Elizabeth: Not a Romance in Sight

With the end of 2020 came the traditional surge of “Top Books” lists.  The first I encountered was was the New York Times “Top 10 Best Books of 2020,” in which the editors of The Times Book Review chose the best fiction and nonfiction titles of 2020.  Other than Barack Obama’s memoir (which had only come out near the end of the year), I had heard of none of the titles and, after reading the blurbs, I’m unlikely to investigate any of them further.  I’m guessing I am not the target audience of those book review editors.

No surprise – there was not a romance novel in sight on the list.

Next up was the “100 Notable Books of 2020” also by the editors of The New York Times Book Review.  I figured a list of 100 titles would cover a broader range of books.  My mistake.  After reading through it, I mentally renamed this list “98 books I’ve never heard of.”

There was one whole romance title on the list — Courtney Milan’s The Duke Who Didn’t — which also made the Washington Posts’ Best romance novels of 2020 Continue reading

Elizabeth: Goodbye 2019 and RWA?

With the champagne all drunk, the countdown completed, and kisses exchanged, the book has officially closed on 2019.  It was very good year for several of the writers here on the blog who successfully launched books into the hands of eager readers; it was not, however, such a good year for Romance Writers of America.

As Jeanne mentioned in her post yesterday, the implosion of RWA started on Christmas Eve when details about the RWA’s handling of ethics complaints against popular author Courtney Millan were made public.   Following what happened next has been like watching an accident on the side of the road – horrifying, but hard to look away from.

While media coverage has focused on Milan’s comments about the racist elements of a specific book, the chain of events initially began months before with a series of tweets highlighting concerns about the biases of a specific acquisitions editor at a publishing company.  Many twitter followers appear to have weighed in on the subject, sharing their views, and at some point, both the publisher (who hired the acquisitions editor) and the author of the book that was called out filed ethics complaints with RWA.

What ensued was a series of events that I doubt even the most creative fiction writer could have come up with:   Shadow ethics committee.  Re-written policies.  Resignation.  Censure.  Backpedaling.  Mass resignations.  Uproar.  Chapter statements.  Petitions.  Cancellation of the RITAs.  And thousands and thousands of tweets.  If someone was intentionally trying to destroy the organization, I don’t think they could have done a better job.  And RWA has seemed intent on fanning the flames. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Haven’t I Read That Before?

Image courtesy of http://www.keble.ox.ac.uk

It was a busy day in Romancelandia today and not in a good way.  If you spent any time on social media recently you’ve probably seen the stories by now.  A Brazilian romance author who had a book entered in this year’s RWA RITA contest, appears to have engaged in some very blatant plagiarism.  I got wind of the story by way of Courtney Milan’s blog at lunchtime and by the end of the day, the list of authors whose work was thought to have been plagiarized read like a Who’s Who of Romance – Courtney Milan Tessa Dare, Bella Andre, Loretta Chase, Victoria Alexander, Nora Roberts – just to name a few.

It was disheartening to read posts from the various authors who were impacted, describing how it felt to see bits and pieces of the stories they’d put their whole heart and soul into writing, being passed off as the work of someone else.

The author, when confronted with the accusations, gave the equivalent of a “the dog ate my homework” excuse, saying “the ghostwriter did it.”  That didn’t fly with anyone, including the understandably outraged ghostwriting community. Continue reading

Jilly: Good Book Squee – Historical Romance

27431042_sWhere do you stand on intelligent, well-written historical romance?

By the time you read this, Justine’s UK research trip should be well under way. If things go to plan, we’ll have spent Friday in Brighton exploring the Royal Pavilion and other Regency landmarks with 8LW friend Rachel Beecroft, and Saturday investigating the narrow streets and smugglers’ haunts of the ancient Cinque Port of Rye. Today? If it’s Sunday, it must be Dover!

Justine will be following in the footsteps of a generation of US historical romance authors, walking the terrain of Kent and Sussex to soak in a million tiny details that she’ll use to give her stories an authentic and unique feel. There’s a strong tradition of quality historical romance writing in the US, and I’m constantly impressed by the way the authors skillfully mix historical accuracy and characters with agency to create novels that feel credible but appeal to a 21st-century reader. I especially love stories that go beyond Dukes and governesses and gowns – some of my favorite historicals may have Almack’s and corsets, but they also have spies, soldiers, suspense, mysteries, politics, business-people, dancers, actresses, and social change.

I’m really looking forward to reading the 8 Ladies’ contribution to this excellent tradition – Justine’s Three Proposals, Elizabeth’s The Traitor, and Nancy’s new series – but while they write, edit, polish and pick new titles, I’d like to celebrate some of my favorite US historical romance writers and (if I’m lucky) collect some new recommendations.

Off the top of my head, how about: Continue reading

Jilly: Dreaming Big in Texas

2014RWAEverything really is bigger in Texas.

Last Sunday I wrote about my plans and expectations for this week’s RWA National. I borrowed a quote from the 2013 conference in Atlanta, where Jennifer Enderlin of St Martin’s Press encouraged us to dream big and have unrealistic expectations, because if we don’t, who will?

I set out my Big Dream, which is to follow the traditional publication route – find an agent who loves my writing and buys into my career goals, an editor who will help me make my books as good (and as marketable) as they can be, and a publisher with the marketing know-how and commercial clout to help me develop a readership and build a career. Sounded pretty ambitious to me.

I don’t know whether it’s something in the water here or Continue reading

Jilly: What I Learned About Writing From My Hairdresser


The fabulous Mr Joel Goncalves

The fabulous Mr Joel Goncalves

Antibiotics and comfort reading did the trick. By Tuesday I wasn’t sick any more, but I was still feeling sorry for myself, so I went for another guaranteed pick-me-up that should be available on prescription – a great haircut.

Hairdressers and romance writers have a lot in common. Good ones build up a devoted (predominantly female) following, bring a great deal of pleasure to a great many people, and do it by deploying hard-earned creative and technical skills that go largely unacknowledged outside their own community.

A lifetime ago I took a job that included responsibility for the business side of some well-known salons. I was amazed at what I discovered. A successful hairstylist/client relationship is mind-bogglingly strong. Many last a lifetime, and I mean that literally. A friend of mine gave her stylist a plate to celebrate ‘their’ 25th anniversary. Clients will follow their favorite stylist across a country or even a continent, and it’s not at all unusual for a hairdresser to be an honoured guest at a client’s wedding or birthday bash, their child’s christening, or some other significant life event. So far I’ve only had to follow my stylist, the wonderful Joel Goncalves, across town from one London salon to another, but if he ventured further afield I’m pretty sure I’d be hot on his trail.

Last week at the RT Booklovers’ convention in New Orleans, historical romance author Courtney Milan gave a presentation called Building A Sticky Digital Readership, talking about specific ways that an author can Continue reading

Jilly: The Slipper And The Horseshoe

The Slipper and the HorseshoeCalling all historical romance readers: can you recommend any good books similar to The Slipper And The Horseshoe, the novel described with great enthusiasm by Judi Dench, playing Philomena Lee in the Oscar-nominated movie based on Philomena’s true-life search for the son she gave up for adoption as an unmarried teenage mother in rural Ireland?

I wrote a post on 19 January in which I said I think that The Slipper And The Horseshoe must be a creation of Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, the writers of Philomena. I suspect their intention was to send up genre romance, but the premise they came up with has the potential for an excellent story. It seems I wasn’t the only person to think so. ‘I Didn’t See That Coming’ has become 8LW’s most frequently viewed post of all time, because every week without fail readers are discovering it whilst searching the internet for variants of ‘the slipper and the horseshoe.’

Several times over the last three months I’ve thought that if I wrote historicals, I’d be typing furiously. Sadly, I wouldn’t know where to start, but as 113 people so far this week have read a 3 month-old post looking for information about a non-existent book, I decided to see if I could find some good alternative recommendations Continue reading

Jilly: Surprisingly Predictable

Surprisingly PredictableI had great fun a couple of weeks ago talking about Okay, You Got Me – the moment when a story sinks its hooks into a reader and won’t let go. Ideally it’s a scene early in a story when the reader commits to the heroine/protagonist because the character does something that makes the reader care about them and want to know what happens next. In Devil’s Cub, my favorite Georgette Heyer, it’s the moment when Mary, the heroine, defends her virtue by shooting Vidal, the very badly-behaved hero.

Okay, You Got Me, or Save The Cat! is an important and wonderful scene, because at that moment the whole tantalising promise of the book stretches out ahead of the reader. If the scene has done its work well, the reader should be speculating like crazy based on the information they have been given. The writer’s mission for the rest of the book Continue reading