Monday Morning Stepback

The weekly links, opinion, and randomness post.

1. Links of interest


YA author Justine Larbalestier (of the Liar cover controversy) on The Blank Page Heroine, with a link to Demon’s Lexicon author Sarah Rees Brennan’s musings about the romance genre, with discussion of Meredith Duran, Sherry Thomas, and Tessa Dare. (thanks to The Book Smugglers for the link)

Good discussion of Rape as a Plot Device at KMont’s Lurv a la Mode. As an aside, KMont is an exemplary blogger when it comes to responding to comments.

I’m always fascinated by the history of Romland. Romance Dish has a post on Squawk Radio — a kind of “where are they now” (poor things, all abject failures). The contest is over, but the many comments are worth a look.

Katie Mack is talking about The First Person Narrative Problem from the reader’s point of view at Kiss Me Goodnight. Technically, she lists more than one problem, but it is such a neat post, we’ll let it slide.

An interesting post on how cover art influences one reader’s decision to buy, featuring two very different John Scalzi covers (thanks to @NadiaLee)

Some concerns about m/m from Sparky, a self-described “rambling activist”, which I found via a link Ann Somerville provided on twitter.


Harlequin comics are now available for Kindle and via Verizon and AT&T subscription. The initial batch is only $3.99 (about 25% off), but of course it’s all black and white. It’s optimized for the larger Kindle DX, so I don’t know how it looks on the smaller screens. I stood in the bookstore today trying to talk myself into buying a paper version, but the graphic novel craze just leaves me cold. And yes, I’ve tried the Buffy, the Death Note, the V for Vendetta. I think I am just too old.


From Feministe, a Danish advocacy group has launched Hit the Bitch, a site that encourages users to hit an image of a woman, with her sustaining visible injuries after each hit. Surprisingly, the group doesn’t actually advocate violence against women, but hopes its little interactive website will discourage it. Hmmmm…. Due to high traffic, the site itself is closed to anyone outside Denmark.

2. Bloggers Responding to Comments

How do you feel about making comments on someone’s blog and not getting a nod from the blogger? Do you expect a response every time? At least some of the time? Does it matter if it’s a really long thread? If you “know” the blogger? If you are a frequent visitor?

If you are a blogger, do you feel compelled to acknowledge every comment? Do you give yourself slack if it’s a long thread? Does it matter who has commented? Would you leave Laura Kinsale hanging?

For my part, if I am asking readers for input (as in this paragraph) I feel I have to respond. But replying to comments takes me a long time, and I have usually already spent a long time writing the initial post. I enjoy reading every single comment, but sometimes I am just tired of the topic, or spent. I have to ask myself which I would rather do: write another blog post or respond to comments, and sometimes, it’s the former.

I added a comments policy, by the way. <a href=";I just learned that you own your comments. I am not allowed to delete or alter them without your permission, unless I have a stated policy, so I added one. It’s in the footer.

PS. You didn’t know I had a footer, did you?

3. Bloggers staying on their “home turf”.

From inspirational romance author Brenda Coulter’s RtB column:

I don’t think its wise for us to troop over to blogs we don’t ordinarily read and “tell off” bloggers who are complete strangers to us. When we rush into battle every single time somebody maligns the books we love, we risk appearing insecure and pathetic.

I agree that “telling off”, if it means being insulting or rude, is not a good idea, but the larger question of whether it makes sense to make a comment on a blog you never visit for the sole purpose of criticizing a post there is more interesting. Of course, you have the “right” to do it, whatever that means, but what purpose does it serve? Is it better to do that than to bring it to your own blog (like I’m doing right now. Maybe it’s more brave? to face them on their turf?). I think I’ve only had one post that drew nonRomanceland critics and I can honestly say that I didn’t enjoy it. But perhaps it was good for me to hear what they had to say?

4. Blog news

A. My column last week for Romancing the Blog was my final one. I get stressed out blogging for other people, on their schedule. In the interest of acknowledging my boundless capacity for hypocrisy, however, I should admit that I just agreed to write a Smugglivus post for The Book Smugglers.


B. This week I will start an occasional “open blogger self-promotion post” in which you can pimp upcoming events on your own blogs or blogs you follow, talk about successes or struggles with blogging, call attention to brandy new blogs, announce retirements or hiatuses from blogging, or whatever. At first, I thought I would call it “Wazup Wednesday” but recalled that Wednesday is already taken by a feature so powerful that I have only dared deploy it 3 times in 17 months (What (Not) To Do Wednesday). Plus, I am too lazy to type “Wazup” when I can just type “Sup”. So, Sup Saturday will begin this week.

C. I have been reading some really atrocious m/m recently. I plan to do a review each night for Hannukah, a word which you can spell pretty much however you want, since there’s no literal translation from the Hebrew. So look for the Eight Nights of Ham/mukah in a couple of weeks. I’m sure my Rabbi would approve.

5. Personal

A. I gave a talk on Medicine 2.0 last week (basically, the uses of social networking in clinical practice and research), with a psychiatrist who used her time on the panel to rail against the dangers of internet addiction. I was happy to learn that we romance bloggers can relax, since only three types of internet addiction have been identified: sex, gaming, and text/email. Anyway, out of nowhere, she started criticizing, of all things, ebooks. She complained that one can’t smell or touch ebooks, and that a digital book is less permanent than a paper book. Naturally, I whipped out my iTouch and pointed out that if the conference room burned down, taking my iTouch with it, I could retrieve all of my books, while hers would be in ashes.

B. I am hosting Thanksgiving as usual this year. We have three days off, as do the kids, with no classes, no homework, no soccer, no music lessons, no NOTHIN’, and, even though I have work to do while at home, I am so looking forward to it! Our Slankets should arrive Tuesday, which is perfect timing.

I like the idea of being at “home” in real life so much, that I plan to replicate it in cyberspace. For the next week I won’t be on Twitter or checking email. You’ll find me holing up in my virtual home.

Happy Week!

37 responses

  1. “And yes, I’ve tried the Buffy, the Death Note, the V for Vendetta. I think I am just too old.”

    You and I need to have a little chat about this because those wouldn’t be the kind you enjoy.

    “Harlequin comics”

    While I think the idea is great, I wouldn’t buy them. English editions might be better but those I read were, well, iffy. In a train-wreck-in-slow-motion way.

    “Some concerns about m/m from Sparky”

    He’s pretty much listed almost every issue I had with the m/m sub-genre (and the so-called “yaoi” genre). I think the biggest issue with it is so many authors make their gay characters part of the ‘otherness’. And the second biggest issue? I won’t even go there at the moment. :D I did come across a couple of good ones, but they are needles in a haystack.
    I want to write a post about it, but after seeing the Lamada kick-up, what puts me off is some will demand to know my “qualifications” that would permit me to do it. I hate that kind of questioning because it’d push me to take part in the “my best friend is black!” crap. No one had ever asked me if I was a bloke or Alpha when I ranted about Alpha heroes in romance, or indeed an American. :D I need to find a way to get this issue out of the way before we could tackle the subject.

    You bought Slankets? lol I’d love to see photos of you giving it a try. I promise I won’t nickname you The Monk.


  2. @Maili: Send me a list of graphic novels or manga to try — a short one!

    And yes, the m/m thing is very tricky. There has always been something that troubled me about its production and consumption, but I don’t want to post on it until I can express myself coherently and have read a lot more of it. I am hoping to find some more good m/m before Ham/mukah (I will review a couple of Loose ID shorts, an Astrid Amara, Ann Somerville’s On Wings Rising, No Reservations by Langley (?), which has been in my TBR pile since forever, probably False Colors, since everybody raves about it, and it’s on my Kindle. And I need two more… any suggestions?

    Re: The Slankets. Yes, I bought one each for me and the kids (my husband is incredibly disgusted by the whole concept). The creator of the Slanket is a local boy. I will post a picture!


  3. I didn’t love False Colors, but it did get me to finally read the Hornblower series, which I enjoyed. I haven’t read much m/m – while I’d deny completely that I need to identify with the heroine, I found I missed female characters when I read m/m romance – but Mary Renault’s The Charioteer would be a keeper for me. (And I’ve a hugely soft spot for Brockmann’s Robin and Jules who finally get together in ‘Force of Nature’.)

    As for the comments, I’d vote ‘nice to get a response sometimes.’


    • Marianne, It goes without saying that we own all of the Horatio Hornblower books. I have seen several of the very attractive Ioan Gruffudd’s episodes. I actually prefer Sharpe’s Rifles with the equally attractive Sean Bean.

      I have just been introduced to Jules as I am currently reading Over the Edge by Brockmann.

      Thanks for the recs.


  4. I’d recommend Sean Kennedy’s Tigers & Devils (available on Kindle). It’s more a contemporary gay romance (written by a gay man) than m/m, so it may not be what you’re looking for. Another ebook co-written by Kennedy and Catt Ford, Dash & Dingo, is an Australian-set historical. It might be interesting for both the gay romance and the possible cultural appropriation (or not, since the characters are aware of their own cultural imperialism).

    On the comments, I try but don’t always get back to everyone. I’m lazy that way. It also depends on the nature of the comment.


  5. Also, False Colors turned out well, I thought, but it took me several tries before I was hooked by the story. Think I read the first chapter on four different occasions before it really grabbed my attention.

    I don’t find m/m ebooks to be, on the whole, any more poorly written than many m/f ebooks, which is a sad commentary about the quality of e-only produced books across the board. But I find as I read more gay romance (as distinct from m/m) that I enjoy the gay romance more than the m/m. It is not just a function of the quality of writing, but of the perspective and content.


    • I’ll try one, JMC. Thanks!

      Yeah, I don’t really get singling out m/m for bad writing,when there is so much of it to go around. I will check out Tigers and Devils. I am very interested in gay romance written by men. I actually own one, come to think on it, that someone suggested to me a year ago.


  6. Another great stepback! I really do look forward to these things. I think I’ve recommended James Lear to you before, and he is really so good. I would strongly suggest Palace of Varieties, set in South London music hall pre-WW2, about a character’s moral journey. It’s especially fun and amusing if you’ve read Balzac’s Lost Illusions, on which it is based, but it’s great without it. It is honestly the most delightful read.

    Oh, and I especially enjoyed your story of whipping out your ereader during that talk. I just heard something about that addiction thing too–where you get a surge of endorphins for every new email. (Good thing they didn’t test people on stat counters!) What is it with people when they hit on one thing that seems smart they have to extrapolate to other stuff and it’s just their personal bias. Ashes, biotches! Your books will be ashes! Jessica is burning this building DOWN!!!

    I will expect my reply shortly.


  7. Sup Saturday? I like it! Comments — always a thrill to get a nod-out but some blogs do it in an almost pro-forma way, which takes away from some of the thrill … so continue to treat us like rats in a maze … occasionally throwing us a bit of blog writer responds to comments … and like Carolyn, “I was just kidding”!

    One benefit of this last week that was: I found some great new twitter voices like @glecharles. I learned that some fave authors were even more sparkly and awesome than I knew … but I too am looking forward to a stuffed and satisfying Thanksgiving. Enjoy yours!!


  8. @Jessica:
    Short list? Gah. You know me too well. I’ll try to limit it to ten titles in no particular order.

    * With the Light – Keiko Tobe
    (a touching story of parents coming to terms with their young son’s autism as well as various reactions from the society; it has an awesome portrayal of autism)
    * Monster – Naoki Urasawa
    (a dark psychological thriller that explores your favourite subject: ethics)
    * Blankets – Craig Thompson
    (a sensitive coming-of-age autobiography of Thompson as a young man falling in love for the first time as well as a rising awareness of his feelings about his religious family and religion; it does deserve the hype)
    * Blue – Kiriko Nananan
    (a bittersweet tale of two high school girls falling in love with each other; it’s out of print, but you should be able to get a copy from a central library)
    * Maus – Art Spiegelman
    (it chronicles Spiegelman’s parents’ journey from Poland to the death Nazi camps; Spiegelman uses certain species of animals to portray classes of people)
    * Barefoot Gen – Keiji Nakazawa
    (autobiographical tale of Nakazawa, as a boy, and his family during the Hiroshima bombing and its aftermath. Published during late 1960s/early 1970s, it’s still powerful and relevant today.)
    * Calvin & Hobbes – Bill Watterson
    (It’s fun, incredibly sweet and insightful.)
    * Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms – Fumiyo Kouno
    (a softer and sweeter take on the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing; three stories take place during 1950s, some ten years after the bombing)
    * The Photographer – Emmanuel Guibert
    (an autobiographical chronicle of photojournalist’s experiences in war-scarred Afghanistan)
    * Solanin – Asano Inio
    (I reviewed this at Dear Author)
    * Me and the Devil Blues – Akira Hiramoto (Robert Johnson!)
    * David Boring – Daniel Clowes
    * anything – Posy Simmonds
    (bitingly humorous take on the middle class of England)
    * BECK – Harold Sakuishi
    (for music geeks who love references and tributes to a history of blues and rock music; the art in first volume is amateurish, but it improves with each successive volume)

    Gah. It’s longer than I promised. I’m sorry but for me, it’s very short. Please praise me for trying! :D I will put a list of lighter, sweet, romance or funny comics another time.


    • I’ll try one, Maili, thanks!

      I will read one this weekend, actually, printing list out and stopping at Borders on the way home. (We have Maus at home– dear partner teaches it in his Modern Europe class. not my idea of escape reading)


  9. I love graphic novels but you haven’t been reading the right ones. I agree *most* of McVane’s list like Monster is really good. I also enjoy REAL which is about wheelchair basketball and for angst, romance and drama, Vampire Knight (don’t think you’d like that one either). There’s some good graphic novels out there for adults, you just have to find them. They are every bit as good and meaty and complex as your regular novels. There’s also EMMA which is a nice romance GN. Also, Dear Author did plenty of GN reviews that romantic themes to them. You should check them out. You might be surprised. Yes, I expect a response back in the words of “I’ll try one Keishon, thanks!


  10. I think it’s nice when the blogger can respond to comments, but sometimes it’s just not practical. Posts can take on a life of their own, and get out of control rather quickly. That doesn’t happen to me too often, but when it does I usually leave a blanket comment like “Thanks for all the insightful comments everybody, I have enjoyed reading all of them” or something like that. Just to let people know I have been reading their comments, even if I’ve been a lazy sod and haven’t personally responded.

    I agree with Brenda about commenting on blogs you’ve never visited before only to rail against the blogger. It makes you look like a troll. If I’m driven to a blog by some controversy, I’ll go and read. But I tend to not comment unless I think this “new” blog is one that I’ll be adding to my regular rotation on Google Reader.


  11. I am very interested in gay romance written by men.

    Would E. M. Forster’s Maurice count? In the analysis at the glbtq encyclopedia it’s described as “The first masterpiece of the early gay liberation movement.” Being analysis, rather than a review, that contains spoilers. But that may not matter, as you may well have already read the novel.


  12. This is probably more suitable for Sup*Sat but I remember once you said, probably after having to endure another endless email missive from me, “Why don’t you blog” … and thanks to the kindess of Sarah, I did! … this brings me ever closer to my masterpiece blog [meant ironically] — so suitable to think about it now, the Feast Day of the Turkey when I remember watching Martha Stewart slip leaves of herbs under the skin of a hapless bird: “Martha Stewart*esque heroines in Romance and why and how they are what they are“. Sadly, I’m the antithesis of Martha which makes my proposed blog very difficult for me.

    Leaving comments on a blog you don’t usually frequent: can’t see a problem. I know Mrs. Giggles complained about hit and run posters, who clearly have never read or enjoyed a romance novel but I, if I had a blog, would I think enjoy the extended convo. Who knows though, in reality, maybe not.


  13. Like Carolyn, I love these posts–so much goodness in one place!

    I think I’m not very good when it comes to replying to comments to my reviews, but I do better when it’s an opinion post. I think, though, that it goes with the territory–particularly because my reviews are spoiler-free, which sort of stifles conversation by those who have read the book, while those who haven’t… well, they don’t have much to say yet :wink:

    As far as “staying in your own turf” goes… I wonder if this is only a problem when it’s a disagreement. I mean, I notice Ms Coulter’s piece focuses on the negative comments. So is it okay to go to a blog we haven’t ever read and post emphatic agreement and then never read the blog again, let alone comment?

    As far as going to someone else’s space (i.e., “his own blog”) to disagree with him… The reality of the internet is that we cannot control who reads what we write. If we are not prepared for the reaction to our words, we would do better not to put them out there.


  14. If you are a blogger, do you feel compelled to acknowledge every comment?

    When I first started blogging, I used to try to respond to most of the comments, but after a while it got too time consuming, so I now only reply if I have something to add, or if somebody directs a question at me.

    Re staying on your own turf – as per Rule Number Three in the Newbies Guide To Blogging, I used to comment indiscriminately, starting fires here and there, but these days, I tend to bring things to my own blog, because I mostly hate wasting potential blog fodder. *g*


  15. Wow, there’s so much in this post, I don’t know where to start. I also had trouble getting into graphic novels–until I started reading them online. I echo Keishon’s rec for Emma, and I absolutely love Vampire Knight. There’s also a manga called Midnight Secretary that reads like a Harlequin and which I find insanely entertaining. Bleach is another manga that’s pretty good and very popular. You can read them all for free at

    As for comments, I do feel compelled to respond to every comment left on my blog. I don’t always do it, though. If I can’t think of a response or don’t think one is required, I won’t. As for expecting people to respond to my comments, if I know the blogger responds to comments, I do expect one, yeah. If I know they don’t, it’s not a big deal. I’m not going to feel personally insulted if they don’t.

    OT: Are you ever going to let me forget about the waxing comment? ;)


  16. I am hoping to find some more good m/m before Ham/mukah (I will review a couple of Loose ID shorts, an Astrid Amara, Ann Somerville’s On Wings Rising, No Reservations by Langley (?), which has been in my TBR pile since forever, probably False Colors, since everybody raves about it, and it’s on my Kindle. And I need two more… any suggestions?

    Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale

    Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale

    Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale

    Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale

    Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale

    Have I said that enough times? Also, Jesse Sandoval’s short story in Tangle XY, “Los Conversos,” is pretty amazing.


  17. @Wendy: I never thought about using the word “troll” for this. Will have to ponder. but yeah, in practice, I think I do follow Coulter’s advice normally.

    @Janet W: hey you’ve already nicknamed my new feature! Will check out your post. Sorry I didn’t see it prior to this post.

    @azteclady: Awww. Thanks. It’s funny, but these are the easiest to write.

    @heidenkind: Ok, I will definitely look for Vampire Knight and Emma, then. I stopped at Borders on the way home and bought Monster.

    @Karen Scott: And when are you publishing that Newbie’s Guide, Karen?

    @Janine: Ok, it is not Kindleized, but for YOU I just bought the Ginn Hale in paper.


  18. @Ann Somerville: ok, and Whistling in the Dark is my last purchase of the evening! Thank you!

    So here’s how Ham/mukah is shaping up, although it includes gay romance as well:

    2 Loose ID Shorts, 1 Astrid Amarah (all Hanukkah themed)
    Somerville, On Wings Rising
    Ginn Hale, Wicked Gentlemen
    Alex Beecroft, False colors
    JL Langley, No Reservations
    Sean Kennedy, Tigers and Devils
    Tamara Allen, Whistling in the Dark
    Louis Bayard, Fool’s Errand

    Thanks everyone!

    @Laura Vivanco:
    Maurice would count as gay fiction, if not gay romance, I think. Despite a slavish devotion to the movie version of A Room With a View my first year in college (yeah, I had the poster and everything) I have only read one Forster, A Passage to India, which I did not particularly enjoy. Did you like Maurice?


  19. Regarding responding to comments left on my blog – I try to, but if I’m away from the blog for a few days (like I was this weekend) my replies are late. And I don’t go that far back to comment either.
    I figure if someone is going to take the time to make a comment, it’s kind of rude to ignore them. Sometimes if there are a lot of comments, I get overwhelmed trying to respond to them all.
    But I try. *g*
    Regarding ‘strangers’ making critical remarks on my blog – well it doesn’t happen very often as I’m not that controversial so it doesn’t happen very often. But the odd time it does – I’m more amused than anything else. I would never do it myself.
    And I hear you about getting stressed out doing guest blogs on other blogs. I do a monthly post on Access Romance and that’s always the hardest one to do!!


  20. Graphica:

    Alison Bechdel’s memoir Funhome: A Family Tragicomic. It’s incredible. A great story, great art, I love the literary allusiveness of it. She does the Dykes to Watch Out For comic strip (also great).

    My husband (who teaches some graphic novels/memoirs in his Coming of Age Narrative class) also recommends La Perdida by Jessica Abel, and Jason Lutes’ Berlin trilogy (two so far)–set during the Weimar Republic, I think. I couldn’t get into the Lutes (maybe your husband would like them) though I admired the art.

    I am about the same age as you, I think; I find I have to learn to read graphic narratives (what I mean is that it’s not that we’re too old but that it’s a different kind of reading). I tend to read the words and rush through too quickly, and not pay enough attention to the images and how they interact with the text.


  21. @Jessica: Not Laura, but FWIW I liked Forster’s Maurice, but not as much as I liked A Room with a View or Where Angels Fear to Tread. I have not read A Passage to India so I can’t compare them, but from what I’ve heard his earlier work is different from his later stuff.

    Glad that Wicked Gentlemen made the list!


  22. Despite a slavish devotion to the movie version of A Room With a View my first year in college (yeah, I had the poster and everything) I have only read one Forster, A Passage to India, which I did not particularly enjoy. Did you like Maurice?

    I liked it much better than A Room With a View. But that could be because I was a bit annoyed with the anti-glasses-wearer sentiment in ARWaV. No, I think it’s that Maurice, as a character, seemed very real to me. I felt one really got to know and understand him, so I was happier for him when he finally got his HEA. It takes a long time, poor man.


  23. Ayiee! Too much goodness in this post.

    I don’ t feel obliged to comment on comments on my blog. However, if I’m responding to the majority of comments, I’ll tend to try to cover off everyone so no-one feels left out! Having said that, my top numbers of comments are not that large so it’s not been a huge burden.

    I love Maurice and it was one of the first books I reviewed on my blog. I count it firmly as a romance because Forster made a very deliberate decision to write a gay love story with a happy ending. E M Forster wrote of the novel that ‘a happy ending was imperative. I shouldn’t have bothered to write it otherwise. I was determined that in fiction anyway two men should fall in love and remain in it for the ever and ever that fiction allows, and in this sense Maurice and Alec still roam the greenwood.’

    Highly recommended.

    I would also repeat Carolyn’s James Lear recc – he’s someone else I’ve reviewed in the past. In all honestly, there’s not much romance in his books – but just enough to qualify for my purposes!


  24. On responding to comments: I try to respond to pretty much everything, but seeing as how I’m a tiny blog with few comments, it’s not too tough a haul. Conversely, I do get annoyed if I ask someone a direct question in a comment and get no response. I also recognize that on mega-blogs the chances of getting a response are slim to none, unless the blogger is a ft blogger with no other responsibilities except their blog.


  25. Responding to comments for me depends on the post.

    For instance, I try to keep my distance for the most part on author guest blogs (especially so if there’s a contest involved). I feel it gives the author more chance to interact with readers.

    An opinion, ramble, funny, list or similar post I try to comment back a lot. I tend to save comments and direct personal responses back in bulk, (like Tumperkin.) Even so I don’t respond to everything.

    I sort of feel how Sarah from SBTB does about comments. I like reading others and seeing their interactions and how they develop the conversation. That’s not to say I could resist commenting entirely. It just depends. I want to feel I’m adding to the conversation not hogging the mic as it were…

    I agree with Kate about getting annoyed if I ask someone (aka the blogger or the guest blogger that day not say another commenter) a direct question in a comment and am left hanging. That seems rude.


  26. Okay, I’m very, very late to realize that you mentioned one of my blog posts in your stepback column. I just found out how to tell if a site has linked to my blog, so I literally just found this post.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that I’m so glad you liked my first person narrative post!


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