Thursday, April 17, 2014

A LESSON FROM THE LAND OF THE PARANORMAL

by Falguni Kothari


 
I grew up in India. But contrary to the outlandish non-desi claim that cobras, elephants, rhinos and all manner of flesh-eating yogis fill India’s square-footage cheek by jowl, I rarely came across such sights—outside of zoos, forests and the occasional temple—anywhere in India. The flesh-eating yogis—being a bit more exotic, definitely more mythic—I am happy to report have never crossed my path.

That said, the truth is that an Indian grows up on a steady diet of the outlandish. Our history and literature ooze Para-normality. The Hindu culture itself boasts 330 million major and minor gods who battle an endless franchise of demons and/or demonic wannabes in a never-ending Time Cycle on and off several realms unseen by the human eye. (Won’t bother mentioning the Buddhist, Jaina, Zoroastrian, Islamic, Catholic or Tribal myths that pepper and intermix with Indian culture in various capaci­ties.) Suffice it to say that Indians are extremely familiar and oddly comfortable with scientifically inexplicable phenomena.

I won’t be amiss in claiming that my introduction to the fantastic began in my mother’s womb. I’m pretty sure she read and chanted plenty of allegorical stories, poems and prayers throughout the pregnancy. But my first clear memory of the art of storytelling was when I was five. My paternal grandmother lived with us and a maa­lishwaali (a female masseuse) would come every morning to massage her old bones. The masseuse, an illiterate though plainspoken woman, loved discussing episodes from the Sanskrit epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata (think Iliad and Odyssey, only much longer.) As I loved listening to those stories it became a ritual for me to sit in on the massage sessions.

My world began to expand with every tale. I came to love Sita (the exiled queen stolen from her beloved Rama by the demon Ravana) as much as I loved Sleeping Beauty (the unlucky princess secreted away for her own safety.) Karna (think Achilles) is the utterly hot, devastatingly misjudged demi-god from the Mahabharata, and remains my favorite mythological hero (or non-hero, depending on your loyalties) to this day. So much so, that I’ve written a 400 page story about him. My point is that while I never dreamed of being an author ever—not until I stumbled into the writing profession and actually became one five years ago—I have always been in thrall of the fantastical.

I write and am published in Contemporary Romance. I have also completed an Urban Fantasy with strong ele­ments of romance (Karna’s story.) Can I claim preferring one genre over the other? No. But I will say that writ­ing about the paranormal is a thrill like no other.♥


Born and bred in Mumbai, Falguni Kothari currently lives in New York with her family and an utterly spoiled dog. She’s the author of BOOTIE AND THE BEAST (April 2014 via Harlequin Mills and Boon,) IT’S YOUR MOVE, WORDFREAK! and SCRABBULOUS IMPRESSIONS, a short story. Visit her at: www.falgunikothari.com and www.falgunikothari.blogspot.com. Follow her on: www.facebook.com/falgunikothari.author and www.twitter.com/F2tweet




Wednesday, April 16, 2014

PARANORMAL: THE AUNT PETUNIA DILEMMA

by Jess Russell



Ok, you’ve written the book. And the book has actually sold. You feverishly work with your editor polishing and perfecting. The launch date is set (well, as set as it’s ever going to be) Now who will buy your baby?  Hopefully, you will receive a stellar review—Or several. Fingers and toes crossed.— and folks will be ordering your baby up the wazoo.

But who are the sales we initially count on? Friends and family, of course. After all they must. The book’s progress has been documented in your Christmas cards, and they have read about you on Facebook, and even showed interest at cocktail parties and family reunions. But what about Aunt Petunia?  Or Aunt Hattie, for that matter? Or Mrs. Merkin, the postmistress? Or your father, for heaven’s sake?

My book, THE DRESSMAKER’S DUKE, is a Regency set in 1810, but it is not a sweet regency. The bedroom door is open. Not wide open, but open enough that my Auntie P. might not be able to think of her niece, Jessica, in quite the same way.  I have a critique partner, Amber Belldene, who is an amazing writer of very steamy vampire stories. She also happens to be an Episcopal priest. How does she handle it? Let’s find out.


Jess: Hello Amber, thanks so much for joining me. First off, congratulations on the release of the final book in your Blood Vine trilogy. Can you tell us a bit about BLOOD REUNITED?

Amber: BLOOD REUNITED is the third book in the Blood Vine series. The series focuses on the Maras family of vampires, who are in exile from their homeland in Croatia, a state which causes them to fall ill to a wasting disease. Hunters know this, and have been driving vampires from their homes for centuries, but at the start of this book, the Hunters’ campaign grows more violent, and only the biologist Bel and the ancient Uta can stop them. The problem is the pair are enemies, fated mates, and rather stubborn about the whole situation. I think the trailer does a good job introduc­ing the conflict between the characters.


Jess: I think, BLOOD REUNITED, is your best yet. Uta is so uta-er-ly delicious! I could go on and on but we have to get back to Aunt P and my dilemma. How did you come to grips with being a writer of sexy vamp stories as well as an Episcopal priest?

Amber: At first I treated it like a dark, dirty secret. But as I got to know so many romance writers who are just like me--moms, profes­sionals, Sunday school teachers, I realized it shouldn’t be a big deal, and that I needed to be a part of making sure it wasn’t a big deal. I’ve become really outspoken about why there is nothing sinful about read­ing or writing sexy books. In fact, I truly believe romance is one of the ways we experience God in our lives, and most romance readers I know report reading sexy books about love is great for their intimate relationships.


Jess: Did you ever wonder how your parishioners would deal with this other side of their spiritual leader?

Amber: I do wonder, and that is why I have a pen name. I don’t need to be in the face of the people I pastor as a writer of racy romance. Some of them know, and their reaction ranges from amusement to indifference. But because I know it would get in the way for some people when they need my listening ear, or my prayers, or my advice, then I want to keep it under wraps for the most part.


Jess: Did you ever consider toning down your books because of your preaching job?

Amber: Honestly, no. I wrote the stories I had to tell, and I believe they have integrity as truly human (or vam­pire stories). And I would much rather write in the explicit style that suits me as a writer, and engage in the conversation with people who might not like it, than to hold back. We need to start having more honest conver­sations about sex as a society, and maybe my dual vocations will spurr some of those on.


Jess: Do you have any stories about how you dealt with an Aunt Petunia?

Amber: It’s funny that you ask about this, because I did just see my dad yesterday for the first time in months and I gave him copies of both my books. It turns out all my aunts already love FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. But even my uncles and male colleagues have read my books. My father-in-law put it down when he felt un­comfortable, and that’s what I hope anyone would do. I will assume people can judge for themselves whether it will affect our relationship or not, and I would never be offended to hear someone put it down for that reason!


Jess: You have twins who must be about three now? A little young to be reading, but you must have thought of what you might say to them about your books when they do start getting curious.

Amber: I sincerely hope to have an honest and open dialog with my kids about sex. From my work, I know that is something hard to achieve, and like a lot of things about being a parent, it’s much easier to plan on before the time arrives. Still, I expect my son will want nothing to do with a sexy book his mom wrote. My daughter may be more curious, if she’s anything like me (and so far, she is). I read romances as a teenager and I don’t think it hurt me, but fleshed out my sexual education, so how DD and I will handle that will probably have ev­erything to do with our relationship--but I hope when and if she reads it, she will talk to me about it so that we can put behaviors and actions in context and talk about good decision making.


Jess: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me, Amber. I certainly agree that sometimes we tend to be too puritanical about some things while being terribly negligent about others. Finding love is a good thing. Something to be celebrated and cherished whether it comes to a group on Vampires or, in the case of THE DRESSMAK­ER’S DUKE, a rather shy and monkish Duke.

So to the Aunt Petunias of the world, I certainly hope I will not offend you with my writing. Blood Reunited, and The Dressmaker’s Duke, are stories centered around people struggling to find love. As writers we torture them a bit, but that only makes it all the more delicious when they finally get their happily ever after. And besides, you can always just skip over the naughtier bits.  

As a side note, my mother waited weeks on a waitlist at her public library to read 50 SHADES--I believe she said she was #800. ♥



Jess Russell is a member of RWA, as well as the Beau Monde and RWA/NYC. THE DRESSMAKER’S DUKE came in first in the Fool for Love Contest, Golden Apple Awards’ Secret Craving Contest, the Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest and the Golden Rose Contest (also winning the Best of the Best). And it fina­led in the Great Beginnings, Emerald City Opener, and the Lone Star Contests. Jess is currently working on two other stories, (working titles), HEART OF GLASS, and MAD FOR THE MARQUESS. THE DRESSMAKER’S DUKE, (The Wild Rose Press) will be available in late Spring.  Please Visit her Web site: http://jessrussellro­mance.com

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

PARANORMAL: THE DARK ALLURE OF EROTIC HORROR ROMANCE

by Lise Horton


As someone who likes her erotic romance dark, and edgy, and replete with BDSM, including pain play, the perfect genre to combine it all, with a sepul­chral atmosphere that can’t be beat, is erotic horror romance. Unlike erotic horror which, reasonably, includes both erotic sexual elements as well as the horrific supernatural aspects, and which usually leads to blood and often death or unfortunate ends for the characters, with EHR, you actually can have the HEA as well.

Taking the edgy, dark hero of a contemporary romance one step further in EHR you have a dark, edgy and potentially deadly hero. He can be a vam­pire, a demon, a sorcerer – those supernatural beings that deal with blood and the soul can often be the perfect hero to attract, seduce – and torment – our heroines.

I have written a number of erotic horror romance short “flash fiction” pieces and my published short story, “The Vampires’ Embrace” is a hot horror ménage where the heroine is seduced with pain and sex by her three vam­pire masters. Imagine, if you will, Dracula in all his blood sucking glory, as romance hero. The Frank Langella seductive bloodsucker as opposed to the really freaky Nosferatu dude. Whether the heroine becomes his human servant, or joins him in eternal darkness, the erotic scenes can be blistering hot, or chilling, but they are always seductive. And the BDSM elements of edge play most certainly fit in beautifully, especially with a bit of blood involved.

I have read a number of erotic romances that I would consider either actual horror, or to possess major elements of horror. The darkest of Anita Blake’s novels are erotic horror with the elements of romance that she is known for. The sexual eroticism that permeates those books is inextricably linked to the lengths to which author Lau­rell K. Hamilton forces her human protagonist, Anita Blake and her shifter and vampire lovers. Pain is a great accompaniment to these scenes and in her most recent Blake title, AFFLICTION, amid zombie attacks and humans dying of zombie flesh-eating disease, Hamilton weaves in the trio of lovers (Anita needs sex to feed an unwanted sexual vampire-like hunger, without which she, and her vampire servants, will wither and die) having sex amid the horror. Given the backdrop, the sex itself is dark and intense, but she goes further than she ever has before, and includes a consensual choking scene that was riveting in its eroticism. Additionally, the extreme act dovetailed well with the outside events.

One of the final lines of my flash fiction blog post “The Sweet Sting” is, I feel, a perfect definition of erotic hor­ror romance, where the heroine welcomes to her bed, eagerly, her midnight lover, and his promise of exquisite pain:

“And the night became as fire as he used me. As he pleasured me. As he showered his torments upon me.”

Be it lovers in the throes of ecstasy bearing with it that sweet sting and the taste of blood, or dark magic that enthralls a heroine to give herself over to the wicked torments of her sorcerer lover, or the chilled embrace of a ghostly lover who wrings from his partner screams of climax – and shrieks of pain – erotic horror romance pushes all the envelopes. To my great delight! ♥



Lise Horton’s debut novel WORDS OF LUST launched in September 2013, and she is finalizing book 2 of the Stellato Siblings series for submission. You can read more about Lise, her books, and her blogs, by visiting her website, www.LiseHorton.com, and join her in the madcap whirl of social media!

Monday, April 14, 2014

PARANORMAL: BITTEN BY BAD BOYS

by Mac Perry



Dear Ms. Mac Perry,

Thank you for your submission. I read your manuscript, and then showed it to a friend better versed in this genre. He informed me paranormal is a bit “too long in tooth for any meaningful new entrant,” at the moment. Best of luck to you in your endeavors.

Regards,
Mr. Agent Man

 
 
Long in tooth? Is he delving out fang humor as he rejects me? Oh, ho, ho, ho. I beg to differ, Mr. big, scary, unattainable-and-highly-coveted Agent Man.

As long as there is sex, there’ll be Bad Boys. And long as there are Bad Boys, there’ll be vampires, shape shift­ers, fairies, and the like. Maybe it will go underground, but cult fans are loyal fans, and eventually dominate popular culture again--once the hungry masses crave something “fresh” again.

Small Town Romance and New Adult are the way to go, huh? Did small towns suddenly appear? Have women previously skipped ages eighteen to twenty five, until big publishing decided to slap a label on those formative years?

Dare I point out, the only reason the label exists is because TWILIGHT and HARRY POTTER fans have gone and grown up. And have you ever seen a Small Town Romance gain the kind of following either of those two franchises command? Not to mention Paranormal’s siblings, Fantasy and Science Fiction. Did you know yet another Star Wars movie is in production? Never mind Star Trek’s recent and successful resurrection.

What does that have to do with sex and bad boys?

Sex is libido, our primary motivating source of energy. Libido comes from your unconscious impulses, your in­stinctual bodily awareness. A Bad Boy is a symbol, or what Carl Jung would call, an “archetype,” of unfulfilled erotic desire. He’s “bad” because he cannot be obtained (or integrated). He represents the unknowable or re­pressed parts of ourselves, which we have repressed for one various reasons, also known as, “the Shadow Self.”

But certainly, unattainability doesn’t stop us from wanting our Bad Boy. Fantasizing about him. Creating him over and over again in various forms, guises, and inter-galactic species. In fact, archetypes were discovered through a story of unrequited longing. Carl Jung first discovered the collective unconscious and archetypes when examining the fantasies of Miss Frank Miller-- a single woman in love with a man, but unable to act upon her erotic interest. Jung researched myths, fairy tales, and religious motifs from remote corners of the world, to interpret Miss Miller’s images. He found striking parallels and determined it evidence of the collective uncon­scious, which influences all of us through archetypes and instincts.

Archetypes and instincts exist within every human being, from the moment of birth, connecting us all through collective unconscious--best accessed through dreams and meditative states. Your waking mind struggles “against being swallowed up by primitivity and unconscious instinctuality” on the one hand, but also “resists complete possession of spiritual forces,” on the other. But when they are coordinated, the archetype provides meaning to the instinct, and instinct provides the raw physical energy necessary for archetypes to help man real­ize his spiritual goals. As a writer and storyteller, this would translate into fulfilling the “promise of the premise” of your story (to learn more, read Blake Snyder’s, SAVE THE CAT).

Okay, so now we know what archetypes are, but what do they look like?

Joseph Campbell hopped on this gravy train and took it one step further in his book, THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES, which examines archetypes cross-culturally and illuminates The Hero’s Journey. Chris­topher Vogler, in his infinite wisdom, reduced and simplified Campbell’s theories in his book, THE WRITER’S JOURNEY: MYTHIC STRUCTURE FOR STORYTELLERS AND SCREENWRITERS, so we plebs could understand Campbell without referencing the dictionary for every other word.

Vogler provides a cheat sheet for essential archetypal roles:

1. Trickster--Embodies mischief and desire
2. Ally--Companionship, conscience, or comic relief
3. Shadow--The unexpected, unexpressed, and rejected aspects of ourselves
4. Shape shifter--Brings doubt and suspense to the story, embodies ambiguity
5. Herald--Issues a challenge and announces the coming of significant change
6. Threshold Guardian--A lesser thug, represents our everyday fears
7. Mentor--Represents the higher self, teaches and gives gifts
8. Hero--Represents the ego’s search for identity and wholeness

According to Cowden, LaFever, & Viders, authors of, THE COMPLETE WRITER’S GUIDE TO HEROES & HEROINES: SIXTEEN MASTER ARCHETYPES, there are three types of commonly understood charac­ters or archetypes: core, evolving, and layered. The core character thinks and acts consistently to the very end. The evolving character starts as one archetype and evolves into another. And the layered character has a single archetypal core at his emotional base, but is layered with attributes from other archetypes.

How do archetypes interact to create conflict and move plot forward?

Let’s take GONE WITH THE WIND, for a romantic example. Rhett Butler is a layered archetype, a Chief to the world, but a Bad Boy at his core. Scarlett O’Hara is a Seductress at her core. A Chief and Seductress are both strong and stubborn and struggle for power. He takes control, while she seduces it back. However, they both admire each other’s focus, are good in a crisis, and know how to negotiate. Their characters grow and change, when the Seductress surprises the Chief in showing him he can be wrong and still powerful. In the Chief, the Seductress has finally met a man who sees her for who she is, and is free to be herself without fear of abandonment. However, Rhett’s Bad Boy layering of cynicism and street smarts eventually persuades his Chief self to turn away from his Seductress, saving him from emotional bankruptcy.

What does this have to do with the Paranormal genre?

Bear with me, I’m going to get existential on you; Paranormal, Fantasy, and Science Fiction are all genres that represent archetypes in their purest form. Super-human characters with magical powers are a distortion from physical reality, and are thus flexible in their representation, allowing us to project onto them our own personal experiences. Why is that important? Because if you can more easily project your own personal experiences onto an imaginary character, that character becomes more meaningful to you than another character confined by the trappings of a more “realistic” representation.

For example, “Oh, I can’t watch that show. The bossy character reminds me too much of my supervisor. “ So the viewer refuses to engage with the character, and loses out on what he might gain from exploring what that character might teach him, or the catharsis of watching a bossy character get his comeuppance (and all story­telling is about vicarious learning and catharsis, right?). But if similar archetypal traits were represented by, say, a vampire, than perhaps the viewer might be more willing to engage, because it is enough outside his reality so that he is able to escape into the story.

Star Wars, Star Trek , and anything vampire continue to be popular, because they represent a time and place that has never been grounded in real experience, and appeal to the bad boy archetype in all of us . Thus, we can continue to project our collectively unconscious fantasies upon the characters, unfettered, from the 1970’s all the way up to 2014. That equals popularity, longevity, and (say it with me) money! I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be rolling in it.

So, here is what I have to say to all the naysayers of the Paranormal genre:

Dear Mr. Agent Man,

Thank you for your prompt response, as well as your willingness to review my manuscript. I truly appreciate your time and effort in reviewing my work, and I look forward to proving your friend wrong about the size and length of my bite.

Warmest Regards,
Mac Perry



Mac Perry is a Creative Arts Therapist, adjunct professor, and aspiring author of urban fantasy. When she is not corralling her three-year-old son, she is blogging, editing RWA/NYC Keynotes, and working on her pas­sion’s pursuit. To learn more, check out her web site at www.macperry.com, or her blog at www.macperrysblog.blogspot.com.

Friday, April 11, 2014

BOOK COVER FRIDAY & BOOK DEBUT: THE RIGHTEOUS & THE WICKED by April Emerson

  
WELCOME TO BOOK COVER FRIDAYS!
Every week we bring you an exciting hot book cover from one of
New York's Leading Romance Authors. Enjoy!


 
THE RIGHTEOUS & THE WICKED
April Emerson
The Writer's Coffee Shop Publishing House
 
 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

THE GIDDY GRAMMARIAN: “The Ubiquitous They”

by Lisbeth Eng



I’d like to devote my inaugural column to one of my pet peeves about the mod­ern English language – what I call “the ubiquitous they.” In the admirable quest for gender neutrality, “they” has irrevocably crept into our language.

How many times have you heard the words “they,” “their,” or “them” used when the speaker or writer is obviously referring to a singular subject? “When interviewing a pro­spective literary agent, make sure they understand your genre and style of writ­ing.” You are meeting with one agent so wouldn’t “he or she” be more precise, though perhaps more awkward?

I believe this problem became more acute as our society progressed from viewing tradition roles as belonging to one gender or the other. Some of us are old enough to remember when policemen, firemen and mailmen were commonplace terms, before they evolved into gender-neutral police officers, firefighters and mail carriers. It often seems unavoidable, so the use of “they” and its related pronouns – I admit to using them on occasion myself – has become almost universally acceptable, especially in spoken English.

If you call me at work and get my voicemail you will hear, ”If you wish to speak with someone else, please dial their extension, or dial zero for the operator.” Though I cringed as I recorded this greeting, I set aside my grammatical bias, recognizing that “please dial his or her extension” was too awkward, and besides, how many people would even notice? However, there are ways to remain both grammatically and politically correct. Sometimes you can merely switch from singular to plural.

Using my previous example, one can say, “When interviewing prospective literary agents, make sure they understand your genre and style of writing.” Or better yet: “…make sure to discuss your genre and style of writing.” Another fix, though nearly impossible to use in fiction writing, is to alternate between “he” and “she” from one example to the next. I have seen this method applied in non-fiction and in business manuals. If the written material involves an illustra­tive stockbroker, for example, the first broker referenced could be female, while the next, male. A generation ago, they would all have been male. We still use words such as “mankind” and “brotherhood” to refer to mixed gender groups. The old saw, “A dog is a man’s best friend,” is not meant to exclude female pet owners.

In fic­tion writing, however, euphony and style often grapple with grammar. I encountered the “his/her/their” dilemma while writing my World War II romance, In the Arms of the Enemy. I had written this sentence: “She couldn’t imagine a life with Günter; neither of them would ever betray their comrades or their country.” Of course, this was grammatically incorrect, but the phrase, “…neither of them would ever betray his or her comrades or his or her country” was appallingly clumsy.  Thankfully, another writer came to my rescue by proposing: “…neither of them would ever betray comrades or country.” Not only is it grammatically correct, but it also flows more smoothly.

This also reinforced an important lesson for me as a writer: sometimes less is more. So, with a little thought and creativity, use of the ubiquitous “they” may be avoided, or at least reduced, much to the relief of the grammatical gods and goddesses.♥



Lisbeth Eng works as a Compliance Officer in the financial industry by day and writes historical romance by night. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English, and speaks a smattering of German, Italian and French. Please visit her at www.lisbetheng.com.

Monday, April 7, 2014

RAINBOW ROMANCE: Convention Season

by Kate McMurray

 


One thing I’ve noticed about author attitudes toward all parts of the book market­ing process—social networking, blog tours, public readings, conventions—is that everyone always talks about it like it’s a necessary evil, or an undue burden. But I think we can turn that attitude around. Life’s too short—and there are too many books to write—to spend a lot of time on social media if it does, indeed, feel like it’s sucking out your soul. But some of it can be really fun.

My take on marketing is that you should stick to one or two things you enjoy and are good at. I love Twitter, for example. I’m not the most active—and I’ve cut way down on how frequently I check it lately in the interest of, you know, finish­ing another novel—but I follow many witty, funny people, I love watching—and occasionally participating in—discussions about the romance genre, and I like the challenge of expressing myself succinctly in 140 characters. But your mileage may vary. If Twitter doesn’t work for you, or if it feels like a necessary evil, try some­thing else until you find what does work. Because if you like what you’re doing, it will show and readers will respond positively to it.

The other thing I love? Conventions.

Some of you reading this just broke out in hives. I get that I’m sort of a rarity among authors in that I’m gener­ally more of an extrovert, but the first few I went to were pretty nerve-wracking. Then I went to five conventions last year and had a total blast at all of them. Perhaps the trick is to walk into each one viewing it as an opportu­nity, not a burden. Just be approachable, be positive and professional, and you will be fine.

Rainbow Romance Writers put on its 2014 agenda to encourage its members to attend small regional conven­tions. To my mind, there are a lot of advantages—networking opportunities, chances to interact with readers, ways to learn new things—and, sure, they’re expensive, but worth it in the long run. If you’ve ever even just been to an RWA meeting or a local reading, you know this already. I find simply talking to other writers to be tremendously inspiring. Smaller conventions are less expensive and less intimidating than, say, RT, so they’re a great way to get your feet wet if you’ve never been to one before. And they are an especially great way for LGBT romance authors to wade into the mainstream.

We don’t gain anything by isolating ourselves, which I think is an issue in the LGBT romance community. I’ve talked before about how our assumptions about audience for these kinds of books. LGBT romance has a grow­ing audience of readers who just want a good story regardless of the genders of the characters involved—count me among these readers!—and the best way to reach these readers is go to mainstream spaces.

There are a number of conventions now explicitly for LGBT romance. There’s GayRomLit, which started in 2011 and occurs every October. You can read more about it in the January issue of Romance Writers Report in an article by Damon Suede. I’ve been to every one. It’s a wonderful convention and well worth the time and money. Now there are other LGBT romance conventions popping up—Rainbow Con this April, for example— and that’s great! It’s good to foster community, to get opportunities to meet readers and writers in spaces that feel safe. But I think to really break out into the mainstream—which is what we want as writers, right? to attract many readers to our books?—stepping into mainstream romance spaces is important.

LGBT romance writers and publishers have been doing this since long before I attended my first convention. I am hardly a trailblazer. But I get asked a lot about whether the big conventions like RT and RWA are welcoming to LGBT romance writers, and in my experience, the answer is an unequivocal yes.

We’ll take the RWA national convention as an example. I went to my first last year. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. But I signed up to do the big book signing, and when I went to check if my books had been delivered, there they were, sitting there just like the others in the row with me. I was sandwiched between an author who writes Regency romances for Avon and a YA author who had been nominated for a RITA, so my signing bud­dies were not slouches! I belonged there, I told myself, and a good number of people came by just to see me— which I say not to brag, but merely to point out that there’s a place for LGBT romance writers at a signing like that. (Heck, at RT last year, during the big signing, I wound up sitting across from Brenda Jackson and Beverly Jenkins. There should be a place for everyone!)

I spent most of my downtime in the hotel bar, just talking to whoever I ran into. What I liked about RWA is that everyone seemed game to talk and network, and the bar was a hotbed of activity at all times. I tried to look ap­proachable—and I had sunk some money into my wardrobe, so I had a few conversation-starter pieces, but your mileage may vary with that—and people were generally friendly. I had a pin for Rainbow Romance Writers and a little rainbow flag firmly affixed to my name badge, plus my badge had the PAN label, and that automatically got people asking me questions. “Which chapters do you belong to? What do you write? What have you gotten published? What’s RRW?”

I will admit to not quite knowing how to answer sometimes. I didn’t know who would react badly to the fact that my published novels are all gay romance. The first time a total stranger—an older woman from a chapter in one of the Deep South states and her friend—asked me, I hedged at first. But then I thought, “I’ve got a name badge covered in rainbows and I’m damned proud of what I’ve accomplished,” and I told these women about my books. And they both said, “Wow, really? That’s so cool!”

This same thing kept happening all week. It was amazing! I felt proud and welcomed by the community.

And that’s what I want to impart to my fellow writers. I get the impression there’s a lot of fear among writers, particularly writers of romance perceived as outside of the mainstream, that they won’t be accepted. Obviously, there’s still progress to be made, but not if we don’t break into these markets. An LGBT book—or a multicul­tural book, or anything else that is outside of the long traditions of the romance genre—won’t win contests if no one enters their books, and likewise, we writers can’t make a splash at a mainstream romance convention if we don’t attend. I figure it’s better to go, to be our awesome selves—approachable, polite, professional—and show the community that we are worthy of respect (and many book sales).♥



Kate McMurray is an award-winning author of gay romance and an unabashed romance fan. When she’s not writing, she works as a nonfiction editor, dabbles in various crafts, and is maybe a tiny bit obsessed with base­ball. She’s currently serving as President of Rainbow Romance Writers, the LGBT romance chapter of Romance Writers of America. She lives in Brooklyn, NY. Visit her at www.katemcmurray.com.