Nancy: Romance is the Shizzle

OK, that might be a terrible and decidedly dated title for a blog post, but what’s important here is the message. Romance is hot! I’m not talking about 4-alarm heat levels based sexual explicitness. I’m talking about the state of the market. While other fiction genres struggle to recover from the hit book buying took last November (after something happened…something cataclysmic and unprecedented…ring any bells?), the romance genre is leading the pack in rebounding.

According to an article on Salon.com titled Welcome to the Romance Resistance, booksellers, publishers, and indie authors are reporting record sales in the genre. The article credits the escapism the genre offers its readers, something many women (remembering that women make up 84% of romance’s readers) are seeking  during these trouble times. No doubt there’s something to that. But other genres offer escapism, too, so what else is romance offering its readers?

It’s another e word. Empowerment. We’re seeing tremendous pushes toward regression in women’s rights, on issues ranging from workplace protections to bodily autonomy. Much of the romance genre provides a ballast to this frightening trend. Authors across the genre write about heroines who are smart, capable, and full of agency. Heroines who are empowered.

We’ve seen how threatening empowered women are to the powers that be and the pushback that women’s societal strides forward have engendered. But we must keep that forward momentum. When fighting the good fight exhausts us, we can take a break and sink into a good book for a little bit of escapism and a big dose of ‘woman power’.

Friend of the blog Jennifer Crusie has said romance is the most subversively feminist genre she’s ever read. That subversion, and the escapism, empowerment, and celebration it brings with it are center stage right now. So let your romance flags fly, readers and writers of this awesome genre!

 

Note: This week, whether you’re stoking your creativity by writing your own romance story or immersing yourself in someone else’s story world, how about a little musical accompaniment? Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the smash Broadway hit Hamilton, has undertaken a musical project to help victims of Hurricane Maria. If you want to hear him talk about the creative process of writing and recording the song Almost Like Praying with a whole host of Latinx stars, check out NPR’s interview with Miranda. To get straight to the music, check out the video on YouTube. Whether you stream the song or buy, the proceeds go to the Hispanic Federation’s Hurricane Relief Fund.

Michille: Romance and Natural Disasters

800px-Hurricane_Isabel_from_ISSWith Harvey mostly a memory leaving a staggeringly colossal disaster area behind it and Irma targeting Florida and another potentially colossal disaster for the U.S., I looked at disasters in romance novels. I read one recently that was set in a flood (freebie from RWA Nationals in a previous year), but I got really annoyed with the author because the hero and heroine kept standing around in floodwater while the rain was pounding down, discussing their history, wondering where his brother was and if her sister stayed at work, sharing scorching kisses and wishing for a bed. I’m not thinking that the folks going through Harvey were standing waist deep in floodwater reminiscing about a high school football game that took place 10 years ago. The memory of that book and the coverage of Harvey led my brain down the path of how an author could set a romance in a natural disaster and do justice to mother nature, the devastation and tragedy, and the romance without minimizing or horrorizing (is that a word?) the tragedy or the reader. As in, people are dying and these two idiots just want to do the horizontal tango. Continue reading

Nancy: Love for the Long Haul

kiss-on-windowBecause most of us here on the blog write (and read!) a lot of romance, the week of Valentine’s Day presents an opportunity to talk about that core component of a romance story: love. More specifically, believable, happily ever after (HEA) love.

I thought about HEA love this past week when Maria V. Snyder posted on her FB page about the need for Valentine’s Day cards for 25+-year relationships, cards along the lines of “you annoy me and drive me crazy but I’m still willing to put up with it” or “we worked hard to mesh and I don’t want to train anyone else”. Yeah, those aren’t quite the messages we tend to read or write in our romance novels, but they are tongue-in-cheek reminders that there are real-life HEAs.

Back in the fiction world, though, that ‘believable HEA’ part isn’t always easy to write, and doesn’t always resonate with readers. For example, Continue reading

Nancy: The Duchess’s Christmas Wish

misteltoeFor last year’s Christmas story contribution, which I reposted a few weeks ago, I took you to modern-day Copenhagen to see how Nicky O spent his Christmas. (Hint: there were Danish Christmas hearts, a potential murder charge, and a very hot night with his married lover.) Ahem. This year’s installment, with a mischievous dowager duchess and a reluctant widower earl in 1870’s England, an excerpt from a future novella, seems downright tame by comparison. But there is that pesky little matter of the mistletoe…

Bennett Fairbank, Earl of Sandalwood, stood in front of the newly-stoked hearth in the study of his son-in-law’s country house and hoped very hard he had not allowed his beloved daughter Lucinda to marry badly. He’d been about to ask her about the inattentiveness and slowness of the servants in her new home when the maid had finally arrived with tea service.

“I’m so sorry.” Lucinda reached for his hands as soon as the maid had left the room and finally stood still long enough for Bennett to kiss her cheek. “We’ve had to hire so many new staff so quickly, what with fifteen guests arriving for the weekend, and Christmas preparations well underway.”

“I’d have thought your husband would have had a full staff ready for his new bride.”

Lucinda squeezed his hands. “Daddy, don’t—”

“Lady Lucinda, here you are!” A familiar voice grated on Bennett’s ears.

The Dowager Duchess of Bridgehampton sailed into the room, bringing with her a blast of cold air from the hallway that reminded Bennett of the long icicles hanging from the eaves, one more task unattended. He might have to take the new servants in hand himself.

“I’m perfectly fine,” the duchess told his daughter, and Bennett realized he’d missed the conversation. “You go see to His and Her Grace.”

Lucinda flashed a smile and dropped a quick curtsy before flying out of the room as fast as the duchess had flown in, ruining yet another chance for him to have a private word with his daughter.

“Uh-hm.” At the sound of the duchess’s throat clearing, Bennett glanced at her. The woman had ensconced herself on the black leather settee, her fitted green gown with its waves of ruffles on the skirt flowing around her like an emerald sea.

Bennett shook his head slightly, wondering when he’d last been distracted by the color of a lady’s gown and realizing it matched the green of her eyes and, more perplexingly, why these unbidden thoughts had come to him now, just as he was considering taking his leave to find Lucinda.

“Uh-HM.”

This time Bennett caught sight of the duchess’s face. Those dress-matching eyes bored into him and her mouth was set in a slight scowl, as it usually was when he was in her company. Continue reading

Nancy: The Subversively Feminist Genre

poldarkOh, the internet. Sometimes it leads us to deep, dark places we didn’t intend to go. Sometimes it lulls us into the false sense that we are reading something thoughtful and informative, only to lower the boom on our unsuspecting heads. Even when we do find something engaging and helpful, there is always the risk of falling into the pit of despair that is the comments section. And so it happened that I stumbled upon a nest of romance genre haters buried deep in a comment thread of an article that had nothing to do with the romance genre.

It all started innocently enough. I’d had a conversation with a friend about the Poldark series on PBS. I’d wanted to love this series, but after watching the first episode, I was left cold and abandoned it. After the conversation with my friend, I decided to do a little research about the series and see if there was something I’d missed or maybe some shift in future episodes that would make it worth another try. In my online quest for knowledge, I came upon an article that announced the shows creators and writers had decided to remove a controversial storyline in the books from the TV series, a storyline in which the protagonist rapes his former love interest. Yikes.

While not all protagonists are heroes, watchers had apparently latched onto Ross Poldark as an heroic lead, and keeping the rape scene would no doubt outrage and alienate viewers. I, for one, applaud that decision. ‘Heroes’ can be tortured, dark, and troubled yet still redeemable. But rapists? In 2016, probably not redeemable in the reading or viewing audience’s eyes.

That was all fine and good and gave me food for thought as I considered whether this series was worth my limited time and attention. Then I made a crucial mistake. (We’ve all done it.) I scrolled to the bottom of the article and started reading the comments. There were opinions about the show, overall praise for the showmakers’ decision to cut the rape scene, and a thread that pointed out that of course Poldark was rapey because romances are thinly-veiled rape fantasies and at least the TV series would clean up the mess created in the romance book series. WTFingF??? Continue reading

Jilly: Embarrassing

embarrassingWhen’s the last time you did something really stupid? Something so obviously dumb that when it’s pointed out to you, you can’t believe you did it?

That would be me this week.

I said in last week’s post that one of my main writing goals this year is to enter Alexis’s story in the RWA Golden Heart contest. I also wrote: I’ve entered Alexis in a few contests already, well-established ones with a track record of training their first round judges. I’ll use the feedback from those to consider what changes (if any) I’ll make to my opening pages. I don’t think major revisions will be needed…

Yeah, no. Thank goodness I did enter Alexis in those contests, because I got some feedback from one of them this week, and it was a *facepalm* experience.

One of the questions on the judges’ score sheet for this particular contest was: If I was judging this entry in the Golden Heart, I would give it a… The judge gave me 1 from a possible 10 points. In the comments she wrote: Continue reading

Michille: Read-A-Romance Month

August isRARM-2016-square-300x297 Read-A-Romance Month. What is that? According to the website it “was conceived and launched in 2013 by freelance writer and romance advocate Bobbi Dumas, after she realized there was no one place where the community celebrated romance all together, at one time, in a concentrated way. Read-A-Romance Month is cross-publisher and cross-genre, and represents a broad spectrum of authors and books.”  Continue reading