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I’ve not quite managed to go through all my Google Reader feeds, but I’ve made some headway, and the following are some of the more noteworthy posts.

1. Sarah over at Monkey Bear Reviews has a great post up entitled Dorothy Koomson, Book Covers and Black Characters.

Here’s a snippet:

I’m convinced that the conclusions I draw about a book’s content when I see its cover are due years of conditioning through clever marketing. The arguments used for marketing books a certain way is that that is what sells, hence the preponderance of heaving bosoms and bloody knives in romances and thrillers respectively.

But surely the marketeers predictions of what will sell and what won’t become self-fulfilling prophecies? If a reader has only seen romance novels with cleavage, that’s the association they will make when shopping for books, even if they don’t actually like the covers. Similarly, if the only books published featuring black characters on the covers are ‘issues’ books, than that is what readers will expect the story to be about.

The only way to change readers’ assumptions is to change the way books are marketed. It might take a while, but eventually readers will come to have different expectations when they see certain things on book covers.

Sarah then goes on to show Dorothy Koomson’s excellent covers, which seem to be the exception that proves the rule when it comes to reader reactions to black people on book covers.

Go read the comments, they make for interesting reading too, and not to pick on Magdalen, but this particular comment did make me want to grind my teeth in frustration:

…And black characters on the cover of a book suggests, reasonably or not, that the book was written for an audience I don’t qualify for.

However, I applauded this comment by Keira Soleore:

…if we’re to move forward to a much more integrated multi-racial society as whole, dialogue and reading has to be a part of it. Only if you understand can there be no sense of The Other. The Other-ing is what leads to misunderstandings and racial discrimination. How can you warm up to someone you can’t fathom?

2. Anyway, moving on, Wendy is mad because Shannon Mckenna’s next book is coming out in hard cover. I don’t blame her, her last book was a DNF for me, so I certainly won’t be wasting my pennies on a HC version of Kev McCloud’s book.

By the way, a belated Happy Blogiversary to Wendy. Her blog is seven years old!

3. Jessica has a fantastic blog on Romance Readers’ tendency to fantasize about characters and cover models:

Here’s a snippet from Jessica’s post:

…But there are two kinds of fantasy engagement with romance, especially romance novel heroes, or real men who are supposed to represent them, that are fairly prevalent on line that I wanted to point out in this post.

1.Treating the characters as “real” in some sense outside the text….

2. Fantasizing about the cover models, about real men who might resemble the characters in the text, or about handsome men (especially actors) in general, as part of the romance reader discourse.

Jessica cites JR Ward’s BDB fangirls as a good example of the former. Apparently the fangirls are so extreme in their passions, that the message board mods have had to lay out a couple of ground rules, so that the Cellies don’t start World War Three over which of them the BDBs love the most:

…I noticed right away the tendency of the “Cellies” to treat the characters as real. They gushed over the heroes, fantasized about them, used erotic pictures of men supposed to represent the BDB for their signatures, and generally interacted with the novels in a way that felt very alien to me.
Here are a couple of the ground rules at the J.R. Ward message boards, which give a sense of the tendencies to which some Cellies are prone:

10. Brother/Angel Ownership- There is NO Brother or Angel ownership. It will not be tolerated. The board is here for everyone to enjoy spending time with each other, J.R. Ward, and the Brotherhood. Let’s remember the Brothers’ books are written for everyone’s enjoyment.

11. Role-playing- There is to be NO role-playing here on the boards. It’s a form of copyright infringement and will not be tolerated.

I’d strongly recommend popping over and reading the post in its entirety, ‘tis very good.

By the way, does anybody know if the Cellies were the original Rabid Fan Girls or RFGs as they are affectionately referred to? *g*

4. Over at Dear Author, Robin/Janet had an interesting post entitled Loving The Unlikeable Heroine.

She’s talking about those heroines who revel in their bitchiness. The anti-Mary-Sue if you like.
The best example of such a heroine is JD Robb’s Eve Dallas.

Robin writes:

In a genre full of nice, nurturing, morally upright, and unflinchingly kind heroines, I find myself drawn more and more to the somewhat unlikeable heroine. Not the “bad girl,” per se, nor the hopelessly complicated and in need of rescue woman, but the female protagonist with an edge to her, the woman whose traits women in real life often find themselves trying not to be identified with or emulate.

You know the heroine I’m talking about: the women like Nora Roberts’s Eve Dallas, who is famously intolerant of other people and terrified that someday people will stop calling her a bitch, or like Jane Morgan from Victoria Dahl’s Lead Me On, a woman willing to use a kind, loyal man who doesn’t fit her stereotypical mate and then ruthlessly cast him to the side.

I have to confess, I’m quite fond of these types of heroines, (I know, what a shocker huh?) they often provide a comedic slant that so-called romantic comedies fail to achieve. It could be the ‘mean girl’ in me, but I certainly prefer the sarcastic, acerbic-tongued heroine, to her fluffy counterpart.

To read in full, pop over to DA.

5. And last, but not least, apparently LA Banks introduced Barack Obama at the Philadelphia Health Care Summit. Wow.

The guys who surrounded the President must have seen that look of deer in the headlights before, because one of the “Men in Black” said in a completely deadpan expression, “Ma’am, when you meet the POTUS, there are two things you cannot do.” Eager and breathless, I said, “What?” He smiled and said, “Don’t puke and don’t faint.” It took me a moment to realize that he was just trying to loosen me up, and then I laughed. That’s when six burly guys came forward—two in front of President Obama, two on his flank, two behind him, and a couple were behind me, I think.

I just stood there, mouth slightly agape, frozen, and the President walked forward with that big ole, dashing smile of his and said, “You must be Leslie.” The warmth he exuded was authentic. Then he said, “I want to thank you for doing this,” as he shook my hand. But I shook my head and told him, “No, Mr. President. Thank YOU for all you’re doing for US—for fighting for us and for being you.” Then he just hugged me and told me to “Knock ‘em dead” with my speech.

Again, wow.

Via Dear Author.

11 Comments »


  • Jane
    March 23
    1:28 pm

    That LA Banks blog post was so moving. I loved it. BTW – did you read Nonnie’s review of a Diana Palmer book over at Smart Bitches. It was hilarious.

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  • Just to clarify – I’m not upset about McKenna’s move to hardcover. I was just a little surprised by it (I was unaware that her last couple of trade pbs hit the NYT Bestseller List) – hence the post. At this point I think I’m at least 2 books behind in that series, so I can easily wait for pb – or better yet – borrow a copy from work. I’m ordering it for the library :)

    Re: The Original Rabid Fangirls – the Cellies cannot lay claim to that title. Lori Foster and Diana Gabaldon both pre-date Ward and both of them had pretty rabid fangirl bases back in the day (not sure if said fangirls are still going strong or not). I’m sure there are scads of other examples, but those are the only two that leap to mind right off. I haven’t had all my caffeine yet this morning.

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  • So I take it no one has ever visited the Sherrilyn Kenyon groups, forums, blogs, yadda yadda … main difference is that she allowed a role playing group using her characters. Not sure if she still does… and this was years before J.R. Ward came into the scene. I suspect many of Ward’s fangirls are crossovers from SKs.

    Mind you, I love both authors, but I never understood that degree of borderline sick obsession over fictitious characters.

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  • seriously… no cellies might be bringing the crazy now but they are patterned after brockmann’s fangrrls wouldn’t you say

    There are the two wendy mentioned, Sarah McCarthy has/had some hardcore fangrrls. Hell she assigns out heroes to them. LKH anyone?

    To be far it is easier to make those lists, get to HC, sell, blah blah blah when you have the rabid at your back. So I think it is something of a balance but I don’t think any author ‘gets rabid fangrrls’ without courting them – hardcore. At least at some point and then they may or may not later go oh shit, what have I done.

    You are reading smart bitches again? Or is it smart bitch? Is Candy still there? Anyone know?

    Got the SM yesterday and was surprised to see it was going to be a HC but good for her. Hope it doesn’t suck. My bitch would be I HATE it when they do the last of a series in HC. It doesn’t match!

    I read a Dorothy Koomson last year and liked it. It was one you rec’ed sadly I am blanking on the title… want to say marshmallows was in the title. But might be mixing that up with something else.

    LOL sorry I am rambly *g*

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  • FD
    March 23
    6:36 pm

    Heh, Sybil – I was about to suggest LKH too, there were rabid fangirls on her site back as far as 1998? Possibly earlier.

    I’m not sure which I hate most – a series being switched to HC so I have to wait or being rebranded half way through so the spines don’t match. Drives my ocd self nuts.

    I have nothing to say about the book covers (and contents) except I wish publishers would join the real world already.

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  • Thanks for the link, Karen. For folks interested, one of the “hot men” bloggers I mentioned in that post, Mandi at Smexy Books, did her own post on fantasy in romance (http://www.smexybooks.com/2010/03/fantasy-in-romance-where-do-you-fall.html).

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  • Karen Scott
    March 23
    8:06 pm

    @Jane Nah, I haven’t seen Nonny’s review, will pop over and have a read.

    @Wendy I forgot about Lori Foster, she deffo has some hardcore fans. I’ve never been into Gabaldon so I missed out on her forums.
    By the way, it seems to me that authors who write series books are more likely to A, have rabid fangirls, and B, get on the bestseller lists, would you agree?

    @Sybil I don’t actively read the SBs anymore, but I’ll pop over to have a look at Nonny’s review.No idea about Candy.

    Was the DK book Marshmallows for Breakfast??

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  • Slap me simple, I can’t believe I didn’t think of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s OR Suzanne Brockmann’s fangirls this morning. Seriously, Wendy on little to no caffeine is scary.

    Karen: Re: the series theory – I think there’s something to that. Certainly just writing a series isn’t enough. The romance genre is littered with series that died on the vine due to poor sales. The author has to hit a nerve, give readers a different angle, tweak a trope – something.

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  • Recently Karen Marie Moning had to post something to her blog about things on Facebook getting out of control with some people saying they were XYZ characters and then they were fighting or something. Apparently, people were then writing to KMM and asking her to settle the disputes. I was surprised to see such things going on. Ridiculous.

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  • Thanks for the linkage, Karen!

    Reading some of the comments people made on the post made me wonder if there isn’t a difference between British and American publishers when it comes to using black cover models on books. Most US bookshops seem to have separate areas for books featuring black characters. I don’t recall seeing a separate section in British bookshops. Or am I wrong?

    I’m guessing Dorothy Koomson’s US publisher decided to use a cover with no people on it for ‘My Best Friend’s Girl’ because they it wanted to appeal to a mainstream audience and felt it wouldn’t if they used a black cover model to depict Kamryn. Daft, in my opinion, but then I’m not a marketeer. I can only hope her British publisher continues to create great covers for her books.

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  • FD
    March 25
    11:18 am

    I dunno if the British situation is much better, because I remember noting the Koomson covers with approval, well before Racefail made me start taking a closer look at such things.

    As regards to the separation, I’ve seen Black non-fiction shelved separately, as is feminist non-fiction, and GLBT non-fiction. I’ve never seen black fiction shelved separately in the UK. In fact, when I first saw it so, (in a Borders in rural Virginia) I was rather inclined to feel offended.

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