That mega sale on my books that I mentioned? You can get all my books for $1.99 in all kinds of formats, including epub, kindle, and kobo.

You: But I want to own a hard copy!
Me: Sorry, but they don't do print runs after their on-sale month. However, you can preorder my November title, MATINEES WITH MIRIAM, and have that on your shelf!

You: But I don't have space on my shelves!
Me: See above re: ebooks

You: But I don't have time to read!
Me: Frankly, I don't care if you read it. This is about my ability to pay for daycare and you supporting working writers like me.

You: But I can't afford it!
Me: If you can afford a $6 latte that takes 3 minutes to make and 10 minutes to drink, you can afford to buy 3 of my books which each take 8 months to write and several hours to read. The cost amortization and return on investment is well worth the investment, I promise. Of course, if you're really hard up for cash, do me a solid and borrow it at your local library. Those hits count.

You: But I don't read romance.
Me: Because the patriarchy has drilled into your head that fiction by women and for women is somehow worth less than work written by a dead white man? Or because you're prejudiced against a genre you've never tried?

You: Is there some other way I can help you that doesn't require me spending money?
Me: Absolutely! First off, rate it and review all my books on Amazon, Goodreads, Kobo or wherever you do your book buying! Even the shortest "Great read!" and a five star rating helps bump my visibility up in rankings. It only takes a few seconds, so please, rate and review everywhere you can!

You: I can't read a romance book something something Fifty Shades something something bodice rippers something blah blah blah shirtless men blah blah formula blah....
Me: Look, I can't make you like anything. I'm just asking for a chance. I never liked olives before, either. Now I love them. Most of them. When I'm craving them. For $2 you can say at least you own this book, and maybe, one day, if you're trapped in a cabin with your kobo and have nothing else to read, you can read it and then tell me how much you hated it.

You: But I hate you.
Me: Then why are you still here?

Sale ends Oct. 25!

Dear Reporters covering the Romance Writers of America's National Conference,

The Romance Writers of America is hosting its annual conference this week, from July 23-26 in San Antonio, Texas. We know you enjoy covering this event. And those of us in the romance publishing industry love having the spotlight on us. It's a fun story for the summer, and with all the horrible things going on in the world right now, I know this piece of eye candy is much-needed mind sorbet for your readers, listeners and viewers.

That said, I am asking for a moratorium on certain words and phrases too frequently used in reference to romance books and romance writers. While I appreciate not everyone has the same tastes and that your story may only be a fluff piece, romance writers and readers are sick of hearing particular words which have historically been used to denigrate and marginalize our chosen genre.

Not only are these words and phrases overused, they're cliches, and will make you, the reporter, look lazy in your own writing. So eliminate them!

1. "Bodice ripper": this is a term developed in the 70's and 80's when historicals were popular. Today's romances include so much more than Regency-era stories—paranormal, contemporary, romantic suspense, inspirational, erotic romance...please, do your research and take this term out of your romance vocab right away.

2. "Not your mother's romance books": this phrase has no relevance or meaning. Mothers who read romances likely passed down their favorite books to the younger romance readers in their families, inspiring a whole new generation of readers. If you mean to say that levels of sensuality are different from decades previous, then you might want to look a little more closely. Sensuality levels still vary widely book to book, subgenre to subgenre. I guarantee that Fanny Hill (1748) is still much raunchier than any inspirational Christian romance I've ever read.

3. References to Fifty Shade of Grey in either the pejorative or as the superlative example: yes, the movie is coming out soon. And while writers appreciate the success of Fifty Shades, erotica and erotic romance has been around for a long time. Why not look up Sylvia Day, Tiffany Reisz, or Megan Hart? (Note: yes, there is a difference between erotica and erotic romance. Learn it.)

4. "Formula": I've written about the F word before. Romance has often been labelled "formulaic", and yet all fiction is built upon an established guideline for storytelling. If you have to use a word, use framework.

5. Any suggestion that only single, desperate women read romances or lonely housewives or have impossibly standards for their men: No. Just no. Readers get enough flack in public when people on the bus look over their shoulder and say "Oh, you're into THAT, are you?" Yes. We are. Just as I'm sure those judgey types are into murdering young women and burying their bodies in the forest, like in that thriller they've got tucked into their pocket. Romance readers are educated, earn incomes, have families, and strive like anyone else for balance in life. Don't be a douche and paint us with that wide stereotyped brush. Otherwise you'll make us think all reporters are...well, we can leave that. Because you know what people think of your kind, right?

6. "Heaving bosoms": yes, we know the conference is largely attended by women. We have breasts. They heave sometimes because we love what we read, or we're out of breath because we're trying to up the counts on our Fitbits. Your mother has breasts, too. So does your dad for that matter. You probably spent the early years of your life smushed up against them, or possibly feeding from them. Keep that in mind and please, don't use this cliche to describe conference attendees.

7. Purple prose: romance writers actually try to avoid this as much as possible. And so should you. Failure to avoid purple prose only makes us believe you actually yearn to join us in writing romance...and we'd welcome you with open arms and heaving bosoms if that's what you want to do. If not, then please, for Elmore Leonard's sake, drop the frills.

 8. "Harlequin" used as a generic term: my personal pet peeve since, full disclosure, I work there full-time in addition to writing for them—Harlequin Enterprises is a company, and is probably best known for their romances. But not all romances are from Harlequin, obviously.

9. Fabio: don't get me wrong. Everyone loves Fabio. He has a special place in romance book lore, but like Fifty Shades, he is not the be all and end all of hero archetypes. We're all different women. We all like different kinds of men and women.

Hey, I get it. With this wealth of colorful material surrounding you, how can you resist the glistening muscles of male cover models attending as guests? How can you not comment on the pageantry of romance writer prom?

Well, do. But do so respectfully. If you find yourself snarking more than smiling, looking down your nose because you think these women can't find real jobs or can't find a man because you think they have impossibly high standards, you picked the wrong story assignment. And we'll know it. Don't be that guy.

By refraining from using any of these phrases while reporting on the conference, you'll help dissolve a long-held bias against readers and writers of genre fiction for women. And you'll also earn the respect of millions of smart, social-media savvy women.

Thanks, reporters.

Respectfully yours,
Vicki Essex

Meet Tina Belcher, the eldest daughter of Bob Belcher from the TV show Bob's Burgers. I would like to nominate her for Patron Saint of Romance Writers.


She's humble...

but not too humble.


She's committed to her craft:

She asks for writing materials for Christmas gifts.

She's always doing research.

And she's not afraid to share her stories, even if she risks criticism.


She's prolific.


She's not afraid to push the boundaries in her writing...

or mix genres...even in her own fantasies.

Why yes, zombie angel erotica IS the new hotness.
Uh...well...I guess there's a market for this somewhere...

She doesn't limit her own desires.

And she's not ashamed of her fantasies.


She knows what she likes.

And she uses her passion to fuel her stories.


Most important of all, she knows what romance is all about:


Make Tina Belcher your patron saint today!

Back to the Good Fortune Diner, Jan. 2013
Back to the Good Fortune Diner

I am so excited to be on the DABWAHA (Dear Author Bitchery Writing Award for Hellagood Authors) Category list for 2013! For those of you not familiar with the event, the posses at Dear Author and Smart Bitches, Trashy Books select finalists to faceoff with each other in a tourney-style reader-selected death match. Meaning from all the category romance books published last year, mine was picked to be one of 8!

Stay tuned for tourney instructions!

Back to the Good Fortune Diner selected as a 2014 DABWAHA finalist!
Back to the Good Fortune Diner selected as a 2014 DABWAHA finalist!


Re: Double Meh. Anti-Valentine's Day Anti-Party.

Blech! Yeesh! Tired of making a fuss over Valentine's Day?   Seek refuge from the mushiness at one of the Anti-Valentine's Day Anti-Parties.

Join us for a party where hearts, Cupid, the colour red and public displays of affection are banned and black clothing is encouraged.  Join us to vandalize romance novel covers, test your knowledge of former celebrity couples and write the worst break-up letter.

Win prizes, eat un-festive snacks and listen to our playlist of the best break-up songs!

Two Anti-Valentines Events:

  • Thursday, February 13th, 5:00-6:00pm
  • Sanderson Branch (327 Bathurst, Bathurst at Dundas W)
  • Black clothing encouraged. Bring your sarcasm.


  • Monday, February 10th, 4:30-6:00pm
  • North York Central Library, Room 1

Dear Toronto Public Library,

As a Toronto romance author, employee of Toronto-based Harlequin Enterprises and a former Toronto Public Library employee, I am sorely disappointed by the TPL’s decision to hold an event that actively encourages vandalizing romance book covers.

While I understand the anti-Valentine’s day sentiment, holding this public event does not help foster positive attitudes toward healthy romantic relationships in young people. I can understand the program’s effort to be edgy and tongue-in-cheek and draw more patrons, however, I cannot condone the destruction of reading materials in this fashion with the explicit intention to mock, marginalize, abuse and denigrate the romance genre.

Historically, romance novels have faced much criticism and disrespect, much of it due to the fact that the main audience is women and the writers are predominantly women. By adding to the chorus of voices decrying the non-value of romance through this event, the Toronto Public Library fosters an environment in which it is considered acceptable to judge people for the things they like.

As a romance author who has done events with the TPL and as someone who works on the production side of the publishing business, I can tell you that hundreds of people work tirelessly to produce these covers and the books. While I recognize the sometimes salacious or hilarious end products and have enough of a sense of humor to poke fun at the industry, these hardworking folks take pride in their work, and it would break my heart to see people who have little to no concept of the work or genre treat these covers with such disrespect.

Romance writing is a $1.7 billion industry worldwide. Harlequin Enterprises Ltd., the world’s leading publisher of romance novels, is headquartered in Toronto and owned by TorStar. The former CEO of Harlequin, Donna Hayes, is the Chair of the Toronto Public Library’s Corporate Committee. And Harlequin is one of the major sponsors of the annual Book Lover’s Ball.

Is this how you want to get new readers and patrons into the library? By alienating them from a reading genre and encouraging them to hate on something they haven’t even tried?

Please, for the love of books, cancel this event and replace it with something more positive. Valentine’s Day can certainly be difficult for young people, but they don’t need to turn it into a hate-fest.

NOTE: The opinions expressed above are my own and in no way reflect Harlequin Enterprises or any other entities mentioned.

EDIT Feb. 5/14 12:12 PM: Looks like the TPL has edited the site and (hopefully) changed the program. The site now reads: "Join us to create your own anti-romance book cover, test your knowledge of former celebrity couples and write the worst break-up letter. "


EDIT Feb. 5/14 1:58 PM:  The Toronto Public Library posted these Tweets:

TPL responds


EDIT Feb. 5/14 5:31 PM: So I got a mention on Suffice to say, I think the issue has played itself out, but I'm glad to have started a discussion on this. I love the Toronto Public Library and I support its programs and everything they do. It's important that everyone from all walks of life have a safe space to express themselves without prejudice or judgment, and I hope the library will continue to be this space.


It's no secret that I have a wee crush on Tahmoh Penikett. Okay, maybe it is, considering how much time I spend drooling over Jeremy Renner.

So this story is to make up for neglecting that other celeb crush of mine. <3 you, Tahmoh. See you on my book cover soon...?


That time Battlestar Galactica/Dollhouse hottie @TahmohPenikett agreed to be my cover model

If actor @TahmohPenikett is going to be on a @HarlequinBooks cover, he has one demand...

Storified by Vicki Essex· Mon, Apr 15 2013 19:16:18

The coolness factor of a celebrity is directly proportional to their tweets to fans. @JeriLRyan and @NathanFillion know this. @TahmohPenikett already won me over with his performances in Battlestar Galactica and Dollhouse, but he had me at "Interesting."
GUYS. @TahmohPenikett is now verified and active on Twitter! Did I mention he's the inspiration for the hero in my next #MMA romance? <3Vicki Essex
@VickiEssex Interesting.Tahmoh Penikett
This was about where I lost my s#it and squeed. But it got better....
@VickiEssex @TahmohPenikett When will it come out? I'll definitely need to read it!Nichole Stark
@nichole5988 @TahmohPenikett Maybe sometime in 2014? I'll let y'all know when I have a release date!Vicki Essex
@VickiEssex @nichole5988 Want to hear more.Tahmoh Penikett
.@TahmohPenikett @nichole5988 Former Olympic gold wrestler trains female MMA fighter struggling against her family's disapproval. 1/2Vicki Essex
.@TahmohPenikett @nichole5988 2/2 Their chemistry on and off the mats sizzles, but he's holding back. Can she break down his defenses? #MMAVicki Essex
Hey, @TahmohPenikett ever wanted to model for Harlequin? I can hook you up... @nichole5988Vicki Essex
I tried this once with @GeorgesStPierre when I was working on Her Son's Hero. He doesn't handle his own twitter, though, so I didn't get a response.
Now I'm demanding @HarlequinBooks get @TahmohPenikett as the cover model for my next book. Whaddya think, Tahmoh? #MMA #romance #sosayweallVicki Essex
Tahmoh is just that much cooler.
@VickiEssex @HarlequinBooks Why not?! Can i have Fabio hair?!Tahmoh Penikett
Hear that? He'll do it! RT @TahmohPenikett @HarlequinBooks Why not?! Can i have Fabio hair?!Vicki Essex
@TahmohPenikett Tahmoh, you can be on one of my covers anytime. @vickiessex @harlequinbooksDonna Alward
If you score that I'll die of jealousy! RT @vickiessex: Tahmoh Penikett said yes! No take-backsies! @HarlequinBooks Alward
Back off, ladies. He's mine... Although I'd love to be there for the shoot if he were doing multiple covers. *hint hint @HarlequinBooks*
.@DonnaAlward @HarlequinBooks @TahmohPenikett I think he'd make a great cowboy. Or billionaire CEO. How would you feel about a kilt, Tahmoh?Vicki Essex
@VickiEssex @donnaalward @harlequinbooks @tahmohpenikett I second the kilt!Nichole Stark
@VickiEssex @DonnaAlward @HarlequinBooks Listen, i'm game for a lot of things, but i'm not budging on the Fabio hair.Tahmoh Penikett
@TahmohPenikett @vickiessex @harlequinbooks And he definitely needs to be holding a baby. Hey, just so happens I have a photogenic baby...Margot Mallinson

I hope so hard that @HarlequinBooks will respond. And that Tahmoh will do this. And meet me. And hug me... Did I mention I'm a fan?

Your move, Harlequin.


Over the past five years or so that I've been seriously writing, along with the more than six years I've worked at the company as a proofreader, I've been asked several times how one goes about writing for Harlequin.

Let me preface this by making it clear that I do not speak for the company. This has been gleaned from my own personal experience.

Let's explore, first the reasons you are asking this question.

Why do you want to write for Harlequin? This is a very simple question. If the answer is "because they'll publish anything and I hear I can make easy money writing trashy romances," then stop. Just stop. Writing is not easy, and getting published by the world's largest publisher of women's fiction is even more difficult. Any belief that this will be easy and that you'll become a millionaire overnight needs to be put down right now. (See my About Me page.)

If, on the other hand, the answer is "I want to write for Harlequin because I've got a great idea/completed romance manuscript that would be terrific for their (insert series here) line," then you, my friend, are on the right track.

But what if all you have is a vague idea and a glimmer of hope in your eyes? How do you sell your book to Harlequin?

Boromir should know. His Aragorn/Legolas slashfics were rejected.


1. If you want to write for Harlequin, read Harlequin books. Two or three is not a sampling. Ten is not a sampling. I daresay, 100 probably isn't a sampling, either, but it's closer to some kind of representation (as of this date, I have read more than 670 Harlequin books over +6 years). Harlequin produces tons of different series ranging from contemporary to paranormal. Go to and study the enormous range of series they have. Understanding what you like and where your story will fit within the Harlequin family is vital.

2a. Write, write, WRITE. Don't just sit and plan and outline and dream. You have to have words to edit before you even consider who you'll sell to or what agent you want. The only way you'll become a published author is to write. Period. A book is not going to magically appear in your hands. Finish writing a book and you'll be that much closer to being a published author.

2b. Edit, edit, EDIT. Your manuscript should be the best it can possibly be. Polish it to a high gloss before you start handing it out...and expect to edit it some more even after you've sold it!

3. Get help. Learn about the romance publishing industry. There are tons of resources out there for the would-be Harlequin author to help you sharpen your writing and learn about the publishing business. The Harlequin website has an entire online community devoted to the craft of writing.

Another resource: The Romance Writers of America is the primary nonprofit organization created to foster the careers of aspiring and published romance authors, and it can give you lots of great perspective about the industry overall.

Go to your local RWA chapter meetings. Find a critique partner or critique group of like-minded writers who work in your genre. And unless she's a book editor, your mom probably doesn't count. Listen to what people have to say about your writing. Seek out resources on the internet and in books. You can never learn enough.

4. Submit your manuscript for consideration. You can't get published by Harlequin unless you stick your neck out there and submit. Check out the submission guidelines on the Harlequin website and, for the love of all that is holy, FOLLOW THOSE GUIDELINES. Nothing will get you rejected faster than flaunting the rules...except maybe dissing the line you want to write for in your query letter. (Note: Don't do that.)

5. Accept rejection. It'll happen. But don't let it discourage you! Learn from your rejection letters. Go back to step 3. Edit.

6. Repeat steps 1-5 until you are published by Harlequin. Writing to get published is not easy. I don't know how often I have to say this. I have 5 books I completed that are sitting on my hard drive, rejected or unpublishable. I've learned from every one of them. And though they'll never see the light of day, at least I can say I wrote those books.

For more tips (helpful or otherwise) check out my So You Want To Be A Writer page for all my posts on the craft and on getting published.


Me: I love you so much, honey. I'm so lucky to have you.

Him: It's not luck. You asked me out.

Me: "In my business, there's no such thing as luck."

Him: *smiles*

Me: "Nothing like a good blaster at your side, kid."

Him: *looks away*

Me: "That's no moon!"

Him: *turns over to sleep*

Me: "...Boring conversation anyhow."

Note: This is a real conversation I had with the hubby in 2011. I thought I'd repost it here.





I love interviewing authors of other genres! Today, I've got Canadian erotic romance writer Cristal Ryder on my blog. Make sure to check out her books and visit her social media sites!

About Cristal Ryder

Cristal wrote her first story at fifteen and spent many hours escaping into worlds she created on the walk to and from high school. Now, ready to experience all life has to offer, Cristal tempts her readers and takes them on journeys of passion to vivid locations.
Cristal lives in a small Canadian town, is a single mom of two college-aged sons and, yes, they do fly home after their initial excitement of leaving the nest! Along with her writing, Cristal works full time in the law enforcement field, loves horses, the outdoors and will jet off at any given opportunity to see the world. Cristal is multi-published with Ellora’s Cave, Sybarite Seductions and Lyrical Press

Tell me about your writer’s journey. How did you start writing? Tell us about The Call.

My journey was a little long, starting back in grade 10 which would be 1976, when I wrote my first story about a horse. Then it resurfaced in to my early/mid twenties. I started handwriting a historical, contacted Harelquin to see how to get published. Here's a funny thing, I received the guidelines in a large brown envelope. Inside were Photostatted copies, many crooked on the page, of their lines and expectations. I didn't understand a word, got frightened off and put them away. Then I got an old IBM Selectric typewriter to give it a whirl being inspired by Joan Wilder dontchaknow. Failed miserably and then didn't look at it again until about 1999 when I met a Toronto Romance Writer member and she got me on the RWA path. I won a Writing Round Robin contest with Harlequin in 2001, which was a great boost. I got The Call, or rather The Email for a story that had been rejected everywhere (Harlequin Spice Briefs too when they first started) Background here is a friend at Harlequin read, suggested I bump it up a bit and send to Spice Briefs, when they started the Briefs. It was promptly rejected. (Note the Harlequin trend here? Still want to be an HQ author, hello!!) BUT, if it hadn't been for her I wouldn't have pushed on. After a few years of close calls with comments and editorial feedback, No Fantasy Required was finally published in November 2010. Now, over two years later, I have books with Ellora's Cave, Sybarite Seductions and Lyrical Press. Eleven out now including a trade paperback and three more to be published within the next two months.

Romance writers across the board get flack for writing “women’s porn.” Despite the rise of Fifty Shades of Grey, erotica and erotic romance writers still face a lot of stigma. How do you handle it? Does it affect you?
I had hoped my sales would jump because of it 🙂 Hard to say. I'm small potatoes. If anything, I'm happy the book as broken down the walls and made it *okay* to read erotic romance and not be ashamed of it. So much so that it made it to the New York Times last year after the RWA conference and Passionate Ink party. Even I was in the slide show modeling some very nice rhinestone studded handcuffs 🙂

What kind of research do you do for your books?
I do a lot of online and if I can, in-person research. Talk to people that may have something to offer that will lend authenticity. Even talk to the boys to get their view on things—which is very interesting at times.

plusone_msrTell me about your latest release with Ellora’s Cave.
Plus One came out January 4 in the Exotika line. It's set in an upscale sex club where anything goes. It is a m/f/m menage, so think threesome and moresomes all around 🙂 My second menage story. This did require research and was quite the eye-opener.

Got anything in the works?
Always stuff in the works. A women's fiction I love, my parents WWII story that I have to finish plotting and there are 4 completed stories that need a home ranging from time travel/post apocalyptic/sci-fi to paranormal to contemporary crack. And the many knocking inside my brain trying to get out.

Thanks, Cristal, for stopping by my blog!

Thanks so much for having me Vicki, it has been great to visit with you.

You can visit Cristal Ryder and buy her books at:

Ellora’s Cave

All Romance ebooks


Barnes & Noble

Sybarite Seductions

Lyrical Press