OK, so I'm rarely in jeopardy, but I write woman-in-jeopardy novels—otherwise called "Modern Gothics"—and this is my blog. It will probably have lots of time between posts, but I'll try not to bore you. Welcome.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Categories, Cockapoos, and a Little Help from You

Left: My dog Sam, Photo © Me    Right: Purebred Poodle © Appleping | Dreamstime.com

Why the dogs? More on that in a minute...
The RITA Awards, for those of you who aren't familiar with them, are the equivalent of Oscars for the romance-writing community, judged by peers and awarded at a gala evening ceremony where the gowns could rival anything that Hollywood could throw at them.

As a proud member of the Romance Writers of America it's been my privilege to help judge the RITAs (and find great new authors to add to my reading list), and it's been my honor to have two of my own books final for RITAs themselves: The Winter Sea in 2009, and The Rose Garden in 2012.

Although neither book won, I did get to actually touch a RITA statuette this past summer at RWA Nationals in Atlanta while celebrating with fellow author Simone St. James, who deservedly won two awards—Best First Novel and Best Novel With Strong Romantic Elementsfor her debut romantic historical ghost-hunting mystery The Haunting of Maddy Clare.

Watching Simone win (that's her on the left, by the way...if she looks a bit blurry, it's only because we were all a bit blurry that evening) was wonderful but bittersweet, because the category that she won in, and that my books finaled in, is being retired by the RWA and, beginning next year, there will no longer be any RITA awarded for Best Novel With Strong Romantic Elements.

A quick read through the lists of past winners will show you that categories change all the time in the RITAs: new ones emerge, old ones vanish, and others are blended together, all of which is a natural consequence of the RWA continuing to try its best to serve the ever-evolving needs of its broad and varied membership while keeping to its mission.

But it does leave a writer like me with a bit of a problem. And here's where we get to the dogs...

Purebred Cocker Spaniel Puppies
In the photo at the top of this post, the dog on the right is a Poodle—a purebred. The one on the left is my former dog Samson, a Cockapoo. Samson had elements of Poodle in him, as you can see, but they were jumbled up with elements of Cocker Spaniel, meaning in a dog show he could only have competed against other dogs like him—the crossbreeds—because he would never have been judged "Best Poodle" or "Best Cocker Spaniel".

My books are like Cockapoos. Actually, they're more like what you'd get if you crossed Cockapoos with Puggles (which themselves are a cross between Beagles and Pugs), because my novels tend to be "Contemporary-Historical-Romantic-Suspense-with-Paranormal-elements", crossing several sub-genres without fitting neatly into any of them. 

The Novel with Strong Romantic Elements category, given that part of its original purpose was to provide a place for works of romantic fiction "not belonging in another category", used to be a catch-basin for those of us whose novels crossed sub-genres, but I've been reassured by both veteran RWA colleagues and National head office that any book that meets the criteria for romance, by having a central love story with an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending, should fit well into one of the remaining RITA categories.

I find that heartening, because The Firebird is definitely a romance. Two romances, in factone in the present and one in the pastboth of which end happily. It also happens to be my favourite of the books I've written so far, and I really want to enter it. I just don't know exactly where it fits.

So here's where YOU come in.

I'm letting you choose. There are four categories, by my count, the book could be entered in. Here they are, as set out in the RWA's official Category Descriptions: 
Contemporary Romance: Novels that focus primarily on the romantic relationship and which are greater than 65,000 words. In this category, the love story is the main focus of the novel, and the resolution of the romance is emotionally satisfying and optimistic.
The word count of The Firebird is, not including the epigraph and afterward, 152,466 words, of which 64,889 words are used to tell the contemporary love story between Rob and Nicola. Which has a happy ending. 
Historical Romance: Novels set in any historical time period. In this category, the love story is the main focus of the novel, and the resolution of the romance is emotionally satisfying and optimistic.
The remaining 87,577 words of the novel are used to tell the historical story that follows Anna Moray from her childhood to her coming of age in early 18th century St. Petersburg, Russia, including her romance with Edmund O'Connor. Which also ends happily. 
Paranormal Romance: Novels in which the future, a fantasy world or paranormal elements are an integral part of the plot. In this category, the love story is the main focus of the novel, a futuristic, fantasy or paranormal element is blended with the love story, and the resolution of the romance is emotionally satisfying and optimistic. 
Rob and Nicola are both psychics. They communicate telepathically a lot. The book begins, in fact, with an accidental meeting of their minds, and it's Nicola's undeveloped ability to "see" an object's past while holding it that starts them on their quest to trace the history of the Firebird carving, with Rob using his more advanced remote viewing abilities to bridge the past and present while he tries to tutor Nicola in how to fully use her own gifts. So there's that.
Romantic Suspense: Novels in which suspense, mystery, or thriller elements constitute an integral part of the plot. In this category, the love story is the main focus of the novel, a suspense/mystery/thriller plot is blended with the love story, and the resolution of the romance is emotionally satisfying and optimistic.
The origins of the Firebird carving do present a mystery, Anna has a woman-in-jeopardy sort of childhood, there's a spy plot in St. Petersburg, and overall the sort of older-style suspense one might associate with books by Mary Stewart. 

So, you tell ME: Which of these four categories does The Firebird best fit into? 

Leave a comment with your vote. I'll tally them before the contest opens in October, and wherever most of you believe the book should go, that's where I'll enter it. And thank you for helping me figure out just where my crossbreed belongs.

Me in a Very Pink Shirt, holding Samson as a puppy.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

And the Winners Are...

Thanks so much to all of you for entering the giveaway, and leaving such great comments.

The Random Number Generator has spoken, and the three winners who will each receive a copy of Audible's edition of The Firebird, narrated by Katherine Kellgren, are:


Congratulations! Please email me at susanna(underscore)kearsley(at)yahoo(dot)ca and I'll send you the redemption codes so you can collect your prizes!