited members fell in love with love, reading tens of millions of romance books in the last year, including “Everything We Keep” by Kerry Lonsdale, “Worth the Wait” by Jamie Beck and “Doing It Over” by Catherine Bybee.
  • Customers enjoyed binge-watching romantic films and TV series on Prime Video last year. The Amazon Original series “Catastrophe,” “Mozart in the Jungle” and “Doctor Thorne,” as well as movies like “Age of Adaline” and “Equals” were among the most streamed romantic titles.
  • Chicago, Houston, New York, San Diego and Seattle stoked the fire of love all year long by streaming the most love songs from Amazon Music.

Link to the rest at Amazon Press Room

Court Documents Regarding All Romance E-Books’ Disturbing Business Practices Surface

From Blog Critics:

In a previous article about the sudden closing of All Romance E-Books, LLC and the owner’s announcement that she was not going to pay any royalties for the 4th quarter sales of books from the over 5000 publishers and authors with books on the site.

. . . .

In order to see the whole story, you need to go back to 2014 when a dramatic conflict began between Lori James and her business partner, Barbara Perfetti Ulmer. In fact, Ulmer sued James and All Romance E-Books, LLC in the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court of Pinellas County, Florida – where ARe was established as a legal business entity – on March 2, 2015. Ulmer filed a complaint alleging that James had been “denying access to contemporaneous and current financial information related to All Romance, breach of duties (fiduciary, care, and loyalty) unjust enrichment, inequitable distribution, and judicial dissolution of All Romance.”

The information regarding this lawsuit is easily found thanks to the open court records in the state of Florida, and can be viewed online here.

. . . .

Ulmer and James established All Romance E-Books, LLC together as full partners in 2006. Ulmer was the Chief Financial Officer, and as she was resident in Florida that’s where the physical address of ARe was established. (Remember the three addresses in Florida? One was in Ulmer’s town, Safety Harbor, and appears to be a post office box, which would be understandable as she was the CFO.) James was the Chief Operating Officer, and under the terms of their original operating agreement (Exhibit A) both partners owned 50% of the company and all decisions were to be made by “unanimous agreement” while all financial considerations –  both contribution and distribution – were to be equally shared.

. . . .

According to Ulmer’s complaint, in October of 2014, Dominick Addario, MD – a forensic psychiatrist affiliated with the University of California-San Diego – examined Ulmer to determine whether she was “disabled” and unable to perform her duties under the terms of their operating agreement, which stipulated that if a condition was “permanent or expected to be of an indefinite duration” and prohibited one of the partners from performing their duties, the other partner could assume full responsibility for the company, including all financial and operational decisions.

On November 26, 2014 Dr. Addario sent an email (Exhibit B) to both partners stating that: “…I recommended certain treatment and testing for her and suggest reevaluation in 3 to 6 months at which time she may once again be fit to carry out her duties…”

. . . .

When Ulmer asked to be included in meetings, James told her no and to “stop being a distraction.” When Ulmer asked to return to work, James said no. When Ulmer protested, James told her that “if she did not like what James was doing, that Perfetti(Ulmer) should go get a lawyer.”

Link to the rest at Blog Critics and thanks to A. for the tip.

PG will remind all that the contentions in a court filing are not proven facts.

A quick review of the case summary of Ulmer vs. James reveals that Ulmer’s filing was dismissed “because of lack of prosecution.” This generally means that the plaintiff didn’t do what he/she was required to do in order to move the case forward. There was never a trial or other disposition of the case on its merits.