Missing RT? – Something Special Just For You!!

I hate that so many folks either found out to late or can’t afford to come to RT, so I’m gonna give you a small taste of RT here on the Blog! Each day, I’m going to give away a copy of Pleasure Me to one lucky poster and to a second lucky poster a copy of Love’s Portrait.

So if you’re not here Love's Portraitwith me at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare then post a comment here for the chance to win a free book.

In case you’ve not heard, this week is the OFFICIAL launch of the Rock*It Reads brand. We’re a group of traditionally published authors who are bringing you quality self-published books with exceptional cover art and editorial content reviews. We’re also announcing the Love Rocks column we’ll be doing at http://BNReview.com, but more on that later!

In celebration of our launch, we’re giving away free books. A mix of traditional and self-published works. So pop over to Rock*It Reads and hear about some fabulous books being given away. Increase your odds of winning a copy of Pleasure Me!!

Also, stay tune for some more fabulous news coming your way this week. LOTS going on, and I’m totally psyched!!

>The Journey’s Hole and Other Observations

>Ok, I’ve been in a hole. Not because I’ve been depressed about sales. It’s hard to be depressed about sales when you don’t even KNOW what sales are. I don’t expect to see any kind of a numbers until my first royalty statement, which I *think* I’ll see sometime April or May. Of course, I won’t be getting any money then. I have to earn back the advance money they gave me for the book. This is call sell-through. For instance, say you got a $5000 advance for a book. Before you can make any money, you have to sell enough books to “pay back” that advance. I’d like to hit a 60% or higher sell-through rate with Kismet. This means selling at least 8,400 books. We shall see.

In the Hole

I’ve a good reason for being in a hole. I’m trying to keep up the pace on the book that’s due the end of March. I’m still on target and the page count per day hasn’t gotten out of hand yet, but I’m beginning to panic a little. I had a synopsis, but the book is NOTHING like the synopsis, so now I’m flying blind with these two characters in the pilot and co-pilot seat, thus I’m not really flying at all. *sigh*

Amazon and MacMillan

Amazon, totally uncool to pull ALL buy links to MacMillan books. One more reason to call you the hated offspring of the anti-Christ that is Microsoft. I hope the customers of the authors books you pulled go elsewhere to buy. MacMillan, I see your point, but why don’t you just simplify the whole damn thing like the movie industry did. Stop screwing around and say EXACTLY what your price point is for what format. I know you didn’t ask MacMillan, but here’s my suggestion.

Hardcover comes out at retail price of $24. eBook is available for same hardcover price of $24.
MassMarket/Trade paperback comes out at $6-7/$14-16 retail price, and eBook price drops to same $6-7/$14-16 retail price. Even later, you can help expand readership by offering reduced eBooks of the book when it’s no longer on the shelf.

This strategy works for movies. Really want to see Avatar, Star Trek, Sherlock Holmes on the big screen? Pay the big bucks. Don’t want to see it that bad, you wait until it comes out on DVD when you can rent or buy. Finally if you’re really pressed for funds, you can hope is shows up in your movie channel cable package or scrape the bottom of the barrel with commercial TV. My point is that you don’t see DVD lovers screaming that their favorite movies aren’t available on DVD at the same time it’s on the Big Screen.

Hardcore Enthusiasts of eBooks

As someone who came up through the eBook ranks, I have a deep abiding love for the format. But I also think that hardcore eBook “enthusiasts,” are a bit shortsighted. I’ve seen outrageous comments demanding a wide variety in reading material, better quality writing/editing, all at cheaper prices. Based on that criteria, I’m assuming they want authors to work for free. Umm, yeah right. Like that’s gonna happen. I’ve also seen some hardcore enthusiasts suggest we should just sell our books off our websites all by our lonesome because it’s so easy to get a shopping cart. *snort*

So what are they going to do when I have to charge them a HIGH price for my book because I have to pay an editor, a copy editor, and eBook platform format person to put the book in mobi-pocket, pdf, eBookwise, Fictionwise, or whatever format necessary to get it into readers hands, not to mention cover art, and other things, etc., etc., etc. Naturally it doesn’t occur to some people that a publisher (print AND ePub) can do all of this at a more cost-efficient rate, which provides for a lower cost product.

I work hard for every dollar I earn. Even with a two-book and three-book contract deal last year, my income from my writing was about $20K LESS than what I bring home in my day job. And for those who want to know, I’m an Executive Assistant to a state agency head. A glorified secretary if you will. So forgive me if I don’t have a lot of sympathy for people who want my books for next to nothing. I work hard to produce a quality product and I want it to sell at a specific price point so I can earn a living.

Piracy Is On The Rise

Speaking of earning a living. I’ve seen the piracy of my books skyrocket in the last six months. Kismet was available for download within a week of release. THAT bites into my sell-through (the repayment of the advance). It can also severely impact whether a publisher chooses to renew my contract. If I don’t sell-through, the publisher loses money on me. They don’t like losing money.

The hardcore eBook enthusiasts will say piracy is why eBooks should be low-priced. Cheap means people will pay. Poppycock! Thieves steal because they feel entitled to something that’s not theirs. I’m betting they’d be in an uproar if I hacked into their bank accounts and helping myself to five bucks here and there because I couldn’t afford to take it out of my OWN personal account. I think a far better plan would be for me to convince Baby to learn how to program worms. I’ll have her design a mega virus that will go into a piracy site and totally trash their forum, while giving every user a virus that will fry their computer. If only justice could be that sweet.

>The Condom Conundrum

>What Makes a Romance

When I read a romance there are a couple of things I demand. First and foremost, a HEA. Don’t have it? Then it ain’t a romance and don’t try to sell it to me as one. Second, when I’m reading a love scene, I don’t want to be thrown out of the read. I want to enjoy the fantasy of romantic, uninhibited, steamy sex. I read a love scene the other night where the hero stopped to put on a condom and the heroine was worried it (the condom) was going to bust as the hero was rolling it over his erection.

I’m guessing it was the author’s way of saying the guy was HUGE *and* how thoughtful and caring he was by putting a condom on before he had sex with the heroine. Unfortunately the great sexual tension that had been built up to that moment was completely lost as I burst out laughing at the image of a guy with a fat c*ck trying not to break a condom he was putting on. Not the image I’m sure the author was going for. As a result, I couldn’t get back into the read. I’m still chuckling as I think about it! LOL So I thought it might make for a fun blog or at the very least give me a bully pulpit to do a point/counterpoint on the issue of condoms in romance books .*grin*

Jane You Misguided, Miserable Slut

The points in the following mini-debate are paraphrased commentary I’ve heard from several different sources over the last year or so. The counterpoints are my POV. Neither side is right or wrong. It’s just about what some readers (including me) are comfortable with in a book and what they’re not.

Point – Condoms are necessary because I expect characters to act responsibly in a book. If the hero doesn’t pull out a condom during a love scene, it’s not realistic. I want the hero to say “I care” by pulling out that foil wrapper. It doesn’t have to be added into the love scene, but I need to know wrappers are laying on the floor either before or after the scene. When I don’t see a condom used, it throws me out of the read and most of the time I’ll put the book down.

Counterpoint – If we’re talking realism, how about this, if the condom goes on, it has to come off. When it comes off, it’s got that ick factor, because one hopes that the guy’s been satisfied. Why don’t authors show that realism too? Probably because it’s not romantic. I find it curious that we don’t demand similar standards for love scenes in movies. I watched Maid in Manhattan this past weekend and I didn’t see one single wrapper the morning after. Same for James Bond and all the women he’s had over the years. If we can assume protection is used in a movie’s love scene is there some reason we cannot assume the same thing for a romance book. Or are we to apply a different standard of entertainment to a book versus a movie simply because it’s a book, or more specifically a romance book? Is this some way of legitimizing romance?

Point – A condom used by the hero in a romance shows he cares about the heroine. It makes me believe he cares and respects her enough because he’s aware of STDs or doesn’t want to impregnate her. He’s more heroic when he pulls out a condom. It shows he cares.

Counterpoint –
When reading a sexy romance we generally assume a couple having sex for the first time is either in love or almost in love. If a reader can take that leap of faith, why is it so difficult to assume protection isn’t being used just because the author doesn’t actually show it? As for being heroic, if a couple has sex in a book without being in love or at least halfway there that first time or two, I find that even more unheroic than a hero who doesn’t pop on a condom. Even if the work is Erotic Romance or Erotica, why would a hero wear a condom, but turn around and perform oral sex. You can get STDs from oral sex, just like unprotected sex. Again, it’s about letting the reader make up their own mind. I believe readers are intelligent people. They don’t need things dumbed down for them. I’m sure they can assume that protection is a logical part of the sex act and it’s not necessary for a satisfying read.

Point –
It’s an author’s responsibility to add in safe sex issues in their work because we live in a society where STDs and unwanted pregnancies are a major issue. We need to consider that there are impressionable minds out there. To not show safe sex in a book is irresponsible of the author.

Counterpoint – While STDs and unwanted pregnancies are a societal issue, and can be addressed in a romance if an author so chooses, it’s not an author’s responsibility to educate readers on safe sex, particularly when awareness about the issue is quite prevalent in our society.

One can also turn the STD issue around and view it as maybe the hero is using a condom because he’s got a STD he doesn’t want to transmit to the heroine. If that were the case, why hasn’t he been cured? If it’s incurable, then that needs to be addressed LONG before the couple has sex. If the hero doesn’t tell the heroine he’s got a problem, that’s unheroic. If he doesn’t have an STD, is he perhaps afraid the heroine will give him something if he doesn’t put on a condom? Naturally, these are exaggerations and unlikely points that would appear in a romance (although it might make for an interesting read), but the point is that using STDs as a reason for including a condom in romance is to me ridiculous.

The fear of pregnancy however I understand, and I could buy this factor if it’s stated that’s the reason for a condom being used. But again, this is fiction and the heroine won’t get pregnant unless the author deems it so (or the character) so it nullifies the need for a condom.

Point – Romance is supposed to show realism in the development of characters and their relationship. Authors need to be cognizant of this issue and ensure that realism is added into their books.

Counterpoint – If realism is the point of using condoms, then I put forth the argument that realism needs to extend beyond the condoms to more realistic heroes and heroines. Men who aren’t super hot sex machines (although I do love a hottie in a romance). Forget about men who’re drop dead gorgeous with abs that are hard as a tree trunk or flat stomachs or perfect bodies in general. We need heroines that don’t have long silky hair, lovely faces, a svelte figure or other fabulous qualities. Let’s add to our love scenes those moments of skin flapping against skin as lovers copulate. What about those flatulence sounds that occur occasionally when a c*ck pops in and out a certain way. (*evil grin*) Those are all realistic sounds and images. Why aren’t they depicted? I don’t know about you, but there’s a definite, eeewwww factor in there for me. It just doesn’t make for a hot, steamy, ROMANTIC love scene IMHO.

For me personally, condoms in a love scene just aren’t romantic. They’re about being politically correct and the promoting of a safe sex agenda. I don’t write them because I believe they detract from a love scene. I think writing condoms into a love scene has to be a decision of each individual author. If a reader expects political correctness, it won’t be found in my books. I write romance. Romance that entertains. Romance that’s escapism and fantasy with core values such as love, empowerment, hope and HEAs, because the reality is life doesn’t always come with HEAs. I’m not about preaching safe sex to a reader. I think my readers are intelligent enough to figure out that safe sex is something you practice in the real world, and it’s not necessary to have it in a romance book that’s created to entertain you. When I explained this blog to the DH, his reaction was a *snort* and then “Get real, it’s a fantasy.” Guess I’ve got one believer in my court. LOL

>Excerpt – Dangerous Now In Print

>Dangerous by Monica Burns
Samhain Publishing
eBook — ISBN 1-59998-882-8 MBaM
Print – ISBN 978-1-60504-121-6
Available Borders, Amazon, MBaM and Other Bookstores

Read Excerpt Below

Behind the mask lies love-a dangerous and deadly emotion.


Constance Athelson, Viscountess Westbury has a gift she can’t reveal. She sees things others can’t, including the dead. The only thing she can’t see is into the heart of Lucien Blakemore, Earl of Lyndham. After one blissful night in his arms, she knows if she’s ever to win his heart, she must free him from his tortured past.

Lucien Blakemore met the Egyptian goddess Isis at a masked ball, but she vanished into the night before he could learn her real name. It’s just as well, since the Blakemore Curse makes love a dangerous and deadly emotion for him. But the erotic night he spent with his mysterious lover makes him want to throw caution aside-if only for one more night with his masked goddess.

Excerpt

God help him, but the woman was a siren. And all the more powerful because she had no idea how erotically sensual her body was. Returning to her side, he slowly wet her lips with the taste of the berry he held in his fingers.

“Open your mouth, yâ sabāha,” he said as he slid the red fruit across her bottom lip.

Half of the berry entered her mouth and she bit into the dimpled temptation when he told her to. Even beneath the blindfold, he could see the look of pleasure the fruit gave her as she slowly relished its taste. Leaning into her, he breathed in the scent of strawberry as he popped the remainder of the berry past her lips.

“You have a touch of juice at the corner of your mouth,” he murmured before his tongue licked the droplet off her skin.

The touch made her entire body tremble, and he didn’t stop her as she reached up to explore his face with her fingers. He grew still at her caress. The tenderness in her soft touch tightened his throat, and he swallowed hard. A sudden longing for something he knew better than to even dream about rose up inside him. With a violent mental blow, he crushed the thought. Instead he lowered his head and captured her mouth in a teasing caress.

“You’re ripe and succulent, just like that strawberry,” he murmured as he enjoyed the sweetness of her lips.

The pulse at the side of her neck pounded a frantic beat beneath his fingers. Eager to taste the warmth of her skin, he pressed his mouth against the fluttering beat. A soft moan whispered out of her, and the sound sent elation shooting through him. Before the night was through he’d have her doing more than simply moaning. He wanted to hear the aching need in her voice when she pleaded with him for release.

Impatient for the sound of that husky plea, he trailed his mouth across her shoulder and down her arm. For a fraction of a second he paused at the stiff peak of her breast. The silk of her nightgown was stretched taut over the tight tip of her. It betrayed her heightened awareness, and instead of suckling her, he continued to blaze a fiery path down her arm. Her whimper of protest filled him with satisfaction.

“Sweet heaven, Lucien, surely you’re not going to tease me like this all night.” She blindly stretched out her hands to him.

“This is far less of a torment than what I’ve suffered these past several months, my sweet.” He fought to keep his tone light. Admitting the depth of his torment would only give her power over him. “Months of aching for you. Nights needing you, but the only release my cock had was my hand and images of you.”

She gasped at his words as a pink blush filled her cheeks. Coming upright, he rubbed his thumb across the plump fullness of her lower lip. “My words shock you.”

“A little,” she said. He saw her throat bob as she swallowed hard.

“Shall I describe the fantasies I had about you every time I grasped my hard rod?” Slowly, he traced his finger along the edge of her bodice where the lace met her jasmine-scented skin. “Fantasies of me licking the insides of your thighs then sucking on that tender little nub of yours. Sucking on you until you drench my tongue with your hot cream.”

The pink color in her cheeks darkened to a rosy hue as her mouth formed a wordless cry of shock. He watched her carefully as his finger slid down toward the shadowy valley between her breasts. She might have found his comments shocking, but they excited her as well. The slight flare of her nostrils and her shallow breathing were enough to tell him that. He reached for the ribbons of her nightgown, then used the tips of the silk fasteners to tease her skin as he unlaced her bodice.

The almost-transparent garment slid off her shoulders and floated downward to pool at her feet. The dark mauve hue of her rigid nipples made his mouth go dry as he lightly rubbed his thumb over one stiff peak. She jerked at the touch.

“Lucien—”

“Hush, sweetheart. Just let me look at you,” he rasped.

She was beautiful, and his groin tightened with an urgency that troubled him. Christ Almighty, was he going to be able to finish this seduction? His body grew taut with tension as he fought the need to take her without another word. No. He needed to resist the temptation—remain in control. It was the only way to manage this insatiable need she created in him.

Critical Acclaim

2009 EPPIE Finalist

4 1/2 Stars
“Jane Eyre meets The Mummy…[her] characters are so multidimensional that readers will swear they’re based on real people.”
— Romantic Times BOOKreviews

“[She] writes lovely erotic romance with plenty of heart and passionate soul.”
— Michelle Buonfiglio, Romance B(u)y The Book

84 out of 100
“Burns manages to have Constance breaking a few stereotypes without coming off too much like a contemporary character… I find Dangerous is a pretty good read…”
— Mrs. Giggles

“…a powerful, sensually driven historical paranormal that is a testament to Ms. Burns’ gift of keeping her readers spell-bound. Highly Recommended Reading!”
— ParaNormal Romance.org

“Burns writes the kind of sexy, paranormal historical stories I want to read, and I look forward to her next offering!” — Romance Reader At Heart

“Ms. Burns is masterful at escalating the sexual tension and suspense with her characters. Three generations of murder, stubborn ghosts, and an aging matriarch with attitude are the perfect compliment to a fantastic love story that is a joy to read.” — Coffeetime Romance

“Readers will definitely find themselves riveted to the pages as Constance and Lucien’s story unfolds.” — Fallen Angel Reviews

“I truly enjoyed reading Dangerous…it was a delightful and interesting read. Well written and imaginative.” — Romance Reader Connection

>Thoughts Out of the Blue

>Ok, I’ve nothing to post about that will get me in and out of here quickly. So I’m just going by the seat of my pants.

Golden Heart Entries

I’ve got mine and I’m reviewing them. There are a couple with some unique story lines, and the craft is roughly hewn. A couple others need more work. All of them with the exception of one have great voice. There’s this one whose voice sounds like another author I’ve read. It makes me think the entrant is a huge fan of the author and has picked up little nuances that make her writing sound like the big name author. Perfectly natural that, but I think there’s a gem under that rough coal.

What I’m thinking about doing after the contest ends and if time permits, is to list the titles I judged and offer a free critique of the chapters I judged. I figure it might give a little more back to writers who sent in their entries, but don’t get any feedback. I guess I need to check with National on that.

RITAs

There’s a petition on the web for those who are protesting the recent rule change the RWA Board made with regard to eligibility.

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/ChangeRWA/index.html

I signed the petition, but already I’ve heard rumors that National won’t accept it because there are non-RWA members signing the petition. I can understand that, and I think it’s great that the petition was created. It might have been better to have ensured that those signing added their RWA number to give National an accurate count of names on the petition who are actual RWA members.

The New Boss

The new boss is nice, a bit wired, but nice. I’m still working out how best to deal with her. I had my old boss down to where I told him what to do. I’ve tried that a bit with my new boss, but I’m not sure how well it’s going down. Have to proceed cautiously. In the current economic climate, I can’t afford to get fired. LOL

Master of Sin

This is my paranormal book 1 in the series for Berkley. Title to change. It’s going. One minute it’s flowing like a bubbling stream, the next minute it’s like mud left over from when the Mississippi recedes after a flood. It’s just there. *sigh* I can’t WAIT to get to Book 2 though. It’s already percolating in the brain. GREAT, sexy opening. I just love it. Of course, the books I generally love are the ones reviewers hate, so I’ve NO idea if any of this is going to take off.

Tuesday – Jan 20th

Well, we’ll have a new President on Tuesday. I hope he survives his four years given that there is still a great racial divide in this country. I have high hopes for the man. As he’s a huge admirer of Abraham Lincoln (my HERO), I believe he might have exactly what it takes to be an insider and outsider all at the same time up in Washington. Time will tell. I really hope he succeeds and turns out to be a great President because I’m just DYING to tell my friend Rich, “I TOLD YOU SO!” LOL But, I’ll have to wait for outcomes and pray I don’t get pie in my face. *sigh*

Reading

I just finished Loretta Chase’s Your Scandalous Ways. I thoroughly enjoyed it, although I didn’t get as strong a sense of place/setting as I would have liked. But the characters were lovely in their craftsmanship. I didn’t like it as much as Lord of Scoundrels, but you know what they say about first loves. *grin*

Well those are thoughts out of the blue. I’m outta here!

>Super Writer

>

Writing is a Job

I think it was the fabulous Clair Delacroix/Deb Cooke who once told me that writing is a job. I sort of believed it then, but not as much as I do today at this particular point in my career. I remember when writing was fun, exciting, joyful, passionate and EASY. So what happened? Where along the way did writing become less of these things.

While, I don’t think I’ve lost the excitement, the joy or the passion of writing, I now understand far better the words of wisdom that well-establish writers have handed down to those of us who haven’t hit certain levels in our career. But, the writing has become more of a job and these things I’ve always associated with writing seem a bit out of reach at the moment. I don’t know if it’s because I took a step up the career ladder or if it’s because I’m putting extra pressure on myself to do more than I’m capable. Super Writer syndrome as it were. Maybe it’s the holidays, but I feel like I’m in the Foreign Legion with my back to the wall and I’m smoking my last cigerette.

The Whys and Wherefores

Why am I feeling this way? Part of it is my October contract with Berkley for a three-book paranormal series. Writing paranormal is new to me, so as Yanni says, “A little bit of fear means your are doing something worth doing — you are stretching — you are going outside your immediate grasp. Out of my immediate grasp? Can we say outside the atmosphere and I’m scared spitless? A three-book historical series would be easy. I know that world. But creating a new one definitely makes me stretch. And it’s scary as hell!

Dangerous CoverAnother monkey wrench that’s been thrown into the mix is that I’m trying to market my newest release Dangerous, which comes out the end of January (and is available for pre-order). I’ve got advertising in place, but I’m already planning for Mirage’s release in June! I need to hire Baby to help me out. Problem is she’s just 11, and she’s not savvy enough to do it without me guiding her, and if that’s the case, it’s easier to do it myself. So I’m caught between a rock and a hard place. If only Oldest were more computer savvy and eager to help.

Another Berkley Contract

Then the week before Christmas, I landed my second contract with Berkley, this time for two historicals. One of those books is written (THANK GOD) but I have to write a new one. I’m over the moon about another NY sale, but OMG, my scared spitless monitor just went through the roof. I’m now facing deadlines unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my entire career. Normally deadlines excite me. Right now, I’m asking myself, “WTF were you thinking you idiot! Three and half books in 13-14 months???”

All of these things mean I’ve got writing deadlines, proposal deadlines, marketing deadlines and then the actual marketing of the releases. Maybe this wouldn’t be so daunting if I didn’t have to work a day job, but like most struggling new writers, I have to work the day job to keep a roof over our head.

Why Are You Whining

So perhaps you can see where I’m wondering what happened to the days when writing was fun, exciting, joyful, passionate and EASY. I think those things are still there, I just don’t see them as well as perhaps I once did. It was much easier when there weren’t deadlines to deal with. I’ve always submitted completed books, now I’m selling on proposal, and the books ARE NOT written. Then there are the craft issues to include at the editor’s request, learning the technical and financial business aspects of the publishing industry (I’m a VERY SLOW learner) and this or that business piece to comprehend. And for the newbies reading this and thinking, “I don’t know what she’s whining about, she sold.” All I can say is, my Mom used to tell me you’ll understand when you grow up. She was right, damn it.

So Claire, and any other writer I ever dismissed for telling me it was hard, my apologies for my arrogance. It is easier to sell than it is to keep up with the results of selling. However, the one thing in my favor is my stubbornness. I’ll make it just to have the pleasure of saying I made it. *grin*

What do you do to keep deadlines and everything else from driving you insane?

Monica

Monica Burns | http://www.monicaburns.com
Dangerous, 4.5 Stars Romantic Times
“…a pretty good read.” MrsGiggles.com
Master of Sin, Berkley 03/10

>Unity Is A Difficult Task

>Over the past two weeks I’ve seen calls for unity in a couple of different places. The biggest and most historic one by far was from President-elect Obama. I am hopeful that both sides of the aisle can come together for the benefit of all Americans, regardless of our differences. In the end, we are ALL Americans uniting to strengthen our economy and reinforcing to the global community that we are still the greatest country in the world.

The second call for unity I saw was in Diane Pershing’s President’s Message in the Romance Writers Report (RWR). When I first read the letter, I basically skimmed it. IOWs, I didn’t read it closely or with much thought. However, I did come away with the idea that okay, new President–she’s calling for unity and that’s great. RWA could USE some unity. Then on a couple of different forums, several ePub/small press writers posted their interpretations about the message and it made me examine the issue closer.

Sincere Efforts

Before I continue with my commentary, I want to clarify upfront and emphatically that I firmly believe Ms. Pershing was sincerely motivated by her desire to unite the organization. I do not believe for one minute Ms. Pershing meant any disrespect to any one segment of the RWA membership. My belief is based on an email exchange I had with Ms. Pershing earlier this week on another topic. Although the communication was short and to the point, it was the BEST and most POSITIVE experience I’ve ever had with an RWA president. I can not see this woman as doing anything to deliberately insult any RWA member. I believe she truly does want RWA to come together and unite during her term as President. I think this is an admirable goal and like the nation’s new President, she’s going to have a hard row to hoe.

With that affirmation stated, I admit to posting my own concerns about issues in the message, most specifically with the statement – “Publisher who is taking no financial risk, and therefore, has very little incentive to promote the author. (Books “sold” to them don’t even measure up to being on consignment; artists who work on consignment at least retain the rights of their work.) These publishers say if you sell to the public, then you get paid. Wrong equation. Selling to the publisher first means getting paid; later on, both publisher and writer profit from selling to the public. Career focused.”

A Different Model

I can see where the statement I’ve quoted above from the President’s message is being considered divisive by some of the membership. IMHO, it still implies small press/ePubs writers are not career-focused because they don’t receive substantial advances. The problem here is the lack of understanding among different segments of the RWA membership when it comes to the different business model ePub has from NY. Advances aren’t paid up front in ePub, BUT with the more respectable ePubs you DO earn royalties within 30 – 90 days of your book’s publication, and either monthly or quarterly thereafter. Most ePubs though pay writers royalties every 30 days.

My understanding (and NOT a certainty) with regard to NY is that you generally wait 12-18 months for royalties because of returns, which is what the advance is designed to cover (the wait). Interestingly enough, Samhain (small press) has a six-month payment policy on their print books. So there is a tradeoff between the two models with distribution playing an important role in how MUCH money one makes. And I’m not sure a lot of ePub writers or NY writers are able to totally understand the difference.

It’s A Living

Making a living by writing is not an easy thing to do. There are plenty of NY print authors who still work a day job in addition to their writing. Then there are quite a few ePub writers who don’t have to work a day job because they’re making enough off their work. So exactly what is the benchmark dollar figure when it comes to writing for a living? For one writer it might be $25K annually for another it might be $50K annually, while another writer might want low six figures. Naturally we all want to have the incomes of Nora Roberts, Danielle Steele, etc., but let’s be frank here. This will NEVER happen for most of us. Like our writing, all writers have different expectations of what constitutes a decent “salary” for their writing. My point is the amount of money we make does not determine whether we’re career focused. For me career focus is anyone who’s aiming for the next rung on the publication ladder. Will all of us make it? No. Will the few of us who do reach the next plateau make a fortune? No.

I’m proud of my ePub roots. I hope to find time to continue offering works there. But I’m also excited that I’ve taken one more step up the career ladder. I’ve always been career-focused, and if other people didn’t see it that way (my family included) then they just don’t know me well or at all.

Career-Focused

Do I have the answer for what equates to career-focused? No, but I think the BOD made a start last year by setting $1K for PAN membership. What I do know is this. There is great value in Ms. Pershing’s goal to unite the RWA membership. I should have thought more about her message before I posted any comments on the forums where I expressed my opinion and concerns about extracted statements. While my posts in those forums did not outright question the motive of Ms. Pershing, I can see where some people might misinterpret my posts the same way Ms. Pershing’s message is being dissected. So I feel empathy for her.

An Uphill Climb

Additionally, I did her a disservice by not thinking through my thoughts completely before I made comments on less public forums. So I want to express my appreciation to Ms. Pershing for her desire to unify RWA. The organization has increasingly become divided over the past six years, and I think it’s time BOTH sides of the membership come to the table. She’s taken on a really TOUGH task and I don’t envy her. However, I was impressed by my interaction with her, and I think she’s got what it takes to succeed, provided the majority of members support her efforts. Let’s face it; there will always be the disgruntled few. I’ve been one of those disgruntled from time to time. It’s expected. We can’t all agree all the time. Utopia is great to strive for as long as we accept that it doesn’t exist. But I’m coming to realize that I have to work WITHIN the system if I want to make any change whatsoever. As I’ve said before I’m a slow learner, but I do learn.

I Left My Heart In San Francisco

>Warning, this blog will not be short. How could it be given my recent trip to San Francisco? There was a lot happening at the RWA conference, but there was lots of other wonderful stuff happen’ too!

The DH and I flew on separate flights, different airlines. I went first class, a fact the DH reiterated ad nauseam throughout the trip. Hey, it took me two weeks to convince him to come with me AFTER I bought the ticket. He’s got no one to blame but himself for not moving faster on buying his ticket. However, I did enjoy pointing out to him that I got real china and REAL stainless steel utensils. I confess that one confused me given the terrorist orange alert status. I mean there’s a lot one can do with a real knife when you’re airborne and that close to the cockpit, unfortunately.

Our ride to downtown on the BART was a mini-adventure where the DH had his first REAL exposure to alternative life styles. We have gay friends, but they don’t do wet, open displays of affection in public. So that startled the DH a little bit. *grin*

The hotel staff, despite the far from complimentary rip-a-new-one blog post about them prior to the conference, were organized, efficient, helpful and just wonderful. I got my usual, exceptional service that I get whenever I stay at the Marriott. I still need to send compliments via email to the general manager about ALL staff. They went out of their way IMHO to make RWA welcome.

O-M-G! It’s Kate Duffy

Key in hand (we got a small suite complete with refrigerator!! YAHOO!) we head for the room when I see Rosemary Potter, bookseller extraordinaire. I immediately charge over to say hi, and I suddenly realize she’s with someone. So I’m backpedaling and apologizing profusely about interrupting. But Rosemary’s companion scoffs

“NO, that’s what RWA is for! I’m Kate Duffy.” She offers her hand and the whole time I’m shaking her hand, all I can think of is…my hands are sweaty.

“Hello, I’m Monica Burns.”

“Monica Burns! I LOVED Mirage. It was wonderful, just wonderful.” Her words catch me completely off guard as I’m thinking, WTF—she read Mirage??? In the next blip of a thought, I’m thinking, OMG, Kate Duffy loved Mirage! When she tells me to sit, I’m like a new puppy eager to please. I do keep glancing over my shoulder at the DH who finally strolls over and in a slightly (just slightly) exasperated tone says, “Just give me the key.”

For the briefest of seconds (and more like a fraction), I’m thinking why the hell didn’t he come later in the week!! But I introduce him; and Kate while shaking his hand says…

“Do you know what a wonderful writer your wife is?”

Obviously not sure what to say, the DH (who automatically assumes I’m chatting with old friends and NOT a major NY editor) replies, “Umm…yeah….right.”

Shooting him at that point would have been too merciful. Perhaps a room at the world-famous Alcatraz? Feeling a bit overwhelmed, not to mention guilty because the DH and I had planned events for the afternoon, I politely excused myself and headed for the elevators. Inside the small car, I do a happy feet dance plus a bit of screaming! OMG, OMG, KD frigging likes my writing! OMG. Acting the part of Tim “Toolman” Taylor, the DH still isn’t getting the monumental event that’s just transpired!! Even after an explanation he’s still clueless. *sigh*

Fred the Millionaire

With two memorable moments completed, we set out to see the Golden Gate Bridge. With money tight, we decide public transportation is the best option and several San Franciscans cheerfully helped us find the right bus. Along the way, we had to make a transfer, and that’s when we met Fred.

Actually we never got his name; we just called him that as opposed to other less than complimentary monikers. Fred seemed like a rather plucky fellow. He certainly can hold his liquor as he smelled strongly of alcohol. Scratch that, he reeked of the brew, and one could have gotten drunk off his breath. So Fred asks if we’re from California. When he learns we’re from Virginia he’s immediately complimentary, stating we’re “good people. People in California are ____(you fill in the blank).”

The DH slides a glance my way, and I desperately dart a glance up the street for the bus that isn’t anywhere on the horizon. Looking back at the DH, I can see he’s thinking he might have to act like Lancelot or some other knight in shining armor. Only problem is, he’s without a sword of the steely kind. My collection at home can’t be carried on the plane. Now, Fred is still ranting about California when he pulls out this wad of cash. I mean I would have loved to have just had a few of the bills Fred displayed with such open pride. We would have been able to paint the town red for several nights!!

Fred waves the money in front of us like someone offering up a bite of chocolate cake right before they eat it and said, “My Dad just died and I get $500 a week for the rest of my life. Damn Californians. They don’t know what it’s like. They’re F*!kers. My girlfriend just died up there on the hill.”

Fred points to the grove of trees on the hill behind the bus shelter and the DH’s expression is so easy to read…oh God, we’re going to have to report a dead body. Fred continues to point toward where his girlfriend died and rants how the Californians left his girlfriend’s body on the hill for days. Now the DH and I are putting our noses to the wind expecting to smell something far worse than we’ve ever been exposed to before. Fred again calls us good people and says he’s a Vietnam vet whose father sailed out of Norfolk on his way to fight in WWII.

I glance up the street and offer up a Hail Mary (I’m not Catholic, but childhood memories help) because I see a bus. At this point, Fred decides he no longer wants to talk to us. Why the hell not? We’re good people. He takes off to collect his stuff and charges across the street to catch another bus (going the opposite way thank God!). He’s sporting what appears to be a brand spanking new mountain hiker backpack. Clearly the inheritance is the real deal, unless of course he’s robbed a bank. He could have overwhelmed bank guards with the liquor fumes alone.

The Bridge Is Gone

With that small adventure out of the way, we reach the GGB (Golden Gate Bridge) where I proceed to drop $65 on a sweatshirt jacket. My belief that I could survive the bridge’s wind factor was obliterated the moment we stepped off the bus. My shorts and short sleeve shirt are no match for the infamous foggy chill that is the San Francisco bay. The bridge is just as I remember it. Cold, damp, but unbelievably majestic. There are few manmade structures that make me speechless, but this bridge is one of them. The fog kept sweeping in and out (this pic is NOT blurred, it’s the fog!) so that one minute the first tower of the span was clearly visible and in the next instant it slowly melted into the clouds until there was little of the bridge showing at all. Needless to say, we were thinking, damn, all this way and there’s nothing to take a picture of!

Dinner that night was in Chinatown. The Empress China restaurant had decent food, but I love the food at our Peking restaurant here in Richmond much better. I love it even more because our meals at the Peking don’t even come close to the $100 we paid at Empress China for soup, spring rolls and an entrée. It was an a la carte menu. However, I will say the ambiance was nice and we had a nice view of San Francisco’s skyline. Hey we were in SanFran…we should expected high prices.

On Wednesday, my marketing savvy died. I still can’t believe I failed to put my promo stuff out as soon as the goody room opened. I also forgot to deliver my books for the signing by the proper time. I really don’t know where my head was. No wait I do! The hamster wheel kept running the tape replay of KD saying, “I loved Mirage!”.

Where the Body Meets the Road

Bella LeeAnn (she’s a sweetheart), from Michelle Buonfiglio’s blog, and I went to lunch with Sandra Barkovich and Shaunta (I forget her last name and can’t find my bloody business cards *Grrrr*) to a terrific (and MUCH cheaper) lunch at Tian Sing . It was only a short hop, skip and a jump, but somewhere between the hotel and where we crossed the street I became feet-challenged to the nth degree.

With the grace and precision of an out-of-work acrobat (because he’s so bad), I managed to imitate the “help, I’ve fallen and can’t get up” commercial by stumbling my way over the curb. I almost managed to save myself before I wound up flat on my face. Now I normally recover from things like this well, but I was just stunned. Did I lay there thinking OMG can I move my legs, are they broken, OMG, I look stupid laying here on the sidewalk, OMG is my PDA okay? Nope, I just lay there like a beached whale thinking…Damn, I fell down. I really fell down. I can’t believe I fell. This is my best outfit and the damn book signing it this evening. WTF do I wear now???

I managed to get up after about 15 seconds (an eternity when San Francisco just keeps walking on by you while your friends continued forward until they realize you’re not with them). I did have one man ask if I was okay. When I said yes, he nodded sagely and said, “Everyone says that but then they find out that they’re not okay.” I will not even begin to contemplate the deeper truth of that statement. But it was nice of him to be concerned given everyone else aside from my friends was acting like I was a well-dressed homeless person taking up sidewalk rent space.

RWA Book Signing

Friends! You’ve Got to Have Friends (Bette Midler would have loved the book signing!) I kept thanking God that I didn’t have to change clothes because I fell on a clean section of sidewalk. I mean my outfit was selected because it was supposed to make me look my best. Unfortunately the pictures the DH took at the signing were not flattering. I just don’t do great pictures. Cathy and Natalie both looked fantastic. Hard to believe it’s been almost two years since the GabWagon was started and we all came together in Atlanta to get it rolling. Tell me Cathy doesn’t look FAB in this shot! (Nat you’ve been spared a photo because I looked horrible in the pic we got together. It’s for private viewing only!! LOL)

Good friend Melissa Schroeder also popped in for a hello at the signing (see pic). Truth be told, I really didn’t expect to sell any books (mine are those expensive trade size) but after the fifth sale, I was feeling pretty good! A gentleman bought one of my books and someone asked me afterward if I had many men buying my work. They were surprised when I stated yes and that I had several male members on my Yahoo loop (unintended pun! LOL). HEY! Guys read romance. They just don’t rave about it like us gals.

For dinner the DH and I visited Puccini and Pinetti with Mel Schroeder. Both Mel and I were already exhausted (the damn conference hadn’t even started), but the three of us had a lively meal where I flirted with the wait staff. Food = energy and after dinner, I perked up like a Nintendo character, so we hit the RWA Online party.

The Conference

I missed most of it because when I fell on Market Street, my PDA took a hit. I had been AR about making appointments for workshops to attend, etc. and recording them in the PDA with locations and everything BEFORE I arrived. Now I was adrift in the lovely conference catalog trying to figure out where to go. I vaguely remember the annual general meeting, where I do remember getting up to ask a question about the recent RWA survey. I think I was coherent in my questions, and friends said I did great. Later the DH and I attended the Passionate Ink party where he got totally stoked with the vibrator favors. As Mac pointed out I came away with the 2nd place prize for Mirage in the Historical category of the Passionate Plume contest.

Thursday night, the DH and I met up with Natalie and attended the Knight Agency party. Didn’t get much face time with my agent, but I did meet Sara Reinke and I LOVE her!! She’s sweet, funny and absolutely charming! A really nice person I’d love to get to know better! With my feet killing me, we headed back to the hotel for a few hours shuteye before Friday bloomed on the horizon.

How To Interrupt a RWA Workshop

I wanted to hear what Julie Anne Long and Steve Axelrod had to say in their workshop, so I popped in there. Axelrod had just started talking when I began to cough. First it was just a small one, then it became two, then it became a coughing spasm. I realized it was an asthma attack, so I got up and went outside to do my inhaler. I didn’t move fast enough because the coughing grew worse and I was struggling for air. First time THAT’s happened to me. So I’m trying to inhale another puff from the inhaler but can’t. Someone from Low Country RWA’s chapter passes by and stops to help. They tell staff I’m having an asthma attack (I managed to get that info out between coughs) and staff races off to get help. The next thing I hear, tucked away in the little alcove I’m standing in, is the sound of hard pounding feet muffled against the carpet (I’m thinking cops chasing a bad guy sounds). A short guy blazes past us only to slide to a halt like one of those characters in a cartoon. He back pedals and says,

“How old are you, ma’am.”

“Hey, you don’t ask a gal questions like that!”

“I’m sorry ma’am, but I need to know.” I semi-lied in my response.

“Have you had a heart attack before?”

“Heart attack? I’m having an ASTHMA attack. My pacemaker is working fine, thank you very much.”

Now there are more stomping feet and four more staff personnel show up, including the general manager. Damn, these people know how to make a girl feel safe. I’ve always been a Marriott Rewards card-carrying member, but damn, this is exceptional service! Truthfully, the expressions of relief on their face made me wonder how many people have died of a heart attack in the hotel.

The rest of my tale is really too long for one post, so stay tuned for more next week.

Let’s Talk Historicals

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Dangerous CoverHistoricals are my passion. If there’s any one thing that I love the best about romance, it’s a great historical. Some of my favorites include A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught, Lord Scandalous by Loretta Chase, Whitney My Love by McNaught and the list goes on. One of the things I love the most about historicals is their magical quality. As I’m flying across the country this week, I’ll be revising my latest historical romance in preparation for submission to houses. The resurgence in publisher interest in historical romance is really wonderful for me as I love bringing stories like Mirage and Dangerous to readers.

For me, historicals are magical, I mean I know they’re fantasies, but that’s what I loveMirage Cover about them. They transport me to another place and time where chivalry and honor are romantic, despite the realities of the time period. And I’m sorry, but tight buckskins covering hard thighs, a white shirt opened to reveal just a hint of a well-muscled chest—well, for me there’s nothing more seductive!

With the RWA convention in San Francisco this week, there will be a number of big name historical authors who will be present. If you’re familiar with Michelle Buonfiglio’s Romance by the Book blog, you know that she’s a huge romance fiction advocate. This Friday at the convention, she’s doing a radio show with several of Avon Books top name historical authors like Sophie Jordan, Lorraine Heath and Elizabeth Boyle and others.

Michelle’s Radio Show is set for Friday, August 1, 3:30 pm PDT If you’re on the East Cost, you can catch the show after work because we’re three hours AHEAD of folks in San Francisco (6:30 pm EDT). Click here to hook up directly with the radio show where they’ve even got this COOL reminder feature that you can set so you get an email prompt! Means you won’t forget. How sweet is that?

So dial in and ask some questions about historicals!! Besides, think about how cool it will be to be on Internet radio!

>Cooking With The RITA/GH Categories

>Whenever RWA’s National Conference rolls each year something generally creates some friction within the organization. One thing that just reared its head then died a quick death because of a missed deadline was a request for the RWA Board to consider adding an ER/E category to the RITA/Golden Heart contests. There’s been some heated discussion about this topic in a couple of quarters, and over a year ago, I posted about why a separate category was needed.

The Ingredients

They say it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind, but I rarely do unless new info on a particular subject comes to light. Here’s the crux of it if you’re in the dark. A large number of writers in the ER/E community want their own category in the RITA and GH. The predominant reason I hear is an ER/E category is needed so our work is judged fairly. Writers want to be judged by others who’re familiar with the structure of ER/E. I understand this mindset given letters to the RWR this past year as well as debacles at the AGM over the past few years. I also keep hearing that ER/E deserves its own category since Inspry has their own.

As I understand it, RITA and GH categories are defined based on established subgenres. From my limited perspective and knowledge, my guess is Inspry got their own category because it became an established subgenre. If this is true, then this is the strongest justification for an ER/E category, primarily because ER/E is its own subgenre. It’s been around for quite some time. Ellora’s Cave was founded in 2000 to provide ER/E to readers, and that was eight years ago. I’d say that qualifies as an established subgenre. However, the real question is what the parameters RWA uses to define a subgenre as established. If they only define the establishment of a subgenre based on print publication (which is my guess), then ER/E is probably not be an established subgenre from RWA’s viewpoint, despite the subgenres birth and roots in ePublishing and its continued growth in that medium over the past eight years. In terms of NY print, it’s only been around for about three years. That might not be enough staying power for some of RWA’s powers that be.

Mixing The Batter

Added into the mix are a lot of ER/E works that easily fit into the categories that are already established subgenres. But then I believe that’s true of a number of inspry books as well. All of this still points back to a desire by writers to have judges reading their work who understand the subgenre of romance. Particularly fiction on opposite spectrums that can incite strong emotional reactions (religion and sex, hell doesn’t get any hotter than discussions on these topics!). Further complicating the issue for me is my recent discussion with writers who received their scores from this year’s RITA contest.

In a recent discussion with several ER/E authors, I learned their RITA scores ranged from 4s to 9s with a number of the scores leaning toward higher numbers (7s and 8s) as opposed to lower ones, and I don’t recall any 1s, 2s or 3s either. I pointed out to one of the authors who’d received all high scores except for one low number that she’d done really well given the fact that there are up to 1200 entries allowed in each category (and her category is a popular one). I mean she was sporting numbers over six in all but one score. That’s great given it was an ER/E with some quite erotic elements. I interpreted the results as saying that the judges who read the book were able to look at the book objectively and not judge it harshly simply because it had erotic content. So for me, this discussion on RITA scores seriously impacts the argument that ER/E won’t be judged fairly. Granted, this was a small group of writers, but I’m going to encourage the special interest chapter for ER/E, Passionate Ink, to poll its members for scores so we can study the issue more closely.

Oven Set to 350 Fahrenheit

So has this new information changed my mind completely? No. I can still see the devil in the details, and I am convinced ER/E is a legitimate, fully established subgenre. But I’m not convinced that we can claim unfair judging as a reason for establishing the category. However, I can see the possibility of an entry being entered into say the paranormal category and then SLAM the entry is marked as being in the wrong category because in the judge’s opinion it’s ER/E. This is one of the downsides to having an ER/E category.

New Recipe

What I’d really like to see is something so radical that it won’t ever happen! I’d love to see the RITA’s and GH condensed down to the best top 10 or 20 books out of all entries. Claire Delacroix mentioned that idea to me not to long ago and I loved it. (Claire said 10, but I think 20 would be more fair and well-rounded). There would be no subgenre categories at all. It would be about what the majority viewed as being the top books of the year. On top of that it would make the awards event not so long and drawn out.

Then there’s THIS idea. Why doesn’t RWA work with booksellers to establish a reader-based contest? Yes, RT does this, but I’m suggesting something that is coordinated via the booksellers versus a magazine. This could be a way of promoting romance in a way that RWA’s never done before. Let the reader decide what they consider the best of the best.

The Icing

In the end, it really doesn’t matter, because IMHO, the RITAs and the GH are like the Oscars of the romance fiction world. It’s really nice to be recognized by your peers. The only difference is that our awards don’t generally carry that much weight when it comes to money (i.e., increased reader sales, and I’m not convinced it means more money in advances). I think a final or win in these two contests are more like an accomplishment on a resume as opposed to greater financial gain. It’s earning respect for your work from your peers. While that’s important, it’s the opinion of readers that help us butter our bread. Thus I’m slowly coming to the party with the thought that what my peers think of me isn’t necessarily as important as what my readers think of my books.

See, I was half-baked and I’m still cooking!! LOL

Monica