BOOKMARKED is the name of our journal, but since not everyone is on Twitter and not everyone on Twitter likes, this is an adhoc round-up on the blog highlighting links and news that might be of interest.

It’s been a while since we posted a links round-up, but oh, my god, people, Romancelandia exploded last night! This post will be epic. I hope you brought your lunch with you.

Undeclared by Jen Frederick (The Woodlands, Book 1)Dear Author’s Jane Litte reveals her author pseudonym

Everything you know about romance book bloggers has been turned on its head. Jane Litte revealed on Dear Author that she has been writing books since 2013:

So I went ahead and created a penname, Jen Frederick, and published Undeclared with no expectations about what would happen. And, much to my surprise, it sold well. So I wrote another one. And another. And began to learn about the publishing industry from an entirely different perspective.

It was important that DA remain its own inviolate entity. I partitioned off the fiction writing from the blogging, keeping my writing identity private. I wanted as little connection as possible between the blog and the book, to protect the integrity of both.

I know many people will have conflicting feelings about this, but personally, I think we need more authors willing to review other books critically. I do wonder how some of the other Dear Author reviewers will feel about this revelation.

In any case, it’s a pretty great accomplishment for her to achieve success without using her blogging persona to help market her books.

Update 25/3/2015: My understanding is that Jane disclosed the information to the Dear Author bloggers just before she posted it on the blog, and that there was an opportunity for them to react and ask questions. It’s also my understanding that Jane herself declined to review her own book (when encouraged by another blogger who didn’t know of the connection) on the basis that she knew the author, but I haven’t followed Jen Frederick’s career closely, so I can’t say for sure whether or not the books have been promoted on Dear Author in a way that I might find unseemly.

I guess I don’t feel it’s a huge problem unless, for example, she reviewed her own book favourably or in any way tried to change other people’s opinions of the book using her blogger persona, or called in personal favours without those personal connections being disclosed during the promotion. My feeling is that it’s this uncertainty that will probably be the biggest issue for other readers, and it will basically come down to your opinion of Jane’s integrity.

Trousseau icon (Art: Jennifer Wu)Got a romance reader event coming up?

Jen and I have decided to use the Trousseau zine Tumblr to post upcoming romance reader events. It’s open to all locations, so if you’re an author, publisher, publicist or reader and you have an event coming up, let us know! Submit your event here. If you just want to know about the events, just follow the Tumblr. We’ll also be revealing more exciting news about Trousseau soon, so watch this space!

A brief history of Harlequin

Confession: I recently read awesome academic Jodi McAlister’s thesis chapter covering the history of Mills & Boon, so Kelly Faircloth’s recent piece on Jezebel felt like an extension of that reading. This is what literary journalism should be like as applied to the romance genre. Here’s my favourite quote from the article:

This dovetails nicely with romance novelist Sarah MacLean’s feminist theory of romance as a broader genre. “If you look at it as heroine as hero, hero as society, at its core it’s the story of the feminist movement,” she told me. Which provides another way to read the novels of the 70s and 80s as products of their time: “You’re in the heroine’s head, even though it’s third person, and the hero is closed off to her. She has to break him open, like he’s a world she can’t be a part of,” said MacLean. “The heroines come at the hero in a distinctly ‘female’ way. They unlock the ‘female’ part of him,” and “when she’s doing that, she’s imbuing the hero with femininity. Right? She’s saying, it’s OK for you to love. It’s OK for you to care. it’s OK for you to cry.”

Even better were the Twitter conversations that ensued from this article.

Romance in academia

Speaking of academics, Emma Pearse asks at The Smithsonian, Why can’t romance novels get any love? The article gives a brief overview of romance genre scholarship, with some great quotes from academics. My favourite:

“I have to say, the science is dreary,” said Eli Finkel, a professor of social psychology at Northwestern University, citing studies that show romance inevitably dropping in marriages. “But, then again, the science says that the alpha male is, well, kinda hot. It turns out that everyone likes someone who is hot and ambitious.”

And on a more serious note:

“Women write and read romance heroes to examine, dissect, subvert, discuss, revel in and reject patriarchal constructions of masculinity,” said Sarah Frantz Lyons. “They’re not just cherishing the chains of their bondage. They’re figuring out what they are, figuring out how they fit.”

Call for papers: POPCAANZ

Jodi (see previous mention above) is the Area Chair for Popular Romance Studies at POPCAANZ. She has issued a call for papers for the conference in New Zealand at the end of June. The deadline is April 15. More info at Teach Me Tonight.

Goodreads: It’s complicated

Apparently, Goodreads recently changed the way readers and authors interact by removing friend relationships with authors. This has led to consequences that GR probably didn’t intend or, at least, didn’t foresee.

Apparently it escaped Goodreads’ attention that a member might be a friend of an author because they like the person while at the same time not having any interest the books that person writes.

I don’t know why GR missed it (other than that GR sees authors as things and not people)

That seems a bit idiotic. I mean, would it have killed them to beta test it with a segment of the community first? I don’t actually follow the entire explanation, for the simple reason that I don’t use GR for social interactions as much as as free database of books I’ve read. But if you’re an active GR member, it’s worth reading Nate’s post. (Source: The Digital Reader)

Author considers arts grants as thuggery; quits SFWA

The author is Holly Lisle. For some people, that might be enough context. If you need more, here’s the rationale.

Things I now want:

Floating sperm pen — Exactly what it sounds like, except it’s fake sperm. Obvs.

Jane/Jen’s first book — Free on Amazon!

P.S. More Fifty Shades of Grey stuff

When I was tweeting my thoughts after rewatching the film, @JanetNorCal tweeted me a link to this video, featuring Danny Elfman talking about the FSoG score. It’s pretty great, and the music is one of the best things about the film.


  1. Fiona Lowe says:

    Bookthingo wrote: but personally, I think we need more authors willing to review other books critically.

    HI, As an author I read this statement and immediately wanted to know why? I would like to hear your thoughts and here are mine.

    I don’t review books in the public arena because it is full of soul-sucking sink holes. Even writing this comment now I do with an uncharacteristic lack of caution because stating an opininon in this massive arena that is the internet is as fraught as authors reviewing books.

    The closest I get ito reviewing books is at my bookgroup where I let fly with passion about the merits and problems with the book but it’s private and between friends. The reason I don’t review books is because every review ever written has sub concious bias. We all have our own reading preferences. Yes, I can say a book is well, structured well written, beautiful prose but even when all of those things are present, I may not enjoy the book.

    When you add in professional bias then the waters get so muddy nothing is clear. How can I possibly subjectively review a contemporary romance, the genre I write? I can’t. Some of these books are written by authors I know, by friends, by strangers but all of them are my competition so how can any reviews I write be taken as an objective review. And there in lies the nub of all the creative arts: there is little objectivity when emotions are involved and art, books film music all tug on our emotions and that means we are rarely objective. So no, I don’t think authors are the people to write critcal reviews however readers are in a better position to review although even then, there is no exclusion of subconcious bias however at least they don’t have any skin in the publishing game.

    And don’t get me started on the issue of reviewing the work of friends. It takes two very special people to survive one of them critcally panning their published work on the internet. It’s why those 5* reviews turn up from authors about their friends’ work.

    Which is why I don’t see authors having a role in reviews.
    But that’s just my opinion borne of a decade of being a published author and why I don’t review. I do not expect others to agree or follow suit.

    Best wishes,
    Fiona Lowe

  2. Kat says:

    Hi, Fiona. I totally understand why authors would choose not to review other people’s books, and all the points you make are valid and understandable.

    I think, however, that literary criticism has a long and rich history of authors reviewing books within their own fields. It’s a different kind of criticism and offers a perspective that I feel I, as a reader, can’t offer. So I would find it interesting to read those reviews. I’m speaking here only as a reader, of course.

    I also think the romance community would be more robust if we can get to the point where reviews aren’t taken so personally, and I guess I see authors-reviewers (critical, not just positive reviews) as being a huge step in that direction.

    But yes, this is my personal preference, and I understand and appreciate that many authors would be uncomfortable with this. I know many readers agree with your comment, so my opinion is by no means the prevalent one!

  3. Fiona Lowe says:

    I also think the romance community would be more robust if we can get to the point where reviews aren’t taken so personally,

    LOL, Kat. The literary community is hardly robust when it comes to criticism. There are some very famous meltdowns. Once it was Dear SIr letters to the review pages of the NYT and now it’s on Twitter but the romance community is not unique in this respect. Why? Because we’re human beings with feelings and the emotion can never be removed from a review.


  4. Kat says:

    Hm. Maybe. Yes, it’s pretty messy, and I take your point that the online discussions are much more volatile just because of volume and reach. But I view books as part of culture and art, and I think art should be open to criticism, including from those who create it.

    I’m not immune to it, by the way. Every time I attend an event where readers mix with authors, it’s never a wholly comfortable space because, of course, I recognise that what I view as impersonal (though often passionate) criticism of someone’s work may not have been received as such. And I also try to be careful not to intrude into spaces where I perhaps would make others uncomfortable. It’s a bit of a dilemma. Because I’m also a reader who is a fan of authors. :)

  5. Fiona Lowe says:

    I recognise that what I view as impersonal (though often passionate) criticism of someone’s work may not have been received as such.

    Well, we’ve managed it! Perhaps we can run a class ;-)

  6. azteclady says:

    People can’t please everyone, and trying will only strip a person of personality and, eventually, humanity. Some self-censorship is a good thing in my eyes (for me, mostly in striving not to be gratuitously offensive) and I do understand why authors don’t want to rile other authors by criticizing the other authors’ books.

    But authors are readers first–or at least, they are readers too–and to say that they cannot have readerly feelings for what they read, or that they should not express those feelings? I call bullshit there.

    If they choose not to, more power to them, but it should be a choice.

  7. Kat says:

    AZ – Great points. I do think it’s especially hard in romance, because the community is so insular. In part this is because romance authors have pretty much mentored each other because the genre is (was?) so looked down upon in other venues. In Australia it’s even more pronounced because not only is it insular, it’s also much smaller.

    It will be interesting too see how Jane manages her two personas from now on. Or if there will be a noticeable change at all. Ironically, now that she has revealed her author identity, it’s probably going to be easier to promote her own books on DA.

  8. azteclady says:

    Kat, I’m wondering if there will be some sort of sign somewhere–particularly for reviews written after she signed the deal with Berkley–that she’s also an author. As I told Rowena in the comments at my blog, I’m still mulling this.

    I see why authors who are readers may want to have a reader blog and write reviews there as readers, where people won’t a priori come down on them like a ton of bricks simply because they are an author and (say it with me now!) “authors shouldn’t review ‘fellow’ authors, it’s unprofessional!” (did I say bullshit to this yet? ah yes, I did).

    On the other hand, no secret lasts forever, particularly these days, and the fallout once it comes out that *this* reviewer is actually *that* author could be pretty damn painful, to say the least.

  9. Kat says:

    AZ — I just saw your post. I’m a bit heartbroken for you and readers who are in a similar place. :( I just finished my own reflection on what just happened — should go up by tomorrow.

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