Tag Archives: Anaheim

SHHM Guest: Ana Canino-Fluit

Hi friends! I’ve fallen behind again, but today I’m here! With another guest celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with us! Whee! Everyone – I hope you chime in. I’m grateful for all of you <3 (and for copy + paste)! Please give Ana a very warm welcome!

Reading while Latina by Ana Canino-Fluit

I am Latina romance reader and reviewer. Born and raised in Puerto Rico I have now lived nearly half of my life in the US Mainland and Canada. I have inter-married like so many Hispanics do, and I am raising my daughters to appreciate their multi-cultural (Dutch-Canadian & Puerto Rican) heritage. I am school librarian and I read and review romance as hobby. I read nearly all the romance sub-genres, everything from historical to science-fiction, although I tend to steer clear of inspirational and westerns. Romance like the rest of mainstream literature can be overwhelmingly white and while I am always thrilled to discover Hispanic authors and characters when selecting books to read I don’t limit myself to reading books written from a Hispanic point of view. But I do find myself looking for certain tropes, and story elements that in some way resonate with my experience of being a Latina. The particular tropes and story elements that appeal to me won’t necessarily appeal to another Latino or Latina whose experiences and background is different from mine but these are the tropes and story elements that I find reflect a bit of my reality.

Knowing the ScoreI love stories of newcomers or new people finding a place to belong in a small town or community. I left Puerto Rico to attend college and I have lived in many places across Canada and the US for work since then, so reading stories about the importance and process of finding supportive friends, and becoming part of a new community appeals to me. Two of my favorite series that return time and time again to the challenges and rewards of finding love, making friends and building relationships with peoples and places are Shannon Stacey’s Kowalski Family and Jill Shalvis’s Lucky Harbor books.

A distinct but related category of these types stories are romances about immigrants & ex-pats. People who not only leave their hometowns or states but are building lives in other countries. I love reading about the adjustments required to live in a different culture, the ideas and traditions we sometimes unconsciously carry from our home cultures and how they complicate our relationships. As someone who has negotiated the sometimes fraught waters of inter-cultural romance I love reading about it. Kat Latham has written a couple of stories with Ex-pats and bi-national couples which I really enjoyed (Knowing the Score & Mine Under the Mistletoe). I loved Mary Ann Rivers’ Live with its homesick Welsh hero, set on going home while slowly falling in love with a girl that has never left home. I also love Laura Florand’s novels, both the Amour et Chocolat and La Vie en Roses series, where the lovers often have to discover all that is lost in translation, the little cultural nuances, mores and cues that can lead to misunderstandings beyond simply not sharing the same first language.

LiveI love stories of misfits and outsiders, people who don’t quite fit in or and are not fully accepted by the culture at large. When I was growing up in Puerto Rico, I knew that I didn’t quite fit the idealized Puerto Rican image of beauty, and when I left home as light-skinned Latina, I got and still get lot of comments like “you don’t look Puerto Rican” and those comments are exhausting and wearying as they make you feel not quite right. Meljean Brook’s Iron Seas series while first and foremost action packed stories of adventure and love that I fell in love with for their intricate world-building and steam-punky goodness, are also populated with people of color whose lives are complicated by how they look, what their heritage is or they ways their bodies have been modified. Delphine Dryden’s geeky and kinky characters in the Theory of Attraction series are misfits and outsiders of a different sort. I connect with these smart men and women whose differences from those around them might not be readily visible but still set them apart, and make them feel slightly out of sync with the rest of society.

I love strong and complicated family relationships. It is cliché to point out that Hispanics and [email protected] deeply value family, but what is less well understood is how complicated and difficult those extended family relationships can be. Divorce, substance abuse, distance, family expectations and aspirations complicate our families. In Lauren Dane’s books from her Brown Family series and its related novels to her Urban Fantasy and Science Fiction I find depictions of complicated families that are both honest and raw. Her family relationships are rarely straightforward; instead they are often sources of both strength and conflict. I love that she can acknowledge the role of our families of origin play in the families we build and their power to affect our relationships for good or ill. I recently read her novella Sway from the Delicious series, where we see both Daisy Huerta’s loving, healthy yet not idealized Mexican-American family and Levi’s complicated but close-knit WASPY family and how concern and conflict from both sides nearly derailed Daisy and Levi’s love affair.

Bitter SpiritsI love to read stories that assume and portray a multicultural world, which is rarer than you might think. I love books where the communities and groups of friends depicted are not all white and include more than a token person of color. I wish I saw more authors that realized that you can find people of color in all sorts of communities, big, small, urban and rural. I loved how vibrantly diverse Jenn Bennett’s 1920’s San Francisco is in her Bitter Spirits series, and the fact that we see people of color in all sorts roles going about their lives. In contemporary romance I really enjoy Audra North’s books for its everyday inclusion of people of color as main and supporting characters. I know when I read a person of color in her romances, their race isn’t “the issue”, but instead just a part of who they are.

When I was growing up in Puerto Rico it sometimes felt like machismo was the default male philosophy, and culturally we were raised to accept that you could tell the good ones from the bad ones because they listened to their Abuela, watched out for their nieces and sisters and that all the novias & chulitas would be set aside for the right one. Although I never let myself date a Machista or ever wanted a real live rake I still have a soft spot for stories of reformed rakes, of big strong men who know they are beat when they face a fierce grand-aunt like Lady Osbaldestone and are drawn to strong bossy women who don’t simply sit waiting to be rescued. I found my fix for this trope in the dozens of Stephanie Laurens Cynster series and Nalini Singh Psy-changeling novels which I binged on when I first found romance novels.

The Lotus PalaceOne of the most enduring telenovela tropes is that off a cross-class/Cinderella romance. In the telenovelas I watched as a child some rich guy was always falling for some girl from the wrong side of the tracks (who often conveniently was some of other rich guy’s secret baby…but that is another story). As a result of prolonged and sustained exposure to this trope, I have become very picky about the kind of cross-class romances I can enjoy. Unlike the telenovelas I watched as kid I want authors to address the real obstacles and sacrifices involved in those kinds of relationships. Two of my favorites are Jeannie Lin’s Lotus Palace, whose portrayal of deep family bonds, loyalty and sacrifice lend weight to Bai Huang and Yue-ying love and Cecilia Grant’s A Gentleman Undone, where Will and Lydia’s love is truly costly to them, costing them financially, in social esteem and even family contact.

The un-employment rate in Puerto Rico has been very high for a very long time, so my whole life my parents have the stressed the importance of education and work-ethic to the point that I didn’t realize that till I was in college that many people did not in fact go on to get a college education, but in my life it simply wasn’t optional. I was taught to value and respect those who humbly worked hard jobs to provide for their families and to provide opportunities for paid for work for others whenever possible. I look at my family, at my grandmothers who both worked and managed business. My great-grandparents who farmed and ran a bakery and as result I rarely feel a romance is complete if it doesn’t address the significance and value of work or the impact of struggling to make ends meet. I find myself deeply drawn both to stories where characters have to negotiate work-life balance because the characters love their work, are so good at it that it can easily consume them, like Julie James’ FBI series novels and Emma Barry’s Easy Part series and to novels where characters work hard in less than glamorous settings (Cara McKenna’s After Hours and Hard Time), where work is not identity but necessity.

After HoursThis is just a small part of the tropes and story elements I enjoy, as I haven’t mentioned some of my favorite writers and books, but their appeal to me is not something I can easily tie back to my Latina experience but are instead things I like simply because of all the other things that form who I am beyond my race, like my love-hate relationship with librarian romances and my aversion to billionaires. What are the tropes and story elements that connect the most deeply with you? I would love to hear your recommendations of books that fit some of these tropes and elements and I haven’t discovered yet. You can find me on twitter as @anacoqui and find my reviews on my blog.

So – what are your thoughts?! Chime in! (And have you read any of these books?)

#RWA12 Conference Wrap Up

Hi friends! For those of you don’t know, the national RWA conference was in Anaheim last week. (RWA being the Romance Writers of America.) I got to go(ish) last year in NYC, and had wanted to this year, but it didn’t work out. Hopefully next year in Atlanta! Anyway, I’d been emailing back and forth with Valerie Bowman, and here she is sharing a recap of the conference with us! Yay! Hopefully with more recaps to come!

#RWA12 Conference Wrap up
by Valerie Bowman

I’m back from the land of palm trees and Disney. Oh, wait. I live in Florida. Ok, so I flew all the way across the country for essentially the same scenery, but it was fabulous seeing friends, authors, agents, speakers, and various industry muckity mucks at the Romance Writers of America 2012 National Conference in Anaheim, California.

Without further ado, let’s hit the highlights.

I’d say the biggest news of the conference was Carina Press winning its first RITA. As Carina’s blog puts it, “Fiona Lowe and Carina Press became part of publishing history with a win for Boomerang Bride in Single Title Contemporary Romance.” This is BIG news because a strictly e-publisher has not won the prestigious award before. Carina Executive editor, Angela James, gave a terrific acceptance speech saying that two years ago when Carina opened its doors, she was asked where she saw Carina in five years. “Winning a Rita” was her reply. And they did it! In two! Congrats to Fiona, Angela, and the entire Carina staff.

Second biggest pieces o’ news?: The PAN rules have changed ($5000 self-pub earnings will make an author PAN-eligible now). The Golden Heart and Rita categories have been streamlined (goodbye to the Regency category [sob] and the Novel with Strong Romantic Elements category) and the Golden Heart contest will be electronic next year.

Ok, so what else went on? There were tons o’ workshops about social media. We get it, don’t tweet BUY BUY BUY links to our books on Twitter. There was a workshop on the English Country House (which I adored) and one about the History of Contraception (which I missed, dang it!). Workshops on surviving disaster, ER Trauma 101, and how to write emotion and subtext. There were terrific book giveaways and signings. I, myself, got to participate in my very own first signing EVER with St. Martin’s Press where I gave away signed ARCs of my debut Regency romance novel, SECRETS OF A WEDDING NIGHT. And it was every bit as fun as I thought it would be!

Bowker gave a presentation to the Published Authors Network (PAN) and informed us that the average reader thinks $5.31 is a reasonable price for a novel-length ebooks. Food for thought, indeed.

BookEnds Lit Agency had a meet and greet in the conference hotel lobby for anyone interested. You could pitch and meet the agents. I thought it was a great idea. Van Gogh Vodka had an extremely well attended History of the Cocktail session where they were handing out free drinks. Woot!

The Literacy Signing raised $50,963 for ProLiteracy Worldwide . I think about half of that came from me. Avon handed out bags to those who walked in the door. Convenient to store your loot. Uh, it about tripled my purchases!

When the awards came around, Ann Aguirre did a hysterical “interpretive dance” when she won the RITA in Young Adult for her novel, Enclave. In a touching moment, Jo Bourne, Historical RITA Winner, thanked all her teachers.

Stephanie Laurens delivered a keynote speech complete with a slide show about how the big NY publishers need to change with the times, and Robyn Carr’s speech was amazingly sweet and inspirational. “Success is not measured by fame or fortune or power. Success is measured in moments of satisfaction,” Ms. Carr said. The lovely and gracious Barbara Vey was thrilled with her 2012 RWA Vivian Stephens Industry Award for promoting the romance genre. And on Saturday night, Brenda Jackson won the lifetime achievement award to multiple standing ovations.

Also, Leah Nash, a photographer for the NY Times was busily snapping photos of the whole event and I heard an NPR reporter was there too, interviewing authors. She snapped away at the Beau Monde’s Regency soiree where there was dancing, drinking, and whist aplenty.

There was a PubIt Answer bar, which was new this year, where authors could ask their self-publishing questions. A sign o’ the times, no? There were conference CDs being sold, RT magazines subscriptions for sale, and there was even a massage table in the hallway which had a very full sign up roster.

My conference highlight might have been stepping out of my hotel room door and seeing Nora Roberts. I must have looked twice. “Hi Nora Roberts. Good to see you,” I said. Smooth, right? “Hi. How’s it going?” she answered. I think she’s so lovely for attending every year and giving so much back to the industry. She had a party in her room two nights later that I SO wanted to crash but I controlled myself. I could just imagine hotel security being summoned to escort me off the premises.

All in all the conference was fabulous and I can’t wait until I hit the road for 2013 in Atlanta!

Bio: Award-winning author Valerie Bowman writes Regency-set historical romance novels with a focus on sharp dialogue, engaging storylines, and heroines who take matters into their own hands! Valerie’s debut novel, Secrets of a Wedding Night, will be published by St. Martin’s Press on September 25, 2012.
Secrets of A Wedding Night is the most charming and clever debut I’ve read in years! ” –Lisa Kleypas

Guest what else? Ms. Bowman has very generously offered up her conference tote bag as well as a few books to a lucky commenter! So, what’d you think of the post? I especially love the anachronistic one where Valerie is drinking her beer in costume. Have you ever been to a conference? Would you go to the RWA signing? Which author(s) would you most like to see?