Crimson Ink and Caviar Dreams

Professional editor and voracious reader.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

'Tall' books

I recently had an opportunity to check out these taller mass market books. Since I have a rather strict book budget, I was skeptical of these books and the increased prices.

Many eloquent people have jumped in on the debate, so I'm not going to discuss price points, or the way the darn things will look on bookshelves. Reading comfort is what concerns me.

Like many people working with computers all day, my hands ache on occasion. When I held one of these books and read it for awhile, it was very comfortable, much more comfortable than a mass market paperback. My hands didn't ache as much as they do when reading a mass market or even a trade paperback.

I'm not sure I will be won over to the tall paperbacks format, but this is a start.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The appeal of "real women"

You may have seen the Dove or Nike ads. These ads feature so called 'real women', people who are not model thin or devoid of blemishes. Advertising seems to be celebrating women of all shapes and sizes in recent years and this has crossed over to fiction.

Books with physically challenged heroines are now mainstream, romances featuring women with life experience sit beside coming-of-age chick lit book and big CAN be beautiful in the romance realm.

For so long, heroines were the model of physical perfection, cute, dainty, gorgeous. I wanted to hate them but there were so few reading options out there so I gritted my teeth and read about these perfect examples of womanhood wondering all the while where the average looking heroines lurked. They certainly weren't found often on bookshelves in past years!

Thankfully, the publishing realm has widened to include romances that typify the struggles of 'real women'. I couldn't be happier with all these exciting reading options.

Do you like the idealized perfection of a heroine or do you find yourself drawn to the non-traditional heroines?

And finally, do you have any book recommendations for me?

Friday, August 05, 2005

Marianne Mancusi

As you may know, author Marianne Mancusi lost her home to a fire recently. Thankfully, she and her dog are okay but she lost all her possessions.

Fundraisers are being organized, including both direct contributions and auctions.

Please check for the latest information and please consider helping out in some way.

Marianne, you're in all of our thoughts and prayers.

Monday, August 01, 2005

blending genres

As a reader, I love the blending of genres. I'll take a bit of romance with my mystery or science fiction. I'll take a lyrical fantasy action-adventure romance. I have wide reading tastes and the blending of genres is a way for me to feed different interests at once.

I am particularly interested in the way some of the Luna books blend romance and fantasy and the way some of the new Downtown Press books add paranormal threads to their contemporaries. My day job keeps me too busy to read everything I'd like, but I'm hearing wonderful things about recent releases from both of these lines.

When I first began reading romance, there were two choices. I read some series romance but really devoured historical romances. In the early '90s, I developed a love for all things paranormal and would stalk bookstores for the latest and greatest. As the years have progressed, romance has become even more dimensional and I couldn't be happier!

What about you? Are you excited about the different facets of modern romance?

Welcome back!

Welcome back, old friends. I was locked out of my blog nearly a month ago, but things seem to be fixed now.

My draft post is gone, so I'll have to whip up something coherent and post it soon. I have missed you all!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Research redux and keeping it real

I've been following all the discussions of the last few weeks with interest. I work with erotic romances every day and I've given the subject a lot of thought while blog hopping. I'll refrain from making my opinion known, as so many have said it better than I could. Remember, I'm just the editor!

Instead, I wanted to blog about keeping it real, especially as it pertains to contemporary romance. I have intended to do this post for nearly a week now, but my job has kept me quite busy and now my post has mutated a bit.

Like many of you, I cut my romance teeth on sweeping historicals that made me suspend my belief at every turn. Did I really think that the handsome knight's teeth were so pearly white and his clothes so impeccably laundered? Did I really think that everything smelled rosy in Elizabethan England? Did I really think that the Revolutionary soldier, the pirate, or the Civil War veteran returned to their loves looking hale and hearty, with meticulously styled flowing locks and Doublemint Gum breath? Does that sexy vampire really feel warm and muscular or is he looking a little peaked? And his breath! I bet it smells like death!

Contemporary romances are a different story. I've always expected them to be more real. Even though I expected the history to be well-researched or the world-building to be complete in other romance genres, contemporaries are the ones that I hold to the highest standard. I find I'm even more aware of this currently since the Internet gives you the world at your fingertips.

I may have mentioned that I read a wallbanger a few years ago that used a modern trademarked name instead of a generic bandage. Recently, I've read a few more books with those sorts of errors and in every case I've stopped taking the book or author seriously.

And now that I'm sort of on the subject, how does an author 'keep it real'? How does an author make their characters come to life. How does the author bring the reader in.

Characterization is the first step. The reader has to feel that the characters are living and breathing people. Give them personality, give them annoying faults, give them vulnerabilities. You'll soon find that their humanity is a great part of what makes them appealing. Who wants to read about the perfect person. I don't! I want to read about a person who is growing and learning, who is markedly different at the last page of the book. I want to read about someone I can identify with in some small way, someone I can root for.

Romance is the second step. The reader wants to see the romance develop. This means that the sexual tension has to sizzle. The reader should be flipping pages as fast as she can because she's so invested in the sexual tension you've created. Don't have your characters just fall into bed. Play the sexual tension out. Make the reader desire it just as much as your characters.

Pacing is the third step. This goes almost hand in hand with the above points. You want to establish the characters, the plot, and the sexual tension at an even pace. Build the plot to a natural climax. You don't want to rush the climax or conflict resolution between the characters. What do you have left execpt the words 'the end'?

Sexual scenes is the fourth step. In erotic romance, the sexual scenes build the relationship and add to the pacing, but be wary of gratuitous sex. Each scene needs to mean something to the characters or advance the plot in some small way or your pacing will suffer. Use the sexual scenes as a way for the characters and relationship to grow.

Bring all of the elements together with the strong framework of your plot and the supporting truss of your research and you'll be keeping it real!

Thursday, June 02, 2005


As many in 'Blogland' no doubt know, there are plans afoot for a RWA chapter devoted to the needs of erotic romance authors. If you're interested in participating in the business-only list, it can be found here

It is a very exciting time to be working with authors of erotic romances. At the same time, the rise of erotic romance is bringing forth some very disturbing comments and trends.

I know it is trite, but 'Can't we all just get along.' is starting to resonate.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Erotic romance is here to stay

Recent events have me very frustrated about the industry's reaction to erotic romance. There have been several disturbing trends in one of the industry's leading professional organizations in the last month and now there are online attacks against the genre.

Let's remember that there is a huge difference between pornography, erotica, and erotic romance.

What is erotic romance? These romantic happily ever after stories present a very frank and open discussion of sexuality. Gone is the purple prose, gone is the closed bedroom door. Some of the books explore themes such as ménages and BDSM in a romantic setting. Emotion is always the heart and soul of these books. Remove the sexual scenes and you still have a romance.

Erotica needs to be plot driven but doesn't necessarily need to be relationship driven. There isn't a need for a happily ever after or even any sort of commitment between characters.

Pornography is just sex for sex sake. I've heard it called 'titillation without plot' or 'plot, what plot'.

There is a huge difference between these three genres.

At RT, erotic romance (specifically Romantica, produced by one of the leading publishers) was partially responsible in reversing sales trends in a major retail bookselling chain.

Why are some in the industry running around in a blind panic now? The barn has been open and the cart has been bouncing along the road for some years now. At this rate, you'll catch it in the next country!

Red Sage Publishing has been releasing the Secrets books for at least seven or eight years now.

Black Lace books have been found in the USA and abroad for nearly ten years.

Ellora's Cave has been in business since the beginning of this century.

You can walk into any chain bookstore and see books by Angela Knight, Jaid Black, and Emma Holly gracing the shelves right alongside authors like Virginia Henley, Susan Johnson, Thea Devine, and Bertrice Small, considered by some to be the most explicit romance authors of the '90s. Erotic romance isn't new. The only thing new about it is that the genre is becoming more mainstream.

Many popular New York publishers have announced their intent to cultivate an erotica or erotic romance audience with new and edgy publishing imprints. I applaud them for doing this. There is obviously an audience out there who wants erotic fiction and erotic romance to read. I'll be one of the first in line to buy samplings from all of these new imprints.

For some reason, it has been hotwired into some romance readers that the upsurge in erotic romance means that non-erotic romance is in danger of dying and there are all sorts of 'definitions' of what romance is and a lot of defensiveness going on by those worried about the longevity of romance.

This simply is not the case. The romance genre is not dying! In fact, it is more vibrant and dynamic now than ever. Inspirationals are on the rise, paranormal romance and cross-genre books are making a comeback. Romantic science fiction can be found more easily than ever.

Poll ten erotic romance readers about their favorite authors and books and I guarantee that there will be a good representation of both erotic and non-erotic authors. Erotic romance readers don't ONLY read erotic romance.

We're all romance fans at heart and these two types of romance aren't mutually exclusive. I wish more people understood this.

I am Crimson Ink and I am a *romance* reader.