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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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.

Call For Submission: Who’s That Girl?

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Who’s That Girl?


Scandalous Books, an Entangled Publishing imprint, invites you to participate in a unique anthology opportunity using a book cover as a writing prompt. Who is the woman in the picture? What is her story? You tell us. We’ll choose four stories that entertain us the most. They need to be romance, they need to happen in the early 20th Century, they need to be 20-25k, and they need to be submitted by February 15, 2014. The rest is up to you. We are open to any heat level and any tone. Let your imagination take you someplace fun, intriguing, and most especially…scandalous.

Please submit to: https://entangledpublishing.submittable.com/submit/19013 and put Who’s That Girl in the ATTN: box.

What Is African-American Historical Romance?

This summer, I began compiling a list of all the African-American historical romance novels I could find. This was not a solo project by any means. A special shout out goes to Beverly, Erica and Shantal, three very special ladies who spent their free time surfing the internet for all things African-American historical romance and Black women’s fiction in general. Together, we have found 154 titles so far.

However, I was surprised by the types of questions that came up as we created this list:

  •  Should we include titles written by non-African-American authors?
  •  What if the hero is African-American but the heroine is of a different background?
  • And, what if the neither the hero nor the heroine are African-American but the author is, as in the case of Francis Ray’s Regency The Bargain, Vanessa Reilly’s inspirational Regency Madeline’s Protector and Mallory Malone’s Devil’s Angel set in medieval Ireland?
  • What if the historical portrayal of African-American women is controversial, like The Help, or even offensive?
  • Which time periods are considered historical?
  • What if the novel is a love story that was not “historical” at the time it was written, like Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God?

These questions forced me to consider exactly what type of book is considered “African-American Historical Romance.” For example, Beverly Jenkins’s historical titles are no-brainers. She is an African-American author writing about African-American heroines and African-American/ multicultural heroes. But for the other scenarios, it’s not so clear cut. I personally prefer stories that depict an African-American woman falling in love. And, I would consider a setting as late the Black Power Movement to be historical. But there are so many other good books that fall out of that narrow definition.

What is your definition of African-American historical romance? What types of books would you like to see featured in this space?

Hello, African-American Historical Romance Loving World!

Thank you so much for checking out this space devoted to African-American women’s history and the romance novels that celebrate this history. The title “Aren’t I A Heroine?” is a play on the speech given by Sojourner Truth at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio in 1851.  Actress Kerry Washington performs “Ain’t I A Woman” speech

I evoke that speech here because the African-American historical romance sub-genre seems to be so small, with only a few titles coming out each year. I want to be able to see myself as a historical heroine too. I want to be able to read more stories of the women who looked like me in the past, and did extraordinary things in the midst of difficult times, and the men who loved them. By starting this blog, I hope to find other like-minded readers and writers aspiring to write those stories.

The planned posting schedule is going to be Mondays with occasional Alerts as books are released and on dates of historical significance.

 

Link to Kerry Washington performance of “Ain’t I A Woman”: http://www.history.com/shows/the-people-speak/videos/aint-i-a-woman#aint-i-a-woman

Wikipedia article on “Ain’t I A Woman”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ain%27t_I_a_Woman%3F