#ThrowItForward Thursday: Meet Gina of Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

GinaRYes! It’s Thursday! And I’m so pleased and proud to bring you another #ThrowItForward Thursday. #WriterWednesday is for honoring fellow authors; #ThrowItForward Thursday shines the spotlight on those who help us authors in innumerable ways: book bloggers, editors, cover designers, etc. Because without y’all, we authors would be toast!

Today, we have Gina from Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers. I just love the fact that her blog combines two of my favorite things: books and food. Okay, so the books are the food on her delightful blog, but, well, you get the picture. Gina very kindly reviewed A Man of Characterbut believe you me, she’s got a lot more going on than that. So grab your favorite beverage, settle back, and get to know Gina a little bit more!

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What was the impetus behind starting Insatiable Readers? How long have you been a book blogger?

SFIR took root when I first started working at our local chain bookstore.  I had always had a love of reading and scoring that job, even if it was a 2nd to my full-time position, was a dream.  A fellow coworker and I were discussing a title and the conversation led into her current blog.  I was clueless…had heard the term but had no earthly idea what it was.  She kindly explained the basics and offered to help me set one up.  I agreed, but being impatient (our schedules were conflicting), I struck out on my own to discover the WORLD OF BLOGGING via BlogSpot and the rest is history!

What is your favorite genre to review? Any genres that really aren’t your cup of tea?

background made from opened booksFavorite genre is Fiction in general; more specifically Young Adult, Children’s, Contemporary, and Literary.  I can do some Sci-Fi on a limited basis and Romance as long as it stays the Contemporary line of things (not so much Johnny! Marsha!).  I’ve been known to dabble in Biographies, Memoirs, Pets, Christian Fiction…I’m sorry, it would have been MUCH easier if I answered the LATTER question first.

The two genres I do not dabble in are Sports and Erotica.  No jokes on that either….I can see them brewing in your mind.  😉 

[ML: *innocent face*]

Do you have a preference regarding accepting requests from traditionally published vs indie published authors? Do you notice a quality difference in the materials you receive from each (generally speaking)?

Personally, I don’t have a preference.  I know some readers are hardcore one or the other, but I’m equal opportunity in that area.  If a book sounds good, and captures my interest, I’m more than happy to take a trip through the pages.  Quality wise…honestly I’ve seen errors and opportunities in books I’ve received from both sources.  It can happen more frequently in smaller publishers (or to self-published authors) that don’t necessarily have the manpower or are splitting resources, but generally by the final product, it all turns out for the best. 

How many review requests do you receive a month, and how many are you able to accommodate?

Ooh…the million dollar question.  I really don’t know exactly on the numbers, though I try to tackle them as I see them.  As far as how many I can accommodate, it’s dependent upon the type of post (review, spotlight, teaser, giveaway, excerpt, etc)…and my scheduling.  I’ve been known to stretch myself a little thin from time to time.  *-*  What can I say?  So many GREAT books, so little time!  I’m trying to do better, but I won’t miss a deadline.  That I can promise.

What’s one thing you wish authors knew about approaching book bloggers? 

We’re people, not robots.  Tell us about yourself and the book.  If we’re not interested, please don’t take offense.  We do this on our own time because we love reading and the magic that books bring into our (collectively speaking) lives, not because we’re obligated to take on every one that comes our way.  Also, many bloggers have Review Policies on their sites.  Take a moment to read them before sending the pitch; it may save yourself some time (ergo my preference to NOT read Erotica…and receiving a request to review one *-*).  Oh and if you’re going to use a “form pitch” at least personalize the opening; getting a “Dear <insert name here>” (which I’ve actually received before)…or one that’s addressed to the wrong person (ditto on the comment) can be a little irksome. (Wait you asked for one thing…oops!)

What’s your biggest pet peeve in a story? Dialogue issues? Saggy plot? Unrealistic characters? Typos?

Biggest?  Typos and grammar issues.  It interrupts my train of thought when I’m reading if I have to go back and try to figure out what the author was trying to say over and over again.  Most other things I can work with…I realize that every work is the author’s “baby” so I try to give each one their time to shine.

Where do you see yourself and your blog in 5 years?

Me?  Well, I’d LOVE to be in Publishing…specifically the Editorial aspect of it all.  The idea of helping to bring new titles to the forefront and assisting in them reaching their full potential really makes my heart flutter.  The chances…I wouldn’t say nonexistent but they are slim simply geographically speaking.  As for my blog, I’d love to see it continue marching forward like a story you just can’t get enough of, with the readership expanding to spark some conversations in the blogosphere.  *daydreams*

[ML: The internet makes all sorts of things possible, you know! My editor lives in England, my cover designer/formatter in Australia. Don’t let geography limit you!]

What are one or two relatively undiscovered books you think people should pick up and read?

alicewonderOh man…one or two?  Eek!  I could probably fill a book with them to be honest.  Umm, let’s see…two, two, gotta pick two.  Alright, I’ll pick…but it doesn’t mean that the others in my head right now are any less on the totem pole of reading.

ONE:  Lot’s Mountain by N.R. Allen

TWO:  Alice Takes Back Wonderland by David D. Hammons

…both are YA fantasy picks that really left their mark in my mind, but I mean there are SO MANY MORE!

How much time do you devote to your reviews and blog each week?

I try to have a new post every day which may mean scheduling in advance (when possible…not always), but each review generally takes about two hours from start to finish.  So I guess that means at least 14 hours, not including reading?

Is there any type of story you have yet to read but would love to see?

You know, I’m not certain.  Every time I think I’ve read most types of stories, something new crops up and surprises me, like this Picture Book I read earlier today, Dewey Bob by Judy Schachner.  I thought it was going to be this story about a cute little raccoon who collects things but in actuality, it was SO MUCH MORE!  (Can’t tell you what, that would spoil the surprise for YOU!)  I leave the writing and creating to the authors…I’ll take ownership of the enjoyment factor.  ^-^

What’s the book blogging community like? Do you interact regularly with fellow bloggers, reads, and/or authors?

The book blogging community for the most part is the most welcoming I’ve seen in reality or virtually.  There’s always going to be a few that push people’s buttons the wrong way, but the majority are kindhearted, happy to answer a question, offer their words of wisdom for a problem you’ve encountered, or simply share a good conversation about what you’re reading now or perhaps should be reading. 

Interaction-wise, it’s more of a hit and miss.  There are a few bloggers that I regularly chat with (Tracey at Pen and Paper, Jess of Nayuleska’s Reading Corner, to name a few), other bloggers and authors I catch in passing.  Some over the years have fallen out of touch whether it be us missing each other time wise, losing interest in blogging, or perhaps their star of fame shot so high so fast that staying in touch wasn’t the easiest of things.  It’s all good though…the memories stay with you even no matter what.

Is there anything else you’d like us to know?

I can be long-winded at times…like in this interview.  ^-^  As I’ve said before, I LOVE READING and sharing my experience through the pages is something that really touches my heart.  The more connections I make with authors, publishers, publicists, and readers, the merrier…and if something I’ve written speaks to you, feel free to leave a comment!  Each one is another ray of sunshine in my day.

Also….THANK YOU for the opportunity to visit and say my piece!  Though it may have been larger than anticipated, it was wonderful to share a bit of myself with you and your readers.  ^-^ – Gina

Want to connect further with Gina? Find her here! 

gmrSatisfaction for Insatiable Readershttp://insatiablereaders.blogspot.com
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/GRgenius
Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/GRgenius
Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/insatiablereaders

Thank you so much for sharing your time and self with us today, Gina – I loved reading all about you and your experiences as a book blogger, and just have to say thank you again for all you do for authors.
You clearly invest your whole self into sharing your love of books with others, and it shows!

#ThrowItForward Thursday: Meet Annie McDonnell, Book Reviewer Extraordinaire!

AnnieMcDIt’s #ThrowItForward Thursday, and I am so honored to have Annie McDonnell, book reviewer for The Write Review, Chick Lit Plusand Elle Magazine here with me!

Annie is a zany force of fun, and I’ve truly enjoyed getting to know her via Facebook. I was flabbergasted but delighted when she expressed interest in reviewing A Man of Characterespecially since she got it onto Chick Lit Plus – a big-time site!

Annie is so expressive in her love for books and authors, and she brings happy smiles wherever she goes. I’m thrilled to now count her as a friend as well as a reviewer – and wait until you read all the insights she gives!

Settle in, folks, because you don’t want to miss this. I hope you’ll leave Annie a comment below!

How long have you been writing book reviews?

I became a published book reviewer in March, 2007. But, I recently came upon my very first book review on record!!! It was published in my elementary school newspaper from when I was in 3rd Grade. LOL!!! Apparently, I was the “Book Reviewer” for the newspaper. I loved finding that! I always knew this was in my bones. This proved it!

When did you start The Write Review?

Fountain penI began blogging about two years ago, but am really honing in on it this year. I am still birthing the site. I am hoping to have it full of interviews with authors, other reviewers, guest bloggers, articles, and, of course, book reviews. I have the vision, just a lot of work to get it started. Still unsure of where this is going to go. Because working with Elle and Chick Lit Plus keeps me busy enough. AH!

How did you hook up with Chick Lit Plus?

Ann-Marie Nieves of Get Red PR knows that I love to review books for Elle Magazine, and she heard that Samantha, the owner of Chick Lit Plus, was looking for another reviewer for her site. Ann-Marie thought we may be a good match. So, I applied.

I was so nervous sending in samples of my reviews, especially when she asked for a review of a book I did not enjoy. That is a tough review to write.

I got the job!!!

Chick Lit Plus is a site I have always enjoyed getting lost in! It has a large market, and I was so excited to at least give it a shot! If you have not visited this site yet, you must!

I am so grateful that she let me have a chance and come on board. This is something I am very proud of!!!

How did you start writing reviews for ELLE magazine?

Elle-logoOn November 2nd, 2006, I read about a contest ELLE Magazine was having. The contest winners would become monthly book reviewers for the Magazine, known as the “Readers’ Prize Panel”. There would only be 15 participants. I had to enter this contest!

They asked for a list of your Top 5 favorite books, and for a written review of our top favorite.

I chose to write a review about Pride & Prejudice. Tough one, but … Jane Austen was not going to let me down.

Once it was sent, I checked my email like a crazy person until I received the Winner/Offer email on November 6th, 2006! I sent back my acceptance and willingness to read three books a month and send in my reviews.

About a month later, the books began to arrive. I was so excited opening my first delivery! It had actual manuscripts, held together with a rubber band. I thought I hit the BIG TIME! Hahaha.

What’s your favorite thing about being a book reviewer?

Stack of vintage books isolated on white

Short Answer: This is my passion, one that never wanes, so that is a gift itself!

Simple answer: “Just Fun! When you do what you love, it never feels like work!!” There is no greater joy than reviewing a book, and finding out that someone read the book because of my review. That is an awesome feeling!

Longer answer: Being my passion, there are so many favorite things about being a book reviewer. High on the list is that I get to interact with the authors and other readers. It is like living in this perfect world for me. I could get lost once I start chatting with authors or other readers.  Being around books is very intoxicating for me. I am at home when surrounded by books. My husband has a Man Cave, I have a Library!!

Secondly, I love having access to all sorts of books, especially ones I may not have come across unless I was in this field. For example, I have learned that I really enjoy Non-Fiction…which I never really dabbled in, until 3 arrived one month for me to review for Elle. I have been hooked ever since! I was just introduced to a newer genre, called “New Adult”, and I am seriously in love! I reviewed Bounce by Noelle August, and I will have to read more of her books.

Wow, I have a Long PRO list, I love it! (You know I could keep going…right?)

Annie’s Library!

What’s your least favorite thing?

Being a super slow reader!!! Obviously, not having the time to read all of the books I want to read would be a least favorite thing. Picking and choosing is very difficult. I will die with a To-Read List. Oh, and reviewing a book that I am not enjoying. Definitely, not fun.

I also need to take notes when reading a book. As a child, reading comprehension was a problem of mine…still is…But, I still love what I do. Most books I totally forget the endings…so, I get to enjoy it over and over again. I love that I did not let this problem interfere with my dream of writing book reviews. I feel it is my calling. Even though it does not come easy, I still cherish doing this.

I wish I was a speed reader like Becca the Bibliophile.

How do you choose what to read? Do you request books you’re interested in, or do people send you review requests?

background made from opened books

Well, ELLE sends me 3 books a month, no choice there. I am asked to do the book reviews by the author, publisher or PR Firms.

I request books on Netgalley. I sit down with Netgalley open once a week, and feel like I am shopping for books!

Being out in the community, I come across books I would love to read, so I reach out to the author directly.

[ML says: And I was one of the lucky ones! When Annie said she’d be interested in reviewing A Man of Character, I nearly fell out of my chair. It was the first time a reviewer ever approached me, instead of the other way around. I’ll never forget it!]

How many requests do you receive in an average month?

I would say at least a dozen requests pass by me each month.

There are certain authors and publicists that actually reach out to me. Twitter has opened my door to more authors that would ask me personally. I love that!

How many reviews do you do in an average month?

writingI would say I probably do about 12-15 reviews a month. Some months are busier than others, typically at the beginning of a season…but, I do try to do as many, many reviews as possible. This month, I have almost 20 to review. I cannot do that to myself again…hahaha. As stated earlier, I am a very slow reader, so this will be challenging.

This is a labor of love; you’ve told me you don’t get paid. Why do reviewers like you give so much to the author community without compensation? (Meaning, what forms of compensation, besides money, do you derive from these ventures?)

Yes, this is definitely a labor of love. I do get all of the books I read for free; so, I save a lot of money not buying books, and trips to the library are far less than they used to be. I cannot even remember the last time I borrowed a book from the library. Sometimes when I think about how much time goes in to a review, I am taken aback. Occasionally, I will finish a book and it will take me a few days to absorb the book, and finally write the review.

My compensation does not only come in the free book; I love when authors ask for name suggestions, let us vote on covers, etc., and really appreciate my time.

old-books-11281939505MsrnFor example; I wrote a review for a Steena Holmes novel for Elle Magazine, and ever since then…she has had me review all of her books, she sends lovely gifts, cards, and does giveaways. She keeps us so busy with her work, that you cannot help but feel like what you do really does matter. She has an amazing assistant that throws online parties….I get to know other reviewers and authors during these events. It is just nice to feel part of the process. She supports other authors, by asking us to read and review other author’s books. She is an author that makes me feel special. I appreciate that.

Appreciation is always a great thing. It is how I know I am doing a good job!

BONUS!!! Getting others to READ!! I love to influence people to pick up a book.

What’s one thing you wish authors knew about book reviewing?

chickbrocAuthors need to remember that book reviewing is figuratively like a meal on a menu ~ Not everyone is going to like the same thing…So, don’t beat yourself up if you get negative reviews. Pay closer attention to the readers that happily devoured your book.

Always write what you want to write, and people will come!

As far as my particular book reviewing, I would like to add, that when I open a book, I like to believe I am going to love it…it is difficult to sway me the other way…Kind of like, “innocent until proven guilty” only, “fabulous book until you change my mind.”

What’s one thing you wish readers knew about book reviewing?

It is always good to follow a reviewer that you like. If you like them, then you know that their suggestions are pretty much in line with your choices of books to read.

We love having a following! I am still working on that. When you can’t get your best friend to follow you, you know it will be hard to get others.

I would like to add, that I take this “job” seriously.

Also, I wish I had more followers. It is very hard to get them. I ADORE my friends and family that follow me!! Yvonne is a close family friend, and she has been following me since my first review. I cannot thank her enough for giving my reviews such wonderful attention. I know each review will be read at least once…by Yvonne.

What’s your favorite type of book to read/review, and why?

I can go in all kinds of directions with books, as I don’t like to be boxed in to one particular genre. But, Woman’s Fiction/Historical Fiction has proven to be a true favorite of mine. I like reading a book that teaches me a little something, or delves in to female relationships. While I enjoy mysteries, and that was all I used to read, I have certainly grown as a reader.

I also LOVE reviewing memoirs. They always draw me in.

My favorite is to be with an author from their very first book…like Steena Holmes. I have been reading each of her books as they are released.

Is there any sort of story/book you’d love to see, but haven’t?

I love that more authors are going on tangents with their stories, to tell us more about particular characters from their full novels with the use of the novella!! Now, that was a wonderful invention!!

Do you also write? How has reviewing books impacted your writing (or, if you don’t write, how has it impacted how you read books)?

A Vintage Typewriter on a wooden table.

I do not have an imaginative or creative bone in my body when it comes to storytelling. However, I enjoy writing about my personal experiences…and, I love to write poetry. I have had some poetry published. I began that in elementary school, too…haha.

I took a Creative Writing class a few years ago, and really struggled. But, when I read the stories now, I find that I may have a teenie-tiny bit of talent.

Any advice/guidance to authors looking to get book reviewers interested in their books?

findingemmaFirst, get your book on a Blog Tour!! Get all blogs reading it, and posting reviews EVERYWHERE possible.

Secondly, giving your reviewers your support and appreciation goes a very long way. Steena Holmes has a private Facebook Page/Group just for her Reviewers and it is a lot of fun to be there. She has really gained a lot of followers this way. I was there from the beginning, so I have seen this group grow. She has special events for us, for example, she held an “Ornament Exchanges” over the holidays last year. She does a lot of interactive stuff with us. I think something like that goes a long way when you want people to read your books and post reviews. Her assistant, Melissa is also a great joy! One of the hardest workers I know. All authors could use a Melissa!

I have a soft spot for her because of these interactions since reviewing her book Finding Emma for Elle Magazine.

She also promotes other authors! She is leading the way for other authors to follow suit.

Where do you see yourself and your reviewing in five years?

Close up , colorful pushpins on calendar

I would like to see my site thriving, and really “in the know” of the literary community. I’d like to be sought after by more authors.

I hope to have my quotes on the cover/back covers of more books. I am on two, right now! Nice start. My quotes are on Colette Kebell’s books, Blue and Green Should Never be Seen and The Retail Therapist. Great books!

I would also love to travel to various Book Expos, etc.   I want this to be a huge part of my life. It already is…but, I am seeing BIGGER! I want to get out of the bubble I am in…expand my horizons.

Put me in a room full of books, authors, readers…I am in my Happy Place! Besides being home with my husband, dog and three cats.

Do you have any idea the impact you’ve had on authors?

Some authors are huge Cheerleaders! Those authors are my favorites…shhh! A little pat on the back goes a long way, when you choose to review a book of your own accord.

Not so sure of having an impact, exactly.

[ML: I assure you, you do! You have no idea how confidence-inspiring it was for you to not only request my book, but then rave about it! I appreciate all of your efforts on my behalf!]

Is there a favorite book or two you’d like to tell us about, that you feel we shouldn’t miss (you do NOT have to pick A Man of Character, I promise – I honestly want to know your favorite or two from the last few years). 

You will wish you did not ask me this…hahaha.

Let’s be honest, I could not be a book reviewer without a ton of favorites…so, I will give you the highlights! I cannot honestly choose just two. This is one of my favorite subjects to discuss.

I hope you are sitting down. LOL!

Before listing my favorite books (those authors are obviously my favorites, as well), let me tell you some other authors I cherish, so you can check them out:

Bette Lee Crosby, Dinah JefferiesColette Kebell, Jane Green, Nicholas Sparks, Terry McMillan, Patricia Cornwell, and Jodi Picoult. I also adore Jackie Collins, I have been enjoying her Lucky series.

And, newest to my list is Patricia Sands….I just started her first Provence book….but, I already know, she will be added to my “Must read all of this authors books” list!

I AM GOING TO GIVE YOU MY TOP FIVE BOOKS … My favorite books of all times are Pride & Prejudice and Little Women…in the last few years, these have become my top favorites:

So, my favorite Romance is: A MAN OF CHARACTER by Margaret Locke

A Man of Character Cover Margaret LockeMargaret, you know I ADORED A Man of Character, as I sit here waiting for Eliza’s book…(hint, hint) This is not on my list because you are interviewing me.

You can read my review here: (http://chicklitplus.com/bookreview-and-bookgiveaway-a-man-of-character-by-margaret-locke/ )

[ML: Holy cow. Close to tears as I read that. Thank you. Thank you.]

My favorite Memoir is: WHAT I THOUGHT I KNEW by Alice Eve Cohen

You can read my review here: (http://thewritereview.com/2015/08/07/what-i-thought-i-knew-by-alice-eve-cohen-flashback-to-2009/ )

I have two favorites in the Woman’s Fiction category, they are:


You can read my review here: ( http://thewritereview.com/2015/08/07/giveawayeveryone-is-a-winner-help-me-celebrate-samanthas-new-release/ )

2. THE ART OF FORGETTING by Camille Noe Pagan. I read this book prior to writing personal reviews. I need to write this review!

You can read about that book here: ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9707143-the-art-of-forgetting?from_search=true&search_version=service )


You can read my review here: ( http://thewritereview.com/2015/05/06/stillwater-rising-struck-by-how-well-steena-holmes-tells-this-heartwrenching-story/ )

This was a lot of fun! I got to know myself a little bit better with each question. I appreciate you wanting to have me as a guest on your blog/site.

I hope I inspire someone to grab a book!

Wow. Thank you for joining us, Annie! I loved all of your answers, and you gave great insight into how authors can best relate to book reviewers. I wish you the best of luck as you build your reviewing career – with passion like yours, you’re obviously a star. And yes, I will get A Matter of Time to you as soon as I can! 

Promo-Pic-O-Rama: Fun With A Man of Character!

I’ve had so much fun making promo pics for A Man of Character, I decided to throw them all up here for the heck of it. Yeah, my Photoshop skills still need honing. So many skills still need honing.

Which is your favorite? If you’ve read A Man of Character, any person or quote you’d like to see?













What Is Love? / Love Between The Covers: One Romance Writer’s Adventures (meeting Eloisa James!) at the Library of Congress’ Popular Romance Project Conference

I recently had the privilege of attending the advance screening of Laurie Kahn’s Love Between The Covers documentary (which chronicles the romance community), as well as the day-long What Is Love?: Romance Fiction in the Digital Age conference. Both were sponsored by the Library of Congress and the Popular Romance Project. Both were free. Both were absolutely fantastic.

As a writer working toward publication, nothing feels more encouraging, more energizing, more inspiring, than sitting in a room full of people who are as enthusiastic about romance as I am – if not more so.

The Q&A panel at the screening of the documentary, Love Between the Covers. L to R: Laurie Kahn, William Anderson, Elizabeth Essex, Joanne Lockyer, Beverly Jenkins, Len Barot/Radclyffe, Eloisa James, and Kim Castillo
The Q&A panel at the screening of the documentary, Love Between the Covers. L to R: Laurie Kahn, William Anderson, Elizabeth Essex, Joanne Lockyer, Beverly Jenkins, Len Barot/Radclyffe, Eloisa James, and Kim Castillo

The documentary was amazing – I learned so much, and just delighted in seeing the community, authors, and books I love so well-represented on the screen. A Q&A with director Laurie Kahn and a number of the film’s featured personalities, including Eloisa James, Beverly Jenkins (who is a HOOT, y’all), Radclyffe, Elizabeth Essex, Joann Lockyer, and Kim Castillo followed the screening. The film was warmly received, and listening to the speakers afterward, fantastic. (Yes, I’m full of adjectives, but really, I cannot describe how immensely enjoyable this all was.) Please consider donating to the film; it needs more money for final production, so that it can be shared with the world.

The day-long conference featured four panels focusing on different questions/issues facing the romance community. Each panel had five to six commentators. The caliber of the conversation, both from the intelligent, erudite, and often hilarious commentators, as well as the insightful questions posed by the audience, was top-notch.

I note here my own limited take-away observations from the four panels. Luckily, each panel was filmed and will be available at the Library of Congress. I, like many others, tweeted salient, informational, or humorous (or all three!) points throughout the day under the hashtag #PopRom. Kiersten Krum storified these tweets (all 1100+ of them!), and you may find them here.

1st What is Love Panel Members: Susan Ostrov Weisser, Eric Selinger, Nicole Peeler, Beverly Jenkins, Radclyffe
1st Panel Members, L to R: Susan Ostrov Weisser, Eric Selinger, Nicole Peeler, Beverly Jenkins, Radclyffe

Panel 1: What Belongs in the Romance Canon?
Panelists: Len Barot/Radclyffe, Beverly Jenkins, Nicole Peeler, Eric Selinger, Susan Ostrov Weisser

  • There are perhaps three basic romance canons: the historical canon, the academic/literary canon, and the reader’s canon.
  • Gay/lesbian romance and African-American romance are relative newcomers.
  • Eloisa James posited “Perhaps there is no canon,” that romance changes very fast and reflects the cultural moment in which it’s written.
  • The HEA (Happily Ever After) is the defining aspect of romance. Beverly Jenkins said, “If you’re going to kill somebody at the end, get out of our category.”
  • Women’s sexual empowerment is a key aspect of romance.

Panel 2: What Do the Science and History of Love Reveal?
Panelists: Stephanie Coontz, Eli Finkel, Darlene Clark Hine, William M. Reddy, Ron Walters

  • Modern depictions of love do NOT reflect thousands-of-years old archetypes, as the understanding of romantic love today is a recent construction, stemming from the end of the 19th century.
  • Words are not transhistoric, so can we use modern terminology to address the past?
  • The 12th century marked the beginning of the idea that love makes one stronger, not weaker, and is seen as a pushback against the church, especially since many love stories of the period were written in the vernacular.
  • People look to assuage anxieties and needs through different kinds of novels; for many, it’s romance.
  • We have to be aware of how race/class/gender affect sexual expression and culture.
What Is Love Popular Romance Conference 3rd Session Panelists, L to R: Sarah Wendell, Candy Lyons, Anne Jamison, Brenda Jackson, Robyn Carr, Kim Castillo
3rd Panel Members, L to R: Sarah Wendell, Candy Lyons, Anne Jamison, Brenda Jackson, Robyn Carr, Kim Castillo

Panel 3: Community and the Romance Genre
Panelists: Robyn Carr, Kim Castillo, Brenda Jackson, Anne Jamison, Candy Lyons, Sarah Wendel

  • The romance community is diverse in many ways, except gender: vast majority of readers and writers are women.
  • The romance community is known for its pay-it-forward attitude.
  • Robyn Carr: “Romance is written for women, about women, by women, to reach women on every level.”
  • Romance gives us a place to confront our most vulnerable emotions in a safe place.
  • Frustrations with plagiarism and piracy were discussed, but most authors said, don’t let it dissuade you: push forward.
  • Reader-to-reader interaction and word-of-mouth remain key.
  • The empowering message of every novel is that someone will appreciate you for exactly who you are.
Free book swag from the Popular Romance Project conference.
Free book swag from the Popular Romance Project conference. I can’t wait to dig in!

Panel 4: Trending Now: Where Is Romance Fiction Heading In the Digital Age?Panelists: Liliana Hart, Jon Fine, Angela James, Tara McPherson, Dominique Raccah

  • 24% of all e-book sales are romance sales; romance readers are voracious readers.
  • Readers are transforming publishing, and digital publishing has given us this power.
  • The RWA was the first professional organization to accept indie publishing.
  • Women’s genres shape more of current culture than any other media.
  • Three Digital Elements to watch: DIY media, social media, visual/multimedia.
  • Discoverability – This is becoming harder with the deluge of books; the key is to write more books, write more books, write more books.
  • You need to know who/where your readers are, and what they want.
  • New technologies are changing the way stories are told.

I attended this conference with my best friend, fellow writer Annika Keswick, so the nerves I might have had if I had attended solo were gone. But I needn’t have worried; at the documentary screening, we met several other women and struck up immediate conversations, even walking back to the metro with a fellow romance junkie, sharing stories along the way. The next morning at the conference, after choosing seats near the front (I wanted to see and hear well, and gawk at the romance celebrities, people), we met Regency author Elizabeth Johns, whom I learned also utilizes the enormously talented Tessa Shapcott for editing purposes. Ms. Johns also introduced me to Julie Cupp of Formatting Fairies, and offered other helpful advice regarding indie publishing. “A lot of people helped me,” she said as a reason behind her friendly, pay-it-forward attitude, an attitude discussed in the panels later on as a rather unique hallmark of the romance community.

AKLOC2At lunch, my friend Annika and I scoured the cafeteria for an empty table. No luck. We asked to sit with a woman who was on her own, and again, immediately struck up a friendly conversation, discovering much in common and talking as if we’d known each other longer than a few minutes. Turns out we’d found Kathryn Barrett, a contemporary romance author. She, Annika, and I continued discussing the joys and challenges of writing as we briefly visited the painting of Romance and saw the Great Reading Room of the Library of Congress. When we returned to the meeting room for the second half of the day, we discovered she’d been sitting right behind us!

Eloisa James with Margaret Locke
The ever-charming historical romance author Eloisa James and me.

I also managed to work up the courage to ask Eloisa James for a photo with me. She was nothing but gracious, folks, a warm and welcoming lady who spoke so insightfully on many of the topics of the day (not that I was surprised). Spoke to the room, I mean, not to me – I was too star-struck to do more than grin like an idiot.

All in all, it was a spectacular day, chock full of great discussions, useful information, and wonderful people. Thank you so much to the Library of Congress and to the Popular Romance Project for putting on this program and hosting us all. Well done, and thank you to all who helped put on this marvelous production.

2015: The Year of the Book

Just a mock-up cover; a graphic designer will do the real one, but it was fun to make!
Just a mock-up cover: a graphic designer will do the real one, but it was fun to make!

That’s right. According to the Chinese calendar, we may be entering the Year of the Sheep, but I’m declaring it my personal Year of the Book.

What does this mean? It means by gosh, by golly, by gum, I’m going to publish A Man of Character by summer. It means I’m going to edit and revise both A Matter of Time and The Demon Duke to the point where I feel comfortable entering them into contests and, heck, maybe I’ll even publish them, too!

It means I’m going to read. And read. And read some more. The Goodreads goal is 50 books, the same as last year (I missed it by ONE!), but I’m actually hoping to devour many more – whether romances, research, classics, or something else that catches my fancy.

It means I’m going to write. I’m going to write for Flash Fiction, I’m going to write on Book FOUR. Yes, yes, yes. I’m going to write.

This is the year. This is MY year. In 2015, I. Will. Become. A. Published. Author.

This is huge for an anxiety-ridden scaredy cat like me, people. Others throw themselves into these ventures, ready for every twist and turn, certain they can conquer whatever the publishing industry, readers, reviewers, and/or social media can throw at them. (OK, I hear rumors that there exists at least one author who feels that way.) Not me.

OK, I overcame SOME of that scaredy-cat-itis last year. I started a local critique group. I queried nearly seventy agents. I got three requests for a partial, three requests for the full MS, and one small e-press publication offer (which I turned down after realizing just how badly I want to hold my own book in print). No instant success, but not entirely bad, right? I even finaled in a writing contest.

But still, to actually PUBLISH the book? Brave New World. And one that I’m determined to enter.

What’s 2015 going to be for YOU?