Monday, February 22, 2010

Too Late for King George to 'pologize!

Any video featuring the Founding Fathers of America in a hair band has got my vote. This very clever depiction by Soomo Publishing of why it was too late for King George to "apologize" to Thomas Jefferson and the writers of the Declaration of Independence is an absolute must see, and I wish they'd taught it this way when I was in high school.

And is it just me, or is ol' bewigged Tommy J. kinda, well, sexy? I wonder if his biceps really looked like that...sigh...


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Winner of February 13 Smart Prize!

MJ, you are the winner of an ARC of Vicki Hinze's FORGET ME NOT and Don Helin's THY KINGDOM COME! MJ, please send me your name and snail mail address by February 14, 2010, or I will award the prize to another eligible person. You must send the e-mail to me at tjb @ tjbennett . com (no spaces) with your prize in the subject line to claim it.

Thanks to everyone for participating in our event. Check out IMHO regularly to see what's happening next, and have a Happy Valentine's Day!


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Winner of February 12 Smart Prizes!

Joder, you are the winner of Don Helin's THY KINGDOM COME and the $15 gift certificate!  Joder, please send me your name and snail mail address by February 14, 2010, or I will award the prize to another eligible person. You must send the e-mail to me at tjb @ tjbennett . com (no spaces) with your prize in the subject line to claim it.

Congratulations! For all the rest of youse, there is one more chance to win a prize today, so please be sure to leave a comment for my guest Vicki Hinze and check back on February 14 to see if you won the final prize. Don't miss the deadline to claim it, which is also February 14 (my 17th anniversary! Wow! I'm gettting old).


Smart Woman: Vicki Hinze, contemporary romance author and PhD

As we careen to a stop one day ahead of Valentine's Day, we welcome the multi-published-in-many-genres-of-romance author Vicki Hinze to bring up our rear (metaphorically speaking) as she gives us her perspective on our theme, "Smart Women (and Men) Read Romance." As well as being an award-winning author, Vicki holds a Doctorate in Philosophy, Theocentric Business & Ethics, and her thoughtful articles on life, love, and God can be explored in greater depth on her site.

Be sure to leave a comment to be eligible to win today's prize, an advance copy of Vicki's latest release, FORGET ME NOT, and the second of two copies of Don Helin's thriller, THY KINGDOM COME, both donated by the authors. (Please see my contest page for eligibility details.) If your name is chosen, you must claim your prize by e-mailing me at tjb @ tjbennett . com (no spaces) by February 14, 2010, or I will award it to someone more worthy. Just kidding. About the worthy part, not about giving away your prize. So be sure to check back to see if you've won, okay? And let your subject line be the name of the prize.

I want to thank everyone for participating in this event, from the brilliant authors to my wonderful IMHO readers, all of whom love and support romance. I hope we've succeeded in shattering a few of the romance stereotypes that abound. Check back with IMHO soon, as I've always got schemes within schemes in the works. If you want to be in the know, be sure to sign up as a follower of my blog and subscribe to my newsletter, and you'll be the first to get the word about any new events.

But before I go, let me give you one more snappy comeback for your now nearly-exhausted nattering naysayer, shall I?

Your nattering naysayer: "Romance readers are largely an uneducated lot who don't have the intellectual capacity to read a real book like the ones I read in college."

Your knowing response: "Yet again, mon ami, you are uninformed. In Teaching American Literature: A Journal of Theory and Practice, Suzanne Milton of Eastern Washington State University cited a 2004 RWA study of the educational levels of romance readers. It showed that 91 percent had some college education, and the biggest group, 42 percent, held a bachelor's degree or higher.

Romance novels, and educated readers, have been around for a long time. Many classic books which today are assigned as college texts can be classified as romance novels. Samuel Richardson's Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice are prime examples. So, it just goes to show you, smart people do read romance!"
And may I add, Happy Valentine's Day!

Vicki Hinze:
Why Smart Women Read Romance: Healthy Relationships are a National Treasure.

The demographics of the average romance reader are fascinating--and vastly different from that portrayed by the uninformed. That reader is around forty, and a professional career woman with some college education.

Historically leaders have shaped society. Today, our culture remains as dynamic as ever and it’s still in a constant state of evolution, but heroic leadership is scarce. In short, we need heroes—male and female—to serve as role models.

Heroes are people we admire. They help us form our attitudes and define the boundaries of what we consider acceptable and unacceptable, including in the areas of behavior and conduct. They are not people like us, but like the people we want to be. People who do the right thing—or who do the wrong thing for the right reasons.

Heroes are not perfect. They struggle, just as we do, and yet they hold deep convictions, high standards, and a strong code of personal ethics that enables them to prevail over their challenges. Those human qualities--honor, integrity, courage, and dignity--are found consistently in romance novels. Healthy, monogamous relationships are the norm, not the exception. In a world too often propagating the mindset that women set lower expectations, smart women know that doing so leads only to more sub-standard results and they set those expectations higher. It is, after all, typically women who raise boys into the men they become.

These are but a few of the reasons thinking women make romance novels popular in the market—to the tune of a billion dollar a year industry. In these novels, we find people with motives, courage, and convictions we respect.

Collectively, women largely resent moral decay and deplore the absence of true character. True character more so than any other reason--including our innate fascination with and belief in the healing and restorative powers of love--has enabled romance novels to stretch the boundaries established in the genre’s infancy into the versatile market it is today.

There is, of course, good and bad in everything, and this genre of novels is no more an exception than any other. Yet by and large romance novels are thoughtful stories for thinking women. Some still don’t grasp the fact that women are every bit as engaged in the world and all the subjects/topics that involves. There are no topics “of no interest to women.” Women are women, but also mothers, daughters, sisters. If it involves human beings, women are interested and invested. Yet there are those who continue to consider romance novels trash.

I’ll leave it to those compelled to defend the books to defend the genre. In my eyes, romance novels require no defense. Smart women read romance, they share, bond, experience, grow, gain insight and information through reading them. In my own experience as a reader and author, the novels have proven not only their worth but have led me to conclude that romance novels, and the smart women who read them, are national treasures.

Bio: Vicki holds a Master of Arts in Creative Writing and a Doctorate in Philosophy, Theocentric Business & Ethics. Her first published novel, a romantic suspense, was a bestseller that sold in nearly a dozen foreign countries. Since then, she's shifted writing focus several times. After co-creating the first single-title open-ended continuity series, she turned to military life and has been credited with a Career Achievement Award for being one of the first to write military romantic suspense, military romantic intrigue, and military romantic thrillers. Her willingness to take risks and blaze trails has won her many prestigious nominations and awards. She actively lectures on writing craft and technique and philosophy.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Winner of Feb. 11 Smart Prize!

Sandra Lynne, you are the winner of Carolyn Jewel's SCANDAL and MY FORBIDDEN DESIRE! Sandra, please send me your name and snail mail address by February 14, 2010, or I will award the prize to another eligible person. You must send the e-mail to me at tjb @ tjbennett . com (no spaces) with your prize in the subject line to claim it. Congratulations! TJB

Smart Man: Don Helin, thriller author, retired military

We're heading into the final stretch in our defense of romance, with only today and tomorrow left to make our case that "Smart Women (and Men) Read Romance." Speaking of defense, on board is retired army dude Don Helin, who, while not carrying the label of "romance author" per se, is a staunch advocate. Don writes scary, true-to-life thrillers in a military setting. After three tours at the Pentagon, Don claims he had plenty of material for his books.

Make sure to leave comments on this post, because you'll be playing for one of two copies donated by Don of his new spine-tingling thriller, Thy Kingdom Come, as well as a $15 gift certificate to (The second copy of Kingdom will be given away tomorrow.) See my contest page for eligibility rules. If your name is chosen, you must claim your prize by e-mailing me at tjb @ tjbennett . com (no spaces) by February 14, 2010, or I will award it to someone else. Be sure to check back to see if you have won, and let your subject line be the name of the prize.

Ah, but before we do that, let us arm you with more words for your I Heart Romance arsenal.

Your naysaying naysayer says: "Romance novels. Pah. They're all the same, aren't they? They're just so formulaic. Read one, read them all."

Your wise, thoughtful reply: "Well, I guess you could say romance novels follow a formula the way mystery novels follow a formula (solve the crime), or thrillers do (endanger the hero/heroine, thwart the villain), or any other genre of fiction readers pick up and have expectations about. That's how readers know how to find books they will enjoy. Even literary fiction follows certain expectations (reader will be given food for thought and learn something about the human condition, often through the protagonist's failure to achieve a goal, or by his or her demise while attempting to achieve the goal).

However, I beg to differ that all romance novels are the same. There are as many different categories of romances as there are categories of readers to enjoy them. In fact, the annual Romance Writers of America conference hosts an awards ceremony for both published and unpublished authors in order to celebrate excellence in romantic fiction in which a myriad of categories are recognized. These include: Contemporary Series Romance, Contemporary-Single Title Romance, Historical Romance, Inspirational Romance, Novels with Strong Romantic Elements, Paranormal Romance, Regency Romance, Romantic Suspense, and Young Adult Romance. Even amongst these, there are subgenres within them, like multi-cultural romance, or erotic romance.

So, are romance novels all the same? Au contraire, ma petite!"

Take it away, Don!

Don Helin: Smart Men Do Read Romance

I enjoy reading thrillers. That’s why I started writing them. The story moves at a fast pace so it keeps my attention, and it helps divert me from the daily routine swirling around me.

Many authors believe that plot is the most important component in a thriller, but I must respectively disagree. I think that character is most important. Readers must be able to relate to your characters, must care what happens to them. If readers don’t care, your novel risks ending up on a shelf somewhere no matter how breathtaking the plot.

Thrillers are about people in perilous situations. People mean relationships. That’s why I look for romance in a novel. Thrillers without a romantic touch seem sterile to me.

In my novel, Thy Kingdom Come, the protagonist, Colonel Sam Thorpe, is a military guy, a little stiff and conservative, but a nice guy. Sam sees Jackie McCarthy at a meeting of the Pentagon’s anti-terrorist task force and is attracted to her. They are partners on the task force. This keeps the story moving ahead, but adds a love interest.

FBI agent Alex Prescott joins the anti-terrorist task force. I call her a “kick-ass” woman with spiked blond hair and personality to match. She becomes Sam’s link to the Pentagon while he is undercover tracking white supremacists plotting to steal nuclear material to make dirty bombs.

Sam and Alex work closely together in the most stressful of conditions and grow to really like one another. Opposites attract. Sam and Alex are opposites. And of course, Jackie is still on Sam’s radar, although her father has been pushing her toward a state senator from Pennsylvania whom he feels is a more appropriate match.

I was delighted that Thy Kingdom Come received a five-star review (Reviewers Pick) from the romance magazine, Affaire de Ceour. Romance is everywhere in the world today, and that’s why it’s important in a novel, whether the novel is a thriller, mystery, science fiction, or romance.

So the question should be, if you don’t read romance, why not?

Bio: Don Helin is a native of Minneapolis, Minnesota. He holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration from the University of Iowa, and a Masters Degree in Hospital Administration from George Washington University.

During his time in the military, Don spent seven years in the Pentagon. Those assignments provide the background for Don’s suspense/thriller series. Don’s novel, Thy Kingdom Come, tells the story of a group of white supremacists plotting to steal nuclear material to build dirty bombs. His second novel in the Sam Thorpe series, Sons of My Lai, is due out in May 2011.

Don and his wife enjoy sea kayaking, cross-country skiing and bicycling. They recently returned from a dog sledding trip to northern Minnesota.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Romance Ad I'd Like to See

[Setting: An office, at the center of a cubical farm. A nice-looking man in his mid-30s, John, wearing dark slacks, white dress shirt, no tie, sleeves rolled up, sits at one of the desks with his nose in a romance novel, obviously on a break. Two of his male co-workers enter, spot him, and start rolling their eyes.]

Co-worker #1 (plopping down on John’s desk): You gotta be kidding me. John, what are you doing?

John (not lifting his eyes): I’m reading. What’s it look like?

Co-worker #2 (grabbing the book and staring disdainfully at the cover): Yeah, but…but, dude, that’s one of those—those chick porn books.

John (as he takes back the book): Called a romance, dude. Either of you ever read one?

Co-worker #1: No way. No how, man. I wouldn’t be caught dead reading one of those things. (Shudders) Put it away, John, you’re gonna get a rep.

[John just shrugs and continues reading as the guys tease him mercilessly, calling him names like “Girly-man” and reenacting old soap opera dialogue like, “Oh, John!” “Oh, Marsha!” with lots more eye-rolling, heaving bosoms, and chest clutching. John just glances at them and smiles, then shakes his head and goes back to his reading. They are interrupted when John’s desk phone rings and he picks it up.]

John (speaking into the phone): Oh, hi, honey. (He gestures in a way that indicates he’s talking about the book in his hand, and his voice drops into a hungry growl) Yeah, I'm reading it.

[John smiles slowly as he listens to the voice of his wife on the phone, then he grins outright, obviously liking what he hears.]

John: Am I coming home for lunch today? You bet. Leave the door unlocked for me, would you, babe? Something tells me I’ll be in a hurry.

[John hangs up his phone, then gives the other guys a smug look as he goes back to reading his book. John’s friends stare at him, then look at one another over his head for a long beat.]

Co-worker #1 (as co-worker #2 reaches for the book): So, uh, dude. What’s the name of that book, again?

Winner of Feb 10 Smart Prize

Willaful, you are the winner of Carolyn Jewel's INDISCREET and TJ Bennett's THE LEGACY! Willaful, please send me your name and snail mail address by February 14, 2010, or I will award the prize to another eligible person. You must send the e-mail to me at tjb @ tjbennett . com (no spaces) with your prize in the subject line to claim it. Congratulations! TJB

Smart Woman: Carolyn Jewel, romance author and DBA

Welcome back! Today we continue with our "Why Smart Women (and Men) Read Romance" theme with the multi-published author of historical and paranormal romance and smarty-pants database administrator Carolyn Jewel. Carolyn, being a romance author, has generously donated three of her titles to the cause.

Yesterday's book, INDISCREET, was the first. Today's books, the historical romance SCANDAL and the paranormal romance MY FORBIDDEN DESIRE, are wonderful examples of smart & sassy romance.

To be the lucky person who wins both, be sure to leave a comment on this post. Please see my contest page for eligibility rules. If your name is chosen, you must claim your prize by e-mailing me at tjb @ tjbennett . com (no spaces) by February 14, 2010, or I will award it to someone else. Be sure to check back to see if you have won, and let your subject line be the name of the prize.

But first, more fun facts from our romantic fiction file (statistics provided by RWA's pressroom):

Your beleaguered naysayer: "I can't read one of those books. Everyone will see and know! I'm too embarrassed to carry one around in public."

Your savvy romance reader response: "Hey, I can understand that. Why not read a romance in an alternate format? According to RWA's 2009 reader survey, 6.5 percent of all romances 'read' were actually audiobooks (earplugs are great for privacy) and 5.4 percent were in e-book format. Many hardback and paperback romances are also released in e-book forms such as Sony e-reader, Kindle, and the like. Publishing houses that release books primarily in e-book format proliferate, which makes the choices wide and the books handy for traveling.

In fact, 29 percent of romance readers usually carry a romance novel with them, and alternate formats make that a breeze. Why, you can even download them to your PC or Mac and look like you're working when the boss wanders through your office, when what you're really doing is reading a romance!"

Now, let's give a big IMHO welcome to Carolyn Jewel!

Carolyn Jewel: Why Smart Women (and Men) Read Romance

I thought it would be interesting to explore the different ways one might inflect this discussion. Imagine, if you will, someone speaking this phrase out loud:

Why Smart Women (and Men) Read Romance

When read in this manner, with the word “why” emphasized, the words presume that smart men and women do indeed read romance. There’s an incredulity about the statement, as if the finding were terribly disappointing. My God. Is this true? Why? Is there not, in these words, a hint of something not quite right? It's as if there's a deep dark suspicion of romance underlying the statement. I wonder why?

Why Smart Women (and Men) Read Romance

I do think this one is my favorite since the implication is that if you want to be smart, you need to be reading romance.

This question also reminds me of the time I was at a Romance event and a gentleman author stood up before a room of women to speak passionately about his quest for publication. In the middle of this, he stopped after using a certain word, I forget what word it was and said, "Now, I know that's a big word, ladies." He went merrily on to define the word for us. And I, sitting in the audience of 20 or so women, looked around at my fellow ladies, four of whom I happened to know held PhDs -- I was myself in grad school at the time -- and thought, I will NEVER buy one of his books.

Why Smart Women (and Men) Read Romance

This version seems to privilege the female over the male. But if you say this out loud, the elision of “and men” that results after the emphasized “women” rather ironically does quite the opposite.

Why Smart Women (and Men) Read Romance

Do you agree the same irony comes into play here as in the previous example?

Why Smart Women (and Men) Read Romance

Ahem. Doh.

Why Smart Women (and Men) Read Romance

This version is the least gendered of a gendered phrase since it puts the emphasis on the genre. I also feel there’s a certain happiness in the emphasis. On an infomercial, two smiling co-hosts would say this in tandem and on the word “romance” beam as they held up a romance.

Language isn’t just words on a page. The words we chose, the order in which they appear and the way we speak provides additional meaning. Even here, in a written form, it’s possible to completely change the meaning of a phrase with the use of bold. Who would have thought romance would have so much power? Who, indeed?

Smart people maybe?

Bio: Carolyn Jewel lives in Northern California where she writes historical and paranormal romance. She’s also a Microsoft SQL Server database administrator. She holds an MA in English and is known to obsess over language and meaning.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Winner of February 9 "Smart" Contest

Virginia C. (this is the Virginia who commented at 7:57 AM, February 09, 2010), you are the winner of the audiobook version of Madeline Hunter's SECRETS OF SURRENDER, as well as a signed copy of my historical romance, THE PROMISE.

Virginia C., please send me your name and snail mail address by February 14, 2010, or I will award the prize to another eligible person. You must send the e-mail to me at tjb @ tjbennett . com (no spaces) with your prize in the subject line to claim it.



Smart Woman: Dr. Debra Holland, psychologist

Welcome back to another day in defense of romance, where we feature smart women (and men) who tell you why they read (and write) romance. Today, our guest is Dr. Debra Holland, a practicing psychologist and former RWA Golden Heart winner and two-time finalist. Dr. Debra is the epitomy of a kick-butt romance novel heroine: blond, beautiful, brilliant, and a black-belt in karate. She'll give us her unique perspective on the whole "smart people read romance" thing after these words from our sponser (me) about today's prize:

I'm giving away a signed copy of my historical debut of THE LEGACY along with one of three whip-smart romances by uber-intelligent historical and paranormal romance author Carolyn Jewel, tomorrow's guest. Yes, one lucky person will win both THE LEGACY and Carolyn Jewel's donated copy of INDISCREET, so be sure to leave a comment to be eligible. See my contest page for eligibility rules. If your name is chosen, you must claim your prize by e-mailing me at tjb @ tjbennett . com (no spaces) by February 14, 2010, or I will award it to someone else. Be sure to check back to see if you have won, and let your subject line be the name of the prize.

Oh, and how about another snappy comeback regarding romance fiction for your naysaying friends, hmmm?

Your naysaying friend: "Romance? That's just another word for chick porn."
You (after removing your fist from his face): "Apparently, you have no idea what romantic fiction is. Two basic elements of a romance comprise every novel: it has a central love story and an emotionally-satisfying and optimistic ending. According to RWA, a Central Love Story means, 'The main plot centers around two individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.'* Love story. Get that? Playboy is about porn. Romance is about relationships. 
Oh, and by the way, RWA also defines an Emotionally-Satisfying and Optimistic Ending as one where 'the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.' So, good triumphs over evil and love wins out in the end. Additionally, 'romance novels may have any tone or style, be set in any place or time, and have varying levels of sensuality—ranging from sweet to extremely hot. These settings and distinctions of plot create specific subgenres within romance fiction,'* everything from Christian inspirationals to erotica. So there."
Uh-huh. That's what I said. 
*Definitions from RWA's pressroom.

Let's welcome Dr. Debra!

Dr. Debra Holland: One of the reasons women read romance is because the heroines in the stories are good role models. They are women who are facing challenges, both inside themselves as well as in their business/work lives and/or family lives. They change and grow, overcoming the obstacles to their goals and to a loving relationship. They are women to admire.

It’s true that most heroes in romance novels are idealized versions of “real” men.

Whatever hard edge or dark past he might have, the hero is (or he becomes) a good man. He is intrigued by the heroine, treats her well, pays attention to her, and works to really get to know her.

I’m a proud reader of romance, and I try to spread the joy of reading romance every chance I get. For example, I passed TJ Bennett’s The Legacy around to the ladies of my Lutheran church because I knew they’d appreciate a story set in Martin Luther’s Germany. I figured they’d love the story enough to buy TJ’s The Promise on their own, and then move on to other historical romances.

A few days ago, I was talking to the (gay male) manager of my office building, and the talk turned to books. I was in the midst of reading Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooters series, and I started telling him about them, especially the character of Jules, a gay FBI agent. Jules appears in some of the stories, and actually has his own book—All Through the Night. I’ve just finished the whole series, and I’m going to lend the manager the first one. Let’s see if I can hook him.

When I introduce a man to romance novels, I choose the subgenre that most closely relates to the type of reading he already enjoys. For men who like science fiction, I’ll recommend a paranormal romance or a science fiction romance. Susan Grant, Catherine Asaro, and the writing team of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller are favorite choices. For thrillers, I’ll try giving the man a romantic suspense such as one by Lisa Jackson or Suzanne Brockmann.

I think exchanging books is a good way to get to know people better. Talking about a book you both have read is an interesting topic of discussion. This can also deepen relationships. When you read your mate’s science fiction novel, you may have a whole host of questions that can help you understand him. Why did he like that particular book/hero/plot/subject? What did he learn? What did it make him think? You can debate the merits of a particular plot point, or say how you’d make different choices if you were that hero or heroine. And in reading your romances, he learns more about you. You’ll be able to discuss with him why this particular book was so important to you, not to mention learning more about your romantic needs and desires.

So go ahead and share your favorite romances. Who knows what will happen?

Bio: Debra Holland is a psychotherapist, corporate crisis counselor, and trainer. She received a master’s degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Therapy and Ph.D in Counseling Psychology from USC. Dr. Debra writes fiction and nonfiction. She is a one-time Romance Writers of America Golden Heart winner and a two-time GH finalist.

Dr. Debra is the author of a forthcoming book, Rules of Engagement: How to Set Boundaries with Difficult People. Order it on her website:

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

February 8 Winner announced!

The winner of the $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble is Brandie N!

Brandie N., please send me your name and snail mail address by February 14, 2010, or I will award the prize to another eligible person. You must send the e-mail to me at tjb @ tjbennett . com (no spaces) with your prize in the subject line to claim it.



Smart Woman: Madeline Hunter, Historical Romance Author and University Professor

IMHO continues our series of pre-Valentine’s day posts (from Feb 7 - 13) with the theme of “Why Smart Women (and Men) Read Romance.” Please help me welcome Madeline Hunter, a repeat offender on IMHO and a bestselling author of historical romance--who also happens to be a very smart university professor.

Madeline is giving away an audiobook of her NYT bestseller SECRETS OF SURRENDER, and I'll be combining that with a copy of my latest release, THE PROMISE, for one lucky person to win, so be sure to leave a comment to be eligible. Please see my contest page for eligibility rules. If your name is chosen, you must claim your prize by e-mailing me at tjb @ tjbennett . com (no spaces) by February 14, 2010, or I will award it to someone else. Be sure to check back to see if you have won, and let your subject line be the name of the prize.

Ooo, how about some more romance fiction facts first? she said trippingly.

Your persistent naysayer claims: "Only lonely, desperate women read romance."

Your smug reply (statistics from the Romance Writers of America pressroom): "Hmm. That's interesting. While it's true women make up 90.5 percent of the romance readership, men actually make up 9.5 percent. And, romance readers are more likely than the general population to be currently married or living with a partner. The heart of the U.S. romance novel readership is women aged 31–49 who are currently in a romantic relationship, and you can bet their men reap the benefits of that. Doesn't sound desperate to me. Sounds pretty smart." Smackdown!

Oh, and want to see another stereotype shattered? Check out Murder She Writes and see who had their picture snapped with a romance book (you'll need to scroll down for the picture). It will make you smile.

Now, on to Madeline!
Madeline Hunter: Do You Read Those Kinds of Books?

Well, yes, I do.

There is a woman I know. She is a friend of a friend, and I see her periodically, which isn’t nearly infrequently enough. Whenever we meet, she goes out of her way to ask about my writing. How nice of her! However, she raises the subject for her own agenda. It is mostly an excuse to be able to say that she does not read “those kinds of books.”

She isn’t the first to have said this to me, and she won’t be the last. But it gets under my skin with her because of the way she says it. Her tone, her expression---her point, if you will---is that she is too intelligent to read my books.

Not reading romances is a badge for some people. For them, it is not just about simple preference in stories, or liking mysteries or lit fic more. In declaring they don’t read those kinds of books, they think they are staking out some higher intellectual ground that proves they are better than women who do.

I find this humorous, because the reader who first put a romance novel in my hands had a Ph.D. from Yale. The women in the romance community are as smart as the ones I have met in academe. Often they are one and the same.

The women who read romances are smart. For one thing, they are reading. It is impossible to be a lifelong reader, no matter what is between the covers of your choice, and not become smart even if you didn’t start out that way.

Not long ago, if a woman with a Ph.D. wrote a romance, it was treated as a “man bites dog” story by the industry. Imagine that! Do you think she actually reads those kinds of books too? Even the publishers and editors were impressed by the apparent anomaly. It makes one wonder how they saw their market then.

Those days have passed, because readers and writers of romance looked around their community, and everyone realized it wasn’t an anomaly at all. Irrespective of the readers’ formal educations, the overall intellectual level is very high. With the web, we have all been able to meet each other, and communicate, and we now know for a fact what we had always suspected from our anecdotal experiences---smart women (and men) read romances.

Bio: Madeline Hunter is both an award-winning and bestselling romance novelist and a university professor. She has a Ph.D. in art history, and has published scholarly books and articles in addition to her eighteen historical romances currently in print. Over four million copies of her historical romances are in print in the US and her books have also been translated into twelve languages. She is two-time RITA winner and six-time finalist. Seventeen of her books have been on the USA Today bestseller list, and she has also had titles on the NY Times print list, Publishers Weekly list, and the Waldenbooks paperback fiction list. She has received two starred reviews in Publishers Weekly. Her current romance, Ravishing in Red, was released on January 26, 2010.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Winner of February 7 "Smart" Prizes!

The winner of Courtney Milan's PROOF BY SEDUCTION and Rob Preece's HUNGER is Susan Macatee. Susan, please send me your name and snail mail address by February 14, 2010, or I will award the prize to another eligible person. You must send the e-mail to me at tjb @ tjbennett . com (no spaces) with your prize in the subject line to claim it.



Smart Man: William Simon, cyber crimes investigator

IMHO continues our series of pre-Valentine’s day posts with the theme of “Why Smart Women (and Men) Read Romance.” Please welcome William Simon, professional cyber crimes investigator, as he gives his perspective on this topic. He knows whereof he speaks, as the manly Will is the former president of one of the local Houston-area Romance Writers of America chapters.

Just to remind you, I’ll be giving prizes away each day during the event from February 7 - 13, so be sure to leave a comment to be eligible. Please see my contest page for eligibility rules. If your name is chosen, you must claim your prize by e-mailing me at tjb @ tjbennett . com (no spaces) by February 14, 2010, or I will award it to someone else.

Today's I'm donating the  prize of a $25 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble, so be sure to leave a comment for Will and tell him what you think about smart men who read (and watch) romance. Oh, and let's have another fun fact about romantic fiction, shall we?

Your naysayer sneers: "Hardly anyone reads romance. Most people read real books, like literary fiction."

Your response (statistics from Romance Writers of America pressroom): "Oh yeah? Well, romance fiction held the largest share of the consumer market in 2008 at 13.5 percent. And, dollar for dollar, romance fiction's $1.37 billion in estimated revenue for 2008 outdid all the following categories:

Religion/inspirational: $800 million
Mystery: $668 million
Science fiction/fantasy: $551 million
Classic literary fiction: $446 million

So, no matter how big the press is for literary fiction, more people enjoy a good romance (or a Bible). So there."

Now, on with the show.

William Simon: Do men read or watch romance?

You bet they do.

Some of the most romantic couples ever seen or heard of are in the so-called “male” orientated movies or books of the past few decades.

Don’t believe it? Think about it.

DIE HARD and DIE HARD 2: a lone policeman battles incredible odds and does what he has to do… all to rescue his wife. Blowing up a skyscraper or an airport means nothing. John McLane is not trying to save the world or stop Bad Guys; he really could care less. McLane is trying to save the woman he loves.

Nick and Nora Charles. Originally a one-shot novel, the first movie generated such interest an entire series of original stories was created. Married people can have fun, too, and while they’re at it, well, if they catch a killer or two along the way, what the heck. (TV detective couples Jonathan and Jennifer Hart, along with Remington Steele and Laura Holt, carried this genre several decades after. It will be interesting to see what happens now that we’re in 2010.)

Simon Templar, THE SAINT, as played by Roger Moore. Why did a character such as this, wealthy, no commitments, traveling the world, involve himself in matters dealing with murderers, psychotic blackmailers, stranglers, frauds? Without exception, it was to rescue a Damsel in Distress.

LAURA, both the novel by Vera Caspary and the film with Dana Andrews and the incomparable Gene Tierney. A woman is brutally murdered for no apparent reason; the detective investigating her death falls in love with her from her photos and diaries and letters. When it’s revealed she is still alive, they work together to find who wanted her dead. (The plot’s a little clich├ęd now, but when it first appeared it knocked people out of their chairs.)

REBECCA. Daphne DuMaurier’s novel was spellbinding; the film by Alfred Hitchcock was mesmerizing. The same people brought us THE BIRDS, which scared everyone. Hard to imagine both coming from the same minds.

One of the all time great romantic novels came and went without an eye-blink. BID TIME RETURN, by Richard Matheson. Matheson wrote other novels, such as I AM LEGEND, THE SHRINKING MAN, etc. This was a change of genre for him. A playwright dying of a brain tumor has an incredibly real hallucination of traveling almost one hundred years back in time to meet the woman of his dreams... Or was it a hallucination? Sound familiar? It was made into a small movie titled SOMEWHERE IN TIME. The disease was left out, the rest an incredibly faithful adaptation of the book; it stands today as one of the all time classics.

The list goes on and on. I’m sure anyone and everyone reading this has their own favorites.

Romance is everywhere. It’s not what we do that defines it; it’s how we do it….

Bio: William Simon is a licensed professional investigator dealing exclusively with computer forensics and electronic evidence, and is also a Past President of the North West Houston RWA chapter. He owns all the above named movies on DVD, plus a lot more.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Why Smart Women (and Men) Read Romance

  Today IMHO welcomes a "double-header" of smart people, Courtney Milan, debut historical romance author, and Rob Preece, former Golden Heart Finalist and PhD, for the first in a series of pre-Valentine’s day posts with the theme of “Why Smart Women (and Men) Read Romance.” I've asked each guest to give me a little bio which displays their smartness for all and sundry to see. As you might expect, smart people are not only sexy, but modest, so that was harder than you'd think.

What was not hard was weaseling prizes out of them to give to you, my IMHO readers. I’ll be giving those prizes away each day during the event from February 7 - 13, so be sure to leave a comment to be eligible. (Please see my contest page for eligibility details.) If your name is chosen, you must claim your prize by e-mailing me at tjb @ tjbennett . com (no spaces) by February 14, 2010, or I will award it to someone more worthy. Just kidding. About the worthy part, not about giving away your prize. So be sure to check back to see if you've won, okay? And let your subject line be the name of the prize.

Today's prizes, Courtney's fabulously sharp-witted debut historical romance, Proof by Seduction, and Rob Preece's savagely romantic paranormal, Hunger, will go to one lucky winner who comments on both of today's posts.

So let's get a conversation going! I'll feed you fun facts about romantic fiction you can bandy around at your next party, and then you can direct your naysayers to this blog to seal the deal.

Naysayer attitude #1: "Nobody I know reads those kinds of books."

Your response (statistics from the Romance Writers of America pressroom): "Well, that can't be true, because Romance Fiction makes up $1.37 billion in sales each year. In 2008, romance was the top performing category on the New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly best-seller lists. According to one survey, 74.8 million people read at least one romance novel in 2008. So...chances are, if you asked four people if they read romance, and they all denied it, at least one of them was lying!"

Now, on to our guests.


Smart Woman: Courtney Milan, debut historical romance author

Courtney Milan: For this post, TJ asked me to provide a biography explaining why I was "smart." I balked. First, anytime anyone ever declares themselves smart, all I can think of is Homer Simpson dancing around, declaring, "I am so smart!" while his house caught fire behind him. Second, I don't think biography ever proves someone is smart. You can have PhDs from every Ivy League school out there and still not be smart, and there are some extremely intelligent people who have never graduated from anything.

Smart isn't a piece of paper. It isn't even several hundred pieces of paper bound according to university rules into a dissertation. You judge smart by how someone acts, what they do, how they make decisions--not by whether they've managed to grab themselves a handful of degrees.

I know this, because I do actually have that handful of degrees, and they didn't stop me from being stupid. For years of my adult life, I shelved my growing collection of romance books spine-in on my shelves so my "smart" friends wouldn't realize I was reading them. I spent money on hefty volumes I didn't want to read, just so they would provide protective coloration when I walked up to the bookstore counter. If someone caught me reading one, I would make excuses--"oh, I just want to see what the masses enjoy."

And these days, I'm so embarrassed to admit that's what I did, because you know what? That was pretty stupid of me. It was stupid to care what other people thought of my reading habits. It was stupid to spend money on books I didn't want to read, just so I could get the ones I really enjoyed. How smart was it to spend so much effort hiding who I was?

That's why I can say unequivocally, smart women read romance. The act of grabbing a romance is socially subversive. It says, "Bookstore clerk, I don't care what you think of my reading tastes." The act of openly displaying one of Those Covers on the subway is one of social defiance: "I don't care whether you think I'm stupid." Reading romance says, "I am not going to bother kowtowing to your foolish preconceptions about me." Reading romance says, "I care about relationships, community, and love, and it is not stupid to think that those things are important."

Bio: Courtney Milan, while not herself smart [Ed. note: sorry for the interruption, but just wanted to remind you she wrote this herself. I think she's brilliant], still managed to bamboozle people into publishing her first book, Proof by Seduction, about a Cambridge-educated scientific lord, and the much, much smarter woman who brings him to his knees. Courtney lives with her dog (who outsmarts her on a daily basis) and her husband (who tries but can never quite manage it). She has a bunch of diplomas moldering in her basement, which happen to be covered with Latin words that declare her smart. The romance novels on her keeper shelf are a lot more fun.

Smart Man: Rob Preece, PhD

Rob Preece: Do Smart Guys Read Romance?

I know what you’re thinking—those pink covers with girls in their nightgowns running out of old castles, titles that make you choke… like The Cowboy and the Diaper Pail or The Billionaire's Babe’s Secret Baby. Who’d want to read that? But maybe you haven’t really thought it through. Forget about those (frequently) awful covers and those (even more frequently) scary titles. Beneath the surface, what do we have?

For a start, we’ve got stories about people. Guy-oriented books tend to be about things and puzzles, which are great, of course. But when you come right down to it, people are what matter and romance authors know this in spades. So, they give us people struggling with human decisions, trying to see if they can be true to themselves while surviving in a world that doesn’t go out of its way to make that easy. And who can’t identify with that?

Not enough for you? How about this? Romance is huge. So big, in fact, that it’s got books for every taste, running from sweet and sappy (ugh, not for me) to sexy, dangerous, and mysterious (that’s more like it). Some of those stories can knock you off your seat and get your blood moving fast. The cool thing is, the women in the stories are getting to have all the fun and, despite what women think, we guys want women to have fun (with us, of course).

Then there’s the fact that ninety-eight percent (or so) of romance readers and authors are women. When they’re writing romance, what are they writing about, really? They’re writing about their fantasies, which happens to be exactly what guys would love to be, right? I see a lot of stories where the problems are resolved when the guy opens up about what’s going on in his head (but with a little tact, of course). Too often, guys think that women should be able to see our actions and get the idea (sort of like how women want us to decipher ‘I’m fine’). Well, how’s that working for you? Romance books are the keys to the code women live and talk by.

On a personal note, when I started dating my wife, a romance author, one of the first things I did was buy, and read, all of her books. She was flattered, of course, but I was smart. I had my hands on the user manual and knew more about what she was looking for than she probably knew herself. The user manual thing can work for you, too. (By the way, I strongly urge you not to refer to it as the “owner’s manual.”)

So, why do smart guys read romance? Because we want stories about people interacting with other people, rather than with machines or murder victims (only). Because we want to learn more about the other half of the world (and see what that other half secretly thinks about us because when they write romance, they’re assuming it’s a no-guy zone). Because reading romance is fun and different—like traveling in a country where they speak a language that’s close enough to English that you can understand if you pay attention. Who knows, maybe reading romance will help out in your relationships with the women in your life (or the women you’d like in your life).

Bio: Rob Preece runs, a small publishing house concentrating on novel-length genre fiction. When he's not editing other people's work, he's writing is own romance, mystery, science fiction and fantasy. He's won several industry awards for writing and was a 2005 RWA Golden Heart Finalist. He's also an accredited Bridge Instructor, certified Bridge Director, a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, holds a Ph.D. in Economics, and has taught bridge and economics at the college level (although not in the same class). A long-time resident of Texas, Rob now lives in California where he's renovating a Victorian house.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Smart People are Sexy...

And what better way to prove it then to show your intelligence, good taste, and superiority by stopping by my blog, IMHO, the week of February 7 – 13. During that week, IMHO will feature a lineup of guests who will discourse on the topic of “Why Smart Women (and Men) Read Romance.”

My goal in lining up the guest hosts for this event is to shatter the “romance reader” stereotype by asking some of the smartest people I know to tell us, during one of the most romantic times of the year, why they enjoy reading romance. I know there are many witty, intelligent romance readers out there, and I want everyone else to know, too, that smart people read romance.

So, if you’ve ever been criticized about your choice of reading material, this event is for you. If friends, family, or co-workers have pooh-pooh’d you because you love a happy ending, drag them here between February 7 – 13 and show them how many truly smart men and women love stories where the boy gets the girl and “all’s well that ends well.” You might even pick up a few snappy comebacks and statistics to throw around at your next party.

And, to top it all off, we’ll be giving away free books and other prizes, like a $25 gift card to Barnes and Noble, while we engage in thoughtful, fun, and perhaps controversial discussion on this topic.

The lineup:

Feb 7: Double-header with Courtney Milan - debut historical romance author and Rob Preece, - 2005 Golden Heart nominee, small press publisher, and PhD in Economics

Feb 8: William Simon - computer cyber crimes investigator and former North Houston RWA chapter president

Feb 9: Madeline Hunter - bestselling author of historical romance and university professor

Feb 10: Dr. Debra Holland - practicing psychologist, PhD, and 2005 Golden Heart nominee

Feb 11: Carolyn Jewel - historical romance author and Data Base Administrator

Feb 12: Don Helin - former Pentagon army officer, thriller author

Feb 13: Vicki Hinze - bestselling, multi-genre romance author, PhD in Theocentric business and ethics

Wow. I feel smarter already. In the meantime, check out reviewer KatieBabs Babbling About Books post on the growing trend of using romance novels as texts in college universities.