Friday, May 15, 2009

Don't Come Around Here No More

If you're looking for new posts from me, please visit me at my new digs: Eventually, I'll be taking this blog down, but until we get all the images migrated to the new server, it has to stay here.

See you at the new site!

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Little Sneak Peak

As some of you may remember, I had plans to roll out a new website and blog on May 1. Obviously, that date has been a bit delayed, and I'm not even 100% sure when everything will be up and running under the new template, but I'm just so thrilled with how it's coming together that I had to share a sneak peak of what Frauke at Croco Designs has worked up for me.

Gorgeous, isn't it?

Anyway, I'm hoping to have everything moved over to the new template by the end of this week, but since I'm a bit of a newbie at WordPress, I can't be 100% sure.

In the meantime, be sure to keep visiting We Heart Historicals every day and commenting for your chance to win.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

We Heart the Historical!

All this month, Emma Petersen is hosting a slew of authors in a tribute to the historical. And not just the traditional historical, but every brand of historical from mainstream to paranormal to fantasy to erotic. There'll be a new author every day, and lots of books will be given away, including fifteen copies of Behind the Red Door.

Want to know more? How about a list of the authors who'll be visiting? I don't have dates for everyone yet, but I'll be posting over in the right hand column every day to let you know who today's guest author is. So here (in alphabetical order by first name becayse, hey, it's gotta have SOME organization to it) is a list of the authors who've so generously agreed to join the celebration:

Seriously, is that a list full of win or what? You know you want to enter and you know you want to win. So come early and come often.

Today's guest author is Madeline Baker, and she's giving away a copy of her recently re-released first book, Comanche Flame.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Winner of Blue Diablo (and other news)

(Drum roll, please...)

The winner of the signed copy of Blue Diablo with her heart-wrenching tale of economic woe is HockeyVampiress! Please email me at jackie at jackiebarbosa dot com as soon as possible with a snail mail address and I will pop it into the mail to you!

In other news, I'm over at The Romance Studio blog today talking about what's behind the Red Door, and giving away another free copy. Don't miss it!

Also, today my CP and best bud Emma Petersen launched We Heart the Historical month on her blog with a post from Dear Author's Jane Litte. Don't miss it and don't miss all the other great authors who'll be stopping by to guest blog during the month of May, including, but not limited to:

And there'll be free books! What more could you ask?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Win A Signed Copy of Blue Diablo

A couple of weeks ago, the fabulously talented Ann Aguirre was in town for a book signing, and I got two copies of Blue Diablo, both signed, one for me and one of you!

Now, I'm sure you've heard the "buzz" around this book, and it's totally deserved. I gobbled it up in two helpings, half on a plane on the way to Philadelphia and half on the way back.

I'm the first to admit that I'm not usually a big fan of the urban fantasy genre, but because I loved the Sirantha Jax books so much (space opera is up my alley--hello, Star Trek fan!), it was a foregone conclusion that I had to give Blue Diablo a chance. And I am not sorry I did. Every element of this book is exquisite, from the way the setting weaves its way into scenes as if the places were characters themselves to the crackling tension between Corine and Chance. I loved this book and didn't want it to be over!

So, you want a copy? All right, fair enough. Here's the contest. In the comments, give me your best reason for why you haven't yet bought Blue Diablo. On Friday, I'll pick the best, most creative, reason, and award my spare signed copy to that commenter.

Think hard. Your reason's gotta be a good one!

Friday, April 24, 2009

And the Winners Are...

I used a random generator to draw names from the 16 eligible entrants and the winners of a copy of Behind the Red Door are:

  • Jeanne St. James
  • Savannah Chase
Please email me at jackie at jackie with your snail mail address, and I will get your signed copy in the mail.

And to all those who didn't win, there will be more opportunities coming up. In fact, I'll be doing another giveaway at the Aphrodisia Authors blog tomorrow, so be sure to check out my post there outlining the details. And I'll be giving away a full fifteen copies during the month of May at the historical extravaganza on Emma Petersen's blog. And there will be more even than that, so stay tuned for details.

On Monday, I'll be opening a new contest for a signed copy of Ann Aguirre's awesome urban fantasy, Blue Diablo. I read this book on the way to and from Philly, and loved it. And wept a little with envy. Ann is a freakishly talented writer whose books grab you by the throat and don't let go...even when you're finished reading them. I still can't stop thinking about Corine and Chase!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Especially, apparently, to those who wait at airports!

Last week, I had to fly to Philadelphia and back for business. And I spent far too much time in airports as a result. I didn't really expect any reward for my trouble, but when I arrived home on Friday, I found a box from Kensington Publishing containing...


I was shocked, as I really didn't expect to see my author copies until sometime next month. And I have to admit, I have had a wonderful time touching them, smelling them, and opening them up to random pages to read my own words. It's almost...surreal.

But all of this is good for you, too. In celebration, I'll be giving away two signed copies to random blog commentators. This means you could be getting a sneak peek of what's behind the red door a full month before it's available in bookstores!

I'll be open for comments for until Friday, when I'll draw a winner. And on the day I draw that winner, I'll be opening a NEW contest for a signed copy of Ann Aguirre's amazing Blue Diablo, which I read on the plane to and from Philly and which I can recommend as one of the best books I've read in 2009.

Monday, April 13, 2009

When a Glitch Is Not a Glitch

If you've been following the Amazon delisting debacle (#amazonfail in the Twitterverse and well chronicled in posts on Dear Author here, here, and here), then you probably know that late yesterday afternoon, an Amazon spokesperson announced that it was all just a glitch, not the result of a deliberate policy decision.

A lot of folks have been calling shenanigans on that explanation, but I think it's at least partly true. There's no doubt in my mind that sales rankings are being stripped from books by a programming algorhythm that looks for certain metadata "category" tags. The books are stripped of their rankings and then are hidden from certain searches (although this seems inconsistent--some unranked books will display in some searches while others won't). This happens to a book if it has any of the offending tags (among them, apparently, the words "Gay & Lesbian," "Erotica" and "Sex"), regardless of its actual content. Thus, books ranging from Lady Chatterley's Lover to The I Do Anthology (a collection of essays in support of same-sex marriage), Foucault's History of Sexuality, Vol. 1, and The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability have all lost their sales ranking and, to some extent, are no longer readily searchable.

So, since I just said I think the filtering is based on metacategory and is absolutely intentional, what do I mean when I say I think it's partly a glitch?

I mean that I don't think Amazon's intention was to filter out books like Heather Has Two Mommies or parenting books intended for same-sex couples or most of the books I just listed. It was simply an inintended consequence of implementing a filter that was intended to screen out "dirty books" and instead caught a whole bunch of other thoroughly inoffensive ones (while, I might add, simultaneously failing to screen out sex toys from a search on the word "rabbit"--something I find particularly amusing; why do erotic books lose their sales rankings while erotic appliances retain them?) in its too-wide net.

The outpouring of outrage on the part of the GLBT community has been loud and vitriolic, and rightly so. There's little doubt in my mind that Amazon will soon set about correcting its filtering matrix so that books that clearly don't belong in the "adult" category regain their sales rankings and become once again easily searchable.

What worries me is that few people seem to have a problem with Amazon's continuing to hide books with erotic content. In fact, I've seen a lot of comments that are tantamount to suggesting that Amazon's only mistake here was in not casting its net wide enough to catch all those other filthy romance novels out that that, while not tagged as "erotica," contain graphic descriptions of "teh secks."

All I can say is, huh? For the life of me, I cannot grasp the apparent nonchalance of some folks who are absolutely appalled by the delisting of non-erotic GLBT books but seem absolutely unperturbed by the delisting of books with erotic/sexual content and even keen on the notion of getting more of them delisted.

To those folks I say: Sex is part of the human experience. An important part. Sex is also a meaningful component of romantic love. And yes, damn it, sex is fun. Books that celebrate sex are no more deserving of ghettoization than books about any other topic. Should there be ways for people to indicate that they don't want such books showing up in their search results? Damn straight.

But please, let's leave those decisions to the end user, not to computers and corporate policies. Because that way lies censorship in its ugliest and most insidious form.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Please Boycott Amazon!

Okay, it's Easter Sunday (hope you're enjoying it!), which is one of the last days of the year I want to wake up to such disturbing news, let alone have to post about it.

It seems, my friends, I've been amazon ranked.

You see, in the past few days Amazon has decided that its customers must be protected from books with "adult" content and has "delisted" the sales rankings for books with erotic or GLBT themes. (See Dear Author post here for initial story and analysis.) At first, I was relatively unconcerned, as I thought it just meant my book would no longer have that "sales ranking" number, which frankly, of late, only serves to depress me.

It turns out, however, that this "delisting" has a number of other negative consequences, since it also hinders direct searches for books that have been determined to be in the "adult" category. This means that, if you search on Amazon in "All Departments" for either my name or my book title or a combination of both, my book does not come back in the search results and, in fact, my last name is even crossed out as though I don't exist. (Apparently, if you narrow your search to Books, I magically exist as does the bookThe problem with this is that, if you have just searched "All Departments" and have been assured no matching product exists, your next thought is not going to be, "Well, it's a book. Maybe I should search there." I mean, if there is no matching product in all departments, how can there be one in books?)

Now, I can (as a parent with young children) have some sympathy for the notion that content should be filterable to prevent the small fry from finding books that are inappropriate for them, and I would say the erotic books qualify as inappropriate (though the notion that any book with a GLBT theme, including non-fiction and YA stories, should be hidden from is simply appalling and mind-blowing). But why not have a simple toggle swtich--something to allow the end-user to indicate they DON'T want the adult content filtered out? Granted, kids could click on it, but really, they can click the "I'm an adult" link on YouPorn and get in, for crap's sake.

Of course, while we're at it, there is the fact that all novels with clearly sexual and adult content aren't being blocked by Amazon. All of Laurell K. Hamilton's books are still right there, easily accessible, and though I've never read any of her work, there's no doubting they're brimming with erotic content. The sheer arbitrariness of which books get delisted or not is breathtaking and frightening. With a single swoop of their pen, Amazon has decided that it's perfectly okay to destroy some authors' careers while preserving others. That is...atrocious.

So, please, until Amazon rectifies this grievous wrong, do not purchase anything from them. It isn't often that I believe the world is out to get us, but in this case, paranoia is warranted. And please help all the authors who have been affected by this (it's not just me, not by a longshot) by contacting Amazon's customer support, either by email at and the customer service phone number is 1-800-201-7575.

Thank you for your support.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

What's So Twit-tastic About It?

A little over a week ago, I succumbed to a combination of peer pressure, curiosity, and Brent Spiner1 and joined the Twitterverse. I must admit, I've been enjoying it--far too much, in fact. When people tried to explain the concept to me, I truly didn't get it. People would post 140-character blog entries that I could "follow." But what could anyone say in 140 characters that I'd be interested in following?

But within a few hours of my first Tweet, all became clear. Turns out, Twitter is this magical place that spans the gap between blogs and IM chat. It's a little like a Facebook home page, but without all the invitations to events and requests for Sea Garden creatures and whatnot coming along for the ride.

So, now that I'm impossibly hooked, why not come follow me? You can find me at If you follow me, I'll follow you ;)!

1The actor who played Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation, my all-time favorite character in the Star Trek universe. When I learned Mr. Spiner was a twitterer, all my resistance was futile. I have indeed been assimilated.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Why Do We Do It?

Now, now, get your mind out of the gutter. (Okay, yes, that's probably where it belongs when you're reading the blog of an erotic romance writer, but seriously, I don't talk about that particular it that much here! I save it for the books.)

No, today, I'm mulling about why writers write. More specifically, why I write. I've been asking myself the question a lot lately because, at the moment, I am not writing because I have to--at least not in any contractual sense. No one is breathing down my neck for this manuscript, and when it is done, there is no guarantee that anyone will be beating down my agent's door to buy it.

Some days, usually when the story refuses to bend to my will and the words are coming with great difficulty, writing really does seem like a colossal waste of time and effort. I'm not enjoying it, there's no assurance anyone but my CPs and my agent will ever read it, and there must be a thousand more immediately productive things I could be doing with my time.

And yet, I can't seem to stop. There's a drive, an urge to do it, even when it feels about as pleasurable as peeling my skin off, inch by excruciating inch.

My father (who wrote two novels and did lots of freelance nonfiction writing) used to say that he had to write. It wasn't something he did because he wanted to, but because he needed to. That's not to say wanting to was never part of the equation. After all, we need to eat to survive, but most of us enjoy our food, at least a significant proportion of the time.

All of that said, I know plenty of writers who claim no particular compulsion to write. They do it because they enjoy it and/or they make a living at it, and it's better than any other job they could be doing. And more power to them.

But for me, the compulsion is the thing that keeps me going even when it's rough, when the doubts set in. Because the doubts will set in. Is my hero really as hawt and sexy as my CP says? Is my heroine TSTL or just plain bitchy and unlikeable? Is my amazing and clever plot really stupid and boring? And the love scenes--are they sexy and erotic and emotionally engaging or just...meh? But I'll never know the answers unless I soldier on, so I'm glad that I can keep writing, even when it hurts.

YOUR TURN: What about you? If you write, why do you it? And if you don't, do you wonder why other people do? Or wish you could?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Whine about Taxes

Okay, nothing to do with them being too much or too difficult to prepare or anything like that. But honestly, who in DOG'S name thought that it would be a good idea to have people PAY to e-file?

Hello, IRS and Franchise Tax Board--you have said on more than one occasion that efilers save the government money. Their returns require fewer hours of human manpower for processing, thereby reducing costs. And yet you still want us to pay you? Are you mad?

This year, my TurboTax software came with five free federal efiles. So I will definitely be filing my federal taxes electronically. But the state of California wants to charge me $19.95 per return. Hello, it costs me <$5 to print and mail you the bloody thing. Why would I pay you four times as much?

Talk about penny-wise and pound foolish. Sheesh. No wonder government is always broke!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Personality Types and the Internet

Today at our department meeting, we were talking about various personality typing indexes. The most well-known of these is the Myers-Briggs index, which determines your personality type or style based on four "opposing" sets of characteristics:

  • Introverted vs Extroverted
  • Sensing vs iNtuition
  • Thinking vs Feeling
  • Judging vs Perceiving
These four characteristics can then be mixed and matched in up to 16 different combinations. I've taken Myers-Briggs tests numerous times, and while the first letter (I or E) seems to change depending on the mood I'm in, I almost always wind up with NTJ as my last four letters.

Which is why I was utterly astonished to discover, when I tried out this tool for analyzing a website's content based on the Myers-Briggs index, that both my main site and this blog have exactly the opposite final three letters. My sites, it seems, are all Sensing, Feeling, and Perceiving! (My website is an introvert and my blog is an extrovert, which I guess makes sense, lol.)

Anyway, I thought this was very interesting. When I tried the tool out on some of my friends sites, I was impressed by the degree to which their sites seemed to match what I think of as their personalities. Of course, some of them I only KNOW through their websites and blogs, so perhaps that doesn't mean much. Still, it was intriguing...

Anyway, if you're interested in finding out the Myers-Briggs type of your website and those of your friends, favorite authors, what have you, it's here:

Friday, March 27, 2009

My New Obsession: Lost in Austen

Okay, I will make what may be a somewhat shocking confession: I'm really not that big of an Austen fan. Oh, I've read the biggies--Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma--but they don't draw me back for repeat reads over and over again. I've enjoyed the movie adaptations I've seen, but I haven't gone out of my way to see them. I'm more of a "if it happens to be on Masterpiece Theater and I happen to have the time" kind of girl when it comes to watching Austen movies. And I haven't had any particular desire to seek out any of the modern Austen sequels that have become so popular of late.

So, when I checked the TV menu last night and found an hour-long show called Lost in Austen was on my PBS station, I was only mildly intrigued. But there was nothing else I wanted to watch, so I decided to give it a whirl.

And, oh my goodness, am I glad I did! Lost in Austen is about a modern-day Londoner, Amanda Price, whose favorite book is Pride and Predudice. She reads it over and over again as an escape from the coarse rudeness and lack of romanticism in modern life. And then, one night, after her boyfriend proposes to her and then passes out on the couch, drunk, she hears a noise in her bathroom. When she goes to investigate, she discovers Elizabeth Bennett in her bathtub. Shortly thereafter, she and Elizabeth switch places.

I won't reveal more than that because, well, it would be a spoiler, but I think what made this so much fun for me is that it really is seeing the historical romance through the eyes of a modern woman, which is the way we read Austen and all modern romance novels with historical settings. Not to mention, it is very funny.

The entire show is made up of four one-hour episodes, and I'm already eagerly anticipating episode 2. In the meantime, I reckon I'll fire up the DVR and watch episode 1 a few times more!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I Know It's Been Quiet...

But that's because I've been quietly plotting world domination...muahaha!

Well, that's not entirely true. I did spend a few weeks under a rock after my option book proposal was...well, not exactly rejected, but postponed by my editor at Kensington. I knew there was a very good possibility of that happening, but when it actually did happen, I was a bit more discouraged than I thought I'd be. Even so, the door's not locked, just temporarily closed. Prospects may be better in the fall.

In the meantime, my agent (the lovely Kevan Lyon of the newly-minted Marsal Lyon Literary Agency) and I decided the best course of action would be for me to dust off my Victorian-set single-title historical romance and finish it with the idea of shopping it during the summer. This is a book I started quite a while ago, and I really do love the characters and plot, so it's no hardship to be working on it again after the hiatus. I'm about a third of the way into the manuscript now, and hope to finish the first draft by late May or early June.

I'm also trying to slip a few smaller projects in between the cracks. Those who read and enjoyed my first contemporary novella, The Gospel of Love: According to Luke, may be pleased to know that finished the sequel, According to Matthew, last month. It's currently biding its time in the submission queue, but I hope to hear within a few more weeks whether it will be accepted for publication. I have a few other small irons on the fire, as well, including (are you ready?) a book I'm writing that's aimed at the middle grade/YA market. (Hey, I have to write something my kids can read, right?)

And in addition to all that, I'm working on promotion for Behind the Red Door, which will be out in a mere two months! (I'm still sort of breathless over that). As part of that effort, I'll be rolling out a new, improved website and blog on or about May 1. That probably means this blog will go away as I convert from Blogger to Wordpress (hmmm, I wonder if Blogger considers that admission to be filterable content?).

With everything that's going on, I'll only be posting here sporadically for the next few weeks (but hopefully a bit more than the last few!). I do promise, however, to post soon and ask you if you have any questions you'd like me to ask some of the blog guests I'm lining up for the month of May. Among those who've already accepted my invitation to guest are my agent and her partner, Jill Marsal. So, be thinking about what you'd like to ask an agent, because I'll be asking for questions soon!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Fun, Fun, Fun

Tomorrow morning, I'll be getting up early and driving up to Orange County. Normally, I wouldn't be thrilled to be getting up before eight a.m. on a Saturday morning, but in this case, I'm making an exception. You see, I'm going to attend the Orange County Chapter's meeting, where I'll be sitting on a panel to talk about the epublishing industry. My friend Tessa Dare invited me in December, and I have been looking forward to it ever since.

I love being around other writers, but I don't get the opportunity very often. Getting away from my family on a Saturday, when my local chapter holds its meetings, is tough. Between our obligations to Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, and Girl Scouts and the general craziness of trying to keep up with general household chores, weekends always seem to be packed. The only reason I'm able to go up to do this panel tomorrow is that I planned WAY in advance and there was nothing on the Scouting schedule on Saturday.

Anyway, I'm expecting to meet some wonderful new people, including my fellow panelists. I'm particularly excited about meeting Jennifer Haymore, whose June 2009 release from Grand Central, looks extremely intriguing. And, of course, I'm thrilled that I get to see Tessa, whom I first met online during the Avon FanLit contest two years ago and then met in person at RWA National in Dallas the following summer. It's going to be awesome!

YOUR TURN: Have any fun plans for the weekend? Spill!

Monday, February 9, 2009

It's Raining, It's Pouring

Literally. And Southern California is supposedly in the midst of a terrible drought. Go figure!

A rainy day should, of course, be the perfect sort of day to cuddle up in front of the fire with the laptop and write stories set in merry old England. Except...the firewood's all wet, the fireplace wants cleaning, and the kids are all home from school.

So much for the weather setting the mood!

YOUR TURN: Does the weather affect your writing? Or reading?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Lyric Thursday: The Pretender

I'm probably showing my age by posting these lyrics, but I have to say that this is one of my favorite songs ever, and a large part of the reason I love it so much is because words literally send a shiver down my spine. To me, it's a classic example of a song with lyrics so profound and beautifully composed, it can stand with the very best poetry, with or without music.

The Pretender
copyright 1976, by Jackson Browne

I'm going to rent myself a house
In the shade of the freeway
I'm going to pack my lunch in the morning
And go to work each day
And when the evening rolls around
I'll go on home and lay my body down
And when the morning light comes streaming in
I'll get up and do it again
Say it again

I want to know what became of the changes
We waited for love to bring
Were they only the fitful dreams
Of some greater awakening
I've been aware of the time going by
They say in the end it's the wink of an eye
And when the morning light comes streaming in
You'll get up and do it again

Caught between the longing for love
And the struggle for the legal tender
Where the sirens sing and the church bells ring
And the junk man pounds his fender
Where the veterans dream of the fight
Fast asleep at the traffic light
And the children solemnly wait
For the ice cream vendor
Out into the cool of the evening
Strolls the Pretender
He knows that all his hopes and dreams
Begin and end there

Ah the laughter of the lovers
As they run through the night
Leaving nothing for the others
But to choose off and fight
And tear at the world with all their might
While the ships bearing their dreams
Sail out of sight

I'm going to find myself a girl
Who can show me what laughter means
And we'll fill in the missing colors
In each other's paint-by-number dreams
And then we'll put out dark glasses on
And we'll make love until our strength is gone
And when the morning light comes streaming in
We'll get up and do it again
Get it up again

I'm going to be a happy idiot
And struggle for the legal tender
Where the ads take aim and lay their claim
To the heart and the soul of the spender
And believe in whatever may lie
In those things that money can buy
Though true love could have been a contender
Are you there?
Say a prayer for the Pretender
Who started out so young and strong
Only to surrender

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Choosing Names

As I've gotten into the nitty-gritty of writing my new novel, it struck me that one of the most important things we writers do when constructing a story is to choose the names of our characters. A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but a heroine named Rose is likelier to catch our readers' fancy than one named Skunk. (Yes, it's silly, but it illustrates the point.)

Often, I find I choose my characters names without much thought or effort. The character's personality traits just seem to "fit" a particular name, or the hero/heroine comes to me with a name before I've even thought up more of the story. (In one case, I thought up a whole series of books based on a single name, Liberty Jenkins. Not that I've had time to write it, yet!)

To me, the fact that a name can suggest a story (or a story a name) illustrates just how powerful they are to shaping what your book becomes. A heroine named Hortense or a hero named Ernest will have far greater hurdles to overcome in playing against "type" than one named Angelina or Brad. That's not to say an author can't overcome those hurdles, but that by choosing those less attractive (apologies to all Hortenses and Ernests present) names, the author sets herself up from page one with a hurdle to overcome.

In the book I'm currently working on, the heroine's name was decided before I wrote the first line. Because she appears in Sinfully Ever After, the last of the novellas in Behind the Red Door, I had to use the name I'd given her in that story. If I had known, however, that I would be giving her a book of her own, I probably wouldn't have chosen the name Marianne.

It's not that I have anything against the name Marianne. It's a pretty name. It's also a perfectly Georgian and Regency-era correct name for a lady (and there are precious few, as Jo Beverley points out here). It's just that it's not the name I would have associated with this particular character as she has evolved. That said, it's what I had to work with, so it's what I went with.

I had more leeway with the hero, since he doesn't appear in any of the other stories. I also had to provide his nephew, who plays a pivotal role in the story, and his three daughters with names that seemed to "suit" them (and, as an added bonus, might provide me with grist for more stories down the road).

As is sometimes the case, the hero's name presented itself almost immediately. Sterling. As soon as it popped into my head, I knew it was right. He's hard and a little tarnished, but with a bit of polishing, his true worth shines through.

Okay, two down, one to go.

The nephew took a little longer. I started with Benjamin, and even used it in the first draft of the first chapter, but it just wasn't working for me. I couldn't say why, I just knew it wasn't the name that character wanted and needed. I knew the name needed to start with a B (again, there's no rhyme or reason to why I thought that...I just did!), so I kept trying and the name that kept coming to me was Bernard. It's perhaps a little nerdy sounding, but for this character, that fits. Not that he's nerdy exactly, but...well, let's just see if someone actually decides to publish the book and you can find out for yourself!

YOUR TURN: Are the names of the characters in a book important to you? Will you deliberately pass over a book because you don't like the name of the hero/heroine? Pick up a book specifically because you like the names? And if you're a writer, how do you choose your characters' names?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Is Erotica Irreligious?

Sometimes, events conspire to occur in such a way that it's nearly impossible to believe life is in any way random.

So it was at church this Sunday when the sermon title was "Sex and the Bible." Given that there's been a bit of dust-up between the erotic and inspirational factions of RWA over the RITAs (again) this past week (you can get the gist from this post on Kate Rothwell's blog), it seemed almost surreal that our pastor would have chosen to address this topic in such a timely (and entirely satisfactory) fashion.

I won't go into the details of his sermon, but I walked without a smile on my face. For those who feel "on-screen" sex is incompatible with "Christian" values, I point to:

1) The Song of Solomon

2) The Ecstasy of St. Teresa by Bernini

I rest my case.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Why RWA Needs to Revisit PAN Eligibility Rules

Last week, Emily Veinglory reprinted a fantastically perceptive Absolute Write forum post by Xandra Gregory, a Liquid Silver Books author, on the EREC blog about RWA's current rules for Published Author Network (PAN) eligibility. I hope Xandra (whom I've never met) won't mind my reproducing here what I think is the most interesting and salient point of her post:

RWA's biggest problems stem from the dual need it has to both encourage its members in their careers (providing markets, growing readership and increasing visibility for the genre, etc.) and act as a guardian/advocate against the career paths that take undue advantage of authors. For starters, there's just no real good way to do that except on a case-by-case basis. RWA's best intentions are setting up an environment where the organization "norms" include a career path that enables a writer to earn decent money, see his or her books in places where they can be bought by customers, and retain reasonable rights to his or her intellectual property.

What this does is sets up a tacit approval of the "proper" way a career should progress. What this fails to do is take into account new markets, emerging markets, or "breakout" situations where an author can expand the reach of romance, grow her audience, or explore new methods of getting stories in front of people and getting money for said stories.
This is a perfect assessment of the "devil and the deep blue sea" dilemma in which RWA has found itself. Any set of rules it defines for determining what constitutes a "professional" career path for a romance author will inevitably result in some very professional authors falling through the cracks.

But there are ways RWA could improve the definition to better identify and distinguish between members who are making a serious effort at building a publishing career versus those who are primarily hobbyists. This isn't to say that I think all writers who have yet to receive a publishing contract aren't serious about having a publishing career, but to say that I think the RWA PRO designation does a pretty good job of identifying those people. (For those not "in the know," a member can apply for PRO status by submitting a copy of a completed manuscript and evidence that said manuscript has been queried to an agent or editor.)

While I'm sure my suggestions won't meet with universal agreement (nothing ever does), I think they are a darn sight more fair and realistic than the current rules. With that in mind, here are four (IMO) modest proposals:

  1. The income eligibility guidelines should be scaleable based on the length of the published/contracted work. At present, an author must earn a minimum of $1k, either in the form of advance or royalties, on a single published novel or novella. This is patently absurd because an author who earns $500 on a single 20,000 words novella is clearly getting a better rate of return on her work than one who earns $1,000 on a 100,000 word novel.

  2. Recognize authors of short stories (works under 20,000 words) into the "published" club, again using the sliding scale for payment. I know authors who have earned upwards of $2,000 on short stories in the 15,000-19,999 word range, yet because those stories don't qualify as novellas, RWA doesn't allow them to enter PAN. That's just silly, IMO.

  3. The requirement that the minimum income threshhold must be met on a "single work" within 18 months of publication should be revised. The epublishing model works best for authors who put out multiple, relatively short works in a calendar year. As the author builds readership, sales build steadily for her backlist, which allows her to increase her income over the years as new readers discover her and purchase her backlist. Moreover, I would argue that the epubbed author with multiple releases over several years has clearly established a pattern of publication that indicates she is serious about pursuing a writing career. In fact, I believe I could make the case that the multi-published epubbed author has a better "career" in publishing than the print author who received a single two-book contract five years ago but has never sold since (and that's not making any judgments about why that author hasn't sold again--it may be by choice or by fiat, but the principle holds either way).

  4. Authors who do not meet these eligibility criteria should be permitted to enter the Golden Heart. If they are not "professional" enough as writers to be recognized as such by one set of criteria as published, their publication credits should not count against them when it comes to the premier unpublished contest.1

I believe that adopting these proposals would go a long way toward meeting the needs of RWA's published members. If RWA truly believes in advocating and supporting its members' publishing careers, it can't continue to be blind to the changing landscape of publishing and the new ways iin which savvy authors are working new markets and new models to their advantage.

1This doesn't mean that I think the RITA must be restructured to allow all members who are published to enter it. After all, not all unpublished members can enter the Golden Heart, either. To enter the Golden Heart, the member must have a completed novel-length manuscript. If a member's manuscript is either unfinished or less than 40k in length, she's out of luck. So, I have no particular problem with the notion that a published author can only enter the RITA if her book meets the contest's requirements, including by being bound in print by the publisher.

Friday, January 30, 2009

When the Pieces Fall Together

When I tell other authors that I write historical, one of the more common responses I get (assuming they don't write historical themselves) is something along the lines of "Oh, I've always wanted to write a historical, but the all the research and the accuracy and the details are just too intimidating." They prefer to write contemporaries, set in a world they already know, or perhaps paranormals, where they not only get to do a lot of world-building but also get to make all the rules for how the world works. After all, if you write a book set in a fantasy world of your own creation, no one can come along and complain later that you got some fact about that world wrong :).1

But one of the things that I find most rewarding about writing historicals is making the details of a story match the actual facts of the period. Sometimes, this can be a real challenge. Other times, it almost seems as if the gods are smiling down upon you and granting you a historical fact so pertinent and perfect, you wonder if the annals of history haven't been altered just to suit your book.

Such a thing happened to me today. The book I'm currently working on is set in 1817 during the London (and Parliamentary) Season. My hero is a duke and takes his responsibility in the House of Lords quite seriously, attending sessions with near religious zeal. (As an added bonus, this devotion to duty keeps him busy enough that his absence from most Society functions, which he prefers to avoid, is mostly unremarked by his peers.)

In the next scene in the book, however, I wanted him to be sitting in Parliament, listening to arguments over a bill--a bill he and his block would normally vote against. But, because he is so distracted by recent events involving the heroine, he quite loses track of the discussion and inadvertently votes in favor of something he finds reprehensible. The question was...what could that bill be? I wanted to find a bill that was actually put up to a vote during the legislative session of 1817, and I wanted it to be something my hero should obviously not favor. And I didn't want to have to order a book from Amazon and wait a week or more for it to be delivered. I need to write this scene today, not sometime in February. Unfortunately, I wasn't having much luck finding what I needed, even using the awesome Google Books search feature.

Thanks to The Beau Monde's wonderful Yahoo loop, which is populated with people who really know their stuff, and the amazing Nancy Mayer in particular, I was able to find exactly what I was looking for. She pointed me toward the Annual Register, which covered the political and cultural events of each year. I found the perfect bill for my hero to vote for by accident. Even better, it was brought to a third reading and vote on June 19th, which was a Thursday. And as it happens, the events which have so distracted him occured, according to what I've already written, on a Wednesday.

Squee! I can't wait to write the scene!

YOUR TURN: How about you? Do you love research? Hate it? Do historical details like this even matter to you? Do tell!

1I have been known to point out logical inconsistencies in the rules for a paranormal world, however. If, for example, you say at one point that it is totally impossible for a werewolf to impregnate a human, you had better not come along later and get your human heroine pregnant by your werewolf hero. Ahem. I digress.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

It's Nailbiting Time Again!

Last week, I sent my option book proposal to my agent (the uber-fabulous Kevan Lyon) and sweated for what seemed like days on end. Would she like it? Would she like it but think it needed major revisions to be saleable? What if it was so bad, I had to start over from scratch? (Having already started over once, I was in no mood to do so again!)

I would claim to be the queen of AIS (Author Insecurity Syndrome) if I didn't know quite a few other writers who suffer from forms of the same malady. No matter how much our critique partners, agents, editors, and/or readers tell us they love our work, we still worry that this time, we've managed to produce the stinker that outstinks them all. I like to tell myself that this particular trait is what keeps me honest as a writer--it makes me work hard to produce the best possible story I can and to never be satisfied with a mediocre effort. The truth, however, is that it's probably more self-defeating than anything else, since it all too often paralyzes me.

So, suffice it to say that I angsted over my agent's response to my proposal until I heard back from her yesterday. She found a few typos and one place where a POV character's thoughts weren't entirely clear, but other than that, she thought it was ready to go. I cleaned up the errors, added a few lines to the problem scene to clarify, and sent it back. And last night, she sent it off to my editor.

In other words, I just traded one week of nailbiting for (up to) six more while we wait to hear whether my editor wants to make an offer on the book or not.

Yes, I'll keep you posted.

YOUR TURN: What's keeping you up nights? The economy? Global warming? The Israeli-Palestinian crisis? Tell me all and remind me that this is small potatoes!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Meaning of "Published"

If you're a member of RWA (Romance Writers of America) or are at least tangentially interested in the organization, you're probably aware that it sponsors two annual contests for writers:

  • The Golden Heart: For completed, uncontracted manuscripts in one the romance/YA genres by authors who are not published in novella or novel-length fiction.

  • The Rita: For published romance novels and novellas (though novella is its own category) with a first print run in the past calendar year (i.e., the Rita in 2009 will be presented to a book first published in 2008).
There has, for some time, been a bit of heartburn on the part of epublished authors that, due to the print requirement of the Rita, they are ineligible to enter either contest. But this year, the low, slow burn has been fanned into a full-blown conflagration by the addition of these words to the Rita eligibility guidelines:
Be mass-produced by a non-Subsidy, non-Vanity Publisher in print book format.
The "mass-produced" is the problem.

First, this wording is completely vague. How many copies must be printed in order for the book to be "mass-produced"? Without any clarity on that subject, how is an author to determine whether or not her book qualifies for the Rita? In fact, a fair number of people entered their books in the contest only to be informed that their book didn't meet the "mass-produced" requirement.

But second, why should it matter? It's pretty clear that this clause is designed primarily to eliminate print-on-demand books from the competition, but I have yet to understand why that is either necessary or desirable.

The reason this has caused massive unrest and anger, I think, is that epublished authors were willing to accept (if sometimes grudgingly) that the Rita is a contest for print books and that their ineligibility was solely a format issue. But when RWA moved to exclude some print books as well, it looked suspiciously like the rules had nothing to do with format and everything to do with trying to limit the competition to books published by major New York houses. And that, in turn, looked suspiciously like a statement that authors published by epublishers (with or without print programs) and small presses aren't "published" at all.

This brings me back to the eligibility guidelines for the Golden Heart. The manuscript must be uncontracted at the time it's entered and the author must not have published a fictional work of 20,000 or more words with a non-vanity, non-subsidy publisher. No problem, right? Except--here's the kicker--an author could be eligible to join RWA's published author network (PAN) by virtue of having earned $1,000 or more on a single work in the romance genre, and yet remain eligible for the Golden Heart because that published work was under 20,000 words!

My first published manuscript was just shy of 15,000 words, and therefore, qualified as a short story, not a novella. While I didn't earn the $1,000 minimum for PAN membership on it, Harlequin's Spice Briefs program offers (I've heard; maybe it's not true!) advances in the range of $1,000 for stories under 15k in length, and I did (belatedly) get an offer on that manuscript from them. In other words, I could have earned the PAN minimum on a short story, yet remained eligible for the Golden Heart.


Now, I've heard some authors argue that PAN eligibility and Rita eligibility have nothing to do one another, and rightly so. After all, I'm a PAN member now, but my print book isn't eligible for the 2008 Rita because it doesn't come out until May of 2009. It would be ridiculous for me to bellyache that I can't enter because my book's not out yet.

Notwithstanding the accuracy of that observation, the fact remains that what's getting up people's noses here less to do with the Rita than with what it means to be "published." Authors who have been offered a contract for publication by a non-vanity, non-subsidy publisher want (by and large; I imagine there are exceptions) to be considered published by the professional organization to which they belong--and they want that regardless of how long the manuscript is, how much money they've earned from its publication, or what format(s) it was released in.

The current system for PAN eligibility is, IMO, both unnecessarily invasive and unfairly restrictive. To join, authors must submit proof of their earnings (in the form of either royalties or an advance or a combination of the two) on a single published work over a period of 18 months. RWA's argument in favor of the earnings clause is twofold:

1) It establishes the notion that money should flow from the publisher to the author, not the other way around.

2) RWA wants to support the idea of professional writers; that is, writers who earn a decent income from their work.

I think those are both worthy goals. The problem is that the non-vanity, non-subsidy clause already makes #1 clear. And as for #2--the percentage of published authors who earn sufficient income from their writing to do it as a full-time job is very, very small. It's greater than zero, but my understand is that the majority of published authors either have a wage-earning spouse/partner or work a day job in addition to writing. Writing has never been a "get rich quick" scheme, and it never will be.

Furthermore, requiring that authors earn a minimum of $1,000 on a single work to be treated as published ignores and excludes many epublished authors who actually are making a living from their writing. These authors have multiple books, none of which individually breaks the $1,000 threshhold but which, together, easily provide $10,000 or more in income each year. These authors are, IMO, as "professional" and "published" as an author who has received a $10,000 advance on a two-book contract from a NY house, yet they are excluded from being treated as such by the very organization that claims to represent their interests!

In the end, it isn't about whether or not an author can enter the Rita; it's about receiving a modicum of respect for what you've accomplished. Published ought to mean "published." And I am radical enough to think that a short story writer is just as published as a novella or novel writer. Brokeback Mountain is a short story--does anyone really think it's less worthy of recognition as a "published" work because it's less than 20,000 words long?

I honestly believe that resolving the issue of what constitutes a "published author" would go a long, long way to resolving the internecine battles within RWA over the Rita. Granted, it won't make the "print" vs. "ebook" problem go away, but that is going to go away in the next twenty years or so, regardless of what RWA does. Because print is on the way out as the primary method of distribution for books; ebooks are the future.

But that's another post!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Lyric Thurs--er, Saturday: B Side of Life by Timbuk 3

Okay, I really intended to do this on Thursday, but the problem is, these lyrics seem to exist nowhere on the Internet. Which is kind of amazing, if you think about it. I thought EVERY song in the universe had lyrics posted on the 'Net.

Anyway, I may be breaking some sort of rule, but I don't care. I just love the poignant, incisive way this song takes on both the up and downsides of being rich and famous. Not that I ever expect to be either, but maybe that's why I like it so much. I, too, am happy enough on the B side of life!

The B Side of Life
by Pat and Barbara MacDonald

Grandma, do you recognize me?
Course you don’t, I’m nobody,
I have no money, I have no name,
I tear the tickets at the Hall of Fame.

I buy my dinner at the 7-11,
Eat it in the kitchen while I watch TV.
I like my free time and I love my wife.
You’ll find my number on the B side of life.

Once I got lucky, I had a band.
We had a song, it got to number three.
Made lots of money, made lots of friends,
Had lots of pretty people hanging ‘round me.
Now all I want is a place to hide,
To feel safe from the chaos outside.
A cold refrigerator, a warm bed,
A place where no one will stick a gun to my head.

I buy my dinner at the 7-11,
Eat it in the kitchen while I watch TV.
I like my free time and I love my wife.
We’re happy living on the B side of life

We had the key to the city,
But the rooms it did unlock,
Were full of overpriced portraits,
Engaged in cheap small talk.

So turn out the lights, turn up the radio.
Don’t know the singer, but I love that song
I know that I’m no Barishnikov, baby
But I want to dance with you all night long.

I’ll buy you dinner at the 7-11,
We’ll eat it in the kitchen while we watch TV.
Tonight’s my birthday, let’s have a party,
I’m thirty with a bullet on the B side of life

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Return of Lyric Thursday: Jane by Barenaked Ladies

I used to do a feature in bygone days that I called Lyric Thursday. I stopped doing it because...well, because I got lazy.

But a few minutes ago, the song that tangentially inspired large parts of the plot and conflict in Sinfully Ever After, the third of the novellas in Behind the Red Door, and I felt the sudden need to bring it back. So, for your lyric-reading pleasure today, I present Jane by Barenaked Ladies.

by Stephen Duffy/Steven Page
copyright 1994 Sire Records Company

The girl works at the store, sweet Jane St. Clair
Was dazzled by her smile while I shopped there
It wasn't long before I lived with her
I sang her songs while she dried my hair

Jane, divided, but I can't decide which side I'm on
Jane decided only cowards stay, while traitors run
Jane, Jane

I'd bring her gold and frankincense and myrrh
She thought that I was making fun of her
She made me feel I was fourteen again
That's why she thinks it's cooler if we'd just stay friends
Jane doesn't think a man could ever be faithful
Jane isn't giving me a chance to be shameful

Jane, Jane

I wrote a letter, she should have got it yesterday
That life could be better by being together
Is what I cannot explain to Jane

The girl works at the store, sweet Jane St. Clair
Still dazzled by her smile while I shoplift there
No promises as vague as Heaven
No Juliana next to my Evan
Jane, desired by the people at her school and work
Jane is tired, 'cause every man becomes a lovesick jerk

Jane, Jane

Monday, January 5, 2009


Since she FINALLY posted the announcement on the Mavens blog today, I can finally stop biting my tongue and tell you all that my dear friend and critique partner Erica Ridley sold her Regency-set gothic mystery/paranormal romance, TOUCHED, to Kensington Books in a two-book deal. Even better, we both have the same editor (John Scognamiglio). How awesome is that?

And since the book is freaking fabulous, I am even more assured of my editor's amazing and wonderful taste ;).

Woohoo! Party time. Can't wait to see her with that gorgeous First Sale ribbon at next year's conference!