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ldmaudioPart of me wishes I could be at RWA. It’s been years since I’ve seen many of my writing friends. However, the logistics involved in leaving my disabled husband for that many days make it complicated. Not impossible, but complicated.

This year, I’ve actually been too busy to pine (much).

After mulling the top two auditions, both very good, I picked a narrator, Robin Rowan, for the audio book version of Lady Dearing’s Masquerade (cover shown here). I look forward to working with her, because she makes my story sound so good!

I’m continuing to edit Fly with a Rogue to address comments received through critique. Last week I compared being critiqued to sitting in the dentist’s chair. This week it’s more like therapeutic massage. It takes some pressure to work out the knots, but it feels so good afterwards!

I’m also excited to hear that the RITAs will now be open to-self published books. This is partly on a personal note, as I will be able to enter Fly with a Rogue this year. The opportunity for peer recognition is not critical for me—I had already decided, for business reasons, to self-publish this book—but it is nice to know I have the option.

On an organizational level, I think it’s very important. If the purpose of the RITAs is to “promote excellence in the romance genre by recognizing outstanding published romance novels and novellas”, it doesn’t make sense to exclude self-published romances, many of which have already hit the New York Times, USA Today, and other bestseller lists. As I understand it, entrants will have to be eligible for RWA’s Published Authors Network, which means the contest will be open only to authors with a proven record of sales.

There will also be a new category for erotic romance, which many authors of erotic romance have been asking for. I know there are others who say erotic romance should just be entered in whichever category fits otherwise (paranormal, historical, etc…) I understand their point, but I also know that there are judges whose reaction to extremes of sexuality in a book can impair their ability to judge fairly. Allowing those judges to choose not to opt in for the erotic romance category should help ensure better judging.

I haven’t read enough erotic romance to know for sure if this is always true, but in the ones I’ve read, sexual awakening or healing is an important part of the characters’ journey. This is in addition to being part of the relationship development, as it would be in sexy romances in other categories. The special role of sexuality in an erotic romance is also another argument for a unique category.

What do you all think of the RITA changes?

I hope everyone is having a great time in Atlanta and I’m looking forward to seeing pictures here!


Posted in Risky Book Talk, Writing | Tagged , | 4 Replies

Congratulations to the Regency RITA finalists for best Regency of 2005!




  • A Reputable Rake by Diane Gaston–Harlequin Mills & Boon Limited – Linda Fildew, editor
  • Miss Whitlow’s Turn by Jenna Mindel–NAL – Rose Hilliard, editor
  • Just Say Yes by Myretta Robens– Kensington Books – Hilary Sares, editor
  • The House Party by Jeanne Savery–Kensington Books – John Scognamiglio, editor

I particularly want to congratulate my friend Jenna Mindel, a critique partner before she moved away from central New York to the boonies of Michegan (smile!). Jenna, I know how much this means to you, and I know how hard you’ve worked for this. A nicer person couldn’t be made happy!

And for those who did not final–keep doing what you do. We are all winners, doing what we love, writing romances for the best readers in the world.

Viva the Regency!

Lord Ryburn’s Apprentice
Signet, January 2006

Posted in Reading, Writing | Tagged | 6 Replies

Today is the day the Romance Writers of America announce the list of finalists for the Golden Heart and RITA awards. RWA says, “The purpose of the RWA contests–RITA and Golden Heart–is to promote excellence in the romance genre by recognizing outstanding romance books and manuscripts.” These two contests are the big fish in the little pond of romance writing.

Or, as I explain to my non-romance friends, it’s like the Oscars, but for romance books. Finaling in either contest is a huge honor, at least among romance authors. I wonder, however, how important that “Golden Heart Winner!” or “RITA Award Winner!” emblazoned across the top of the book is important to readers (and no, I am not just saying that because I am doubtful of finaling myself). Reviewing the list of past RITA winners is impressive; reviewing the list of past Golden Heart winners is just as fun, especially since some of those authors have since been published.

But does it mean anything? I don’t know, but I am still hoping against hope I get a phone call today from the RWA office in Texas. Barring that, I hope one or more of my fellow Riskies get the call.

So–have you ever been more interested in a book because it’s won an award? If you’re a published author, do you enter these kinds of contests? What do you get out of them? If you’re unpublished, have you found contests to be helpful in forwarding your career?

And–before you answer any of that–wish us luck!


Posted in Reading, Writing | Tagged | 4 Replies

I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s been rushing to finish reading her Rita books! There’s definitely a difference between reading a 400-page novel and reading fifty pages of manuscript (as one does for the Golden Heart Contest, which is what I’ve judged in years past.) 🙂

So here are my random opinions on judging today:

JUDGES SHOULD, when reading an unpublished writer’s manuscript, just read it the way they would read any published piece of fiction. When reading a bought novel, one doesn’t stop on page 2 to analyze the goals, motivations, and conflicts, so don’t do it now! At least not on the first read-through.

JUDGES SHOULD NOT become too rule-bound. Nor should they let their tastes or prejudices overwhelm their judgment.

I THINK THERE IS A DIFFERENCE between serious historical errors and minor ones, and I think a judge should take this into account. Certainly, every historical author and every judge will have his or her own opinions on which errors are egregious, which serious, and which unimportant….and here are a few opinions of mine. (By the way, in the interest of discretion, I will point out that none of the following refers to any books I am currently judging!) 🙂


1. If a character uses a word in 1810 that has its earliest OED cite as 1830, that doesn’t bother me. (Words were often spoken long before they were written.) An exception, of course, is a word like “mesmerize” which has a clear and sudden origin (a friend of mine once saw that word used in an Elizabethan-set novel…)

2. If characters are not always wearing their gloves and hats when they ought, that rarely bothers me. (I have seen experts almost come to blows over when and if ladies removed their hats when paying calls, so I know the subject has its murky areas!)

3. If an Almack’s patroness is referred to as a Patroness in a year she wasn’t, or if Wellington is called a duke back before he was a duke, or if characters use candles when they should use oil lamps, that doesn’t bother me at all.

4. If Almack’s is having balls every day of the week.


— basic card game errors (such as piquet being written as a four-person card game, or a character who’s so good at faro that he beats every else); cards are very easy to research, so I think every writer who uses them should know the basics of any games to which she or he refers
— basic carriage errors bother me, though not hugely: i.e. I think the writer should know whether a carriage was owner-driven or coachman-driven, whether it was open, and approximately how many it could seat
— Mistaking a major inland city for a seaside town
— Regency gentlemen wearing “pants”
— Regency misses who have clearly read 21st century sex manuals

— when Sir John Doe is occasionally referred to as Sir John but much more often as Sir Doe
— knighthoods being inherited titles
— Regency gentlemen driving buggies through London
— heroes who run away to sea at age eighteen and buy a commission in the navy

So which errors bother you? Which errors don’t bother you?

And which of the above errors do you think I should start caring more or less about??? 🙂

All opinions welcome!

Cara (off to read!!!)

Hi. It’s me. Maybe you missed me yesterday? Well, I did! My brain was involved in a historical I was reading for the annual RITA contest and it didn’t come up for air. I have two extreme ways of being: completely focused, or completely not! Well, anyway…I thought I’d crack open that old discussion about rating/reviewing books.

Here are the rules I try to play by:

Be Objective. This means that I take your personal preferences out of the mix. If there’s a type of romance I don’t care for, I don’t judge on that basis. I look at how this romance compares to the standard of its type.

Don’t be a copyeditor. It isn’t the copyeditor you are judging, it’s the author’s work. A few typos, grammar errors or inconsistencies I can overlook. (I might add that I am doing ‘first round’ judging–the finalists will be judged a second time).

Look for something special that makes the book stand out. That may be the use of historical detail; the characters; the way the story draws me in and keeps my interest; the way the story explores its theme, taking me deeper throughout; the writing itself; the way the story plays out, keeping me engaged until the end–so that when I close the book I feel that it kept its promise and did not let me down.

It is difficult sometimes. We all have little things that we dislike that may or may not be an issue for anyone else–that may in fact be expected in the kind of romance we are reading. Yes, we do talk about clothes in traditional Regencies–not always, but we do. We often are writing about the upper classes in England. They had money, society was important, and they wore fashionable clothes, and sometimes it is expected that we tell what they were wearing. A judge may dislike references to fashion, but she should consider the genre.

I have a problem with cliches–little ones, like “her feet were encased in white satin shoes” instead of “she wore white satin shoes,” and various parts of a woman’s finery being referred to as “a confection of …,” and so forth. Just little word combinations that were fresh once but that have been repeated many times. But I don’t let this throw me when judging. I look at the big picture.

Having said all this, I still struggle. So…I would like to hear what you all look for in a book when reviewing it or judging it. What standards do you hold yourself to? Where do you draw the line between objectivity and subjectivity?

And finally…what do you think makes a winning book?

Laurie, with more questions than answers!

Signet, January 2006

Posted in Reading | Tagged , | 4 Replies
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