Monday Morning Stepback: Rigged contests, Guided reading, Harlequin's Enhanced Online Reputation

The Weekly Links, Opinion and Personal Updates Post

Annoyed with bloggers who do constant giveaways to increase readership? Feel sure these contests are rigged? Their time may be at hand, if this angry person or this one has anything to say about it. A third post, Are Bloggers Conducting Illegal Lotteries? also raises interesting questions about how blog contests should be regulated. (via @myfriendamy):

Go right on ahead then honey because when the feds intervene, when state law governing sweepstakes intervene, I will be sure to grab some popcorn. Because I spoke about this issue once, about whether the sweep was a sham, and I was right then, I am right now. Bloggers are rigging their giveaways for winners based on whom THEY want to win, not by chance. Which technically if you as a blogger are conducting yourself in such a manner you are violating federal and state sweepstakes laws by crossing into lottery territory.

[Edited to add: Author and attorney Courtney Milan blogged about this a year ago. The post is called, “How to run a blog contest without going to jail.”]


Have you ever read in a genre, noticed a trend, and thought, “I find this really weird, but since no one else is mentioning it, I’ll just keep my mouth shut.”? Well, that’s what I’ve always thought about the “bra suck” in romance. Luckily, SuperWendy has proven once again that the truth shall set us free, with her post on The Soggy Bra Epidemic, followed up by a somber and thoughtful discussion of this very important issue with her man. This is a matter of public health and sexual education, people. Go forth and read.


Library Journals’ 10 Must Read m/m romances (via @katiebabs). Was happy to see Sean Kennedy and Alex Beecroft there. Many of the others are unknown to me.


What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape, by Jaclyn Friedman, in The American Prospect on the Assange charges and the media’s coverage of them (via @moirarogers(bree))

Here’s how it works: As soon as a rape accusation makes it into the news cycle (most often because the accused is famous), it’s instantly held up against our collective subconscious idea about what Real Rape (or, as Whoopi Goldberg odiously called it, “rape-rape”) looks like. Here’s a quick primer on that ideal: The rapist is a scary stranger, with a weapon, even better if he’s a poor man of color. The victim is a young, white, conventionally pretty, sober, innocent virgin. Also, there are witnesses and/or incontrovertible physical evidence, and the victim goes running to the authorities as soon as the assault is over.

But let’s face it, actual rapes almost never match up to this ideal. Most rape victims know their attacker (estimates range from 75 percent to 89 percent), most rapists use alcohol or drugs to facilitate the assault (More than 80 percent, according to researcher David Lisak), not weapons, and most of the famous men whose accusers receive media attention aren’t poor men of color. But once the accusation hits the news cycle, whatever pundit gets there first uses the non-ideal details of the alleged assault to argue that surely, we shouldn’t take this seriously, and other pundits nod their head in agreement.


At Novel Readings, Rohan Maitzen weighs in on the debate over Oprah’s choice of Dickens for her book club. The literati are worried that the common folk won’t understand the book, apparently.

Maitzen rejects the idea that Oprah readers are too unsophisticated to “get” Dickens, noting that Dickens was once a “popular” author. Yet, as an English professor, she believes that guidance can enhance the reading experience. I especially appreciated her point that:

novels that don’t immediately gratify your taste may be revealing some of your own limits, not just theirs. Sometimes, you’re asking the wrong questions, for instance. Here’s where ‘real guidance’ might come in handy, at least in training you as a reader to stop and think about why the book is as it is, what purposes its aesthetic and formal choices serve, what ideas shape it. You might not like it any better, but you would understand a lot more about it.


Mrs. Giggles is bored with the internets:

I decided to look for new titles to buy using online hype when I got home. I hit up the Web and… sigh. Is it just me or have all the major romance blogs are now collaborating to hype up the same 5 authors over and over again? I mean, come on. I’ve read those 5 authors already. I want to see the spotlight on someone new. Someone who isn’t published with Harlequin, please. Seriously, have Harlequin bought over the blogs when I wasn’t watching? It used to be that we laugh at the titles of their Presents books. Now, it seems like everyone is reading Harlequin category romances like they are serious business.

I have four things to say about her post (too annoying to try to comment over there. HATE LiveJournal):

1. It’s true that this is a small community and we like to read what our peers are reading, in order to have shared experiences to talk about on Twitter and our blogs, and so some books get overexposed. But this is not just an issue with genre fiction. Anybody notice a little book by Jonathan Frantzen this year? And how that was the only book anyone in the literature/general fiction universe talked about for a month straight? Plus, if a book is good, of course we are going to rave about it, and increased chatter will be the result. And if a book is good and does something NEW in the genre? You do the math.

2. Luckily it is very easy to fix that sense of sameness: start reading other blogs. It is really quite simple to cut out of your life a blog that bothers you. I wonder why more people who complain do not try this? Alternatively, ask your readers to help you find new and unique books. You can see this last strategy at work in Mrs. Giggles’ own thread. (But see point 4 below). Or just surf or shop randomly, picking out what interests you.

3. I have only been on line a few years and even I have noticed the increased respect given to Harlequin, much of it driven by things other than the quality of its books, such as its marketing savvy, its embrace of digital, and its responsiveness to the online community (Blogger Bundles, etc.). But, unlike Mrs. Giggles, I think this is mostly a natural and good thing. Some Harlequin books are great, some not so great. To lump an entire publisher or line together is to do the same thing on a smaller scale that non romance readers do to the entire genre. Harlequin is our major genre publisher. Does it make sense to turn our noses up at it?

4. It’s kind of interesting how many commenters on that thread say they don’t read romance, and do not recommend any romance in their responses. I don’t know why, but I always find it kind of surprising how many people in the romance community don’t seem to read or even much like romance.


Hanukkah and both birthday parties are over. At his birthday party on Saturday, my 11 year old received a copy of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games from a friend, and to my shock, it turned out half the boys had read it.

I have a bit of grading to finish today, and then it’s break until January 10. We aren’t traveling, but we might toss some beach sand on our new kitchen floor, don sunglasses, and play some Jimmy Buffet.* (*actually, I hate Jimmy Buffet. Sorry Parrotheads.)

No idea what I will be blogging. Hope everyone who celebrates has a wonderful Christmas holiday!

I leave you with this very amusing Andy Samberg video, lyrics NSFW:

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