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At the Back Fence issue#126

October 15, 2001

Not “Good Things”?

A number of posts to our various message boards started to coalesce in my mind last week and they tend to fall under the heading of “things authors and/or publishers do that piss us off.” Jennifer Keirans, one of our editors, considered something that’s been bothering her and sent in a piece. This seems to be the time, then, to consider some of these possibly “not good things,” talk through them, and possibly even debunk one that seems to be rather a sore spot for readers.


Author Pseudonyms

Until quite recently, I never wanted to be known on the Internet as anyone other than “Laurie Likes Books.” When questioned by Entertainment Weekly while our site was being reviewed, I tried to have my name listed not as Laurie Gold, but Laurie Likes Books. The reviewer refused, as have all those who have reviewed All About Romance before and since. The only instance I have used my real name to sign a piece of writing here at AAR was my editorial last month on the terror attacks, and the reason for it may surprise you. I didn’t want the site or those who work for the site to be forced into a connection with my views in the editorial; indeed, I felt the need to separate Laurie Gold from the LLB persona, which is the precise reason, in reverse, I’ve always gone by LLB online.

Let me explain.

I’ve been writing some controversial stuff since I began writing for The Romance Reader back in 1996 and controversy followed me here to AAR. The creation of the LLB pseudonym actually started when I was on the Prodigy Romance Bulletin Boards, but I carried it over to TRR and AAR for two very specific reasons. One was that Prodigy romance readers already knew me by that name and the other was that LLB was an online romance persona and not me, Laurie Gold. So that every time LLB did or said something that was brash and opinionated or controversial and was slammed for it, Laurie Gold wouldn’t crumple under the flames. It’s not as though I’ve gone around referring to myself in the third person like “The Jimmy” from Seinfeld, but being able to separate LLB from myself has probably been the one thing that has kept me from wanting to quit my online gig entirely at times.

Authors and publishers have other reasons, of course, for the creation of pseudonyms, and of name changes after an author has already been published. For instance, for many years, authors who had books published by Harlequin or Silhouette were required to publish under a pseudonym. Other authors might have used a pseudonym because their own names didn’t “sound” as nice as they’d like. Others, perhaps, wanted to keep their private lives private, and if their real name wasn’t known, they’d be more able to do so. And then there are authors such as Nora Roberts who publishes books in a different genre under a different name (Brenda Joyce is now doing the same). I doubt any reader would quibble with the idea of an author always known to them as “Jane Doe,” it’s when “Jane Doe” becomes “Mary Jones” that some readers have a problem. Even though the J.D. Robb books are generally physically housed away from the romance section in most bookstores, author Roberts has received negative letters from fans of her romances who can’t separate Roberts from Robb.

Back in 1996 I read The Quest by Juliana Garnett. Bantam, the publisher, made a big deal of telling the reader that the book was by a well-respected author who had not written romance before and would not give the author’s “real” or previously published name. I remember having a “guess who?” discussion at the romance bookstore at this time, and a similar one when Ms. Garnett’s next book was released. In other words, part of the buzz for this author was the guessing game Bantam had people engaged in. Sometime later it was revealed that Juliana Garnett was Virginia Brown.

Bantam, who incidentally made another “splash” last year when it published three books in a very short period of time with special prices when introducing the wonderfully talented Madeline Hunter, worked its P.R. magic again this summer when the Internet and romance bookstores were abuzz with talk of who Josie Litton might be.

The owner of the romance bookstore I frequent (with whom I’d engaged in the “guess who?” discussion about Juliana Garnett) took me aside in June and gave me her ARC of the two-in-one medieval romance “set” Dream of Me/Believe in Me. Her Bantam rep had visited and extolled the virtues of this author, and the back of the ARC described the books as the “fabulous debut” novels of Josie Litton, with a third novel promised the month after the first two were released. Delores, my friend and owner of the store, said she had loved both books by this “new” author and had ordered many, many more copies than she generally did and planned to “hand sell” them to all her customers. Rarely have I seen her more excited about a book (or two).

A month or so later, the name Josie Litton began appearing online and I watched throughout the summer as “Josie Litton mania” swept the ‘Net – the web site the author had online with its “guess who?” page only added to the buzz. Rather than being described as a debut author, we were now learning that Josie Litton had previously been published as a romance author under another name. As everyone tried to guess who she might be, I realized we might be witnessing the romance genre equivalent of the public relations phenomenon surrounding The Blair Witch Project, and the book(s) hadn’t even been released yet!”

We posted a DIK review and B- review of the two-in-one Litton titles on October 3rd, and later that day we learned the author’s true identity. She is Maura Seger, who has an extensive backlist dating from the mid-1990’s back to the early 1980’s. According to BYRON, her last published book was Veil of Secrets in 1996. Those who were fans of Seger are glad to see her return to romance, and our review of the two-in-one leads me to believe the hype might just be deserved.

That said, however, there is some suspicion about this marketing scheme. Here’s a recent post from our Potpourri Message Board:

“I must confess that I am glad that Josie Litton is not McNaught, Woodiwiss or even Rogers. I am not sure why authors sometimes decide to write under another name (although I understand why Roberts is writing under Robb since the books are different from the usual ones written). I feel as though someone is trying to pull the wool over my eyes.”

I answered Sandy that I don’t believe any author is trying pull the wool over any reader’s eye because they change their name. I explained that authors who have changed their names have done so, on advice from their publishers generally, in order to have a “clean slate.” With so much tied to sales these days, very talented authors might not be able to escape from poor sales in the past, even if their talent had nothing to do with those poor sales (think lack of publisher support and marketing, and low print runs). A great example is Judith Ivory fka Judy Cuevas, who experienced this very thing. Her move to Avon (with the support she needed to build her readership) has made her an extremely popular author; as far as I’m concerned, there was no “wool-pulling” in this instance. Here’s a snippet from an interview I did with Judith on her name change:

“It was a business decision. And I don’t have any trouble talking about it. It was my publisher’s suggestion because they wanted to re-market me and they were very worried that with the Judy Cuevas name a certain pattern had already been established and people who thought they were really, really supporting me would say, you know, great, we’ll take ten more books, that will really help. You know, trying to build numbers with every book seller taking just a few more books even though they see that as a huge help, just wasn’t the kind of help Avon was looking to do. They wanted to boost the numbers considerably.”

I also mentioned to Sandy that because the first two releases by Litton were well-received from our staff, her name change seems like a good thing and a good way to reintroduce her to the reading public. I added that, “I’m sure there have been some authors who changed their name and it wasn’t a good thing. I know Denise Domning did it recently, as did Linda Lael Miller. Both of these authors, IMHO, haven’t written very well recently, so maybe this is ‘wool-pulling.’ Perhaps others could join in and we could talk about which name changes have been good and which have been ‘wool-pulling?’ ” And when I say “wool-pulling,” I’m simply continuing the phrasing begun by Sandy; it does not mean that I believe authors are out there trying to deceive the reading public. Creating pseudonyms is probably most frustrating to readers trying to collect backlists than anything else; all of us who love the genre are incredibly sympathetic to good writers trying to increase their sales by any method suggested.

That said, however, the Linda Lael Miller example fascinates me to no end, and here’s why. Miller has written for years, and until the last few years, many of her books were very sexual and all over the place in terms of setting and sub-genre. Not only that, but I remember reviewing a hardcover release for her back in 1996. Then, seemingly all of a sudden, she was part of the launch of the Pocket Sonnet line, which was for new and less-established authors.

As I posted on the message board: “Hello – how unestablished could she have been considering very few romance authors (and even fewer back in 1996) were published in hardcover?” To my untrained eye, it seemed at the time as though she didn’t sell well enough in hardcover and was bumped back to paperback, and, to add insult to injury, then lumped into the “less established” group.

Since then I’ve begun to believe that she and Pocket have followed a specific strategy to reinvent her reputation and that perhaps she spent the last few years distancing herself from her older books – particularly their sensuality. If a reader had only discovered Linda Lael Miller since her Springwater books came out, they’d have a hard time reconciling those books with her Corbin family quartet I wrote about in June, 2000. So I think the reinvention of LLM has been going on for some time, and the release this summer of My Lady Beloved under the name Lael St. James is the final step in the plan.

Miller’s comments about using this new pen name to signify a higher level of sensuality in the writing don’t jibe when you think of her earlier work. Had she changed her name when she switched to her less sexual Americanas, that would have been understandable because there really was a change in her writing. But it seems that by making the name change now, there’s an attempt to disavow the books prior to the Americanas. You’ll have to let me know what you think, not only about LLM, but about pseudonyms in general, which authors changed names that seemed to you like trickery, and what percentage of responsibility for changes you “assign” to authors and which to “assign” to publishers.

Re-Issues & Re-Writes

Many of you will remember that Sandy C called for a boycott of Judith McNaught’s Whitney, My Love re-write a couple of years ago. At that time she said she didn’t like the concept of rewriting romances because rather than writing a sequel or a new story, authors, no doubt pushed by their publishers, would simply change or add a few chapters to “grab sales.” She was particularly bothered that Whitney, My Love, a romance which many consider a classic, would be revised, adding, “Think of your top ten keepers, books that you cherish and have read over and over again until the characters are like family. Please don’t change original work. It’s not fair to those of us who supported and helped to recognize this work as a classic.”

I first became aware of authors rewriting their own books when Catherine Coulter started re-writing her traditional Regency Romances as single title historicals. Since then, Mary Jo Putney transformed her Regency Romances The Rake and the Reformer and The Would-Be Widow into the historicals The Rake and The Bargain. Elizabeth Lowell’s series romance titles The Danver’s Touch, Summer Games, and Valley of the Sun became the single title contemporaries To the Ends of the Earth, Remember Summer, and Beautiful Dreamer.

This last rewrite, sold in hardcover last year (and now out in paperback), was very difficult for readers to track back to its original title. When the review of it reached me for final edits, it took visits to Lowell’s web site., as well as a check of BYRON to determine which of her earlier series romances was the basis for the re-write. Say what you will about Catherine Coulter, but a prominently displayed letter always accompanies her re-writes. And while Kat Martin did not re-write The Silent Rose, the fact that it was a reissue of a book first published five years earlier made many readers upset, particularly because the original release went out under her pseudonym Kasey Mars and the reissue was as Kat Martin.

Do you believe Sandy’s fears have come to fruition? For the most part, I don’t. I don’t think most authors want to re-write their “classic” romances any more than most readers want them to. I know that this summer a “director’s cut” of Robin Schone’s Awaken, My Love was published by her current publisher, Kensington (Avon published the original). I don’t know whether or not it was better than the original or whether the edits made by Avon to her original manuscript were better. Sometimes a director’s cut is indeed better than the edited version; somtimes it’s simply longer and/or self-indulgent.

As for re-writes of Regency Romances into full-length historicals, for the most part I think this is a good thing, in theory if not execution (some of the Coulter re-writes were horrendous). Readers of traditional Regencies comprise such a small percentage of overall historical romance readers that many good stories would never be read without these re-writes. I’m less on-board with the rewriting of series romances as single title contemporaries but for an entirely different reason than the one Sandy mentioned. My main criticism of Lowell’s Remember Summer was this: “A series romance is short – it has to immediately draw the reader in with intensity. Because of its brevity, the emotions of its characters, as well as the emotions of its readers, must be heightened to a level that is difficult to sustain in a full-length book. What works in 220 pages often becomes overblown and exhausting in a full-length read.” This Lowell-specific criticism would likely extend beyond her work to other authors’ series romances, particularly those that are equally as intense or angsty. In addition to this criticism, other series romances are already at optimum length – why mess with a good thing?

Plain old re-issues can be a wonderful thing for readers who discovered authors after their earlier books went out of print. I’ve gobbled up many Linda Howard, Elizabeth Lowell, and Nora Roberts reissues, although none in hardback; I don’t care for books originally released in paperback form to be reissued in hardcover. This trend seems to have begun a couple of years ago with hardcover reissues by Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, Linda Howard, and Barbara Delinsky.

Many publishers are now reprinting old releases in two-in-one or even three-in-one trade size books if the stories are part of a series. Harlequin/Silhouette in particular has been doing this for a few years, and when the author revisits the series with new stories and the trade size reissue comes out at the same time, I say to myself that this is a very good thing indeed. On the other hand, if re-issues are taking up shelf space that might otherwise belong to newer talent, this might not be such a good thing after all. What do you think?

Bantam’s Josie Litton launch combines the two-in-one with a new spin. The author is being presented as a bold new choice, the price has been slashed, and rather than being a bulky trade sized volume, her two-in-one is in the handy paperback size. With the third book in her trilogy being released a month after her two-in-one, Bantam is following both Harlequin’s lead and its own strategy for Madeline Hunter. If great care is taken with launches such as this, it’s hard to find anything “not good” about it…advance word is good from our review staff on the third Litton title.

For Every Season, Turn, Turn, Turn

In July of this year, I asked whether some favorite romance authors have jumped the shark and are no longer favorite authors. I asked whether it’s time for romance readers to stop wringing their hands in complaint of authors who have changed sub-genres, changed genres, or have stopped writing the books we can love. Readers have choices. If an author switches sub-genres or genres, the reader can choose to either follow the author or stay put in the genre/sub-genre of their choice. Yet, if the author stops writing keepers, why not cut the cord and look for a new favorite? Reading that statement sounds rather obvious to regular folk, but some of us romance readers become so attached to certain authors that cutting the cord seems unfathomable, even after we’ve realized a favorite author hasn’t written a favorite book for literally years.

Very few things in life are constants other than a parent’s love for a child. My husband and I used to go to Woody Allen movies religiously, but after he got involved with Mia’s daughter, we decided “no more Woody.” We started watching The X-Files when it was still a cult favorite, but after the feature movie came out, we felt it had jumped the shark and haven’t watched since. When Everybody Loves Raymond fails to have me laughing out loud, I’ll stop watching that too. And, yes, folks, if Julie Garwood doesn’t write more historical romance, I’ll stop buying her books.

In commenting on the last At the Back Fence, Lisa wrote on the message board about her disappointment with Elizabeth Lowell. Rather than writing a fourth medieval romance in her Disputed Lands series, she kinda sorta wrote Erik’s story as a contemporary romantic suspense novel. As Lowell has explained before, her current contract is only for contemporary romances. While Lisa recognizes Lowell’s contractual obligations, she feels Lowell has a “contract of sorts” with her readers. She added, “While I accept that this is the reason she is not doing that book, I still reserve the right to feel somewhat cheated – it was my loyalty and my bucks that made her get that good contract, and it feels a bit like ‘freeloading’ to me. Authors get wonderful contracts because of reader loyalty and then they write books that are not what I was loyal to them for. I know the argument is more complex than that, but I am left with a bit of a bad taste, and not just with Lowell, but with others as well, when this happens.”

Lisa went on, in a follow-up post, to say that she is disappointed in Lowell like she was disappointed in Tami Hoag, Iris Johansen, and to a lesser extent, Mary Balogh (who is no longer writing the traditional Regency Romances that many of her readers believe are the best of her work). She concluded, “I feel that we, the reading and buying public, are getting a bit of a short shrift. And I wonder why that is. Are we too tolerant? Are we a minority? I end up feeling a letdown, a somewhat cheated feeling, though I do not make a big deal out of it, and I fully understand that authors want to make money, and have to base their choices on that. This is legitimate, and logical, I also have to make money and base some (less satisfactory) choices on that.”

Lisa is not alone in her disappointment with Lowell; Leigh notes that (unlike Balogh, who switched publishers when she went from the shorter traditional Regency form to full length historicals) Lowell did not switch publishers when she went from paperback to hardcover (Avon and William Morrow are both imprints of the same publisher, and have been for years). She added that “This is not the first time that she has done this to readers. She had a science fiction series that was never finished, and her Only series had additional character that never got his book.” (Actually, Sandi Morris tells me the Only series was complete; her contemporary Western Lovers series, however, is missing Utah’s story.)

To Lisa and Leigh and all those who are disappointed in this author or that author, I feel your pain. But that isn’t going to resolve anything. When an author does as Lowell has done, she has moved on, regardless of the reason. We can’t really know whether or not Lowell didn’t write Erik’s story because of the way her contract is written or because Lowell didn’t have it in her to write another medieval or didn’t want to write another medieval. All we truly know is that she made her choice. Now the choice is ours. When Balogh decided to go full-tilt with Dell as opposed to also writing the shorter traditional Regencies for Signet, I could easily understand her choice: reach 20,000 (probably a high figure for the Regency Romance audience) readers or 100,000 readers, with likely a large increase in pay.

Often, readers will make the choice to move with their favorite authors and have whole new sub-genres/genres open up for them. I respect that choice, just as I respect the choice of readers who don’t want to make the move for whatever reason. But after hearing about the complaints and disappointments – and making them myself – for a number of years, I’ve decided to be the one to make the up-front choice rather than reacting to someone else’s decision. Life’s too short and there are more important things to do than follow an author where I don’t want to go. Have you come to the same conclusion? Which new authors have you “substituted” for old favorites?

I can be happy for the additional money and fame my old favorite will have, but I find myself agreeing with June, who wrote: “I want my favorite authors to be recognized, get more money, and be published in hardcover. I’d just like it better if they did it with what they are known for.” I don’t know that I agree with the rest of June’s statement that “a lot of these switches are the publishers nudging the writer into an area they want instead of choices the writer’s made due to a change in personal interest.” Do you think it’s the writers or the publishers who are responsible for these changes of sub-genre/genre?

Also, what strategies can we as readers devise to find new favorites? For me, it will mean more browsing at the bookstore, more reading of reviews before reading books, and the active decision to buy more books by authors unknown to me. It may also mean buying books that perhaps I wouldn’t have chosen in the past. I know this last strategy has worked for the past several months as reading many traditional Regencies is not something I would have done before. What new tactics are you willing to try, and which do you propose for other readers?

The Historical Fox Paw

Last week we posted a review of an historical romance featuring a heroine who was a Secret Service agent in 1878 Texas. Though reviewer Jennifer Keirans had many complaints about the book, she didn’t address the Secret Service issue because, “I guess I took the ‘I don’t need to tell anyone how dopey this is’ kind of approach.” As the editor of the review, I thought it should be addressed. After calling the Secret Service’s Archives Divison in Washington,D.C. and learning exactly when women could become full-time agents, that information was added to the review and a coda included at the end of the review asking readers: Does this type of thing bother readers, and should it be mentioned in reviews even though we’re dealing with fiction and artistic license anyway?

Most of the readers who responded believed inaccuracies of this type should be included in reviews, that they want to know that kind of thing before buying a book. A couple of those who answered my question took it one step further and “took on” those author notes explaining how they adjusted history to fit their story. Here’s what Karen had to say about it:

“The only thing that annoys me more than a glaring anachronism like the one mentioned in this review, is an author’s note at the end of the book trying to justify such an anachronism, which they usually do for plot purposes, or the sake of convenience. When an author adds such a note, it sounds as if she’s saying, ‘I’m too lazy to be historically accurate, and I also admit to poor plotting.’ If an author really needs that particular device in her story, then she should change the setting/time period to allow that device, otherwise she should stick to writing contemporaries…by tacking that note at the end, (authors) unwittingly sabotage their credibility with this particular reader.”

Sara, on the other hand, disagrees. Inaccuracies of this type don’t bother her. She wrote that unless there are glaring inconsistencies in the book as well as poor writing, she doesn’t have a problem with it and finds those who do to be nitpicky. As one of those readers who isn’t as knowledgeable regarding history as most of our review staff, I can agree with Sara up to a point. While she says, “I had figured that female secret service agents didn’t exist at the time, but oh well,” my response is that you cannot base an entire novel around a lead character’s occupation if that occupation didn’t exist unless the novel is the equivalent of the campy movie A Knight’s Tale (a medieval tale featuring rock music and other modern touches). Sara ended her post with: “I suppose as a defense mechanism against people who make fun of the romance genre, some people like to think they are reading accurate historical novels that just happen to be romance. I don’t read historical novels. I read romance. That’s what’s important to me.”

Sara isn’t alone in this viewpoint; there’s an entire continuum of how much historical accuracy is necessary in an historical romance. On one end is the “anything goes” view and at the other is a strict adherence to accuracy. I’m of the “historical wallpaper” school of thought myself, although when I read a romance that manages to both be historically accurate and entertaining, I’m in awe. I don’t believe that those readers who demand a very high level of historical accuracy are doing so as some sort of defense mechanism, but I often find myself thinking some of them are kind of grumpy – and that includes some of our staff.



Product Placement

In my review of Fern Michaels’ Listen To Your Heart, I took that author to task. The heroine’s sister kept urging her to buy a certain CD. Other characters kept mentioning other products – a dog breeder, a certain band, and so on. These things had nothing to do with the book’s plot, and I criticized Ms. Michaels for what appeared to me to be product placement ads.

Not for a moment did I believe that the author took money to mention the CD and the other products that she appeared to be promoting. I supposed that she was doing a favors for friends.

Then last month, I read that British author Fay Weldon was paid by Bulgari, an Italian jewelry manufacturer, to mention the word “Bulgari” in her book a dozen times. That book is called The Bulgari Connection. It’s the first time, that I know of, that an author has been directly commissioned to write a book featuring product placements. You can read The Guardian’s article about it via this “jump” link.

My knee-jerk reaction was: “That is so tacky.” But I’m trying not to be knee-jerk, so I thought about it. Is product placement really a problem? Most movies are full of product placement ads, and I understand that they’re getting more and more common on television shows, too. I don’t mind them – in fact, unless the movie is really bad, I don’t even notice that Calvin Klein billboard in the background, or the fact that the leading lady drives a Saab. So why should there be a different standard for books? Is it really the end of the world if an author mentions the word “Levis” in a novel a few times?

It’s naïve to imagine that authors work in some rarified intellectual zone where money doesn’t matter. Authors write for money, and good authors deserve good money. As Giles Gordon, Fay Weldon’s agent, said in the Guardian article I linked above, “Just explain to me why it is more contemptible to be paid by an Italian jewelry firm than by HarperCollins? It’s still money.” Good point.

Too, if authors get paid not just by their publishers, but by corporations for product placement, it might even increase their freedom. They might find themselves better able, financially, to break free of the rigid standards imposed by publishers. We might all benefit from that.


One very successful author, Stephen King, mentions product names all the time. Frequent mention of specific brand names makes the reader feel that the book takes place in a perfectly normal world – and then when something bizarre and horrible happens (as it tends to do in Stephen King novels) the sense of unreality is increased by the contrast. But when King mentioned the word “Plymouth” over a dozen times in his book Christine, I knew it’s wasn’t product placement. How did I know that? Because in Christine, a Plymouth goes berserk and murders people in horrific ways. How’s that for bad advertising?

I haven’t read it, but I’m fairly certain that in Ms. Weldon’s book, The Bulgari Connection, no one is going to choke to death on a Bulgari ring. Bulgari products will be mentioned only with great respect. I’m sure the characters will admire and covet Bulgari jewelry. My guess is that Bulgari employees made sure of it; they read Ms. Weldon’s manuscript before they paid her to make sure that there are no negative associations with Bulgari products at all.

Maybe that’s not such a big deal. Ms. Weldon probably didn’t plan on saying anything bad about Bulgari in the first place, so who cares? But when we have representatives of commercial interests reading a manuscript to make sure it meets the company’s needs before it sees print, that’s a threat to an author’s freedom of expression.

Creativity is a fragile thing. Many authors say they allow their characters to become real and to take control of their own stories. I’ve heard authors describe writing as “opening a vein.” How would it feel to sit down and open that vein, to allow one’s characters their heads – but always with one caveat in mind: “Never say anything bad about the product.” It could be more than a little stifling.

Suppose a romance author contracts to mention (this is a random example) Folgers Coffee eight times in her book. So she creates a hero who is a devoted drinker of Folgers, and pairs him with a heroine who prefers expensive fresh-ground coffee. She uses these different coffee tastes to illustrate differences between her hero and heroine; and she dutifully describes the hero drinking his beloved Folgers eight times. But what if Folgers’ representatives object to the mention of any other coffee as an alternative to Folgers, and refuse to pay her? Aren’t they dictating, even to that small degree, the content of her book?

I object to product placement as a reader, too. Recently I read a rather good little suspense book by Carlene Thompson called Since You’ve Been Gone. At one point, a doctor gives the heroine a pain-reliever: “They’re only Excedrin,” he says. “They work better on headaches than plain aspirin.”

There’s no doubt in my mind that this is not a product placement ad. Nevertheless, because I read this book after I learned about product placement in novels, I paused and wondered about it. It jolted me out of the story and interrupted my enjoyment of the book. That’s not fair to Carlene Thompson as an author, and it didn’t do much for me as a reader, either.

Maybe it’s wrong to hold books to a higher standard than movies and television. All I know is this: if a product is mentioned in a book and I can’t tell if I’m reading an author’s genuine opinion or a paid advertisement, that reading experience will be sullied for me. Ms. Weldon has lots of chutzpah, and this stunt is getting her lots of publicity. But I hope product placement doesn’t become standard operating procedure, or the reading experience is going to be a lot tackier for all of us.



Just So You KnowLast week I read an article in Talk magazine about this terrific new idea being promulgated by a prominent artists’ rep. Seeing how much publicity fashion designers get when a star wears a borrowed dress to a function and comparing that to the millions a sports star gets for endorsing products, he thinks actors – only the really “big” ones – should sign similar endorsement products and carry them through their creative endeavors.

Which reminded me of a great scene in the David Mamet film First and Main, a movie within a movie in which a producer is trying to get a computer placed in the fictional film, which is set in the 1800’s. I’m sure there will be more care taken than this, but if this “terrific new idea” is accepted, can we expect to see Russell Crowe wearing Ray-Bans in his next historical epic?


(Check out this article on product placement, as recommended by AAR’s Anne Marble.)
’re pleased to announce that after more than two years of trying, All About Romance has finally secured the domain away from a squatter. The domain will continue as our “real” domain, but all those readers, who, in the past tried to find us by using our name as our domain and couldn’t, will now simply be able to type in and arrive at our home page.



Time to Post to the Message Board

Here are the questions we’d like to have you consider this time:


histbut What’s in a Name? – Romance authors and their publishers create pseudonyms for a variety of reasons. Does this create a problem for you in any way, and/or, are you skeptical of what (and who) is behind some of those name changes?

histbut The Re-Written Romance – Romance readers have seen certain romances re-written in the past few years. Is this cause for concern? Which re-writes have you read and enjoyed more than the originals? Which have been less entertaining? Have you always known up front that you were reading a re-write, or were you sometimes caught off-guard? Do you make distinctions between full-length re-writes (think Whitney, My Love) and series to full-length or Regency Romance to full-length historical re-writes?

histbut Romance Re-Issues – Walk into a store selling books these days and reissues seem to take up more and more shelf space. For readers looking to find backlist books previously out of print, this is a good thing. For new authors looking to sell books, and for readers who believe there’s little room left for new talent, this is not such a good thing. What do you think?

histbut Stay, or Switch? – I’ve been actively advocating that readers should look for new favorites if their old favorite authors have moved on without them. There are a variety of reasons why authors choose to go into a new direction. What are some of the reasons as you see them? Are you staying with those authors, complaining about what they’ve done, or been pro-active in making changes from your end?

histbut Strategies for Switching – What strategies can we as readers devise to find new favorites? For me, it will mean more browsing at the bookstore, more reading of reviews before reading books, and the active decision to buy more books by authors unknown to me. What about you? And, if you’ve utilized some of these strategies, please give the rest of us advice on how to make it work.

histbut The Historical Fox Paw – How much lenience do you lend an author when reading a romance? If, for instance, you are reading an historical romance, do you adopt an “It’s the romance, stupid” mind-set, or does the historical component have to be more than wall-paper, or something in-between. Do you think that readers who demand a very high level of historical accuracy are doing so as some sort of defense mechanism against those who make fun of romance novels?

histbut Product Placement – Over the past several years, those who watch television and movies have gotten used to a certain level of product placement, albeit on a sub-conscious level. Now it seems to be moving into the arena of fiction. What do you make of that, and how far do you see this phenomenon going in terms of all media?


In conjunction with Jennifer Keirans




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