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Reviews: Reaching, Receiving, and Reacting to Them by @smartbitches at #RWA14

Reviews: Reaching, Receiving, and Reacting to Them
Sarah Wendell, of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

I wish I could have stayed to the very end of Sarah Wendell’s fantastic, funny, and much-needed talk on book reviews at RWA. Unfortunately, my publisher’s big book signing overlapped it, so I had to sneak out three quarters of the way through and sprint down to the next ballroom. (Signing went great, for 30 straight minutes I was mobbed and then I had given away all 50 books! Whoosh!) But I thoroughly enjoyed the candor, humor, and common sense presented in the 40 minutes I was able to stay.

“Reviews are something writers talk about a lot,” she began, “but it’s not common to talk to a reviewer about it.” The website she runs, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, is one of the top romance blogs. The site turns 10 years old this coming January. The popularity of the site (and Sarah) was reflected in the packed room, every seat taken and some sitting on the floor and standing in the back.

The first common sense point was that nowadays you can review everything you buy. Shoes, appliances, restaurants you eat in: everything is reviewable. “They’ve become an essential part of every transaction,” she said, “And books are no different.” Continue reading →

From #RWA14 writeup of Paranormal Romance: Dead, Soft, or Rearing Up to Bite?

Paranormal Romance: Dead, Soft, or Rearing Up to Bite?
With Kate Douglas, Rebecca Zanetti, and Cynthia Eden
RWA 2014 Panel

So one thing I think I’ve learned about panels and workshops at RWA. Very often the people teaching them are not just “bestselling authors.” Very often they’ve got book sales in the millions, and the number of novels they have published is 50, 100, 200… These are not lightweights.

On this panel alone, which intrigued me because the rumor that “Paranormal is dead” has been going around New York publishing for a while now, we had Kate Douglas, author of 53 paranormals, 38 with New York publishers, but also some with Ellora’s Cave and some self-published, Rebecca Zanetti, a multi-bestseller with Grand Central, Entangled and Kensington, and Cynthia Eden, a two-time Rita award finalist who has been on the NYT, USA Today, and Digital Book World bestseller lists.

Here are just a few of the pithy and relevant things they said that I noted for myself. They began by explaining that they put the panel together because they were at a previous conference where there was a panel that said paranormal is over, you should run away from it as fast as you can. All the paranormal authors were talking afterward and saying to each other, are you doing okay? And they found out that actually they were all doing pretty well.

“Look how crowded this session is,” Cynthia Eden pointed out. “I think that’s a sign how much interest there is in this genre. There is still a market.”

Kate Douglas put the rumors of demise in perspective this way: “I had 31 [paranormals] with Kensington and sales suddenly tanked. But now there are so many successful self-published ones. I did a series with Kensington where they did one, I did one, then did the third, I did the fourth. And sales are comparable.” (Speaking of the Dark Wolf series.)

Rebecca Zanetti: “I heard yesterday that you ‘had to’ self-publish if you do PNR. But I have two friends who just sold PNR debuts to major publishers. Those readers are out there.” Continue reading →

Nalini Singh’s #RWA14 workshop on Writing Paranormal Romance

I hurried out of the room this morning to try to get to Nalini Singh’s workshop on Writing Paranormal Romance after hearing tales of how some other workshops were so full that there wasn’t even standing room: people were standing out in the hallway trying to hear them. (The one on “How to Write Faster” was one of them: glad I slept in a little bit instead of trying to get there only to be shut out. Fortunately all RWA members can download the handouts from that class and many others through the conference app! Win!) Funny how the threads tie together in life: two weeks ago I was on a panel at Readercon on recommending romances to sf/fantasy readers, and of course Nalini’s praises were sung. Now here I am at a romance convention and I get to hear the woman herself impart wisdom. I love my life, did I mention that?

First, a little note about diversity. Yes, this conference is notably “whiter” than a lot of the conferences I attend. Many of the science fiction conventions I go to have actively recruited writers of color as speakers and fans of color as attendees. It’s really noticeable to me to go somewhere now where the small percentage of people of color stick out like sore thumbs. I don’t know if that’s part of RWA demographics or the fact that we’re in San Antonio (where I’ve never been) or that the hotel convention rate was a whopping $229 a night and maybe that skews the attendees base toward the most privileged. All I can say is this con seems very white. So it was interesting that at Nalini Singh’s talk, I felt like there were more people of color in the audience. I counted: out of 62 attendees in the workshop, 12 were visibly women of color. (There were only 4 men in the room, all white.) That seemed like a higher percentage than in the general population here, and I wondered if that was because Nalini herself is a person of color, leading to a greater comfort level? Or because paranormal itself so often deals with themes of integrating the “other” or embracing the “other”? I can only speculate, but diversity and representation are issues that come up again and again in my activist work and in the fandom communities I am part of, so it’s on my mind.

But now to the actual subject of the workshop, Writing Paranormal Romance. Nalini is witty, fun, and smart, and I didn’t write down even half of what she said, so let me assure you if you think you can just read my blog instead of attending a conference like this one and still get all the good stuff: you’re wrong. Here’s a tiny fraction of the wisdom imparted: Continue reading →

Changes to the RITA Awards announced at #RWA14

At today’s general meeting of the RWA membership, taking place at the RWA national convention, changes were announced, revamping the rules for the RITA Awards once again.

The changes are in response to a kerfuffle this year, when some categories had ridiculously few books make it to “finalist” status: in particular erotic romance had only 3, which seemed ridiculous given how large the number of books published in that category was, and inspirational romance had only 2. Meanwhile historical romance had 17 finalists. That seemed out of whack even to people not deeply steeped in romance.

The surmise was that this imbalance was caused by the structure of the scoring, in which any book that got 90% or above in its average score was automatically a finalist. Each book was read by multiple judges (I don’t know how many), and each judge assigned a number of points to each book based on certain criteria (prose quality, etc). On the face of it that sounds reasonable, but the category of “how romance-y is this romance” was worth 20 points, while everything else was worth only 10. (Full disclosure: yes, I judged, because in order to guarantee that a book you enter into the contest makes it into the list of 2000 that are included before the cutoff, you had to agree to judge.) The speculation is that because historical romance was considered more “romance-y” by the RWA members judging than either erotic romance or inspirational romance, these categories were unfairly marked down.

The new rules can be found in full on the RWA Website here: http://www.rwa.org/p/bl/et/blogid=20&blogaid=795

The main changes I noted:
• Entrants are required to judge. (Before, it was only those who volunteered.)
• Entrants will not judge in a category in which they are entered. (I received 2 books that were in the category my book was in.)
• The top 4% of each category’s entries (based on the number of qualified entries received) will advance to the final round, except each category will have no fewer than 4 finalists or more than 10 finalists.
• All entrants are required to judge the preliminary round. Others eligible to judge are authors who are PAN-eligible. The final round will be judged by PAN members.

Of course one of the things brought up at the meeting is that PRO and PAN membership may be changing in the future, but the board is still looking into that. They acknowledged that the categories of PAN and PRO were created back when traditional print publishing dominated. (I’m not a PAN member because I’m prohibited from being one. Why? Because even though I’m traditionally published at Hachette/Grand Central/Forever, I am an acquiring editor for Circlet Press, and that disqualifies me.)

A few other notes on the Rita Awards:
Last year 1400 entries were received.
Golden Heart entry fees are dropping to $30.

There are probably some more things to note, but this is what jumped out at me right away. I’m sure more debate will follow.

Sylvia Day’s #RWA14 Keynote: “Dream Big. Plan Smart.”

Here I am at my first RWA national conference and the keynote speaker is a writer I feel passionately about: Sylvia Day. Turns out the more I know about her, the more I love her. We have so much in common already and I keep finding out more! I just learned, for example, that she’s part Asian like me. But the most important thing that drew me to her initially was what a strong advocate for erotic romance she is. I didn’t realize she actually founded the Passionate Ink chapter of RWA. Being a longtime erotic writer myself (is it really 23 years since I wrote Telepaths Don’t Need Safewords??) I appreciate very highly the pathway in the romance genre pioneered by Sylvia Day. E.L. James has benefited from that pioneering, and so have I.

Sylvia’s speech opened with a look back at her first RWA conference, ten years ago. She listed off some of the major changes between then and now. Look at all the retailers who are gone–Borders, B. Dalton, Waldenbooks–not to mention publishers like Dorchester. In those days the RWA had a list of approved publishers and agents to steer writers to the “right” places. These days, that’s gone, too, and writers, she said, must make their own decisions about who to publish with or even whether to self-publish.

“It was easier to be a writer ten years ago,” she said, for many reasons. For one thing, we didn’t have social media demanding so much of our time. Nowadays retailers and publishers are “struggling to survive, while one is struggling to dominate.” (I believe she means Amazon, though she didn’t say so by name.) “We’re in the middle. We have to be proactive. It’s not just about writing anymore. It’s about being a businessperson.” Continue reading →

New Edition Now Available! THE HOT STREAK, my baseball romance novel

A new edition of THE HOT STREAK, my sexy sexy baseball-themed romance, is newly out from Riverdale Avenue Books! Just in time for the lull of the All-Star Break, eh? If you’re looking for something to read this week while your favorite team is off, look no further. Sample chapter under the cut!

Or buy it:
Ebooks: Riverdale Avenue Books | AllRomance Ebooks | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords | Amazon

Continue reading →

“Where Is Clarion For Editors?” discussion from Readercon

So we had the “Where is Clarion for Editors?” thing last night at Readercon. The official description from the con program:

9:00 PM CO Where Is Clarion for Editors?
Leah Bobet, Ellen Datlow, Liz Gorinsky, Bart Leib, Julia Rios, Cecilia Tan (leader)
The speculative fiction field has many workshops for writers, such as the various Clarions, Odyssey, and Viable Paradise, not to mention MFA programs like Stonecoast where one can do genre work. But where’s the “Clarion for Editors”? Some of the most vital work being done in our field is coming from web magazines, small publishers, digital publishers, and others who are largely forced to learn to edit “on the job.” This discussion, led by Cecilia Tan, will examine the need for a structured workshop for aspiring and established editors, and propose ways that such a workshop might be made to happen.

I had proposed it because I feel that there is a huge amount of knowledge on editing and being and editor trapped in the heads of the talent pool of current editors in sf/fantasy that I would like newer editors to have a chance to tap. Continue reading →

Help me launch Slow Satisfaction: earn special scenes

Next month my trilogy comes to an end with the release of SLOW SATISFACTION. That’s right, the series that began with Slow Surrender, the Struck by Lightning trilogy, will deliver a final, mouthwatering, knee-weakening installment!

As you know, I like to give the gift of bonus sex scenes to those who help me spread the word about my work. This time, instead of asking people to just retweet or link separately, all willy nilly, please take part in a simultaneous mass release (orgiastic, even!) called a Thunderclap! It’s easy: you just sign up your social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr) and instead of you sending the message at the time you sign up, it sends all on the big day of the book’s launch.

But there’s a catch. The catch is that if I don’t get 100 people doing it, the Thunderclap won’t launch. It’s like a Kickstarter, except instead of asking for money, I just need you to join in spreading the word. Click here to help: http://thndr.it/1r8tF6X

On August 26th when the campaign goes ka-boom! I’ll send around a special bonus outtake scene between James and Karina!

Continue reading →

Geeky Kink Event New England: My schedule!


My schedule for the Geeky Kink Event: New England!

I will be reprising my role as GuestPerv of Honor at GKE:NE this year. Hotel rooms are getting close to selling out, so if you’re planning to go, make sure you grab yours. All the info is here: http://geekykinknewengland.com/

August 15-17 2014, in Warwick, Rhode Island.

Here’s what I’ll be doing:

SLYTHERIN HAZING
Friday, 7pm
You’re probably wondering what Slytherin Hazing is. You do know that Slytherin House is the Hogwarts house that is located in a DUNGEON, right? Put on your ties, your school robes, and bring your wands. It’s “Year 8.” After the defeat of Voldemort, everyone has to go back to Hogwarts for another year of school. Given that it’s the new, postwar era of magical cooperation, students will now be allowed to “pledge” to a house. So here’s your chance to prove yourself worthy to be a Slytherin. Candidates’ cunning, mettle, and ability to negotiate will be tested by Draco Malfoy (me) and the Slytherin House prefects.

CECILIA TAN SOLO EROTICA READING
Saturday 12:30 pm Continue reading →

Interview with Charlotte Stein (about Summer Rain)

If you haven’t seen it yet, there’s a new book of romance novellas out called SUMMER RAIN. Masterminded by Audra North and edited by Sarah Frantz, the book is a fundraiser for RAINN (the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) and it includes not only a story by me, but also Ruthie Knox, Molly O’Keefe, and a heap of other talented women! I read and loved Charlotte Stein‘s near-future story about lonely woman and the android she mail-orders, and I interviewed her about it here!

Cecilia Tan: Your story about a lonely woman and an android is so very lovely. And by lovely I mean: made me cry. Did you know when you started writing that an android would be the perfect tool to crack open the human heart?

Charlotte Stein: Oh thank you – that’s so cool to hear! I love making people cry…wait. Wait that came out wrong. I meant it’s awesome that I made you sad. Only not that at all. Let me just try to answer the rest of the question before I end up sounding like a sadist…
Continue reading →

Cecilia Tan's books on Goodreads
The Siren and the Sword The Siren and the Sword (Magic University, #1)
reviews: 16
ratings: 88 (avg rating 3.60)

Boys of the Bite: A Gay Vampire Anthology Boys of the Bite: A Gay Vampire Anthology
reviews: 9
ratings: 55 (avg rating 3.65)

The Velderet The Velderet
reviews: 11
ratings: 49 (avg rating 3.98)

The Prince's Boy: Volume One The Prince's Boy: Volume One (The Prince's Boy, #1)
reviews: 21
ratings: 49 (avg rating 3.88)