599. Romantic Times Rewind: December 2015 Ads and Features


Sarah Wendell: Hello and welcome to episode number 599 – holy cow! – of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. I’m Sarah Wendell, with me is Amanda, and it is time for the Romantic Times Rewind. We are going back to the December 2015 issue of Romantic Times Magazine to take a look at the ads and the features. [Laughs] We’re going to take a look at the long series from Elizabeth Hoyt, Kresley Cole, and Shannon Stacey. We’ve got SWAT team shifters, we’ve got Navy SEAL Highlanders, and we’ve got some memories – some not so great – of the 2016 RT convention in Vegas – trigger warning, content warning – at the Rio. If you were there, you know. But we also have a supplement that only appears in the digital edition of RT at the time: the “Indie and Hybrid News and Reviews Supplement,” and it is a wild ride.

Big, massive, massive thanks to Shannon Stacey for sending me the PDF for this issue. We are having a real good time. And remember, there is a link to all of the visual aids that go along with this episode where you can see all these incredible advertisements, including a poll, because we need to know if something is a butt or a boob, and it’s really important that we figure this out.

Hello and thank you to our Patreon community, and especially hello to Helen and Sam, who are new members. If you have supported the show with a pledge, thank you. You’re keeping me going, you’re making sure that every episode has a transcript from garlicknitter, who gets these episodes and is like, Wow! Okay! [Laughs] And you keep me going every week.

I also have a compliment this week.

To KBangs: You are the human personification of the kind of laughter that makes you feel completely boneless, and you are the kind of friend who makes that laughter happen.

If you would like a compliment or to support the show, have a look at patreon.com/SmartBitches. Monthly pledges start at one dollar per month. They are so deeply and completely appreciated, and you get lots of benefits, like a wonderful Discord community, bonus episodes every other Tuesday. It’s super fun to be part of this community, because, well, all of you who are in it are lovely human beings, so thank you.

All right, are you ready? Ads and features? The sky is made of jeans? Is that a butt or a boob? It’s a wild ride; let’s get started. On with the podcast.


Sarah: All right, are you ready to look at the ads and features?

Amanda: Yes!

Sarah: Okay. Now, we talked about the cover in the reviews episode, and there’s not a lot to say about it ‘cause it’s kind of boring. It’s visually colorful and somewhat memorable; like, I will remember, Oh, that was the one with the rose on the cover! But it’s only memorable because it’s so different.

Amanda: Yeah! Because, like, the text takes up half of it –

Sarah: Yeah!

Amanda: – which I feel like – and then there’s like a big, empty portion to make sure you just, you get a good look at that red rose.

Sarah: Yeah, it’s very important; they paid a lot of money for that piece of clip art. Also Jayne Ann Krentz is the name that I read first, before Elizabeth Hoyt, but Elizabeth Hoyt is the cover.

Amanda: Yeah, just like the way eye tracking works, I guess, ‘cause it’s, it’s the top-most –

Sarah: Yeah.

Amanda: – piece of text –

Sarah: Yeah.

Amanda: – aside from the title.

Sarah: It’s wild.

Amanda: But we mentioned this before, where it, like, it looks like an advertisement –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Amanda: – like we would find this, you know –

Sarah: Yeah.

Amanda: – inside the front cover or somewhere else because of the fact that you have the Elizabeth Hoyt book and then three other books in the Maiden Lane series?

Sarah: Mm-hmm. But they’re over on the right, and they’re much visually smaller than the contrast of the –

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: – headliner names. I wonder, also, if they just looked at the cover art and were, were given the option to use the cover art without the text and were like, That’s too busy for the cover, ‘cause there’s, like, flowers and a drape and a bed post and some other stuff –

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: – and some big ol’ nipple.

Amanda: And lots of yellow.

Sarah: Lots of yellow. And maybe that would be not great, so they went with this. And maybe this is a, this might be a better design choice.

The inside cover ad, this is an ad for Ballantine, Bantam, Dell, Loveswept, Flirt, but it’s mostly under smittenword.com. This is square in the era where every publisher had their own blog.

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: Every publisher had a blog.

Amanda: Loveswept isn’t around anymore, is it?

Sarah: I don’t think so, no.

Amanda: That was the era of digital-only imprints; I think Loveswept was a digital-only.

Sarah: Yeah. Yeah, it was – and that was when I, I don’t remember who it was that said this, but a publicist did say out loud at an author convention that digital-first is the new midlist, which basically says –

Amanda: [Laughs]

Sarah: – if you’re making digital-first then you’re not a headliner, and it was like, that was probably not something you meant to say out loud in front of other people.

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: Yeah. That’s not…

Amanda: I mean, even if it’s true, you don’t want to say that.

Sarah: You don’t want to say that out loud.

You wanted to look at the next ad.

Amanda: Oh yeah, the Shannon Stacey ad! So we talked about how there were two books called Controlled Burn

Sarah: Yes, oops!

Amanda: – reviewed in this – [laughs] – in this issue? But this was like the era of firefighters. Like, there were so many people coming out with firefighter –

Sarah: Yep.

Amanda: – heroes. I live in Boston, and I’ve walked past many a fire station where fire-, firefighters are just sitting in lawn chairs waiting to do something. None of them are shirtless.

Sarah: Ohhh!

Amanda: And they’re all much older than –

Sarah: Oooh.

Amanda: – this man here. [Laughs]

Sarah: They don’t stand around with their shirt off looking kind of –

Amanda: No.

Sarah: – scrubbly and –

Amanda: False advertising, Shannon!

Sarah: So wait, he doesn’t –

Amanda: None of them have ever looked like this.

Sarah: You don’t, you don’t think these guys –

Amanda: [Laughs]

Sarah: – just run into fires with their shirts off and their pants down around their hips?

Amanda: No!

Sarah: Just holding the helmet in their hand? You don’t think that’s – I don’t know, I guess so.

Amanda: No. [Laughs]

Sarah: I will, I will let Shannon know, eight years later, that, you now, we’re not buying what she’s selling here.


Sarah: The editor’s –

Amanda: Look, I was on the lookout for –

Sarah: It’s true.

Amanda: No, nothing!

Sarah: It’s true.

The editor’s letter is one of my favorite things, but alas –

Amanda: [Laughs] I know!

Sarah: – there is no longevity advice here. There’s a whole roundup about, like, a party she had, and there’s a list of all the food. I won’t read it, ‘cause you’ll just get hungry. But this cracked me up so hard:

>> As you may have heard, nearly a thousand people tried to register for the Book Lovers Convention on September 21st, but luckily our site only went down for a few hours. Better than last year!

Oh my God! [Laughs]

>> Come one, come all! We are planning the event of the season.

Now, she’s not wrong; the registration for RWA and for RT when it opened was a big deal, because you wanted to make sure you got your room; you wanted to make sure you  got your roommates; you wanted to make sure you were in the conference hotel, because being in the overflow was never fun. But wow! Luckily our site only went down for a few hours. If Smart Bitches goes down for a few hours –

Amanda: What was the attendance?

Sarah: – I’d – at least a couple hundred people. But if, I just want to say, if Smart Bitches goes down for a few hours, if it, by hour two I have had an edible because it is just no fucking fun.

Amanda: Yeah, and we, like, we get emails pretty quickly from people who are like –

Sarah: Which is –

Amanda: – Hey!

Sarah: Yes!

Amanda: What’s going on? And we’re like, What?

Sarah: Uh? Oh shit! I have fixed the site trying to get off of a plane? I have fixed the site waiting in line. Like, it is, it is a thing! It happened. A few hours, oh, ouch! I’m so sorry! Romantic Times eight years ago.

Amanda: Yeah. [Laughs]

Sarah: But yeah, registration was intense, and it had to have been in – gosh, if you think about, think about the size of the rooms for one of the big balls, and how, and if those are ten-top tables and there’s at least, got to be at least fifteen to twenty tables in just half of the ballroom, that’s a big group. That’s a big, big group. I don’t know what the attendance was.

Amanda: Yeah, I would be curious to know what the attendance would, would be.

Sarah: I bet we could find out. I bet we could find out at some point.

Amanda: Oh yeah.

Sarah: Page 6 –

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: – the feature article, the cover article is “Greetings from Maiden Lane” about the latest book, Sweetest Scoundrel, which is coming out, and the thing that grabbed my attention – I, I sort of skim these; I like these; but one of the things they talk about in the, in the Q & A is how much she loves Pinterest, and so – [laughs] – in the little author bio it says:

>> Take a look at Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane Pinterest. Visit pinterest.com/elizabethhoyt!

Amanda: Did, did you try to go?

Sarah: I, you know what? I didn’t! Let’s go see if it’s there!

Amanda: I’m, I’m going right now, yeah.

Sarah: Oh yeah!

Amanda: Yeah! It’s there!

Sarah: Fairy tales, Greycourt characters –

Amanda: Hell yeah.

Sarah: Hell yeah! Hot Guys in History.

Amanda: I love this!

Sarah: Hot Guys in History. Oh, and there’s a whole book folder of, of book cover photos from, like, the shooting –

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: – of, of her book covers?

Amanda: Ohhh, that one’s sweet! Like, you can tell the model, models are, like, laughing together.

Sarah: Okay, I am –

Amanda: This is –

Sarah: – I am putting this –

Amanda: – nice!

Sarah: – in the show notes. That is adorable. That is super cute.

Amanda: I remember – I don’t remember what conference it was, like, which RT it was, but I remember Elyse met Elizabeth Hoyt –

Sarah: Mm-hmm!

Amanda: – and I remember was talking to her about, like, her setting her historicals in the Georgian era instead of Regency.

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Amanda: And I remember Elyse was just, like, on cloud nine after talking to her at the conference.

Sarah: Elizabeth Hoyt is very cool. You liked this series a lot too, so I think I might have to, I think I might have to listen to the audio. You said it was good –

Amanda: Yeah, I –

Sarah: – in the last episode, so.

Amanda: I like the audio a lot, but I’m also, like, Thank God audiobooks allow you to sample –

Sarah: Mm-hmm!

Amanda: – the voices, ‘cause I’ll get in, like, Libby or something, and my library – I’m sure other libraries do this – will have a section of Available Now? So you can just see what is available to check out right now so you don’t have to wait –

Sarah: Yeah.

Amanda: – and I will just like troll through that section, ‘cause I like instant gratification, and I do not want to wait. [Laughs]

Sarah: I am aware!

Amanda: So I’ll just go through and, like, sample it, and I can pretty, I can tell pretty quickly if, like, nope, this is not going to do it for me.

Sarah: Not going to work.

Amanda: I don’t want to listen to this person talk. So thank God. But yeah, this series on audio, highly recommend it, and I think, like, this is one of the first narrators – this series was narrated by Ashford McNab – who, like, I would seek out –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Amanda: – and see what other books she’s narrated, because I, I really like her narration style a lot.

Sarah: I have the first one on my wishlist, so it’s, you know, it’ll happen.

Amanda: Yeah!

Sarah: Down at the bottom of page 10 in the corner, you know how you read and your eyes skip? I really thought that cover said Hot Alpacas.

Amanda: When you wrote that in our Notes doc, I was like, Oh, is this a weird little ad for some, you know, indie press?

Sarah: No! It’s hot –

Amanda: And I was really expecting –

Sarah: – Hot Alpacas! You know, shifters. Are there alpaca shifters? I’m sure there are.

Amanda: I was really expecting some weird little, I don’t know, like, Amish romance with alpacas on the cover or something.

Sarah: Sure!

Amanda: But no, that’s not what I got. [Laughs]

Sarah: No, it’s a Lora Leigh anthology. Yeah, it’s a Lora Leigh anthology called hot, Hot Alphas, but because the lines are so thin and the cover is so small, I really thought it was like Hot Alpacas, what?

And then the next feature is Kresley Cole. Between Elizabeth Hoyt –

Amanda: Kresley Cole.

Sarah: – Kresley Cole, Sweet Ruin, this is an Amanda-bait episode, or issue. This whole issue is Amanda-bait. I also love how Cole’s answer for this, like, she gets asked about Nix? First question: fans are eager for Nix’s story! And her answer’s basically, Look, you’re, you’re going to get Nix at the end; stop asking. I told you, she’s the last one. If you want that one to…

Amanda: But when are, when is the end?

Sarah: There is no end.

Amanda: Like –

Sarah: It’s – [laughs]

Amanda: When is the end? Like, that is, that is my – [laughs] –

Sarah: You wrote in the document, I’m sick of Cole edging me. [Laughs]

Amanda: Yeah! Because she just announced in her newsletter the next book coming out next year is a novella? About a character we’ve never met. So. We’re getting a novella about a person who hasn’t existed in the larger universe yet. But I loved Sweet – or no, I think, oh, I liked Sweet Ruin three stars. I’m confusing it with Wicked Abyss, which I really loved. Yeah, Sweet Ruin I gave three stars. Bought it on release day. Read it. Obsessed. I’m not fully caught up, because I own Munro?

Sarah: Mm-hmm!

Amanda: That is the, the latest one that came out in 2022, and I think she self-pubbed that one, because I remember the previous ones had, like, hardcover releases, and this one was just straight to paperback, so I think she’s self-pubbing now. But I didn’t get around to reading it; I just have it. I love that series so much. It’s probably the longest series I’ve stuck with. We’re on, Munro’s book eighteen, and I’ve read all of them but that one. So.

Sarah: The next profile is page 15, and it is a Q & A with Shannon Stacey about Controlled Burn – one of two Controlled Burns – and I’ve got to say, Elissa, Elissa Petruzzi writes really good Q & A profiles. Like, when she does one I’m like, Oh, that’s a really good question! Like, she’s really good at it. But it is also funny, much like the Kresley Cole Q & A, you know, people are asking Shannon Stacey about the Kowalskis, which has ended.

Amanda: You love!

Sarah: I think – yeah, you love the Kowalskis, and are, you know, you’ve run out of family members! Are you considering adding to the family tree? And she’s like, No, it’s, it’s done! It’s done. It must be so hard when people ask about a series that ended. But I also like knowing that the end is in mind; like, you know where you’re going.

On page 17, there’s a full-page ad for an anthology with Meredith Duran, and it jumped out at me. It’s called What Happens Under the Mistletoe. It also has Sabrina Jeffries, Karen Hawkins, and Candace Camp. If there is an author who I get email about asking, Do you know if she’s still writing? Do you know if she’s okay? I loved her books – it is Meredith Duran every time. Every time. ‘Cause some authors’ll tell you, I’m taking a break; I’m not writing right now. She just stopped, and people miss her.

Amanda: I’ve never read a Meredith Duran, so –

Sarah: They’re very luscious.

Amanda: – but, like, readers, their fondness that we get in the comments for a Duran book if we feature it on sale, definitely people are like, I hope she’s doing okay! Wish she would come back to writing. But I’ve never read one, and the, the readers’ love for her books definitely makes me curious, so if anyone has a suggestion –

Sarah: Of which Duran?

Amanda: – on what Duran to start with or what Duran is the best that I can read without any sort of homework –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Amanda: – please let me know!

Sarah: They’re very luscious. Incredibly good historical details, and she’s a beautiful writer.

Amanda: So I mentioned, there’s a series of ads kind of back-to-back –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Amanda: – on page 19 and then 21.

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Amanda: Nineteen is the Paige Tyler series which is in, like, Dallas SWAT? And they’re SWAT teams and shifters! And –

Sarah: SWAT! Special Wolf Alpha Team!

Amanda: A shifter SWAT team, and then we have the Monica McCarty Highland Guard series, which are like Navy SEALs who are, like, Highlanders in like, what, 1300s Scotland?

Sarah: Yes.

Amanda: [Laughs] And I made a note of, like, I love this era of Yes, and –

Sarah: Yes, and the Navy –

Amanda: – when it comes – [laughs]

Sarah: Yes. This is the era that gave us the Viking Vampire Angie Naval –

Amanda: Sandra Hill!

Sarah: – Navy SEAL – but I’m missing something. Viking Vampire –

Amanda: Vampire Angel.

Sarah: – Navy SEAL Angels. The VaVangels.

Amanda: The Vangels.

Sarah: The Vangels!

Amanda: It’s just, I just love sort of –

Sarah: [Laughs] I know!

Amanda: I’ve talked about this previously in the reviews, but this episode gives me such good feelings of romance, of how just fucking kooky romance can be –

Sarah: [Laughs] Oh yeah! Just –

Amanda: – and we’re all just like –

Sarah: Yep!

Amanda: – let’s go with it!

Sarah: Yep!

Amanda: We’re not going to question it. We’re on board for your Viking Vampire Navy SEAL Angels. What else can you give us?

Sarah: Now, if you don’t like that, we’ve got Navy SEAL Highlanders and – [laughs] –

Amanda: SWAT team shifters.

Sarah: SWAT team shifters!

Amanda: Like, you do not have to choose just one!

Sarah: Team –

Amanda: You can have it all!

Sarah: Team Alpha Wolf! [Laughs]

Amanda: That’s what I, like, this ep-, this issue just gave me such good feelings of, like, you know what? Contemporaries are cool and everything –

Sarah: Just –

Amanda: – but come back to me when they can give you a Viking Vampire Navy SEAL Angel.

Sarah: That’s right! Who fights ISIS.

Amanda: God. Paranormals, man. And just, like, huh, those ads. But yeah, I, this era of Yes, and – like, what else –

Sarah: Yes!

Amanda: – can we throw in here?

Sarah: It’s so good.

Amanda: So good.

Sarah: On page 27, there is a Q & A with Paullina Simons, and her son gets dragged! Like, catching strays! This is –

Amanda: So rude!

Sarah: It’s four questions.

Amanda: So rude!

Sarah: It’s four whole questions, and it is so trippy. In the middle she is asked:

>> Johnny Rainbow is certainly a force at just nineteen years old. Where did you find the inspiration for this character?

This is for her book Lone Star.

>> In my own son, who is full of wild dreams, wild plans for grand adventures full of prodigious gifts, joy, love of life, and yet so often falls short of even his own expectations.

My goodness, woman! You said that to a journalist! What?!

Amanda: It’s forever enshrined.

Sarah: Yeah! Your, your mama dragged you in an article about her –

Amanda: Hoo!

Sarah: Oh, that was rough. That was quite a drag. Also she, and then the next question, the answer is:

>> If there’s one thing you want your readers to take away from Chloe’s story in Lone Star, what would it be?

>> Love is right there. Everywhere, in every life, all you have to do is open your eyes and see. Open your eyes and see the girl on the bench eating ice cream.

Amanda: What is that Billy Joel song?

>> People laughing, people dancing, a man selling ice cream

Sarah: Okay, so first of all, that’s not Billy Joel.

Amanda: No, who is it?

Sarah: That is Chicago.

Amanda: Bruce Springsteen?

Sarah: That is Chicago.

Amanda: Oh, okay.

Sarah: That is Chicago, and Google Music, whenever I put on, like, a playlist of classic rock, it will play me that song every time. Adam and I can, like, do, we have a whole dance at this point. We hear it at least three times a week when I just turn on a random playlist. Yes, a man playing sitar. [Laughs] Yeah, that’s what that is.

Amanda: God. So –

Sarah: The girl eating ice cream.

Amanda: – her, that whole, like, little rant reminds me of hearing that song.

Sarah: Oh my God! Just open your eyes and see a man playing sitar. [Laughs] Oh my God! Her poor son; I hope he’s okay. Geeze Louise.

On page 31, look at this cover design for Signs Point to Yes by Sandy Hall. How much does that look like a cover that would be published right now? It is green –

Amanda: This –

Sarah: – there is filigree; there’s people in the, little silhouettes in the corner; the title is the main part of the, of the, of the cover; there’s a little arrow pointing all the words together. This could be published right now, and I would be like, Okay, yeah, that, that’s a good-looking cover.

Amanda: This is where I messaged you and was like, We are mind-melding –

Sarah: Yes!

Amanda: – ‘cause I was literally about to write this, and I’m like, Oh no, Sarah’s on it already. Like, this –

Sarah: Look at that!

Amanda: [Laughs] We’re having the same thoughts here!

Sarah: Look at that! It’s incredible! And yet another publisher with a blog, this one being Swoon.

Amanda: Oh, Swoon; I remember them. They did a lot of, like, branding and marketing at conferences.

Sarah: But look at that cover! I mean, that’s a good cover, and it is like eight years too early!

Amanda: Yep.

Sarah: All right, so. [Laughs] We’ve got some ads to talk about here!

Amanda: I saw this one ad on the right, and I’m like, We’ve got to talk about this, and I’m like, Sarah’s already on it again!

Sarah: That’s right!

Amanda: We’re talking about it!

Sarah: Okay, so you take the one on the right, and I’ll take the one on the left! [Laughs]

Amanda: So the one on the right is the one I saw first –

Sarah: Oh yeah! Well, it’s top right.

Amanda: – and it’s called –

Sarah: Yeah.

Amanda: Yeah. [Laughs] It’s a, an ad for a book called Omnipotent Blood. It has two women. One is like a blonde with braids, and she’s, like, lying down?

Sarah: Sort of?

Amanda: And – sort of? – and the other one is, has darker hair and like a leather jacket or some – or maybe it’s lace; it’s hard to tell.

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Amanda: But she’s got, like, a dagger over the woman’s heart, and they’re in some sort of, like, catacombs or hallway lit by torches?

Sarah: And the expression on her face –

Amanda: And I’m like –

Sarah: – is like, I don’t know; should I stab her? I mean, I could kill her.

Amanda: I could!

Sarah: I could!

Amanda: Yeah! But I’m like, What is the – [laughs]

Sarah: It’s wild! And the woman on the bottom looks uncomfortable, because you ever, you know when you do yoga and, and the instruction is to press your arms into the mat and then lift a part of your body. That’s, it looks like what she’s doing. She’s pressing her arms into the mat so she can lift her head.

Amanda: Like stretching your neck.

Sarah: Yeah. Like it’s, it’s very awkward. And that, the woman who’s about to stab her looks so ambivalent. She’s, Yeah, I could do it. You know.

Amanda: I guess. [Laughs]

Sarah: So over on the left is Home Is Where the Heart Is by Barbara Dan. This book received a two-star review, because I almost talked about it, and then I saw the ad, because what I wanted to actually talk about was the cover! Oh my God! Okay, so first of all, Home Is Where the Heart Is is one of those terrible, terrible fonts with lots of loopy things, and it’s hard to –

Amanda: And are those jeans? This is jeans, right?

Sarah: The sky, the sky is made of jeans. It’s lots and lots of pairs of jeans lied down, laid down in a stripe, and that’s the sky. The sky is jeans.

Amanda: That’s the title of the episode: The Sky Is Jeans.

Sarah: The Sky Is Jeans! [Laughs] Like, whyyy? Why?

Amanda: Why not?

Sarah: Oh, it’s so silly. Oof!

You wanted to talk about page 48.

Amanda: I’m scrolling there.

Sarah: Oh yeah, lots of these are the – oh yes! I’m glad you, I’m glad you want to talk about this, because this is –

Amanda: So I feel like –

Sarah: – woohoo!

Amanda: – you know, like, the saying of like, There’s only two things certain in this life and that’s like death and taxes? The third is a Christine Feehan cover, which has not changed –

Sarah: [Laughs]

Amanda: – I feel like in decades.

Sarah: This is a –

Amanda: Like, when I –

Sarah: – two-page spread, this is ad. Whoo!

Amanda: A cart of Christine Feehan books, and I remember when my mom was reading romance, she would have, like, Rubbermaid tubs of books in our shed that just, like, she couldn’t fit on the bookshelves, and she just, like, you know, tossed them into a bin, and she had a lot of Christine Feehan, especially the Carpathians, and then a lot of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s series, like Dream Walker? Dream something.

Sarah: Dream Hunter?

Amanda: Dark-Hunter, yes.

Sarah: Yeah.

Amanda: But I feel like a Christine Feehan cover –

Sarah: Oh yeah.

Amanda: – has had the same design –

Sarah: Oh yeah.

Amanda: – forever! And –

Sarah: Written font at an angle – yep.

Amanda: – you could take the name Christine Feehan away –

Sarah: Uh-huh.

Amanda: – you could just put it in, like, Wingdings –

Sarah: [Laughs]

Amanda: – and I would know – 

Sarah: That’s a Christine Feehan!

Amanda: – the author of that book without a doubt.

Sarah: That’s a Christine Feehan book.

Amanda: Yep.

Sarah: I want to know why, on the cover of Wild Cat, I want to know why her tattoo goes through her hair. [Laughs]

Amanda: Where can I get one of those tattoos?

Sarah: Why does your tattoo go through your hair?

Amanda: And also, like, is that a bunch of grapes? In, on the top of the cat’s head, right under the A?

Sarah: [Laughs] Yes! Cat is mad it has grapes on its head!

Amanda: Are those grapes, or is that, like, some kind of flower? I can’t tell. It looks –

Sarah: No, it’s got grapes; it’s mad. It’s mad about those grapes. That cat is pissed off! [Laughs] Oh my God! Christine Feehan char-, covers, they are, they are a gift.

Amanda: They are! Keeps giving.

Sarah: [Sighs] So on page 61 – [long pause] – there’s a lot of –

Amanda: I’m just shaking my head at this.

Sarah: Yep. There’s, there’s an ad for a bunch of top holiday stories from top male/male authors, and there’s a big pair of Christmas balls at the bottom, and the headline is Spice Up Your Holidays with an Extra Set of Jingle Balls. Okay –

Amanda: I’m like, What? That makes no sense.

Sarah: That is, they’re, they’re not jingle balls! I know many people have made this joke, but it doesn’t land – [laughs] – ‘cause it’s not balls! And also –

Amanda: Yeah, it’s jingle bells –

Sarah: Right, and those are –

Amanda: – and those are Christmas ornaments!

Sarah: Those are –

Amanda: And I –

Sarah: – tree balls. You want to have an extra set of –

Amanda: And they don’t have any way of jingling them.

Sarah: No. Do you want an extra set of tree balls? ‘Cause that’s what you have there. Those are not jingle balls; they do not jingle. And this has been pedantic ad-reading with your host, me. [Laughs]

Amanda: What a weird – yeah, I mean, like, I caught it too. Like –

Sarah: What?!

Amanda: ‘Cause I wanted to double-check that it’s, didn’t say jingle bells and I went on a rant for no reason.

Sarah: [Laughs]

Amanda: And I’m like, No, that says jingle balls, and that’s not how the song goes!

Sarah: No. And those aren’t jingle balls! Those are not bell – jingle balls aren’t a thing! Unless you’re selling a book.

Amanda: Stop trying to make jingle balls happen!

Sarah: [Laughs] So on page 92 to 94 there’s the RT Book Lovers Convention. Trigger warning: We’re going to talk about the Rio.

Amanda: Oh boy.

Sarah: The Rio. Oof! I was looking at this, and I remember this conference. I remember how tired I was. I remember some of the things that I did. I do not remember some of the, the events.

Amanda: I don’t remember the events. The stuff that I remember is both Elyse and I had book tattoos, and so this was the first time that we were together with our tattoos and we took a photo of them? I think put them on, like, the Smart Bitches Instagram?

Sarah: Oh yeah!

Amanda: I remember the casino on the bottom floor that…

Sarah: Filled with smoke.

Amanda: …smoke.

Sarah: And it was two miles to the conference area from the hotel.

Amanda: I remember, yeah. I remember catching a red-eye home.

Sarah: Yep.

Amanda: I remember some hotel rooms didn’t have coffee makers; some didn’t have trash cans.

Sarah: It was grotty.

Amanda: Some of it was, like, missing weird items. And then –

Sarah: It was very grotty, yeah.

Amanda: – all I wanted to do was to eat at the Guy Fieri restaurant, and it was closed the whole time we were there.

Sarah: Yes, but his picture was all over the place, and so he was like my, my shepherd –

Amanda: In the elevator or something.

Sarah: – Guy Fieri guides us.

Amanda: I remember Sarah made one of my bucket-list items come true, because I’ve always wanted to look at a menu and say, We’ll take one of everything, and she let me do that with a dessert menu. We all went out to dinner, all of the Smart Bitches who were in attendance –

Sarah: Yep!

Amanda: – at, like, it was one of the hotels on the strip. We went to the strip and saw, like, the fountain inside the Bellagio –

Sarah: Yeah.

Amanda: – and stuff. Yeah, and Sarah let me say to the waiter, We’ll have one of everything!

Sarah: Yes!

Amanda: And it, I felt so powerful in that moment.

Sarah: [Laughs] Desserts…

Amanda: That’s all I remember! None of it had to do with programming.

Sarah: No. I don’t remember these programs. Either I didn’t go, or I went and it wasn’t memorable. I don’t remember any of this.

So on page 96, you noticed something that I had not noticed.

Amanda: So there, on page 96, is where they have like a list of giveaways for specific books. And all of the giveaways ask you to email [email protected], and just put the Subject line in for the giveaway. Like they’re giving away a copy of Vampire in the Basement by Jessica Sims, and you have to email this email address with the subject line “Bats in the Basement giveaway.” So I feel bad for the person who had to manage this email account, ‘cause all –

Sarah: ‘Cause you know people were not doing that.

Amanda: – all of the – yeah – all the emails were going to one account –

Sarah: Oh my God.

Amanda: – for multiple giveaways –

Sarah: Oh yeah.

Amanda: – and the only signifier to enter is to put it in the Subject line. And look, I’ve been helping Sarah with the website for a very long time, and people don’t read instructions to things.

Sarah: No!

And then on page 98, oh boy, this is an ad. Okay. This – woo. I will just screencap this whole thing and show everybody. So Lucid –

Amanda: Is it a Lucid – Lucid’s ads are a fever dream.

Sarah: They are off the wall. So this is a –

Amanda: I feel like we can’t go, we can’t go through an issue without talking about the Lucid ads.

Sarah: Lucid ads. They’re, I mean, if it’s not O-easters, Oestre’s basket of shit, I don’t know what the hell. So:

>> Happy oh, oh, oh. Shop Lucid’s What I Really Wanted Boxing Day sale and get thirty-five percent off all eBooks on site.

Now, first of all, I did love when a digital press or a digital retailer that wasn’t Amazon was just like, You get to buy one, and you get a hundred percent cash back for future purchases on our site! I had so many Fictionwise dollars. Anyway.

So Lu- – I, I’m trying not to talk about this cover, ‘cause it’s, or this ad, ‘cause it’s really a lot. There’s this woman on the ground in a peach bikini, looking over her shoulder, and she’s got curls that you know took a lot of time with a curling iron and peach lipstick that matches her lingerie, and she’s sort of looking over her shoulder coyly, and then you’re looking through a guy’s legs, and the ad is printed on the towel that is on his butt. But the towel seems to be open in the front, so what you realize is that she’s looking at his Christmas package. And, and you are just looking at his ass. You’re just looking from underneath his legs at his ass. It’s so weird.

Amanda: But her face, to me, is more of like, Oh, honey.

Sarah: [Laughs] Is that what you brought? Ohhh. It is, you’re right; you know what, it is a very bless-your-heart expression.

Amanda: Yeah. That’s what it feels like.

Sarah: It’s like, oh, it’s a butt; oh, it’s Lucid. [Laughs] Happy oh, oh, oh? Okay.

Amanda: No, thank you. Lucid, stop it. [Laughs]

Sarah: So we thought, we thought we’d reached the end of the magazine, but we did not; there is more.

Amanda: There’s a magazine in the magazine.

Sarah: Newly added to the digital edition of RT Book Reviews: “RT’s Indie Hybrid News and Reviews Supplement.” It’s a whole extra magazine. And there’s a whole ad for Barbara Devlin’s Brethren of the Coasts? And then there’s a little, it’s like a little mini-magazine. There’s a little picture of some authors, and there’s a little picture of Kathryn Falk; we got a little Letter to the Editor about, like, what self-pub authors are doing; and then there’s the part where my jaw fucking dropped. At the bottom of the news and reviews supplement header page it says:

>> Here’s our ratings key –

Which is fine, ‘cause they’re not actually going to use those ratings anyway.

>> How It Works: A service is set up with the same process used, same review process used for the RT Book Reviews Magazine, where books are sent to accredited, trusted reviewers who enjoy your particular genre.

How does one accredit as a reviewer? That is not a thing I’ve ever done, and I’ve been doing this a really long time. What is the accreditation for a review? Accredited? You’re just, you’re just using words.

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: Select your genre!

>> In the submission form, you will select the genre that best represents your book. Your book will automatically be sent to one of the RT-approved reviewers within your genre. Get –

Amanda: So what does RT-approved mean?

Sarah: Willing to let RT take a big fucking cut of what they’re paying is what my guess here.

Amanda: Yeah, I want to know the review rates. Like, how much were reviewers getting paid per review?

Sarah: They weren’t getting paid all that.

>> Get reviewed! The turnaround time is four to six weeks. At that time, you will let us know if you would like the review to go public, and if you would, we will include the review in the indie supplement of the digital edition of the RT Book Reviews Magazine.

Amanda: I think it’s nice that they let you see it and you can be like, No, thanks!

Sarah: >> And it will be also published on our website, rtbookreviews.com.

>> Editorial consideration: Standout books that are recommended by our reviewers will be submitted to the magazine editors and considered for coverage in RT Book Reviews Magazine.

Why don’t you read the last part?

Amanda: This is the cost section:

>> Up to 450 pages is $425.

Sarah: Wow.

Amanda: >> If the book is more than 450 pages, it’s $500.

Sarah: Wow.

Amanda: That’s insane. That is so much money.

Sarah: For a, for a review. For a review.

Amanda: Yes.

Sarah: And we’ve seen how long the reviews are.

Amanda: I’m curious; like, if you have your book reviewed –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Amanda: – I mean, there’s no guarantee that it’s going to be a good one. They send it to you if you want it to go public.

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Amanda: But what if you just shelled out money, and then you’re like, Oh, I don’t like this review at all?

Sarah: Well, you’re shit out of luck.

Amanda: You just – yeah!

Sarah: But, but this is RT; we’ve already discussed that their rubric is three, four, four and a half, and four and a half Top Pick –

Amanda: It’s true.

Sarah: – so yeah.

Amanda: You, you really have to write a stinker, I guess –

Sarah: Yep.

Amanda: – to get –

Sarah: If you look at this page, also, there’s a little picture: Colleen Hoover Draws Huge Crowds in Brazil, and then you scroll down, and there’s a whole –

Amanda: Yep.

Sarah: – indie feature on Colleen Hoover and how a passion –

Amanda: Yep.

Sarah: – led to super stardom. This is 2015! And the coverage of Colleen Hoover now is like, And this has never been done before! She’s a breakout star. I’m like, She’s been here! We, we know who she is!

Amanda: Yeah. Back when she was self-pubbing! I mean, like, I admire the hustle –

Sarah: But, like, it’s so weird –

Amanda: – for sure.

Sarah: – for people to be like, And she was discovered on TikTok! No, she wasn’t; she was in Brazil –

Amanda: No.

Sarah: – in 2015, and she had security! Like, I, I, okay. So, yeah, nothing changes; time is a flat circle.

Then there’s this whole article by Fred. Fred LeBaron: “Thinking Outside the Box.” And what Fred is telling you is that you should consider crowdfunding for authors.

Amanda: What novel, what a novel concept.

Sarah: Kickstarters.

>> I, I found a Kickstarter for the independent creator, A Practical, Informative Guide to Fundraising.

That is so weird that this particular supplement has Colleen Hoover and then crowdfunding, because crowdfunding is now huge! Like –

Amanda: Yeah, Katee Roberts like, Bitch, hold my beer.

Sarah: Right?

Amanda: I’ll show you how to crowdfund.

Sarah: I’ll show you how to crowdfund in 2022! But, like, this is wild, right? Like, on one hand it’s, it’s, it’s incredibly prescient; it’s incredibly accurate for eight years later; but on the other hand it’s like, what are these things you’re talking about? There’s a comic in here and a sample of the, of an, of an album that he bought. Like, it’s so off the wall.

Amanda: I’m very curious, too, for those who participate in Kickstarter: what do you usually crowdfund? I’ve been crowdfunding, like, a lot of board games –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Amanda: – but people have, like, niches. Like, I’ve crowdfunded, like, comics before –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Amanda: – and stuff like that.

Sarah: Oh yeah. I crowdfunded a game, a children’s book. These seem to be like Crowdfund my book, whereas now crowdfunding is, We’re going to release this whole set of special hardcovers with fan art and inserts, and then the tiers have, come with additional stuff, and it’s like a whole – it’s like, it’s like crowdfunding a very special box release, but instead of a box of a bunch random stuff, it’s all stuff to do with the series.

Amanda: I also feel that, like, some authors who are very successful on crowdfunding, you know, I would be curious to see, like, if there’s ever a time where they realize, I don’t need a publisher –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Amanda: – at this point.

Sarah: Mm-hmm!

Amanda: I don’t need one! Like, the, the fanbase is supportive enough for any sort of project to where, like, what is a publisher doing to support me that, like, it’s not already baked into my brand that I’ve built?

Sarah: And with the crowdfunding, you hit a goal, you have fulfillment. You already know what you’re going to spend, so you know, you know your profit margins, and then the money comes in. Like, it’s not like, you know, Oh, you get this part when you turn in this part of the book, and you get this part when you – and in, in some, some contracts right now, I’ve heard, are like six-part payments, well after the book is published. Like, after a year you’ll get the final part. With crowdfunding it’s like, no, I get all the money right now.

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: Yeah. This is interesting, because in the supplement there’s also a lot of, like, Here’s how you format a book. Like, all of this how to do stuff, but the person who’s writing this article is a book formatter. Like, here’s what, I will do this for you if you pay me. It’s really wild! Like, it’s all, like, advertorial.

Amanda: Well, I think I, I mentioned in our notes that this whole section feels like public access television.

Sarah: [Laughs] It’s so – like, there’s a whole section where they just reprint people’s business cards.

Amanda: They just scan people’s business cards there.

Sarah: Yeah! There’s also reviews! Now, we just learned that you pay $450 for these reviews?

Amanda: 425.

Sarah: 425, 450? So the reviews are in the back, and they are four stars, four stars, three stars, four stars, three stars Hot, but nobody got four and a half, and nobody got Top Pick. The reviewers are not the same names as in the magazine. I took a look, and I don’t recognize these names as being in the magazine.

Amanda: I’m also curious, ‘cause they said:

>> Your review might be selected to make it into the main, the main body.

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Amanda: But they don’t tell us in the body of the magazine, to my knowledge, which one of these reviews –

Sarah: Started out –

Amanda: – has been paid for?

Sarah: Yeah. If this was recommended, was this from the pay section? First of all, I always said that if I’m ever going to sell reviews, I’m going to sell reviews that read, “This book had too much sex in it. F.” And that’ll be like a thousand dollars.


Sarah: ‘Cause that’s going to move some books! I know what works. But here’s a sample review that was paid for. This is a three-star review for Farryn’s War, or if you’re my mother-in-law Faa-runs Wah –

Amanda: [Laughs]

Sarah: – Christie Meierz.

>> Fans of sci-fi romance will enjoy the well-executed, albeit predictable, action-adventure aspect of Farryn’s War. While readers may find the characters bland and hard to connect with, the prose easily conjures vivid images of scenery throughout, a potentially difficult element to master in science fiction.

That does nothing to tell me whether I want to read this book, except to say, No, you don’t, ‘cause the characters are bland and it’s predictable.

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: Like, this is not –

Amanda: Three stars.

Sarah: Yeah!

Amanda: Some people, I think, probably weigh the pros and cons of, like, is it better to have a bad review in a public –

Sarah: Mm-hmm!

Amanda: – reputable –

Sarah: Oh yeah.

Amanda: – outlet versus –

Sarah: Oh yeah.

Amanda: – no review at all.

Sarah: But finally, I want to end with the most disturbing cover I have ever seen; no, no, I’m not exaggerating. This is the most uncomfortable looking cover I have ever seen. I am so uncomfortable even trying to describe this.

Amanda: When you do the images post for this one –

Sarah: Oh God.

Amanda: – obviously put this under a spoiler.

Sarah: This has to go –

Amanda: Can you –

Sarah: – under a spoiler, it’s so uncomfortable!

Amanda: Can you put a poll in to whether someone –

Sarah: Yes, I do have that!

Amanda: Is this a side boob or a side butt?

Sarah: Is this a butt –

Amanda: That’s what I, like –

Sarah: – or a boob? And already we –

Amanda: What is it?

Sarah: – we can’t tell.

So I’m going to attempt to describe this. I don’t know if I can, but I’m going to attempt to do it. Okay. So there is either a butt cheek or a bit of side- and under-boob. There is a, a folded, rounded bit of skin. Could be a butt; could be a boob. And a Greek letter is branded into the skin, and it has healed, and it is a raised, red scar, and it is so uncomfortable looking. This is Claire Bahr’s Fireborn. How was this image made? What is this? What stock image is this? And it’s, it looks so painful! It looks so painful!

Amanda: It’s lambda.

Sarah: Is that lambda?

Amanda: That’s – yeah.

Sarah: It’s –

Amanda: I looked it up; it’s lambda.

Sarah: Yeah, it’s, it’s really disturbing, right?

Amanda: Yeah. I don’t love it. I don’t like looking at it.

Sarah: Okay. Okay, I’ve got bad news.

Amanda: [Laughs]

Sarah: It gets, it gets worse! I’m really sorry to – I, all of this is going under a spoiler tag.

Amanda: Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. Whyyy?

Sarah: So there’s –

Amanda: Ooh, the scratch one. Ewww!

Sarah: Oh, so there’s Fireborn, which is the lambda, which is a raised, old burn scar; and then there’s Foxing, which is a red, circular –

Amanda: It’s a fox!

Sarah: Which is a fox; it’s a red, stylized fox, kind of like an ouroboros almost, but it is –

Amanda: But it looks like a biopsy!

Sarah: It looks like a biopsy site. It, it’s red; like, red, like really angry skin cut, and it, and it’s definitely shaded so it looks like it’s cut in, and again, it’s the same base image. I don’t know if it’s a boob or a butt; I don’t like either. And then the third one is scratches! Like, deep, deep gouging scratches. Like, this, this ticks all of the buttons for do you need stitches? Yes, yes, you need stitches. This is –

Amanda: Interesting.

Sarah: – so uncomfortable!

Amanda: I’m looking at the book descriptions. They’re all about different characters, but that is the same boob/butt photo each time.

Sarah: That is absolutely the same b-butt. Boobutt.

Amanda: [Laughs]

Sarah: It’s a boobutt! That’s what it…it’s a boobutt! That is absolutely the same base boobutt in all three –

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: – it doesn’t change. And it’s so uncomfortable.

Amanda: The scratch one I don’t like at all. That one really –

Sarah: The biopsy one is making me, like, just cringe, and the burn is just ooh! Ooh!

Amanda: Don’t like that.

Sarah: Do not like it! But that book got, Fireborn got four stars, and it’s a family vampire series.

Amanda: Well, they’re not judging it on the cover, I guess.

Sarah: Oh God, it’s so – why, why would – ohhh.

Amanda: What?

Sarah: I have to put that behind a spoiler tag!

Amanda: Yeah, one hundred percent.

Sarah: That is like –

Amanda: Don’t surprise anyone with that image.

Sarah: You know with people who have that, a revulsion to things that have polka dots that look like they’re in – trictil- –

Amanda: Yeah. Tri-, trypophobia.

Sarah: Trypophobia, that’s it. Trypo-, trypophobia.

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: If you don’t know what that it is, do not google it, because then if you have it you’re just going to be uncomfortable for hours. I feel like these images are the same level of, like, Okay, people with trypophobia or injury – like, this is, but those are –

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: – very violent images; I do not like them!

Amanda: I’m not good – yeah – I’m not good at, like, viewing body horror or, like, skin coming off?

Sarah: That is exactly what this is. This is body horror.

Amanda: That’s what it looks like, yeah.

Sarah: This is ex-, this is body horror. Why is it in –

Amanda: I can read it, but looking at it? It, it’s hard.

Sarah: Blech! Ugh! God, it makes my skin crawl.

So what did you think of the September 2015 issue?

Amanda: I loved this issue.

Sarah: Yeah?

Amanda: I loved this issue, and, like, it gave me a nice little hit of nostalgia.

Sarah: Yeah?

Amanda: And maybe, it definitely made me remember why I enjoy reading romance. I feel like I haven’t been reading romance as much as other genres right now?

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Amanda: And this really kind of like made me feel those good feelings again of, like, Oh yeah! I remember really enjoying those books or really enjoying that author. Like, there’s so much Thea Harrison I haven’t read, and I remember enjoying her books so much. So it, like, definitely gave me really nice feelings, especially that paranormal romance section.

Sarah: Oh yeah.

Amanda: I was like, Man. Takes me back.

Sarah: Yep. And it’s also just, like you said, this was a really fun era of paranormal, because it was just like –

Amanda: Yeah.

Sarah: – throw it at the wall, see who, see what sticks.

Amanda: Sure, why not? And I think that’s what I miss. Like, not that romance isn’t fun anymore –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Amanda: – but we’re, like, really in the trenches of contemporary romances with a lot of characters, like, dealing with mental health stuff like anxiety and depression, and I’m glad we’re seeing that representation in romance –

Sarah: Mm-hmm!

Amanda: – and seeing more thoughtful por-, portrayals of that? But that’s not fun reading for me, as someone who has, like, depression. You know, it’s nice to have, like, that relatability or finding a character who really gets it? But, like, I don’t know if I’d describe it as a fun reading experience for me personally, right? It feels, like, cathartic, but I feel like that’s where we are with romance.

Sarah: There are catharsis reads, and there are fun and zany reads, and I feel like right now the biggest fun and zany is What creature shall we fuck next? 

Amanda: [Laughs]

Sarah: I have found an obscure – I will be fucking the Jersey Devil in the Pine Barrens!

Amanda: Yeah, like the, the Mead Mishaps series? So good.

Sarah: That’s wild; I love it! It’s so fun!

Amanda: So good!

Sarah: Yeah.

Amanda: That’s what I want, and I, I, I’m hopeful with Bramble, too, we get some, like, fun, kooky paranormals –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Amanda: – and fantasy romances and stuff like that. That’s my jam, that’s what I want, and I definitely feel like we’ve had a bit of a, a, a dry spell –

Sarah: Viking –

Amanda: – in romance.

Sarah: – Vampire Navy SEAL Dragons. That’s what we need.

Amanda: Yeah, I don’t want twee; I want, like, We’re leaning into this weirdness here.

Sarah: There’s a reason why books like Railed by the Krampus are bestsellers: because you just, you know what, you just went there, and I respect it.

Amanda: Yeah! It’s, it is what it says on the tin.

Sarah: Well, I will tell you that next month’s issue is April 2006. We’re going to be –

Amanda: Oh…

Sarah: – talking about Kresley Cole, A Hunger Like

Amanda: I was a junior –

Sarah: – No Other.

Amanda: – in high school.

Sarah: And it is Romantic Times Book Club. Thankfully the, the masthead has not changed too, too much. But I am super excited.


Sarah: And that brings us to the end of this week’s episode. As always, I will have links to all of the books that we discussed, but I will also have a link in the show notes and on the website to the visual aids for this issue, because they are amazing, and you need to see this truly disturbing cover that I’m definitely putting behind a spoiler tag. You can also access all of the Romantic Times Rewind content at rtrewind.com.

We do have questions, though. What’s the longest series that you’ve stuck with? And do you have a Meredith Duran recommendation for Amanda? I have a feeling that she would really like Duran, but I’m not sure where she should start, and I would love your opinion.

As always, I end with a terrible joke, and this week’s joke is pretty terrible, and I love it so much. This joke is from Malaraa.

What do you call a knight with armor made of fine china?

Give up? What do you call a knight with armor made of fine china?

Sir Ramic.

[Laughs] Oh no, this joke is so good it’s going to make me cough! Sir Ramic! Thank you, Malaraa!

On behalf of everyone here, we wish you the very best of reading. Have a wonderful weekend, and we will see you back here next week for our six hundredth episode! Oh my gosh! Six hundred; holy cow.

Smart Podcast, Trashy Books is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find more outstanding podcasts to subscribe to at frolic.media/podcasts.

Sir Ramic. [Laughs]

[end of music]

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