Posts Tagged ‘Courtney Milan’

The first round of DABWAHA voting is over, with mixed results for Team Cecilia Grant. A Lady Awakened was beaten decisively by Courtney Milan’s The Duchess War (sorry, everyone who’d picked it in their bracket! I tried to warn you!). A Gentleman Undone squeaked by Julie Anne Long’s A Notorious Countess Confesses, earning it a second-round matchup with… wait for it… Courtney Milan’s The Duchess War!

Something, clearly, needs to be done about The Duchess War. And it happens I have something in mind.

You’ve all read The Duchess War, right? Well, between you and me, you know what there was too much of in The Duchess War? Plot. Also, nuance. And themes. And accurate historical detail about things like hygiene committees and how a handbill got printed in the year 1863.

And you know what there was not nearly enough of? The hero and heroine getting their mutual freak on in the City of Lights!

So, to lure a few undecided voters my way, and also to gratify the little hearts of all those good people who believe romance writers to be nothing but a bunch of smut peddlers, I hereby pledge to write and post an original piece of smutty Duchess War fan fiction if A Gentleman Undone emerges triumphant from the second round (voting runs March 23 from 0:00 AM to noon, Central Time).

I’m thinking of starting it something like this…


“Minnie, look down.”

Against her cheek he murmured those words, his breath trifling with a stray strand of her hair, his rough timbre prompting such a shiver as made her glad of the wall at her back.

Minnie looked down, into the space he’d opened up between them when he’d drawn half a step away to fumble with his trouser fastenings.

Oh my.




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The DABWAHA first-round matchups are set, and to put it bluntly, I’m facing a world of hurt.

A Lady Awakened vs. The Duchess War

A Lady Awakened is up against Courtney Milan’s The Duchess War, and Courtney is an established DABWAHA powerhouse. She’s like Gonzaga basketball: it doesn’t matter where she’s seeded; she is going to be a factor.

A Gentleman Undone vs. A Notorious Countess Confesses

A Gentleman Undone faces Julie Anne Long’s A Notorious Countess Confesses…which was voted Best Romance of 2012 in All About Romance’s reader poll. Not just Best Historical, but Best Romance, period.

So, yeah, I’m facing a good chance of an ignominious early double exit.

But it’s an intriguing and fairly elegant set of matchups! Lady and Duchess both happen to feature some cringeworthy bad sex, and yesterday on Twitter Courtney challenged me to a Bad-Sex-Off. I don’t even know what that is, but I said sure. Because, bad sex? I’m there!

Gentleman and Countess both feature fallen-women heroines who wind up with deeply decent men, which also sets up an interesting duel.

And a whole separate level of intrigue is the fact that my two books are adjacent to each other in the bracket. That means if I win one of my two matchups, I’ll be facing either Duchess or Countess in two consecutive rounds. And if by some crazy chance I should happen to win both, I’d be squaring off against myself in round two. Which would mean some epic, split-personality, Gollum-style trash talking!

So fill out a bracket and vote when the voting starts. Although I couldn’t make this happen in my own bracket, I would love to see Ruthie Knox’s About Last Night meet up with Julie James’s About That Night. Wouldn’t that be an excellent opportunity for chaos?

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Okay, so I said I was going to go to two marathon Michael Hauge workshops on Friday. I wound up only going to one, but it was excellent. “Using Inner Conflict to Create Powerful Love Stories” was the title, but it was really, as I understood it, more about turning points, inner and outer conflict, and basically how to build and pace a story. Author Jami Gold did an excellent two-part writeup of it on her blog, here and here. Go check it out if you’re interested.

I was sitting next to Erin Satie, a twitter-friend (we’d bonded over our shared dislike of “the grovel” in romance) whom I finally got to meet at RWA, and we grumbled together a little about the presumption – common among non-romance storymeisters – that every story has “a protagonist” and “a love interest.” One of the defining characteristics of the romance genre, IMO, and one of the things that makes it a challenge to write, is that a good story has two protagonists, whose journeys are of equal weight. (Erin also did a good writeup of the workshop in her post here.)

I might have gone to the restroom after this workshop. Anyway at some point on this day I went into one of the commandeered men’s restrooms, which are a traditional feature of RWA conferences, and snapped this photo of the artfully screened urinals:

Picture of curtained-off urinals

Yeah, I’m terrible at taking photos, plus I got a new camera and it’s too high-tech for me. But if you look at the left end of the curtain, you can make out a ghostly urinal shape behind it.

Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books tells me previous conferences have gone all-out, decorating the urinals with fresh flowers and bunting, for example.

I went out to lunch with Alyson and Janine of Dear Author, and also the writer Bettie Sharpe. Alyson (she mostly does interviews for DA) has a double identity: she’s also soon-to-be debut novelist Alison Atlee, and since we share an agent we were already a little bit acquainted. I ran into her the day before and she invited me to lunch, so that’s how that happened.

I have a whole post’s worth of mixed feelings about fraternizing with reviewers (Janine in this case), but 1) it doesn’t seem like most romance writers try to avoid being friendly with the big blog reviewers, and 2) we (writers) really face that same issue with any casual social-media acquaintance now, in this age of Amazon and Goodreads. I’m still not 100% sure it’s a good thing, but I guess we’ll all figure it out as we go along. Anyway Janine is well read and full of interesting opinions, as you might gather from reading her stuff on DA, so it was good to meet her. Also I was grateful for the opportunity to meet Bettie Sharpe, since I loved her book Ember and I got to tell her why, in some detail. (This turns out to be one of my favorite things to do: meet an author who wrote something I loved, and tell them specifically what I loved about it.)

I got back a little late and so missed part of the second Michael Hauge workshop I’d planned on attending. This one was about story structure and was built around an analysis of the movie “Pretty Woman.” (I rented & watched PW for the first time, just for this workshop, and I have at least a post’s worth of thoughts about PW, too.) I snuck in late, listened for a few minutes, and decided it wasn’t going to cover enough different ground from the morning workshop to make it my best use of time. So instead I went to “Secrets of eBook Publishing Success,” led by Mark Coker of Smashwords.

Coker had a lot of interesting things to say. If I hadn’t already been convinced that I oughtn’t to worry about piracy, I think this workshop would have convinced me. (Also, like lots of speakers I heard and lots of people who’ve talked about this online, he was very big on the importance of backlist. Write a good book, write another good book, then another and another. Best advertising for your last book is your next book, and/or best advertising for your next book is your last book.) He has a free e-book with the same title as the workshop, so if you’re interested in his ideas, that’s probably worth a download.

After Coker’s workshop came the one I’d circled in biggest, boldest red on my schedule: “How to be Your Own Lead Title,” by Courtney Milan. Courtney Milan has done darn near everything right, as far as I can tell, when it comes to self-publishing, and she’s breathtakingly generous in sharing what she’s learned. She talked a lot about the importance of covers, the importance of the first page after the end of the story in your book (useful for things like “Here’s how you can find out when the next book is out. Here are some other books by this author,” etc.), the importance of honest reviews (lots of them), and the importance of backlist. (Seriously, one of the biggest takeaways from the conference as a whole was get more books written!) She said she believes the single best thing you can do with promo money is get your book into the hands of people who read and talk about books; as many such people as you can. Lots to mull over; luckily I took detailed notes.

That was it for Friday workshops. I had dinner with author Rose Lerner, with whom I’ve been friendly ever since I first read and fell for her debut, In for a Penny. Bear with me a minute while I gush about her.

Something I adore about Rose Lerner is her committed eclecticism. She’s quick and thoughtful both; knowledgeable about poetry, history, Russian novels, and arcane kinds of math… and she unironically enjoys TV shows like Teen Wolf, and can speak passionately about which contestant on America’s Next Top Model was sent home too early. I particularly admire her broad taste when it comes to romance. She’s one of the most committed researchers I know – one of those writers who works really hard to weave in historical details and get the basic social fabric and period mindsets right – but she doesn’t demand that same level of accuracy in all her reading. She’ll never dismiss something as “wallpaper.” Anyway whenever I spend time with her, I come away resolving to be more open-minded about the things I’m not so open-minded about now.

That was Friday. I went back to my hotel room and browsed some of the photo websites from which Courtney Milan gets her cover images (did you know she makes her own covers?), wondering whether making my own cover is beyond me.

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