Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Not five minutes ago, I sent e-mails to two editors at two of the big-name houses in romance publishing.

Gulp. Gasp. Heart attack.

All fall-out from the Princeton conference. Let me tell you, it is vastly easier to meet editors in an academic setting versus a wanna-be writers' convention. As one of them told me, "I don't have to worry here that if I mention I like Italy, I'll get 20,000 Italian-set mss in the mail."

They gave me their cards, and so I wrote. I don't feel ready. I'd like to rework Then Comes Marriage from top to bottom before showing it to anyone. I'd like to finish All the Things You Are, the new contemporary romance ms I started a few weeks ago, before reaching out to potential publishers.

But...fate puts opportunities in our paths. If I hesitate, I might lose momentum. If I dither for weeks, they could forget all about me.

It was easier to meet editors at an academic conference. We'll see if it's any easier to sell to them.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

What Your Mama Told You

I'm back from the Romance Conference at Princeton--and wow, do I have a lot to report. It was a fascinating event, with some great papers and presenters...but I need time to process before I can give a full update. There was just too much to fit in my brain and spit it back out neatly.

As a teaser: a story and a question. Sarah Frantz, one of the academics in attendance, told a story in the context of her paper about reading her first BDSM romance--a relatively tame Harlequin that was handed to her by her mother with the remark "This one has bondage!" when she was fifteen.

I know a lot of women were introduced to the romance genre by their mothers (or sometimes older sisters). I'm in the awkward position of having introduced my mother to the genre. She picked up her first romances after she learned I was writing one and working at a romance-related corporation (my former, pre-grad school job).

I'm a long way off from having a teen or pre-teen daughter. Or son for that matter. But I'm not sure whether I will be comfortable sharing romance novels with her or him. I hope I will be! I hope I'll be a published author well before then and that romances will be like wallpaper to my kids--ordinary, taken for granted aspects of their environment. Nothing to feel embarrassed or ashamed about.

So, to the Damned Scribbling Women and friends: How did you start reading romance? How should mothers and children (daughters and sons) relate together over romance novels?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Snape Celebrates National Poetry Month

If loving Alan Rickman is wrong, I don't want to be right. And many of our readers agree with me!

While posting her list of character crushes, Maren said, "I look over that list, and realize that most of my fantasy character crushes are assholes and/or evil. Troubling. Which reminds me, add Professor Snape to that list."

Fist-the-Dead clearly agreed. In a later post on the same topic, she said, "I was dragged to "Harry Potter" by my friends thinking it would be totally lame. Then I saw Snape. I have to agree that he is an object of lust. He was like Trent Reznor, but a Trent Reznor who could give me detention for not wearing panties. And that my friends, is a good thing."

Love of Alan Rickman: clearly, it's a sign of fabulous taste. After all, the Smart Bitches agree with me--so much that they've posted an MP3 of Rickman reading Shakespeare's Sonnet 130. Hurray! This has got to be every brainy bombshell's secret fantasy. Shakespeare and Professor Snape, together at last?

Yes, please.

So take this moment, before April ends, to celebrate National Poetry Month. Melt a little, courtesy of the Bard and the Potions Professor.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Contest: Name that Navy Book!

How's this for inspiring cover art?

Did you ever read any of Debbie Macomber's "Navy" books? She wrote them for Silhouette Special Edition, and they had names like Navy Husband and Navy Woman. Theresa and I discovered these books while she was pondering whether or not to join--you guessed it--the navy. Not only did we greatly enjoy all of the "Navy" books we picked up at the used bookstore, but we took great pleasure in annotating them with our comments and sending them off to China, where our good friend Riley was working for the Peace Corps.

It was lighthearted reading for a transitional time in all of our lives. We were fresh out of college, starting to pursue our own career paths... all of us agonizing over what the future might hold, and all of us making dating choices that definitely do NOT belong in a romance novel.

Fast forward six years later: Riley, Theresa, and I are all happily married. Theresa is a full-fledged Navy doc, married to someone from her program! That's right, her man is an officer and a doctor. Be still, my heart.

Theresa's other half has been in Iraq for the past few months, but he's scheduled to come home soon. April also the month of their anniversary! So many reasons to celebrate...

Post your best wishes for the happy couple here, or join us in a contest in their honor! We think this doctor duo deserve their own book in the "Navy" series. Post a title, a tag line, and a blurb that does justice to this double-Navy-doc romance.
Contest closes on Thursday, April 30th @ 11:59pm (PDT). Multiple entries allowed.

Winner gets one of the Macomber Navy books!

Here's an example from one of Macomber's books:

Navy Blues

She needed just one night with him . . .

Despite her ex-husband's bullheadedness, Carol Kyle knew he'd be the perfect man to father the child she so desperately wanted. Yet she also realized that the strong, honorable man would never allow his child to be raised without a father. So Carol needed to plot, to plan, to maneuver, to seduce Steve into her bed for one last time . . . And then once more. Still, the passion when they were together was never the problem - it was the absences that tore them apart. Had they grown enough to chance trying again - especially when Carol's plan seemed about to work?

(For our long-time fans: yes, this is a re-post with slight tweaking.)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Are you ready for the ECO?

Does your first scene compel editors to ask for more?

Your opener is the hook that attracts an editor or makes a potential reader decide to purchase your book.

Polish the first seven pages of your manuscript and send them to the Emerald City Opener Contest. You will receive feedback in the form of detailed score sheets. Your judges (published writers or Golden Heart finalists and winners) are encouraged to include comments on your entry.

Contest Timeline

  • June 1 - Entries must be e-received by midnight (PDT), June 1, 2009
  • September 1 - Finalists notified by telephone
  • October 10 - Winners announced at the Emerald City Writers' Conference
  • October 16 - Score sheets and entries returned to all participants
* * * * *

Confession: this has got to be my favorite writing contest. Not only is it sponsored by my local RWA chapter, but it has such great benefits. Every contestant gets extensive feedback on her (or his!) entry. Even better: the finalists all get a private appointment with an agent or editor during the Emerald City Writers' Conference.

Folks, I'm the agent/editor chair for this year's conference. And let me tell you: we've got some great industry guests coming. I'll be blogging about them later. For now, just trust me: you want ten minutes alone with these people!

If you're so inclined, feel free to copy the pertinent details of this post onto your own blog. We'd love to have as many entries (and conference attendees) as possible!

Also, are you planning on entering the contest? What about attending the conference?

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Shirley Temple Effect

It seems that our crummy economy will have a negative impact on our most beloved pastime: reading. That's right, folks. The chief financial officer at Barnes & Noble predicted that book sales will fall between 4 and 6 percent this year.

The good news? (Yes, there's good news!) Romance sales are apparently on the rise. In a recent NY Times article, Motoko Rich reported that the first three months of 2009 saw a 2.4 increase in romance sales. In 2008, romance sales rose 7% after holding steady for four years. And these numbers don't even take into account the books sold at discount chains like Wal-Mart or Target.

The silver sales lining actually extends beyond romance novels. Other industries getting a bump include: chocolate, garden seeds, fast food, and condoms. Make of that what you will!

Of course, my interest is in the increased romance sales. Our genre's popularity is actually raising a few journalistic eyebrows. In addition to Rich, the trend's been followed by Misty Harris at the Vancouver Sun, who mostly discusses renewed academic interest in romance. Both articles are definitely worth reading!

Of course, there are a few reporters who can't resist jabbing at the genre even as they report its successes. Has anyone else noticed this? The underlying snark? It's not too hard to read between the lines when a reporter proudly states that he/she never reads romance novels... and then launches into a critique of the fact that they're "formulaic," "overwrought" or "underdeveloped."

I can't help it. It bugs me. I also have to wonder: where does a self-proclaimed non-romance reader get the authority to dismiss the entire genre?

True, I've read some "overwrought and underdeveloped" romance novels. But I've also read "overwrought and underdeveloped" crud in every other form of writing. Do people dismiss general fiction as a whole after reading several self-indulgent, navel-gazer novels?

I think not.

I also think, as the economy continues to... wobble... that it will grow increasingly difficult to "poke fun" at romance novels. Our genre's popularity will increase. Why? For the same reason that Shirley Temple was such a hit during the Depression: people need a way to set their stress aside, and she was dimpled and cute and uncomplicated. Believe it or not, FDR actually said that "as long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right."

I don't know about our whole country... but I do know that romance novels keep me in an "all right" state of mind. My already stressful teaching job is much worse now that I have to beg, borrow, and steal basic office supplies. It's nice to know that I can unwind with a guaranteed happy ending. Romance novels: the modern Shirley Temple!

If you're also blogging about the economy, please link to us so we can take part in the larger discussion! What do you think? Are romance novels the new Good Ship Lollipop? Or maybe you just want to tell us about your creative use for garden seeds and condoms...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sex and the Ivy League English Department

As an apprentice academic and unpublished romance novelist, I sometimes feel caught between two worlds. People consumed by literary theory and the status of "high" art frequently have a way of blithely dismissing the entire romance genre as melodramatic, sentimental, out-dated, and even socially harmful trash--without ever picking up a Julia Quinn, or Susan Elizabeth Phillips, or Laura Kinsale to test those assumptions out. I've seen it and I've heard it, more times than I can count. Romance readers and writers can be just as tetchy, thanks to years of dismissive comments.

I'll probably follow Eloisa James' lead when I eventually get published--keep it incognito until you're established enough as an academic that you can say "pphhhht" to any potential criticism.

But while I'm hewing to the status quo, a bunch of talented scholars, writers, and readers are coming together to help bring romance into the critical conversation. At Princeton, no less!

From April 23-24, the Princeton University English Department is hosting a conference called "Love as the Practice of Freedom: Romance Fiction and American Culture."

This isn't some bull session for critics outside the genre to cast their judgment on it from on high. Several scholar/romance writers are presenting-- including Mary Bly/Eloisa James and Gwendolyn Pough/Gwyneth Bolton. They've got longtime bestsellers Jenny Crusie and Beverly Jenkins on the list, members of the reading community like Sarah Wendell of the scribbling women's beloved Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, and the President of RWA. And they have scholars doing trailblazing research on current romance fiction along with eminent scholars of romance in other periods, like Margaret Doody--whose work on Austen and Burney I turn to in my own research.

This looks like a great line-up! I'm lucky enough to be free on Thursdays and Fridays and to live close enough to Princeton to attend. I hope to see some other scribblers there. And I'll be sure to update everyone afterward on romance fiction's Ivy League debut.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Welcome Back Contest: WINNER!

We've selected a winner for our Welcome Back Contest!

The lucky recipient of the Pin-Up Lip Balm is...


Congratulations! We will be contacting you and passing along the prize.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tell, Don't Show?

Does the title of this post feel like a cardinal sin to anyone else?

The author of this article teaches screen-writing, but his message is worthwhile for any writer. Make us sympathize with the protagonist! Even if it means using some no-no tools to do do it...

Let me know if you link to the article, or if it was helpful for your own writing!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Saving Cancelled Shows

After yesterday's praise of Chuck, I feel compelled to tell you that it's an "on the bubble" show. I have no idea whether it will be renewed for a third season or not.

There are several shows potentially on the chopping block. I want to know: which one do you think should be saved? Share your opinion! Vote in E!Online’s Save One Show poll.

And if you want to join the "Save Chuck" campaign, click here.

Also: I tried to create and post my own quiz (using Quibblo.com) but I had a problem. After taking the quiz once, it would only show the results. As much fun as a one-person poll would be, I'd like to figure out how to use Quibblo more effectively.

Anyone out there have quiz writing/posting experience they can share?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Geek Chic

He's the secret. She's the agent.

So, the tagline for Chuck sums up why this is an excellent show for romance fans (and romance novelists) to watch. The romantic couple has an excellent conflict lock--they both have feelings for each other, but they can't act on them. It's actually a matter of life and death that their relationship stay strictly professional.

Oh, the tension! Makes for a lot of eye sex and unspoken yearning, which we all know I love.

Also, the premise provides great action potential. For those of you who've never heard of Chuck, here's a brief summary: Chuck's a brilliant computer nerd stuck working at a Buy More (think Best Buy). When he opens an email from a former friend, it downloads a top-secret government computer into his brain. He's become "the Intersect." In his undercover life, Chuck fights terrorists with his two secret agent handlers. In his everyday life, he has to hide the truth from his over-protective family and super-kooky friends.

There's action, humor, and suspense. There's also an underlying layer of sweet, emotional authenticity that makes this show worth watching.

I know there are plenty of spy capers out there for your viewing pleasure. But trust me, the two protagonists make it worth a viewing! They are both perfect examples of Tami Cowden's archetypes, and they're paired together quite unusually. I am now going to quote directly from her (fabulous) website:

Chuck is the PROFESSOR: coolly analytical, he knows every answer. He’s logical, introverted, and inflexible, but genuine about his feelings. At work, he likes cold, hard facts, thank you very much, but he's also honest and faithful, and won’t let you down.

Sara (one of the agents assigned to protect him) is the CRUSADER: a dedicated fighter, she meets her commitments. No shrinking violet, no distressed damsel, here. This lady is on a mission, and she marches right over anyone in her way. Tenacious and headstrong, she brushes off any opposition to her goal.

Got that? He's the nerd and she's the ninja. She can put her feelings aside to get the job done (well, usually) whereas Chuck is much more emotional. Yeah, there's a lot of gender-bending going on. Rest assured, Chuck still makes for a great hero (because he's so faithful and devoted... and he has a really intriguing skill set). I like watching a romance develop where the two lovers switch off the responsibility of rescuing each other!

What's the word? Any other Chuck fans out there? Or any other shows that romance fans should be watching? Please share!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Your Character Crush: Dream, or Nightmare?

Way back in 2007, I wrote a post about Character Crushes.

I mentioned that I had a thing for Spike, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Specifically, I said, "I didn't quite want to have his evil, soulless babies... but I thought he'd make an absolutely fabulous mistake."

Many of our readers had hilarious things to say about their crushes. Maren posted her list of character crushes and stated, "I look over that list, and realize that most of my fantasy character crushes are assholes and/or evil. Troubling. Which reminds me, add Professor Snape to that list."

Oh, Maren. It's so true. And it leads me to wonder... do we all seek inappropriate men (or women) in our fiction? All of my students love Edward, from Twilight (you might kill me, but I don't care). Then there's Valek, from the Mary Snyder's "Study" series (yes, yes! Bring on the ruthless assassin love!) And I don't know about the rest of you, but I've always had a bit of a thing for Liz Carlyle's character, Bentley Rutledge (you're a charming, tortured soul who's frequently implicated in criminal investigations. What's not to like?)

Share your forbidden character love with me. And tell me, if you met your character crush in person... would you want to cuddle up to him/her, or call the police?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Not-So Evil Dolls

Libba Bray is the fabulous, fantastic, fierce author of the Gemma Doyle trilogy-- some of the meatiest, funniest, creepiest, most inventive, best developed, and just gosh-darn greatest YA novels Kate D. and I have read in the last 5 years.

She has a live journal that is must-read material for anyone interested in the writing life, her phenomenal work, and generally funny stuff.

In February, she hosted a competition for fans of her fantasy series: create something that represents the trilogy, be it a song, skit, sketch, or story and win a role in her upcoming Vampire-focused ms. The winner has been chosen and crowned. And I implore everyone who loves the books, extremely condensed-retellings of long, complicated works, and doll humor to check it out:

If for some reason you can't play our embedded video, follow this link to the Doll Version of Gemma Doyle and Friends.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Archives Updated!

Guess what?

The DSW archive is up and running once more! Yes, yes. We have harnessed the inner librarian to do a bit of cataloging. After an intense process of relabeling posts from the past, they are again available for your viewing pleasure. We've also got an archive gadget added to our sidebar, for your searching convenience.

Why not celebrate the return of past posts by reading The Unfeasibly Hilarious Harlequin Parody?

Or take another gander at Kate Diamond's deliciously dated yearbook photos.

Or perhaps you'd like to revisit our obsessive analysis of Grey's Anatomy! (So lengthy, we needed a part one and part two post!)

Meet Kate

Kate Diamond writes light-hearted romance full of sass and sizzle.

Day Job: high school English teacher

Hails from: Washington state

In your next life? I'll come back as a history professor who knows many foreign languages!

Preferred writing snack: something salty, like popcorn or Cheez-Its.

Best romantic moment from a TV show:
Season two of Friends, "The One Where Ross Finds Out." We go from Rachel's blind date drunk-dial to Ross checking his messages--hilarious dialogue, great physical comedy. Then there's all the sexual tension of the cafe argument and (finally!) the hot rain kiss.

Who are your favorite heroines from romantic fiction?

  • Anne Shirley - As a child, I wanted to be Anne--she was so feisty, so intelligent, and so unique. She went to college, she was a writer, and she married Gilbert Blythe. Even when I was seven, this sounded like a recipe for a happy life!
  • Elizabeth Bennet - Romance novelists must love Austen's fiesty heroine. I believe it's a law. Who wouldn't enjoy reading (and re-reading) a novel full of one-liners from this vivacious, spunky heroine?
Who are your favorite heroes from romantic fiction?
  • Gilbert Blythe - Clearly, I am obsessed with all things L.M. Montgomery (though must admit to never liking Teddy from the Emily books. I thought Perry and Dean were much more interesting).
  • Mr. Darcy - He could talk about my "fine eyes" any day of the week, and I would be one happy woman. Oh, Fitzwilliam. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.
  • Agent Seeley Booth - I am a Bones fan because of him. (Yeah, I had to dip into TV for this one.) Honorable, capable, and incredibly easy on the eyes. May future seasons bring us many shirtless scenes!
Who's your favorite real-life romance hero? Mr. Marvelous, my husband of seven months. In addition to being a total hottie, he's also a supreme sweetheart. He always takes out the trash, does most of the laundry, and cheerfully eats Honey Smacks for dinner whenever I refuse to cook.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Meet Anneliese

Anneliese Kelly writes heartfelt romance charged with heat and spiced with humor.

Day Job: PhD student in Victorian and Romantic literature; college composition instructor.

Hails from:
New York City

In your next life?
Cabaret crooner on top of a piano in a slinky dress slit up to there.

Preferred Writing Snack:
Cheese...any kind of cheese. And crackers. Any kind of cracker.

Best romantic moment(s) on film:

Dev's rescue of Alicia at the end of Hitchcock's Notorious. Cary Grant. Ingrid Bergman. Swoon.

The Kiss from season 1 of Veronica Mars. Veronica and Logan go from bitterest enemies to jumping each other's bones outside the Camelot Motel. Hot.

Who are your favorite heroines from romantic fiction?

Anne Elliot from Persuasion, the original second-chance romance by the incomparable Jane Austen. Watching forgotten, faded Anne bloom into love, beauty, and self-appreciation is an evergreen delight.

2. Valancy Stirling. The heroine of L. M. Montgomery's The Blue Castle is--like Anne Elliot--a little too old, a little too timid, and very over-looked. When she has a medical scare and decides to live for herself, she becomes a character you can relate to and admire.

3. Leda Etoile. My favorite Laua Kinsale heroine, from The Shadow and the Star. A regular girl with a backbone of steel.

Who are your favorite heroes from romantic fiction?

Frederick Wentworth. Anne's counterpart in Persuasion is wounded lover, hardened warrior, sarcastic ladies' man, and repententant returning suitor all at once. Plus, the man writes a damn fine letter (You pierce my soul, Frederick).

2. Barney Snaith. Valancy's husband in The Blue Castle is witty and funny and adventurous and every bit her free-spirited match. Both of these couples--Anne and Frederick, Valancy and Barney--are truly best friends, as well as lovers. So important in life, so rare in fiction.

3. Christian, Duke of Jervaulx. My favorite Kinsale hero, from Flowers from the Storm. Mad, bad, and dangerous to know, but always able to smile, even when his brilliant mind gives out and his body betrays him.

Who's your favorite real-life romance hero?
My husband of almost two years, Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome. He walks the dog every morning, always moves the car on street-cleaning days, and never fails to pick up a bottle of Pellegrino just when we run out.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Welcome Back Contest

To kick off the grand re-opening of our website, we're having a giveaway!

One of our lucky blog followers will receive a tin of Pin-Up Lip Balm. Come on. You know you want this sexy lip balm made of 100% natural ingredients.

All you have to do is leave a comment on this post. Our lucky winner will be randomly drawn next week. The contest will run through Monday, April 13th @ 11:59pm (PDT).

Good luck!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Why DSW?

The site's name comes from a Nathaniel Hawthorne quote. Way back in 1855, the famous author of The Scarlet Letter complained that “America is now wholly given over to a damned mob of scribbling women, and I should have no chance of success while the public taste is occupied with their trash--and should be ashamed of myself if I did succeed.”

Admittedly, using this quote is a nod to our nerdy side. However, we also reference it because we delight in the popularity (and power) of “scribbling women.” We also believe that the novels we write are uplifting and important (not trash!).

As the tagline on the site indicates, we are brainy bombshells who write red-hot romance. We write about the triumphs and challenges of the romance novelist’s life. To celebrate the return of DSW, we will have a plethora of new posts planned for this week.

Happy reading!