Who's a Maggie Finalist?

I am!

So there I was, at the seafood counter at my local Publix, getting a chunk of salmon skinned. (I’ve tried to do it before and it wasn’t pretty, much like the gross-out when I attempted to cut up a whole chicken for the first–and last–time.) My cell phone rings.

“Hi, Seressia, it’s Pam Montovani from GRW.” (Georgia Romance Writers.)

“Oh, hi, Pam.” I’m trying to come up with a good reason why I haven’t paid the conference fee yet. Like the $420 I had to spend last Saturday to keep my car from thinking I was stealing it. (I’m not lying.)

“How’s your weekend so far?” She asks.

“Good, good,” I say, wondering if she’s instead going to take e to task for missing last week’s meeting. It was the Black Arts Festival. I think they understood.

“Well, how about I make the weekend a little bit better for you?”

I swear, I had no clue at this point. She wasn’t yelling at me, or chastising me. Maybe she needed me to pinch-hit on a panel for Moonlight and Magnolias, our conference happening September 28-30. “O-kay.”

“You’re a Maggie finalist.”

I blinked. I stared at the lady holding a chunk of salmon out to me. Then I took a deep breath, and when I spoke, my voice climbed several octaves. I think I cracked the lobster tank.

“Are you %^$#! kidding me?” I shriek. “Really?”

She said the magic words again and added “congratulations” to the mix. I think I ran up the wine aisle, and I lost my buggy, and then remembered that I’d ordered a piece of salmon. Pam graciously let me get back to my shopping, no doubt so that she could rest her eardrums before calling the next finalist.

I lost my buggy again and walked past the 2% milk twice while calling my friend Emily Sewell with the news and more shriekage. I called another writer friend out in California, Jackie Hamilton, who “clutched the pearls” in glee for me.

So I’m a Maggie finalist in Long Contemporary for my book, Through the Fire. To quote the GRW website:

The purpose of the Maggie Awards for Published Novelists is to recognize RWA authors from Region 3 who have published outstanding books in the romance genre during 2006. The Maggie Award is a symbol of achievement given by Georgia Romance Writers to bring special attention to these writers, and the Maggie, a silver medallion commissioned by GRW, receives national attention. Books will be scored and ranked by a panel of booksellers from chain and independent bookstores. The names and categories of Maggie recipients and finalists will appear in the Romance Writers Report.

So to say I am delighted to be a finalist is definitely an understatement. The fact that the contest is judged by booksellers is a definite plus to me. I’m so thrilled to be nominated. I don’t know who my fellow finalists are, but when I do, I’ll post here!

Registration is still open for the 25th Annual Moonlight and Magnolias conference, featuring Linda Howard, Rita Herron, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and bunches more. There will be a booksigning on Saturday afternoon 4:00-5:30 PM that’s FREE to the public, as is Linda Howard’s chat just prior to the signing. Hope to see you there!

Promo venues

Over on Blogging in Black, I posted about different promotional venues for writers of color. As I said there:

I’ve just realized belatedly that E. Lynn Harris and Terry McMillian and Tyler Perry didn’t hit best sellerdom by going to RWA or RT. Not that I’m giving either of those up, but I go with the knowledge that, based on my experiences, I’m not going to find a large pool of eligible readers at either event.

But if I can do the out-of-the-box marketing and promoting and be successful at it, then maybe sending out an email blast that I’m at either event WILL draw my readers there.

Perhaps instead of “eligible” readers, I should say, ready-to-purchase-my-books readers there. There are a few, do not get me wrong. But the odds are not in my favor at those events. So I’m spreading m wings, trying a different flight plan. I have no idea if it’ll work, since it requires me to be less reticent than I’m used to when not playing off my friends.

Still go over to BiB and check out my ideas. And if you know of other events that would be good for a writer of paranormal, interracial and African-American romance, let me know.

Signing during National Black Arts Festival

The National Black Arts Festival kicks off tomorrow for a week full of music, drama, art, and literature. I’ll be signing at Medu Bookstore on Saturday 2-4 PM with Kimani author Lisa Harrison Jackson. If you’re in Atlanta, please stop by and say hi!

Here’s a flyer of all the signings happening during the festival.

I’ll have plenty of promo on hand so I hope to see you there. And no, I won’t be dressed as one of my characters, unless you count my ankh!

Dream of Shadows available for preorder!

Dream of Shadows is now available for preorder on Amazon

Amazon is offering Dream of Shadows for $8.76, twenty percent off the regular cover price. Amazon is also showing that DoS will be available on August 17. I don’t think that’s accurate, but hey–order it anyway!

Dream of Shadows is my first full length foray into paranormal romance. On the surface, I took the tried and true story of a psychic and a serial killer and a hardened detective.

Nicolette Legère’s family possesses unique psychic gifts, called the Legacy, passed down through generations of women. Her mother is the gifted current matriarch, an oppressive burden for thirty-one-year-old Nicole, First Daughter and presumed heir. It’s a burden because Nicole’s gift of dreaming didn’t kick in until after puberty and has been sporadic ever since, making the extended family doubt her ability to step into her mother’s petite stilettos.

Nicole fights this familial rejection by trying to live as normal a life as possible. This led her into a disastrous marriage that left her widowed and pregnant. She took her infant daughter to Atlanta, far away from the obligation of her name, Nicole built a normal life for herself.

She is successful for nearly seven years. Just when she thinks she can put the burden and failure of being a Legère behind her, she Dreams of murder. After she Dreams a second time she decides to inform the police, hoping they can find the killer before her third dream. This is when she meets the very sexy, very skeptical Detective Carter “Jax” Jackson.

Jax doesn’t believe in psychics, ghosts, or fairies. The only truth is what he can see and what his gut tells him. He dismisses Nicole’s claims until a body is discovered, murdered exactly as she predicted. Now he has two choices: believe Nicole’s gifts, or believe her guilty. Investigating her yields more questions than answers. Yet despite instinct saying that she’s innocent, he firmly believes she’s hiding something from him.

This story has a lot: a woman coming to grips with herself and her destiny, a man struggling with duty and survivor’s guilt. They doubt themselves, and they doubt each other–with near fatal consequences. Oh, and sizzling loves scenes.

I hope you enjoy this introductory story. There are twin sisters, Mala and Malita, and brothers, Derek and Darien, twins who are also magicians. Their parents’ story is interesting as well, considering Arielle became head of the family at 18 and Stefan is a Romanian parapsychologist who kidnapped her to break a family curse. I’m looking forward to delving more into this world and the history of this family.

Click here, to read the first chapter!

Click to pre-order from Amazon !

Controversy Over Tintin in the Congo

From Publisher’s Weekly

Tintin

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?

It Just Got Worse

Samhain will be unrecognized. From what I understand, EC will be as well.

From Angela James, Executive Editor of Samhain:

Yes, Samhain will lose recognition after conference. It doesn’t change anything for our business or with the deal with Kensington, nor our IPS print program. We’ll still pay royalties on time and do business as usual 😉 For us, it means we can’t do publisher type things at nationals next year. Perhaps someday things will change and we’ll be back at RWA, doing editor appointments and so forth, but until that time, we continue on as always. RWA is an organization for authors to network and learn from one another. As the guidelines have been set up, removing our recognition doesn’t take away your ability to utilize it as such and the benefits of RWA remain for those authors who wish to enjoy them.

Of course it’s disappointing to us that RWA is unable to accomodate small presses at this time, but it’s understandable that they must do what they believe is best for the authors and the organization.

However, it’s my belief that the allure of epublishing is our ability to sign a wide variety of books and genres without a huge monetary risk. Offering even 1000 dollars advance would remove our ability to do that. Our gain from being approved is not as significant as our gain from being free to take on books because we love them, not because they’ll earn out their advance. Once we enter into the world of larger dollar amount advances, we become a publisher who can’t take the publishing risks that we do now, never knowing what will hit and what will…not so much.

I know it’s important to some authors that their publisher be recognized and that there will be some who are disappointed by the way things have gone and choose to seek publication elsewhere, and that saddens me because at the heart of things, I think we’re a pretty damn good publisher. We’ll move forward from here just as we would have had we been able to keep “recognition”. Nothing changes. Samhain will remain the same publisher next week, when the policy goes into effect and we’re no longer “recognized” as we are this week.

Permission to forward granted

Angela James, Executive Editor
www.samhainpublishing.com

Posted in RWA

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, eBooks.com, 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.

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?

Deadlines

“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 in the header above 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!

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.