Saturday, April 24, 2010

I love gaming

I am a gaming freak. I usually tend to go for MMOs. (Wiki should be taken with a grain of salt, but for gaming, it is pretty good, have to say, so I'll be using it for my info linking). My latest MMO adventures have been in Lord of the Rings Online, which I started playing during closed beta. This was over two years ago. I am a bit "burned out" at the moment with MMO gaming though, so I had been keeping myself occupied with little games in Facebook, namely Farmville. I haven't been playing more games in Facebook because, to make the story short, I managed to get nasty worms in my PC's hard drive via a Facebook game. The second time around, I simply decided to reformat the hard drive.

Looking for alternatives, as I am now a bit burnt out with Farmville too due to the constant grinding (or grindfest), I stumbled upon some romance related games online. I had read about them last year, when the new game based on Marjorie Liu's Tiger Eye was announced and went on pre-release sale. I admit it, I got intrigued and bought it. However, it doesn't come out until April 28. 2010.

Today, looking around for alternatives, I went to BigFish Games and found a puzzle game titled Love and Death: Bitten. Though the ending was lame imho, and I finished it in a few hours, I have to say that it kept me quite engrossed for a while. Looking for other alternatives I found two other games that are actually romance related. One is based on a novel by Nora Roberts titled Visions in White and the other is based on a Harlequin Presents novel titled Hidden Object of Desire.

I admit that I am intrigued. Though there was room for improvement in Love and Death: Bitten in terms of storyline and ending. I found it hooked me and kept me nicely entertained for a few hours. Depending on how the experience goes with the above ones (yes, I did get them as well, but only after I finished Love and Death), I think I may declare myself a convert. These games could be a nice alternative to take short breaks from my MMO hardcore gamer tendencies.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Who would want to plagiarize reviews ...

Yeah, it seems silly, right? Well, this happens more often than people realize. I remember that during my early days as a reviewer, the owner of a reviews website was caught copying reviews from someone else. At the time, blogs were not the in thing like they are now. It turned into a pretty nasty incident, and as a "noob" to the reviewing scene, I couldn't completely understand what was going on. On top of that, when I tried to find out more information via a Yahoo group that had just started for "noob" reviewers like myself, the "veterans" refused to talk about it. Of course, I dropped that group like the hot potato that it was. It spoke volumes that the "veterans" didn't want to talk about the ethics of reviewing. Of course, there are more layers in that, but this post is about plagiarism and not the ethics of reviewing.

Anyway, every once in a while, another opportunistic idiot shows his/her sorry face and gets caught... and no, I am not giving these people the benefit of the doubt. They know what they are doing; they know that what they are doing is WRONG. Period.

The latest incident involves what is, I believe, the "elder" among all romance review sites: All About Romance. This is the quick summary: a dumb piece of work, who dares call herself the "Queen of Romance", stole the name of a popular romance related blog (Ramblings on Romance, which has been around for about five years already), and the woman then proceeded to pretty much copy and paste whole chunks of text from reviews originally posted at All About Romance, passing the reviews as hers. This is the link to the AAR blog talking about the issue here.

As you may see from the comments section, some people are trying to give that person the benefit of the doubt. As I stated above (let it never be said that I am not opinionated hehe), I am not that generous. I am looking at all this not only from the perspective of a co-owner of a reviews newsletter, but also from the perspective of a reviewer, as I did review for a number of years.

The acts of people like her go beyond just the plagiarism. She's not only stealing the property of others, but she's also affecting how review sites and/or review blogs may be perceived by others, particularly publishers and authors. Fact remains that this woman (who alleges to be 23 in her blog: (1) is stealing from others and (2) her actions are affecting more than just her selfish, moronic person... and THAT I can't easily forget ... or forgive, given the sheer amount of work honest reviewers and review site/blogs owners out there put into their work.

As to motivation, these people often work on two premises: (1) they see the recognition some of the most popular review sites/blogs have and want a piece of that; and (2) they get free books without the need to do to the work of reading them and then writing a review of the books because, after all, there are tons of review sites out there they can steal from... and yes, chances are EXTREMELY hight that she will do it again, this time having learned that she can get caught, she will figure something out to circumvent the law. The internet provides the means to create as many personas as you want and there are tons of free options out there to start blogs, personal pages, websites, etc. It's the land of opportunity for those who lack ethics of any sort.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Reviews from April 2010 issue up in the website

The reviews published on our April 4, 2010 issue of the newsletter are now up in the website. The covers will be uploaded before the month is over.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Hello, my name is Mireya and I am a recovering erotic romance addict ...

I have been reading ebooks for 7 years now. I started in February 2003 to be precise. I was stuck at home, sick as a dog, with nothing to do. At that time I didn't read romance at all. I went online to research for erotica, and accidentally, I ended up finding Jaid Black’s “The Empress New Clothes” in Amazon. It said available on CD which intrigued me. I didn’t order it though, but I continued looking, found Ellora’s Cave (EC) … and that’s how I started reading romance.

Up to that point, I had only read very few romance books: a couple of Danielle Steele's books, "Rebecca" by Daphne DuMaurier, "Desiree" by AnneMarie Selinko, “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte and “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen are the highlights from my pre-romance addiction times.

I bought Jaid Black’s book directly from EC and loved it. I then proceeded to buy everything else written by this author that was available at the time. Back then, I didn’t even know that Jaid Black’s was the pen name of Tina Engler, owner of Ellora’s Cave (Jade Enterprises). I was totally fascinated: lots of GRAPHIC sex and a love story, I didn’t care about the quality of the actual writing at all. Graphic sex and a lot of it is what I wanted and that is what I found. The romance was the delicious icing on the cake. I am a very fast reader, these stories are not long, and being stuck at home for so many days, I found myself going through their available catalog in less than 3 weeks. I spent a LOT in ebooks then, which also created another issue because of budgeting. Thankfully, I keep my finances separate from that of my husband’s … otherwise he would have blown a gasket!

Back then, Ellora’s Cave didn’t have an established publication schedule nor a set number of releases. Sometimes they would release one book, other times up to three. Fans had no choice but to check their site daily for new releases. It was pretty much party time whenever something new was released. Those were the good ol’ days, before the erotic romance boom started. I have to say it was fun to just “hang out” on their Yahoo group -- the original one, not the current one. That one was deleted and re-launched. EC has a very convoluted story, btw, but this post is not about their history so I’ll leave it at that.

In my early days as an erotic romance fan I used to print out the stories to bring them with me during my commutes. When it became obvious how much of a drag that was, I found out about ebook reading devices. I opted for a Franklyn ebookwise which I got for a good price at eBay. It was pretty simple, I could read in different formats (not just pdf, which had been my preferred format), I could adjust font size, and best of all, I could carry with me lots of titles. To me, it was HEAVEN.

After I pretty much bought everything I could get my hands on from EC’s website, I figured there definitely had to be other websites where I could get ebooks from. There were no Changeling Press, Loose-Id or Samhain as they had not opened for business yet. I did find Liquid Silver Books, eXtasy Books, and Amber Quill Press. I got quite a bunch of titles from them as well, however, I found myself craving more. I started spreading my wings, so to speak, and discovered New Concepts Publishing. Years ago, they had a nice catalogue of historical romance and it was there that I discovered I liked that genre.

However, things change, and I’ve found that my taste has changed. I still read erotic romance, but not as much as I used to. My list of autobuy authors has narrowed as well. For some reason, I can’t get into the writing style of many newer authors of the genre and am a lot less accepting of certain things in my reading material. Sex is no longer the driving force whenever making a reading choice. Whereas I used to read up to 3 erotic romances a day, bear in mind, again, that many are shorter than a mainstream romance, these days I pretty much only read my autobuy authors’ work. In the early days I needed my erotic romance “fix” almost literally. I started reviewing erotic romance precisely because of that. I was “inhaling” the stories and spending way too much on books. Reviewing became the best choice for me. My output for a while was an average of 6-8 books PER ISSUE of the newsletter. And the newsletter has only recently gone on a monthly subscription schedule, so that means I would review an average of 12-16 books a month as we used to publish two and sometimes three times a month.

What has changed? Well, I think that in my case, it is mostly a case of burnout. When you read so many erotic romances, it gets to the point in which, unless you find an author whose voice you absolutely adore, everything reads pretty much alike. To date, I must have read over 1000 erotic romance stories (this number includes all lengths) in a relatively short period of time, the blunt having been read within 4 years of having discovered erotic romance. I find that I have also become a lot more fastidious as it pertains to mistakes and the like, which doesn’t help either.

Though I do still enjoy reading erotic romance (I wouldn't be here otherwise) I definitely don’t crave it as I used to. Sometimes I even skip sex scenes as I read because, to put it mildly, they don’t grab me the way they used to… I guess that makes me a recovering erotic romance addict … however, I do admit I miss the sense of anticipation I used to feel whenever checking if there were new releases available or the satisfaction I used to get from pretty much everything I got my hands on because, I have to say, I really did think most of what I read way back when, was excellent even if it actually wasn’t.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A "ranty" post ...

I belong to a gaming community and blogs were recently introduced as an option in their forums. Someone took it upon herself to write about ebooks, and she is making it all sound like everything is "wonderful". As most of you know, epublishing these days is not exactly "wonderful", particularly as it pertains to those of us who have been reading in ebook formats for a long time. Anyway, I dared mention a couple of issues and was slapped on the hand by the blogger in question because she doesn't want to open a can of worms. Suffice it to say, I deleted my post. I can't link to the blog because those forums and everything in them are members-only and closely monitored by the admins (the place is run as a "benevolent dictatorship" and too PC at times for their own good).

I think it is very irresponsible to go around tooting the wonders of ebooks, presenting it as an "all is rosy" kind of thing, when in reality, there are quite a few issues and the market is ever changing. A lot of these people with the "everything is wonderful mindset" now will be the same people that will say "If I had known, I would have never adopted ebooks!" or go around complaining about their losing their investment (which has already happened to many of us veterans).

The person in question, of course, has only been reading in ebook formats since December 2009 this year, and of course, a Kindle is what she has.

It's going to prove very interesting to see what she thinks in a few more months. However, I am not participating in her "sunny, wonderful" blog at all. Let her continue giving half-assed information to others. It's her blog after all.

--end of rant--

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A brief history of JERR

A couple of years ago, when I first tried the blog thing, Amber wrote this article to include in our newly launched blog. Sadly, the site I chose changed ownership, didn't bother to tell me about it, and they proceeded to delete my blog. Thanks to Google, I was able to save the articles recently.

Thump! Thump! Thump! this thing on?? Ahem! Welcome to JERR Blogs Too!!! For those of you who don't know, my name is Amber Taylor. I am the co-owner, Business Manager and Feature Coordinator for JERR. I hope this turns out to be an interactive blog that will respectfully push the edge. Not too snarky! LOL! Is that in the dictionary?

JERR has a reputation...some good, some bad. We run a tight ship, but with as much compassion for our reviewers, authors and publishers as possible. When I looked at the profile for this blog, I couldn't help but be amazed by the fact that JERR has been going strong since 2003!! WOW! In June, we will celebrate our five year anniversary! Not an easy feat in this competitive industry. So, since Mireya gave me a forum to ramble on.....I thought it might help as we start this new interactive page in the JERR history to give you some of the past history of where we came from and how we started, leading us to where we are today. For some, this may explain why we do what we do and why some think we're nuts! LOL! Well, we probably are nuts, I think I recall the reviewers considering awarding each other with wooden dildoes...but that's a story for another day. There has been a method to our madness...

JERR began with 4 friends who met on the bulletin boards (they are an archaic form of a and mentored by another very good friend, an author (yes an author) to get us started...She set the high standards that JERR strives to continue to this day. She was able to help us get the connections to get the books we needed and help us out with ethical questions, industry questions etc. We were just readers...who wanted to review because we had built reputations of giving our opinions on books on the boards around the industry and so why not...lets do formal reviews. It'll be fun! LOL! The basic concept was that we were readers...not industry professionals, reviewing books for other readers. This continues to be true today and I'd like to think has set a new standard for review sites. At the time, there were a lot of authors reviewing. To us this seemed to be a conflict as many of the authors were friends, and who wants to give their friend a not so great review. This is the driving force behind all of our policies. The format was the same as it is now, an intro, an article, interview, website review and what they really wanted ...the book reviews. We set our format up to be entertaining as well as informative about issues involved in the industry and topics of all kinds related to erotic romance. We set it up as a newsletter to be the one source out there that came right to the reader. Delivered right to their mailbox every other week--rain or shine--hell or high-water--only our own death would have delayed the issue. And sometimes that is what it felt like. That still holds true today, as we have backups in place that protect the newsletter from suffering should one or more of us be out for a time. JERR is first and foremost a newsletter and we always refer to it as such...the website (though very beautiful and necessary) is an archive and information place...

I joined in the beginning and was asked to take a leadership role right away, Mireya joined shortly after, as a reviewer, but we had to drag her kicking and screaming into! Boy that took a while!! I quickly learned that taking that leadership role would not make me a lot of friends and even loose me a few. Especially as we grew. And boy did we grow! More than we ever thought possible. We grew in leaps and day we were just 20 or 30 then 50 and then...OMG 1000 subscribers. What was once just for fun was becoming a real business. It happened quickly. There was a demand for people who would tell the honest truth about these books. Not in anyway to slam any other review site, they operated completely differently than what we wanted to do. This is an important part of who JERR is. We were determined not to put out reviews that were always positive and authors could count on it...if the book was good we wanted to give it what it deserved, but if the book wasn't.....well the reader had a right to know what they were about to spend their hard earned money on...tactfully!! Now that we were becoming recognized by authors as well as major e-book publishers, we tightened up the reins...we became more and more conscious of the quality and diversity of the product we put out, as well as the challenging ethical issues that easily arise with this type of endeavor. Many times we clashed over those quality or ethical issues. But we kept growing and have always had more books than we could review easily...but we prided ourselves and pushed ourselves on getting them done........and we did. Every I was dotted, every t crossed and the commas....well placed. We spent late hours, long weekends, and neglected our real lives to make it something we were proud to put out.

With our author mentor in the background we grew into our own entity. Running it completely by ourselves. And with success always comes controversy...over the direction we were headed, policies and ultimately who actually had the final say in what. Try as we did to be a democracy, a business has to have a leader to succeed. Thus began a huge debate and consequently a great divide in the then, current management, and ultimately lead to a series of events that broke apart the newsletter and threatened our very existence. If not for the support of Mireya, her cool head and absolutely wonderful advice (plus she ALWAYS told me like it was) I don't think JERR would still be here. I am very proud of our partnership...we keep each other in check. But, we are still here and we are going strong. Mireya devised the current management structure, complete with job descriptions. Jule took over the HUGE task of putting out the newsletter......never bending under the pressure and learned as she went...and we rebuilt. What you see put out today is a stellar newsletter that I am proud to be a part of. Aggie picked up many of my duties when my personal life was falling apart and kept those features coming as well as updating the website....I'll never be able to thank her enough for all her help...she bailed me out more than once. We finally got working on updating the website with those reviews and features and some website tweaking too! When Fran joined the management team she brought skills we desperately needed, in editing, database we ever got along without her I don't know. This is our current management team...who I cannot say enough good things about .
I guess the point here is that we have had a long hard road to get where we are. Our management is as dedicated to JERR as anyone can be with no real payment. We are fanatical about anything that may be perceived as a conflict of interest because we hold our reputation dear and protect it at all costs...its what keeps us here. That isn't to say that we don't have friendships but its how you handle those friendships that counts...At all times we are aware that other opportunities may be presented to us in the form of editing, publishing or PR to become involved in that end of the business. That end and ours doesn't mix...we've all been through it, even me...and I have lived to regret it dearly. Reputations take a long time to build, but only one keystroke to ruin. Not only for the review site, but the reviewer as well. If you loose your credibility, you have nothing in this industry.
JERR stands for fair reviews and practices that make authors and publishers feel safe handing over their books for review.....though some tend to sweat a bit.!! LOL! I think that is one think that makes me most author may fear getting a review from JERR, but still wants it, good or bad. We all know reviews are subjective, just one person's opinion, but feedback, good or bad is always helpful. Especially to new careers. What good does it do to tell an author their book is perfect when it isn't? And don't think that's an easy task either, or something we take lightly because we don't. If a reviewer turns in a review that is not good we make every effort to get a second opinion, make sure it is accurately stated, tactful and not something the author will be offended by, but something they will see as constructive criticism. Most frequently a low rated review has to do with our criteria. We make sure that book meets our criteria. It's not fair to rate a book down based on the expectation that it is a romance with graphic sex included when it's really chick lit, or straight erotica or mainstream romance. Nothing is wrong with any of those genres but our rating system is based on two components. Romance and heat level. If those are lacking it rates the book down, when based on another rating system the book might very well be award winning. We wish we could review all books, but we are still a small operation with only so many reviewers and so much time.

As we approach our fifth anniversary and 3000 subscribers, look at how the industry has changed! JERR is secure in the knowledge that we have tried to change with it. Sometimes this means laxing on some things and tightening up on others. Gone are the days when every book submitted is reviewed. The volume of books we get for review is astounding to me when I think about those 20 or so books we scrounged for in those first issues. Again, we wish we could review every single book request, but in today's market it's just not possible. So we do what we can to continue to put out the best product we can. We hope we entertain you, make you think; give you the information you need about the books, the authors, the publishers and the industry in general.

JERR is the blood, sweat and tears (believe me tears) of many people. Being the only founding member left, I sometimes mourn the loss of those friendships and the empty place left behind, but I love all of our staff and coordinators and especially Mireya for her support and incredibly hard work...through everything....I can think of no one I'd rather be co-owner with.
Move over RT...JERR is here to stay!

Hey, they don't call me Amber the Rambler for nothing.........

Sunday, April 4, 2010

List of reviews published in our April 4, 2010 issue of the newsletter

Following is the list of reviews published in today's (April 4th, 2010) issue of the newsletter. These reviews will be available in our website in about 2 weeks:
A Perfect Fit for Three: Liebling Texas 1 by Sydney Holiday
A Pirate's Mercy by Brenda Williamson
Alpha: Shifter's Coven 1 by Marteeka Karland
Another Dream Another Reality by Mechele Armstrong
Black Jack: Elite Ops by Lora Leigh
Boning Up by Summer Alan
Bound Branded & Brazen by Jaci Burton
Bound By Rebellion: The Blood-Vine 2 by Christa Paige
Bride of Death by Celina Summers
Claimed by the Wolf by Charlene Teglia
Dark Harmony by Lilly Cain
Demon Lover: Fairytale Fantasies 2 by Bonnie Dee and Marie Treanor
Fallon's Flame: Dawn Endeavor 1 by Marie Harte
Fine Print by Alanna Coca
Full Disclosure by Cari Quinn
Heart of a Huntress: The Kavanaugh Foundation 1 by Crista McHugh
Hunting JC by Dominique Eastwick
Irish Sex Fairy by Kelly Jamieson
Last Call Europe: Devil's Advocate by Belinda McBride
Let Sleeping Demons Lie by Maree Anderson
Love Unexpectedly: Wild Ride to Love 2 by Susan Fox
My Shifter Showmance: Shifting Reality 1 by R. G. Alexander
Once Bitten: Spellbound Moon 1 by Loribelle Hunt
Riding the Wolf by Mary Winter & Jessica Quinn
Scarlett's Wolf by C.L. Casey
Seduction Island by Lorie O'Clare
Slow and Wet by Helen Hardt
Stalked By Love by Brenda Williamson
Strange Neighbors by Ashlyn Chase
Tamsin's Choice by Mardi Ballou
The Chosen: A Tale of the Blood Breed by Jenika Snow
The Lovely Kittengirls of Mew Orleans by G.G. Royale
The Triple S Bride: Tasty Treats 10 by Dee S. Knight
Tough Love by Kira Stone
Twice Haunted by Honey Jans
Uncaged by Alisha Paige
Velvet Valentines by Violet Summers
Wild Instinct by Sarah McCarty
With a Touch: The Guild Chronicles by Rhiannon Leith

Friday, April 2, 2010

Five big publishers' Agency Model and the mess they've made for ebook fans

Some of you probably already read about this in blogland. Jane Litte, contributor to the popular blog Dear Author, has been reporting on the issue of pricing control by the publishers for months. Other popular blogs have been reporting on this as well, though maybe not as in much detail or as it pertains to the romance audience as Ms. Litte has.

As a bit of a background: Since before the Kindle phenomenon started, Amazon had been pretty much in "control" of the pricing of the books sold via their website(s). In terms of ebooks, they had a set price of $9.99 for the Kindle version of bestselling books published in hardcover format. That was a steep discount compared to the standard price of a hardcover. There was a brouhaha involving MacMillan and Amazon in January 2010 about which several media outlets and blogs reported about.

Then iPad came into the picture, and to make the story short, publishers (yes, in plural) hit the brakes altogether. Five of the largest publishers in the world announced that they were going to implement what is called the Agency model as it pertains to books in e formats.

The simple consequence of this: SUBSTANTIALLY HIGHER prices on many ebooks, particularly new releases that may be issued simultaneously with the print version. Other consequences that a lot of ebook fans are not even aware of but that remain firmly in place: DRMs, another exclusive format is being thrown to the mix (Apple's, as the iPad comes out in a matter of days), limits on how the book can be shared, and the ever present risk of seeing your book disappear from your ebook reader if you don't save a copy to your computer. At this point, I believe there may be more, but I am a mere romance fan and not too techie oriented despite liking gadgets a lot.

Then there is the whole issue of how is this going to affect authors. As it stands, it does seem that authors are bound to suffer consequences too.

One of the things the big publishers involved in this are counting on (as per several articles) is the potential the iPad has of attracting more readers to the ebook market, readers who will not have expectations of lower prices like the current/veteran ebook fans do.

It is going to be interesting to see how all this develops. As it stands now, ugly is the understatement of the year in this case.

Romance Trading Cards

Okay, this is awesome. I'd buy them! Courtesy of Mrs. Giggles: