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The Top Four Reading Challenges for Romance Readers 2014: Do You Need a Nudge?

20 Jan
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Okay, I read a LOT of books in 2014. (Public domain image via Pixabay)

In previous years, my reading challenge (I do the Goodreads one that appears on your main page when you log in) is always to see if I can read more titles than I did last year.

For 2013, I set the goal of 450 books, which sounds ridiculous, but since I work in a high school, I have time off in big chunks and can really go to town reading multiple books a day at various points in the year. I actually read 455 books in 2013, and this was just on my Tori MacAllister account (meaning it was romance fiction and books related to romance topics), not on my other Goodreads account (with my actual name, not my pseudonym) which brought me closer to 500 books. If I counted re-reads (I wish that Goodreads had a better way of tracking re-reads in specific year), I would easily have been around 650.

That’s not as impressive as it sounds since a lot of romance fiction is comprised of short stories and novellas which do count as separate titles. For my romance reading, those 455 titles comprised 94,198 new pages. So if I’m managing to get through so many books, why would I consider joining a reading challenge?

Because I’m not the most balanced romance reader. It’s fine to have a speciality, but because I genuinely study the romance industry, I need to have a more balanced approach and get pushed out of my comfort zone periodically.

For me, books I classified as “erotica” comprised more than 220 of my 455 books. Since writing steamy was one of my craft goals in 2013, this was reasonable, but I need to make sure I have a good sense of other subgenres which I also am interested in writing – contemporary, romantic suspense, historical romance, etc. Contemporary was my next biggest category with 75 books (and remember that I often assign multiple shelves for each book – a slightly kinky modern romance starring a former SEAL would probably end up on my “erotica,” “contemporary,” and “military” shelves). Romantic suspense, urban fantasy, paranormal and military made a decent showing, with my Western number embarrassingly low (3! and I do like Westerns, so what’s up with that?).

The difficulty with most reading challenges is that, among the seven thousand that crop up after the New Year, very few deal with romance. Here are what I consider to be the top four sites which will appeal to romance readers bent on spurring their reading or broadening their horizons.

2014 Contemporary Romance Reading Challenge

I love the Book Vixen blog and with her 2014 Contemporary Romance Reading Challenge you can see why. It’s specific enough to kick you in the butt to get moving, but broad enough to appeal to a variety of tastes. The challenge applies to any contemporary romance you read in the 2014 calendar year (you can sign up anytime prior to September to join) and novellas over 100 pages are included. Note the broad range of what’s covered (and what’s not):

The goal is to read 10 contemporary romance novels. Books that qualify for this challenge can be young adult, new adult, or adult. Books can be M/F, M/M, or F/F. Books must be a work of fiction (sorry, nonfiction does not qualify for this challenge). Romances with the following elements do not qualify for this reading challenge: paranormal, historical, time-travel, fantasy, science fiction, or mystery/suspense/thriller. (The Book Vixen, “Contemporary Romance 2014 Reading Challenge Sign-Up”)

You can even link your website to the Book Vixen page for further impetus to stay on track and read contemporary romance. It’s like Weight Watchers for reading!

Goodreads Romance Reading Challenge

If you don’t necessarily want the commitment of a year-long challenge (although you can find those here as well), consider joining the Goodreads “Romance Readers Reading Challenge” group. This forum not only has year-long challenges (and you can start your own – Medieval Highland Romances, anyone? All Heroes Are Blond?), but you can also join monthly challenges or themed challenges like “In Uniform” for military romance, the Authors After Dark Challenge (for paranormal writers who participate in the Authors After Dark conference). There’s even “pick-it-for-me” challenges where the indecisive go to have other people help them choose their books. It’s wonderful to see people post their reactions and highlight the best of the challenge, plus you get the power of Goodreads helping you find books that fit your criteria (and at this point, I find Goodreads more accurate than Amazon in terms of recommending books for me, which I realize is ironic since they are owned by Amazon).

Erotic Romance Reading Challenge

Clearly finding time to read erotic romance is not my problem, but for those of you who would like a nudge into exploring this rapidly expanding subgenre of romance, the Herding Cats & Burning Soup blog (how awesome is that name!?) has a terrific 2014  Erotic Romance challenge. I love it that they have different levels with the lowest level simply being 12 erotic romances in 2014 (one per month, you can TOTALLY do that) and then the Level 6 for people like me who read more than 100+ novels in the category.

Herding Cats & Burning Soup’s challenge is very liberal in terms of allowing crossover books from different genres and the books merely have to be longer than 100 pages to qualify for length. I love it that they also mention audio books as qualifying as long as the print version of the book makes the length requirement, although you may want to check with your carpool before putting in the latest BDSM book!

Be sure to check out the challenge’s Facebook group if you prefer your news exchange through that social media outlet.

Push Your Boundaries

In what has to be the most thoughtful romance reading challenge, best-selling romance author Roni Loren (of the incredibly popular Loving on the Edge series) has developed the Push Your Boundaries Reading Challenge 2014.

Understanding that her reading shapes her as a writer, Loren has developed a fantastic chart (which you can download as a template from her website) of various levels of comfort and then inserted sub-genres into each category in order to understand her attitude toward each one. From there, she encourages herself and any participants to deliberately choose books from every level of comfort and subgenre in order to insure that our reading is diverse and hopefully expand our horizons a bit. Listen to her thoughtful prose:

I’m challenging myself to read outside of my boundaries in addition to my favorites. So I made a chart and listed levels of “comfort zones” then I selected genres to put in the boxes. By the end of 2014, I want to X out each of these boxes with at least one book from that particular genre.

As you can see in the chart, I have six rows of “zones”: In My Zone, Read on Occasion, A Bit of a Stretch, Pushing It, Out of Comfort Zone, and Just For Fun.

I have 36 genres listed, but feel free to make yours as big as small as you want. Maybe you just want to list one genre in each of the six categories. Or maybe you’re a power reader and want to add more than me. Also, know that everyone’s chart will look different because what’s comfort zone to me is going to be different for you. (Roni Loren, “The Push Your Boundaries Reading Challenge 2014”)

There is even a Pinterest board you can follow to watch her tackle books in each category. Who doesn’t like following a Pinterest board? Roni Loren definitely has the market cornered on helping make us all into healthy romance readers while modeling balanced reading in her own life. Wow!

So there you have it – the best romance reading challenges of 2014. Yes, I found a few others, but these are, in my opinion, the best of the best, so challenge yourself this year and spread your wings a bit in your romance reading. You definitely won’t be alone.

And as for my goals? Well, I’m actually ratcheting myself down to 350 books as my goal (spread out among the various above challenges for fun). I realize that I’ve been spending more time reading books than writing them, which was the original reason I was reading so many (to inform myself of the industry and find good quality writing from which I could learn my craft). Hopefully this will result in some actual works of fiction I can share with you, while still keeping me up to snuff when it comes to what is getting published in the market.

Happy reading!

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week of November 24, 2013

24 Nov

Upcoming Books and New Releases

Lots of good books both coming out this week as well as long awaited books with release dates announced.

I think Tessa Bailey is one of contemporary romance’s hottest new writers, so I’m excited to stay up until midnight tonight to watch the next book in her awesome Line of Duty series delivered to my Kindle (and write a review for you to be posted on Monday). We’ve already met the hero and heroine in the third book in the series, Officer Off Limits. Since Brent and Hayden’s two best friends are head over heels in love they can’t help seeing a lot of each other, even though each rubs the other the wrong way. Hayden’s got a host of trouble coming from her Park Avenue family who are looking to have her get married to a rich and influential man and the rough and tumble cop who pushes her buttons is also um…pushing her buttons. After a taste of each other, Brent is determined to not let go, but Hayden wonders how on earth this hot affair could have a happy ending?

Don’t you remember my telling you what a phenomenal author Laura Kaye is? Her latest, Hard As It Gets (OMG, the cover!), begins her Hard Ink series as of Tuesday, November 26th, so I’ll be staying up late for this delivery as well. This story, featuring a former military man turned tattoo parlor owner and the daughter of his military commander who has always been off limits, is bound to have her usual blend of heat, great characters, and an emotional story that wins your heart.

Fans of historical romance know that Sarah Maclean is one of the most talented writers of her genre, and they can finally sit back and enjoy her latest book, No Good Duke Goes Unpunished, which will also be published on Tuesday, November 26th. Don’t forget to read (or re-read) the first two books in the Rules of Scoundrels series as this story, featuring the enigmatic club owner Temple, accused of murdering his young beautiful stepmother on the eve of her wedding to his father. The supposedly dead Mara has returned and what sets out to be Temple’s redemption and revenge becomes much more as he realizes that this woman and her situation is far from what he has imagined.

Bella Andre announced the latest in her Sullivan series, It Must Be Your Love, Mia Sullivan’s story. The Sullivan series is (I think) one of the best family contemporary romance series on the market, and the Northwest cousins are proving just as compelling as the original California Sullivans we all initially fell for. Successful realtor Mia Sullivan has been a huge support in her cousin and siblings’ romances, but it’s time for her to face the music – namely the man who she spent a few short days and nights with in his bed, and who she’s never been able to forget. Bumping into rock star Ford Vincent isn’t a shock at her cousin’s wedding, but there is an element of surprise when he seems interested in renewing their sexual relationship. Ford has never been able to forget Mia and despite the fact that he imagines she’s the one thing his fame can’t give him, he feels like he has to try.

It’s the holiday book season and that means there are some great deals on anthologies by terrific authors. A Christmas to Remember, due out on December 3rd, features stories by such contemporary best-sellers as Jill Shalvis, Kristen Ashley, Hope Ramsay, Molly Cannon, and Marilyn Pappano. If that’s not tempting enough, Forever Yours publishing has priced this puppy at only $1.99, so pick it up while you can at this price!

For fans of the Stephanie Plum series by Janet EvanovichTakedown Twenty, was published just a few days ago on November 19th, so get a hilarious dose of Lula and Bob (the golden retriever) right now. Get ready to imagine the next demise of a vehicle driven by Stephanie as she attempts to track down Morelli’s mobster godfather so he doesn’t have to, while also helping the oh-so-sexy Ranger determine who killed an important client’s mother. If you need to do some catching up (or want to fill in your collection of ebooks), you may want to note that several of the earlier books in the series are available for only $2.99 for the ebook editions.

Sophie Barnes‘ next book The Scandal in Kissing an Heir, her second installment in At the Kingsborough Ball series is coming out on December 31st. The next Marquess of Wolvington, Daniel Neville needs to find not only a bride but a woman who will accept his past and Lady Rebecca is tired of the men her greedy aunt and uncle send her way, men who only are interested in her beauty. Scandal threatens to tear these two apart, just when it seems they have the potential for something more.

Contests and Giveaways

Sara Humphreys‘ Amoveo Legends series is made up of a string of best-sellers, so I imagine fans are waiting with bated breath for the fifth book in the series, Unclaimed, to come out on December 3rd. When a spirited veternarian from the Timber Wolf clan reluctantly agrees to help doctor the Amoveo prince’s horses, she doesn’t expect the overwhelming attraction to a warrior from the Tiger Clan, but soon finds herself thrown together with him as they have to face danger together. Enter before November 30th to see if you can win a copy.

Talented debut author Kat Latham, of Knowing the Score fame, is having a Rafflecopter giveaway for not just her new Christmas story, contained in the All I’m Asking For Christmas anthology (pre-ordered!!), but also the other Carina Press contemporary holiday anthology, For My Own. Since I’ve yet to read a Carina anthology I haven’t enjoyed, these are both on my December reading (and reviewing) list, but winning them would make great gifts to the romance fiction lovers in my life. Enter before December 1st to see if you can’t win a copy and enjoy great writing with your holiday cheer.

The first in Lara Adrian‘s Midnight Breeds series, A Touch of Midnight, is currently a giveaway on Goodreads, so enter before November 30th for a chance to win. This 184 page novella jumpstarts the other thirteen books to date in the series by focusing on Savannah, a young college woman who can see the past of objects when she touches them. For a three-hundred year old vampire who must revisit painful memories of the past, Gideon finds himself needing Savannah to help him rid the world of a threat he didn’t even realize existed, even if it means shattering the world she knows. If you were smart enough to purchase The Midnight Breeds Series Companion this summer, then this novella is included within it, but otherwise, try to win or buy it on Amazon for only $2.99.

The Smutketeers & Friends (Jayne Rylon, Mari Carr, Carrie Ann Ryan, R. G. Alexander, Eden Bradley, Sidney Bristol, P. G. Forte, and Robin Rotham) have FINALLY released their long-awaited Midnight Ink box set, filled with erotic tales all centered around a New Orleans tattoo shop, and they are having a great $100 Amazon gift card giveaway to celebrate. Enter in the next week to see if you can win this wonderful prize and don’t forget to run to your nearest bookseller to buy the boxed set, which is currently only $.99 at Amazon for over 550 pages of hot romance.

Historical fiction fans light candles to Diana Gabaldon‘s image, as this author of the Outlander series has had thousands of readers fall for Claire and Jamie Fraser. In honor of the upcoming STARZ network release of Outlander as a series, two promotional copies are destined for a lucky winner of the Goodreads giveaway, so considering entering prior to November 30th if you are awaiting heartache, time-travel and kilts with baited breath.

I don’t know what it is about publishing during the holidays, but there always seems to be a few books which focus on the season and feature some adorable dogs and cats on the covers of these anthologies and stand-alones. Since my fur-covered family members are some of things in my life I’m most grateful for, these novels always hit home with me. Two such authors are Sharon Kleve and Jennifer Conner, who are currently hosting a blog tour contest where readers can enter to win copies of their books – Halo’s Wish, Brenda’s Christmas Desire, Central Bark at Christmas, and Christmas Gift that Keeps Wagging – as well as a $25 gift card, so take a look and see if someone small and furry is underneath your tree this Christmas. Head to any and all of the blogs on the tour before 11/30 for your chance to enter!

Elizabeth Hoyt’s tale of a fevered heir to an Earldom, returned from the dead, is the fourth in her Legend of the Four Soldiers series. To Desire a Devil pitches the savage man, demented from his captivity and the well-bred niece of the present (and highly suspicious Earl) as an unlikely couple, but historical romance readers can attempt to win a copy of this highly rated final book via the Goodreads giveaway closing on December 1st.

It’s always great to see historical romance that tackles a less-frequented period of time, so Bitter Spirits by paranormal/urban fantasy writer Jenn Bennett is worth a look for those readers who love the 1920s. Featuring a hexed bootlegger and a beautiful medium, this first installment in Bennett’s Roaring Twenties series is currently being offered in a Goodreads giveaway for people who enter before Saturday, November 30th. Considering this novel is not due to be published until early January 2014, this could be a great opportunity to get a preview, and the second novel, focusing on an archaeologist and museum curator looks to equally bring the period to life. Since the series is published by the Berkley Sensation line, I predict strong writing and hot love scenes to be contained within these covers. Bring it on!

Fun Stuff

I know you can tell I’ve got holiday books on the brain (I’m gearing up for my stretch where I try to review a holiday themed book for every day of December!) but I for one appreciated Harlequin’s adorable little video featuring some of their featured Christmas books for this year. You’ll definitely be seeing a few of these on this blog over the next few weeks (and who knew Gingerbread men as the various hero’s occupations would be so adorable?).

If you have a spare $1000 or so and love to show your book love via your shoes, I suggest you head straight to the Charlotte Olympia website and check out the Matilda shoes, part of the Fall 2013 collection. With stunning leather tooling covering the leather upper and a six inch heel (and one inch platform), the heels are designed to look like book spines, complete with the words “Once Upon a Time” and “Happily Ever After”. I think there are plenty of romance authors who would look great wearing these on the dais while answering panel questions!

Now that the weather is getting colder, women are interpreting “no shave November” with the advent of opaque tights, but you don’t have to settle for solid colors. Romantics and fashionistas (or fictionistas) alike can indulge their love of the written word by wearing Love Text Print Tights from TrendyLegs. For under $40, you can sport the wikipedia text for the definitions of “Love” and “Passion” around your thighs and calves (and think about who you might like to get closer and read it out loud to you)!

Great Deals

Historical fans might want to download Harlequin Historical’s An Inconvenient Duchess by Christine Merrill as it’s available for free right now. Featuring a young woman compromised and married to an enigmatic duke who then promptly abandons her, this heroine determines that she is going to make this marriage work, no matter what. The first in Merrill’s The Radwell’s series, this is a good way to sample this series.

His Wicked Games by Ember Casey (the first book in His Wicked Games series) is also available for free right now, and readers who enjoy fairy tale retellings will want to tackle this Beauty and the Beast inspired story. When a woman determined to save her arts center breaks into a cold billionaire’s estate, she gets way more than she bargained for, particularly regarding his wager on how she can save what she wants more than anything. The only problem? When what she wants begins to change…

Also currently free is Mari Carr and Lexxie Couper‘s Misplaced Princess, the first in their Foreign Affairs series about men or women who leave their country and find the love of their life. Annie Prince impetuously flew halfway around the world to Australia to meet in person a sexy cowboy she met online…only to find out he did the same thing and is now in NYC. Fortunately for her, his twin brother Hunter stayed behind, and while he thought his brother was crazy, one look at Annie and he’s finding it hard to keep his hands (and other body parts) off her.

That’s it for this week. Have a terrific Thanksgiving and happy reading!!

Oyster Brings a Netflix-like Model to Romance Reading

23 Oct

I was thrilled to find out that a new platform has come on the market for readers, Oyster. Looking to Netflix as a subscription model, readers pay $9.95 per month and have access to all of Oyster’s library (about 100,000 in copyright books), with the ability to “play” any book they want – books don’t download onto your device (which I imagine means you need to have a connection at all times).

For heavy readers this becomes an affordable alternative, particularly as more and more publishers release titles onto Oyster’s platform. Having read about Oyster and watched videos about how it works, I nevertheless wanted to have a better sense of what it could offer romance readers, but I wasn’t willing to pay for a month in order to test the water. Lucky for me, Oyster recently announced a free month to trial the platform for people wanting to test it out (in honor of their iPad app release).

A major caveat before downloading the app – originally designed for the iPhone, the iPad version of the program is meant to be enlarged using the 2x button. This means that users not running the latest iOS are going to notice highly pixelated text which makes it hard on the eyes. People running iOS 7 on their phones and iPads will have no problem.

The iPad is a natural first device upon which to launch considering its level of infiltration in the market.

But what does Oyster have to offer romance readers? I found the offerings to be diverse and hitting several big name authors – Amanda Scott, Debbie Macomber, Lisa Kleypas, Sarah Maclean, Julia Quinn, Katherine Ashe, and Tessa Dare were some of the historical romance authors (they even have most of Kathleen Woodiwiss‘ backlist) and paranormal authors like Christine Feehan, Jeaniene Frost and Lyndsay Sands were represented as well. A few erotica books were in there, as well as category romance from Crimson Romance’s imprint, and romantic suspense authors like Carla Swafford and Elizabeth Lowell.

I didn’t like that so many non-romance books were mixed in (because it makes it look like Oyster doesn’t know what the definition of the genre), but it is true that romance readers often cross-genres, particularly with mystery, historical fiction and women’s fiction – nevertheless, I don’t want to see them when I’m looking for romance. There’s plenty of contemporary romance, romantic comedy and inspirational romance and they even divide up historical romance, highlighting Regency and medieval titles. It’s pretty snazzy.

Could there be more titles? Sure. But the above authors are damn good ones and there was a nice mix of books I’ve read and books I want to read – considering I read around 350 romance novels a year, I find this pretty snazzy and I’m sure it will only get better as Oyster will have to acquire more titles in order to stay competitive, particularly with other subscription read services about to launch.

So take a look at Oyster (for free) to see if you’ve got the hardware to see if it has something to offer you as a romance reader. I think that you’ll find it may offer readers a wonderful romance library to draw upon (for only $9.95 a month.

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, Fun Stuff and Great Deals You Might Have Missed, Week Ending September 22nd

22 Sep

Upcoming Books

While I’m still waiting for Laura Kaye’s new book, As Hard As It Gets, to come out in late November, I’m delighted that the cover and blurb of the second book in this new series has been released. As Hard As You Can looks just as yummy not only in terms of the chiseled muscles and hot tattoo on its cover, but also for it’s plotline.

Lovers of small town romance should mark their calendar for Lizbeth Selvig’s new offering, Rescued by a Stranger, which comes out October 1st. I love a romance when one side of the couple blows into town running away from something, only to find the community tugging on his or her heartstrings. That this hero fits the bill and is driving a motorcycle only making it that much sweeter. *vroom*

It’s a rare delight when you an enjoy a historical romance involving American heiresses in London, but luckily for readers who do, Laura Lee Guhrke is planning on an entire series of them, starting with When the Marquess Met His Match, to be published on October 29th. A stone-broke Marquess gets cut off by his father for dissolute behavior, only to have to turn to the premier matchmaker in order to find a bride in a hurry – maybe one of the American heiresses shopping for a title. Only the matchmaker, who herself was one of those same Americans prior to her marriage and subsequent widowhood, won’t take him on as a client. What’s a desperate nobleman to do? Charm the matchmaker into marriage, naturally.

Kristen Ashley just announced that the latest book in her Colorado Mountain series, Jagged, is available for pre-order and the cover is definitely an improvement on past books in this series, reflecting the quality of the prose much more accurately. In this latest offering from Carnal, Colorado, a past love returns needing to convince the woman he left behind that he’s a changed man, but after his walking away and the devastation she’s recently endured, can she trust him again? With a cover blurb from Maya Banks, I think people will be lining up to order this novel long before the November 1st publication date.

Paranormal doyenne Kresley Cole announced this week that she’s jumping on the serial bandwagon with a three part erotic romance, The Professional, to be released in three parts this December. I’m sooooo not a fan of the serial (I read way too fast and don’t like to be kept waiting), but for a writer as good as Cole, I’m willing to make an exception, particularly since she’s smart enough to keep the publication dates close together, with everything coming out within a month.

Jennifer Ashley (who makes the Great Deals section with her bundled Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries) has her Shifters Unbound series fans waiting with baited breath for the upcoming books in that series, including the next full-length novel, Wild Wolf. Luckily for all of us, it’s recently been targeted by Amazon as one of the discounted paperback pre-orders, now listed at the price of $4.79. Snap it up! It will make the waiting until April 1st almost bearable knowing it was such a great deal.

Fans of J. D. Robb‘s Death series need to note (if they haven’t already) that the thirty-seventh book, Thankless in Death, just came out September 17th. Rabid fans of Eve Dallas and her sexy husband Roarke will find themselves watching their favorite couple dealing with not only his big Irish family but a family who wasn’t so lucky – they ended up murdered – and Eve must unravel the pieces before the killer strikes again.

Contests and Giveaways

I love historical romance when the hero/rake finds a beautiful woman who seems respectable on the surface, but secretly has “underground contacts” that make her far from a shrinking violet – Tracey Devlyn’s third book in her Nexus series, A Lady’s Secret Weapon, fits the bill! Lucky for me, the Goodreads giveaway ending September 27th, is giving away five copies so I have a chance to win it! If not, the book comes out October 1st.

Everyone is more than aware of my love for anything written by Lauren Dane so I’m excited that her next book in the Brown Siblings series, Drawn Together, not only is coming out October 1st, but has a Goodreads giveaway (deadline September 26th). With the complex heroine of the non-monogamous tattoo artist Raven and Jonah Warner (whose dominant brother, Levi, we’ve already fallen for in the novella Sway, found in the Cherished anthology), I know that Dane’s writing will make me fall for these two just as I do every other couple (or triad) that she writes.

The wonderful Paranormal Romance blog is giving away three copies of the recently released Twilight Hunter, the first book in Kait Ballenger’s new Execution Underground series (and it looks freakin’ awesome!). All you have to do is leave a comment on the post by September 26th, naming your favorite bad boy. Not an easy task with so many of them out there to love, but it looks like we might all have another with werewolf hunter Jace McCannon!

Category romance fans are always looking to find a new great author to follow, so if you fall into this category, you may want to try the I Heart Presents blog’s giveaway of The Divorce Party by Jennifer Hayward, last year’s winner of the So You Think You Can Write contest. Simply leave a comment on the blog post about what inspires you by October 3rd to enter.

Fun Stuff

The people behind Klever Case know what they are doing when it comes to customized Kindle covers. Whether you want your new paperwhite to look like a classic hardcover book (Dracula and The Great Gatsby are popular) or your looking for a just a generic book cover, these are your best bet. You can even customize the bookplate inside! While this is a British company, the additional two pounds for shipping for US orders is hardly prohibitive. And they make them for all major ereaders, including the iPad mini. Just be careful you don’t put your ereader on a shelf and then forget it doubles as a book now!

Gracious! It seems 3D printing has taken an understandable turn in the naughty toys department. Whether the gentlemen in your life gets laser scanned for his…um…replica, or whether you help him with the creation the old fashioned way (warning: the Clone-a-Willy kit is very messy), the end result will be an exact replica to keep you company when he isn’t able to. No, there will not be accompanying pictures for this one! ;-D

Media literacy is incredibly important, particularly when sex education is involved. As I mentioned in my post about condom use and romance novels, all too many students are leaving high school early or attending schools where abstinence education is paramount, resulting in a lack of understanding of how our bodies work and preventing diseases and unwanted pregnancy. Compounding the problem is the rampant misconception regarding sex and what a “normal” body looks like, a lack of understanding that many sexuality professors lay at the feet of easily accessed pornography. To counter it, a hilarious video using kitchen foods has been created to help people understand the realities of sexuality versus the porn version. Be warned, you will laugh out loud!

Avid readers might empathize with librarians who just love reading so much, that they choose awesome tattoos which reflect their passion. Whether it’s a tarot card, the symbol for library or just their favorite Dewey Decimal number, the quirky magazine Mental Floss has put together quite a few of them for your viewing pleasure. Not willing to make that kind of a commitment? Publisher’s Weekly reviewed a great book of temporary tattoos which might be more your speed.

I’m a gigantic fan of Nalini Singh‘s Psy-Changeling series (HUGE fan) so it was fun to see the video from her recent booksigning where she talks not only about how we are all going to have to wait for the books about the younger changelings (nertz!) but how she feels that she’ll be writing this series into her nineties. From your mouth to God’s ears, Nalini!

Anyone within travel distance of Princeton, New Jersey may want to check their calendar to see if they are free on Thursday, October 24th and Friday the 25th. Princeton University is hosting The Popular Romance Author: A Symposium on Authorship in the Popular Romance Genre, beginning with a keynote on Thursday night starring literature professor Kay Mussell and romance author Jennifer Crusie. The keynote is free and open to the public, and there is only a small fee for the various panels and presentations of the academic papers presented on Friday, so see if your calendar has an opening for what sounds like an educational couple of days. Kind of appropriate the Princeton mascot is a tiger, eh? Mrrrrrooooowwww.

I’m a huge fan of the free MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) offered through various services, and I have to say that Coursera is my favorite. For enthusiastic readers, there always seems to be a course available to take your understanding to the next level and two are starting up soon that might interest readers of this blog. The University of Michigan has a Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, The Modern World course that looks great – beginning with fairy tales and taking the reader chronologically up through 19th century horror to the modern era (Bradbury, LeGuin, Doctorow). For historical fiction readers and writers, Plagues, Witches and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction not only has a roster of great reading and analysis, but the second half of the course has award-winning historical fiction authors teaching about their techniques and methods. And it’s FREE. Both courses clearly state on the information pages how many hours per week they take and you can do the exercises or not – remember it’s free. This is no guilt learning at its finest!

Great Deals

Suspense maven Lisa Gardner’s first Family Secrets novel, Maggie’s Man, is on sale at the ebook price of only $2.99. First published in 1997 under her Alicia Scott pen name, this trilogy stars three half-siblings attempting to uncover the truth about their shadowed family. In this first installment, Maggie Ferringer gets a lot more than jury duty when she reports to the courthouse, and is instead taken hostage by Cain Cannon, who was wrongly convicted of killing his girlfriend six years ago. He wants revenge and Maggie is coming along for insurance, but soon their relationship turns a corner and it’s uncertain who is the captive.

Everyone knows my love of Jennifer Ashley, whether it’s her stellar historical romance Highland Pleasures series or her heart-pounding paranormal novels from the Shifters Unbound series, but were mystery lovers aware she has a great historical mystery series written under her other pseudonym, Ashley Gardner? The Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries series now offers the first four books bundled together for only $.99 for people who would like to sample this different side of a talented author.

Shannon McKenna is a terrific suspense writer and I loved her novel, One Wrong Move, for it’s taking a highly unlikeable uber-alpha hero and revealing his internal marshmallow self when it came to a heroine with a highly scarred past. Now this well-written novel is on sale in ebook form for only $.99. While it’s book nine in McKenna’s McClouds and Friends series, you need zero acquaintance with the other books to enjoy it (although I’ll warn you that you’ll find yourself snapping the others up after this steamy adventure).

Speaking of awesome suspense, Lori Foster is going to debut her book Getting Rowdy in just a couple of weeks, and it would serve you well to nab the previous book in her Love Undercover series, Run the Risk, considering it’s reduced to $1.99 for the Kindle version. These are angsty, hot reads with plenty of danger and heroes who underestimate the sexy heroine only to realize she’s their perfect match. You will NOT be sorry you tried them – I promise!

What a terrific week for readers! Enjoy, everyone. 🙂

People, Baby Boomer Lit Is NOT a Genre, It’s an Audience

19 Sep

Yesterday I read an article by author and baby boomer Claude Nougat entitled “Is Baby Boomer Lit the Next Hot Genre?” and I almost had a slight brain aneurism. Why? Because there is no way that Baby Boomer Lit is a genre.

Sigh. This might be very librarian of me, but I think that when you are an author (hell, when you are an educated reader) you need to know what words mean. Take “genre” for instance. It’s a French word literally meaning “a kind” and that makes sense as it refers to “a category of artistic composition, as in music or literature, characterized by similarities in form, style, or subject matter.” (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

On the surface this sounds like you can pretty much apply this term to whatever you want, but when you are using it with literature, that’s not the case. The use of the term genre as it applies to literature is very specific. While I might tell my students that it’s not a good idea to cite Wikipedia over more specific sources, for general definitions particularly about BIG subjects (like the entirety of literature) it’s pretty spiffy, and its genre entry is dead on accurate.

A literary genre is a category of literary composition. Genres may be determined by literary techniquetonecontent, or even (as in the case of fiction) length. Genre should not be confused with age category, by which literature may be classified as either adult, young-adult, or children’s. (Wikipedia entry for genre)

With this in mind, the picture becomes a little clearer. A genre is a category of literature containing specific elements, for example, mystery, science fiction, romance (yay!), etc. and each of these genres is broken down even further into what are known as sub-genre categories (historical romance, cozy mystery, etc.). But you can never, ever label a genre by the intended age of its intended audience. Why?

Librarians and booksellers deal with many adults who are ashamed to be reading a YA book. Don’t ever be ashamed of ANY book you read. Reading is never shameful and people who want to make you feel bad are dealing with their own issues.

Because it reduces the comparison between books to the age of their protagonists which is wrong to do. You wouldn’t compare a shifter romance to a hard-core space romance to a small-town contemporary just like no one is about to argue who was a better writer, Jane Austen or Ernest Hemingway. It’s comparing apples and oranges.

Labeling an age audience merely introduces the idea of a target group who might be more predisposed to a collection of books. This type of label is a helpful way of directing interested readers toward potential books, but it in no way reveals a huge new genre. As author Claire Guyton states in her blog post, “YA is NOT a Genre!” “Thinking that all books written for one age group in various genres should be evaluated in the same way—that is simplified thinking.” For the record, Guyton published that line on Hunger Mountain, the online journal for the Vermont College of Fine Arts, which has one of the best degree programs for children and young adult authors. I think she knows what she’s talking about.

Not Everyone Who Reads YA Is A Teen, But Would Everyone Who Reads Baby Boomer Lit Be a Boomer?

A beautiful painting of a different generations reading by Finnish artist Carl Bengts. I think the title of the painting would translate to "Under the Reading Lamp".

A beautiful painting of a different generations reading by Finnish artist Carl Bengts. I think the title of the painting would translate to “Under the Reading Lamp”.

The entire point of reading is to pick up a book with the potential of experiencing something that is not currently your life or experience. Sometimes it’s an escape, sometimes it’s a deliberate journey. It can be deep or fluffy. But in the end, everyone brings who they are at that moment to the experience of reading. Writer Angela Carter was the one who stated, “Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and your read it in your own terms.” The reason so many people read YA literature is because 1) there are a lot of really well-written books in this category and 2) everyone reading them has been a young adult.

The same cannot be said of “Baby Boomer Lit.” While a rapidly growing demographic, Baby Boomers (Europeans and North Americans born between 1946 and 1964 who come of age in a time of economic prosperity) will always be smaller percentage of the population and topics that people associate with this group are not necessarily appealing to younger readers. Yet I can easily envision successful genre literature with boomer-age protagonists – a terrific mystery with an older investigator, for example – and goodness knows fantasy and paranormal are filled with older werewolves and vampires. Are they boomers? I think they might be. 😉

Don’t let these two baby-faced models fool you – Absolution (the fifth in Kaylea Cross’ outstanding Suspense series) stars two characters in their fifties who are brought back together. The heroine has even just had a mastectomy, but you won’t find a tender, hotter romance on the market today, I promise.

Romance is a little harder as a sell for boomer literature, but it shouldn’t be. So much of romance is tied up with good-looking and sexy people, and in our ageist culture that translates to young. Even when a romance has older characters, there usually is a decent amount of reassurance about how they look younger than their chronological age, or how they still run marathons and that’s why they have a killer body. We’ve got a ways to go in this arena, just like in other areas of diversity of our characters in romance. There are a decent amount of publishing houses, especially smaller presses, that actually have put out specific calls for heroes and heroines (mostly heroines) who are over 40. Hopefully this is a good sign that things are changing.

Claude Nougat (of the original post that made my brain hurt a little) has brought up a great issue with the need for literature that address the issues and life experience of Baby Boomers. This category of literature deserves further exploration from publishers, librarians, and booksellers as these books will undoubtedly appeal to a demographic that may have gone neglected for too long. (Nougat’s even started a Goodreads group – where the description once again refers to YA as a genre – gah!)

My support for the proposed category of Boomer Lit is more an issue of desire for diversity than of tapping a market, which feels mercenary to me, no matter how true it is. Readers should always be able to easily find characters who are like them, be it racially, religiously, socio-economically, or by age or interest. They hopefully will read plenty of books where the characters are also different, but no one type of character should dominate literature.

But please keep in mind as you talk about books, that there is a difference – a big one – between a target audience and a genre. Both are worthy ways of categorizing books, but they do refer to completely different ways of doing so. Words are powerful. Please use them wisely.

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