“Jane, You Ignorant Slut.”

Candy: I debated with myself long and hard about writing this. On one hand, I’m not sure what went on deserves to be dignified with a response. On the other hand, remaining silent might be interpreted as indifference, cowardice, turning a blind eye, or, worst of all, tacit approval of the shit we’ve seen being slung around in recent days. I finally decided I couldn’t keep my yap shut any longer, and the reason why I’m allowing the floodgates to open is this: ultimately, it’s not just about a specific blog, or a commenter, or a group commenters. Don’t get me wrong: I’m going to pick on one blog in particular, and pick on it hard because it exemplifies much that I find distasteful. But I want to also address an issue that I’ve seen over and over in many blogs—and I’m not just talking about romance blogs, either, though that’s what I’m going to talk about here, given the focus of this site. Essentially, there’s a type of discourse that goes along the lines of “You’re really mean, so you really need to watch your mouth, you ugly whore.” Most of the time, I shrug my shoulders and go “Eh,” or I tell myself not to let it bug me, because it’s the Internet tubes, man; sometimes, they do end up resembling dump trucks. But all that shrugging and sliding isn’t working any more.

So yeah, don’t know what brought on this rant? It exploded all over the place with what I thought was a pretty innocuous post about the presence of bloggers and author costumes at the RWA Nationals this year, but it really kind of started with this (now-deleted; praise Jah for Google caching) post at Cindy Cruciger’s (also known as FerfeLabat) about reviewers/bloggers. I’ve made jokes about how rack-obsessed that bunch is, and I’m still amused that these people found my breasteses even remotely squawkworthy, but in my opinion, the most hostile comments were directed towards Jane of Dear Author

As the discussion about costumes got bigger and bigger over here at Smart Bitches—and let me tell you, I’m astonished this tempest in a teacup became the category 5 hurricane that it did—Cruciger and her commenters became increasingly prune-mouthed and disapproving, giving birth to two posts: one that pulled many comments, several of them out of context; and another to REALLY drive home what a buncha animals, animals we are over here.

Taking the high road is a tricky, tricky thing. If nothing else, if you indulge in the behaviors you condemn, you’re going to look like a huge, honking hypocrite. (Alliteration is always awesome.)

For example: check out this bit of commentary by Cruciger in response to Nora Roberts’ criticism of Kenyon’s ginormous swan hat: “There is such a thing as tact. It runs part and parcel with the ellusive [sic] “Professionalism” thing … I’ve heard. How is bashing an author on a public blog better than the BASH (Big-assed-swan-hat)?”

And then check out this bit of commentary by Cruciger about Jane of Dear Author: “It’s comments like that that made me think she was a 40 yo WASP. Classic disdain. You can’t buy that. You have to be born with it and it takes years to perfect.”

The double standard here is pretty staggering, especially since Nora Roberts was commenting on a) an author’s attire, and not the author herself, and b) an issue that was directly related to media perception of the romance genre and what it means to be a professional writer. I have yet to discern any sort of non-personal reason for Cruciger to post the pictures of us reviewers/commentators. She’s fond of talking about how on-line reviewers are free to snipe with impunity at authors on blogs, but I haven’t yet seen any of the review and commentary blogs—especially those with a decently large readership, like Dear Author—post photos of authors solely for personal commentary.

See what I mean? “Watch that mouth of yours, you whore.”

Keep in mind, I’m not saying I can’t understand why, say, Mancusi and Maverick felt personally attacked—because it’s natural for people to interpret these sorts of discussions as comments on their worth as persons as opposed to a debate on the viability of their choices—but I saw the thread as largely civil, while somewhat puzzling to me in its length and intensity. (I’m definitely still suffering from “Why are we so worked up about two hot chicks in tame miniskirts and stockings?” syndrome.)

The irony of Cruciger’s response becomes especially delicious when I review the comments Cruciger and some of her regulars made about our appearance for, near as I can tell, shits ‘n giggles, because that somehow gets a free pass, and then see how they howl and rage so very hard over what was said about Kenyon, Mancusi and Maverick over here at Smart Bitches. Look, I’m not denying that the discussion here was very loud and brusque in tone—but it centered on questions regarding professionalism, marketing in romance, conformity and the image of romance. I’m also not saying that people didn’t go over the line (*koff*DebSmith*koffkof*) in the 600+ comments we logged over the course of a week. But it’s important to note that NOT all of the comments were against costumes, nor were all of them critical of Mancusi, Maverick and Kenyon, as Cruciger implied when she characterized that particular thread as “taking 600 comments to to demoralize three writers.” I think the tone of the discussion here at Smart Bitches, while often hard-hitting and blunt, remained largely free of malice.

These differences in perception interest me. Certain types of people love to claim that we reviewers get to say whatever the hell we like about authors without having to face any consequences, but the people who make these claims the loudest seem to also be the ones who snipe frequently, snipe often and snipe messily at their targets. In fact, these are often people who actually HAVE targets, usually bloggers who set them off. There seems to be little awareness that what they’re doing is in any way inconsistent. What they do is a little bit of fun against thick-skinned people who know how to take it; what we reviewers/commentators/bloggers do? Is ENTIRELY different, and our victims are unsuspecting, sensitive little lambs.

Jane: I thought the debate on costumes was illuminating because not only was it a stand-in for the greater resentment felt towards the mainstream media for marginalizing romance, but also how important the issue of respect is to those careers are defined by the genre itself.  It was an issue that was fraught with emotion but for the most part was spirited but not unkind.  It is obvious that the two of the authors in question felt these were personal attacks and as Robin said, that would be natural.  Yet, the discussion wasn’t about the person, but the idea of marketing and the time and place of appropriateness.

What grew out of this debate on Cindy Cruciger’s blog was demeaning to us all in the way that it turned a legitimate discussion into a mockery.  In the rush to trample down everyone in their paths who did not hold similar beliefs, Cindy Cruciger and a group of e-published authors such as Selah March and Eva Gale engaged in the very acts that they purportedly despise: name calling, condescension, discussing personal appearance as if it had anything to do with ability or content.  Cruciger engaged in a wholesale deletion of posts and comments.

I did not respond before because I felt, as I commented in the monstrous thread about costumes and bloggers, that these types of comments deserved no response merely because I felt that the point of posting it was to gain a response.

I believe that personal attacks are not appropriate and try very hard on the blog, particularly in a review, to not make it personal.  If I say that the author is doing something with her books or her characters that I find objectionable, I don’t perceive that to be a personal attack.  A personal attack to me would be posting a picture of an author and saying, “I can’t believe she could write a sex scene like that.  She certainly doesn’t look like she could.” Which was, in essence, the gleeful statements that were made about the four bloggers on Cindy Crcuiger’s blog (which she has since deleted).

Cruciger’s blog has long been a haven for nasty comments like March’s in April when she stated “I’ve been publicly humiliated by award-winning authors in front of entire classrooms full of my peers because my stories dared to incorporate PLOT” and “Can’t please all of the people all of the time, and if you try, you might just be writing middle-of-the-road crap that alienates the people who write ME fan letters about my “gritty, realistic” characterization.” Which are as off putting to me as some believed that the verbiage from the “rebels of romance” page was.  Other comments existed (until they were recently deleted) such as “Where did Karen Scott say she went on vacation again? I think someone saw her …” and then quoting the passage from a news article “Weird-Looking ‘Lake Snake’ Sought by Illinois Authorities”.

So yes, when I came across a post on Keishon’s blog and Selah March wanted to engage in a debate, I refused because I knew that I would only be subject to sarcasm and viputeration.  When Cindy Cruciger posted our pictures or would make a comment about the state of DearAuthor, there was no point in responding.  It seemed to me that either these people wanted the traffic from linking or that they were simply determined to be mean, neither of which deserved a response.  But I suppose by remaining silent, I subjected others to this and perhaps I should have objected sooner.  For that I would apologize.  But, I don’t apologize for not wanting to support their careers or give them attention for which they don’t deserve.

Sarah: My reaction to both debates – the costumes and Candy’s rack – has been mostly to observe, but then, it takes a lot to set me off in general.

But my reaction to the discussion and what it turned into moved rapidly from “Holy cow” to, “Are you kidding me?” My perspective as someone who isn’t regularly called upon to defend romance, but does it anyway, is certainly different from those who posted in that thread. It’s not as if my career is based upon the genre, but for other authors, I can totally see their point. Ignoring the trolls, as is my habit, reading over Crusie, Roberts and other writer’s comments was certainly illuminating as to the other side of the debate: do costumes detract? Where is the line between fun and frippery that decreases respectability? Are costumes and dressing up in character for marketing purposes something that will be seen more frequently? Or is it reserved for other venues and not so much RWA?

But really, as Candy so rightly contrasted in her rant, how come it’s not ok for us to discuss or even question the presence of costumes, but it IS ok for others to not only discuss the presence of bloggers but comment upon our appearances and the way we look? WTF?

The amount of vitriol and cruelty was astonishing at the sites Candy linked to, and I have no patience for anyone who wants to throw mud when they don’t have anything of quality to add to the discussion – hence my decision to close comments on the original behemoth when it turned into a pile-on instead of anything meaningful.

No matter how much or how little I read on the sites Candy linked to, or in Google caches of the same, the more I’m thunderstruck. What really, really pissed me off is watching our site held up as the source of what’s wrong with the romance community online, when neither Candy, Jane, or I would ever dare criticize an author’s appearance as part of examining his or her books. There’s a line for us that we wouldn’t cross, no matter how much we didn’t like a novel. But to be accused of being the source of all that is crapful by those who cross that line blithely at our own expense is infuriating and disgusting.

That said, trolls aside, I am as usual exceptionally proud of how most of the time, folks on this site can debate and discuss topics wherein there is great disagreement operating within an environment of respect and consideration. Pity that a noxious few attempted to spoil it, but at this point, I’m happy to ignore them again.

Candy, Jane, and I debated about opening this thread to comments, because the last thing we want is a pile-on of hateration, or soothing pats on the head. However, we all agreed it was past time to respond. So in the comments, some ground rules:

1. This isn’t open season to attack us, or Cruciger, or anyone else. If you disagree with us, we trust you know how to do so respectfully. If you don’t, and post anyway, we’ll get crazy with the delete feature.

2. What we’re trying to address here is: What is a personal attack, and where should that line be drawn, if at all? Is it personal to attack authorial behavior or reviewer behavior? Can only content be criticized?

3. Please keep the discussion focused on generalities and behaviors. This isn’t an opportunity to re-hash. And please, if you reference a specific instance on another site to underscore your point, please link. If your HTML breaks, no worries – we’ll fix it.

4. Everyone: take a deep breath. Have some chocolate. Then post.



General Bitching...

Comments are Closed

  1. azteclady says:

    I need to digest some before being able to coherent commentary—for whatever it could be worth—but I wanted to let you know that link to Selah March’s quote Jane gives is broken.

  2. Candy says:

    Whoops! Sorry ‘bout that. Anyway, broken link is fixx0red.

  3. Walt says:

    Just a quick comment here.  There is active prejudice in the world of romance novels.  Otherwise, men wouldn’t write under female pseudonyms. There are numerous other examples. The audience can be quite cruel to anyone who appears different from what the audience is expecting.

  4. rebyj says:

    I can’t take time to digest cuz I dont post coherently anyway LOL

    ” What is a personal attack, and where should that line be drawn, if at all? Is it personal to attack authorial behavior or reviewer behavior? Can only content be criticized? “

    Face it, Authors/Bloggers/Reviewers you’re all public figures and like the Tom Cruise’s and Paris Hilton’s that came before you, you’re left wide open for any and all aspects of your lives to be commented on. Only difference is Tom and Paris are billionaires and well, most authors/bloggers/reviewers are not. LOL
    At the convention you’re all at a public event and hell yeah you’re open to scrutiny and comments. Why go if not to gape at the authors and people you’ve met online and form opinions and have opinions formed about yourself? (yeah yeah you go for the free books)

    Nora Roberts commenting on Kenyons hat..well, geeze. Why does someone wear a big hat?
    1. to hide bad hair day.
    2.to get attention from a bold fashion statement.
    3. to piss people off who might be standing behind them.
    4. to get nora roberts attention!
    (on sale soon, the big ass swan hat for the nora roberts bobblehead doll!)

    now.. off to read the blogs to see what I really should be commenting on and see if I find some coherence lol

  5. Kalen Hughes says:

    I’m soooooooo glad I quit reading that thread when it was only a tropical storm. *sigh* Last I saw it was still a mostly civil debate about the appropriateness of costumes at RWA (especially when worn outside of the literacy signing).

  6. Mel-O-Drama says:

    I really don’t know what to say here other than, WTF? I’m confused. totally confused.  When the comments on the costume thread hit 400 I thought, “Damn, you would think the blog was about politics or religion. Or both.”

    I’m just confused. So, all I will say is that I find it ironic that the biggest complaint was about the lack of “professional” dress (ie cleavage) posted in a supposed “professional” blog. I don’t know…isn’t she a writer? I’m assuming that’s her “writing” blog…anyway, it seems to me that this is a bit of the pot calling the kettle black. If wearing low cut shirts is unprofessional (uh oh…I’m in a lot of trouble) then it seems to me that it’s just as unprofessional to bandy about personal attacks on a blog you use to promote your writing.

    If there had been just a general “I think low cut tops at the RWA conference are unprofessional” then I wouldn’t have batted an eye. I would disagree, because I think professionalism has everything to do with attitude and nothing to do with clothing…but that’s a whole ‘nother post.

    I’m just shaking my head over this. So what if you didn’t like the costumes or the cleavage! In the grand scheme of things, this stuff is small potatoes.

  7. Eileen says:

    No matter what you think of the hat (not for me) or the stockings (so wish I could pull that off I thought they looked fab) the discussion for me should center around the writing profession and the role of marketing. Where do these intersect? Is there marketing that writers shouldn’t do? What responsibility (if any) do we as writers have to others in our professional group?

    If we can’t discuss it without being reduced to name calling and vowing never to darken our book shelves with someone’s book, then we do way more damage than any hat to our goal of being professionals. I’m interested in other’s opinions if for no other reason then it helps me clarify and form my own. I didn’t like the hat. Then I had to question why. Was it a personal thing- a hidden anti-water fowl issue or was it something else? I wanted to hear others opinions. If you only want to hear people who agree with you- or if you can’t disagree without being reduced to troll status then I fear we miss the opportunity to grow.

    And I still think Nora makes a hell of a bobblehead.

  8. Carrie Lofty says:

    I unsubscribed from comments at around 250, the first time I’ve ever done so.

    But thanks for the chocolate suggestion, bitches. Don’t mind if I do…

  9. A random thought, because I totally missed this storm: If this was about a author’s convention in a mostly-male field, such as suspense, would anyone care about “inappropriate” attire? If a male author showed up in V-neck shirt or shorts, who would care?

    Culturally and socially, women are made to walk the “power professional bitch with huge shoulderpads”/“whorish young thang using tatas to get ahead” line. We literally get it from both ends. Tempests in teakettles about “provocative” female clothing comes directly from the misogynistic slant in our culture.

    Does that make the storm more or less complex?

  10. AN. An author’s convention.


  11. Gabriele says:

    How boring would summer be without the annual RWA kerfuffle. *grin*

    I haven’t been there but only seen pics of the ‘offending items’. I must admit I loved the swan hat and thought the other two authors looked cute, but I come from a reenactment background. Since I don’t write romance (I write epic historical fiction) and are here as reader, I won’t comment on the effect swan hats may have on Romance as genre. Personally, I’ve never defended myself for reading or writing anything – I just do it.

    There’s a Rockin’ Girl Blogger award making the rounds, and I think you deserve one. You may proudly add the pink icon to your sidebar, because you girls rock. 🙂

  12. Bella says:


    Romance authors face such disdain from the outside world, why do they focus that inward, also? Kenyon was adorable, as always, odd, yes, but still – it’s part of her charm. What really is painful to me is the way M&M were hurt because of the comments over their outfits. They looked adorable!

    So what if they didn’t wear a button-down suit? It’s a writer’s convention people, not dinner with the president! For my two cents, they should tell everybody to suck donkey balls,STOP READING THE DESTRUCTIVE CRITICISM and love their goofy selves!

  13. Gwen says:

    For Ferfelabat and friends:  “The keenest sorrow is to recognize ourselves as the sole cause of all our adversities.”  – Sophocles

    For reviewers:  “People ask for criticism, but they only want praise.”  – W. Somerset Maugham

    For authors:  “To avoid criticism do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.”  – Elbert Hubbard

  14. Stacey says:

    I found the discussion (what I read…I think I stopped around post 100) to be mainly focused on what it means to be in a professional setting—which I don’t think should be personal. And I think those lines get blurred at RWA because while it’s professional, it’s also a socializing time to get together with old friends and make new ones. So I think some rules (how low your shirt is) can be relaxed, especially if you’re hanging out around the hotel. Because that is you in your own personal space and time.

    But if you are in the midst of representing yourself or your employer, just keep it in mind. I would hope that authors/reviewers/whoever understand that. A signing, a reading, a workshop: they’re all public, professional events; imo, that means everything is up for grabs, behavior and content.

  15. --E says:

    First off, whew, am I glad this isn’t my genre. I don’t suppose it would do any good to point out that SF/F writers, agents, and editors get scads of work done at WorldCon, despite the presence of elaborate hall costumes. (Besides, it would be disingenuous of me, since much of that work is sliding toward World Fantasy Con, where the halls are not full of adventuring elves and space rangers. Also, smaller genre. About 5000 people attend World Con.)

    I think when it comes to talking about women, sartorial snark is indeed personal. It can be so for the men, too, but there is a centuries-long history of women being catty about each others’ clothing, and it certainly has always been intended personally. It takes several forms:

    1. how poor she is
    2. what a slut she is
    3. how weird she is
    4. how not-part-of-our-group she is

    In all cases, the trait (lack of money, sexual expression, oddness, not part of the inner circle) is considered by the speaker to be shameful. Whether the recipient of the comment agrees, the intent of the speaker is to wag a finger and say, “You are doing something that makes you inferior to me.”

    That said, it is entirely possible for one woman to say to another, “Excuse me, dear, but perhaps you are unaware that dressing in that fashion creates the impression of [bad impression] amongst [people you might not wish to give bad impression to].” However, this statement is best delivered by a friend, and barring that, MUST BE DELIVERED DIRECTLY TO THE WOMAN IN QUESTION, DISCREETLY.

    Sorry for the caps, but I feel very strongly about that. If someone really, truly, is trying to be kind and help someone, then they do not wave that shit in public and call attention to it. I don’t care how you phrase it, it’s still going to sound like cattiness, like the lyrics to Blondie’s “Rip Her to Shreds.”

    As for reviewers, I think it’s fine for reviewers to sound off on a particular book, as long as they can back it up with excerpts from the text. Think a writer loads up on cliches? Cite a paragraph and show it. Think a writer has lackluster, circumlocutious prose? Example, please.  (I tend to smack down on bad prosody, which authors tend to take personally. I cover my ass in the way we all learned to in college: “It’s in the bleedin’ text, so STFU.”)

    I’ve never seen a review on this site that I thought took a shot at an author, other than some on-going, “I can’t stand any books by [insert author here]” themes. That starts to rise to personal mockery, continuously singling out one author (usually Cassie Edwards) as the sort of Evil Overlord of Bad Writing.

    Though personally? I don’t have any problem with folks mocking people in public, particularly if the target of the mocking is reasonably public and the mocking is about the things that are public (frex, mocking CE for her writing, fine. Mocking her for, say, her car, would be kinda stupid. Mocking me for my obsessive use of commas is fine).

    I have a problem with folks who mock and then deny that they’re mocking. If you’ve got the brass ones to make fun, then have the steel ones to own it. Claims of “I’m just saying what we’re all thinking” or “It’s my opinion!” do not fool anyone.

  16. Yeah, well.

    If we were talking about the book signing at the Romantic Times convention then we wouldn’t be talking because the RT signing generally has people in costumes and it is not considered anything but good marketing.

    I decided I had to see what Kenyon’s hat looked like (yes, I had heard she was wearing one, but I was sitting in my little spot at the signing all the time and didn’t get over for a first hand peek).

    So I did a websearch and sure enough found a picture…from another convention which is definitely fan based.

    Apparently SK decided to wear the same hat for her fans at RWA. Liz and Marianne dressed up in what I’ve heard were outfits based on their characters in the Shomi books. They looked pretty cute. I just wish I could get away with that kind of outfit. It would have looked darling 20 years ago.

    I’m pretty sure I saw someone at one point in Regency garb but they may not have been signing.

    This is the first time I’ve ever heard of anyone dressing up at the signing at RWA. Given the flack, I’m guessing it might be the last time.

    My feeling about it? To my knowlege no one has ever declared a dress code for the literacy signing. A couple years ago there was this insanity over the possibility of lewd covers at the signing and in addition to the “kids shouldn’t be exposed to that stuff” (and I did see kids at the signing), the underpinning message was that RWA was desperately intent on looking like a professional organization. There was even mention of how they didn’t want their convention to look like RT with all of its craziness.

    I love going to RT. That must say something about me.

    So, I am not surprised by all this. I’m guessing that next year there will be specific instructions on dressing professionally for the signing. Maybe that should have been said before.

    Overall, I’m not really surprised at how nasty things have gotten. I’m disappointed too…partly because of how unsurprised I am.

    I do very much wish this wasn’t happening in such a public venue.

    Janet Miller/Cricket Starr

  17. I had a major Mom moment, reading this blog post.

    “The least said is the easiest mended.”

    I’ve written many blog comments that were never posted.  If the subject is something inherently flammable, I step back, give it a moment or two of thought – as in, “Is this going to hurt someone needlessly or bite me in the ass later?” – then decide whether to post or not.  Nine times out of ten, I delete and don’t post the comment.  It’s sometimes difficult, because I know someone has something wrong, that their assumption (usually RWA related) is incorrect.  But I’ve come to realize that in BlogLand, the truth isn’t always favorable.  It’s so much more fun to piss and moan, or poke fun, or climb up on a soapbox and beat one’s chest about inequity.  Or hats and hosiery.  Or cleavage.

    I started to click on the links provided, then decided not to.  I read maybe 1/16 of the posts in the orginal SB blog about the hat/hosiery.  After a while, my eyes glazed over and I closed the comments.  So, in all fairness, I confess I haven’t read what prompted Candy, Jane and Sarah to write this blog post.  I suppose I mostly wanted to say I’m sorry things got out of hand and people were hurt.

    And I wanted to wear my Mom hat.

    I had several very bad moments in Dallas, even a few with women I consider friends.  I was hurt and it’s been difficult to get over it.  But I will, because I realize their anger wasn’t about me – it was about what I represent.  It would have been lovely if they’d approached me as a friend and we had a dialogue about their issues – but that’s not how it shook out.  I could carry a grudge and remain angry and hurt, but what’s the good in that?  Everyone screws up, says something they regret later, and perhaps wish they could take it back.  Sometimes, rather than simply apologize sincerely, they take a more strident attitude, perhaps to cover embarrassment?  I don’t know about this particular blow-up.  I’m strictly speaking in generalizations.

    I suppose I just don’t understand what’s so hard about The Golden Rule.  I’ve no doubt hurt others as I stumble through life – but never intentionally, and for certain, if I realize I’ve hurt someone, I immediately grovel for forgiveness.

    If I have a serious issue with someone’s blog posts, I email privately and say, “I take exception to what you said, and here’s why: etc.”  They then have the opportunity to respond, out of the public eye.  I’m not saying all controversial subjects should be handled that way, but let’s be honest – some things are better said in private.

    And some things are better left unsaid altogether.

    “Least said, easiest mended.”

  18. Lauren Dane says:

    Stopped reading at around 300 or so but for the most part, I thought the smart bitches here were smart cookies. I come here for interesting debate and to hear viewpoints I hadn’t considered. I certainly got that.

    I think to accuse someone of being a prostitute or pedophile lure or whatever, just lowers the conversation to the point where nothing of any substance can be said. It’s silly because we’re all people who love words. It’s like when I saw the RWA being compared to Nazism, my eye roll meter goes off the charts.

    Can we be passionate advocates of our POV? Sure. Can we disagree with someone we adore? (*waves at Nora and tries not to look like she has a crush*) Yes. Can I personally take it seriously when anyone says Maverick’s thighs ruin the respectability of romance? No. I can’t and that’s obviously a personal bias but there it is. Put differently, can I take seriously a comment that says non-business attire at a signing is unprofessional? Totally (even if I disagree).

    I think the thing is, we forget we’re not in our rumpus room (remember those?). People are watching what we do and say and so our “private” squabbles aren’t really private and viewing this stuff from the outside, without benefit of context makes us all look silly.

  19. iffygenia says:

    I’m guessing that next year there will be specific instructions on dressing professionally for the signing.

    I don’t see why that follows.  In fact I would hope that would NOT come out of a blog kerfuffle.  This thread is two blogs talking about blogging, and it’s unfortunate to attach that to the swan-pissing contest of last week.  Even the original 600-comment thread wasn’t anything to do with RWA official-like.

    I do very much wish this wasn’t happening in such a public venue.

    I agree. Enough is enough, or too much sometimes.  This isn’t going to help settle anything.  It’s just further entangling the professionalism/respect/publicity/costumery issues with the respect/courtesy/reviewing/blogging issues.

  20. First, let me focus on an important tidbit in this post:  Dark chocolates filled with port rock.  I hope y’all get the opportunity to try them.

    Second, I have a handful of blogs I read every day.  Smart Bitches, Dear Author,  It’s My Blog, and I usually take a look at BAM’s site, but I generally don’t visit the others alluded to in this article.  It’s all about what’s going to be the best, most thoughtful writing on issues of importance to me as a romance writer and reader.  That’s all.  My time is valuable, your time is valuable.  Why waste it in useless conversations that make you feel like you’re being bludgeoned?

    And Lilith, if I saw a male author dressed in shorts and a v-neck shirt at RWA, I’d think he was being unprofessional.  It’s not just about gender, it’s about time and place.

  21. Lani says:

    How boring would summer be without the annual RWA kerfuffle. *grin*

    Sing it, sister.

    What I find fascinating about this debate is that it started out pretty calm and intelligent, then one shot was fired, then a bunch of shots, and the next thing you know, it was a damn bar brawl with a mob throwing punches and some not even seeming to know what they were fighting about. Meanwhile, most people kept an intelligent and respectful debate going, ducking the occasional flying beer mug.

    So, here’s my stance on it: If someone says, “Gee, Lani Diane Rich might have been showing a little too much boobage at the signing, that’s in poor taste,” I’d be embarrassed (I’ve got a prodigious rack that works against me sometimes) but I’d accept it. I’m a public figure at a public event, what I wear is open for discussion and if I ever embarrass my colleagues, I’d sure as hell like to know. I have friends I trust who I hope won’t let me get that far, but if it happened, I’d like to be aware, whether I agreed or not.

    If someone said, “Did you see Lani’s BOOBS? She must be a SLUT! And I bet all her books SUCK, because hotdamnmama, look at what she was WEARING! I’ll bet she’s a PEDOPHILE, too! Whore! She sucks!” then I venture to say THAT would be out of line. And to be honest, it’s an opinion I wouldn’t sweat much. I think once slut, whore, and pedophile enter the debate, the arguer sheds some credibility.

    So now, I’m no one-woman-supreme-court of Blogland, but I think there’s your difference. I chose a career in the public eye, when I’m in public, my behavior is up for debate. Now, lucky me, I’m low-level midlist and I have neither L&Ms courage, thighs, nor rockin’ sense of fashion, so most of what I do slides by unnoticed. Which is okay by me. I’m of the “write the best books you can and pray to as many gods as will have you” school of promotion. But promotion and marketing is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish, and we’re discussing The Line.

    Now, for journalists (I consider reviewers and bloggers journalists, if you disagree, humor me) I’m torn. My gut reaction is that you are not IN the public eye, you ARE the public eye, and therefore anyone who picks on you should just back the hell off. But, in reality, in these circles, you guys are extremely well known, so… are you public figures as well? I don’t know. I didn’t see the site where they picked on what you were wearing, and I won’t go because I tend to get mama bear-ish and I don’t want to be pissed off while writing this, but I’m still inclined to call foul. One, this isn’t your profession. Two, it wasn’t a blogger’s convention, it was a writing convention, and there were no public events where you were on call to represent your industry to the media. Three, it just feels wrong. I know that’s a weak argument, but that’s what my gut says – lay off the Bitches (which includes Jane and all the journalists.) I think it’s a one way street – you guys talk about us. We chose to be public figures; you didn’t. It’s just not the same. I know you two are probably more famous than me – most people are – but still… I drop back to my third argument. It’s just wrong. Someone else come up behind me and argue it better, will you? All I’ve got is my gut, and my gut says it’s a sucker punch.

    As authors, we put ourselves out there. Where the SK and L&M discussion was about professionalism at a public event, I thought it was fine. Where the personal slut/whore/pedophile/bitch stuff came in, that was out of line. It’s at that point that I’ll call a foul. And while I think that authors should take the hits and shut up when it comes to reviews, I think that it’s fair play to speak up when someone calls you, say, a pedophile. (Can you tell I’m still pissed off about that?) But what I noticed about Liz and Marianne and Nora, who were the most violently and unfairly attacked, is that they defended themselves, but they never lobbed back. They never said, “I’m not a pedophile, you slut.” And I think that’s where the women separate from the girls.

    So… did I answer the question? Or did I just ramble on for days? LOL. I have a tendency toward rambling. Have y’all noticed?

  22. Beth says:

    I’m only addressing the “what is a personal attack” part of this, because going through the comments over at Crucugar’s site, I was smacked in the face at the moment it crossed the line (for me). And that’s when she asked “So what did we decide about Candy’s breasts?” 

    I mean holy fucking christ. I can’t even make it past that comment because I’m stunned by the cruel mean-girl high school gym locker-room memories of suffocating awfulness it stirs up in me.  It’s just breathtakingly wrong. I haven’t hated my fellow females like that in a long long time. I’m afraid to read further and see what depths it might reach.

    So I guess my verdict is: It’s a personal attack when the person being criticized somehow becomes nothing more than a piece of meat.

  23. Rosie says:

    What is a personal attack, and where should that line be drawn, if at all? Is it personal to attack authorial behavior or reviewer behavior? Can only content be criticized?

    Yes, there should be a line drawn.  Is it really that hard to know what is appropriate and what isn’t?  Do we have to talk about a bad hair day (for instance) when we discuss the merits, or lack thereof, of a book?  No.  Is overall appearance and presentation okay to discuss?  I think, Yes.  At my place of employment, and dare I say many others as well, there is a very general dress code and a sort of code of behavior of what’s appropriate and what is not.  The lines of same are discussed all the time.

    As for author/blogger/reviewer behavior and whether or not it’s appropriate to comment on it or discuss it.  I think discussion or observations should be made only as it relates to their individual profession or public presence.  The work, not their personal life.

    Most of us work.  We have work relationships.  Just because we are communicating via the internet does not throw civility out the window.  My rule of thumb is if I wouldn’t be comfortable saying it face to face in an office setting I probably shouldn’t post it.

    One final word, no one wants their opinion, observations, or work legislated, monitored or censored.  I know I don’t.  For the most part I think there are great discussions going on out here in the blogosphere everyday.  Why some people have to resort to the point and laugh method of communicating I’ll never know.

  24. Kristie(J) says:

    I had never been to that blog before this latest blow-up and I was appalled at the venom eminating from some of the posters there.  They reminded me of high school girls – the ones who would be nice to your face and then trash you behind your back.  I went back and forth on whether to comment there but then decided it would lower me to their level to do so.  Robin tried to reason with them and they attempted to slice her to ribbons.
    They took on people I’ve come to know and care about in the on-line community and for the life of me I can’t fathom why – what was the point of it all?
    I’ve seen flame wars come and go – but that series of posts and many of the comments went way beyond nasty and entered vicious.

  25. Lani says:


    Sorry. It’s that damn Mama Bear in me. Stephanie, we’ve only met in passing and you probably don’t even remember me, but you were DELIGHTFUL and phooey on anyone who was rude to you. Double phooey.

    And I think you’ve got good advice. But honestly, what I love about this website is that there is so much intelligent debate, and let’s not be quick to throw that baby out with the name-calling bathwater. I think it was an interesting discussion, and those who managed to discuss it respectfully created an engaging debate, which I think is always a good thing. There was a lot of bad stuff going on, you’ll get no argument from me on that, but I think most of it was good, solid stuff and I’m glad I got the chance to hear the differing opinions.

    So I think as long as you check yourself for respect (and I personally cannot imagine Stephanie Feagan being anything less than DELIGHTFUL) then you should absolutely jump in with an opinion.

    So, m’dear, I will respectfully disagree, while saying that you are DELIGHTFUL. Because you just are.

  26. Devon says:

    I think that it is important to look at context and intent.  I personally did not see the big deal about the authors’ outfits, but I can understand, say, Nora Roberts’ argument about not liking the outfits within the context of the event.  She was not judging the outfits themselves, just the appropriateness of wearing them in that particular venue. In my opinion, that is very different than saying an outfit is “pedophile luring.”  That is an attack, no getting around it.

    When the issue of meany reviewers comes   up, I always heave a big sigh.  It seems that no one gives people credit for having the brainpower to distinguish the context and intent of the review.  Is it really the author (of the review)‘s intent to cast aspersions upon the author (of the book)‘s looks, intelligence and morals, or are they just saying what didn’t work for them?    Tone and language, regardless.

    I find there is a tendency to grab onto a piece of a post or comment and use it out of context, to say, “See, she/he/it said this.”  This totally derails intelligent conversation as everyone scrambles to defend themselves and clarify.  This happens a lot in conversations about race and racism among others.

    I’m blathering but I think it comes down to looking at what the comment is judging.  Criticizing a social construct, genre rules and conventions or a piece of writing is different than attacking a person’s, well person.

    As for poking fun at a swan hat, I doubt Kenyon wore it to win any Best-dressed awards.  There had to be some humor involved there.  I doubt she’s in tears over comments made here.  She had the cojones to wear a swan hat, for goodness sake!

  27. The wonderful, horrible thing about the Internet is that, not only is everyone entitled to their opinion, but anyone can post it for the whole world to see.

    The net would be boring (and fake) if everything was nicey nice all the time. Snark is fun. Look at Television without Pity or Go Fug Yourself. The difference is making the distinction between “Starlet X dresses like a crack whore” and “Starlet X IS a crack whore.”

    (I picked a non-bookish site as an example to avoid recent baggage then realized it was still talking about clothes. Oops. Complete coincidence.)

    It takes a lot more time and effort to be funny and snarky than it does just to be mean and go for the cheap shot. Blogs are like sex that way. Anyone can do it, but it takes a little work to make it worth shaving your legs.

  28. Observer says:

    When a very famous author opined that “Wearing a costume at a “business” function (as vs a private signing) is inappropriate,” that was part of a discussion.  For examples, she brought up three authors in “costume” and gave the reason why.  That gave people an idea what she was talking about.  The fact that it was a world famous author who said this doesn’t constitute remark as an attack on the exemplified persons.

    As far as I could tell, no malice intended.

    When **koffDebSmithkoff** extrapolated that to conclude these authors who dressed like that were pedophile baits and thus, disgusting, that was NOT discussing but being moralizing.

    From where I sit, malice intended.

    When a group of other bloggers pointed to this discussion in their own blogs and commented on the topic, then it wass part of the discussion too.  When they write dissenting posts about the topic at hand in their own blogs, that’s a debate.

    No malice intended there either.

    When a group of other bloggers pointed to the POSTERS in their blogs and snark about the posters’ behavior and appearance, and in general, started a sub-thread of their opinions of these posters with whom they disagree, that’s malicious gossip.  Since it is in a PUBLIC blog, it is intentional malice.

    Umm…Big Time Malice pie with a whopping heap of “we’re so much better than that” on top.

    Believe me, an observer can tell the difference.


  29. In my mind that discussion was pretty civilized for as long as it went on. And enough has probably been said on that topic so I won’t say any more here.

    What I will say is this: I wish I had the kind of cleavage where 1) I could wear a shirt like Candy did (in any venue) and 2) pictures of my cleavage were then posted on other blogs in an attempt to stir up trouble and get attention. (They are just jealous – I am)

    My mother always said “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” 😉

  30. azteclady says:

    I’m still digesting but—if you’ll forgive some rambling—lemme start with this:

    When a reviewer—paid or amateur—dissects a book by saying things like “this particular plot device didn’t work for me because (insert reason),” or “the dialogue felt unnatural/stilted/stiff/whatever, or “there was too much tell and little show, such as when (insert example)” there’s nothing personal there, right? I mean, even if the phrasing goes something along the lines of “and this sucked big hairy monkey balls because…” it’s still about the BOOK, and therefore not personal.

    Now, if a reviewer said, “it’s obvious that the author needs to take remedial English” then no amount of “because…” will make it NOT a personal attack on the author.

    However, there are times when behaviour can and (dare I say this?) should be scrutinized. And such scrutiny can and must be separated from the person indulging in it. After all, haven’t we all at some point done something so incredibly stupid that, had we not been there, we wouldn’t believe we did it? I know I have, and I’m positive more people have than not.

    So I can say that “so-and-so people’s behavior and this particular event didn’t strike me as particularly professional within the context of that specific event/situation/setting,” and such an observation/statement/comment would not mean that I think that so-and-so themselves ARE unprofessional whatevers. The line has not been crossed.

    As far as the 630+ comments thread? I was impressed that the great majority of participants managed to both keep on track and behave civilly—and sad over the few who chose to go off on tangents over personal baggage/vendettas (or what I perceived as such—having my own baggage to bring to the discussion)

  31. kate r says:

    I really thought the discussion here was great, except for the L and M feeling horrendous part (I feel they weren’t truly attacked except in that one instance,  . . . I’m much clearer on whether or not it was fair to discuss the issue at all. Yes. Image/ad campaigns and books are put out there and so are fair game for criticism. [And I console myself that they must have gained a gazillion readers, including me]) Sure it went on too long, but there you go. The best discussions often do.

    I haven’t been attacked by ferfe—well, my politics have been, but heck, I don’t mind that—so she hasn’t gotten under my skin.

    I have learned how rotten it feels to be unfairly cast in the role of bad guy. It hurts even when you can see how absurd it is to be attacked by someone for being an attacker.

    Pot, kettle to the nth degree. You’re so rude, someone yells rudely, since there’s nothing ruder than someone pointing out bad manners. (Omigod, it’s one of those dressing rooms with the endless mirrors. That’s what that and that discussion started to feel like) 

    what I like about Ferfe—she puts her name on her stuff. She is not a coward and she is often funny.

  32. kate r says:

    …I do think her skin isn’t as thick as all that and she tends to hit back, instead of running and whinging (my strategy, which I might add, works well. Particularly the running part).

    I don’t care what anyone claims. No one’s immune to criticism, except the people who don’t read it.

  33. monimala says:

    Gabriele – Is it bad that I read “I haven’t been there but only seen pics of the ‘offending items’” and automatically thought the offending items in question were Candy’s boobs?

    I think blogs and blog comments tend to feel very much like a community and even as I watched that RWA thread explode comment-wise, I was impressed that aside from a few trolls and a few whackjob comments from non-trolls, it was professional and smacked of spirited debate.  However, the Cruciger blog excerpts are appalling.  That’s just holier-than-thou cattiness, plain and simple… not to mention really asshatty about blogging.

    So what DID we decide about Candy’s rack?  That it’s pretty damn fabulous and I respect you Smart Bitches for always bringing thoughtful commentary… and, oh yeah, mantitty!

  34. Carrie Lofty says:

    So I guess my verdict is: It’s a personal attack when the person being criticized somehow becomes nothing more than a piece of meat.

    I *heart* Beth.

  35. kate r says:

    PS I’ve had two rules for comment posting rules for the last half year or so.

    rule one: don’t say anything on any blog about anyone that you wouldn’t say to that person’s face.

    rule two: especially don’t insult people who wield wicked wit with ease.

    my newest rule: don’t comment on anyone’s physique or bosom, even when the racks in question are excellent—unless said physique or bosom is oiled and on display for commentary. (eg man-titty or fairy costume at RT)

  36. AmandaG says:

    Holy shitdamn.  I have several thoughts swirling around in my head and all I can come up with is holy shitdamn. lol

    1. I will never understand why people seem to be threatened by blogs and message boards that don’t moderate and censure every word that is typed on them.  I personally enjoy sites where I can say what I think and someone else is free to disagree or agree or tell me to shut my trap.  It is the free exchange of ideas that allows people to exercise that muscle in between their ears.  But, I do think it behooves people to think before they type and not hide behind the anonymity of the Internets to say whatever mean and spiteful thing they can, just because they can.

    2. While I did not read the entire swan hat/pink stockings thread, the personal attacks on L&M were not made by Candy and Sarah (I can’t imagine that they would anyway) and blaming them for something someone else said is just juvenile.

    3. The posting pics of people just for the purpose of criticizing their appearance because you don’t like their blog smacks of high school and a bunch of girls ganging up on another because someone made eyes at someone else’s boyfriend.

    4. The slight obsession with Candy’s breasts makes them seem like a bunch of creepy old men leering at her, or like a clutch of Victorian spinster aunts hissing about some young girl they are determined to ostracize from “acceptable” society.  Good hell, this isn’t 1880.  A little cleavage (or thigh for that matter)never hurt anybody.

  37. Gabriele says:

    Monimala, roflol, Candy’s boobies have really taken over. But they’re very nice.

    Though can you imagine some men discussing the size of their little or not so little friends online instead of wheather wearing a cowboy outfit at a crime convention is bad style?

    What they talk about at the bar is another matter. 😉

    Ok, if there’s a blog collecting pics of other bloggers, here’s mine. 🙂

  38. Angela says:

    Wow…that comment about Jane and WASP is really racist.

    Now that I’ve begun my blog, I see how hard it is to remain subjective, yet share how I felt about a particular book—while not coming across as attacking an author. I really commend the Ja(y)ne’s and Karen and Sybil and Candy and Sarah and all of the review bloggers out there: it ain’t easy.

    I am an avid member of many celebrity blogs and some are snarky, some are nice and some are downright bitchy towards celebrities. You can say they deserve it because they are in the limelight, but the line is drawn between a personal attack and snark when someone has an irrational hatred of that particular person.

    It’s one thing if you comment on,say, a Paris Hilton post and say “she’s so useless, I wish she’d go away”, but it’s another thing when you say “She’s a tasteless douche bag who should be stuffed in a bag and dumped in the sea”.  Yes Paris Hilton is all that is wrong with society, but the latter comment clearly shows how emotionally involved one is with a person one doesn’t even know!

    The fact that Ferfe & Co ripped apart the appearances of review bloggers is way over the line and borders on psychotic. What I don’t understand is why Ferfe & Co has made it their personal vendetta to spew and rant about review bloggers they don’t even have to pay attention to. It’s not as though Candy lives next door to any of them, or Jane is their co-worker, or Karen is their sister-in-law—YOU have a CHOICE of not visiting a blog or website. The fact that they take the time to visit websites authored by people they dislike really shows something.

    What I do theorize is that the review blog—or just any place where books are reviewed and discussed online—is threatening to the establishment. And since the audience for e-books is primarily online, the online presence of reviewers threatens their livelihood. After all, you don’t see authors like Anne Stuart or Christina Dodd publicly gnashing their teeth over online reviews and reviewers.

  39. Teddypig says:

    I think to accuse someone of being a prostitute or pedophile lure or whatever, just lowers the conversation to the point where nothing of any substance can be said. – Lauren Dane

    EXACTLY! Thank you for stating that.

    I think the proof is in the pudding.

    I saw that two of the people who were being held up as an example were kinda hurt in general by those comments and from what I read expressed that clearly in their posts. I do not think they thanked anyone for the free fashion advice.

    I would myself would have been having severe issues, especially around the time Deb Smith posted, and started yelling for people indiscriminately to go to fuck themselves with a chainsaw no matter how nice they were.

    I have to admit it, I have this anger management issue and start rampaging like a bull in a china shop and can become very angry, bitter and caustic, while accused of being “pedophile bait” and contributing to “minors being turned into sex slaves” or something along those lines.

    In the end, I think it’s one thing to review a book and say it did not work for you. There is some distance that a writer is expected to have between themselves and their work.

    The other stuff, not so much.

    But that’s just me, I always say to myself on such occasions What Would Barbara Cartland Do.

    So I’m off to buy more house coats, lot’s more vodka and kick my dog.

    Please do not hate me,
    Mr. Slave

  40. kate r says:

    another PS, this is sort of a question for Candy:

    Why do you think sometimes the borderline-mean humor works and other times doesn’t? For instance, what’s the difference between the snake example at ferfe’s and the monica jackson “author calming visualization”?

    Is it a matter of context? Exaggeration? Or the fact that Monica sent it directly to you so it wasn’t behind your back? Can you think of times when it does work?

    (And I know I’m supposed link to examples but I’m not even supposed to be here—I promised myself I wouldn’t do this any more and I clearly lied to myself—so forget making links)

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