Why doesn't prestigious "Publisher's Weekly" have a category just for top-selling romance fiction? It's no mystery. Or is it? Read more...
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If you think authors have become rock stars to readers, who do you think writers worship?  I'll tell ya: Book buyers.

Enter Barnes & Noble Romance Buyer Tommy Dreiling, albeit not sporting eye liner or package-cupping leathers.

Nope, this intelligent and engaging guy knows that to move among thousands of worshipping women who'd kill for a slice of his time, it's better to go conservative and have a big knowledge of the genre - and confident understanding of what romance-reading chicks want.

"Romance popularity and sales have increased dramatically in the 13 years I've been buying romance for Barnes & Noble," says Dreiling, whose commitment to the genre is clear in the understated, yet still intense and animated ways in which he talks about his job.  "And what's very exciting is that for September, we've bought 159 romance titles - and that doesn't include series."
 
It's his familiarity w/ readers and book trends, as well as his rep for being a stand-up guy in the biz, which made me jazzed about meeting with Dreiling on a recent trip to B&N's NYC digs.  There, he told me a bit about his journey from BN bookstore manager to his current gig.

"Barnes & Noble's buyers are unique in that they have bookstore backgrounds first," Dreiling noted.  He spent five years as a B&N manager before moving to corporate to work as assistant to Bob Wietrak, VP of Merchandising.  Dreiling was thrilled to be given the opportunity to score romance as his first venture into buying, and he currently purchases all romances by bestsellers and "soon to be" stars.

"There sometimes is a misconception that we don't buy ‘midlist,'" says Dreiling of novels that may not become bestsellers but will make money and help develop a following and future book sales for an author.   "We buy everything great that comes our way, something for lots of our stores, if not all of them. " For example, often Dreiling will buy more of a midlist book to place in the author's hometown area or another store that makes sense.

Since everyone wants to be a rock star, I wondered what Dreiling thinks is the coolest thing about his hi-visibility position.  "Probably to watch as new authors in romance have a chance to become very big, very fast," he said, after giving the question a bit of thought.

"Word sometimes spreads in zero to 60, and in about one-to-two years, a large number of new romance authors break out.  It's fun to see something good happen, to have an opportunity to really put authors out in the market in front of readers."

What trends do you see in romance books?  What would you suggest Tommy consider taking a look at in the future? 



You've got the rest of today to hook up w/ Suz Brockmann at Center Stage to talk "Hot Pursuit," Troubleshooters, Izzy, SEALs and anything else!  BN mod Becke Martin's your hostess, so head over to have some fun!

Don't forget Eloisa James' manly mens @ her Review column: "Alpha Allure":

 

Please: Join me on twitter @michelle_rbtb!  And check out my romance stuff Tuesdays at "Unabashedly Bookish!"

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Before there was Edward Cullen...  And HBO hadn't yet decided that what wasn't TV didn't include undead who weren't gorgeous...  There was a time when vampires' names still were mostly void of extraneous consonants. 

That's when Sherrilyn Kenyon began writing a series of singularly clever novels about "Dark Hunter" (DH) vampires, heroes and heroines who upon death become immortals sworn to protect humanity from a race of blood- and soul-stealing vampires called Daimons. Outrageously attractive in human-like bodies, Dark Hunters wear cool clothes and use slick moves and weaponry to poof the Daimons to dust before those bad guys can suck the human race dry.

Soon, the Dark Hunter world Kenyon built - and the mythology she created from weaving whole cloth with the Greek canon - included other paranormal beings including a QVC bling-obsessed demon and bands of shapeshifting animals.

 

The place 2B for most of the Dark Hunter action? Why, N'awlins, chere.  Which is "were" most everything goes down in "Bad Moon Rising (Dark-Hunter Series)  " (BMR), the hot new Dark Hunter shapeshifter novel released this week.  It features fave wolf and bear clans Kenyon fans've come to know and love/love not so much throughout several DH reads, and tells the star-crossed-lovers tale of Fang and Aimee.

Kenyon says she, like readers, has been expecting their hook up for awhile.  "[W]e've been working up to and it continues what was set up in ‘One Silent Night (Dark-Hunter Series #17)  ,' ‘Dream Warrior (Dream-Hunter Novels Series #4)  ' and Shadow of the Moon .' As for Fang and Aimee's story, it's what I knew would happen from the moment they first met."

 

And as so often is the case in Kenyon's aggressive and action-packed novels, the meeting in DMR happens when Fang saves the able-to-take-care-of-herself-‘cept-when-a-stinky-jackal's-got-a-knife-to-her-jugular Aimee at Sanctuary, the bar her folks own and a kind of neutral territory for warring shapeshifting factions.

Turns out Aimee'll have her chances to scrape Fang's furry self off'a some walls he gets backed against later.  But their families' mistrust of each others' ‘breed,' as well as each lover's responsibility to familial duty, will have Fang and Aimee off their Daimon-fighting games - and in that gorgeous, sensually tense kind of angst that makes for delicious story on the way to HEA.

Kenyon's a phenomenal, one-of-a-kind storyteller.   Her down-to-earth dialogue and wickedly keen ability to develop threads that tease and torment until they're introduced, expanded and wrapped up in future novels is maddeningly addictive - and the reason she's a fave of millions worldwide.  Plus, she's one of the most accessible authors around.

What do you love about Sherrilyn Kenyon's novels?  Why are shapeshifters hot?  What are your fave vampire mythologies?

 

Check out my Exclusive interview with Sherrilyn at "Unabashedly Bookish!" 

For more on "untamed" characters, this time, wild-at-heart heroes, click here for Eloisa James' BN Review column, "Alpha Allure!"

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I don't know too many romance readers without at least one brick-and-mortar bookstore chain horror story. 


We tend to brace ourselves when we enter some stores, waiting for condescending
statements in answer to our asking for help finding books -- classic responses like, "Well, I certainly don't read those things, but you can find the romance section back by the restrooms."

And during the trek to the back of the bookstore bus to make purchases with our hard-earned entertainment dollars, we find ourselves a) not thrilled about paying money to be patronized, b) wondering whether more bookstores might want to educate their staff about customer service as well as how many books the average romance reader buys per visit, and c) itching to go back and recite to that smarmy store employee our entire damn educational resume, along with a list of all the really big words we know how to spell and use in complete sentences.


Certainly most of our conflict simply is about how comfortable we are with our romance reading in a society that feels free to openly demean our genre of choice in ways ranging from subtle to obvious.  But store owners should understand, too, that when we find a location where the staff treats us w/ respect, we remain unfailingly loyal. 


Lee Duncan says the staff of the West Melbourne, FL Barnes& Noble store is "amazingly supportive and very pro-romance!" Duncan (in photo) used their new free in-store wi-fi to comment @ H2H 08.01- and sent this photo taken w/her computer. In addition to having a Harlequin debut due in June '10 ("Romancing the Storm,"by Leigh Duncan), Duncan also runs the store's BN Romance Readers' Circle in-store book club.

 

September 29, Duncan, her Readers' Circle and I will host a dual all-day event with romantic suspense bestseller Roxanne St. Claire featuring her August read, "Hunt Her Down  ."   You can spend the day w/ "Rocki" at H2H in a special guest blog. That night, join Duncan's Readers' Circle from H2H.  They'll use the BN wi-fi to link us in to Rocki's live appearance in the store for their Readers' Circle.  You can ask questions, interact w/ Readers' Circle members as they have fun talking "Hunt Her Down," and maybe even get'chya some sneak peek at St. Claire's latest Bullet Catcher back2backs, "Hunt Her Down  " and "Make Her Pay  ."

The thing that makes this event more than just a social-networking party is that romance readers are capable of connecting online "heart to heart," if you will.  So being included amongst a flesh-and-blood gathering of readers means acceptance among folks who'd greet you w/ open arms were you to show up in person.  And rather than thinking solely in terms of impersonal cyberchat and 140-character bites of digi-dish, we imaginative readers can transport ourselves "up close and personal" into the kind of welcoming bookstore atmosphere we love -- and would like to see more of in the brick-and-mortar world.


I hope you'll join us Sept 29 when we get H2H w/ Roxanne St. Claire and Lee Duncan's  W. Melbourne, FL BN Readers' Circle!


What do you think book store employees - and bookstore owners - should know about romance readers that will help the stores earn your loyalty? What other romance authors would you like to have visit H2H? What are your fave Rocki St. Claire reads?

 

Suz Brockmann's at Center Stage today through Aug 7!  Today Suz says she's checking in around lunch time and dinner time EDT.

 

Mark your calendar for a cool in-store genre fiction event -- featuring romance fave Anna DeStefano -- at the Lincoln Center BN, Aug 25. "Tales of Adventure and Romance" begins 7.30 pm.

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Suzanne Brockmann is bumming around Barnes&Noble on facebook all day today to swap comments w/you about her new book and any old thing.  But if you know Suz, then you know Suz.  Which is to say the WYSIWYGirl is as engaging and accessible as her novels -- and she digs using her ability to connect with folks to make good things happen. So even before she was a NY Times bestseller, Brockmann hooked up what we now call a social media network online, one that grew successful not just in size, but in building intimacy and connection between her reader fans.

In a recent post at Romance: B(u)y the Book blog, Brockmann wrote about the message board she created, saying it "...soon became more than a place to socialize – it became a place in which members actively practiced the art of kindness."

 

 I met Brockmann online a few years ago when she was raising awareness of a Navy SEAL's need for a bone-marrow donor to save his life. She writes about SEALs, and her online reader friends support and are very connected to the military.  My online community and I jumped onboard with her; it was a special opportunity for me because in 1988, my career Navy older bro -- my real-life hero -- gave me one of his kidneys to save my life.

Whether her online community is "sending ornaments to the mother of a SEAL who lost a lifetime of decorations in a hurricane," or celebrating the fact that one of her message board members' husbands "turned out to be a one-in-25,000 [bone marrow] match for a desperately ill 12-year-old boy," Brockmann's philosophy of why they stick together to do it is simple and somewhat Blanche Dubois-like. She writes:

 

I have always depended on the kindness of strangers. And, yeah, okay, unlike Blanche Dubois, my dependency isn't physical – it's emotional.  See...I believe that most people are good, and that when push comes to shove, they'll treat others kindly and respectfully. Even when hiding behind the anonymity of the internet.

I'll be visiting with Brockmann today at Barnes&Noble on facebook, not just because I like hearing what she's got to say about her SEALs and Troubleshooter, but also because I love meeting the kinds of people she draws to her.  I hope you'll join us, too.

*Suz Brockmann hangs at Barnes&Noble on facebook 7.29 from noon -- 9 EDT.
The thread will remain open indefinitely, and, who knows?  Suz may stop by in the future. That's kinda the way she is. Click here to swap comments and join the fun.

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If you don't care about erotic genre fiction, then probably you won't care that yesterday marked for many of us the end of the New British Invasion.


Which is to say, Adam Nevill, erotica editor of London's Virgin Books' Black Lace (BL) and Nexus imprints became "redundant."

Such a polite and utterly British way of noting that as Virgin owners Random House UK concentrates on "prioritising [their] rapidly expanding non-fiction list" and shuts down BL/Nexus, Nevill -- whose seemingly innate ability to procure then nurture ridiculously talented authors and facilitate their creating top-shelf works of wickedly erotic novels -- "doesn't work here anymore."


But why should you care whether Nevill edits Black Lace/Nexus any more than you do whether the imprints exist at all?  First, Black Lace and Nexus titles'll be published through February 2010, and backlist remains available for these lovely naughty bits of sexy fun that took America by storm back in '06 and since 1993 influenced significantly the way fine stateside erom's created.  


And next: Because under Nevill's and his team's direction, BL/Nexus authors provided readers some of the most exceptional erom and erotica published.  Vanguard, and occasionally even deliciously uncomfortable to read because of the nature of their intimacy, the books allow women not only to embrace their sexual fantasies, but also to explore those they perhaps didn't realize they'd had.

Yet Nevill doesn't see himself as driving force behind Black Lace/Nexus' success among readers and critics, rather points to the authors and imprint itself.  "I cherry picked the best writers, the best submissions, and what seemed to be the most honest and authentic writing," he says.


And what seems such a simple philosophy worked.  From early on, Black Lace, says Nevill, "was a phenomenon, selling over 5 million books and going into 21 languages.  It had a huge impact on liberating the female imagination and exploring what had been predominantly taboo imaginative expressions."

Part of what makes Black Lace popular with fans of erotic genre fiction is the availability of themes that appeal to contemporary readers, ones often they can't find even in traditional erotic- and sensual romance.  In a 2006 post at Romance: B(u)y the Book blog, Nevill writes:


Sometimes these [Black Lace] stories explore a female character's fantasy life, her inner life and quest for experience, and her goal isn't to find Mr Right and she may not end up ‘happy ever after' with dream man, but will nonetheless be wiser, stronger, confirmed, liberated by the end.

While Nevill moves on from his post at Virgin Books to a 2-book deal with Pan Macmillan - his "Banquet for the Damned" is considered something of a supernatural horror classic - it's clear his tenure at Virgin Books was about the colleagues and the creative. States Nevill, "Commissioning the work of so many talented authors and artists, innovating the direction of the lists and their design, and managing a huge critical path for so many titles has been immensely satisfying."


Obviously, Nevill's not the only one becoming redundant as Black Lace/Nexus close shop.  Authors have lost contracts; some

yet-to-be-published authors whose loss seems particularly unfair won't see their first novels in print at Virgin. 


Yet if American houses are wise, they'll keep an eye out for the bright, brash "young" talent - and the established wordsmiths who've caught Nevill's keen notice. 

 

For as I like to say, one editor's lovely naughty bits are another editor's treasure.

How do you feel about erotic romance and erotica?  What are  some of your fave titles/authors? How are you feeling about the demise of Black Lace/Nexus?  What do you feel, if anything, is the difference in flavor between British and American erom/erotica?

Suz Newz! Suz Brockmann hosts a special chat for BN.com viewers on facebook, beginning 12.00 pm EDT, July 29.  More info here: http://facebook.com/barnesandnoble/    PLUS: Exclusive Troubleshooter Newz here!

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Just left brunch with Jo Davis, author of the Firefighters of Station 5 (FS5) romances and upcoming optioned-to-Hollywood erotic romantic suspense, " When Alex Was Bad  ."  Apparently I shouldn't have ordered off the menu, cause Jo was serving up almost more dish than even I can handle!I say almost, cause I can't get enough romance scoop -- and do a little (ok, great big, but only in privacy) happy dance when I know I can bring it to you first.  So, let's begin, shall we? 

 

 

  First off, looks like one hit series ain't enough for our girl, Jo, cause Feb. 2010 marks release of a hot new series for her, the SHADO Agency trilogy Jo describes as "anything-goes erotic romance."  Boy o boy, is all's I'm sayin, if you know what I mean.  SHADO is the Secret Homeland Security Dept, and they work black ops while gettin' hot n' heavy -- and following through all thre books a bad guy who receives what's comin' to him by trilogy's end.  The books are stand alones, but you'll wanna grab all three starting with, "Eye Spy a Wicked Sin."

But what of those sexy Sugarland firefighters?  Hang on a sec, cause "When Alex Was Bad  " drops first, Aug 4, and the book's in development in Hwood and a screeenwriter's been hired.  "Alex" is a story close enough to real life to be many a married man's or woman's fantasy: What if your spouse allowed you 7 nights of decadent pleasure? Cool, yet here's the fantasy twist:. In return you describe every detail, then accept your spouses delicious, wicked punishment... Click here to read an exclusive, scorching hot, absolutely adults-only excerpt from "When Alex Was Bad!"


Now, for the smokin-hot FS5 news!  First, Dec 1 marks the drop of Julian's book, "Hidden Fire."  Jo reports there's a new person coming to town that you'll find molto interesting...and in 2010, expect one of your FS5 craves to take a larger role in the action.  Tommy's story, "Line of Fire" drops in June '10, followed by Sean's book, "Ride the Fire," following in Dec.  Jo's being evil right now, letting us know that one of those men's careers will be killed, but won't say whose!

But here's the super scoop:  At the end of "Line of Fire," expect a surprise you couldn't have seen coming in a bazillion years, one that'll rock your hot-tub-love-scene-lovin' world right back to "Trial by Fire  !"

Yeah. I know what it is.  Not tellin'. But I will share that Jo didn't take me up on my suggested name changes for the last two FS5 books: "Hell Fire," and "Hell Fire and Damnation." 

What?  They so too are good.

Why do you think the fantasy played out in "Alex" will play well on-screen, as well as in erotic romance?  What do you like about the FS5 books?

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 It's one of the true delights of having the most outrageously fun job in America, that sometimes one has the pleasure of recommending an author whose novels are splendid, but whom also deserves every bit of good fortune that hard work and karma bring her way.

Robyn Carr most definitely is one of those authors, and she's here at RWA celebrating the news of her mega-mammoth deal struck with Harlequin/MIRA -- a sweet deal for Carr, but a sa-weeter one for we fans of her Virgin River novels.  Virgin River, where the men are hot, honorable and out of uniform -- um, you know, they're mostly retired military -- who hook up with these really cool chicks who're smart and strong, some always, some in ways that end up surprizing them.

Anywayz, for the next three years, Robyn'll be releasing 3 back2back (B2B) Virgin River novels each spring!  Now, back2backs rock because their release means we readers don't have to wait a year between books like back in the old days -- like, say, 2005.  So, we'll get more VR, more of some of the best heroes in romance, and more super emotionally charged love-and-life story like this excerpt from Robyn's latest VR, "Temptation Ridge  ."

 

Today at RWA National,  reader fans of Carr's VR series who helped create her 1200-member-strong "Jack's Bar" chat room -- named for the restaurant/bar in fictional Virgin River that's, according to Carr, "kind of a communication central' --gathered to fete Carr.   The online members of Jack's Bar, led by a VR fan, the ebullient Ing, have created a positive, supportive place for readers not only to talk about Carr's VR books, but other favorite romance. 

 

"We don't have a lot of rules [at Jack's Bar chat room]," says Carr, "But one is no trashing of books or authors -- if you can't recommend a book, it needn't be mentioned.  Of course it's not required that you like everything you read -- that's why there's chocolate and vanilla!  But criticisms are polite and respectful." 

 

Carr brings that same style of empathy and consideration to the way she deals the relationships in her Virgin River novels.  Yet while the 'moral tone' obviously is steeped in straight-and-narrow do-the-right-thing in the old-school sense of the term, you'd best believe there's some pretty hawt doin' of the right thang goin' on in Virgin River: where the men are men, and the women, well, think the men look great out of uniform. 

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Yeah. The answer is a big ol' -- and you heard it hear first cause I just left a little klatch with 'er -- ayup!  Izzy's story is next up in Suz Brockmann's Troubleshooter series, book 16 'bout those popular boys from SEAL team 16.  Oh, and did I mention who Izzy's lady lovah'll be in the read?  Hold on; I'll get to that.

 

Seems Suz has a lot goin' on of late. First, she's got Troubleshooter book 15, "Hot Pursuit" coming out July 28. It's centered around, oh, what are their names, you know...sheesh, all that comes to mind is a big ol' bottle of chocolate sauce. Oh, yeah! Sam and Alyssa.  They star in this read, which is a little diff from other Tshooters in that it's got a bit more of the romantic suspense.  But it's also got a lot of the romance in the form of our boy, Danny Gilman in a secondary love thang, and Suz says we see inside Danny's mind for the first time -- he's a point of view (p.o.v.) character -- and it's quite the "interesting" trip.


Suz also is in the midst of an edit of "Gallagher's Claim," a book she wrote 12 years ago but didn't publish. She loves the kinda 'blended genre' story so much -- as does her publisher Ballantine -- they've decided to release it next summer straight to mass market (paperback) so we readers who are finding our purses a little emptier these days have a little easier time gettin' us our Suz fix. And it's a grand way for folks to try on some Suz for size.  The story's got a contemporary romantic suspense set against a movie being filmed about the OK Corral, a noble contemporary hero who's the great grandson of "Jaimie the Kid Gallagher," who just may have been the hero the history books don't talk about and who happens to show up in present day in ghost form -- and a heroine Suz currently is rewriting cause now that Suz is 12 years the more accomplished writer, she wants to make the chick "wiser, funnier and worthier of being the heroine -- and of getting her man."

 

But who's woman enough to get the man Izzy became a Tshooter book or so ago?  Get ready to win or lose your bets, girlfriends, cause Eden's back, and we get to find out how and whether she can work her way to HEA with one of my fave Italian heroes.  And I do love me some Italian heroes.

BTW, Suz says Izzy's book is the last of the Troubleshooters...for awhile. 

How much do you love Suz' books? Which is your fave Troubleshooter book?  Or do you love her categories (series romances) best?

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