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.

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.

Book Alert: Freedom’s Embrace by Kianna Alexander

Disclaimer: Yes, Kianna Alexander is my friend in real life. Yes, I paid for my copy of this book. No, I’m not afraid to write an honest opinion of this book.

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Folks, we have a new African-American historical romance novella hot off the electronic presses. 1849 pre-Civil War setting. A hottie doctor for a hero and a runaway slave heroine. And, published by Ellora’s Cave. Ooh-wee!

Freedom’s Embrace is not Kianna Alexander’s first published title. She has 6 self-published titles out, 2 of which are also historical romance (the sweet novellas Kissing The Captain and The Preacher’s Paramour). This one is still a little different. In Freedom’s Embrace, my girl – FINALLY! – gives us a peek behind the bedroom door. I have been harassing emailing this poor woman for the last year demanding to know when she was going to give me my “good parts.” Well, here they are at last.

I love that this story touches on colorism, the tension between runaway slaves and free people of color, and the threat that the Fugitive Laws posed to all African-Americans north of the Mason-Dixon line. I do wish that Kianna had played more with her hero’s ability to “pass” – when a person of color’s skin is light enough to be mistaken for a Caucasian. I think that would have cleared up the confusion I had about the hero Jonathan’s appearance. We are told that he sometimes “passes” when it is convenient but then he is later described as having a caramel complexion.

I loved our heroine Naomi’s spirit. I couldn’t help but admire her bravery. Thank you, Kianna, for giving us a realistic glimpse of the runaway slave’s physical AND emotional journey to freedom. My biggest complaint about Naomi was that she could’ve spent more time acting on her feelings about Jonathan instead of doing all that thinking about them. The same goes for Jonathan too!

Overall, I think this was a good early work of a developing talent. You will get a great sense of the historical setting with a nice dose of sexy time toward the end. I look forward to watching you grow as a writer.

Link to the publisher’s page for Freedom’s Embrace: http://www.ellorascave.com/freedom-s-embrace.html