Category Archives: Romance

A first-timer’s RWA National Conference adventure (part 2): Working the Workshops

Warning: today’s blog post pics are terrible. I attempted to snap discrete pics with a crummy camera phone. You’ve been warned.

Some writers attend the RWA National Conference for networking, pitching, or parties (which I’ll get to in the next post). While that is a huge part of the draw, my main focus was to suck up every scrap of writing advice, tip, and trick I could get near. That meant workshops.

There was a ridiculous number to choose from. Some hours I had to pick between workshops with Sonali Dev, Susan Elizabeth Philips, Jayne Ann Krentz, or Daman Suede, OR social media expert hour, OR book signings with Grand Central, Harlequin, St. Martins’s Press, or Random House. All scheduled in the same hour! (Note: these books signings featured dozens of authors including the big names all meeting, greeting and signing FREE books. Ack!) And I didn’t even mention the publishing house Spotlight sessions, none of which I attended, but I might buy the audio mp3s.

These workshops were like none I’d attended before. These successful, talented, and hard working authors shared their insights, skills, and stories with honesty and compassion. They wanted us to succeed. They made it clear that means working your ass off.

If you are a member of RWA, you have the opportunity to purchase audio of all the workshops. There’s gold in there. I’ll be buying the audio of several I missed as soon as the individual recordings are up on the RWA site.

So, without further rambling, a (paraphrased) selection of the good stuff I picked up in my RWA 2017 workshops:

Editors Tell All with Nicole Fisher (Avon), Sheila Hodgson (Harlequin), Katie Seaver (Berkley) and Mary-Theresa Hussey

Don’t pay to have your book professionally copyedited before you send it to an editor. A misplaced comma won’t make or break your submission.

It’s all about the VOICE.

That opening paragraph needs to immediately draw a reader into the protagonist’s world. No secondary characters.

 

First Timers’ Orientation with Eliza Knight, Robin Covington, Laura Kaye, Damon Suede, and Dee Davis

Go to the unrecorded sessions (at Nationals). That’s where the real dirt is.

Set goals for after the conference. One month, three months, six months, a year. Then MAKE YOUR GOALS.

Ask yourself what do you want out of your career? Now, what are you willing to trade to get that?

 

Seducing Your Readers in Chapter 1 with Michael Hague

The hero is the heroine’s destiny is because he’s the only guy to see beneath her identity (the false self one creates to protect one’s self from the fear that grew from a long-ago wound) and connect with her at her essence. This is why they belong together. He sees her truth (and vice-versa).

 

PRO RETREAT Roundtables

Eight PRO RWA members + one rock star author. No holds barred.

When to Move on to the Next Idea with Courtney Milan

Sign up for your own lies. It’s branding.

If you are just constantly tweaking your manuscript, STOP IT. Agents/publishers can handle tweaks. Move on.

Revisions with Kristan Higgins

Sometimes it might take 150 pages to get to know your character’s story in a first draft. It’s okay.

Your inciting incident MUST be big enough to carry through the entire story. And it must grow. (And here’s where she mentioned my book!!! SWOON)

Set scenes in emotionally charged places that are hard for the characters.

Set scenes in interesting places (i.e. the pope in the pool).

In scenes with multiple characters, be careful who gets lines and make each line important.

 

How to Gut Your Readers and Make Them Love It with Kristan Higgins and Sonali Dev

 

People will forget what you said, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.

The more intense the emotion, the more connection with the reader.

We read romance to be able to experience these intense emotions safely.

Tap into reader’s memories–the yearning, the feelings of falling in love again and again.

Readers need to know right away what a character doesn’t have and why she needs it desperately.

Treat each character’s “wound” as a major trauma no matter how minor it might be.

 

Building the Perfectly Imperfect Hero with Jill Shalvis and HelenKay Dimon

It takes Jill at least five drafts to nail her characters and story. First is horrible. Each draft gets slowly better and fills in character.

Heroes can get away with so much more than heroines.

 

Fifty Shades of Funny with Jennifer Probst, Lauren Layne, and Rachel Van Dyken

Don’t describe characters as being funny. Show them being funny.

Keep dialog fast-paced. Make them sound better than in real life.

Don’t let characters ramble. Shorter dialog reads better.

Write what you think is funny. Don’t imitate.

Pull back on humor during dark moments or in sexy scenes. Balance is the key. Don’t be afraid to get serious.

 

Genre Blending: The Sweet Spot between Women’s Fiction and Romance with Jamie Beck & Kristan Higgins

Romance is about finding the one; women’s fiction is about finding yourself. (attributed to Robyn Carr)

Hitting the Sweet Spot: what do readers want?

  • Romance with more depth to the story (career, family issues)
  • More everyday heroes–no alpha-holes, but flawed good guys
  • Sub-stories/plots can play more of a part
  • Multi-generational characters
  • Characters who must overcome their own flaws
  • Finding the one as a result of finding oneself
  • Decreased “plotsy” adorableness, increased theme and struggles

Over-the-top humor is played down. If it’s too funny, it’s missing the emotional depth. (This area is more “sophisticated” than rom com or chick lit.)

The romance could start on page 1 or 200–up to the discretion of the writer.

 

Game of Desire with Damon Suede

TOO MUCH GOODNESS TO SHARE. If you ever get the opportunity to take one of Damon’s workshops, DO IT. Seriously.

A few tidbits:

Don’t write ACTIVITIES. Write ACTIONS. (For example, going shopping because you’re procrastinating/bored is an activity. Going shopping because you need ingredients for dinner is an action.)

Sex should never be an activity. It is always an action.

It’s all about the verbs. Give them power. (adverbs=death)

 

Killer Clichés: Insider Tips on Escaping the Slush Pile with Mary Altman, Cat Clyne, Courtney Miller-Callihan, and Nicole Resciniti

This was the only workshop I attended that took the wind from my sails. (Yes, that cliché was on purpose.) These well-known agents and editors played a game where they went over all the clichés and tropes that spell “insta-death” for your manuscript. Basically, I learned that they will hate me.

What they do want: fresh stories with strong voices.

NOs:

  • terrible trifecta: dumped/cheated, loses job, loses house
  • opening like a bad country song
  • the heroine is “different” from other girls (aka special snowflakes)
  • “Girl you need to get laid” best friends
  • Bambi setups
  • klutzy cuties
  • heroes who must overcome disbelief that all women are evil
  • bitchy other women
  • mirror, mirror (describing oneself in mirror)
  • amnesia
  • rich and bored alpha males
  • opening a book with the character waking up or hung over
  • conflicts that could have been resolved if the characters just talked
  • openings where there’s been an accident
  • electrical currents flowing between lovers
  • rolling eyes, arching brows, letting out a breath she didn’t know she was holding, deep breaths, raking hands through hair, biting lips

So, yeah. If you want to get an agent or publisher, eliminate all of these things.

 

Power Couples: Making Lovers with Damon Suede

I took NINE pages of notes during this intensive, two-hour workshop. Plus he gave out a six-page handout. Crazy amount of info to digest.

Your brain experiences the same things when you READ as when you DO, whether you’re reading about playing tennis for falling in love.

There’s only one plot in the world: things are not what they seem.

Don’t worry about your character being likable. Make her fascinating.

You can outline an entire story using conflicting verbs.

Cast your characters with conflicting verbs.

  • Lizzie: Provoke vs. Darcy: Preserve
  • Katniss: Hunt vs. Peeta: Feed

For more, check out this blog post on Romance University: Add Verbs: Creating Characters that Pop Off the Page by Damon Suede

Want to read more of my RWA 17 adventures? Read And then there was the time Kristan Higgins pulled me aside… a first-timer’s RWA Annual Conference adventure (part 1)

Have you attended Nationals or a major writing conference? What workshops did you find invaluable?

And then there was the time Kristan Higgins pulled me aside… a first-timer’s RWA Annual Conference adventure (part 1)

Where can you take writing classes with your favorite authors, mingle with the rock stars of romance, chat with RITA Award winners, pitch in person to literary agents (without puking), and make new friends from around the world? The Romance Writers of America National Conference, of course.

first time at rwa nationals

For those of you not in the romance reading and/or writing community:

RWA = Romance Writers of America, an organization of 10k+ kick-ass published and unpublished romance fiction writers, publishing industry professionals, librarians, and booksellers who support the romance genre

RITA = the Oscar of the romance writing world

The 2017 RWA National Conference was held here in Orlando last week and I’m still detoxing from experience and information overload. I’d been waiting years to attend. I wish I’d gone sooner.

Crummy through-the-windshield pic, but the important part reads WHERE DREAMS COME TRUE

The first morning I drove to Disney while blasting the Hamilton soundtrack. Not only is it an inspiring work of genius, but if you sing/rap along it loosens the tongue. As I sang along to “I’m Not Throwing Away My Shot” my eyes began watering. I fought back the tears. I was not going to ruin my makeup. But this was my shot. I had two agents to pitch and four days to make a mark. To feel like I belonged. To make a game plan for my career. To believe I was a “real” writer.

I am not throwing away my shot

Friends and family in the real world usually don’t consider you are a real writer if you aren’t published. They believe it’s a cute hobby. Easy. Like crochet, only with no homemade potholders to show off at Christmastime.

Like hell it is.

via GIPHY

There were SO MANY unpublished writers at the conference, all eager to suck up information, hone skills, and gain inspiration. We were not alone.

And the “rock stars” of romance, the hard-working success stories of the writing world, welcomed us with open arms. Literally. These women are huggers. As they embraced me I hoped some of their writing mojo would sprinkle onto me. No, seriously, I’m getting weepy just thinking about it. Beverly Jenkins hugged me. So many others.

There’s only one problem with the whole success by osmosis idea: the number one thing I learned was that there is no secret formula. Just a buttload of hard work.

So, my Kristan Higgin’s story:

The first day I attended the First Timers’ Orientation. Robin Covington, Eliza Knight, Dee Davis, Laura Kaye, and Damon Suede welcomed us newbies and tried to convince us that no one at Nationals eats the young and we’d survive and possibly even enjoy ourselves. Yeah, an easy sell for a bunch of introverts who feel like fumbling ball boys at the World Series. A few big names snuck in at the end of the session to say hello. Kristan, one of the key writers I’d hoped to meet, was one of them.

When the session was over, I waited for my chance to say hello. The girl is popular. Even multi-published authors can’t help to go all fan-girl around her. I finally got my chance to shake her hand and casually mention that she was the reason I was at RWAs and one of the main reasons I write contemporary romance.

She gave me a hug. Said I was making her eyes water.  Then she asked me what I was writing and how it was going. When I mentioned that I was pitching on Friday, her eyes lit. “You want to practice with me?” she asked.

via GIPHY

Yes? No? Of course! I tried not to panic. Or throw up.

While we waited for the room to clear out, she introduced me to all the amazing writers passing by to chat with her. They were all so kind. Welcoming. Treated me like an equal. And they promised me Kristan was very “nice” and wouldn’t make me cry.

When the room finally emptied, she sat across from me. I was so dang nervous I had to read my pitch to her. It was like that dream when you’re on stage and you forget all your lines and Meryl Streep is waiting for her cue. She asked me probing questions about my characters and story. Helped me focus on the more gripping aspects. Fed me confidence.

Little old me. She made me believe that I was just as important as any of the other writers there. She made me believe that if I worked hard enough, I had a chance. By believing in me, she made me believe in myself.

Nurturing. This organization has it down.

via GIPHY

And no, I didn’t get a picture with Kristan.  I was attempting to be a pro. Yes, I’m kicking myself. The next day at the PRO Retreat she used my story as an example. I may have swooned. I felt like a rock star. I only hope I can share the love with other aspiring authors as completely someday.

Virgina Kantra Story:

The scene: Keynote Luncheon with Susan Wiggs. Me and two-thousand or so writers in a ballroom for the third time (first being Golden Heart Award Luncheon, second the RITA Award Ceremony the night before). I wasn’t sure I could take more peopling, so I grabbed a seat a table in the back in case I needed to sneak out. The table filled up, and someone asked if she could grab the last seat left beside me. Sure.

She noticed my first timers ribbon and asked how I was enjoying it. I asked if it was her first time, too. Then she shifted and I could read her name badge…and I noticed the ten RITA pins lining the top. Open mouth, insert foot.

Turns out this lovely latecomer was Virginia Kantra, a ten-time RITA nominee who’d won the Best Mid-length Contemporary Romance RITA the night before. When we weren’t listening to Susan Wigg’s inspiring speech, Virginia peppered us with writing stories, business advice, and kindness. The woman knows how to network. I paid attention.

When she asked if she should bring her RITA Award statue to her signing later that day, we were all like “heck yeah!”

She did. She let me fondle hold it. Inspiration.

Look, Mom–I won a RITA! Someday.

 

Part 2 coming soon!

Summer heat and fun with The Hook Up by Tawna Fenske

Ellie Sanders is over the fairytale, thank you very much. Content with her booming career as a purveyor of Madame Butterfly pleasure aids, she doesn’t need a man for anything—except maybe marketing tips. And, okay, a few fun nights with something that doesn’t require batteries.

Love, marriage, and family aren’t in the cards for Tyler Hendrix. Period. The Navy helped Ty put his tumultuous childhood behind him, but when a sexy single mom walks through the First Impressions door looking to take her business to the next level, he feels his carefully constructed “never-get-attached” walls crack.

As Ty and Ellie maneuver through a minefield of wardrobe malfunctions, plumbing mishaps, and the world’s most awkward accidental dirty talk, discovering they have more in common than scorching sexual attraction threatens to crumble Ty’s walls for good…

Each book in the First Impressions series is a standalone story that can be enjoyed out of order.
Series Order:
Book #1 The Fix Up
Book #2 The Hang Up
Book #3 The Hook Up

I had to laugh once I started reading THE HOOK UP. Not only because it was funny. Holey-double-entendre Batman, it was funny. But because I felt as if I knew our plucky heroine, Ellie the sex-toy selling single mom. Really. Many, many moons ago, one of my employees was a young, blonde single mom with an adorable little boy. She too had a crummy marriage and an ex who didn’t participate in said kiddo’s life.

And she too hosted ladies pleasure aid parties.

Her soiree was the first of the kind I’d been too. Since I was her boss at her regular job, it was a smidge bit awkward. Okay, it was MASSIVELY AWKWARD–I sat next to her MOTHER. But informative. And fun. And this real-life person did indeed have a hook up, but I enjoyed Tawna’s story and hero far more than the real-life version.

So back to that. Ty is a videographer with commitment issues. One thing I like about him (and many of Tawna’s heroes) is that he’s not the typical alpha male. No obnoxious, overbearing testosterone-infused pushiness. Oh, trust me, he’s got testosterone flowing, but it’s pulsing inside a sizzling hot teddy bear. He makes you laugh. And did I mention he falls for the kid, too? Cuteness. Overload.

Ellie is independent, focused on building her business and raising her son and basically has her shiz together. (It’s refreshing to read a romance where neither character is in “need” of the other.) The only thing Ellie and Ty “need” is a hook up. Neither wants commitment, just a few itches scratched.

Of course, it doesn’t work out that way. The chemistry between these two is obvious to us the moment they have their first confusingly hysterical conversation. We know they’re going to work out, even if takes them a little longer.

I’ve read that some romance readers don’t go for the “single mom” storyline, as it’s not a part of their fantasy. (Romances are essentially women’s fantasies.) But I do. I’m a mom. Most of my friends are moms. Some are single again. They’ve been forced back into that complicated dating word and wonder if they will ever find love again. I want to see how these stories can play out. I want to see these women have their Happily Ever Afters.

At 226 pages, THE HOOK UP is just that: a sweet yet sexy and fully entertaining romp. But just like with Ellie and Ty, what starts as a short, no commitment fling will likely lead to something more, and you’ll fall for Tawna’s books, too.

  • Publication Date: July 3, 2017

This Time Around by Tawna Fenske

happy pub day tawma fenskeHi y’all! Sorry I’ve been MIA for a while. In addition to going on an editing bender I’ve been planning, prepping, and over-stressing over a dream vacation. Yes, I just returned from a magnificent week in Paris–oh la la!

One of my stress hot buttons: which ONE book should I bring along? (Seriously, being trapped on a plane for eight hours with the wrong book would be worse than being seated between two passengers with B.O.)

Luckily, the Advance Reader Copy of Tawna Fenske’s THIS TIME AROUND arrived in the mail the day before departure. Problem solved.

{Photos of THIS TIME AROUND‘s whirlwind tour of Paris at the end!}

THIS TIME AROUND by Tawna Fenske

Allie Ross is not living the life she once dreamed. Her law career ended before it ever started, her parents landed in jail for running a Ponzi scheme, and she just inherited her grandmother’s B&B—which is nice, even if it is full of extra-toed cats. As for her love life…she’d rather not talk about it.

When Jack Carpenter reaches out to reconnect with Allie, the girl who broke his heart in college, his plan is to impress her with the adult he’s become. Sure, he was a deadbeat then, but life has forced him to grow up. And it’s a relief to find out that things didn’t necessarily go the way Allie expected either.

As Allie and Jack get reacquainted, they rediscover the things they loved—and hated—about each other. But who they are now isn’t who they were then, and secrets—old and new—will test whether they have a future together, or if the past is destined to repeat itself.

318 pages –  Montlake Romance (April 4, 2017)

********

I have a thing for second chance love stories. And for Tawna Fenske’s always hilarious take on the contemporary romance genre. Put them together and bam–you have a thoroughly entertaining read.

You’ve read the jacket copy above, so I won’t bore you by restating. TTA hits just the right buttons. We’ve all been left wondering what would happen if we bumped into that certain someone from our past. And maybe your life hasn’t turned out exactly as you’d envisioned. (If your anything like me, that’s the understatement of the decade.) Common themes. But TTA gives it a twist with a sexy single dad, his delightful daughter, a flawed, real heroine, and a couple of quirky sidekicks. (Oh, and I can’t leave out the dozen-plus Hemingway cats the descent of woodpeckers.) Because this is a Tawna Fenske novel, hilarity ensues.

Not that it’s all laughs. The story touches on some tougher issues: losing a spouse, motherless daughters, unexpected pregnancies, parents in prison, and the death of a beloved grandmother. There’s guilt. Heartbreak. Loss of trust.

And that slew of laughs, bawdy double entendres, and the naughty bits of humor Tawna’s books are known for. 🙂  Many of the funny bits sprout from the mouth of the precocious Paige, the curious 10-year-old who has no problem asking questions in public sure to make any adult’s face burn red. (Trust me, kids do that in real life.)

THIS TIME AROUND is a stand alone romance that doesn’t feel like your typical romance, full of heart, humor, and a passel of polydactyl cats.

 And now: THIS TIME AROUND’s book tour through Paris!

 

Ready for takeoff (and 8+ hours of in-flight entertainment)

Ready for takeoff (and 8+ hours of in-flight entertainment)

Admiring the view from our Paris apartment

Admiring the view from our Paris apartment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking in the Seine

Taking in the Seine (with Hubby’s man-hand)

This Time Around on Ile St-Louis Paris

With the stately buildings on Ile Saint-Louis

 

 

At Shakespeare & Co. bookstore!

At Shakespeare & Co. bookstore!

 

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at  Musée d'Orsay

at Musée d’Orsay (the hairy hand is my hubby’s)

 

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THIS JUST IN: Now That It’s You (Tawna’s last release) was just announced as a finalist for the coveted RITA Award! That’s sorta like the Oscars for romance writers. Congrats Tawna!! And for you, dear readers, Now That It’s You is on sale on Amazon for only 99 cents! Deal of the day!

I was given an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Love and Romance à la Audiobook

HappyEndingsGuaranteedWhat better day to celebrate romance than Valentine’s Day?

I’m picky when it comes to fiction audiobooks. And I’d never listened to a romance (see previous statement). But I’ve discovered an author and a narrator who will make anyone fall in love with the spoken language of love.

It all started with PARIS IN LOVE. Nonfiction, on my regular audiobook menu. I’ve been dreaming of Paris, gobbling up books about the city as if they were plump, aromatic fresh baguettes. In PARIS IN LOVE, Shakespeare professor/bestselling historical romance author Eloisa James chronicles the year she and her husband took sabbaticals from their professorships and immersed themselves in Parisian life.

I know, sounds rough. But they had two teen/tween kids. TEENAGE KIDS. That alone is enough fodder to fill a book. Her short piece format reads like blog or Facebook snippets, entertaining with humor, heart, and joi de verve.

If her historical romances were anywhere near as smart and delightful as her, I had to give them a read. (Note: I’m ridiculously late to this party. She’s been writing bestsellers for forever.)

Why not listen?

I downloaded ONCE UPON A TOWER. After five minutes, I was in love–with Eloisa’s clever story, spunky heroine, and the talented narrator, Susan Duerden.

I went for hour-long walks four times last week just so I could listen. It kept me company as I filed my taxes, cleaned the house, and toiled over my 2016 Family Photo book. Pure escapism. Well, until the thirteen-yer-old returned home while I was in the middle of a rather naughty scene…. Oops!

Next came WHEN BEAUTY TAMED THE BEAST. Loved it! Witty banter. A head-strong beauty. A  “beast”  of a Duke. (Okay, he has one physical flaw, but his cantankerous personality is all love-to-hate him Dr. Gregory House.) And the same fabulous narrator Susan Duerden.

I’m officially hooked. And you will be, too. Check out this CBS News story that ran this Sunday:

To her students at New York’s Fordham University, she is professor Mary Bly. But to legions of readers, she’s bestselling romance writer Eloisa James, a reigning queen of romance fiction. Faith Salie discusses the English scholar’s surprising double life, and talks with author Beverly Jenkins and with the writer behind the blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, as she explores the sex, love, empowerment and HEAs (the “happily ever afters”) of romance novels.

 

ONCE UPON A TOWER by Eloisa James

To win her love…
As an extremely wealthy laird, Gowan Stoughton, Duke of Kinross, can have any of the maidens at the ball he attends. The only problem is they are all English and Gowan is not so certain they are suitable. He is accustomed to the hard-working lasses from his Highlands, not these dainty noblewomen who spend their days drinking tea or some other such nonsense. But then he makes the acquaintance of Lady Edith Gilchrist. Utterly bewitched by the emerald-eyed beauty with lush golden locks, he knows he must have her.

He must free her from her tower…

“Edie” had the misfortune of being dreadfully ill at her debut ball and barely remembers what Gowan looks like. Even worse, she accepted his proposal the following day. Edie’s only true passion is playing music – until Gowan writes a scandalous letter and stirs the most irresistible desire. Yet when they marry, Edie realizes her husband needs a lesson and locks herself in a tower. Somehow Gowan must find a way to enter the tower and convince his new bride that she belongs in his arms.

Listening Length: 12 hours and 17 minutes
Publisher: HarperAudio
Audible.com Release Date: May 28, 2013

 

PARIS IN LOVE by Eloisa James 

In 2009, New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James took a leap that many people dream about: She sold her house, took a sabbatical from her job as a Shakespeare professor, and moved her family to Paris. This memoir chronicles her joyful year in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Eloisa revels in the ordinary pleasures of life—discovering corner museums that tourists overlook, chronicling Frenchwomen’s sartorial triumphs, walking from one end of Paris to another. She copes with her Italian husband’s notions of quality time; her two hilarious children, ages eleven and fifteen, as they navigate schools—not to mention puberty—in a foreign language; and her mother-in-law’s raised eyebrow in the kitchen (even as she overfeeds Milo, the family dog). Paris in Love invites the reader into the life of a most enchanting family, framed by la ville de l’amour.

Listening Length: 6 hours and 38 minutes
Publisher: Random House Audio
Audible.com Release Date: April 3, 2012

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When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James 

Miss Linnet Berry Thrynne is a Beauty… Naturally, she’s betrothed to a Beast.

Piers Yelverton, Earl of Marchant, lives in a castle in Wales where, it is rumored, his bad temper flays everyone he crosses. And rumor also has it that a wound has left the earl immune to the charms of any woman.

Linnet is not just any woman.

She is more than merely lovely: her wit and charm brought a prince to his knees. She estimates the earl will fall madly in love – in just two weeks.

If she decides to be very wicked indeed… what price will she pay for taming his wild heart?

Listening Length: 9 hours and 20 minutes
Publisher: HarperAudio
Audible.com Release Date: October 11, 2011

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My (belated) year of romance novels

romance bookYes, I know I’m late with all these 2016 reading list posts. Better late than never?

Some of my romance reading was for research. All was for pleasure.

My greatest discoveries: I go for smart, spunky heroines and imperfect heroes. And forget about the must have deep dark secrets–my favorite characters must have a sense of humor. Quirkiness is appreciated. Heroines should want the hero ( and whatever hot hanky-panky, money, or fame comes with him) but not need him.

Here are my 2016 Romance Reads via Goodreads. The tally comes in at 24, I have the feeling I forgot to add a few.

2016 romance 2

Do we follow each other on Goodreads? If not, join me here!!!

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#Friday Reads: Bring on the Laughs with Razor Girl and First Star I See Tonight

This week’s theme is humor. I tend to write with a slight sway to what I’m reading, and since I’m pushing towards the end of a contemporary romance that will hopefully be infused with a marbled layer of chuckles, humor I need.

Humor I got.

Book 1: Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen.
Carl Hiaasen is ALWAYS good for a laugh. Wait, no, I’ve known people who have suffered stomach cramps from doubling over in laughter while reading his books. And because truth is stranger than fiction (especially in Florida), many of  Hiaasen’s nut-job characters and insane situations are inspired by news clippings. Here you go: Woman Crashes Car While Shaving Her Privates –your real life Razor Girl. I still haven’t figured out if Hiassen satirizes or merely exaggerates the impossible realities of our beloved screwball state, but as always, his humor hits razor sharp.

Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen

The new full-tilt, unstoppably hilarious and entertaining novel from the best-selling author of Skinny Dip and Bad Monkey

When Lane Coolman’s car is bashed from behind on the road to the Florida Keys, what appears to be an ordinary accident is anything but (this is Hiaasen!). Behind the wheel of the other car is Merry Mansfield–the eponymous Razor Girl–and the crash scam is only the beginning of events that spiral crazily out of control while unleashing some of the wildest characters Hiaasen has ever set loose on the page. There’s Trebeaux, the owner of Sedimental Journeys–a company that steals sand from one beach to restore erosion on another . . . Dominick “Big Noogie” Aeola, a NYC mafia capo with a taste for tropic-wear . . . Buck Nance, a Wisconsin accordionist who has rebranded himself as the star of a redneck reality show called Bayou Brethren . . . a street psycho known as Blister who’s more Buck Nance than Buck could ever be . . . Brock Richardson, a Miami product-liability lawyer who’s getting dangerously–and deformingly–hooked on the very E.D. product he’s litigating against . . . and Andrew Yancy–formerly Detective Yancy, busted down to the Key West roach patrol after accosting his then-lover’s husband with a Dust Buster. Yancy believes that if he can singlehandedly solve a high-profile murder, he’ll get his detective badge back. That the Razor Girl may be the key to Yancy’s future will be as surprising as anything else he encounters along the way–including the giant Gambian rats that are livening up his restaurant inspections.

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (September 6, 2016)

Book 2: First Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
While many readers may have caught on to Susan Elizabeth Phillips stories a good decade or two ago, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m late to the contemporary romance party. Phillip’s books pretend to fall into the crossover category: they’re released at hardcovers on the mainstream fiction shelves, so readers who are above or afraid to pick up a skinny Harlequin paperback can read without having to explain. But I’ll let you in on a secret: though they are sometimes labeled as “romantic fiction” they are still  romances. Funny, flirty, and zany romances. Why else would Phillips have won the prestigious RITA award four times and be a recipient of the Romance Writers of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award? Try one, you’ll like it…

 First Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

A no-nonsense sports hero and a feisty female detective go head-to-head in this funny, fresh, seductive novel from the award winning NYT bestselling author known for her unforgettable characters, heartfelt emotion, and laugh out loud humor.

He’s the former quarterback of the Chicago Stars football team.

She’s trying to make a success of her very own detective agency.

Her first job? Follow him. Let’s just say it’s not going well.

Not well at all….

Piper Dove is a woman with a dream—to become the best detective in the city of Chicago. First job? Trail former Chicago Stars quarterback, Cooper Graham. The problem? Graham’s spotted her, and he’s not happy.

Which is why a great detective needs a first rate imagination. “The fact is . . . I’m your stalker. Not full-out barmy. Just . . . mildly unhinged.”

Piper soon finds herself working for Graham himself, although not as the bodyguard he refuses to admit he so desperately needs. Instead, he’s hired her to keep an eye on the employees at his exclusive new nightclub. But Coop’s life might be in danger, and Piper’s determined to protect him, whether he wants it or not. (Hint: Not!) If only she weren’t also dealing with a bevy of Middle Eastern princesses, a Pakistani servant girl yearning for freedom, a teenager who just wants to fit in, and an elderly neighbor demanding that Piper find her very dead husband.

And then there’s Cooper Graham,, a legendary sports hero who always gets what he wants—even if what he wants just might be an intrepid detective hell bent on proving she’s as tough as he is.

From the bustling streets of Chicago to a windswept lighthouse on Lake Superior to the glistening waters of Biscayne Bay, two people who can’t stand to lose will test themselves and each other to discover what matters most.

Series: Chicago Stars
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (August 23, 2016)

Are you reading anything good this week?

 

 

 

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#FridayReads | Beach Read: No Breaking My Heart by Kate Angell

Happy Friday! no-breaking-my-heart

Hope y’all are having a good week and didn’t suffer through a holiday weekend hangover. Much of Labor Day weekend around here was wet, wet, WET. Though Hurricane Hermine brushed by with a few puffs of wind and showers, in the days after we got drenched. At one point, we got 3 1/2 inches of rain in just over an hour. Let me tell you, it’s fun to drain the pool in the middle of a deluge.

But Labor Day looked promising. After days of being stuck inside, we attempted a beach day. It sprinkled on us twice in the morning, but hey, we were wearing bathing suits anyway. The wind carried several people’s beach umbrellas and canopies away (including ours!). But then the sun came out, and we settled in for an afternoon of beach reading. Even the kiddo pulled out his book. Yes, we got some stares as all three of us sat in the shade with books in hand.manatee-hi

I took a break to test out the new paddle board in our secret manatee cove. The manatees must have known I was reading a romance, because they were feeling a bit…shall we say “frisky”. It was like paddling around hippos! At one point, I glided over a group who were blocking my boat ramp and rather…distracted by love pheromones. A startled, ginormous bull nearly swamped me when he came up! Luckily I was sitting on the board or I would have been in the water with a mess of randy thousand-pound manatees. Eek!

Despite the showers, mishaps, and animal close encounters, I had a much needed day relaxing with a fun beach read. How many people actually get to read beach reads at the beach?

No Breaking My Heart by Kate Angell

“Known for her charming beach reads.” —Kirkus Reviews

Relationship Status: Complicated

Professional baseball player Halo Todd doesn’t like failure, but he can never turn down a challenge. Especially when there’s a pretty woman involved. How else would he end up dressed as a rooster, helping a complete stranger compete on a wacky game show? Even when they’re eliminated after the first round, Halo isn’t about to lose the girl…

Alyn is stunned when gorgeous, generous Halo whisks her off for a dream vacation to the beach–she’s been let down by friends and even family so many times, she’s lost count. Later, he offers to lend a hand getting her vintage shop up and running. But his constant–and ridiculous–purchases are the last thing she needs. How can she convince the stubborn man that she doesn’t need his help–not when all she wants is his heart…

Series: Barefoot William Beach
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Kensington (July 26, 2016)

Books 1 -3 in the Barefoot William Series:

Up next in my TBR pile:

What’s your Friday read?

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Spreading Some Love Between the Covers

“Love stories are universal. Love stories are powerful.
And so are the women who write them.”

Last spring I wrote about how I was dying to watch LOVE BETWEEN THE COVERS, a feature-length indie documentary film that explores the little-known, surprisingly powerful world of women who write and read romance? I finally attended a screening thanks to the fine folks at the Orlando Public Library. I left inspired, enlightened, and I may have had a watery eye from time to time.

Love Between the Covers is the fascinating story of the vast, funny, and savvy female community that has built a powerhouse industry sharing love stories. Romance fiction is sold in 34 languages on six continents, and the genre grosses more than a billion dollars a year–outselling mystery, sci-fi, and fantasy combined. Yet the millions of voracious women (and sometimes men) who read, write, and love romance novels have remained oddly invisible. Until now. For three years, the film follows the lives of five very diverse published romance authors and a unpublished newbie as they build their businesses, find and lose loved ones, cope with a tsunami of change in publishing, and earn a living doing what they love—while empowering others to do the same.

During the three years the filmmakers shot the documentary, they witnessed the largest power shift in the publishing industry in the last 200 years. And it’s the romance authors who are on the front lines, pioneering new ways to survive and thrive in the rapidly shifting environment.

Many aspects of the film had me in awe. Bella Andre writes 25 pages a day?!!

The segments following the video diary of aspiring romance author Joanne Lockyer had me feeling all swishy inside. I found myself discretely dabbing the corners of my eyes after she saw her book, her quest, her baby in print for the first time in all its tangible beauty.

There were so many more nuggets of goodness, conversations about diversity, desire, power shifts, and how to write a damn good book.

I tried to jot down a few of my favorite quotes as I watched, but alas, as I read over my chicken scratch, I’ve realized that these should more be considered paraphrases. My profound apologies if any of these are too far off. (Feel free to kill me off in your next book if I offend.)

We’re not looking for a stupid heroine … we’re looking for a story where the woman has her shit together and the man is the cherry on top of the sundae.

Beverly Jenkins

Loyalty, love, loss, courage–all books in ALL genres circle around to these eternal themes.

Eloisa James

I love fiction because it’s fiction. Fiction is not real and it’s not supposed to be. Fiction is a dream. Fiction is a desire. Fiction is hope.

Len Barot/Radclyffe

Yes it’s a fantasy. But so are Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. It’s no great surprise that he never dies in the end. So what’s wrong with our
Happily Ever After?

Beverly Jenkins

This is the one place where you will consistently find women’s sexuality treated fairly and positively.

Sarah Wendell

 

But one of the main themes of the movie was the camaraderie. Through RWA (Romance Writers of America), these women, be them multi-millionaire business builders or publishing-shy newbies, shared a refreshing desire to share what they know to help others succeed. (I also see this in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, but this wasn’t their movie. Go WFWA!) They stress that there’s no finite number of readers, so we can publish an infinite number of stories.

After the movie screening, the Orlando Public Library hosted romance panel discussions about Tropes We Love and Hate and Vampires and Angels and Weres, Oh My!, followed by a book signing featuring local romance writers.

And…

pro rwa

 

I’m offically a PRO member of Romance Writers of America.

Come on in. There’s room for you here too.