Amazon discontinued the ability to create images using their SiteStripe feature and in their infinite wisdom broke all previously created images on 12/31/23. Many blogs used this feature, including this one. Expect my archives to be a hot mess of broken book cover images until I can slowly comb through 20 years of archives to make corrections.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Little Miss Crabby Pants Has A Come To Jesus Moment

There's no good way to write this post.  I've literally been debating it for weeks.  On one hand, I think it needs to be said.  On the other?  It's going to come off like Old Lady Wendy sitting in her front porch rocking chair with a shotgun across her lap and yelling at the damn kids to get off my lawn.  It's going to sound like I want reassurance, a pat on the back, or at the very worst?  Like a passive aggressive diatribe from a middle child constantly being overlooked.  But I've been doing this a long time.  I've been kicking around Online Romancelandia for 16 years and have been blogging for 12 of them.  Frankly at this stage in the game?  I'm Betty-frickin'-White.  The nice old lady who will bake you chocolate chip cookies then let loose with a string of F-Bombs because she's beyond caring what people think.  Pardon my French, but I think those 16 years have given me the right to say what I'm going to say.

The romance community as I knew it is on life support.

We are fractured.

We are broken.

Others have said this before.  Others began saying it years ago.  And I dismissed those others.  Because I felt as long as there was a gasp of breath in my body, the community would live on.  It would evolve, it would change, but the seeds that were planted would still exist.  As long as there was one blogger out there, as long as there was one lone voice typing out in the wilderness - the community would live on.  And then?  Lots of stuff happened.

Some will point to the widespread use of promo and ARCs as the problem.  Some will point to that the fractious political climate and social injustices in Real Life now spilling over into other areas that, in a perfect world, should be our safe havens.  Some will point to things like Katherine Hale, the entire debacle that is the Hugo Awards, and the complete eroding of trust that many have felt in the wake of the Ellora's Cave lawsuit and the handling of the Dear Author disclosure incident.

For me, personally, it's not one thing.  It's all those things piled on top of each other.  And then, you know, I've got a Real Life to live.  I'll be blunt.  I'm tired of feeling like the lone voice in the wilderness when nobody really seems to care anymore.  Now, to be fair, I think they do care.  I just think for the sake of sanity we've all burrowed into our personal bunkers with a stash of caffeine, a fair amount of chocolate and a stack of romance novels that, ironically, none of us feel like reading at the moment.  And that's the crux of it right there:

We don't feel like reading.  I know I'm not alone, I see you on Twitter.  We don't feel like reading.  All this stuff?  The what I see as an eroding of a community?  It has made us sad.  It has broken our desire, that one safe haven we could always go to - reading.  You know what I feel like doing right now - other than nothing?  Playing Candy Crush and watching Law & Order reruns.  That's what I have energy for.  Because when I look around the "community" as I see it today?  I feel spent.

I'm struggling.  Mightily.  I know this sounds completely pathetic.  We're talking about blogging.  We're talking about reading and discussing romance novels for cripes sake.  But there's no joy in Mudville.  I'm full up.  I'm tapped out.  I'm fully aware I'm not working on a cure for cancer, or taking care of terminally ill children, or finding my life force sucked away by working a seriously draining career like social work.  But when something you once took so much joy in is no longer bringing you joy - when you look around and all you feel is sadness and you think about what the word "community" should truly mean?

I'm a problem.

I need to get my head right.  I need to find the joy again.  I'm not sure how I'm going to do that. "Letting go" seems like the obvious answer - but it's hard to do that when you know you can't fix the problem by yourself.  The community as a whole has to want to fix it - and from where I'm sitting?  There are more than a few who seem perfectly content to wash their hands of it and traipse merrily along playing follow the leader.  I want to rail.  I want to point fingers.  I want to be angry.  I want to screech and yell and say to people, "WTF is wrong with you??!?!?!?!"



That solves nothing.

And at this point I've been around too long and have invested too much of myself and possibly planted a teeny, tiny, modicum of joy into someone's life by keeping this blog going for 12 years even if it was only in the form of a smile, or a giggle, or making them pick up that really awesome western to read that they loved when hey, they didn't know they even liked westerns.

Is the community dead?  Not entirely.  I catch glimpses of it on Twitter.  I see echoes of it at Heroes & Heartbreakers (although, ironically, they are owned by a publisher - go figure).  I see All About Romance standing tall with some infused energy into the Old Gray Lady of our corner of the Internet.  Which means I can whine, be unhappy, be a cranky malcontent - and that solves what exactly?  Nothing.  All I can do is offer some advice.  To you, yes - but mostly this advice is for me.

Find your community.  Find your tribe.  Hold on to your Twitter friends, your Facebook group, or even better?  Start your own blog.  Find your voice.  Even if you think you've got nothing to say - trust me, you do.  You don't need to be Big Business.  You don't need to review or accept promo or take ARCs.  You can write silly little blog posts about the illogically thinking Greek Tycoon hero you read about last night, or the heroine who actually, bless her heart, saves herself instead of waiting for the Greek Tycoon to do it, or how crazy your cat acts when she's all high on catnip.  Yes, it's about what you say - but more importantly - it's the way you say it.

Find your tribe.  Hold on to them tightly.  And never, ever take them for granted.  Treat them with respect.  Value them.  Appreciate that they are taking the time to be a part of the hive.  And if the time comes when they need it?  Throw them a lifeline.  Because they would do the same for you.  Never use them.  Be professional.  Be respectful. And never devalue yourself or your community.

Find your joy again Romancelandia.  Find the love.  I'll be over here trying to find mine.


Ani Gonzalez said...

Oh, Wendy. I love this post. I've only been part of this community for about five years, but, yes, there's been a change. I don't feel cranky about it. I guess, I'm just sad, sad and grateful for the people who are still genuine voices with quirk blog posts and fangirl squees. Those are the people I cling to, and luckily there's still a few of you guys left. :)

Laura K. Curtis said...

*sending the love*
I hope you are part of my tribe. I hope I am part of yours. I know they are not always the same thing. I recently blogged about a similar issue of trust and friendship, though not nearly as clearly as you have. I haven't blogged since and I think, reading your post, that that's part of why. I haven't felt the urge to share anything. Maybe I'll try to get back to it this week.
Take care. And may the hatted tribe live long and prosper :)

Buriedbybooks said...

Yep. Everything you said. For me, it's a horrible, crushing amount of Real Life obligations that started the slide. Then the drama. Then finally being so completely out of sync with the trends that NOTHING new appealed to me. I don't like YA. I don't like NA. That's where so much of our romance community has shifted. The ones that stayed are putting out stuff I don't want to read. With a few, rare exceptions, the entire genre has very little I'm interested in. I'm hoping to get some pep back after RT, but if not? I might be taking a sabbatical from Romancelandia.

lbgregg said...

You are my people. Nine years I've been bumming around the internet in this wee crowd and the people in Romancelandia changed my life for the better. There is no greater feeling than finding out that you are not alone. ((hugs Wen))

Anonymous said...

Delurking to say that I nodded my head a lot while reading this post. Your comment that "There are more than a few who seem perfectly content to wash their hands of it and traipse merrily along playing follow the leader" sums up the bulk of my disappointment. At the same time, I'm glad that I've been forced to reevaluate where and from whom I get reading recommendations and the types of books I truly want to read. My tribe of one served me well for many years, and it's doing so once again. That said, I've enjoyed reading blogs such as yours that feel "real," and I look forward to continuing to do so. Good luck in finding your romance joy once again.

Lori said...

Yes. Why, aside from RL has Lori retreated from blogging and the romance community? Everything you said.

But... I'll always be in your tribe :)

Nikki said...

Things HAVE changed. Some of my favorite authors have changed genres, some have not published anything in over a year (Linda Howard, I'm looking at you), and some seem to be recycling their plots. But it's the other things you mentioned that have also affected what's happening in my romancelandia. I find myself rereading old favorites more often, commenting less often on blogs and keeping to myself. Your voice is one that I read faithfully, although I don't always respond. I am still in your tribe.

Lori said...

I too am a member of the "people who are struggling with romance reading right now" tribe. It's not a group I really want to be in, but there is some comfort in knowing that I'm not alone.

I'm definitely not reading as much romance these days as I have in the past. Some of that is just normal fluctuation in reading interests, but a lot of it isn't. I'm having more trouble finding books that I'm really excited to read. Even when I do pick something I'm often disappointed and I can't tell if the problem is romancelandia or if I'm just super crabby and hard to please these days.

It's not just the books either. The last few kerfuffles left me looking around some of my old haunts and thinking, "You are not my people and frankly I don't want you to be, because what a bunch of assholes." I get more than enough of that IRL, I don't need it tied to my "fun" reading.

All of which is a very long-winded way of saying, Wendy I totally understand where you're coming from and I'm glad you're still here.

the passionate reader said...

When I get blue about the state of our community, I look at my Facebook feed which is filled with love and support and all sorts of interesting stuff all from members of this tribe. Yes, there are times when it seems as though we are tearing ourselves to bits. And yes, there have been some disheartening moments in the past year. But, overall, I still cherish the (mostly) women in this world who write and read romance. Our community isn't perfect. But I've never found one I enjoy more.

Anonymous said...

Wendy, I enjoy your blog and have been a loyal reader for years. The community has changed and will continue to evolve but the power of influence will always lie with the reader.

I believe the romance community is vigilant in their love for books and that will always win out over the other. I have my trusted sources so that's never going to change. I love talking about books so that's never going to change either (except it's mysteries these days). TBH, a lot of the time, it's just me making decisions about the books I read. That's never changed. My idea about the golden age of romance hasn't changed much either. With all of that said, I do miss the hell out of some romance authors whose stories made me smile and pretty much gave me the feeling that things are gonna be just a-okay. I miss that feeling so much sometimes. There's nothing better than talking to another reader who is just as passionate as you are about books. All of that is to say, I think the community will be okay. There are some things to sort out but the community will be here. It's been here for years.

Wendy said...

Posting for Janet - who you can find on Twitter @JanetNorCal:

"Belonging to the romance community is a privilege and a joy—or it has been, for me. Not quite so much lately. This was such an excellent reminder that I need to step up, speak out, and reclaim the kick I get from talking about and sharing books. I have some amazing friends that I’ve met through romlandia but I’ve been backing away from the wider world. For one thing, I. Do. Not. Like. some of the go-to voices that “speak” for romance. They sure don’t speak for me. But that too may be changing – I’m so excited about Maya Rodale’s new book, Dangerous Books for Girls We need more voices in romance, like the blog that @meoskop and @_ridley_ among others started, not fewer. And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, as much as NA, for example, seems to be omnipresent, that won’t always be the case. Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in a re-read rut but as long as there’s a trusted, enthusiastic friend *waving at SmexysSidekick* to give a high five to a new book, I know it won’t last forever."

Anonymous said...

so … this is my edited comment. [deleted credentials]

I get it. Or, at least I think I see what you mean. It seems like it's harder to find books to read, but that may just be based on the loudest voices out there.

I'm definitely one of the "over it" voices re: drama and the shit. And I did basically shut down for all of last year and most of the previous. [That was ... my personal life imploding, but also I kinda ran out of fucks to give.] I'm trying to truck along with my Heritage Month posts this year, because I think it's *important* - but for the rest of it? I get that a lot of it is fluff, and a lot of it isn't. It isn't me because I have nothing to say, or nothing to say that I don't think will get me into trouble.

i also think a lot of people are lurking, not commenting, which contributes to the sense of isolation. Or commenting on twitter or Facebook to a blog post. Or emailing.

Plus NOBODY wants to get in trouble these days - which I think is totally valid, because you'll get doxxed, or worse, sued. This shit is fucked up. Not to mention the death threats. Which - is it weird to be used to it? So much so that you have " different levels" of death threats? Like the random, alarming, but mean nothing, to the seriously disturbing rises to the level of criminal behavior GGers… luckily the last isn't in our community, but I think seeing it constantly has also made people take a step back

Anyway - just my rambling thoughts in response to this post. Which I'm glad you wrote. :)

Rosie said...

Good post. You hit just about every one of my sore spots -- even the one where I'm guilty of not wanting to wade in. I agree with Lime -- there's a degree of not wanting to bring on trouble -- but it doesn't negate the value and joy I still find in the relationships.

So proud of you and the post.

willaful said...

"Playing Candy Crush and watching Law & Order reruns."

Different shows, but this pretty much describes my life right now. So hard to read. So hard to care.

SonomaLass said...

I haven't stopped reading, and there's still a lot of romance in the mix. But I have almost no energy for or interest in blogging about what I've read, and I rarely even comment on reviews of books I've read. If I even notice such reviews, since I'm also unmotivated to read blogs right now. Mostly I feel like I'm reading in my own little corner; I talk to other readers on Twitter, but rarely about what I've read. I read without a community for a little my time; I don't quite feel like I've gone back there, because I do still feel like I have a tribe, but that many of us have retreated a bit from full engagement. I admire people who are striving to change that, including you. Maybe I'll find the energy to be part of that.

SonomaLass said...

Um, thanks new phone (not). That should say, "I read without a community for a long time."

A Library Girl said...

I still blog, but it seems like I only read romance once every few months now. I've commented less and less on my former favorite romance blogs, for various reasons. And the current reading trends haven't appealed to me at all - for example, I like YA, but the marriage of YA and P2P fanfic that morphed into NA has bothered me from the start.

On the plus side, I've rediscovered my enjoyment of SFF (although, dang it, the whole Hugo Awards thing may yet leech the joy from that as well). I like the new, somewhat loose "tribe" I've developed on BookLikes - it's just not much of a romance reading tribe, unfortunately.

Jamie Brenner (aka Logan Belle) said...

I understand a lot of what you are saying. But I hope you know what an important voice you are and that despite the fractured and diluted low point the romance community is in, we need your voice more than ever.

I hope you are able to block out the noise and regain your passion for what you do so beautifully. You are the best!!!

Phyl said...

Great post as usual, Wendy. I've never been all that engaged online and I'm glad for it now. Fortunately there are a few in our tribe still talking about what they're reading, and I need to resolve to do my small bit to add to that.

Fortunately, in the middle of all of this I've still enjoyed reading romance and I've had a ball re-reading through audio books. Thanks for all you do to encourage reading.

Jill Sorenson said...

Wendy!! It was great to see you last weekend. I had time to chat with Gen on the way to LA and it was nice to connect and vent with someone who knows romanceland. This last few months has definitely been a low point for me. I felt pretty terrible when I left DA also. I'm sort of a loner anyway and sometimes I forget that I *do* have friends and readers online because everyone is so quiet. So thank you for speaking out.

I think one of the reasons people are so quiet is that we get penalized for criticism. I got unfollowed by some longtime readers and friends recently. I still don't know why. hurts.

Another reason is that caring seems lack a waste of energy. I'm reading again because I have a stack of books to judge. I had no reading mojo for a few weeks but it came back. I haven't blogged in ages. I've thought about quitting twitter. I've thought about quitting *writing*. More lately than any other time in my life.

I'd love to see a resurgence in small blogs with lively discussions. Or more group blogs, joint efforts, less isolated cliques. I'm happy to see the comments here and feeling hopeful again. But maybe that's easy for me to say because I'm an author. Even if the community as I knew it dies, I still have my writing. It's what keeps me going.

S. said...

I feel sad you're not in a reading stage right now. I'm afraid I don't have any beautiful prose to lure you with to make you want to read all the books within your grasp at this point, but I respect your feelings and I hope you can go through this somehow and your passion for reading wins it over in the end!
Take deep breaths and go back to basics, I think... just read for yourself, not to write about it...I don't know. Just be strong!!

Ellen Hartman said...

Hi Wendy,

I stopped writing romance a few years ago because my kids were at an age where I felt like every minute I could spend with them was precious and I didn't want to take time away for book deadlines and promo. (I have a full-time job, too.) Anyway, I wanted to let you know that you've brought me a lot of joy over the years.

I've always enjoyed your personal, passionate, independent style of blogging. Your site is fun to read and fun to have in my community. Meeting you at RWA is a great memory for me.

I hope you find your joy again. You do something valuable here.

Thanks for being here! Ellen

Anonymous said...

Great post, Wendy. Reading it spurred me to write one I've been sitting on for a few weeks too. Thanks, I think?

I agree with both you and Lime that the sense of threat has changed things in ways that are profound, as well as different from the past. I don't know where we go from here. But I'm reading less romance too. I'll keep reading it because I love it, but I'm definitely talking with fewer people about it, and more privately.

azteclady said...

Warning: rant ahead

I read this post last night and didn't know how to respond.

I am not on twitter or Facebook, and the more I learn about them, the less likely I am to join either. GoodReads was never my thing, but after selling out to amazon? Zero incentive to make it my thing, even peripherally.

Like you, I feel ignored--that lone, small voice no one hears.

Then, this morning I read Sunita's blog post about trust and secrets in romanceland, and I'm reeling.

Am I the only imbecile around who thought that, unless people disclosed it, they only had the one identity?

Because from that blog post, it would seem that a number of fairly well known people online are happy to have two or more fully constructed personas, through which they interact with other people without disclosure.

Not, mind you, pen names or pseudonyms, against which I have nothing. Hard to, when I have never been online as anything but azteclady myself, since 1999 or so.

Then we have the threats. I got a comment on my blog a couple of weeks ago linking to the STGRB site and stating that I should be sued alongside Jane Litte.

I didn't approve the comment, but I didn't delete it either. It sits there in my pending approval queue, reminding me of the risks I run every time I post anything, including the mildest review.

Should I be sued for my opinions? Hell of a world to live in, should that be the case.

There is the threat of doxxing, which also looms large for people in fields where most people conflate 50 Shades with porn, and romance with trash. Who wants to lose their job because of their hobby? Who wants to become even more vulnerable to violence, simply because some asshole thought women having opinions and daring to express them, deserve to be raped, beaten, killed?

More and more I am taking the stance that I am talking to myself. That there are very few people I can trust to be who and what they say they are--many fewer than I trusted just a few weeks ago.

Merriam commented at BookThingo, in part, that:
"bloggers need to be running a mental checklist so they are consistent and comfortable with themselves. The mix of friendships, power relationships and business has tripped up a number of people besides Jane in this mess. If they had been asking themselves questions along the way, doing a conscious testing of their ethical approach to their blogging, it might not have trapped them in this public disaster"

I will continue to be true to my own code of ethics and stop expecting anyone else, with very limited exceptions, to adhere to any code of ethics at all.

And I won't expect anyone to trust me either. Why should they?

Sad as hell, but probably a lot less painful than continue to trust people only to be slapped in the face over and over and over with the truth.

Anonymous said...

Oops, that was me above, with my less-used WP login. *shakes fist at Blogger*

AL, I don't know how widespread the multiple-persona thing is. I just know I've seen it quite a few times and it's bothered me.


kmc1952 said...

I watched all 120 or so episodes of Parks & Recreation in late winter, but didn’t read much romance. I’ve been worn out with the news about lawsuits, identity revelations, etc. in the community, but I’ve been stressed out IRL, too.

I haven’t given up, but I spend more time thinking about why I read certain blogs, removed a couple from my feed because they just aren’t interesting my any more, and generally thinking about how I want to interact with the online community. This is an on-going process.

One thing I HAVE concluded is that I need to stake my own tiny claim to good, rather than negative, online things. I considered starting a blog, but decided to being smaller and work my way into it. So on Thursdays on Facebook I’m doing a special thank you post about someone who’s done something positive for me or the world in general. Not many people are responding to it, but that’s fine, because it’s for me, not someone else. Baby steps.

Donna Alward said...

Wendy, OMG I totally get an author and as a reader. I have so many thoughts that I'm just going to e-mail you later, when I can give it the attention it deserves.

Hugs. And as always, I adore your honesty.

Donna xx

PK the Bookeemonster said...

I understand the frustration. I do.

I would submit, however, that the community isn't dead ... it HAS changed. Things evolve. They have to.

I would also submit that while, yes, it takes the community to keep it alive, it takes one drop at a time to help form the waterfall. We each contribute individually. If you want to stop, then stop. But it needs you, just you, too.

But you have to find the inspiration within yourself (again). Find the reason FOR YOURSELF. You are evolving, too. Find the reader in yourself again and find out what she wants to say about it now, not then. Now. For you. We all hit bumps in the road but the stories don't stop. Stories are fantastic, it doesn't matter the form.

Much love....

Kristie (J) said...

I hear exactly what you are saying - but I prefer to remain an optimist and thing it's just going through changes right now. As you (and anyone who followed(s) me knows, I took a lengthy time out from blogging - it was needed because of personal stuff going on. But I'm back now and the joy in blogging is back too. What helped bring me back was all the friend I had made before. I felt like I had let them all down and even as I was away, I kept thinking I need to blog, I need to blog because just as I care about these people, so they care about me.
I did come back to a much different landscape, one I'm not really used to yet. One of the things I managed to avoid during my absence was a lot of the drama that was going on. I was aware on one level about the lawsuit Jane and Dear Author was facing, but not in a real "knowing" kind of way. As to her disclosure, I think it was handled badly, but it's not changing how I feel about her. She was one of my life lines (as were you) when I was going through such a difficult time when Ron was so ill and after he died.
In fact, that's one of the reasons I CAN'T stop blogging altogether. Even if no one ever visits my small little blog, just writing is so good for me. I don't have a book in me. Part of me wishes I did, but I just don't. But I do need to write. It's as important for me as reading. And as long as I'm writing I have you, and AL and other who are so damned important to me. I've said to a lot of people, when I see you at the conferences, even though I haven't seen you for a year, it's more like a couple of weeks ago that we last got together.
So, think of it as a state of flux right now - and while you do, know that I NEED you and I NEED the romance community. And maybe we are just little pebbles without much of a ripple right now, but ripples spread and spread and more little pebbles and more little pebbles and hopefully once again we will create wonderful waves.

Keira Soleore said...

While I have been around Romlandia since 2006, I have less of an emotional attachment to it. I came to it as a reader and aspiring author then as an editor but still always a reader first and foremost. I blog twice a week, but it's a very small blog with almost no comments. The people I talk to on Twitter, the blogs I visit, (I used to be on Facebook, not anymore), etc. have changed over the years. I was completely outraged over Hale and shocked and disappointed over Dear Author, but it hasn't had a negative impact on my reading romance. My romance reading however has suffered on its own with changing reading tastes. From a high of only romance from a few years ago, I'm down to less than 50% romance, and that is OK. My love for books and reading is still strong and that is what matters to me.

Wendy, I have always visited your blog and followed your tweets. I value what you bring to Romlandia and will continue to follow you around (in a non-creepy way :)

Anonymous said...

Kristie J: I'm thrilled that you're blogging again. It reminds of the good ole days. --Keishon

Hilcia said...

Ah Wendy, hugs to you.

If you let all this stuff get to you, then we end up with one less great reader voice for those of us who prefer not to read big author-run or multi-reviewer, publisher-backed, romance blogs. And, what happens then?

The end of your post? That's how I feel. I began my blog 6 years ago and it has been one disheartening event after another in Romanceland. Lots of changes, few to none for the better in my opinion. Most of the small reader blogs that I visited are gone, and quite a few left from that time slow-blog these days. I don't read a third of romance books I read back then either. (Lots of SFF and look what happened there!!)

Small reader blogs are going the way of the dinosaur. (I hate it because I love, loved, small reader blogs) Comments are next to nil these days since Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads came along. Sigh… very few great book discussions these days. For me anyway since I seldom participate in Twitter discussions.

For me my space is my haven away from the real stressors in my life. It's my "safe place." And because I love sharing what I read (whatever it may be) with other readers -- lurkers, whoever stops by my small space. It makes me happy.

And, I love my small tribe. I've met some fantastic people -- women. The real kind, not the "make believe" ones with secret personas. And yes, I hold them tight and appreciate the heck out of them.

You are a straight shooter. Keep shooting. The point is not to get disillusioned with Romance (with a capital R) while at the OK Corral.

Kaetrin said...

In the years since I joined Romancelandia I've found that people come and go and that hasn't changed. I'm more careful about what kerfuffles I involve myself in now because I've learned a few lessons along the way. And there are plenty of times when my voice adds nothing to the conversation or would only stifle it. I'm actually learning to listen more and for me, that's a good thing.

But I still love reading and I still love talking about books. I still love blogging.

I appreciate that some people are not feeling the love but it's not everyone. I'd venture to guess that just about everyone goes through a period where they're in a bit of a slump for whatever reason.

One thing that can be guaranteed is that the community won't remain static. It will change. I'm not sure it's "fractured" - I think it's changing. Change is difficult. I can't say I'm a big fan of it myself much of the time but it's going to happen whether I like it or not.

I don't think any one blog or person speaks for any entire community. I don't think they should try and I don't think anyone should fool themselves into thinking their voice is the only voice that matters. And no one voice will be forever relevant. In fact, the only way to *stay* relevant is to change.

When I first found Romland, the historical and vampire romance were duking it out for ubiquity. There was hardly a contemporary to be found. Things changed and now the contemporary is king and New Adult is probably the princess. It will change again in time as well. Everything changes. Maybe I'm an optimist but I don't think things are quite so gloomy. Or, at least they aren't for me.

Jill Sorenson said...

I don't think it's just a period of change. When we can't look up to the leaders of our own community, the community is in serious trouble. Communities are built on relationships, and relationships are built on trust. I agree with Wendy that this one is broken, and I don't believe it can be repaired without change. What we have isn't change. It's a lack of change. It's stasis, a stronghold, business as usual. And it feels corrupt.

Romland will continue as is with people who respect the current leadership, or just don't care. But many of us can't participate in that, don't want to contribute, and feel alienated.

That doesn't mean there can't be change. I just don't think it's going to come from the two biggest blogs, or from people who don't care. (Not saying that's anyone here. Obviously we all care enough to comment.) The defectors will hopefully thrive in other places. I'll continue to visit small blogs like this one and I've always liked Smexy Books. I still want to be a part of this community, on the fringes if need be.

willaful said...

"When we can't look up to the leaders of our own community, the community is in serious trouble. Communities are built on relationships, and relationships are built on trust. I agree with Wendy that this one is broken, and I don't believe it can be repaired without change. What we have isn't change. It's a lack of change. It's stasis, a stronghold, business as usual. And it feels corrupt. "

Yes, to all of this.

Lynn Spencer said...

I think I've read this over several times, and I've had similar thoughts. This year has been a roller coaster so far with baby open heart surgery, deaths in the family, changing jobs and so on. And it's made me both hopeful and sad about the romance community.

Hopeful because reading and talking books really has been a lifeline for me this year, and there are still wonderful voices online that I love to hear from. However, seeing folks online that I care about falling into slumps and finding the community a less hospitable place makes me very sad. This is a corner of the internet that means a lot to me, and I so want it to stay vibrant.

Like Azteclady, I have to admit that I was pretty startled to hear that apparently some folks use several completely different personas online. I do write under a pseudonym. My former employer required that of me when I first joined AAR, and I just kept it. However, until this week I never thought I'd feel the need to tell folks that this really is my only online "persona" and that aside from the penname, what you get from me online is...well, me. I really am a lawyer who works with the elderly,disabled and mentally ill, likes to read romance, herd cats, and hate on DC traffic gridlock. And I miss seeing "my tribe" loving reading and talking romance. I really do.

And I love your blog. Don't stop reading and telling us all about it, Wendy!

Unknown said...

This was a very interesting post Wendy. As a newbie to romance writing (and therefore I've missed the lawsuits and so on you mentioned) what has struck me is just how many people I've found out there talking about Romance in so many places. I don't just read romance but that's the only genre I follow blogs about.
Please don't stop posting or reading.

Wendy said...

First, I wanted to thank everyone for their comments. They've been wonderful to read.

Jill touched on the "change" issue - and that, I think, is the crux of it for me. I don't know what I expect to happen, but what I do know for sure is that there seem to be fewer voices. Maybe this is simply a matter of blogging being "dead" and what I'm looking for is now only on Twitter or Facebook? That's entirely possible.

The community has always been fluid. People come, people go. But what I see now is that people are going but not always coming. Blogs have ended, but fewer new ones seem to be cropping up in their place. Or maybe it's just that the blogs that are cropping up are dealing with smaller corners of the community (like NA, or self-publishing). When it comes to some subgenres, I'm finding commentary harder to come by these days. Yeah, I can still find the SQUEEEEE! in most cases - but that's never really been what I've gravitated toward.

(Seriously, I want a happy middle ground between SQUEEEEE EVERYTHING IS AWESOME and Let's Dissect Every Other Word In This Romance Novel. This is apparently a tall order).

So yeah. Thank you for stopping by and listening to me whine. I really, really thought long and hard before writing this post but I'm glad I did.

Kate said...

I actually woke up in the middle of the night thinking about your post :D I just recently came back to reading romances after a long hiatus--almost 20 years--and was stunned at how the landscape has changed. Between e-readers, self publishing, Ellora’s Cave and the “50 Shades effect,” it’s really the Wild West. There are So. Many. Books. now and a bewildering array of subgenres, so as a reader I’m looking for any guidance I can possibly find, whether it be bloggers, Good Reads reviewers or whatever. Back in the old days it was RT (on crappy newsprint, IIRC) or word of mouth, and that was pretty much it. Now there are too many opinions, and you have to figure out which ones seem to like the same things you do and sound at least partially sane.

As Sunita mentioned in her post, Romland has always had a culture of pen names, which is one thing when it’s an author trying to distinguish between their “brands,” or maintain a degree of privacy, but the authors generally kept their own corner, the professional reviewers kept to theirs, and the readers occasionally stepped over to become one or the other, but since they didn’t have much of a public voice, it didn’t raise any eyebrows. Now everyone can play any or all those roles and decide to be open about it, or not. It doesn’t help that the Internet seems to encourage drama and incivility--nearly every group I lurk in seems to dissolve into vicious in-fighting at some point, sadly. There are people on Facebook right now fighting about candles. Yes, candles!

I hope you still carry on with the blog, Wendy. I appreciate your thoughtful and witty posts, even if I don’t always comment. One of the best things about the romance bloggers I follow is how funny and intelligent the writing can be. The warm reception of pieces like Kelly Faircloth’s history of Harlequin on Jezebel gives me hope that the larger community is alive and well. As you said, you have to find your tribe.

Wendy said...

Kate: I loved your comment SO much. Especially this:

Now there are too many opinions, and you have to figure out which ones seem to like the same things you do and sound at least partially sane.

I want to print that on a T-shirt. Seriously.

Kaetrin said...

@Jill. Perhaps what you are seeing as "business as usual" is merely other people reacting in a different way than you did. Wendy was pretty clear in her post that she attributes her slump (for want of a better word) to a number of things and not just the Jane/Jen thing. You seem to be singling that out more or, if I'm reading you right, you feel that it was turning point for you (and not in a good way.

I have always felt that people are entitled to feel their feelings about this and have their reactions and have those feelings/reactions respected. But it works both ways. If others have a different reaction, if others have worked out any conflicts they had about the matter in ways which you don't know about personally, if others have a different perspective simply by reason of the own personal experience, that doesn't make *those* reactions any less valid either. If others are less upset or if others have made their peace with those events, that's a perfectly valid response too and not a moral failing on the part of those people.

Frankly and with respect, I think there is a conflation of "business as usual" to "having a different reaction to me".

It astounds me but there are vast swathes of people who love to read romance and who are not online and/or have never heard of Dear Author. I've even met romance writers who'd never heard of DA. I could barely fathom it but there you go.

I think the "romance community" is a series of overlapping Venn diagrams and "my romance community" looks different to "your romance community" (when any "my" and "your" could represent any two people in the community). Even if it was just the "online romance community" we were talking about, there are still groups which don't interact all that much with each other. None of us visits every blog and knows everyone in the community. It's too big. I suspect if you were to speak to some of those other groups, their view of who the community leaders are would be vastly different.

Jill Sorenson said...

@Kaetrin Oh I agree with you totally that the community is different for everyone. The group I think of as romanceland is pretty small, maybe a few hundred. The number of romance readers in general is huge. I didn't mean to suggest that my reaction is the only valid reaction or that other reactions are the result of a moral failing. I don't believe that at all. Kristie J above said she'll always consider Jane a friend because Jane helped her through a tough time. I think that's very sweet and valid and reasonable. I would never presume to think that she (or you) had a moral failing. Absolutely not.

I probably won't speak more on this, as I'm focused on other things and it's not a wise topic to wade into at any rate, but I think it's important for others to be able to share feelings and even criticism without getting chilled. Just like with books. Talking about stuff is part of moving on.

Kaetrin said...

@Jill. I absolutely agree that people should be able to share their thoughts and feelings without being shut down. That's part of the reason I have been largely silent on this issue in public. Obviously, I'm not an unbiased outsider here. My view, as a DA reviewer is relatively unique and anything I say is (fairly) viewed through that lens.

And I want to reiterate that it's perfectly fine for people to feel however they feel about it.

But some people didn't have a problem with Jane's actions to begin with and others have worked through any issues they had with it and/or forgiven and forgotten and/or moved on. And those reactions are just as valid as any other.

Victoria Janssen said...

You are the awesomest.

Cheryl St.John said...

I wrote a whole long comment, then lost it. Probably a good thing. Then I saw this on Twitter and sat and cried. My mission for last year was FIND THE JOY. This year is FOCUS.

Tripping over something like this helps me channel everything back into the joy of the work. When you make one reader's day, Wendy, when you point a reader to a book that gives them hours of pleasure (thank you for that!) it reminds us why we all do this. I've enjoyed so many of your recommendations over the years, books and authors I wouldn't have found without you pointing them out.

Blythe Gifford said...

Yes. This. But I think it is emblematic of the larger world. And as Kate said, with the onset of indie publishing, there are So. Many. Books. Day after day, I'm bombarded with mini-ads until I don't want to look at any of them.
I do think there is another factor and that is the shortening attention span brought on by constant online participation. I've noticed it in myself and I'm working to lengthen the time I can just sit and read the way I used to.
Wonderful, useful post. Thank you for saying it!

Bona Caballero said...

I love this post, but it's very sad indeed. I think there are good reasons to feel that way, because I've seen similar posts here and there in the USA Romantic blogosphere this last year.
It's a pity you don't feel like reading.
There were times in my life when I stopped reading romance novels or suspense novels, because I kind of got tired of those genres. But I've never stopped reading. Literature. Non-fiction books. Poetry. Theatre. There's always something out there that fancies me.
Not feeling like reading sounds like a nightmare to me.
I hope you will get better. In time. Perhaps it's a time of growing older for the Romantic blogosphere, of maturing and understanding that many people out there have got agendas that we should take seriously instead of thinking that everybody is honest, and candid, and 'just a reader'.

nath said...

Great post Wendy :)

I don't think the romance community can ever go back to the way it was, as sad as that makes me. And I guess that's life.

For me, the reason why I still don't want to give it up has always been my tribe. I've found you guys and I'm holding on, as difficult as it is :)