A Sydneysider for a Week

#IASPR18 was eye-opening. There is nothing better than being with a room full of ridiculously smart people who believe that romance is important, intelligent, and beautiful.

Jennifer-Hallock-Sydney-IASPR-2018

Check out the hashtag or look at Teach Me Tonight’s blog, which has summaries and links for each presentation. I gave my talk on “History Ever After: Fabricated Historical Chronotopes in Romance Genre Fiction,” in which I argued that the exclusiveness of the 19th-century British peerage chronotope—though fun when done well—can be harmful to the romance market as a whole, to the discipline of history, and particularly to authors of diverse books. Click on the image below for more:

Jennifer-Hallock-Sydney-IASPR-2018

But what about Sydney you ask? How was the rest of the trip? It was amazing. I traveled light (carry-on only) so I didn’t bring my real camera. Crappy photos from my cheapo cell will have to do, which of course I posted on Instagram.

Before I sign off, here is the live tweet thread on Mina’s wonderful presentation for #romanceclass. Click on the image:

Jennifer-Hallock-Sydney-IASPR-2018

Also, you should check out Book Thingo’s latest podcast, “All About Romance Lists.” (See what they did there?) It is amazing how much their discussion paralleled my own findings in “History Ever After,” and yet we had not talked to each other at all before they made the podcast and I wrote up my paper. Here’s the link to the podcast (click image):

Jennifer-Hallock-Sydney-IASPR-2018

Now I have to get Sugar Moon ready…and I might have a few more surprises in store. Thanks for reading!

What Kind of Day: Resistance romance gone global

Resistance romance has gone global. It makes sense: idealists everywhere are being squashed under the steamroller of corporate and government interests. Women suffer silently in “toxic workplaces that reward mediocre men,” to quote Naya Llamas, the heroine of What Kind of Day. These women need their HEA, too.

Blurb-What-Kind-of-Day-Mina-V-Esguerra

Take note, though: there will be no alpha billionaire to save the damsel in distress here. The “damsel” in question, Naya, is not in distress. In outrage? In frustration? Those are closer to the mark. Naya would tell Mr. Billionaire to fuck right off, thank you very much. In fact, her “rage-quit” speech to her former boss (which she recycles on a sitting Philippine senator!) would send a lesser man spiraling into his own mid-life crisis. Naya needs a fellow idealist hero with a hot bod and a quick mind. Enter Ben Chaco, Esquire: a former speechwriter for the aforementioned senator. Ben is in a mid-career crisis somewhat of his own making, but mostly not. And he has hot abs.

Naya has an “income-generating hobby” running boutique culture tours under the name of See This Manila. Naya’s video background has helped her carve out a presence online, and her customers pay a premium to be shown her favorite exhibits, the best sunsets, and the most unlikely ice skating shows. When stuck in Manila’s notorious traffic—which, yes, is really that bad—she dispenses “mentory” advice to her younger admirers (and to Ben, who has literally jumped into her van).

Intramuros Manila location in steamy historical romance Sugar Sun series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

I loved the tour guide (and trip fling) theme of the book, and you do not even have to know Manila to appreciate the places she takes her customers. And, if you do know Manila, the book forces you to reconsider your view on the city.

Manila Walled City Intramuros Destruction 1945
The destruction of the old Spanish walled city of Manila, or Intramuros, after the Battle of Manila, 1945. Uncredited photographer from the Office of the Surgeon General.

Remember that Manila was once the “Pearl of the Orient,” and what has happened to it since is not entirely its fault. You knew there would be a historical aside to this review, didn’t you? Well, this is my blog, and I am a historian so deal with it. The Americans bombed the city to bits in 1945—the necessity of which is still debated—and they did not stick around long enough to rebuild it. Instead, they gave the Philippines its independence in 1946, on schedule, and left.

Roxas-Boulevard-Manila-sunset
Sunset along Roxas Boulevard in downtown Manila. Photograph by Rolandave Bola used under Creative Commons License 2.0

Mismanagement since 1946 is a long and political story, and this part of Naya’s struggle. She rage-quits her job in official tourism because she wants to show the real Manila to foreign heads-of-state:

“So I quit because I was deployed to do touristy videos during one of the summits. And I wanted to be assigned to Manila, because I thought it would be a good chance to show the inequality, what life is really like even on the days when they don’t hide the shit from delegates traveling from the airport to wherever. I thought if I did it with some compassion, and with help from the communities themselves, I’d be able to create something and the summit would be the right platform for it. Because that’s what it’s for, right?”

“Oh, God,” Ben said, realizing where this was going. “You had a dream, too.”

Yep, What Kind of Day is the story of two dreamers. It is quintessential Mina V. Esguerra—and yet it is also enough of a departure to justify a new series. Let’s start with the latter. According to the author’s website, Ms. Esguerra did not wish to redeem the anti-hero anymore. (But she does it so well! Love Your Frenemies is one of my absolute favorites of the Chic Manila series.) True to the author’s intentions, Naya and Ben are both uncompromisingly honest, good people throughout the book—and what a relief!

Of course, this is also exactly what makes the book fit into the MVE opus so well. Ms. Esguerra takes two people who have been burned—and burned by a similarly cruel aspect of the world—and helps them find each other. To me, this has the same feel as Iris After the Incident, which you probably know I loved. (Also, Iris is going to be released as an audiobook sometime in the near future. Yay!)

Chic-Manila-Mina-V-Esguerra
Featured image is a trilogy of sorts: Iris After the Incident builds upon characters introduced in Love Your Frenemies, which redeems a woman you love to hate in My Imaginary Ex.

Okay, Jen, but what about the sex? The sex is also classically MVE: hot, memorable, and perfectly suited to the characters. It is a little odd to say “classically MVE” since Ms. Esguerra began by writing closed-door romance, but her recent books have all had very sensual, very imaginative love scenes. Naya and Ben’s first time could be a workshop in making consent and sex-positivity zing—which, frankly, I think is just the point in a book that is about fighting the Old Boys Network. It is perfect.

Finally, as with all the #romanceclass books I have read, What Kind of Day is a smart, fast-paced, beautifully-crafted novel. This book is both on brand and a trend-setter at the same time. I would recommend it to romance readers (M/F dual-POV with strong HFN), women’s fiction readers (strong growth arc in take-charge heroine), and general fiction readers (because, honestly, it’s just a freaking good book, no matter what you like to read). Enjoy!

Review and blurb of What Kind of Day by Mina V. Esguerra

This is the way we go back to school…

Well, my Year of Living Writerly is over, and it is time to go back to school. Before I do, I would like to preempt Thanksgiving with a few people and things that I am thankful for:

These are only a few of the full-length novels produced by this talented group. I recommend them all: Kristen Strassel, Jen Doyle, Stephanie Kay, Tamsen Parker, Teresa Noelle Roberts, and Alexa Rowan.
  • The Weare Area Writers Group who has been a think-tank of beta-readers for the upcoming Sugar Moon (along with Teresa Noelle Roberts, who read the earliest draft, bless her heart). I stumbled upon WAWG last summer at the beginning of my sabbatical. I had lived in Weare for five years at that point, but because my day job is in Massachusetts, I had not met many folks. WAWG has provided both wonderful feedback from talented writers, as well as strong friendships in my new hometown. I cannot thank them enough for both. The day I started WAWG, I was joined by another newbie, Connie Evans, who had a few chapters of her Pine Tree Riot novella drafted. A year later, before I left, she sold out (!) at our table at Weare Old Home Day!
Weare Area Writers Group and Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
Check out all the published authors of WAWG: me (you’re here!), Marjorie Burke, Ellen H. Reed, and Connie Evans. And a huge thank you to the group’s founder and generous leader, Sharon Czarnecki! (She is tough to pin down online—smart woman—but she writes the biweekly reports found on the group’s Facebook page.)
  • Though farthest away from me geographically, the #romanceclass group in the Philippines is conveniently located right in my heart. Founded by Mina V. Esguerra (author of Iris After the Incident), this tight-knit group of authors: publishes books to well-deserved worldwide acclaim, organizes educational workshops for authors, puts on reading events with professional actors, started their own stock photo sales with Filipino models, produces a podcast, and even sponsors scholarships to local universities! Check it all out at their instagram account @romanceclassbooks! And they are so nice! They were amazing hosts during my jaunt to Manila. I was so thankful to have such a wonderful reception at my History Ever After talk at the Ayala Museum, where I released Tempting Hymn. I especially loved the swoons at my “inspiration” photos for hero Jonas Vanderburg and future hero Padre Andrés! In addition, I was able to be a part of the Romance Writers of the Philippines Steamy Panel at my old stomping grounds, Ayala Alabang Mall, and Ana Valenzuela wrote about my series in the Manila Bulletin! That shows you the reach of this group of authors—and how they support each other and their friends. I am so, so lucky that they let me tag along.
#romanceclass books for website of Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
Just a few of the steamy romance reads offered by #romanceclass books. Do yourself a favor: check them out. They are some of the most emotionally-satisfying, feels-laden, creative contemporary romance around!

I am sure I will be updating this post with others to thank, but the day job calls. (This is going to happen a lot now.)

Just because I am going back to school, do not fear that I will not be writing or blogging. I have lots of good post ideas coming up, and Sugar Moon is fully underway in edits! But I have to head off to football preseason practice right now. See y’all later!

 

Steamy Reads Live!

Next week!

Tamsen Parker, Jen Doyle, Sionna Fox, and I will be Reading It Hot next week, Thursday, July 13th, at 7:30pm at Laney & Lu Café in Exeter, New Hampshire. Free nibbles, wine, and steamy reads in a range of genres: erotic, contemporary, paranormal, and historical romance! Click on the image below to go to the Facebook event page. We hope to see you there!

Steamy romance reading by Jennifer Hallock Tamsen Parker Jen Doyle and Sionna Fox in Exeter New Hampshire

Last week icymi…

The #romanceclass community, a group of talented English-language romance authors in the Philippines, did a #FeelsSoHot event at Commune Café & Bar in Makati. They have organized many similar reading events—with pairs of professional actors reading the scenes!—but this was their first steamy read. I was honored that they included Under the Sugar Sun in the playlist. This moment in the reading almost killed me:

#FeelsSoHot reading by #romanceclass of Under the Sugar Sun steamy historical romance by Jennifer Hallock

The excerpt they chose started with this scene of Javier and Georgina on the hacienda, and I got such chills from it that I turned it into a #ThursdayBookTease graphic. The theme today was FEELS, so I think it did the trick!

Under the Sugar Sun historical romance teaser. History ever after.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the #teasers, and if you are in the New England area, I hope you can join us at #ReadItHot!

The Craft Workshops of #RT17

The RT Booklovers Convention is an industry trade show more than writers’ convention. As a result, there are more bloggers, publicists, readers, and vendors than you’ll see at an average RWA event, which takes some focus off the craft of writing in favor of the business and marketing side of things. (And there’s lots of fangirling. See my previous post.) But RT does have craft workshops, even if these tend to be author discussion panels rather than instructional presentations. Learning happens! Let me prove it to you:

What's In A Name Piper Huguley Romantic Times Atlanta

Piper Huguley lead a solo workshop called “What’s in a Name?” in which she discussed onomastics, the linguistic field that studies the origins and history of personal names. She discussed considerations in naming your characters, but she went well beyond online tools—though she gave some of those, too, and I’ve added a few to my character tools site. But her sociological lessons captivated me most. For example, she talked about the history and derivation of gender crossover names. Did you know that Ashley, Beverly, Shirley, and Joyce were originally boys’ names? Many only crossed over to girls in the latter half of the twentieth century. Some are just crossing over now, like Mackenzie and Wyatt. Why? According to Huguley, names can be a symbolic armor or protection. If you have one child, and you want to give her the strongest chance at a successful life in a male-dominated society, you might give her a boys’ name. And there are “born to win” names, taken up by the African-American community when their children could not get the respect they deserved in white society. Earl, for example. Or Lloyd (for Lord). Or Piper’s relative, King Huguley. Or her character Champion Jack. Or Prince. “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince” was a legal name change forced by Prince’s dispute with Warner Bros music, but Prince itself was born that way. Prince’s father had the stage name Prince, and he gave it legally to his son—Prince Rogers Nelson—because “I wanted him to do everything I wanted to do.” Shivers, right?

Heroines You Can Have It All Alisha Rai HelenKay Dimon Sonali Dev Romantic Times Atlanta

Alisha Rai, HelenKay Dimon, and Sonali Dev led a workshop on “Heroines: You Can Have It All.” They brought up an issue that has always been prickly to me: the “TSTL” (“too stupid to live”) criticism. Readers can be hard on heroines, especially ones who make mistakes. Yet, as HelenKay pointed out, sometimes our characters have to make the wrong choices, especially if those errors fit the character or situation. The key is to allow your heroine to be strong in other ways. Alisha talked about this in terms of “competence porn,” à la My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. In that wonderful show, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom) is an utter mess with relationships, but she is a bloody brilliant lawyer. Actually, she is a casually brilliant lawyer because it almost seems to take no effort. She’s just that good. She puts relatively little thought into her job until she needs to save the day, and then—whoosh, she’s stunning. When the show goes back to her personal life, though, she is still a freaking mess. She’s a relatable heroine, but still one we admire (most of the time). Sonali Dev talked about a different problem: turning the reader’s knee-jerk pity into a heroine’s weapon. Instead of making her heroine Mili a stereotypical child bride, she let Mili own it. Mili essentially says, “Okay, I’m a child bride—promised but not yet married. And instead of pouting about it right now, let me use that status to get educated and do what I want to do first.” This kind of nuance is really inspiring.

Bangin Hot Betas Karen Stivali Vanessa North Annabeth Albert Tamsen Parker Romantic Times Atlanta

Another great workshop was “Bangin’ Hot Betas” with Karen Stivali, Vanessa North, Annabeth Albert, and Tamsen Parker. They write hot, hot books—and they give good workshop, too. The big point was that beta does not mean boring. In fact, you can mine more complexity with a beta character but still get all the feels. The “let me teach him a thing or two in the bedroom” is pretty sexy, if you think about it. Betas can be more self-aware, more concerned for their partner’s needs, and more vulnerable. The authors acknowledged that pitching a beta hero is difficult, but their advice was to focus on what is awesome about the hero. Don’t highlight the beta bit—just write it that way. Like any book, get the tension and stakes high. Write it with the best dialogue and the hottest romance, and use those attributes to market the book. The reader may not even know why she loves the hero so much, but the point is that she does!

Historicals Welcome to Americana Beverly Jenkins Alyssa Cole Piper Huguley Joanna Shupe Kianna Alexander Kate McMurray Romantic Times Atlanta

I also loved the “Historicals: Welcome to Americana” workshop, but my notes were a little more sparse because I was too awestruck to really process everything that was being said. Why? Let me tell you the panel: Beverly Jenkins (our 2018 NECRWA Master Class presenter!), Alyssa Cole, Piper Huguley, Joanna Shupe, Kianna Alexander, and Kate McMurray. The latter two I have not read yet, but I plan to. They talked about all sorts of issues I care about, including the need to allow for a more representative slate of characters in more varied time settings, especially in American history. Ms. Bev said that a reader once told her that she couldn’t imagine an HEA between African-Americans in the nineteenth century. Ms. Bev rightly pointed out: “Even in the toughest times, people still love, still have birthday parties, still have picnics.” So true. While we all love our Regency historicals, we have to acknowledge that the real Regency period was one engulfed in war. We don’t get that in our costume dramas, which are significantly based upon Georgette Heyer’s description of the Regency rather than real history. For example, even Jane Austen spent much of her life not in the bucolic countryside—or even in Bath—but in Southampton, a “dock town filled with public drunkenness, street prostitution, and violence.” If you, like me, appreciate a little real history thrown into your entertainment, Camille Hadley Jones and I discuss this kind of thing in our new Facebook group, History Ever After. Come on by!

Smart Bitches Trashy Books Reader Recommendation Party Sarah Wendell Romantic Times Atlanta

There were many great reader events, but one that really stood out was the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books Reader Recommendation Party. Here’s how it went: the Bitches gave a book recommendation each—with reasons—and then we readers got a chance. Sarah Wendell came around with her mic and briefly interviewed us on what we liked and why. Here’s the thing: Sarah is funny. Correction: Sarah is freaking hilarious. I imagine that doing a podcast for so long has sharpened her quick wit, but part of it is talent, plain and simple. What fun! Those who made recommendations got extra raffle tickets. (We had each started with one, if you were keeping score.) After a bunch of book recs, raffle prizes were awarded. Then rinse and repeat. I got to give one recommendation—just one, and it was so hard to choose! But I had to pimp #romanceclass, so I chose one that had both Manila and millennial feels, so I went to one of my favorites: Mina V. Esguerra’s Iris After the Incident. There was a lot of good book noise (“oooohhh”) when I described it, so I hope lots of people bought it! If you want to know more, read my review here.

These were just a few of the offerings in Atlanta. If I did not mention a panel or workshop, I probably just could not get to it. Despite all the awesomeness above, I actually spent most of my time at marketing or industry workshops, which will be the subject of my next post. Stay tuned!