It is no secret that I love romance novels. I started reading Harlequins when I was 13, eventually branching out to longer romance novels and then the subgenres of romance as time went on. It’s been a LONG time since I’ve read a lot of category romance.
That changed this week as I experienced the next step in the Uterus Chronicles (Episode 3, not yet written). After surgery, in the hospital, the first day I couldn’t do much but deal with the waves of pain and the waves of pain relief in the form of Percocet. Once my vision settled down though (everything rolled upwards – impossible to read the entire first day), I was ready to be entertained.
Though my hubby was ready and willing to entertain me, my brain wasn’t really in a chatty mood so I turned to the stack of category novels I’d brought with me. About half of them I’d picked up at the Romance Writers of America Conference in late July.
They were perfect. Fast reads, just detailed enough to drag me out of my circumstances, and yet short enough to give me a sense of accomplishment when I was done. I don’t remember when I read what, but from Wednesday through Friday, I read nine category-length novels. (There was no way in hell I was able to put my own words on paper; this seemed to be the next best thing.)
Here’s a sampling of what I read:
Night After Night by Kathy Lyons , Harlequin Blaze April 2012
I picked this up at conference the night of the booksigning. I’d met Kathy Lyons at RT in Anaheim 2011, and found her to be a hoot and a half. I’d nabbed one of her plastic cell phone holders, and use it every day at the day job, so I had to tell her about it. That she writes for Blaze is a bonus. (And I bumped into Brenda Chin while talking to Kathy, so that was fun!)
The novel? Loved it. An intriguing premise of two strangers sharing intimate dreams, which freaks out our sexy military hero; outside of sex, what secrets is he unknowingly sharing as he sleeps? Our heroine is no slouch in the dream department; nor is she a “typical” heroine, in that she has real physical issues. This novel weaves to a very satisfying, very romantic ending.
Tall, Dark & Reckless by Heather MacAllister Harlequin Blaze, July 2012
I started reading this one prior to surgery, and didn’t finish it until a couple of days later, so it took me a bit to get back into the rhythm of it. That said, I enjoyed it. Mark’s a journalist who tends to go with his gut (i.e., get a bit reckless in the field). Piper is a compatibility expert hired to find the perfect partner for Mark. Now, any reader of category knows these two will get together in the end. What was interesting was HOW they got past all their barriers to accept they belonged together.
This novel had the danger element in a Mexican drug trafficker that Mark needs to put down. While it wasn’t military, it had a military – or at least special ops – feel to it. Putting Piper in with a guy like Mark felt kinda like Carrie Bradshaw showing up in a Mission Impossible movie. Well, not really, but I had my doubts going into it. The writing, however, made everything work, so Kudos to Heather!
More Than He Expected by Andrea Laurence Harlequin Desire, July 2012
Another book I picked up at RWA 2012, I must say this book charmed the socks off me. Who wouldn’t love a playboy who melts, gets all protective and aroused around a pregnant woman? And not just any pregnant woman, but the one he had a no-strings-attached affair with, 8 months ago? Alex the wealthy, hardworking playboy and Gwen the nurse are two wonderful characters, and their story is a delight to read.
The baby isn’t his (but I can’t say more). As these two renew their acquaintance at a house party in the Hamptons, sparks fly, and it only takes a few days for love to flare between them. After I finished it, I put this book down with a happy sigh. Well-written, it evokes a lifestyle I’ve envied, and I truly enjoyed watching Gwen get pampered and Alex losing his heart to her.
Exquisite Acquisitions by Charlene Sands Harlequin Desire, August 2012
This book has a little bit of everything in it that I love. Auction houses, New York City, Hollywood, Cowboys, huge cattle ranches. Wealthy rancher Carter McCay hits up the auction house to buy one of the famous Tarlington diamond rings. He gets one ring, but not the girl…Macy Tarlington just wants to hide, and grieve, until the hoopla around the auction of her legendary actress mother’s things dies down.
Carter rescues Macy from a flock of paparazzi and invites her to escape to Wild River Ranch. She accepts this offer from a stranger, and both of their lives are changed forever. This is a jewel of a book, filled with surprises and delights as well as two strong main characters. I enjoyed every inch of their romance.
At a time when I was in and out of pain, when my brain cells were still shaking off anesthesia and I didn’t want to talk or watch TV but was desperate for a way out of my own head, category romance came to my rescue. There is just no way I could have followed bigger stories set on other planets (for instance) with multiple characters – my brain couldn’t have, WOULDN’T have, been able to process it.
My thanks and gratitude to all category writers everywhere.
Do you read category romance? Do you have a favorite line?
Thanks for stopping by!
Besides all the wonderful people I saw at conference, besides the fantastic roomies and the terrific luncheon speakers and the marvelous fun of watching the Golden Heart and Rita awards ceremony (though afterward it got to be way too much for my sense of balance, sigh), there were, first and foremost, the workshops.
This year there were a LOT of workshops on self-publishing. Of which I took, oh, um, none. But I’m not worried, I know the information is out there and I have some very good friends to lean on if I decide to go that route. But the point is, RWA is changing. Yes, slowly, but they’re changing. So huge props and kudos to them.
Of the workshops that I did take, well, I just flipped through my notebook full of notes. I learned so much, and reading through it refreshed my memory – but there’s far too much to share! So I’ll just do snippets.
Christyne Butler did an awesome workshop on the “Soapy Way to Writing Category”. In a nutshell? Watch the soaps. THAT’s how to write category. Each character’s voice is distinctive (which should be true no matter what you write); don’t waste words on places that aren’t a big part of the story. Plus she quoted Jenny Cruisie’s 2003 keynote speech – “don’t be a writer, be a storyteller”. It was the last workshop time of the conference – and I won a “Save the Cat” book by Blake Snyder! Very pleased, as I’ve been wanting that book. But I REALLY enjoyed Christyne’s presentation.
Tamara Hogan and Susan Sey gave a workshop on writing villains – they urged us to “embrace our inner sociopath”. “A great villain forces you to create a great hero.” This resonated with me, seeing as how I’ve got to really ramp up my villain in my Demon series. This one wasn’t recorded, but they were very funny and I learned a lot.
Erin Quinn gave a wonderful workshop on the Simply Organic Structure, which I’m definitely going to use in my next book. She highly recommends daily goals, and to keep track for a week or so to see how much, really, that you write in a day. Because as she put it, “if you don’t know how you do what you do, how can you replicate it?” Good question. This is definitely a workshop to listen to if you have access to the CDs from the conference.
Harlequin Blaze Author Tawny Weber (one of my FAVs) and Blaze editor Brenda Chin gave an excellent workshop on “everything I learned about writing I learned from writing category romance”. The important stuff in category? The Foundation. Hooks, Plot, Character and Pacing. First, know what line you want to write. Next, character and voice are paramount – everything else can be fixed. The Blaze books are about 50/50 in both the hero and heroine’s POV. Plus, the reader must love the hero right off the bat. Remember, the heroine is just like you and me – connect with the heroine’s fears quickly. Plus the love scenes MUST move the story forward. (Okay, here my notes degenerate into scribbles. But trust me, this is a MUST LISTEN if you want to write for Blaze in particular.)
I’ve been reading a LOT of Blaze books lately, and I can tell you they are similar in one area – they are highly charged, emotional, sexy books with main characters you fall in love with. But that’s it. The field is wide open there as far as story lines go, which makes me very happy. The voice that sells the best is a light, humorous, snarky one, but they accept other voices as well.
As a side note, I got to spend some time with Brenda at conference – it felt like those first two days, we kept bumping into each other, which was fun. We chatted about kayaking and camping (neither of which I have done in too long, drat it anyway) and all in all, my editor-crush is still in full bloom. I also had a formal pitch session to her (my pitch sucked, and she called me on it, lol) and she helped me wrestle out a plot. I can’t wait to dig into it and am doing research on the sly, in between words on the current book (which MUST get done by the end of August). Seeing both her and Tawny so soon after Desert Dreams was too cool. I also got to meet Blaze author Rhonda Nelson, and I really enjoy her writing so that was neat!
I was absolutely delighted to sit in on a workshop by Yasmine Galenorn, an online friend and the author of the Otherworld series which I love. Titled “From Witches to Dragons”, she made a clear delineation between paranormal romance and urban fantasy. The goal in PR is saving the relationship. In UF, the goal is saving the world. That, right there, was a big ah ha! moment for many in the audience.
She had something to say about villains, too – she said the most interesting ones are the intelligent tricksters. And sex scenes? She says to get comfortable saying the words out loud. Make the sex scenes emotional, find that connection between the two (or more) and make the reader feel it.
Plus use the magic of “What if”!
So that’s all for now…my brain is exploding again with all the good info. Sorry there aren’t any pretty pictures. I’ve sworn off them for now while I figure out the new WANATribe picture sharing stuff.
On a SIDE Note – a book club organizer has contacted me about coming to speak to their club – they’re going to be reading DEMON HUNT next! Yay!
Thanks for stopping by! And thanks for your patience with me – I promise to get back to the wine blogs this week. Pinky-swear!
I apologize, I should have put something together earlier about my RWA conference experience – except I’m still in absorb mode. Actually, I’m still on digest on all my email loops, too, so have gone dark there as well.
I learned a lot; I gained a lot; I felt like a “real” writer while I was there, and I didn’t the last time, four years ago. No, I didn’t sign anything anywhere; no, I wasn’t up for an award; no, Nora doesn’t know my name. But it was an amazing conference. I was taken seriously by publishing professionals, and by my peers.
One of the publishing professionals, the lovely and talented Caridad Pinero, actually saw me as I was working the registration desk. Recognition crossed her face, and she came over to give me a hug. WHA? Rita Nominee Caridad Pinero gave ME a hug! We’d met at RT 2011, and I was on her blog before that I think; still, it was a total thrill, and told me how gracious and generous Caridad really is, which meant so, so much to me. It also gave me a pattern card for the future.
I also saw and hugged Kristen Lamb and Jenny Hansen, blog friends (I first met Kristen at RT 2011) and it was SO good to see them! Also caught up with Jami Gold (and did I have my camera with me? Um, that would be a huge NO!), whom I met in real life at Desert Dreams. Then, of course, there was the fabulous Beth Yarnall, and the lovely Deb Mullins, who might not have recognized me in passing, but still…!
And my lovely LARA members. We were 50 plus members strong at the conference this year, and there was something so lovely about turning a corner and seeing a familiar face. Of course, after ten years of RWA, I know a lot of people’s faces just from having seen them over the years. It’s such a lovely thing, don’t you think?
As far as roommates go, I think that if you don’t room with 3 other people in beds too small for one person let alone two for at least ONE conference experience, then you aren’t really living. We had a blast. Was it too loud? Yeah, a couple of times. Was it crowded? Hell yes. Did we laugh a lot? Um – YEAH! We drank wine, too, in the privacy of the room. Didn’t get sloppy in front of other people, which in my book is ALWAYS a good (as well as economical) thing. But there you go, we were So Cal natives so it was easy to buy our alcohol and bring with.
I’ll post more later, but dinner’s ready now, so…
Cheers, y’all! Write well, read lots; there’s more updates coming. And next time I’ll mention Brenda Chin, lol.
So, I just came back from the Desert Dreams conference, which was a wonderful experience (thanks to the Desert Rose chapter of RWA for a FABULOUS time!). I really want a partner in this writing endeavor, so I was focused on meeting with agents and hoping to stir some interest in my work – which I did, so yay me. (Now I’m behind. Again. So it goes!)
I also got to speak very informally with one of my editor-crushes, Brenda Chin (she’s just fantastic, and I’d go kayaking with her any time). A big step for me – a couple of years ago I wouldn’t have known what to say or how to act. Anyway…
A good conference. No, a GREAT conference. Lots of goodness – lots of hugging old friends, meeting and cheering on new friends, and I’ve even been asked by a couple local RWA chapters to speak at their monthly meetings, so that was a kick. (I must get back to those ladies…)
And then, I opened my email today and saw this post from Kristen Lamb who I absolutely adore. It’s titled BIG SIX PUBLISHING IS DEAD – WELCOME THE MASSIVE THREE . Go ahead and click on that and read the article – I’ll wait.
Back already? So, basically, she says (and it’s really hard to disagree with her logic) that Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft/B&N are the new beasts on the publishing playground, and they will devour traditional publishing the way Apple first devoured music stores, and then devoured Kodak and their traditional film cameras (does anyone carry a camera any more?). This is also much in alignment with what I heard from Bob Mayer this past weekend.
After the weekend I just had, this news (which isn’t really news) makes me dizzy. I am still firmly of the opinion that I don’t want to be my own publisher – I don’t want to work that hard. Writing the book is hard enough, thank you very much. However – I feel very much whipped around, like I’m on the edge of the tornado that is publishing now.
Maybe I’ll “grow up” and get over it, and pub my own stuff. Maybe not. It’s still a discoverability issue – even if you get 70% of royalties on stuff you pub, if no one can find it and if no one buys it, that’s zero dollars. Actually, negative dollars since you’ve paid for the cover/editing/etc. If you make your work free, whoopee – that’s still no cash in your pocket, and no guarantee that anyone will go on to purchase from you. And no matter how much I love writing, am I willing to put book after book out there with no return? To be honest, I really don’t know. But it’s hard to put food on the table with a negative income, even when doing something I love.
So, still conflicted. Here’s a soothing photo of people kayaking. (Brenda, take note – if/when we work together, I’d LOVE to kayak with you!)
What about you? Are you thinking about taking the plunge? Have you already taken it? Are you resisting it with every fiber of your being, and now feel like a little dinosaur about to be eaten by the big T-Rex?
I love your opinions – lay them on me! Am I still firmly an ostrich, dancing, and is there anything wrong with that?
~ Until next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~
I haven’t been to a conference in a year. The two I did last year weren’t really conferences – one was a workshop (Andrea Brown Agency-sponsored Big Sur workshop on writing for children, middle grade, and teens – a fabulous workshop but I felt a tad out of place), the other was a convention – Romantic Times, in Los Angeles (which was wonderful, crazy and busy and a little too – um – manic in it’s must-party atmosphere, since I was still recovering from surgery).
April, somehow, seems to be conference month. RT happened earlier this month, in Chicago; and seemingly there were more writers there than readers, so I’m kind of glad I didn’t go. Plus I am just out of costume ideas, lol.
Last weekend was the Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference, which looked fantastic – so many terrific agents/editors/speakers, that you wonder how any of them get their real job done
(I know – they work on their iPads on the plane, in the restaurant, at night in their
This is Aaron Michael Ritchey, author of The Never Prayer. Photo swiped from Aaron's site. Thanks, Aaron!
jammies…). A good blog about Pike’s Peak conference is from my friend Aaron Michael Ritchey, and you can find it here. Okay, maybe it’s not so much about the actual conference as it is about the energy supplied by the people you meet in real time for the first time and the wonderful things that happen when you get so many creative people in one room at the same time. At any rate, it’s a really interesting blog post. (Aaron is a really interesting guy who wrote a fantastic novel called The Never Prayer. You should read it.)
This weekend is the Desert Dreams Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona as well as the New England Conference in Salem, Mass. Before I knew the dates for the Salem conference, I signed up for DD – I’ve been there before, it’s small and mighty and I wanted to see friends and family. Plus, Salem is clear across the country and I wasn’t sure about spending the money, psychics and ghost tours notwithstanding. No – to be honest, I didn’t even know the New England conference was the same weekend and I’d hoped to do both, especially since my editor Steph Murray with Crescent Moon Press will be there, as well as a bunch of CMP authors.
But – I’m here at Chaparral Suites, my son getting ready to spend the weekend with family while I get ready to pitch to three agents and enjoy seeing friends, absorbing writing information, have a terrific book signing, and make new friends. Because after all, conferences/workshops/conventions are about making new friends, and strengthening long-time friendships as much as they are about learning craft.
When we writers climb out of our writing cave to go to a conference/workshop/convention, we get to spend time with people who understand us, who talk to people that only exist in our computer screens like we do, who look up weird facts on the internet that with anyone else would look extremely suspicious.
We’re with a huge bunch of people who get the beast. I guess, in a way, it’s like going to a convention of Bobs. Only other Bobs know what it’s like to be a Bob. Well, only other writers know what it’s like to be a writer.
Sorry this isn’t a wine blog today – I just didn’t plan ahead. Next week, I promise. In the meantime, off I go to meet relatives, hug old friends, drink a little too much wine, become good friends with new people, and in general simply bask with other writers.
Plus, have fan-girl moments. I saw both Brenda Novak (NYT Bestselling Author) and Brenda Chin (one of Harlequin’s TOP editors) at dinner last night (not together, though they were sitting in booths next to each other). It was VERY hard not to squee all over both of them – but since conference hasn’t officially started, and since they were in deep discussions with the person they were with, it seemed rude. However – at noon today, conference starts. All Squeeing will therefore be totally valid.
Have a wonderful weekend!