Monday, July 16, 2007

Controversy Over "Tintin in the Congo"

From Publisher's Weekly

In September, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers will publish the popular colonial era children's graphic novel Tintin in the Congo for the first time in the U.S., despite a controversy that erupted in the U.K. yesterday around the book's racist content that resulted in bookstores moving it out of the children's section and reshelving it with adult books.

The book shows Africans drawn to have a strong resemblance to primates and contains scenes such as one in which a black woman bows to Tintin saying: "White man very great... White mister is big juju man!"

The Tintin books have long been widely read in Europe and are poised to cut a much higher profile in America in 2009, when DreamWorks releases a trilogy based on the comic-strip hero. Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson have teamed to direct and produce the films.

Wonder if they shelved it in the AA fiction section?

:Blinks: Wait, they're making three movies out of this?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

RWA Changes, Pt 2

Okay, there's very little good in this post today. let's just get right to it, shall we?

Some of your favorite publishers are now Vanity presses, according to RWA.

Here's RWA's new definition of vanity and subsidy presses:

The Board updated the definition of Subsidy Publisher or Vanity Publisher to: “any publisher that publishes books in which the author participates in the cost of production or distribution in any manner, including publisher assessment of a fee or other costs for editing and/or distribution.” This definition includes publishers who withhold or seek full or partial payment of reimbursement of publication or distribution costs before paying royalties, including payment of paper, printing, binding, production, sales or marketing costs; publishers whose authors exclusively promote and/or sell their own books; publishers whose primary means of offering books for sale is through a publisher-generated Web site; publishers whose list is comprised of 50% or more of its books written by authors who are principals in the publishing company; and publishers whose business model and methods of publishing are primarily directed toward sales to the author, his/her relatives and associates.

That's right, dear readers. Thanks to that sneaky little clause (that most people probably skipped over because hey, we all know what a vanity/subsidy publisher is) houses like Ellora's Cave, Samhain Publishing, LooseID, and other epublishers are all now considered vanity/subsidy presses. Why? Because their primary means of distribution is through their websites.

So all of us who thought this opened the door to epubbed authors finally getting their due, I'm sorry to report that as it stands now, the door has been once again firmly shut in your faces. The only way to get around this is for epublishers to not sell any of their books on their websites, but have everything link to FictionWise,, or other places.

This is stupid because: publishers have to pay those distributors, which means less money coming to the publishers. Less money coming to the publishers mean lowered royalty rates because they have to recoup their monies somehow. Or they'll just sign less authors to contracts. Or they'll just not give a rat's patootie because they obviously aren't hurting for submissions so not being able to take editor appointments at National will not faze them. It just means that the author is, once again, shut out--not being able to compete in the Ritas, not being able to be in PAN.

Oh, and some publishers whose owners are also authors might want to look at their author stable. If more than 50% of your books are from the owners, you are a vanity press.

I find it ironic that based on these definitions, EC, Samhain and LooseID are out, and Genesis Press is back in.

Of course, I could be wrong, and the RWA board didn't mean for it to include legitimate epublishers. After all, they've told us again and again that they aren't against epublishers or epubbed authors. I sincerely hope that the scuttlebutt from National is that this is just a misprint/miscommunication and will be corrected shortly. I also hope the houses impacted have already cornered board members and the Executive Director and asked for clarification.

For the curious, here's how Science Fiction Writers of America defines vanity and subsidy publishers. Somehow they forgot to include that whole selling from a website thing.

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RWA Changes, Pt 1

Romance Writers of America announced their decisions regarding several major categories of importance to its membership today. If you are a member, log in, then click on the board decisions link. Among the changes were:

  • Publisher eligibility

  • Published Author Network (PAN) and PRO (career-focused unpublished writers) eligibility

  • Rita and Golden Heart contest categories.

There's so much to go into with these changes that it's going to take a while to sort through and organize my responses. But let's start with the easiest ones, the contest changes:

  1. Novella is still in for the published author contest

  2. There's still no multicultural category

  3. There's still no erotic romance category

  4. Word counts were eliminated. Instead you now have Contemporary Series Romance, Contemporary Single Title, and Contemporary Series Romance Action/Adventure.

I'm not sure what to think about categories that were changed in which the rationale for the change mentions one publisher in particular, especially when they are the only publisher mentioned by name in these rules. Like the changes were made for them. They may be the largest publisher of romance fiction in the world, but really, it just seems a little...odd.

MC didn't get a category because people didn't clamor for one, certainly not as much as EroRom writers clamored for a category. Erotic Romance didn't get a category because erotic romance is indefinable. Their word, not mine. I would suggest that the erotic romance writers hijack the Novel with Strong Romantic Elements category, based on this definition:

"Novel With Strong Romantic Elements: This category was retained in both the Golden Heart and RITA contests; however, substantial changes were made. The definition and judging guidelines of this category were edited to read as follows:

Definition: A work of fiction in which a romance plays a significant part in the story, but other themes or elements take the plot beyond the traditional romance boundaries.

Judging guidelines: Novels of any tone or style and set in any place or time are eligible for this category. A romance must be an integral part of the plot or subplot, and the resolution of the romance is emotionally satisfying and optimistic."

That whole "beyond the traditional romance boundaries" is what erotic romance writers have been saying their stories are all about. Okay then, you now have a category that you can flood with entries.


Tomorrow, I'll talk about how the Rita contest is now opened to all authors who have published a romance book, regardless of the publishers' RWA-recognized status.

Or is it?

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007


"A deadline’s an unnerving thing."
- Marchette Chute, author and poet, NY Times, 1953

I have deadlines all over the place. In the day job, which is also writing based. In this pseudo part time career of mine. The milk, and the eggs that went bad in June but are still in the fridge. Deadlines all over the place!

So why then do I feel ambushed when I realize I have a story due one week from now? It's not like I didn't know the day was coming. It's not like I didn't say, "Sure, I can get it done." So why am I experiencing the panic, the feeling of being in an Edvard Munch painting or a Home Alone movie?

I think I'm a deadline junkie. I mean, of course I've been writing every day and more on the weekends, but still I've let this deadline pounce on me like crocs on a wildebeest. It really isn't any fun, especially since I'd attempted to promise myself I would get this done early. Yet here I am in the freakin' tunnel with the deadline bearing down on me like an out of control freight train.

I must be a deadline junkie. When I do laundry instead of write, you know it's bad.

My tagline on my own blog reads, "A blog a day means I'm not writing." And goodness, I have been all over the place in Blogland in the past few weeks. It hasn't been healthy, dear readers. My brain has become polluted by the drivel/wisdom/diatribes of others to the point where my story has been put on mute.

That's a bad thing. That's a bad thing indeed.

So while much of Romanceland is focused on Dallas this week, I'll be focusing on my need-to-be-done story. I think it will be a lot less stressful, honestly.

Until next time: write on, writers!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Columnists Think Romance is Porn and Women are Stupid

Today I saw this brilliant piece in my hometown newspaper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Woman to Woman: Harm in Reading Romance Novels?

Apparently it was a slow news day or these women have run out of ideas, because, though they are supposed to offer differing views, they seemed to agree that romance novels are porn. Case in point:

"...I was concerned to learn that many romance novels are not as harmless as they look. In fact, some marriage therapists caution that women can become as dangerously unbalanced by these books’ entrancing but distorted messages as men can by distorted messages of pornography. In fact, many of today’s romance novels actually have a huge soft porn influence..."

Yes it's true. Just like music can inspire people to take machetes to each other, apparently romance novels--especially the soft porn ones--can lure women into becoming delusional.

It gets better. How about this?

"Erotica aside, even traditional romance novels promote - almost by definition - an unattainable romantic ideal. The male heroes are all strong, rugged and breathtakingly handsome, yet sensitive, patient listeners and utterly unselfish. Is it any wonder that if we read two or three of those romances in a row, we’d start to be irritated by our real-life husbands with all their wonderful yet exasperating idiosyncrasies?"

Yeah, leaving the toilet seat up is a "wonderful yet exasperating idiosyncrasy," especially when I fall in at 3 am. Or using the life savings to buy a Corvette. Or treating one like a live-in maid, cook, and hooker. (examples all, people. I'm not married.)

You'd think the rebuttal would be better, or would actually, I don't know--defend romance readers. Ri-ight.

"If we’re getting out the protest signs about insipid romance novels, why not rid the shelves of silly self-help books, too. They, too, give women unrealistic and dangerous notions."

I thought she was simply being sarcastic (as in, "if everyone jumped off a cliff you'd do it too?" sort of way) Then I read this:

"I don’t think Harlequin readers believe they’re doing in-depth gender research or that Fabio is going to ride up on his white horse. I think they’re indulging in a little female pornography."

That thud was the sound of my head hitting my desk. But then, in an apparent plot twist, the rebuttal lady gets her genres confused. (Surprise)

"But I’d argue that all porn isn’t equal. Comparing romance novels laced with story lines and plots to visuals of girls bent over motorcycles is unfair."

I think she missed a word or two. Don't you want your romance novels to be laced with story lines and plots? If you take that all out, you're left with...with...a cover flap and a dedication page.

Luckily, readers could comment on the story. Several authors did too. There are more than a few romance authors in the Atlanta area, you know. But someone broke out the big guns, i.e., Nora Roberts:

"Jeez, I’ve been sending a `distorted message’ to women for years by writing about relationships and commitment, about overcoming obstacles and celebrating the discovery and value of love. Thank God somebody clued me in! And all this time I thought the message was love is a vital part of the human condition. Millions of women—who are, of course, irrational, weak-minded and unhappy—have become dangerously unbalanced. Marriages destroyed as they toss aside their husbands in search of fictional characters.

What utter crap.

Neither am I writing female porn. Since when is a novel highlighting two people falling in love, and enjoying each other sexually, pornography?

Oddly, I expect my readers to know the difference between reality and fiction, between pornography and sexuality—whatever their gender."

Do not piss off The Nora. You will get your poisoned pen shoved up your nose, and you'll thank her for it.

Of course, I had to throw in my own two cents. I am a native after all. Granted, it's not as good as Nora's but then, she''s Nora and I'm...well, not:

Wow. Not only am I brainwashing women by writing African American romance, I’m destroying families by writing about how people can develop loving, committed relationships while overcoming obstacles like race, suicide, abuse, and infertility. I didn’t know I was so subversive!

Luckily I give my readers more credit. People are smart enough not to believe everything they read. Like the “commentary” and “rebuttal” at the top of this page, for example.

Okay, so I descended, but I think they realize the truth: romance readers and writers come from all walks of life. They are not stupid, delusional, or wondering why their husbands/SOs/whatever aren't more like Fabio. (Who wants to be more like Fabio?) Romance readers and writers are intelligent, well-balanced women, And they're probably having more sex.