Black Women Write Differently

“…black women write differently from white women. This is the most marked difference of all those combinations of black and white, male and female. It’s not so much that women write differently from men, but that black women write differently from white women. Black men don’t write very differently from white men.”

Toni Morrison, Black Women Writers at Work, ch. 9, by Claudia Tate (1983).

So I was doing my usual search for a quote by a famous writer to use as my weekly writing quote, and I came across this one. Of course, I want to deny, and deny loudly, what Ms. Morrison stated. We are women. We’re the same, with the same needs, the same desires, the same writing ability.

Or are we?

I think that there must be some differences in the way I write romance versus the way others write romance. This is the only explanation I have for being repeatedly bypassed by readers during the Romantic Times booksigning.

Yes, I know it was crowded. Yes, I know Mary Janice Davidson, Charlaine Harris, and Jim Butcher were there. I was sitting next to Rebecca York and across the aisle from Kate Douglas. Both women write werewolves. Guess what? I have a werewolf story too. Truth of the matter is, that one did sell the best, though at one point someone looked at me and said, “You’re not L. A. Banks!” as if I was somehow trying to impersonate her to get a sale. So I pointed out my name on the book. The reader still walked away. No Leslie, no sale, I guess.

Perhaps the readers were looking for the award-winning authors. Guess what? I had my RT award right next to the very book that I’d won it for. Very nice emotional story with a Rainbow Coalition of characters including a bi-racial hero.

Readers prefer white heroes, you say? Guess what? I had copies of No Commitment Required right there, an obviously not-black hero embracing the heroine.

If you’ve ever wondered why you don’t see a large contingent of black authors at RT or RWA, this signing experience is part of the reason. A big part.

I know this will sound like sour grapes, and for that I apologize. But it was a slightly disheartening weekend to be a black romance writer who doesn’t write erotic or paranormal romance. To sit in on a panel discussing AA romance, and to hear that Kathy Baker no longer buys AA romance for Borders, a guy named Sean (whose last name escapes me) buys all the black books for Borders Group instead. He sees absolutely no problem with AA romance being shelved right alongside street lit alongside pure literature alongside poetry, in which the only commonality is the race of the author (because hey, James Patterson’s Alex Cross books aren’t sitting there, but Walter Moseley’s Easy Rawlins books sure are.)

God bless Kate Duffy of Kensington, who says she just wants to sell a good book and she could care less who wrote it.

It does make me curious to see where Borders will stack the reissue of NCR. While it’s written by yours truly and published by the company-that-shall-not-be-named, Kensington distributes it, and it features an obviously white male torso on the cover. Of course, after this post, it might not be stocked in Borders at all. πŸ™‚

Hopefully no one will feel tricked if they accidentally pick NCR up. Well, actually they shouldn’t, should they? Because black women obviously write differently, and that will be evident from the opening line.

To all of you who have read my books, stopped by my table, grabbed some promo, and told a few friends, thanks so much. Word of mouth is important in this business, and I appreciate every one of you. I promise a fully frothy recap of RT later in the week. I really did have an awesome time, and I will be going to Pittsbrugh next year.

Atlanta Newspaper Eliminates Book Review Position – Publishers Weekly

Atlanta’s Literary Community Rallies Against Newspaper’s Elimination of Book Review Editor Position – 4/19/2007 9:32:00 AM – Publishers Weekly

So the Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently eliminated their Book Review Editor. They claim that the section itself isn’t going away, just the position as it had been for years. The new position would manage the book reviews section, which will be populated by wire feeds and other sources.

So why is this a bad idea? Well, those wire services wouldn’t have a local slant for one. In a city and paper that gave rise to Margaret Mitchell, Lewis Grizzard and so many others, to a state that has a plethora of notable writers all across the spectrum, this can only be seen as a blow to the literary community. And yes, there is a literary community here. Atlanta is #15 on a list of most literate cities ahead of New York, Charleston, Miami, and many others. Last year, in this report, we made #3.

Granted, romance books weren’t even a gleam in this book editor’s eye, for the most part. But if headway had been made before, that forward motion has been stymied now. National feeds will only forward news of national interest, so only those big blockbuster books will get mentioned on the Books page going forward. Discovering a hometown gem will be rendered impossible.

This from a paper who is the primary sponsor of the Decatur Book Festival Labor Day weekend.

There is a petition online that you can add your name to, brought to you by the folks at the National Book Critics Circle. You can read the petition and add your name by clicking here.

More info:

Wordsmiths

Critical Mass National Book Critics Circle blog

Writing Quote of the Week: 04/16/07

“The received image of a writer is that of an unproductive sensitive who suffers from the vapors, is enslaved by his gonads, falls victim to romantic swoons and passes out at deadlines.”

George V Higgins, Harper’s September 1984

I wish I could talk more on this subject today, Dear Readers, but frankly I am traumatized. Two deadlines loom over my head like twin Swords of Damocles: taxes and a novella. Both are filled with similarly agonizing stresses that leave me almost not wanting to eat my Mongolian Beef entree.

Almost. I can’t stress if I don’t have the energy, now can I?

I’ll post more on deadlines and other muse-killers over at Blogging in Black on Friday. Hope to see you there!

Interracial Marriages Surge Across the U.S.

Click here to read the full article.

On June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court made a landmark ruling in the case of Loving v. Virginia. In their decision, the highest court in the land struck down a Virginia ruling that criminalized the union of Richard Loving, white, and his wife Mildred, black.

(Hope no one thinks these were activist judges)

Since that ruling, which also toppled laws in some 15 other states, IR marriages have climbed: marriages between blacks and whites have increased from 65,000 in 1970 to 422,000 in 2005, according to Census Bureau figures.

Unfortunately, it is still more acceptable for black male-white female pairings than white male-black female. The article states:

“In some categories of interracial marriage, there are distinct gender-related trends. More than twice as many black men marry white women as vice versa, and about three-fourths of white-Asian marriages involve white men and Asian women.”

Really, why is it okay for the male to go outside of his race, but not the female? Someone needs to do a paper on that.

As a writer of interracial and multicultural romances, I’ve always tried to show that, despite apparent differences, there are common things that unite us: the quest for love, acceptance, and family. Whether you find that with someone who looks like you, has the same parts you do, or just accepts you as you, my wish is that you do find that.

The article concludes:

“Malignant racial biases can and do reside in interracial liaisons,” [Harvard law professor Randall] Kennedy wrote. “But against the tragic backdrop of American history, the flowering of multiracial intimacy is a profoundly moving and encouraging development.”

I don’t think I can add anymore to that. Peace and blessings.

Don Imus and Pointing Fingers

We’ve had a busy couple of days, Dear Readers.

Duke lacrosse players cleared of all charges. Don Imus and his producer insulting a female college basketball team. Thousands of nameless faceless folks all over the country weighing in on both, pointing the finger at the black community.

Maybe they should.

Read on before you start blasting me. I don’t excuse anyone in this mess. I don’t excuse Imus and his producer (who should also be reprimanded.) People who make their living by talking should know by now what words should and shouldn’t come out of their mouths. I don’t excuse the DA or the “victim” in the Duke case. They’ve just made it that much more difficult for real victims to get support and understanding.

And I certainly don’t excuse the people who have proliferated the use of “hos” and other assorted words to such a degree that others think it’s acceptable to use the words when talking about people they don’t know.

Neither do I excuse the people who point fingers at the entire black community for accepting double standards and use rap music as the prime example of said standard.

Psst. Here’s a little secret. Non-black people buy rap music too. Non-black people produce rap music. Non-black people sign new artists to their labels. Non-black businesses sign marketing agreements with rappers. Non-black people have been known to rap. (I have actually witnessed it with my own eyes).

May I hold the mirror while you stare into it? I’ll try to keep it steady.

There are words that, at this point in American history, should not be “owned” by a culture or group. The N-word is one of them. Hos is another. The C-word (as in C U Next Tuesday) is one I particularly despise. (Might make my foray into erotic romance difficult, but if I sell one it will be on the condition that if that word gets used in my story, the speaker will get slapped.)

Simply put, these words were never meant to be nice words. They were always meant to degrade and inflame. Perhaps this is just my Southern Sensibility coming to the fore, but if you wouldn’t call your mamma or your sister by that term, don’t use it on anyone else.

And to the finger-pointers, four words: do something about it. Start a campaign or boycott or petition. As for me, I’m trying to do my part by showing my heroes and heroines as accomplished, contributing members of society who are part of the human race. I show them as examples of what we can be when we refuse to let labels define us.

And so many people play the race card, and they don’t realize they’ve dealt themselves a losing hand.

Peace and blessings.

We interrupt this program…

I’m taking the next couple of days away from the Internet. (Gasp! Thud!) It’s necessary, as I have a novella due Monday and an outline for another to create and send in at the same time. I love being busy on fiction projects (and having the work, lol) but the deadline pressure isn’t for the faint of heart–or the pantser.

If you don’t know, the pantser is the writer who “waits for inspiration to strike” and then runs with a story idea. No outline, no synopsis, just a general idea in her head of the beginning middle and end of the story. She allows the characters to “talk” to her and through her, believing the end result will be a sparkling vibrant piece of literary steak.

Yeah. Doesn’t quite work when you have contracts and deadlines and a day job. Turns into chopped liver pretty quickly.

I try not to be a complete pantser anymore. It is a luxury I simply can no longer afford if I want to build a career. Unforunately, I have a Crow mentality. I am distracted easily by the sparkly. As in, “Gianni’s motivation is that he always gets who he wants, when he wants because he–ooh, shiny!”

So I at least attempt to write down a one page synopsis or story concept. Even if I don’t look at it often, I know it’s there for those instances when I become paralyzed by that frickin’ blinking cursor on that very empty screen. I still pants it when it comes to dialogue. I love to get my characters to talk to each other–their personalities really shine that way. I think that also helps to avoid Big Mistunderstanding Syndrome, in which the main issue between the hero and heroine could be solved by just talking to each other for five minutes.

Speaking of which, my five minutes for this post are up. I must finishing packing ot go check myself into a hotel room tomorrow. See you next week!

Romance in Color Reviewer's Choice Nominees

THE BEST OF 2006

The Romance in Color reviewers are pleased to announce the nominees for its annual Reviewers’ Choice Awards. The winners will be announced on 15th April 2007. At that time the winner of the BOOK OF THE YEAR and BEST COVER ART will be announced.

The staff of RIC congratulate you on your nomination.


KIMANI ROMANCE OF THE YEAR

AN INNOCENT MAN – Deirdre Savoy (Aug)

NIGHT HEAT – Brenda Jackson (Sep)

SHE’S MY BABY – Adrianne Byrd (Sep)

FINALLY, YOU AND ME – Lisa Harrison Jackson (Oct)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

BEST KIMANI ARABESQUE OF THE YEAR

A TIME TO KEEP – Rochelle Alers (June)

LONG DISTANCE LOVER – Donna Hill (June)

ALWAYS A CHANCE – Angela Weaver (Nov)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

DAFINA ROMANCE OF THE YEAR

GOODBYE HEARTACHE – Doris Johnson (Feb)

DEPTHS OF DESIRE – Sophia Shaw (May)

TROUBLE – Ann Christopher (July)

BITTER SWEET – Candice Poarch (July)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

GENESIS PRESS BOOK OF THE YEAR

THROUGH THE FIRE – Seressia Glass (March)

ROCK STAR – Roslyn Holcomb (Sep)

NO ORDINARY LOVE – Angela Weaver (July)

CAUGHT UP – Deatri King-Bey (Feb)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

INSPIRATIONAL FICTION/ROMANCE OF THE YEAR

A SIN AND A SHAME – Victoria Christopher Murray – Simon & Schuster/Touchstone (May)

SHADES OF GRAY – Jacqueline Thomas – Harlequin/Steeple Hill (Jan)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

ANTHOLOGY OF THE YEAR

VEGAS BITES – L.A. Banks, Natalie Dunbar & J.M. Jeffries, & Seressia Glass – Parker Publishing (Nov)

YOU NEVER KNOW – Niobia Bryant, Melanie Shuster & Kimberley White – Harlequin Kimani/Arabesque (Jan)

BACK IN YOUR ARMS – Sandra Kitt, Deirdre Savoy & Celeste O. Norfleet – Harlequin Kimani/Arabesque (Jan)

CHOCOLATE KISSES – Renee Luke, Francis Ray & Marianne Reid (Jan)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

MAINSTREAM FICTION OF THE YEAR

THE DAMNED – L. A. Banks – St. Martin’s Press (Jan)

DIARY OF A MISTRESS – Meisha – Simon & Schuster/Touchstone (Aug)

A DEAD MAN SPEAKS – Lisa Jones Johnson – Genesis/Vibe (July)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

WOMAN’S FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR

BRASS ANKLE BLUES – Rachel Harper – Simon & Schuster/Touchstone (Feb)

BEST-KEPT SECRETS – Rochelle Alers – Harlequin Kimani/Sepia (Jan)

WHEN YOU DANCE WITH THE DEVIL – Gwynne Forster – Kensington Dafina/Fiction (Aug)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

NOVELLA OF THE YEAR

β€œHeat” in VEGAS BITES – L.A. Banks – Parker Publishing (Nov)

β€œDouble Down” in VEGAS BITES – Seressia Glass – Parker Publishing (Nov)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

NEW AUTHOR OF THE YEAR

Ann Christopher

Roslyn Halcomb

Deatri King-Bey

Gwyneth Bolton

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

AUTHOR OF THE YEAR

Brenda Jackson

Rochelle Alers

Ann Christopher

Seressia Glass

L.A. Banks

Love is Universal

This shirt came about as a result of much discussion and debate regarding multicultural romance. If you’re a reader or writer of African-American and multicultural romances, then this t-shirt is for you:

Love is Universal t-shirt

You can buy this in the fitted style or regular t-shirt by going here. The design was created by Roslyn Hardy Holcomb, the author of Rock Star. The price is set by Cafe Press, no profit is being made from it. So, if you love romance in all its forms, buy a t-shirt today.

Look for me wearing mine at the RT convention in Houston in April!

Slam Jam Recap

I have to make this quick, since there’s a deadline fast approaching (as in NEXT FRIDAY) for my new novella.

I had a great time at Romance Slam Jam in Miami Beach last weekend. Seeing old friends (Hi, Betty!) and meeting new ones (Hi, Darlene!) and sipping a variety of mojitos. Plus picking up an award for Vegas Bites!

Those to whom I promised to post my notes from the Time Management Workshop, click here. I fully intend to flesh this out and post an update with clickies and all that on my website, but the novella has to be finished first (that whole managing time thing, you know?)

Adrienne and Tisha put on a helluva conference in a beautiful hotel with great food and wonderful entertainment. Those ladies deserve monumental kudos for all their work.

Next year, Slam Jam will be in Chicago. If you love multicultural romances, this is the stop for you. They already have an awesome lineup and I’m sure it’s going to be fantastic!

The website is under construction. The tentative launch date is June 1, 2007 at: http://www.romanceslamjam.org
Come On Home!
To The
Romance Slam Jam
A Conference For Readers And Writers Of Black Romance
You are cordially invited to attend the Romance Slam Jam to be held in Chicago, IL
from April 30, 2008 – May 4, 2008.
Come on and welcome new members to the family, catch up with old friends and have a great time!
Here are a few of the authors who will be there:

Alice Wootson (Keynote Speaker)
Altonya Washington
Artist Arthur
Angie Daniels
Ann Clay*
Annetta P. Lee
Barbara Keaton*
Bettye Griffin
Beverly Jenkins
Deatri King-Bey*
Deirdre Savoy

Donna Hill
Dyanne Davis*
Elaine Overton
Evelyn Palfrey

Francis Ray
Gloria Mallette
Gwyneth Bolton
Gwynne Forster
Karen White-Owens
Kayla Perrin
Kim Louise

Lisa Riley*
Marilyn Tyner
Melanie Schuster
Michelle Monkou
Monique Lamont
Nathasha Brooks-Harris
Pamela Leigh Starr
Patricia Sargeant
Seressia Glass
Sheila Goss
Wayne Jordan

And the list is growing every day!
For updates on Romance Slam Jam 2008, please sign up for the e-newsletter at:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/RomanceSlamJamNews
Mark your calendars and get ready to
Come On Home!
Brought to you by Chi-Town R.A.W. SISTAZ and the *host authors

Author Chat Tomorrow

Spend an evening with authors of romance and erotica:
When: Thursday, March 22nd 9PM EST – until
Where: www.niafoxx.com/Chat.html

Who:
Corey Domino Yazeed
Emma Ray
Elissa Gabrielle
Jamie Hill
Nia Foxx
Seressia Glass
Sylvia Hubbard

There will be a live chat, free excerpts and awesome giveaways. Plus you never know who else will drop in.

Hope to see you there!