Tag Archives: romance

Blues, Shoes & Barbeque



 I’m going to Kansas City/Kansas City here I come…

…along with a slew of other romance writers and thousands of romance readers for the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention 2013! Although the workshops on craft and business are a huge draw, as is having a major convention not far from my midwest home, what really makes me happy dance is the chance to get out of the house after the long winter and see hunky cover models meet old friends and make new ones. I used to visit KC often as a young child, when my grandfather lived there, and I recall what a treat it was to visit the Plaza and see some of the city’s fountains. Kansas City is known for it’s signature style of barbeque sauce, but this week, readers and writers are indulging in their favorite flavors of sweet, spicy and tangy romance!

The RT 30th Anniversary Ball should be a wonderful time — I don’t have a tiara to wear, but I do have sp?????????????arkly shoes! Stop by and see me at Club RT on Thursday & Friday morning. And I’m signing at the Giant Book Fair on Saturday, May 4th! (Alas, I probably won’t be wearing my silver slippers at either of those events.)

And although my reaction to large crowds is to hang back and check for escape routes before diving in, I look forward to the chance to connect with people, both industry professionals and readers. Writing is a great occupation for loners, but I can’t wait to get out and meet other writers, agents, editors and most important, romance fans! Nobody’s singing the blues this week!

I might take a train/I might take a plane/but if I have to walk/I’m goin’ just the same/Goin’ to Kansas City/Kansas City here I come


Lyrics to ‘Kansas City’ by Jerry Lieber & Mike Stoller, 1951er,



What’s Your Favorite Fairy Tale?

Actually, I’m talking about what kind of romantic plots people enjoy most. One of my favorite writing books is Victoria Lynn Schmidt’s Story Structure Architect. In it, she goes over the traditional elements of Western fiction, then looks at the variations within different genres. It’s a helpful resource for novelists, playwrights and screenwriters alike. For romance, she divides stories into three general types of structure, based on fairy tales. (Cause like romance, fairy tales are universal. 🙂 ) She also goes more detailed plot structure under each category — as I said, the book is a valuable resource.

In the Cinderella structure, the heroine falls in love with the hero first. This emotional response makes her vulnerable to him, even if she’s strong and independent in all other areas of her life. Schmidt notes that one of the hallmarks of this particular plot is that much of the focus is on the hero’s emotions. To get an idea of this plot, read Nicole Jordan’s excellent and steamy To Tame a Dangerous Lord.

Schmidt lists the Beauty and the Beast structure next. It mirrors the previous type plot in that the hero falls in love first, which makes him the more vulnerable of the couple. The focus here is on the heroine’s growing emotional bond to him. There is a bit less rescuing by the hero in these stories and a bit more self-awareness (eventually, anyway) on the part of the heroine. Then Came You by Lisa Kleypas is a classic example.

The final structure is based on Sleeping Beauty. The hero and heroine fall in love at the same time, which gives them equal footing emotionally, although their feelings may see-saw a bit as they deal with the conflicts standing in the way of their Happy Ever After. The couple in these books recognize their feelings all right, but their mutual love faces a series struggles, internal and/or external, before they can get together. Many ‘second chance’ love stories are found in this category, or stories of already-married couples, as in Victoria Alexander’s My Wicked Little Lies.

So what kind of romances do you like best? She falls first, he falls first, or they both fall and have to work it out together? Which fairy tail describes your favorite romance ?

I’ve attempted a first with this post and added a poll! And now you can rate all my posts, too.

Madness and Mash ups

Cover of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies...
Cover via Amazon

In the world of romance writing, a mash up is the juxtaposition of two or more (preferably quite different) genres.  Probably the best known example is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. While both zombies and vampires are popular ingredients in mash ups, I discovered that with a little imagination, there are a lot of possible tropes and genre combinations out there. I’ve thought of a few myself. (This is what happens when I get distracted.)

Having the Shapeshifter’s Baby: A graduate student handles her unexpected pregnancy calmly until she gives birth to a bundle of joy with fur and retractable claws.

SEALs and Sensibility: The proper Miss Elizabth FitzDashland and her sisters experience a severe shock when a commando unit parachutes into their garden party.

Courting the Alien Debutante: The Duke of Broodley, known rake and secret agent, has a new assignment: get to know the  green-skinned beauty from Orion-5 who has taken Victorian London by storm, and discover the secret of her mysterious weapon, the ‘phaser’.

The Preacher and the Airship Pilot: A missionary faces danger while flying to a new post on another continent. Not only has an assassain’s guild targeted him, he is far too tempted by Victoria Smith-Smythe-Smith, his transport’s unconventional captain.

Knitting for Three: A yarn shop owner is attracted to both her handyman landlord and his free-wheeling best friend…until they tell her she doesn’t have to choose between them.

Are there any romance combinations you’ve enjoyed or would like to see?

Books for my Stocking

‘Tis the season for romance!  It’s time for another of my unscientific and completely subjective lists of upcoming and new books that pique my interest.  I’d be happy to find any of the books below in my stocking.

His Christmas Pleasure, by Cathy Maxwell: Abigail Montrose takes her future into her own hands and rejects the husband (and thirteen stepchildren) her father has selected for her.  Instead, she elopes with a mysterious (and sexy) baron. Both Abigail and Andres believe they will have a satisfactory marriage of convenience, only to find that they develop deeper feelings for one another.  I look forward to seeing what Maxwell does with this story. November 2010

How to Woo a Reluctant Lady, by Sabrina Jeffries: The most recent of the Sharpe family series, this book centers on Lady Minerva Sharpe’s reluctance to acquiesce to her grandmother’s demands that she marry.  This historical sounds like it mixes romance with a good mystery, as the hero selected by Minerva to parade as her betrothed has a double life.  The pairing of a proactive heroine and a wily hero sounds like a great way to while away a winter’s night. January 2011

A Most Scandalous Engagement, by Gayle Callen: The heroine, now a respected member of the ton, loses her reputation when a single outrageous episode in her past is brought to light. She turns to a trusted childhood friend to help her, but he has wanted her for years and won’t rest until he gains her heart.  ‘Hero-worshiping-heroine-for-ages’ is one of my favorite tropes, so I am really excited about this one. November 2011

The Perfect Mistress, by Victoria Alexander: Julia Winterset has inherited a decidedly racy book that has aroused the seductive instincts of not one, but three men. Publication would ruin the Earl of Mountdale’s family name.  Take one overbearing nobleman and match him with a stubborn widow in a story told with Alexander’s humor and historic accuracy. I’ll have to wait till January for this one, but I bet it’s worth it. January 2011

A Taste of Desire, by Beverley Kendall: In the second volume dealing with siblings Missy and Thomas Armstrong, outspoken beauty Amelia Bertram inadvertently wounds Thomas’ pride in a very, shall we say, personal area.  The outraged nobleman takes Amelia off to his country estate with the intention of teaching her a lesson in manners, which become lessons in mutual desire.  I have high hopes for Thomas’ story. January 2011

What books are you looking forward to in the next couple of months? I’d love to get more ideas for my TBR pile.

And check it out! I’m celebrating St. Andrew’s Day today at SOS Aloha!

The Shameless Escapist

photo by Anna Cervova

My daughter brought home a four-inch-thick volume of fairy tales (Spells of Enchantment, 1991, Penguin Viking, ISBN 067083053) from her high school library yesterday.  She picked it because fairy tales and folk tales convey so much of the culture they originate in.  That’s an excellent reason to read fairy tales, but I leafed through it because my two favorite genres, romance and fantasy, have the fairy tale a few branches up their literary family trees.  I skimmed a telling of ‘Cupid and Psyche’ that had more folk elements than the usual myth and read a French version of Rapunzel written by a contemporary of Charles Perrault (he of Cinderella fame).

Only then did I read the introduction.  The editor, Jack Zipes, provides an overview of fairy tales from the second century to the twentieth.  One of his phrases especially reminded me of why I like writing (and reading) romance: “…fairy tales are written and told to provide hope in a world seemingly on the verge of catastrophe…”  I’m enough of an optimist to believe that the world may not be on the verge of catastrophe, but one of the reasons I enjoy romance novels is that the best ones give the reader hope as well as entertainment.

I’ve always seen romance as an escapist genre, even for those of us who are happy in our relationships.  I am okay with this.  Sometimes you have an awful day at work and your child got an F for not turning in homework and the cat just produced a hairball the size of Massachusetts on the good rug.  I’ve been there.  (Some days I still am, at least for the hairball part.)  If I can write books where somebody can lose herself in another era with a hero and heroine that she can really care about, my work here is done!

What books and authors do you turn to when you’re stressed and need an escape?  How do they help you?  Georgette Heyer‘s civilized tone and her humor soothe me, and I love Mary Jo Putney’s tortured heroes.  Or I’ll turn to J.R.R. Tolkien for the sheer beauty of his language and the fabulous heroes he writes (in the non-romantic sense, lol).

Dream On!

No one accomplishes anything in life without goals.  We hear this every day on talk shows and read it in newspapers and online.  This is because it is true.  Unless we establish reachable goals and stick to them, we are subject not only to what life throws at us, but to our own short-sightedness and bad habits.  Goals are proactive.  Goals are concrete, unlike wishy-washy dreams and ‘what-ifs’.

Of course, writers live with ‘what-if’.  That’s how we spin ideas into words on a page.  I’ve never heard a writer say “I just thought of some great goals to write about!”  For that matter, I’ve never heard a business person explain that “I started this business to sell my wonderful action plan.”  Goals tells how we’re going to achieve something.  But dreams remind us of why we should put in all that hard work.

I call them dreams.  Others refer to their vision, or their aspiration.  Under whatever name, they are unique as our DNA and just as necessary to our existence.  Show me someone without a dream and I’ll show you someone living in a form of poverty.  Dreams give us something to hope for.  Who wants to live without hope?  I don’t, because that is called despair.

“Ha,” you mutter.  “Dreams are fine for creative people.  But I’m just a banker.”  Or “a beautician.”  Or any other occupation.  If you think you’re out of dreams, as soon as you finish reading this, go find a copy of the book ‘Wishcraft’, by Barbara Sher.  Seriously.  Get to a bookstore, library or open a tab to search for it online.  I’m sure it’s at B&N.com or Borders.com.  Beg, borrow or buy it for yourself.

One of Sher’s exercises is to write down your ideal day.  Not a day in the life you have right now, but a day in the life you (probably secretly) have always wished for, be it as a movie star or a cabinet maker or a stay at home mom.  What we crave defines not only our wants, but our needs.  And when we know what we need, we can figure out the smaller, reachable goals to get it.

My own ideal day includes a large old house (and the staff to clean it!), writing in a garden and a glamorous red carpet event in the evening.  At this point, the day as a whole is achievable only on the holodeck of the USS Enterprise, but many elements are do-able by themselves.  Think I’ve gone off the deep end?  Maybe, but I used to dream of being a published author, too.

So dream on!  Dream big!  I told you a little of my wildest dreams…what are yours?

Romanticism and Reality

First of all, let me say how happy I am that MY REVISIONS ARE DONE…for now anyway.  I got an unexpected reprieve from finishing them when out power went out in my neighborhood for a couple of hours last week.  I composed this post longhand while I was waiting for the lights to come back on.

I’m writing this at my grandmother’s table by candlelight while a light rain patters outside the open windows.  All that’s needed is the presence of my beloved in a swallowtail coat and knee breeches.

Alas, the comparison breaks down quickly.  I’m not writing with a quill dipped in ink, and my beloved does not own a set of Regency formal wear.  (Nor will I reveal the exact phrase with which he declined my suggestion that he acquire one.)  Nevertheless, the mood has shifted.  ‘A quiet night at home’ in the twenty-first century differs from its counterpart one or two hundred years ago.

Candlelight instead of electric light is only the surface difference.  The shadows come forward, flickering with the flame.  I had to adjust the candles so the shadows cast by my hand didn’t hide what I wrote.

We think electric and electronics are quiet, but that’s not the case.  The absence not just of the television, but of the hum of the fridge allows me to hear the noises they cover:  rain against house, the stealthy movements of our cats across the carpet as they stalk each other.  Through the open window, the almost still night carries voices from the street.  Not words, but the rhythm of a conversation and occasional laughter.

On the other hand, some things aren’t terribly romantic to think about at all.  I just went into the kitchen and couldn’t help but wonder what it was like to do dishes by hand in dim light.  Did the scullery maids miss a lot food particles? (Ew.)  And there were no really cold drinks before electric refrigeration!  Ice houses existed, but only for those who  had the space and money to build them and the energy or staff to fill them.  I’ve had my share of ‘fresh’ beer and soft drinks while traveling…it’s not the same.

The lights came on shortly after that, along with the blare of the TV and my daughter’s music.  I got a cold beer and put the dishes in the dishwasher.  Then I snuggled with my beloved, so I can’t say my romantic idyll ended.

What is more romantic to you?  A setting that reminds you of times past?  The here and now?  Or a fantasy world people with angels (fallen or not), vampires or a sexy beast or two?