Romance Slam Jam 2014

Romance Slam Jam is the annual conference where readers and writers of African-American romance novels get together to encourage each other and talk books. This year was my 6th time attending so it is basically a big ol’ family reunion to me.

This year’s host city was New Orleans, Louisiana. The event was put on by authors Farrah Rochon and Shelia Goss. They did an excellent job. On the final night, they arranged for a New Orleans style second line band to say goodbye. (Don’t know what a second line is? Click here for the history. Click here to see a video of a second line procession.)

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I’ve been to New Orleans several times before for extended visits, so I didn’t do anytime touristy or of a historical exploration nature this time. But I did get to sit on two panels with African-American historical romance authors Beverly Jenkins, Kianna Alexander and Piper Huguley. The first was a discussion on the process of writing historical romances and the obstacles that African-American writers face in the genre. Audience members shared almost identical stories about being discouraged by the traditional publishing industry from telling their stories. However, readers in attendance expressed a desire for more titles in the sub-genre. So if you have an African-American and/or multicultural historical romance inside of you, write it and publish it by any means necessary. Contrary to industry opinion, the market is there and they’re hungry.

The second historical romance panel was geared toward readers and how to make new readers aware of this sub-genre. One audience member shared how she started a lending library for the youth at her church. Her pastor reads every title in the library and starts word-of-mouth buzz as he finishes each one. It turns out he learned some “new to him” history from Ms. Beverly Jenkins’s books. Ha! Other readers also stressed how their personal recommendations to their friends and family members, some of whom were non-readers before the recommendations, have created new fans of Ms. Jenkins’s work. So I repeat, write those books! We’re creating new African-American historical romance fans every day and they want more books.

In both sessions, I mentioned the database of African-American historical fiction titles with two other readers last summer. The list has a historical romance and women’s fiction bias. As promised, here is the link to all those books: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AmZ4GQGc3C_9dGZkYVU5dXN3N1Bnd0FXYWdhY1JLdlE&usp=sharing

It is a work-in-progress, so email me if you know of any titles that are missing.

Romance Slam Jam 2015 will be March 26-29, 2015 in Irving, Texas. It is the 20th anniversary celebration so you don’t want to miss that party. Brenda Jackson will be the keynote speaker. Keep an eye on http://www.rsjconference.com/about/ for all the latest detail.

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African-American Sororities

Autumn has “fallen” upon us. This is the season that I associate with Homecoming season. When I think of homecoming season, I don’t just think of football games and parties. Actually, Greek fraternities and sororities come to mind. Since the focus of this blog is African-American women, let’s talk about African-American sororities.

What do African-American sororities have to do with historical romance? I’m glad you asked. I think reading about how these organizations came to be and the women who founded them would be a great help to any romance writers who want place their heroine in the earliest decades of the 20th century. The popular image of women in the 1910s and 1920s include flappers and legendary blues singers. But if you research the biographies of the founders of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Zeta Phi Beta and Sigma Gamma Rho, you will discover a very different set of women. You will find ground-breaking educators, businesswomen and civil rights and women’s rights pioneers. Actually, the accomplishments of these women are quite remarkable when you consider their gender, the color of their skin and the time period into which they were born and came of age.

To find out more about these organizations, check out these resources:

African-American Fraternities and Sororities: The Legacy and the Vision
by Tamara L. Brown, Gregory S. Parks, and Clarenda M. Phillips

In Search of Sisterhood: Delta Sigma Theta and the Challenge of the Black Sorority Movement
by Paula C. Giddings

Finer Women: The Birth of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, 1920-1935
by Tilu Khalayi

The Divine Nine: The History of African American Fraternities and Sororities
by Lawrence C. Ross, Jr.

Disciplining Women: Alpha Kappa Alpha, Black Counterpublics, and the Cultural Politics of Black Sororities
by Deborah Elizabeth Whaley

I dedicate this post to my great-great aunt Dr. Florence Steele Hunt, one of the founders of Phi Delta Kappa. Phi Delta Kappa was founded in 1923 as sorority to promote sisterhood among African-American teachers.

 

Destiny’s Surrender & So You Think You Can Write Contest

destiny_surrenderWhat an exciting week in the world of African-American historical romance! I have some exciting updates for you guys. First, the new Beverly Jenkins historical romance came out last week. It is the California-based follow-up to Destiny’s Embrace. It features the second Yates brother Andrew.

I devoured Destiny’s Surrender in two nights. I’m not sure how to talk about this latest heroine Billie without dropping spoilers. This young lady is not your typical romance heroine…which you will learn the second you open the book. In first page, first paragraph, first sentence, this woman is literally screaming, “Hello, world! This is me.”

It is hard for me to pick just one favorite historical romance heroine. But I think Billie would rank pretty high on that list. Who would you pick for your historical romance heroine(s)?

 

For those of you who follow the world of publishing, you already know that Harlequin’s annual So You Think You Can Write has begun. I was so excited to see the submission from Piper Huguley under the Love Inspired Historical line. The title to her inspirational African-American historical romance is The Preacher’s Promise. It is about an Oberlin College-trained teacher in Reconstruction era Georgia and the local preacher. You can read chapter 1 here: http://www.soyouthinkyoucanwrite.com/manuscripts-sytycw-2013/the-preachers-promise/#comment-166463

If you like it, help Piper move on to the next round by posting a comment. You can learn more about Piper Huguley on her blog All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes: http://piperhuguley.com/about/
(Disclaimer: I know Piper in real life. I had no input on her contest submission. My first time reading it was today, on the Harlequin blog, after she submitted it.)

That’s all I have until next week. I’ll be talking about the new Sleepy Hollow television show and Black romances and women’s historical fiction set in the Colonial era.

Countdown to the Next Beverly Jenkins novel: California

Happy Birthday, California!

California became the 31st state on September 9, 1850. In Beverly Jenkins’s historical romance novel Destiny’s Embrace, I learned that the word “California” comes from Queen Calafia, ruler of a fictional paradise populated by Black Amazons. (Sounds a lot like the Wonder Woman origin story to me.) So that means the state is named after a black woman. Who knew?

In honor of today being California’s “birthday,” I decided to highlight the published African-American historical romance stories and women’s fiction set in the state. You didn’t think Destiny’s Embrace and Destiny’s Surrender were the only ones, did ya?

Kissing The Captain by Kianna Alexandra. http://authorkiannaalexander.com/  ISBN: 978-1466208377. A sweet novella featuring an African-American heroine and a Spanish sea captain hero. Set in 1879 California. Available in paperback and ebook formats.

The Preacher’s Paramour by Kianna Alexandra. http://authorkiannaalexander.com/  ISBN: 978-1475034875. A sweet novella featuring a sassy African-American heroine and a preacher hero. Set in 1880s California. Available in paperback and ebook formats.

(I believe that Kianna is working on 1-2 more stories set in late 1800s California.)

Dark Sun Rising by B.L. Bonita. http://www.bonitasromance.com/dark-sun-rising.html  ISBN: 978-1-61921-163-6. An erotic interracial western novella set in an 1800s California mountain town. Available in paperback and ebook formats.

Virgin Soul by Judy Juanita. ISBN: http://www.judyjuanitasvirginsoul.com/book/ . Historical fiction set in 1960s San Francisco. A college-aged woman joins the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Available in hardcover and ebook formats.

 

These were the only African-American historical romances that my helpers and I could find. If you know of any others, please post the title and the author in the comments.