July 31

Celebrity Romance:
 Widowed Actress Michelle Williams Weds in Secret Ceremony

By Lilli McHale

Gage Skidmore

After divorcing husband Heath Ledger, due to his drug issues in 2007, and his subsequent death in early 2008, actress Michelle Williams was extremely skeptical about putting herself, and her young daughter, back out on the dating scene. Despite their split-up, the death of Matilda Rose’s father was still a harrowing event for Williams. 

After meeting Phil Elverum through mutual friends, the two bonded over the struggles of being single parents and how hard it was to mourn their partner, while still being a strong parent. 

Elverum, like Williams, has experienced a loss of spouse. His wife, Geneviève Castrée, was a Canadian artist and musician who drew comics that featured difficult topics such as childhood abuse. 

 Elevrum was married to Geneviève from 2003 until her death, from stage IV pancreatic cancer in 2016. Her death, which came only one month after they announced her diagnosis, left him with a daughter Agathe, of only four months old. 

Elverum’s music label released Castrée’s musical projects Woelv and Ô Paon and his website works as a clearinghouse for her books, including her final book dedicated to their daughter entitled A Bubble, which was released in 2018. 

Williams discussed her new relationship as one that allows her to feel freely loved as both a parent and a person. The love she feels with new husband Phil is very positive and open. 

Until recently, Williams has kept her love-life very private, since the death of Heath Ledger, as it has been hard for her to navigate the complexities of their relationship. 

The wedding was very secretive and took place in the Adirondack Mountains, New York, not far from where the couple now reside, in Brooklyn. 

 

July 30

Christmas in July

By Lilli McHale

Christmas in July is a made up holiday for women by women.  Ask a man if he’s celebrating Christmas in July and he’ll think you’re crazy.  Ask a woman and she’ll check what’s on the Hallmark Channel schedule.

Although Christmas is one of the most romantic seasons of the year, but it’s also one of the business for the woman in any household.  She barely gets a chance to really indulge in the comfort and joy of the holiday.

Christmas in July is the perfect time to spoil yourself or your loved ones with sweet deals on treats. There are a ton of discounted holiday gifts on QVC and HSN, such as snow globes, pillows, candles, lingerie, bath products, and holiday-themed jewelry. Websites such as Finder.com even help shoppers locate products on sale that they might want for others, or themselves. 

If you have no one to shower goods upon, beside yourself, stock up on Christmas romance novels.  Riverdale Avenue Books has an annual Christmas in July 50% off promotion for all their titles with the word Christmas or Xmas in the title. Godiva has all their up to 50% off for through July. 

If you want holiday-themed travel, many of the try hitting up one of the numerous Christmas themed parks and experiences such as the Santa Claus House in Alaska;  Christmas in July at Santa’s Workshop every Tuesday-Saturday in upstate New York; Santa’s Village every day in Jefferson, New Hampshire; Santa’s Village Azoosement Park in East Dundee, Illinois; Castle Noel on weekends in Medina Ohio, and Santa’s Candy Castle and Holiday World in Indiana. 

And there’s always a visit to The Christmas Shop.

No matter what, everyone can find a way to put a little more holiday cheer in their lives this July! 

 

July 29

Every Day Romance: The Bridge of Love

By Lilli McHale

We all love stories about fated love, and this one is quite charming.

 

Wang Zi-heng of Henan Province, China met his soulmate at age six, when he was playing house with the girl next door, Qian-qian. They shared a childhood kiss and this very young age, and Wang told his mom then that they would get married and was quite determined to do so. But his family moved away from Quan-gian when he was still very young.

 

The children were separated and did not see each other again for 18 years, until they ran into each other when they were both 24 years old. The two reconnected quickly and got married within a year. 

 

Somewhere in all their childhood memorabilia they found a photo of themselves on a bridge when they were six and recreated the same photo on their wedding day. 

 

This story originally appeared in https://www.oddee.com/item_99079.aspx

 

https://soranews24.com/2014/08/31/6-year-old-boy-vowed-to-marry-his-childhood-sweetheart-really-marries-her-18-years-later/

 

July 28

What I learned at RWA Nationals

By Lori Perkins

I’ve been going to certain conventions for decades now and people who don’t understand the nature of the publishing business often ask me, “Do you really have to go every year?”  They think it’s a traveling card party with the same players, but they don’t realize that there are many reasons for going and they change from year to year.  You never know what you’re missing, if you’re not there.

 

There have been conferences where I’ve come up with books that have sold thousands of copies just by talking to other authors.  I’ve been invited into anthologies I never would have known about.  I hear gossip about things that haven’t even happened yet.

 

So I’m sharing with you the most relevant things I learned at this year’s convention.

 

Indie authors are continuing to pave the way, and now they are really getting the respect of the rest of publishing (and not just the money).  This year’s Rita Awards, the Oscars of RWA, were handed out to five indie authors (out of a total of 13 awards), the most Indie award-winners in RWA’s history. The big Rita winner used to be Harlequin.

 

After four years of publishing, Brilliance/Amazon is closing Waterfall Press, their inspirational imprint, even though books in their line made the Rita nominations this year. My take-away on that is that this just might not be the moment for sweet and/or innocent romance. 

 

While most business news coverage has focused on soybeans and steel tariffs, print books are going to get much more expensive. It’s going to be even harder to get new authors into print.  This is because of our dear presidents tariffs, specifically the 25% tariff on Canadian paper.  But the good news/bad news lesson from that is that we should see another rise in ebook and audio sales.

 

July 27

Every Day Romance:
 A Year-Long Proposal

By Lori Perkins

Josh Schmitz met Danielle Roesch on Tinder in October of 2014. By August of 2015, Schmitz was sure he had found the girl of his dreams. Yet he knew he didn’t want to propose to her in any sort of generic way. So, like any other modern romantic, he opted to plan out a year-long proposal.

 

For an entire year, Schmitz wrote notes to his future fiancé on a whiteboard or a piece of paper, basically whatever he had around. Writing notes is a big part of the couple’s daily routine as the two work different schedules and don’t see each other in the morning. 

Without missing a day, Schmitz asked her to marry him, in different variations. Sometimes he would just ask her to marry him, or other times he would compose long professions of his love. Each day he would videotape the message for a camera, regardless of location. The only requirement was the Roesch not find out. 

After creating 365 clips, Schmitz had to hire someone to make a video compilation of the series. This resulted in a 21-minute-long video that was presented to Roesch, on a giant video screen, when she arrived at a fake corporate event at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium. 

In the final frame of the short film, Roesch was asked to walk down to Lake Michigan, a short walk from the Planetarium, where Schmitz had covered the ground with rose petals and had his final whiteboard, which read, “Will you be my wife.” 

Roesch obviously said yes and Schmitz said his long wait was worth it due to the look of the surprise evident on Roesch’s face. 

 

This story originally appeared at https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/relationships/news/a40073/josh-schmitz-proposal-video/

 

July 26

The Speech Heard Round Romancelandia Or Suzanne Brockmann’s RWA LTA Acceptance Speech

By Lori Perkins

As we all know, Romance Writers of America acceptance speeches barely get noticed by anyone except the recipients, their families and maybe those attending the annual convention.  They never make the news or social media. 

But Suzanne Brockmann’s Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance kicked ass and took prisoners as no other speech in RWA history has before.

 

Brockman has given Romance Daily News permission to reprint it in its entirety here. We hope you will share it with everyone you know who has ever said that romance novels aren’t important because romance novels, and the people who write them, are about to change our world.

 

 

“This past Thursday night, I was given the incredible honor of receiving the Romance Writers of America Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award, and was given a bit of time to make (ahem) a speech.

I had a few things to say.

But first, my son, Jason T. Gaffney, took the stage and gave me an incredible intro. (There was a slideshow with pictures on the big screen 

Jason: Before she was a writer, my mom was a musician. She sang in coffeehouses and subway stations, she fronted a rock band, and directed an acappella group.

Since 1993, (I was eight!) she’s written 57 novels, 14 short stories, and three screenplays. She edits a line of own-voices romance called Suzanne Brockmann Presents. She co-wrote and directed an off-Broadway play, and produced four indie movies. 

Here’s the trailer for her latest, a rom-com called Analysis Paralysis.

(We showed our trailer for AP here, on the big screens! So cool! You can watch it on vimeo here: https://vimeo.com/271327084 )

Analysis Paralysis was Kickstarted with the generous support of the romance community. It’ll be screening at LGBTQ film festivals and streaming on-line in the near future. In September, we’re filming our next movie, a rom-com titled Out of Body—screenplay and novelization both written by my mom. 

But okay, we’re here to talk about books. In romance publishing, my mom is known best for her LGBTQ activism—and for her books about hunky Navy SEALs.

Mom’s fascination with SEALs started in 1995 with Prince Joe and her Tall, Dark & Dangerous category romance series, which exploded her career in more ways than one. 

In 1998, Harvard’s Education was Silhouette Intimate Moments book number 884, but only the second book in that line with a heroine and hero who were African American. Mom fought for that book, pushing against institutional racism. It opened her eyes to her own privilege, and she vowed to use it to make romance more inclusive. 

In 2000, Mom launched her second, mainstream SEAL series with The Unsung Hero voted RWA’s favorite book of that year. Her Troubleshooters series is set in an inclusive America, where diversity is celebrated and honored. 

But early 2001 was the year that her most beloved character—out, gay FBI agent Jules Cassidy—first walked onto the pages of The Defiant Hero, and into the heart of Romancelandia.

Jules was the FBI partner of Alyssa Locke, whose romance with Navy SEAL Sam Starrett played out in real time over the course of five books, before they finally won their HEA in 2003’s Gone Too Far.

 But Jules’s relationship with Sam was just as vital to this series. Sam began his journey a hot mess—ignorantly homophobic. But over time, Sam got to know Jules as a kick-ass, capable, smart, funny, highly-skilled, heroic man.

And as Sam began to think of Jules as one of his dearest and most trusted friends, Mom’s readers did, too. 

In 2004, in Hot Target, Mom gave Jules his own romantic subplot and story-arc, in which he meets his future Mr. Right—Hollywood movie star, Robin Chadwick. 

At the time, RT  [Romantic Times] had a “no gay books” policy in place. Neither my mom, nor her incredibly supportive editor, Shauna Summers, nor anyone else at Ballantine Books knew if Hot Target would be accepted by reviewers—or just flatly ignored. 

But they all were convinced that romance readers were ready for Jules Cassidy to fall in love.

And they were right—Hot Target was Border’s best-selling hardcover romance of the year. (Remember Borders...?)

Hot Target was also the book where my mother—with my approval—publically, capital-O-outed me in a poetically heartfelt two-page dedication, written in the form of a letter.

“To my fabulous son, Jason:

Even as a tiny child, your smile could outshine the sun...” 

She wrote about how I’d always been completely myself, from a very young age, and the way she’d always supported and celebrated what she called “Jason being Jason.”

But then she wrote: “Years later, when you were 15, you still wanted me to tuck you in at night. So I’d stand by your bunk bed and we’d talk a bit about the day. I’d also gather up your dirty clothes...

She wrote: “One night, you took a deep breath and said to me, “Mom, I think I’m gay.”

She wrote: “I know that,” I told you, giving you a hug and a kiss. “I love you. I’ll always love you. Where did you put your dirty socks?”

* * *

My mom and I both believed that by sharing this story, we were giving Mom’s readers a recipe for how they might respond if one of their kids approached them and said, “Mom, I’m gay.”

Love is love is love is love. 

I know it’s time to get my mother up here to accept her award, but I have one last thing to tell you: 

She wrote All Through the Night—the book where Jules and Robin get legally married in Boston—and gave all of her earnings—advances, sub-rights, royalties in perpetuity—well over a quarter of a million dollars by now—to MassEquality, to help win equal marriage rights in Massachusetts—rights that then spread across this entire nation.

And yeah, that’s our mother-son dance from my wedding to my amazing husband Matt, in March of 2016. Mom wanted you to see this—she considers THIS her ultimate lifetime achievement.

 

Okay. Then it was my turn. (Ahem.)

I took the stage (wearing my Dress. I have one dress, and it's the same one I wore to Jason's wedding. So it's a Very Special Dress). I waited until Jason had returned to our table in the front, and I turned to him and said

Dear Jason,

In December 1992, when you were seven years old, when things were financially dire for our family, I sold my very first romance novel, and I had my first phone call with my first editor of my very first published book. And it was so weird and cool. As we went down her list of revisions, she said, “Oh! You can’t use penis.” 

I said, “I’m sorry, what...?”

She clarified. “You can’t use the word penis. You have to call it something else.”

See, I’d yet to discover RWA, and hadn’t been sent the memo about the 1992-appropriate euphemisms for penis. In fact, this editor asked me, later in that same conversation, “Will you be going to RWA?”

And I said, “I’m sorry, what...?”

She told me about the national conference, and suggested that I join.

But it was then, between our discussion of penis and RWA that she gave me a revision note that broke my heart.

Because even though it was gonna be another eight years before you said, “Hey, Mom, I’m gay,” I saw you clearly, Jason, and I knew. You were like that Pink song. Fuckin’ perfect. 

So when my first editor of my first published romance novel told me that I’d have to change my beloved small-town sheriff because he couldn’t appear in my book just casually, openly gay as I’d written him, I laughed. This was a secondary character... 

But she wasn’t laughing, so this time, I said: “I’m sorry, WHAT...?”

She told me that traditional romance readers were very conservative and they did not want to read books that included even the briefest mention of gay people. She said, “You have to make the sheriff straight.”

I said, “You can’t be serious. It’s 1992. The real world is filled with gay people.”

One of them—you were playing with your sister in your bedroom, down the hall.

I argued. How were readers ever going to expand their worldview if they didn’t get to meet characters like my adorable gay sheriff...?

But this was non-negotiable. “We’ll get letters,” she said. I remember that so clearly. She said, “Readers will be offended, and they’ll write angry letters.”

I stood there, thinking, This woman absolutely believes that romance readers will be offended by my son’s existence.

I stood there, thinking about you, Jason, thinking, If I make this change, you will never see your reflection in my first book. At the time you were too young to read a romance novel—But I wanted you to read it, someday, and see that little glimmer of a reflection. I wanted you to know that, right from the very start of my romance career, there was always room in my world for you.

I stood there, faced with the choice of doing what was right—pulling that book and finding a different publisher, or... feeding you.

As my silence dragged on, the editor said, “Other publishers won’t let the sheriff be gay, either. That’s just the way it is.”

And that was it. My radioactive spider bite. My origin story.

Because feed you, my child, I would, but I also vowed, in that moment, that I would make room for you in the romance genre. Because I would not write books set in a world where gay people—where you—were rendered invisible, where you were erased “because that’s just the way it was.”

It was not by accident that many of my earlier books have a hero or heroine who happens to have a gay brother. He doesn’t appear in the book, can’t offend anybody, he’s only mentioned in passing, but he’s gay and he’s loved. Can I get away with that? I can? Good. Next book, I’ll push harder.

And I pushed and pushed, and eight years later, with the help and support of my brilliant long-time editor Shauna Summers, my most popular character—my out, gay FBI agent, Jules Cassidy—walked onto the pages of The Defiant Hero.

It was shortly after that, Jace, that together with your dad, we got actively involved in the fight for marriage equality.

And yes, RWA, that was my real lifetime achievement. I have danced at my son’s legal wedding to his amazing and wonderful Mr. Right.

Some of you have no idea how impossible a dream that might have seemed back in 1992, when I was told to erase the gay sheriff from my first published romance. The obstacles we faced seemed insurmountable.

RWA, you were an obstacle. In 2008, I was asked to MC the Rita Awards in San Francisco and I was thrilled. 

My book, All Through the Night, had recently come out—a ground-breaking mainstream, New York Times hardcover best-selling romance about two gay men celebrating their love by getting legally married.

My crazy, inclusive, liberal, hopeful, love-embracing brain took RWA’s invitation as approval and acknowledgement that love is love is love.

But not so fast there, you.

Early on, I’d asked if there’d be time for me to speak briefly—just a few personal words at the start of the ceremony...?

“Of course,” I was told. 

But at the rehearsal in San Francisco, I was asked to “practice” reading the statement I’d prepared. That seemed a little strange, but okay, I had it with me, so I did.

It was a short, joyful comment about California being one of a very few places in the US, at that time, that recognized Jules and Robin’s marriage. 

I was stunned when I was informed that I could not say that. I was told that the issue was divisive and some RWA members would be offended.

Imagine being invited to speak at an RWA event and then being told you could not talk about your most recent hardcover bestselling romance novel or the marriage of your all-time most popular characters, because some members would be offended. 

I should’ve walked out. I regret not walking out. 

I should’ve rocked the living fuck out of that boat. Instead, I was nice, instead I went along, and I let Jules and Robin and all that we’d achieved, be erased.

But right here and right now, I’m reclaiming my time.

Because that, my second radioactive spider bite, changed me, too. I will never not speak up again. I will never chose nice over right.

I know this is a different organization now—I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe that. RWA has grown and changed for the better.

But those changes do not—and should not—erase the past. And there’s still so much work to be done, to be as inclusive as we should be, as inclusive as we can be. 

RWA, I’ve been watching you grapple as you attempt to deal with the homophobic, racist white supremacy on which our nation and the publishing industry is based. It’s long past time for that to change.

But hear me, writers, when I say: it doesn’t happen if we’re too fucking nice.

(Some of us are allowed to get angry. You know who you are, and you know who we need to support.) (Note: I cut those lines last minute because I needed to shorten the speech and believed they would be understood without my putting voice to them, but oh, how I wish I’d left them in!) 

It’s time to rock the boat in the name of love and inclusion!

* * *

You know, even before I made my 2008 vow to stop being so fucking nice, I’d long been labeled as “too political,” because I write books that include gay people and people of color.

That’s not politics. How can equality and equal rights be political? It’s about right versus wrong. It’s about inclusion versus exclusion. It’s about embracing the incredible gift of diversity.

If that’s political, it’s time for YOU to get political, too.

It’s time to open ourselves—as both writers and READERS—to the people and their often harrowing stories that gatekeepers have long made writers erase from their books, for fear of offending the people who hold power.

* * *

So here comes the part of my speech where I get “political.” Oh, yeah, I haven’t gone there yet.

Be strong, be brave, be courageous and kind, be willing to take a risk and open your heart to let in some stranger—some scary “other”—and only then will you win the beautiful gift of love, of connection, in the form of a romantic HEA.

That has been the message of romance since we first began whispering our stories around campfires on cold nights.

But somehow, somewhere along the way, someone decided “Not so fast there you. You don’t look like me or think like me. These stories aren’t about you. You don’t belong here.”

Some of us intentionally tightened our circle to keep people out.

And when you grow up in a world where you learn, just from watching, that you are let in, but others are not, you often accept it as your truth. So when you write what you see and what you know and what you have been told to believe, like books set in a town where absolutely no people of color or gay people live...? You are perpetuating exclusion, and the cravenness and fear that’s at its ancient foundation.

Yeah, I’m talking to you, white, able, straight, cis, allegedly Christian women.

And don’t @ me with Not all white women.

Because 53% of us plunged us into our current living hell.

53% of us are racist and some of us don’t even know it!! 

Oh, wait, what’s that...? You’re not racist...?

Then do something. Prove it.

In November, vote these hateful racist traitors OUT.

If you believe in love, like I do, if you write romance, where the stories we tell are about the courage that it takes to open your heart, it’s time for you to do the same.

Open your heart and look hard at your political and religious beliefs. Examine all you were taught—usually by white men in power—and try to see exactly who and what they erased from the stories they then labeled truth.

Look beyond the fences that they claim will keep you safe—fences that are, in fact, your prison walls. Because the diverse, inclusive world that they’ve erased is vibrant and beautiful and filled with hope and joy and boundless love. 

But the sad truth is, we no longer expect anything of you, you 53%. It’s up to the rest of us, including the 99% of all women of color who continue to inspire me and lead the way. 

Stand up. Speak up. Fight. VOTE. Our lives, our rights, our marriages, our love depends on it.

RWA, thank you for this honor. I suspect you’ll never invite me to speak at anything ever again. But that’s okay. Because it’s now or never. And my idea of an inclusive, diverse, loving, caring America is worth both creating and fighting for—it’s worth EVERYTHING.
 
Dear Jason, I love you. Love, Mom.

 

* * *

In a twitter post after the speech, Brockmann shared that “I got the rights back to that book, Future Perfect, and (easily!) restored the sheriff to his true self! It's available in a self-pubbed annotated edition, in which I talk about this (and a bunch o' other things about romance novels from the early 90s!). http://suzannebrockmann.com/books/future-perfect/ …

 

July 25

Report from the RWA 2018 Conference

Or That Speech

By Lori Perkins

Amidst a year of controversy and criticism, this year’s annual RWA conference held in Denver, Colorado showed that the organizers are aware that the times are changing, and that they need to step up to the plate.

 

The biggest criticism of the organization is that an African American author had never won a Rita Award, the Oscar of the romance genre. In this year’s 13 categories there were few black writers among the nominees again.

 

RWA and Avon Books announced at the Rita Awards ceremony that they had started the Beverly Jenkins Diverse Voices Sponsorship, which would cover registration fees, room and flight for an individual author (up to $2,500) as well as a one-on-one meeting with a member of the Avon Books editorial team for a period of five years.

 

And though there were no African American winners of a Rita this year, the winner of the best first novel, Alexis Daria, made sure the audience knew she was a “Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx” who was glad to present the world with a heroine who looked like her.

 

All of the large events of the convention this year were profoundly more inclusive than any RWA convention previously with YA author Pintip Dunn Mc-ing the Golden Hearts, and a luncheon keynote address by paranormal author Shelly Laurenston who suffers from depression and anxiety and spoke about it bluntly. 

 

In two awards speeches at the Rita ceremonies, award recipients told the audience that when they had first joined RWA, they felt unwelcome. Xia Axelrod worked so hard to become a part of the organization that she started the Philadelphia RWA chapter and won the year’s Service Award, and said that she was glad that she had persisted.

 

But all the awards paled when Suzanne Brockman took the stage to accept her Lifetime Achievement Award.  The segment started with gave an overview of her life and work by her son Jason T. Gaffney who premiered a trailer for his film, but the evening took a turn when Brockmann took the stage and burst forth with a blistering speech that assailed romance editors who had made her erase her gay characters and fight so hard to include them in a romance world that should have reflected the real life of readers.  She took RWA to task for stopping her from celebrating gay marriage in a speech years ago, and told the romance audience that “change doesn’t happen if you’re fucking nice” and that it was time to make romance more inclusive. 

 

Brockmann went on to tell the audience of mostly white women that  “It’s time to rock the boat in the name of love and inclusion” and that “it’s time for YOU to get political, too. because 53% of us plunged us into our current living hell…and 53% of us are racist and some of us don’t even know it!!” That’s when a handful of people left the room, and the rest of the room applauded in a standing ovation.

 

This speech will become legend in Romancelandia, and Romance Daily News will be printing it in its entirety in tomorrow’s edition.

 

July 24

Every Day Romance: Love After Tragedy

By Lilli McHale

The Boston Marathon, bombing on April 15th 2013 was a tragic day in American history where three people were killed and hundreds were injured. One of the approximately 264 injured was James Costello, who was at the finish line when the two bombs went off.  Costello, alongside his two friends who lost their legs, was rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital, before being moved to Spalding Rehabilitation Hospital. While at Spalding, Costello met Krista D’Agostino, a travelling nurse on a six-week tour at Spalding. 

D’Agostino was one of the nurses who helped care for Costello during his two-week stint in in-patient therapy during which he underwent multiple surgeries to heal multiple intense burns he received during the bombing. Costello quickly realized that the friendship they were developing, during his hospitalization, was something special; “After sharing a handful of conversations, I realized not only how beautiful she was but also what a kind heart she had. I somehow convinced her to attend a benefit with me, which turned into a few dates, which turned into a few inseparable months,” he explained to abcnews.

The couple fell in love as their friendship transformed into a romance. During a December 2013 all-expense paid cruise to Europe, paid for by Vantage Deluxe World Travel for Boston Marathon bombing survivors, Costello got down on his knee and proposed. The wedding was in August of 2014 and was Nantucket-themed, due to the couple’s joint love of the beach and ocean. The two continued their beach-filled celebration of love in Hawaii. Their wedding services were donated by Lolagrace Events and The Hilton and as their own way to pay it forward, Costello and D’Agostino are donating D’Agostino’s wedding dress to the Semper Fi Foundation. 

This story originally appeared on https://abcnews.go.com/US/boston-marathon-bombing-survivor-james-costello-weds-nurse/story?id=25145264

 

July 23

Every Day Romance: Love After Tragedy

By Lori Perkins

I am a sucker for Romance Writers of America awards ceremonies.  I always cry, and they make me happy and so proud to be working in this segment of the publishing industry.

 

I love the Golden Heart Awards, which are given to unpublished works by aspiring writers. They are often the harbingers of what’s to come in the genre and the first step on the ladder to best-sellerdom for romance writers.  If you look over a list of past winners, you’ll see that so many recognizable stars got their start there.  And that was the gist of the opening speech that Pintip Dunn gave where she talked about how only six years earlier she had been in the audience as an RWA newbie and how she won a Golden Heart Award a few years later, and now has not one, but two publishers!

 

Dunn also reminded the audience that it’s not winning the Golden Heart in your category that really matters, but making the grade, reminding the audience that everyone nominated is a winner, and that being part of this writing community is the prize itself.

 

The first Golden Heart went to Arianna James for Thrown, a contemporary romance.  She thanked her mom for always encouraging her to read and write romance and her husband who she called “the happy ending I never saw coming and the love of my life.” That’s what I go to these awards ceremony for!

 

Janet Raye Stevens won for Contemporary Short with her story Cole for Christmas.  She also thanked her mom, who she said was the definition of an avid reader and read at least a book a day.  She said that she didn’t think it was a coincidence that Borders went out of business the week after her mother died. 

 

The Duke of Charlotte Street by Scarlett Peckham won in Historical Romance, and she thanked RWA for acknowledging a heroine and historical romance plots that was far from mainstream and feminist to boot. 

 

When author Anne Murray stepped up to the podium to accept her award for Birds of a Feather in Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance category, she grabbed the mic and said, “so, my heroine is a real bitch because she had to give up everything she loves to save the world.” Then she thanked RWA for giving this award to a heroine who is not likable and reminded us that female characters in books are not allowed to be unlikable, but men – citing Holden Caulfield,  Humbert and Alexander Portnoy – are revered.

 

Kay Hudson won the Paranormal Romance Golden Heart for Jinn on the Rocks, and told us that this was her first entry.  “First time’s a charm,” she said.

 

And then she went on to tell us about a real hero – her father, who she informed us was having heart surgery today and told her “Honey, you go,” when she asked if she should cancel the conference. She informed us that his surgery went well, and that her husband was by his side, feeding him Oreo cookies. Again, this is why I love these ceremonies.

Pamela Varnado won in the Romantic Suspense category for her novel Extreme Fear and came on stage with a “wow! She then thanked “her future agent and editor” and we all laughed, but know she’ll have one by the end of the conference.

 

C.R. Grissom received the Golden Heart for Young Adult Romance with her novel Mouthful where she thanked her fellow RWA chapter members, and family who put up with her self-imposed deadlines, echoing Varnado hoping to have an agent and editor in the very near future.

 

Every winner also thanked the sisterhood of writers that make the dream of standing up there and receiving a Golden Heart a reality.

 

And that’s also why I love this award ceremony.

 

July 22

Stranger Saves Wedding

By Lori Perkins

Dulce Gonzalez, 24, met her fiancé on the beach. The two used to meet up and flirt with each other on the Mississippi Coastline. Thus, the two desperately wanted to have their wedding on the beach they used to hang out at. 

The day of the wedding thunder boomed, and lightning flickered. Gonzalez watched the weather from her parent’s car sadly looking out at her fairytale wedding set up on the Mississippi Coastline. While holding back tears, and trying to contain her panic, Gonzalez looked at her mom and asked her what she thought they should do. 

Seconds later a woman walked up their car and told them to hold their wedding in her house. The woman, Cynthia Strunk, and her husband, Shannon, had watched the beachfront preparations all morning. While weddings are common on Pascagoula, Mississippi, the Strunks, who have lived in town 19 years, have never seen the weather cancel one, and did not want this to be the first. 

Strunk ran back to her house and asked for 10 minutes to get the house all cleaned up from her oodles of grandchildren. Due to her large family, Strunk had two dozen extra chairs and placed them in their gallery room which features marble floors, a concert piano, and a vestibule that served as a makeshift altar. 

The Strunks ushered in the 50 or so guests and a shocked Gonzalez got to exchange her vows with her fiancée, Ariel Gonzalez. While the two didn’t get to stand on the beach for the nuptials, the gallery room in the beach front house featured windows that showed off the beach. The Strunks stole glances at the ceremony from their kitchen and the Gonzalezs’ held their reception at the restaurant where they got engaged. 

The Gonzalez family was so thankful for the experience that they recently visited the Strunks to thank  them again with a cake and flowers. 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2018/07/12/a-storm-was-ruining-this-beach-wedding-then-a-total-stranger-made-the-bride-an-offer/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.3121d2aa5304

 

July 21

Stranger Saves Wedding

By Lori Perkins

As the publisher of Riverdale Avenue Books, a company that publishes a lot of erotic romance, I was recently approached by the staff of VicelandTV’s Slutever show for a segment they were putting together on Monster Fantasies. At first I was a little surprised, but then I realized we actually do publish a lot of what could be labeled “monster fantasies” if you considered all the werewolf ménage, vampire porn and alien interbreeding novels we sell under the “paranormal romance” banner.

I started to ask myself, is this a thing?

And the answer was, of course.

 

You know how you see something over and over again and it just kind of seeps into your consciousness and then all of a sudden you realize that there’s an unmistakable pattern? Well, let me be the first to inform you that American women (don’t know about the rest of the world) are obsessed with Monster loving.

Google “paranormal romance” and just look at the titles that come up in your feed – novels featuring cowboy shifters, werebears, demons, dragons and a hell of a lot of strange beasts you didn’t know you wanted to know better, but now that you’ve read the title, you just have to see where it goes. And it goes there.

Consider the above when you realize that The Shape of Water, a beautifully-shot, quirky film about the romance between a captured river god and the deaf woman who falls in love with him, won the Oscar for best picture beating out two WWII movies.

This year’s the Cinekink film festival in the East Village offered an entire evening’s selection of short films dedicated to the theme of Monster Sex. And all of the filmmakers were women.

Looking back, I can say this trend started about a year ago (not too long after a change in political sides) with the release of Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast. While social media was obsessing about the brief gay moment in the film, romance writers were pounding out entire series of novels about just what went on between those closed estate doors when the candelabra went out.

Why are women obsessed with male monsters now?

I could be sarcastic and say it’s because we have one in the White House, but that would be easy, and ultimately wrong. I imagine that most men would say it’s because women are obsessed with size, but while that does play a small part in this trend (werebears and dragon-shifters are said to make better partners for Big Beautiful Women [BBW] lovers), the trend is actually not about the beasts, so much as it is about the women who love them. 

Commercial romantic fiction has followed a troupe of the maiden and the alpha male for as long as I can remember.  Until recently, these paranormal versions of the alpha male were simply supernatural reinterpretations of the heroes you would find in a contemporary romance, i.e. very rich and powerful vampires, or the leader of the werewolf pack.  Just as in modern-day romances, these beasts are damaged and the woman’s true love is the thing that will make them whole – or human, even if they are not.

However, the recent spate of Monster Sex is all about the women.  The male monster is a cipher – he could be anything, as long as he is good in bed. As we’ve seen in The Shape of Water, he doesn’t even have to speak (and either does she). Women are tired of explaining themselves, they are tired of wearing heels and saving the world while waiting for Mr. Right, because they know he is as real as the were-cowboy next door. So as long as they are making up this man of their dreams, he might as well have wings and/or be a god-on-Earth.

Let’s face it, in this era of #MeToo, we have seen the truly monstrous side of men in the likes of the Harvey Weinsteins in our lives and we know it’s not just behind the scenes in Hollywood, but in our offices, board rooms, newsrooms and classrooms.  Monstrous men are everywhere in real life, so we need something else in our fantasies.

 A surprising number of the recent monster fantasy novels and films feature the woman as the aggressor, or at least the equal of the beast. Often he thinks he is seceding her, but the tables turn rather quickly. She usually surprises him with just how powerful she is, and he better love her for it…or else. I think this is definitely a sign of our times.

And it just might be time for men to be a little afraid about walking home in the dark.

 

Lori Perkins is the Publisher of Riverdale Avenue Books, as well as the editor of many erotic romance anthologies including the recently published Women Who Love Monsters. VicelandTV’s Slutever featured an episode on “Monster Fantasies”  in this link, https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6h18as