Saturday, February 25, 2006

February is Black History Month

This is the perfect month to celebrate the recent launch of Kimani Press at Harlequin. Many African-American women are romance readers and long-standing fans of women’s fiction and the romance genre—things that are very dear to my heart. So it is very special to have such a stellar collection of African-American romance and women’s fiction authors and stories make their new home with Harlequin and to know that those readers are going to find more of the kind of stories they love within Harlequin Enterprises.

Kimani—like Harlequin—is romance, and a whole lot more. Kimani consists of four imprints, which I’m just going to list out and explain for the purpose of clarity, because there’s quite a lot of variety.

Arabesque: Nationally known as the leading line of African-American romances, Arabesque novels are sophisticated and sexy, featuring the best in traditional and contemporary romance.

Sepia: Contemporary women’s fiction. Capturing the core of the African-American experience, Sepia novels feature a vast variety of story lines.

New Spirit: Inspirational fiction and motivational non-fiction. Stories that explore lifes struggles and the path to reconciliation by todays bestselling African-American authors.

Kimani Romance: This will be a brand new four title per month romance series—which is something quite unique and special on the publishing scene—it’s launching this July with noteworthy favorites as well as fresh new voices.

Kimani is already a part our Community, (of course!), but not everyone has their finger on the pulse, you know. Just to give you a bit of past history—because it’s important to remember and celebrate our roots—Kimani Press was previously known as BET Books. BET Books was originally created in 1998 when Black Entertainment Television purchased Arabesque, a line of original African-American romance novels—which just celebrated their 10th Anniversary last year!

Mr. Romance I also wanted to give you a sneak peek at the July launch line-up of Kimani Romance. There will be brand- new titles from Gwynne Forster, Marcia King-Gamble, Gwyneth Bolton and the cover of USA Today best-selling author Brenda Jackson's SOLID SOUL will have the winner of Oxygen’s Mr. Romance contest!

Cover Image of Solid Soul Randy Ritchwood, a truck driver from East Orange, NJ, beat out 11 other competitors to win the first ever 2005 Mr. Romance crown in the Oxygen man-pageant reality series created by Gene Simmons of KISS. Randy (his prize included 2 Harlequin cover shoots) will appear on Brenda Jackson’s new romance SOLID SOUL.

I was lucky enough to have Linda Gill, General Manager of Kimani Press stop by to visit when she was in New York recently—she’s a truly remarkable and lovely woman with a passion for what she does…and with a very busy schedule! She’s on the road a lot, and divides her time between the New York and Washington, D.C. metropolitan areas as well as frequent visits to Harlequins home office in Toronto, Canada. She said that whenever she meets a long term couple, she wants to know how they met and how they keep their love alive. She clearly knows that all relationships—not just romantic ones, but even the author editor relationship in creating books —need to be nurtured in order to last and to grow.

Linda said that this February, Black History month had a special poignancy for her, with the passing of two great African-American women who have transformed our world, Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King. These are truly inspirational women.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Celebrating Valentine's Day

Today is Valentine’s Day—one of my favorites! I don’t send personal Christmas/Holiday cards—I send Valentines. I keep the personal holiday cards I’ve recieved in a pile to respond to, note any presents I should be thanking people for, and get started. This tradition began quite naturally many years ago when Christmas cards didn’t get sent, then New Years cards didn’t quite get off, thank you notes were still owed for many gifts and IT WAS FEBRUARY!!!!!

Suddenly, I saw a way of turning a negative into a positive and instead of writing countless apologies for belated prior holiday greetings, I realized I could deliver a timely and unexpected holiday greeting of my own with Valentine wishes. (and hey, St. Patrick’s Day is later still…!)

If I’m lucky, I can find fabulous marked-down Christmas Cards that will work for Valentines (and I always feel so sorry for those cards, don’t you? Nice to give them a job) buy a bunch of over-priced Valentine’s stickers, colored pens, find a movie on TV & I’m good to go.

I don’t think of Valentine cards as being required to be romantic (oops, that sounds almost blasphemous, given my career choice, doesn’t it?). I just see it as celebrating love and being a time to connect with the people I love, whether its my husband (natch), but really offering a wider opportunity to reach out to my friends, family, whomever.

So wishing you all a very Happy Valentine’s Day in a warm, loving (but not romantic) kind of way!


Friday, February 10, 2006


Audio is a rapidly growing market, and the popularity of the iPOD (in all its forms) is fuelling the growth of digital downloadable audio. Last year, Harlequin launched a partnership with, who is creating original, unabridged audio of our fiction, both series and single titles.

For many of us, there simply isn’t enough time to read all the books we want, so audio can be a great way to “read with your ears” while you are driving, gardening, cleaning, cooking, walking, exercising, crafting…well, you get the idea. And you don’t need reading glasses!

There is a lot of interesting audio at
and we’ve done a lot to make it more romance friendly—for starters, if you browse through the available downloadable audio on the website, you’ll now find Romance listed on the left hand navigation bar, thank you! We also worked with Audible to create some of the romance categories to give listeners some guidance in their audio selections. And look for the Harlequin banner in the Romance section—it takes you directly to all our stories.

While you’re there, take a look at POISON STUDY a bestselling Luna title—and a debut romantic fantasy by Maria V. Snyder. It is a fantastic story—I really loved it, but you don't need to take my word for it. As you’ll see from the reader reviews, it’s a very special story. Gabra Zackman, the narrator, is a wonderful storyteller and has really enhanced the listener experience. For many audiophiles, hearing a great story told by a wonderful reader is even better than reading it yourself. also has a membership program that can be quite appealing, depending on your listening habits & frequency. And once you figure out the downloadable stuff, it’s pretty great not to have all those cassettes and CDs cluttering up your life.

And if you’re thinking to yourself, ‘oh, no, too complicated,’ just STOP THAT RIGHT NOW. I am determined not to be a technology immigrant, dependant on others to “translate” this brave new world of technology for me. And if I have to learn a few new tricks, I don’t see why everyone else can’t also. OK, yes, it’s probably part of my new job description, but still.

And agreed, the learning curve is awful. But for those of you who either are children or have children, hello? Learning new stuff is hard. It’s humiliating, you fail all the time, you feel stupid, you get things wrong. But if you are a mother or had a mother (or whatever) you probably had someone saying at some point “Pull up your socks. Stop that bad ‘I’m not-good-at-this' attitude and get your butt in gear.” So here’s my suggestion, if you’re interested in reading with your ears….

Mother’s Day is coming up and here are two ideas: #1 if you are Mother: You buy the iPOD. Their gift? To load it with your desired titles whenever you want for a year, fix things, and generally be your techno-slave. You deserve it. (and you’ll probably get the hang of things after a month or two & before their whining becomes unbearable). #2 if you are not Mother, but happen to have one that you think might enjoy listening and you are techno-savvy. Do I need to explain the rest?

Just to let you know, I don’t belong to Audible myself (New York is a terrible town for listening—I don’t have a car & traffic & subway noise drowns out a lot) but I do listen to their audio, our own stories and others “a la carte” while I knit, and on the train (Amtrak). I have learned to download it onto my Treo phone. Is that cool or what? Yes, it took me and various very patient help desk people as well as several techno-savvy friends many hours to get me to this happy place. But it's worth it!

Blog to you later….
Posted by isabelswift Feb 10, 2006 12:48 pm