Tag Archives: #WeNeedDiverseRomance

Speak on it- Meet the Agent with Linda Camacho #WeNeedDiverseRomance

   Talking Diversity

 

Today on ye old blog we have an extra special treat and something that I hope can be a feature that continues with the hosting of other guests speaking on this topic.

First a bit of backstory – if you beta read for me, you know I love my backstory- that said, if you follow me on twitter @kwanawrites, you know that just about daily I tweet the #WeNeedDiverseRomance hashtag in honor of my late Nana and to bring awareness to the need for more equal representation for all, and in my specific case women romance writers of color on the bookshelves.

Linda ComachoProspect Agency Profile Pic

Well today’s guest, literary agent agent, Linda Camacho from The Prospect Agency, kindly reached out to me about the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseRomance and agreed to be on the blog today answering questions about herself, the industry, diversity and what she’s looking for.

Thank you so much for being with us today Linda!

First can you tell us a bit about your role as an agent at The Prospect Agency

I’m essentially my clients’ business manager, whereby I pitch my clients’ manuscripts to editors at publishing houses and try to get them the best deal possible. I not only handle domestic rights, but all other subsidiary rights (i.e., movie/TV, audio, translation, merchandising, etc.), so it can be quite a lot! I also provide editorial feedback to my clients, career guidance, and a shoulder to cry on. 🙂

Can we get a peek inside your #MSWL Manuscript Wish List?  You represent a wide variety of works from middle grade through adult. Please tell us what you’re looking for in YA vs Adult right now?

I try not to limit myself, since it’s really sort of a “surprise me” answer. My tastes are pretty broad, so if in doubt, try me! I love literary stories, though I gravitate more toward higher concept genre fiction, like sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and romance. Scrolling through my recent #MSWL entries, I see some of my call-outs have been for YA fantasy, western, or pirate adventure; for MG, creepy tales, tear-jerkers; for adult, women’s fiction and romance–How I want some adult romance (I’m burning through all of Sarah MacLean’s books and am all about romance these days)! I could use a steamy contemporary or historical romance that turns tropes on their ear (bonus points if they have people of color starring in them, à la Alyssa Cole’s An Extraordinary Union).

Where do you see trends going forward in the next year or two in the industry in romance?

There’s been an uptick in historical romance acquisition, which thrills me, since historical romance is my first love. For awhile, editors weren’t really buying much historical, but now with contemporary romance hitting a bit of a saturation point, editors are becoming more open to it. I’m seeing a touch more paranormal as well—not a whole lot, but I’m seeing some shapeshifter stories, so I’m curious to see if paranormal becomes more sought after as well. Lastly, I’m seeing more #ownvoices writers being published within these sub-genres and I hope those numbers continue to climb.

On your twitter profile you proclaim yourself as a “proud Latina” that said what do the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseRomance and #WeNeedDiverseBooks books mean to you as a reader and consumer in the industry.

I cut my teeth on romance when I was a young teen and, honestly, I didn’t realize how unrepresented I was in stories until I found my first Caridad Piñeiro novel. That was when I saw what I’d been missing, really seeing myself in a romance novel. It’s an amazing feeling to see more representation today. I marvel at it.

Now as an agent and an influencer behind the scenes, how do you feel about the state of diversity and inclusiveness in the industry?

Do we have time for this question? I think we need to have a lunch or ten to really talk about it! While I’m over the moon at seeing more diversity, we are still incredibly behind. We have far to go, twofold, between the writers themselves and the folks who work in publishing. I’m seeing more diverse, #ownvoices writers being published, which is heartening. The ones I’m hoping will emulate that increase are my colleagues on the industry side. With a rise in diverse books and writers, we need more diverse editors, agents, book buyers, librarians, etc., to help keep the rise in diverse authorship going in the right direction. Sadly, that’s not really talked about. My agency, for instance, is a boutique one standing at six women, half of whom are people of color. So when I see other agencies, especially the big ones who are known for actively seeking diverse writers, who don’t have diverse people on staff? I have questions. The same goes for imprints that are famous for publishing diverse voices and are succeeding monetarily, when I don’t see diverse staff? I have issues. Because while the hiring managers may not actively be refusing to hire diverse people, they are not making the effort to reach outside their networks when filling open positions. That sort of complacence with the status quo is damaging to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #WeNeedDiverseRomance conversation. What it reads to me is that they’re happy to profit off of diverse writers, but don’t really concern themselves about working with diverse colleagues. I urge writers to challenge that and to support diverse staffing as well as diverse writers. We’re out there in the trenches, too, and it can be tough to keep going. Yet if we all band together, between us AND our allies, we can really do something here.

How do you feel you can help move diversity forward from where you’re working because of course hashtags alone won’t work?

I’m part of a POC in Publishing group where we’re strategizing the best ways of doing that, actually. If you’re working on the industry side, please hire diverse staff. If you’re a writer, buy diverse books, first and foremost, since sales figures do the real talking if we want to see more of those stories out in the world.

How do you feel about the recent changes at Harlequin with the closing of the Kimani line? Do you think it will ultimately be good for diversity in the industry?

It’s so sad to hear about closing of the announced lines–Kimani, in particular. I’m nervous about what’s going to happen to the writers of color. I don’t believe it’s a good move for diversity at this stage. I do like the idea of having those authors be integrated into the other lines, but the fear is that even with that sort of scenario, Harlequin is likely going to take on fewer writers of color because there simply won’t be room to acquire the same amount of authors that Kimani published by itself. I don’t know what happened behind the scenes, but if we’re operating on the assumption that Kimani wasn’t pulling in the best sales figures, then what incentive does Harlequin have to ensure that more writers of color get published? Publishing is a business, so regardless of why the books aren’t doing well, low numbers will be a barrier. If that’s the case, even the most passionate editors are going to have a harder time proving to the acquisitions board that those stories yield a profit.

Lastly, are you open to queries right now and what’s the best way for writers to query you if you are?

I’m definitely open to queries! We have an electronic submission form at www.prospectagency.com.

Thank you so much for sharing your time and insights. We are so grateful to have had you here!

 

All the best,

KMJ

 

 

 

 

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The Wedding Day Is Here! It’s To Me I Wed’s Release Day

Who says dreams don’t come true?

I’m happy to say that today another one of just mine did. To Me I Wed, Book 2 in my Unconventional Brides Romance series is out now from Kensington Books. I’m so proud to bring the unconventional love story of Lily, the accomplished event planner, and Vin, the bad boy chef, to people.  I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. This story was a true labor of love and with it I left a lot of my heart on the page.

To Me I Wed Ack Nana

You can pick up your copy of To Me I Wed where ever books are sold or as any of these e-tailers:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2krfm26
Barnes and Noble: 
http://bit.ly/2nr6hFs
iBooks: 
http://apple.co/2ojumlK
Kobo: 
http://bit.ly/2mVZGa2

And please head over to Tia Kelly’s, Tia with a Pen’s blog here to get an exclusive To Me I Wed excerpt and please subscribe to my newsletter  – to be in the know about my monthly giveaway-

and also enter this month’s $25. gift card giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to all of you for your continued support. It means the world to me.

 

All the best,

KMJ

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Bright spots and Deal News!!

Hello peeps! I’m so sorry it’s been a minute since I’ve been here, but I’ve been a busy bee as you will soon see and I’m wishing you all well and hoping for Spring to bring us warmer weather and sunshine soon (I say this as I look out my window at falling snow, yet again, and take antibiotics fighting off an ear infection).

Yeah I’m over Winter.

All that said, there are some bright spots. I have some fantastic deal news that I can finally share. I’m so thrilled to say my lovely and fearless editor at Kensington Books is taking me on for two more novels in a brand new fish out of water small town series! The series will be the SUGAR LAKE series and the first book is tentatively titled:

As Good As The First Time (release date to come- see the pic of the deal announcement below).

Sugar Lake Deal news

And if you follow me here or on other forms of social media (twitter @kwanawrites or Facebook )  you’ll know I had an article in a local paper which I have come to find was shared with another local paper and, funny how these things go, was seen by Jack’s vet. Well yesterday I nearly broke out in tears when I got this sweet note from Jack’s vet office. I tell you people can be so kind and generous at times. And I’m so grateful for that. Talk about a proud moment of being a fur baby’s mama!

good news scarsdale and deal

Kwana and Jack 3

Thanks for hanging with me and all the support. You don’t know how much it means to me. Or maybe you do.

I think you might. Once again I hope all is well where you are.

Sending wishes of Lovely Reading!

 

All the best,

KMJ

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Insert Groom Is Finally Here! #WeNeedDiverseRomance

Today is one of those days where the life I’m living feels quite unlikely. A woman like me starts to think and reverts back to the girl I was growing up in Harlem and Washington Heights. Back then I spent almost as much time on the ‘A’ train as I did off of it as I commuted back and forth to school. In those days I always had my nose in a book and if a book wasn’t to be had I would erase my surroundings and retreat to the way back of my imagination and come up with a story of my very own. On the train there were plenty of characters for story fodder.

Well today a story of my very own is out and released into the world in a way that is almost beyond my dreams.

insert-groom-fb-igh-fb-ad-5

INSERT GROOM HERE is my first single title and the first in my Unconventional Brides Series and here is the kicker, this book being release from Kensington publishing is the first for me that will be out in book stores and retail outlets and holy crackers there are even some libraries that will carry it! The thought of it overwhelms me. The thought that there may be another girl out there growing up somewhere like I did, who at a certain point may desperately need an escape from her everyday life on the commuter train or a home life which is not the fairy-tale her mask pretends it to be. The fact that she may find that escape in one of my books that she happens upon with a heroine that happens to look like her makes me so very happy.

I am grateful to God to have made it to this point in my career and know I have so much further to go, both in my writing and in helping to make more of these types of stories more equally accessible to the public.

Sidebar: #WeNeedDiverseRomance

But for now, today, I know day dreaming is not for nothing. Dreaming combined with work can lead to a moment of fulfillment greater than I ever imagined.

 

And now for the pluggy part about my book:

INSERT GROOM HERE Book #1 the  
Unconventional Brides Series

 
Eva Ward has won a lavish wedding on the nation’s hottest morning show and can’t wait to kick off her
happily-ever-after in style. Too bad her fiancé backs out on-air—and cameraman Aidan Walker makes sure her private meltdown goes viral, down to the last couch-kicking moment. The only way Eva can save face and keep her perfect nuptial plans on track is to star in a new “find-a-groom” reality segment. But finding Mr. Right in one month means ignoring her handsome new producer—none other than Aidan himself—and getting their instant, exasperating attraction out of her system…

Eva soon finds there’s a lot more to Aidan than freewheeling charm. But one glimpse of his caring side can’t make up for off-camera politics, Aidan’s own secrets—or Eva’s fear that they’re too different to ever trust each other. So it’s time for her to flip this script, write twists no one will see coming—and risk her heart to get the real thing…

Be one of the first to be introduced to the 
Unconventional Brides and grab your copy today where ever books are sold !  

Kensington: http://bit.ly/2eh61Vb
Amazon: http://amzn.to/28Mbqk3
iBooks: http://apple.co/28RPaWU
Barnes and Noble:  http://bit.ly/2gwFuas
Kobo: http://bit.ly/2g8Fhtp

 

And a bonus: please subscribe to my mailing list on the right and click below to enter this month’s giveaway!

Hint: it’s FIRE! (Kindle Fire)

http://gvwy.io/wbjmjcd

All the best,

KMJ

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Burning Bright with author Stacey Agdern

Tis the season and timing could not be more perfect for today’s author interview. I’m so excited to have my friend the super talented Stacey Agdern on ye old blog today to talk about her contribution to BURNING BRIGHT the new Chanukah Anthology out from Avon Impulse.

Thanks so much for being here today Stacey!

Thank you so much for having me. It means a great deal *hug*

Stacey Burning Bright Cover

First off can you tell us a bit about BURNING BRIGHT? How did this anthology come together?

I pitched a single title Chanukah story to an editor at a luncheon hosted by one of the two RWA chapters I belong to (waves to LIRW). Two months later, I was sitting with Tessa Woodward, hashing out how the anthology would work.  Chanukah. Jewish Characters. Jewish authors. An introduction by Sarah Wendell, and we were off to the races. I recruited Megan, Jennifer and KK , sobbing all over each of them with excitement and pride.  I couldn’t believe this was happening.  Neither could they (they also probably wanted me to stop crying;).

They came up with some really cool stuff, no? 

Blurb:

This December, take a break from dreidel spinning, gelt winning, and latke eating to experience the joy of Chanukah. When you fall in love during the Festival of Lights, the world burns a whole lot brighter.

It’s definitely not love at first sight for Amanda and her cute but mysterious new neighbor, Ben. Can a Chanukah miracle show them that getting off on the wrong foot doesn’t mean they can’t walk the same road?

Lawyers in love, Shari Cohen and Evan Sonntag are happy together. But in a moment of doubt, he pushes her away—then soon realizes he made a huge mistake. To win her back, it might take something like a Chanukah miracle.

When impulsive interior designer Molly Baker-Stein barges into Jon Adelman’s apartment and his life intent on planning the best Chanukah party their building has ever seen, neither expects that together they just might discover a Home for Chanukah.

All Tamar expected from her Israel vacation was time to hang out with one of her besties and to act like a tourist, cheesy t-shirt and all, in her two favorite cities. She definitely was not expecting to fall for Avi, a handsome soldier who’s more than she ever dreamed

 

What inspired you to write your story?

Three different elements-two happy and one sad.  An anthology that never came to pass about characters celebrating thanksgiving in a New York apartment building (thank you Tamsin!), a Chanukah party that is becoming one of my favorite annual traditions( Latkepalooza)  and the death of my great aunt Bernice.  Mix them together with a bit of amazing New York food, and you have ‘A Home for Chanukah’.

This year especially diversity his caught on as a big word in romance and you have been a champion for more diversity in the genre. Tell us why is it so important to you and what does the word mean to you?

Diversity, to me, means a romance genre that reflects the world we live in.  Books telling the stories where the characters (and authors)  are of all races, sexualities and faiths.  Where readers can see themselves in the lead roles and not just in the secondary characters we hope (and pray) will eventually get their own books.

It’s important to me for many reasons, but the most relevant for this piece is the following : I want to live in a world where a character’s Judaism doesn’t disqualify them from having a leading role in a romance novel and an on the page romance.  I want there to be the possibility that the word ‘inspirational’ doesn’t mean Christian.  I don’t want someone else writing an article about Jewish characters in leading roles in romance novels to have to struggle, like I did, to find 8.

Also, can I say how lucky the romance community is to have you, Kwana?  You lay the groundwork for a diversity conversation that is genuinely inclusive of all types of diversity, whether it is based on race, sexuality or faith.  That is a priceless gift.

You are so kind to say that. Thank you and thank you once again for it and all you do.

 

 

Tell us a bit about your writing schedule. Are you a Plotter or a Pantser?

Mostly a pantser.  When I start to write I need: 1.my general direction 2.a bit of knowledge about my characters. 3. The beginnings of my playlist.  I don’t write in order either.  I’ll write a bunch of scenes, and when I get to the point where I feel I have a story, I’ll start putting everything in order and filling in the missing pieces.  I’m also not wedded to the beginning sequences; if I get to the point where one of the early scenes I’ve written is supposed to fit, but doesn’t, I’ve got no problem cutting it.

I’ll plot only when I get stuck, but only the barest minimum.  If I plot too much, I get stuck  Interesting fact : even if I write a synopsis before I write the book, I need to force myself to forget I’ve done this and proceed as usual.

 

 What advice would you give other aspiring writers?

Pay attention to the market but write your stories.  Keep your eyes open and take the opportunities that come your way.  If you have a local rwa chapter, join.  And READ. Always.

 

Do you mind sharing with our nosy readers (ok me) what you are working on next?

I’m working on a few different things, one of which is a hockey romance.  “Icing the Puck’ comes out in April (no date yet) and it’s the second anthology of stories about the New York Empires hockey team.   My story in ‘Icing the Puck’ features a hockey playing renchman, a violin playing heroine, tutoring sessions that slowly become more, interesting family secrets and 4/5 New York City boroughs during the holidays 😉

Sounds fantastic! Thank you for sharing.

 

And now here’s a short excerpt from ‘A Home for Hanukkah that makes a bit of a reference to my fictional hockey team.  I love putting bits of afikomen-what most people call easter egg-references to other things. 

She had more ideas in mind, but this was going to be his place when he got around to it, his idea. Which meant she had one more question to ask him. “Any colors?”

This was the one that seemed to catch him off guard. He shrugged his shoulders, then settled back in. “Don’t know,” he finally said, trailing off as he looked around the room. “Maybe blue, white. I’m an Empires fan.”

“Empires?”

“New York Empires. Semenov, Emerson, that new guy, they call him lucky seven?”

She tried to look interested, tried to muster a degree of understanding, at least.

“Hockey?”

She shook her head. “No …”

He raised an eyebrow, as if to say that of everything they’d talked about, this was the thing he was most surprised about. “You’re not interested at all?”

She shook her head. “Sorry. Not really.”

 

Interesting *fun* fact?  The hero of my story in Icing the Puck?  Lucky seven, of course 😉

Thanks so much for being here today. It’s been a real pleasure.

Stacey author photo

 

You can find Stacey at these locals on line:  

@nystacey on twitter

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/staceyaagdern 

 

And her pick up Burning Bright here:

 Amazon: 

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0062464841

Barnes & Noble:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/burning-bright-megan-hart/1122749513?ean=9780062464859

All the best,

KMJ

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Calling Her Bluff… Interview with author Kaia Danielle

 

Today on ye old blog we have and interview with a fantastic new author Kaia Danielle here to talk, writing, life and her exciting debut with Entangled Publishing: CALLING HER BLUFF.

Hi Kaia, thanks so much for being here on ye old blog today!

KMJ: First off, Kaia can you tell us a bit about CALLING HER BLUFF?

Kaia cover Calling Her Bluff

Kaia: Romance author Kamaria Wilson returns to Las Vegas to prove she has kicked her gambling addiction to the curb. But the temptation to play poker again is stronger than ever. Why does Mr. Perfect have to show up now?!

KMJ: That sounds fantastic. I love Vegas and have spent a night or two at the Blackjack tables.  What inspired you to write this story?

Kaia: My publisher put out a call for stories set during a romance readers’ convention in Las Vegas. I thought this was the perfect scenario to craft something unique. Once I came up with the premise of a gambling addict heroine, a casino security hero and a one-night stand, I just had to write this story.

KMJ: Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

Kaia: Um, probably but accepting the fact that I could craft a story that anyone else would want to read was a journey. I had a few years of combatting “Who do you think you are? Zora wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God in 6 weeks. You have no business trying”-type inner dialogue.

KMJ: Do you feel your works are more character or plot driven?

Kaia: Plot driven. I usually figure out the scenario first then get introduced to the characters during the pre-planning and first draft.

KMJ: What made you choose this genre to write in?

Kaia: I’m a total romantic comedy movie junkie. I bow down to Nora Ephron’s work. The funny thing is that I set out to write historical romance. But, contemporary romantic comedy comes to me easier. The smartass voice you find in the book is the real me. Just check my Twitter feed.

KMJ: What characteristics are essential in a hero for you? And how about a heroine?
Kaia: Hero: I have to fall in love with him some way, somehow. It is usually the grand gesture that reels me in. I’m still crushing so hard on my hero Jack Alderisi in Calling Her Bluff. Ironically, it wasn’t his grand gesture that hooked me. It was the little every day considerate things he did leading up to his big grand gesture.

Heroine: She has to have a life outside of hunting for a man. I love when a heroine has to deal with real life “stuff”. My favorite line from Kamaria in Calling Her Bluff is when she says something like “I don’t want you to fix it for me. I’m the one who fell off the wagon, now let me figure out how to get back on it.”

 

KMJ: Getting a little more serious, you have been a strong voice and advocate for more diversity in romance. Can you share with the readers why you feel this is such an important issue for this time?
Kaia: I grew up in a town where at least 66 different languages were spoken at home. My best friend growing up was of Swiss French-Gabonese descent. I attended a college where the African-American female experience was infused into each course. Diversity is my “normal”.  The mix I’ve seen promoted in the Romance world hasn’t been “normal” until very recently. I’d like to do what I can to fix that. Besides, there’s a whole group of open-minded, voracious readers who are missing out on a bunch of great stories due to lack of exposure.

 

KMJ: Thanks so much. Now would you care to share the story of your “overnight” success with my readers?

Kaia: My overnight success started 13 years ago when I started attempting to write short stories for the confession magazine market. (Remember True Confessions, Bronze Thrills and Black Romance magazines? Some of those were me!) It took me a year to finish my first story. It was the second one I sold.

 

KMJ: I do remember and loved Confessions. Thank you!  Who are some of your favorite writers that have influenced you?

Kaia: Zora Neal Hurston, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Beverly Jenkins, Francis Ray, Gwyneth Bolton, Tina McElroy Ansa, Terry McMillan, LA Banks, Alice Walker, Audre Lorde

 

KMJ: Now please dish what book (s) is/are currently on your nightstand or e-reader?

Kaia:
Ivy’s League by Nia Forester
Passing Love by Jacqueline E. Luckett
A Treasure of Gold by Piper Huguley
Bricktop’s Paris by T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting

 

KMJ: What advice would you give other aspiring writers? Butt in chair. Fingers on keyboard. Eyes on prize. I wrote Calling Her Bluff while working 60 hour weeks, being the primary caretaker for my mother, maintaining a long distance relationship, moving my mother and myself across the state with exactly 2 weeks-notice (during the 60 hour work weeks) and a snowstorm at our heels. (Wait, how the hell did I manage to all that? Oh yeah, sangria.) I decided no more BS, no more excuses when I started this story. Even it was only for a half hour on some days, I still got some words in.

KMJ: Lastly, what can readers expect next from you?

I’m working on an adult contemporary romance set during homecoming week at a fictional HBCU (Historically Black College/University). Remember that guy in college who was “just a friend” but there was always a special connection and everybody assumed that you were together, but nothing ever happened between you guys? Yeah well, play time is over.

 

Now Kaia is kind enough to share an excerpt from CALLING HER BLUFF:

Shame kept her locked in place, eyes down, trembling hands locked between her knees. She stared at the backs of her fingers, fighting that itch to touch her chips, the cards, to rub the felt of the poker table. Dammit, this wasn’t supposed to happen.

“Ma’am.” The voice was softer now.

“I didn’t do anything wrong.” The words were meant to convince herself. There might be a pile of chips in front of her, but she felt like a loser. Again.

“No one said you did.” The man’s hand now found its way between her shoulder blades. The warmth of his hand flooded into her. His warmth felt safe. Just like the guy from last night. She shook him off again. The last thing she needed was to be thinking about Jack. Or how she should’ve stayed in his bed. If she hadn’t run from him, she wouldn’t be here now.

His voice was too smooth. Too practiced. Too, too familiar. Kamaria didn’t like that either. She didn’t even want the money. No amount of winnings could compensate for what she’d just lost by sitting down at this table. And talk? What could he possibly want to discuss? “I’ve got nothing to say to you. I was just leaving anyway.”

The pressure on her back returned, this time more insistent. “That’s where you’re wrong, Kamaria. I think you have plenty to say to me.”

She could tell by his emphasis on her name that he was going to kick her out. She’d ruined her sobriety, and now she’d messed up the conference too! She felt tears rim her bottom lashes. She willed herself to keep her chin up as she stood. This was no way to start her week at the convention. She had managed to stay away for so long. She hadn’t even been in town sixteen hours and had already crumbled in the face of weakness more than once. All the promises she made to Chastity—to herself—about being able to avoid the casino evaporated into nothing. She should have never come back here.

The rent-a-cop’s hand had now moved from her back to her arm. His grip tightened slightly, pulling her to her feet.

Her stomach fell to her knees the moment the security jerk stood up so she could finally get a good look at him. The big, big body. The impossibly wide chest. Those full lips. Kamaria groaned. “Oh no, not you.”

Kaia: Thanks so much for being here today. It’s been a real pleasure.

KMJ: Thank you the pleasure was all mine!

KMJ: You can find Kaia here on the web:

Kaia headshot

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kaia.danielle.1

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kaiawrites

Excerpt + buy links: http://www.entangledpublishing.com/calling-her-bluff/

 

All the best,

KMJ

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RW… hey, hey, hey! My time at #RWA15 in pics

This post is late in coming and I apologize for that, but here it is.  Last week most, well many in the romance community, convened at the Marriot in Times Square for the annual Romance Writers of America National Conference. A fun and enlightening time was had by all, ok I’ll say most because what do I know? What I do know and can say is that I had a good time, though it was quite the whirlwind.

I’d love to know how is it a day could speed by so fast?

I want to thank so many for their amazing support of #WeNeedDiverseRomance by wearing their Tee Shirts on conference Thursday. Seeing so many Diverse Romance tees around the conference was just amazing and I do think made quite a bold statement that those in the gate keeper positions could not ignore (I do believe I heard some keys rattling).

Also I’d like to give thanks to all who came to the multicultural workshop I participated in on Thursday with Alyssa Cole, Lena Hart and Falguni Kothari. Your support was priceless and so appreciated.

I was also so happy to attend the other workshops held on diversity this year. As a longtime member of RWA I feel there was a much more open and truthful vibe to the conference dialogue this year all around when it came to diversity, self -publishing and the state of the industry. The dialogue, for the most part, was well received and for the parts that were not, let’s just say, they needed to be said.  I’m so happy to hear that RWA will now be forming a special committee on diversity so this will not just be a one year buzz hashtag type of thing.

Thank you all so much once again for helping make this happen. Please keep up your support by continuing to voice your opinions and get the word out about the need for more diversity in romance and all genres of publishing. #WeNeedDiverseRomance

Now onto the pics…

So many beautiful faces! Can you spot some of your faves?

RWA Collage 3

 

Lauren Dane, Members or RWA/NYC, Flappers at Passionate Ink party,  Me & the fab Nora Roberts, Holley Trent, Vanessa Peters, Falguni Kothari, Trent Hart, Elizabeth Mahon, Jenn Le Blanc, Trent Hart, Falguni  Kothari, Carolyn Jewel & Carolyn Crane,  Vanessa Riley, Jamie Wesley, Farrah Rochon, Synithia Williams, Tracey Livesay,  Alyssa Cole, Laura K. Curtis, Megan Frampton

 

RWA Collage 2

 

Sugar Jamison, Kianna Alexander, Ginger Merante, Falguni Kothari, Kianna Alexander, Farrah Rochon, Rebekah Weatherspoon, Adrienne Trent, Jeannie Lin, Me and Farrah again 🙂 , Me and the Carolyns (again LOL) ! Carolyn Jewel & Carolyn Crane, Seressia Glass, Jamie Wesley, The panel of Diversity in Romance: Why it Matters : Corrina Lawson, Sugar Jamison, Rebekah Weatherspoon, Farrah Rochon, Alisha Rai, My panel Multicultural Romance: When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong and How To Make It Right: Alyssa Cole, Me, Falguni Kothari, Lena Hart, Me and Laura Von Holt and finally the lovely: Synithia Williams, Lena Hart, Mia Sosa and Karen Manns.

Wowza! Looking back at all of these pics I see how great the conference was and how incredibly lucky I am to know so many amazing, talented and lovely people. Thanks for making this an unforgettable RWA.

All the best,

KMJ

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Just here… looking pretty

Jack says, hey people! He wants you all to admire him and his lovely haircut and his bandanna that says ‘I am handsome’ while Kwana runs around over on the sidelines doing all the things a writer does a week before the biggest conference of the year (no, she’s not grumpy or stressed at all).

Jack hansome (3)

For those coming to RWA National next week she can’t want to see you and remember Thursday the 23rd is #WeNeedDiverseRomance tee day.  Later!

 

All the best,

Jack & KMJ

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#WeNeedDiverseRomance …tweet on…tweet on…

Hello dear friends and welcome to what I must reluctantly confess now is really and truly summer. I don’t know how that came to slither up on me but there it is. I’m now elbow deep in writing my current novella while little hidden closets of my brain cook up scenes for other stories that I have in the works while deadlines, they be looming.

I’m also busy getting ready for the big Romance Writers Of America National Conference this July where for the first time I’ll be participating in (see: shaking in my boots) a workshop with three of my friends and chapter mates the talented authors: Alyssa Cole, Falguni Kothari and Lena Hart. For our workshop, on Thursday July 23rd which is called: Multicultural Romance, When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong And How To Make It Right, we’ll be talking about quite a few topics one of which will be diversity in romance including the #WeNeedDiverseRomance hashtag.

I’ve also self-proclaimed July 23rd #WeNeedDiverseRomance Tee day at RWA so if you have your tee and are coming this would be the day to wear it and represent.

I started the #WeNeedDiverseRomance hashtag around 8 months ago to honor my dear Nana who had recently and very suddenly passed away. Nana was a huge influence on me becoming the romance writer I am today. I have strong memories of seeing her, after a long day of being a child caregiver for working Harlem mothers (a job she took on right after I was born and one she retired from after my own twins went off to pre-school), tiredly taking a moment for herself to relax with a Harlequin romance before she went to off bed.  Nana was a veracious reader of romance, a lover of these books that took her far away from her day to day everyday, but in no way reflected the amazing woman she was or the incredibly hard working black women (and men) who went off to work and entrusted her with their precious children as they did so. It will be so hard to fight back tears as I go to the RWA literacy signing this year and for the first time since I’ve been a member I won’t have the assignment from Nana to go and get a signed Nora Roberts for her. She was such a huge Nora fan that Nora’s was the one book I HAD to get every year without fail.

That said it was due to Nana that as a preteen I picked up these books and like her was entranced with the love stories that took me away from my concrete jungle with their high level of love, emotion and passion even though I could never fully put myself in the shoes of the creamy skinned, blue eyed, blond heroines that the Greek tycoons fell for no matter how many times I put my tee shirt over my head and pretended it was my own flowing locks.

But it was what it was, and being lover of books, I read what was available in the genres I loved and that was women’s fiction and romance. Taking nothing away I still found many books, authors and stories I adored.  It would be few and too far between, but I was thrilled when I found books like Terry McMillian’s Disappearing Acts and the iconic AA couple of Zora and Franklin who looked on the page like people I could possibly know or, hey, even maybe be one day, just way more passionate. I wanted more of these type of stories! And thankfully with that book’s success there was more. Many more, but sadly not nearly enough.

The #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag and movement has been making great strides since it was started and does so much for children’s literature discussion and I hope landscape and I’d love for that to continue into romance and all genres of literature. It saddens me so much when I see how disproportionate the bestseller lists are when it comes to authors of color. Now I’m not sure I know the fix to this problem as I don’t think there is one fix all as the problem has come from years and years of the “norm” being books by Caucasian writers and book by writers of color being labeled as other and shelved separately if picked up by a mainstream publisher. And if not picked up by a publisher then self-publishing being the other option for an author of color where discoverability is even more difficult. So with these obstacles I think the fix will take a not so subtle shift of the norm being truly diverse catalogs put out by publishers. And by diverse that means having more than 1 or 2 offerings by authors of color a month and consistently giving equal presence and retail marketing money to authors of color. That way when the public goes looking for their next read the offerings truly look like a rainbow and instead of the “right” choice being subliminally made for them.

It would be great to also address the lack POC staffing in publishing. Not to mention but to mention the fact that African American college educated women are the largest group of readers in the country so why not service them and stop leaving money on the table?

This year the need for the #WeNeedDiverseRomance hashtag and the movement has been brought home even more with what has been going on all over the country. From the awful police shootings and targeting of black men, women and children to the most recent horrific event in Charleston at Emanuel AME. How many times have we asked the question or shouted the rally call #BlackLivesMatter? How sad is it that we have to ask this question and remind people of this fact in the first place? But the truth is too often POC color are looked at as so called “thugs” before they are looked on as regular citizens with all the rights that come with that label. I think having more men and women of color lifted up as heroes and heroines from early on in literature is one way this perceptions can change. We can also go far with changing these perceptions on the big and small screen but that is a post for another day.

Sidebar: If you are looking for another great hashtag to follow please check out #WOCRomance and also check out Rebekah Weatherspoon’s @WOCInRomance on twitter and tumblr where she highlights new offerings from women of color in romance.

I’ve gone on long enough but I want to finish by saying that I know #WeNeedDiverseRomance will mean different things to different people and that is fine and as it should be. This post is about why I started the hashtag. Your perception is your reality as mine is mine.  #WeNeedDiverseRomance is also shouting out to the persons with disabilities and the LGBTQ and transgender community. We are all here, all having been marginalized and all fighting the good fight for our truths to be told.  I’m just the one here today rambling on about why I started the hashtag with a tweet on a day back when I was feeling low in my grief watching what was going on in the world and and missing my grandmother terribly. The response has been overwhelming and humbling and I’m honored that the hashtag still continues today and to that I say tweet on. Tweet on until the hashtag seems silly and redundant because we are truly equal and not segregated and all is well because finally well and truly do have Diverse Romance. Thank you.

 

Early tweets for #WeNeedDiverseRomance

Diverse tweet d

Diverse tweet e

 

diverse tee ad c

Click the blow links to order your Tee!

White

Black

 

All love,

KMJ

 

P.S. I’ll always love you Nana and will forever thank you.

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Feeling Friendly… Deal News!

I’ve been holding on to this news for a little while and I’m so happy to now be able to share it far and wide (social media pun totally intended). I’ve been signed on to write a novella called FRIENDING THE FASHIONISTA for Samhain Publishing under the fabulous executive editor Latoya Smith who I adore and have been wanting to work with for so long. FRIENDING will be the first in my Flirty Fashionista series, marrying my love of fashion and romance.

Samhain PM announcement

 

I can’t thank Latoya enough for taking me on and my fantastic agent Rachel Brooks from the L. Perkins Agency for making it all happen. Thank you ladies for helping to make my publishing dreams come true.

 

Now let me get to writing… after a dance just a little but more.

#WeNeedDiverseRomance

 

All the best,

Kwana

dance gif 2

gif fm reaction gifs.com

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