My panels at Rainbow Con 2014

I was initially excited and honored when SMP invited me as a guest to rainbow con. They obviously know who I am and welcome my opinions, no matter what those are, but would anyone else care? I honestly didn’t worry about it overly much. I was more concerned with prepping for my panels. I wasn’t sure what to expect with each panel, both those I was participating in and those I wanted to see.

You can see a full listing of all the panels and descriptions here – SCHEDULE

This is what my pamphlet looked like that I carried everywhere.

photo 1

Poor thing! Beat up, spilled on, tons of notes stuffed into it.

I’m going to discuss the panels I was in briefly then talk about some of the others that really drew my eye or that I was lucky enough to listen in on. The first day my panels included…

(Salon B) Why Won’t You Die?: Fiction Tropes – Gay For You, Enemies to Lovers, and Hurt/Comfort are only some of the tropes used by authors. Talk about why they persist, which ones are beloved, hated, and which ones we’d love to see fade into obscurity.
Caethes Faron, Cat Grant, Kassa, Lissa Kasey, Skylar M. Cates, HOST: CR Guiliano

This was a very interesting panel for several reasons. First Cat Grant was never a huge fan of mine though I’m not sure she even remembers me by this point but more so I didn’t know anyone else. I’m a big anti-trope fan where usually if I recognize the trope it will drive me insane. I think the entire panel agreed that tropes done well are wonderful and everyone loves them. I advocated that I didn’t want it to be obvious but instead incorporated into the story like a natural, organic element. I do think the panel focused mostly on the tropes we didn’t like and how they didn’t work.

Gay for You was specifically called out on how unrealistic that entire trope is. After all, Straight for You would be considered offensive. Hurt/Comfort was universally seen as a crowd pleaser and Out for You was discussed as a new comer gaining steam. Also any man in a uniform is a pleaser. The panel was divided on whether obvious tropes were fine – half thought it was good, half didn’t like it. Also Andrew Grey was in the audience and he’s so gregarious that he kind of took over the panel. He has a lot of interesting insights, especially on BDSM, so I wasn’t disappointed but it was funny how off topic we got. I also met my BFF Caethes at the panel so this was a win for me!

(Salon B) Cheers and Jeers: Best & Worst Books of 2013 – Our guest reviewers discuss their best and worst picks for 2013 while discussing what about those books made them great or forgetable.
Jackie McKenzie, Kassa, Lexi Ander, Lisa T., Scott Burkett, HOST: Susan Lee

This was an interesting panel and well moderated by Susan from Boys in Our Books. I was on with mostly other reviewers and one author. I found the idea of championing books you love to be wonderful and I wrote down so many books to read. Including Jordan L Hawk’s entire book catalogue, Bone Rider, Diversion, Dead Man, Memorizing You, Glitterland, Chance Assassin. One thing that got me was I felt I was the only one that actually had a ‘worst’ book. We were told to come with 5 best and 2 worst but explain only one of each. I actually chose bad books for my two and I described in detail why I didn’t like the book while the other panelists basically said the books they chose were great books just not for them. *sigh* Weak! But this panel was when my eyes opened and I realized “one is not like the other.” I quite enjoyed the recommendations from the panel and really liked what they had to say – I definitely heart Jackie, a wonderfully intelligent and funny reviewer from the metasite A Novel Approach. Even though I’m pretty sure she gives everything high marks, she admitted she was an easy pleased reader but I still adored her anyway.

My choices were
Heir of Starlight by Nicole Kimberling
Counterpoint: Dylan’s Story by Ruth Sims
The Magpie Lord (A Charm of Magpies, #1) by K.J. Charles
Dark Around the Edges Series by Cari Z
Bob the Book by David Pratt (I explained this one and all I can say is READ IT NOW! I adore this book to pieces and think its really one of the most heartwarming and soul satisfying reads. It’s incredibly well written but it has a message. Not one that is in your face but instead something that curls into you as you read and are so happy to have read it. I can go on and I did – read this book. Read it.)

Vaulting by Megan Slayer
Star Crossed by Astrid Cooper (I explained this one. Seriously.. men with clits? It’s hard to break it down but you could read my review if you want to.)

(Salon B) Reader Etiquette – If you don’t have something nice to say about a book, but you can’t say nothing at all, then it’s time to consider reader etiquette. This panel takes a look at the interaction of readers with those behind the books they love and hate.
Jackie McKenzie, Lisa H., Lori Toland, Moderatrix Lori, Susan Lee, HOST: Kassa

The title was so very vague unfortunately. I wasn’t sure what the topic was meant to cover. I was the moderator but unfortunately we were reviewer heavy so we got off track (my fault) talking about reviewer etiquette. I didn’t feel so bad later when the reviewer panel covered totally different topics but it was still a little more reviewer orientated than reader specific. Unfortunately Lori missed the panel, which was too bad as I think she would have had a lot of reader specific content to add. We talked spoilers (good if marked as such and never while reading), social media (everyone agreed to post on social media everywhere), and author interaction with readers (positive generally). I think it was a good panel?

(Salon C) Talking Shop: Reviews – Reviews are a great way for readers to connect and discuss books. This panel will share ways to keep your reviews professional and informative so even negative reviews won’t become bad reviews.
Jackie McKenzie, Kassa, Lisa T., Scott Burkett, W.S. Long, HOST: Lisa H.

Oy. I REALLY enjoyed this panel and could have talked for another few hours about topics, but god was I out of place. Be kind be respectful be nice was emphasized over and over. All panelists (but me!) identified as being emotional reader and reviewers. I’m definitely cerebral. There was a lot of discussion about the language to use in reviews – such as over emphasizing such verbiage as “in my opinion, just for me, I think” and trying to soften the blow of any criticism. Susan Lee brought up that good point and here I feel I made a stand. I was frustrated because I think you can write a negative review in a way without coaching it so self effacingly. I won’t apologize for feeling a certain way about a book nor should I. Why does a review have to be so apologetic? I said this then and stand by it – if I find myself using that kind of language it means I’m not certain of my opinion and I’m trying to pander when no one – author or readers – have asked for that.

Of course it’s only my opinion and means nothing. That’s the essence of what the review is and I disagree that I need to go overboard to make it palatable. I felt stymied and contrary when I kept disagreeing. I didn’t want to be the cheese that stands alone and furthermore why was I? But there you go. On the one hand it didn’t really bother me as I feel confident in my opinion and how I do things but I kept wanting to look around going “really? You all feel the same way?!”

Every site opens hoping to offer the same thing to the community – a new site that will offer honest articulate reviews. Not every style has to be the same but they felt so similar listening to the panel and I yearned for some difference. Someone other than me that is swimming upstream. That said, I think the panel was wonderful and had lots more to talk about. I look forward to talking with some of the people I met more in depth. I felt each reviewer had something important to add to the discussion with their ideas. I sat next to WS Long and thought he was a lovely man even if we were completely different entities.


(Salon B) Handling Criticism – After spending such long hours creating, submitting, editing, and publishing a book, it can be difficult to accept harsh criticism. Join our panelists to discuss how to handle criticism and learn some tips and tricks on how to not make judgments about your book personal.
Jordan L. Hawk, Kassa, Sasha L. Miller, Susan Lee, Wade Kelly, HOST: Shira Anthony

I enjoyed this panel as both a reader and reviewer though it was clearly an author driven panel. They talked about handling critique from editors, betas, and readers. For any new authors this might have been a great panel on how to approach the feedback in many areas, with an emphasis on editors. How to approach a difficult editor and reassuring authors that they can stand up for their books and for things they believe in without fear of being dropped or labeled difficult. We had Less Than Three publishers on the panel and they were wonderful adding this information. For beta readers there was a focus on being positive first and then the negative and making sure the expectations of the beta reader are well known. We touched on reviews and criticism but I do feel by this panel it was a little talked out. We talked about how to handle unfair reviews (those “I skimmed and hated it” comments). I’m not sure how much I contributed but I quite enjoyed it.


I was going to briefly discuss the other panels I attended but this post is epically long already so I’ll do that in yet another post. Plus if there are any panels from the schedule that people are especially interested in, let me know and I’ll try to talk about those too.


5 thoughts on “My panels at Rainbow Con 2014

  1. That are a lot of panels! Also some with familiar topics but I guess that is allright. It is always nice to talk books or reviews.

    I hear you when you write about people not wanting to hear honest opinions or just skim over the worst parts. It is from those I think one can learn. And it gives a more interesting discussion.
    Then again I am sure it is harder to voice them when the authors are there too, the safety wall of the internet isn’t there.

    I hope the panels in Bristol will be just as entertaining.

    • Yes I do agree the safety wall of the internet is always nice but as I said to Tam, I’m willing to say whatever I write to an author’s face. It may not be comfortable for the author to hear and perhaps they wouldn’t talk to me at all but that’s how I write. If I wouldn’t let the author read the review and I say it to the person, I don’t write it. But that’s just me. And clearly I’m an outlier from many things!

      I’m really hoping to read some of the reports from the UK meet. It’s too close for me to make this year but I’m hoping next year I can.

  2. Tam says:

    Wow, you were a busy bee. Popular girl. 🙂

    Confession, I follow very few review blogs these days. Despite the controversy Wave may have courted now and then, it was one of the few review sites that gave something lower than 4 stars. It’s rare to find anything else days less than that, certainly I haven’t seen much below three (except for you LOL) in a long time. Mind you, I’m not following a lot of blogs so maybe they are out there but I’m not seeing it.

    I am a pretty easy going reader, but I confess I haven’t had a 5* read in a while. I’m never sure it’s amazing. 🙂 I think the fact that reviewers KNOW authors are reading the reviews does make you paranoid and as most of us our women, we probably fall into that propensity to people-please and want people to like us. I can rip apart the latest movie because I’m pretty sure Ryan Reynolds or Jennifer Aniston won’t reply on my Twitter or I won’t run into her wandering around a conference somewhere. The world of m/m is so small, that happens all the time so I think it makes some of us much more circumspect in saying what we really mean.

    All that to say, I don’t think it’s a great thing to have self-censored reviews because then everything is tarred with a fuzzy rose coating and you’re not sure what the hell is underneath it really.

    • I wasn’t all that popular in particular. Those of us invited as “guests” got between 4-6 panels. There were a lot of authors with more panels than I had. Considering panels had 4-6 people most people had multiple ones.

      That said, I agree with you in that I haven’t had a 5 star m/m book in well over a year. But at the same time I feel no fear that I might meet an author who’s book I panned. I’m relatively sure I could explain why I felt the way I did and I could do so in an adult, intelligent manner. Now they might hate me anyway – which is fine – but it doesn’t bother me. I don’t look for confrontation but I certainly can defend what I write if need be. I do think most reviewers feel differently though as several said they were influenced by that very thing. If an author acknowledges their review (good or bad) they feel a responsibility.

      I think that’s also why it plays into the fact that no one reviews below 3 stars. Most of the review sites – if not all – rely on publishers for the books to review. If you publish low star reviews, the publishers are likely to no longer submit to that review site. So therefore no one will review them. I’ve reviewed for a handful of sites that all had this policy and even Jessewave often got caught in that.

      Because I usually procure my own books and don’t give a shit if a publisher won’t send me their books it frees me from having to censor myself in any way. I think all review sites should be that way – IMO. But it’s not true. IF all review sites took up this concept then publishers would send books anyway but since reviewers still bow to author/publisher pressure they censor.

  3. Really enjoyed your post, Kassa, especially since I didn’t get to attend any of these panels. There is a place for cerebral reviews, just as there is a place for more emotional ones. Thank you for everything you do. 🙂

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