A Wonkomance Karaoke Open Invitation — Atlanta, Baby!

Next week, huge numbers of Romance Professionals will be descending upon Atlanta, Georgia, to converse and hobnob and party. Then flee back to the safety of our rooms. Then do it some more! Then sleep. Then fangirl squee, then drink one too many drinks, then listen to some panel that is soooo long and maybe not quite as interesting as we’d hoped. And sign books! And give away swag! And sleep some more.

It’s all very exciting, and Wonkomance is going to be there en masse.

We’re so very stoked about this that we attempted to pen an original group story to give you as a gift along with this invitation (which is coming — hang in there). But have you ever tried to pen a group story? It takes time. Especially when …counts on fingers… FIVE of us were on deadline and just turned stories in to our editors in the past week. So, sadly, you’ll have to wait a bit longer for Signed, Sealed, and Delivered. But here is a little teaser…



This was the moment—too sweet to ignore, too tense to sit still for. She almost rocketed right out of her chair as the cart rolled to a stop beside her, and only contained herself by carving half-moons of pure panic into her sweaty palms.

“Another letter for you.”

She looked up at the mail clerk and wondered, not for the first time, if he was as bored as his bland expression suggested.

(Hint: he’s not.)

Look for the full story later in July! Or August. Or whenever we get it done. Soon, though!



Back to the subject of RWA: sadly, we weren’t able to tempt Charlotte Stein to hop the Atlantic for us, and we have shed many tears over that. But Cara, Ruthie, Del, Serena, Mary Ann, Amber, and Shelley will all be in Atlanta, hobnobbing like mad! Most of us will be at the Literacy Autographing on Wednesday, July 17, from 5:30-7:30 at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Atrium Ballroom A-C. We’ll have Wonkomance buttons — come find us!

After the literacy signing, that’s when the fun begins! Just two minutes’ walk from the Atlanta Marriott Marquis is the Metro Café Diner, an establishment that boasts (a) diner food, (b) a bar, (c) karaoke, and (d) foot-tall cakes. (Also, you really owe it to yourself to watch the movie on their home page. Please.) All us wonksters will be heading there after the signing for some food, beverages, and possibly Cara doing a Tom Jones impersonation, or at least Missy Elliott, if we can get her drunk enough. We shouldn’t be hard to find — Ruthie’s going to wear pink sequins.

Join us! We’re not scary. We’ll talk wonk, eat cake, sing terrible songs, and generally have a good time. We’d love to meet you!

Metro mapWhat: Wonkomance Meetup

Where: Metro Cafe Diner

229 Peachtree St., Suite B-17


When: After the Literacy Signing, Wednesday, July 17 (probably starting around 8:00)

Who: You and Wonkomance!

Why: Because reasons. And fun! Doooo it.

Questions? Email Ruthie or @ruthieknox on the Twitter.

Posted in Life & Wonk, Movies, Music | 11 Comments

Too Wonky for Primetime

So a couple of weeks ago I clambered up the maintenance stairwell and onto the roof of Wonkomance Tower, the eighty-six-story skyscraper that houses the many departments comprising Wonkomance’s North American headquarters. It was a dark and stormy night, but braving the gusts and the dive-bombing hawks, I battled my way to the Wonk Signal and fired that bad boy up, illuminating the gunmetal thunderheads with our heraldic symbol of a blogger in distress—the starkly dramatic silhouette of a half-eaten Jammie Dodger.


That, or I sent an email to the group that said this:

“I want to put together a wonkopost about first books—or rather, first manuscripts. I remember reading about Janet Evanovich’s in her writing memoir, and it was hilarious. To quote her bio, ‘The first story was about the pornographic adventures of a fairy who lived in a second rate fairy forest in Pennsylvania.’ The takeaway was, the first book teaches you how to write. It’ll suck. That’s fine, it’s supposed to.”

The Sisterhood of Wonk immediately rose to the challenge, sending me snapshots of their ugly-ass babies. And so I present to you, admiring readers, aspiring authors, assorted practitioners of schadenfreude, this collection of romance blurbs for books that never saw the light of day. And with good reason.

When soliciting embarrassing stories, it’s only fair that the curator go first, so…

Cara: “My first romance manuscript was a survival story—no shock there. I love wilderness / isolation plots. It stemmed from the premise that the heroine was addicted to sleeping pills, and fell asleep in a canoe while on vacation and was carried like, 200 miles downriver (through whitewater rapids, though she miraculously only scraped her thigh) so she could be rescued by the survivalist hero. Who was inexplicably British, even though the book was set in Canada. The sleeping-pill canoe mishap was only misfortune number one, and after each misfortune—Ambien withdrawal, stitches, leeches, cougar attack, mudslide, poison oak, lightning storm, a violent dietary bowel crisis, rattlesnake bite, a monumentally ham-fisted subplot in which the heroine’s jilted ex tries to murder her with rat poison so he can inherit her late father’s company, a Big Misunderstanding, unprotected sex, visa issues—there ensued a fresh, shrill tantrum, often defused when the hero (for wang reasons, I guess) was driven to tongue-kiss the heroine out of sheer lusty exasperation. This book seriously had it all—including the folksiest big-bosomed grandmotherish archetype ever crowbarred into a romance! And with a minimum of five florid adverbs per paragraph.”

omg-teeCharlotte: “I don’t even know if I could find my first attempt at a novel. I wrote it at age thirteen, and I could probably make you all guess what it was about and you’d get it right. Two vampire brothers fall in love with the same girl, and one of them is EVOL. And he has bracelets that keep him alive and in the end the heroine RIPS THEM OFF AIIIEEE! And then she lives eternally with her moody vampire love in a cave in a cliff face for no apparent reason. I imagine quotes from it would read, ‘And then all of a sudden he bit her omg.’”

Is it just me, or would this one actually hit the Times list and spawn an empire of adaptations and Team Vampire Brother #2 merch?

Shelley: “I have an abandoned YA fantasy novel. Before I realized I wanted to write romance. And basically, it is full of the dirtiest subtexts that ever dirtied. There’s a seven-page kissing scene. With a guy who is—SHOCKER—a guitarist. There’s a scene that veers super, super close to the main character having sex with her (female) best friend. There’s magic embroidery, a character who is being kept purposefully addicted to opium, and pack llamas.”

Serena: “Through my teens…I was writing these epic 150-page love scenes and inventing ever-weirder scenarios to justify my smutty behavior. I remember an early one about a deaf hero and a blind heroine living in prehistoric times, exiled from their respective tribes for their disabilities (though I’m sure they were referred to as ‘curses’ or something in those non-PC times). They were forced to spell words into each others’ hands in their own invented language (I must have just read Helen Keller) and grope each others’ faces a lot. In those days, I never finished anything. I just wrote sex scene after sex scene with absolutely no character or plot development. None.”

Mary Ann: “I’ve written a lot of manuscripts—my first novel I wrote when I was eight and featured humanoid elephants that exhibited behavior so concerning to my third grade teacher, she talked to the school about it. I wrote horror and romance novels as a teenager, and I did get an MFA, but wrote poetry manuscripts, mainly, at that time. My first romance manuscript featured a large-scale textile artist heroine, who was actually very cool, I really loved her, and a virgin classics professor. There were a few problems. First, I detailed my classics professor’s work so lovingly, it was nearly a dissertation. Second, he met a letterpress biker at a party at the very end of the book and had such crazy explosive chemistry with her, this biker who was not the heroine, that I wrote the last chapter with a heavy heart and promptly shoved the book into the recesses of my hard drive. The HEA is that I am bringing back the prof and his biker in a book planned for next year. Of course, Jesus, the poor textile artist. I stole her boyfriend, gave him to another woman, and she’s still living in a studio apartment trying to get commissions.”

Del: “I recall that it was set in Scotland, and the American heroine had traveled there to an old castle (Manor house? Anyway, it was on the moors. Yes, the moors. Shut up) to research…something. Some set of correspondence between two famous writers, I think? The house’s current resident, the ancestor of one of the writers, wouldn’t sell the letters to whatever college museum the heroine was working for, and I was writing this before the era of everyone having scanners. So in order to do her research she had to travel there to read the letters in person.

“When she arrived, the recluse hero (who was secretly a billionaire entrepreneur, but he’d just gone through some unspecified trauma I don’t think I ever got around to figuring out, so he was being a recluse for awhile at the family estate while his emotional wounds healed), turned out to be…well, Heathcliff / Rochester / Darcy, only extra-dour because he was Scottish. You know, that sorta dude. There was a lot of brooding. There was a lot of feisty-heroine righteous indignation. There may have been an utterly gratuitous scene with a killer thunderstorm, the lights out in the house, and a frantic hallway kiss that both of them were for some reason incensed about after the fact (as if anyone couldn’t have seen it coming). And although that sort of scene can be fantastic, the one I’m remembering was almost certainly not fantastic.

“The heroine didn’t recognize him as a billionaire playboy because of course, being an academic, she was hopelessly out of touch with popular culture; he found this charming about her, naturally. At some point in all this mess, there was also the suggestion that the house was haunted, and the stronger implication that it wasn’t really haunted but somebody was trying to gaslight them both, for reasons I can’t remotely recall. And then maybe something about some sort of clue or hallucinogenic compound, found in a set of old dolls, that then explains some legend and/or mystery surrounding the famous letters? Or I may just be projecting some A.S. Byatt onto the memory in an effort to block it all out with something better.”

Ruthie: “My first manuscript wasn’t publishable, but more in boring ways rather than such cracktastically awful ones. I wrote a couple poems in high school and then no fiction at all until 2010, when I sat down and penned Rebound, a Hawaii-vacation romance with a hot tour guide and, somewhat inexplicably, basketball. (The basketball bits are quite good.) There’s instalust, some unconvincing ‘Nah, I shouldn’t,’ protesting, a serious fail-kiss on the first attempt (what is it with my undying love for the fail-kiss?), sad shower crying, a limbo contest? I think?, a whole lot of sex, and then an unconvincing last-minute hail-Mary thing where I think the hero had a secret kid, and the heroine somehow repaired his relationship with his secret kid by being…awesome? Someone to look up to? I actually have no idea. I rewrote it from scratch and dropped the kid, but it’s still got what is essentially the conflict equivalent of cheese sauce and a heroine who is me at age twenty-one. With a hot tour guide! Because tour guides.”

There you go, then—vampire brothers, face-groping, leech mishaps followed by wang-reasoned Frenching, unfaithful he-virgin ballroom dancing professors, bi-curious magic embroidery, inexplicable basketball, hallucinogenic doll tinctures. We showed you ours. Now, fellow writers, show us yours.

Posted in Talking Wonkomance, Writing Wonkomance | Tagged , | 47 Comments

Let me Tell You a Story: The Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers


MaryAnnRiversI will meet you on Wednesdays at noon in Celebration Park. Kissing only.

Carrie West is happy with her life . . . isn’t she? But when she sees this provocative online ad, the thirtysomething librarian can’t help but be tempted. After all, the photo of the anonymous poster is far too attractive to ignore. And when Wednesday finally arrives, it brings a first kiss that’s hotter than any she’s ever imagined. Brian Newburgh is an attorney, but there’s more to his life . . . that he won’t share with Carrie. Determined to have more than just Wednesdays, Carrie embarks on a quest to learn Brian’s story, certain that he will be worth the cost. But is she ready to gamble her heart on a man who just might be The One . . . even though she has no idea how their love story will end?

Let me tell you a story.

It’s appropriate that this week is Heroine Week, sponsored by Romance Around the Corner, because this is a love story, and it’s a love story about a heroine.

If you’ve read this blog, and read my posts, you know that my Calling is as a librarian. I’d call it a career, or a job, or the way I pay my bills, but it’s more than that– it’s my identity, it’s in my blood and my brain and nearly every interaction I have with almost every person I meet. And, while I am not a religious person, I think it’s a capital-C Calling, the one profession in all the world that combines every single interest and love and passion of mine and then, miracle of miracles, lets me share them all with other people.

Carrie West is a librarian. Many romance heroines are librarians. There’s a big, broad cultural tradition of the spinster librarian, of the secret-sex-fiend librarian, of the repressed and joyless librarian, of the academically-minded librarian. Some writers get the details of the job right, and some get them horribly, terribly wrong. I suspect that part of the reason we see so many librarian heroines is that readers love books, and writers love books, and librarians, we assume, go into the job because they love books.

And for some librarians, I’m sure that’s true. I certainly also love books, and have loved them my entire life, and want others to love them too.

But while Carrie loves books, she is a librarian because, more than that, she loves stories.

When Carrie decides to meet Brian in Celebration Park, on her lunch break, behind her library, she does so not only because he’s beautiful and she misses kissing, but because she wants to know his story. And she’ll keep working at him, pushing gently and kindly, until she learns his story.  “I’m a librarian,” she says. “I can work from the outside in.”

So much of our work is about people’s stories. The reference interview where a patron asks for an application for Section 8 housing, the reader’s advisory question asking for more books about kids with abusive parents, the teenagers in the book discussion group who don’t know who to tell about the bullying that’s going on at school. Our stories live in books, and that is why we love them, but our stories live in each other, too, and our job is to find those stories in our patrons, and hear their stories, give them space to tell their own tales. That’s power, and it’s connection, and it’s why a heroine like Carrie rings truer to me than any number of bookish types who have trouble interacting with actual people.

We see Carrie at work in the library, and we see her at home, and interacting with her friends and with Brian. But even when she’s not at work, she is still a librarian, still shaped in the way that makes her seek out stories, find value in them, understand how much it matters to Brian to finally be able to share his. In the end, I think, that’s what we’re all looking for: someone to share our story with, who will say, “Yes, I get it. I understand.”

So, for me, my very personal reaction to reading The Story Guy was that rush of relief that comes from seeing a reflection of my own story. Yes, she gets it. She understands. This is why I do this job. Carrie loves Brian, but I, as a reader, as a librarian, love Carrie, and I feel utterly privileged to get to read her story.

The Story Guy is out today. I hope you’ll want to read Carrie’s story, too.

The Story Guy at Amazon.com

The Story Guy at Barnes and Noble



Posted in Writing Wonkomance | 2 Comments