Ebook Review Central, Carina Press, June 2012

Before I get into this month’s features, let’s talk about the 2012 RITA Awards. I swear it’s on topic.

The 2012 RITA Award Winner for Contemporary Single Title Romance, announced July 28, 2012 by the Romance Writers of America, was Boomerang Bride by Fiona Lowe, published by Carina Press in August 2011. Congratulation to Fiona Lowe, to her editor Charlotte Herscher and to her publisher Carina Press.

An ebook-only title won. The other nominated books, worthy contenders all, were traditionally published print books. I can only say, “Wow” or maybe shout, “WOW!”

But this is the Ebook Review Central issue for Carina Press’ June 2012 titles. Not that basking in the glory of that RITA win isn’t terrific. So, let’s fast forward to June and take a look at the newer titles. Maybe there’s a RITA winner in there, too.

The big winner, and the number one featured title, is Shannon Stacey’s Slow Summer Kisses. Even though this title isn’t in her Kowalski series (more Kowalskis starting in September!) that didn’t seem to matter to her fans. This novella, available separately and as part of the Carina Press Editors Choice Volume 1, contains all the hallmarks of a signature Stacey contemporary romance. Anna Frazier and Cameron Mayfield have been involved with each other before, and they have a second chance, not just at love, but also a do-over at life. The question is whether or not they’ll take it. If you like contemporary romance at all, give Shannon Stacey a try. You’ll be glad you did.

Book number two this week is The Ravenous Dead by Natasha Hoar. There are two things to understand about this book. It is straight-up urban fantasy, and not paranormal romance. Carina Press does branch out into genres other than romance, and The Ravenous Dead, and its predecessor in The Lost Ones series, The Stubborn Dead, reflect that branching. Speaking of the series, read the first book first; backstory for this tale of the Order of Rescue Mediums is required. And it was excellent in its own right. Rachel Miller, the main character and member of that Order of Rescue Mediums, doesn’t just see dead people, she gets the stubborn ones to ease on down the road to wherever it is they go next. The ones that really, really don’t want to go can get pretty nasty. Like trying-to-consume-the-medium nasty. Very dark magic requires very big rescue. Sounds like fun.

Coming in third this week, and appropriately so, is His Heart’s Obsession by Alex Beecroft. Third is ironically appropriate for this title because the story itself is about a love triangle. Three for three. What’s different about this particular triangle is that it takes place during the Age of Sail, the late 1700s, and that all three sides to this triangle are men serving in the British Royal Navy. Two Lieutenants, one Captain. Both of the junior officers are gay in an era when being found out would get them, not just cashiered out of the service they love, but killed in disgrace. The Captain is straight, and has no idea that one of his Lieutenants harbors an unrequited and totally unfulfillable passion for him. And the other LT? He’s in love with his fellow junior officer, a man who thinks he’s a privileged ass. A lot happens in this novella to turn this situation around to the real possibilities. Beecroft is know for his historical accuracy in addition to his ability to tug heartstrings and craft believable characters.

Any month where Shannon Stacey has a book, it’s really easy to figure out which title is number one. Which means that September, October and November probably already have  one slot taken, since that’s when the three new Kowalski books are coming out. I’m really looking forward to them!

Picking numbers two and three is often a horse-race. There are always a few books with close numbers of reviews and ratings. Take a look at the list and see if you can spot the runner-up. Leave your guesses in the comments, just for fun.

That’s this week’s feature. Congratulations again to Fiona Lowe and Carina Press on the RITA win!

Be sure to come back next week for Dreamspinner Press’ June 2012 titles. It will be a big list!

Hot Buttons Popping : RWI, RWA, RRW and LGBTQ writing contest discrimination

In many romance novels there’s a scene where one party rips open the other party’s shirt, and there are buttons popping all over the place. The last few days have been just like that in the Romance Publishing world, but so far, no one is heading towards the usual steamy sex scene.

But there is so much steam that even Publishers Weekly noticed. LGBTQ authors were steamed to discover that after several years of doing quite well in the “More Than Magic” contest sponsored each year by Romance Writers Ink (RWI), the Oklahoma Chapter of Romance Writers of America (RWA), same sex romances were specifically disqualified from competing in the 2012 contest. The reason given was that “some members of the chapter felt ‘uncomfortable’ with the same-sex entries.”

The information about this discomfort was revealed in an impassioned message that Heidi Cullinan, the President of the Rainbow Romance Writers (RRW), posted on her personal blog. The Rainbow Romance Writers are a Special Interest Chapter of the RWA.

The Rainbow Romance Writers specialize in LGBT romance. It says so right there on their home page. Romance Writers Ink states their own purpose, quoted from their website, as:

The purpose of RWI is to promote excellence in romantic fiction, to advance the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy, to provide a general basis of mentorship to any writer who is actively, and seriously striving to become published and thus establish a career in the romance genre, as well as to provide a camaraderie for writers within the romance publishing industry.

Disqualifying an entire group of career-focused romance writers because they write same-sex romance seems to run counter to this charter.

Probably as a result of the attention brought to bear on this issue, RWI has cancelled the 2012 contest. This is a loss for everyone involved. Contests like this are one of the ways that genre authors (any genre), gain recognition. Being able to say that their book won a contest represents a terrific sales boost. There had to have been a better way.

Speaking of contests and sales boosts, what about the Romance Writers of America? Because the RWA contains special interest chapters like Rainbow Romance Writers and the Chick Lit Writers of the World, the RWA does not police the guidelines for any contests its chapters might choose to have. After all, the Chick Lit chapter does only admit Chick Lit, and asking them to allow anything else would just be, well, weird. On the other hand, expecting a general chapter like Romance Writers Ink, which is not a special interest group, to accept all forms of romance seems reasonable to most readers.

Which comes back the Romance Writers of America. There are no categories in the RITAs (their annual awards) for same-sex romances. There is a category for Young Adult romances, and there is one for Inspirational Romances. Why Inspirational gets its own category but same-sex doesn’t is a head-shaker to me.

I’m not a member of any of the organizations involved, not RWA or RWI or RRW. So why do I care?

First. I publish Ebook Review Central. I cover several LGBTQ publishers. I cover those publishers because their books are popular. ERC is not about my personal taste, and it never has been. It’s always been about promoting ebooks, about what is getting read, what is interesting to readers, and also what my fellow librarians have a difficult time finding reviews for.

Second. Awards and Contests matter. It’s difficult to get started as an author, and incredibly hard to keep going. The kind of recognition represented by winning a contest means increased sales every time a reader sees the list of award winners, and every time an agent or a publisher sees an author’s list of credits. Being automatically disqualified because of the genre one chooses to write in is just plain wrong.

Third. Romance is already stigmatized. We have enough problems without creating internal ghettos. Let’s stop poking sticks at each other.

Fourth and most important. Prejudice hurts everyone. Always.

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