Monday, February 27, 2012

Analyzing 8 Common Romance Themes

As with my other analysis posts, I am not a psychologist, I just like to find the reasoning behind everything. My mom's trademark scold to me was: "Brook, stop being so f*cking analytical!" Damn, I miss her.

Anyway, one cannot help but notice many regular themes in romance novels, and many of those stand out because they are often unrealistic. I'm not writing this post to defend or attack these themes, I'm just pointing out my theories in their appeal to readers.

1.) Virgin Heroine (unless it's a historical): Many women regret their first time...especially if their first time was with a total jackass. I believe the virgin heroine fulfills the readers fantasy of having the first time be with THE ONE.

2.) Extremely Beautiful Heroine: Okay, I have a cynical theory and a optimistic one. Cynical: Society is so fixated on physical appearance that it could be hard to believe the hero would fall for an ugly heroine. Optimistic: Maybe the heroine isn't that beautiful in society's standards...but the hero sees her that way.

3.) Naive Heroine: I must stress, Naive, not TSTL (Too stupid to live). I believe the appeal of such a character is to give a breather from the jaded people we know, including ourselves. It's fun to learn new things and see the world from a fresh perspective. I also enjoy watching a character grow.

4.) Gorgeous Hero:
A.) The reader may be turned off by an ugly hero. Of course it's all in the imagination of the beholder. I thought those hairy, "porn-stached" heroes from 80's romances were repulsive.

B.) Remember back in high school when all the girls swooned over a certain guy? (In my case I never did because I'm not into the tan-blond-pretty-boy look) Anyway, I believe the "gorgeous hero" fulfills the fantasy of the reader landing such a paragon.

5.) Rich Hero: One cannot argue that one of the biggest fights in a marriage is about money. With the rich hero, this issue is nullified. Also, it's so much easier to focus on adventures and sexual chemistry if the characters aren't slogging through a 40+ hr work week and panicking about bills. The reader deals with that enough in real life.

6.) Alpha Hero: I've touched on this subject before in my post, "Alpha or A-hole?" But I didn't speculate much on the appeal of such a hero. I think a lot about my paternal grandparents' marriage. She totally wears the pants and I remember once asking her what would happen if she wasn't able to cook every meal. "Well, I think he could figure out how to make a sandwich," she replied tentatively. ::sigh:: It makes me even more appreciative that my man can cook and does it well. Still, I run the show most of the time. (Shhhh...don't tell him!) From a reader perspective, it's a nice vacation to see the man take charge and do things for a long as he isn't being a bullying prick about it.

 7.) Characters with extraordinary jobs: Who wants to read about Harold the accountant, or Susan the Wal Mart greeter? Rock stars, Navy Seals, Spies, Vampire Lords, and Alpha werewolves are just so much more fun and fiction is a great place to find 'em.

8.) "Magic Hoo-hah" and "Mighty Wang": Thanks so much to the ladies at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books for educating us on those lovely terms. Okay, they called the first "Hoo-hoo" but I prefer Hoo-ha for inexplicable reasons...maybe it just sounds more cheerful. Again, I have to be cynical on the basis for their popularity. In today's jaded society, it seems rare for couples to remain faithful to each other. But with a "magic hoo-hah" or "mighty wang," your partner would never dream of straying to another after experiencing such greatness.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Sibling Advantage: by author Grace Burrowes

I’m hard at work on the eighth volume in the Windham family series, a set of Regency romances about the children of the Duke of Moreland. Like many titled fellows of the day, His Grace’s children were not all born to his duchess, though—once he learned of his two pre-marital by-blows—all of his offspring were raised under the ducal roof.

The Moreland Miscellany consists of three sons and five daughters, though Their Graces also lost one son to the Napoleonic Wars, and another to consumption. A family this size and of this composition would be typical of the day (George III had fifteen children, William IV had at least ten (all illegitimate), and Victoria had nine), but that’s a minor reason for why I constructed my cast of characters this way.

The Windham Family Tree

The sibling relationship is seldom without intensity. Siblings generally know us longer and better than anybody else on the planet, including our parents. Siblings are often the first people about whom we feel protective (though as toddlers we can be possessive of our parents), and particularly for boys, sisters are often the first females for whom they feel responsible (Dad having Mom’s protection assigned to him). At the end of life, when our children are grown and gone, and our parents deceased, it’s often our siblings with whom we have the most in common. 

Siblings can use their proximity to make our lives hell, or they can be the people with whom we share the best, most cherished memories. In either case, the relationship has depth, intensity, and range. Even in a situation were siblings no longer speak to each other, the relationship has presence, though it’s a silent presence.

When I’m casting around for how to sustain a reader’s interest across eight books, the sibling relationship is one tool at my disposal. In addition to the romances arcing through each novel, I can develop themes among the sibling cast that will resonate from story to story. For example, in each book in the Windham series, the brothers who have been lost to death are grieved by their siblings differently. One sister, Sophie, has a hard time with Christmas, because her brother died of consumption near the holidays. Her brother, Valentine, misses the departed sibling who was closest to him age, because that brother was also the closest thing he had to a friend in the familiar household. The loss shapes how the siblings relate to each other as adults, and it brings them closer together.

Using a sibling cast also allows me to use each book as opportunity for “epilogue scenes.” In book five, we get to check in with the couples we fell in love with in books one through four—as if they were our siblings. While I still have to do some character development for the secondary siblings from book to book, the burden is lighter because I know them all so very, very well.   

And this is probably the primary reason I use siblings in such abundance in my books: I am one of seven children, and I’m on very good terms with my siblings. They know me better than anybody, in some senses, and they love me better, too. When I turned to writing novels, the sibling milieu was a place I felt at home.

And in celebration of the sibling bond, to one commenter, Brookyn Ann and I will giving away one signed set of the first four books in the Windham series: “The Heir,” “The Soldier,” “The Virtuoso,” and “Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish.”

What’s your take on the sibling bond? Do you like to see it in your books, get tired of it, wish there were more sisters and fewer bros?

For more about Grace's books, click here: 

Grace Burrowes is a child welfare attorney living in western Maryland. She does not own a TV, and thus has plenty of time to correspond with readers, and also to write more books. You can reach her through her website,, on Facebook (Grace Burrowes Author), or twitter @graceburrowes

Monday, February 20, 2012

Romance during an emergency.

Because I don't have the pic of me holding his foot.

The other night my husband had a shooting pain in his skull and immediately became pale and clammy. I took him to the emergency room. The nurses then proceeded to scare the living shit out of us by acting like he was having a heart attack. Their machine was being a little wonky. After a frightening eternity waiting in the exam room, we discovered he'd had an abscess under his tooth which had burst. We have him on antibiotics and pain killers and are seeking out a dentist.

Anyway, the point of this post is that I noticed we did some pretty quirky things during the emergency that made our love obvious.

The stupid bed and chairs were placed in such a way that I was unable to hold his hand, or stroke his hair. So, I clung to his foot and spent the whole time rubbing my thumb over his shoe even though it had a big hole in the bottom and stank like hell because he'd been sweating buckets.

When my husband was asked to relate his symptoms, he took great pains to make sure he always said "nauseated" instead of "nauseous" and looked at me every time to make sure he was grammatically correct. At home, he goes out of his way to abuse grammar on purpose just to annoy me. I guess that's what you do when you're married to a writer.

Anyway, people do ridiculous things when they're in love and now that I know my husband's okay, I guess it's kinda cute.

What quirky things have you done, seen, or read that proves two people are in love?  

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Getting back in gear

I've missed a few blog posts this week...and the ones from last week were late. I've also been minimal in my social networking...and I've only averaged 4-5K a week in my #WIP this month. Still, this is pretty good for me. Since my mom died on Valentine's day of 2009, I'd alternated between a numb, mindless state and a quivering ball of misery every February. Although, come to think of it, I don't think I'd had good Februarys before that, being that it's the time I'm at the verge of screaming in impatience for winter to be over. I HATE winter.

This year, however, I had enough good days to get at least something done every day...except Tuesday, I slept through most of that and spent the rest reading. 

But now it's time for me to get back in gear. My goal is to finish the first draft of this novel by May....and I want my rock star novella finished by the end of June....and sometime soon I need to do a final polish on WRENCHING FATE so I can find a home for it. And of course there's edits and revisions on my remaining projects. 

With that said, my blog will be reduced to two posts a week...though I'm planning to get more awesome guest authors for you guys, starting with Grace Burrowes next week and Shana Galen in Mid-March for sure. I'm still working on convincing Bonnie R. Paulson to show us how to make spreadsheets because these are invaluable not only for keeping tabs on yourself, but also for tax purposes.

In the meantime I'm going to be working hard to get caught up on this novel. 

How's your productivity been? How do you catch up when you're behind?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Check Out My New Writing Aid! (Metalheads pay extra attention!)

I get a lot of inspiration from music. Whenever I have writer's block, I often plug in my MP3 player and listen to my favorite bands for hours. This has worked great for my urban fantasy and contemporary romances, but with my regencies, not so well. Because, face it. Historical romances just aren't metal. It's not their fault the electric guitar wasn't invented yet.

I found a way around this problem. It was under my damn nose the whole time. When planning my wedding, I had to be clever with the music. I didn't want to traumatize my grandparents. The solution? String Quartet tributes to my favorite bands.

We look smug because not only were we just married, we were walking down the aisle to Iron Maiden, and only a few people realized it. 

Here's a few good ones they sound so pretty!

                                                                     Tool: "Parabol"

                                                      IRON MAIDEN: "Aces High"

              METALLICA: "One" (I'm surprised they didn't break their violin strings near the end of the song)

                         LED ZEPPLIN: "Stairway to Heaven." This one's so beautiful I got teary-eyed.

And OMG OMG OMG!!! There's even MEGADETH!!!!!! (They're my favorite, can't you tell?) :)

There's also string tributes to AC/DC, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Guns n' Roses, Slayer...I could go on forever. Just google "String Tribute" and you'll find all sorts of awesomeness.

My muse is pleased! 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

6 Reasons Why I Love Regencies

Those of you who have hung around long enough know by now that I'm a total metal-head, horror movie buff, Stephen King fanatic and a former mechanic. On the surface it seems strange that I adore Regency Romances. So I feel compelled to explain myself:

1.) The "World Building." Regency England was a whole different world with its own language, customs, and a plethora of fascinating settings.

2.) I LOVE history. The scandals surrounding political figures and the adventures of famed people fuel the fires of my imagination. For example, didja know that when the Regent was crowned King, he had armed guards bar his wife from the coronation?

3.) There are so many "Rules" to break. A zillion little things dictated every moment of one's life in the aristocracy, to the point where multiple volumes full of rules were published to help a person navigate their way in Society. These rules cry to be broken just so I can see how a character handles the consequences.

4.) Challenges with Technology. With no electricity, cars, or cell phones, it is interesting to see how people deal with what we'd see as a minor inconvenience.

5.) Physical Contact was a Bigger Deal. A touch on a man's forearm as he escorts you through the manor's garden, his grip on your waist as he helps you off your horse, the feel of his hand at the small of your back as you waltz. ::sigh:: Modern set romances can't help but take these things for granted.

6.) The Stakes are Higher. If light touches lead to a stolen kisses...or ::gasp:: more, a marriage proposal had best be forthcoming. And speaking of marriage, it was FOREVER in those times. Even the Regent couldn't get a divorce. So that relationship had better work.

What is your favorite genre? Why do you love it?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Because it is February

I pick up my phone to call my mom to share the good news, or seek solace in face of the bad. Then I stop. Helpless agony fills me yet again with the realization that she is dead.

I have been doing this for three years now, more so because it is February and my Mom died on Valentine’s Day. I wrote her eulogy.

I saw Grandma at the grocery store this Saturday. Joy filled me and I ran with my shopping cart to hug her. I’d been thinking of her for months and longing to talk to her. We hugged and it was wonderful. There’s nothing like a hug from Grandma.

She had a bag of tomatoes in her cart. If I only wanted a bag of tomatoes, I wouldn’t bother with a cart. We talked, but only for a few minutes. The mother and the daughter of Karen Ann. We were both in a hurry to leave the store and curl up with a movie…we both said so at the same time. Then Grandma removed the tomatoes from her cart, put them back, and left.

On the drive home, I realized it was strange to see Grandma at that store. She lives on the opposite side of town. But then I remembered it is February…and that grocery store is next to the craft store that Mom, Grandma, and I used to frequent every Saturday.

Grandma is still hurting too. I know this now and I feel like an ass for not thinking about it before.
I’m going to call Grandma and spend more time with her. Not just because it’s February. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Calling in Sick Today...but laughter's good medicine.

Between a week-long sinus infection and an unpleasant bout of food poisoning, I didn't get around to writing a blog post for today. Since laughter is the best medicine, I spent some time on my favorite productivity inhibiting site: One of the articles that did further injury to my stomach was: The 15 Worst Album Covers of All Time

I wasn't surprised to see the Scorpions: Virgin Killer original cover as #1 and some were equally offensive. But many were hilarious. One was so craptastic and funny that I almost want it made into a T-shirt.

Ladies and gentlemen: I give you BONED.

Many guitarists act like their guitar is an extension of their penis, but these guys seem to think their penis IS their guitar...At least, I think that's what's going on here. I wonder why this one's not cordless. Either way, I'm gonna have my husband keep an eye out for this gem when he's shopping for his record collection.

On another note. The contest to win THE SHADOW OF TIAMAT by Sean T. Poindexter is still OPEN, leave a comment and I'll draw a winner on Sunday. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What is Writing Sex Scenes like for a Man? A Smutty Interview with Sean Poindexter

Today we welcome special guest, Sean T. Poindexter, author of the urban fantasy novel, THE SHADOW OF TIAMAT. The novel not only had kick-ass dragon fights and a sweet love story, it also had plenty of hot dragon sex. :) So I HAD to get Sean over here to talk sex-scenes from a male POV. 

So, let my questions commence!

1.) Do you think writing sex scenes is different for a man vs. for a woman?

I don't really know...I've only written them as a man. But really, I'm not sure. I know that some people assume that when a man is writing a sex scene, it's because he's just putting his fantasies out on paper. Apparently, they don't think a woman writer would ever do that kind of thing. In any event, I'm sure this happens but not for me. I'm not writing out my fantasies. Especially since in the first book, the love scenes all almost all told from the female's point of view. So, unless someone thinks it's my secret fantasy to be a woman and be made love to by a male dragon in human form, then I'm not just writing out my fantasies. I wrote those parts of the book because I felt that was what needed to happen there. The first love scene between Meg and Garrett occurs after a long--relatively--pursuit that builds tension between the characters. Having a fade-to-black scene that starts with Garrett carrying Meg to bed and then fades back in with "The next morning, Meg couldn't walk..." would have been cheating to the readers.

2.)Do you do any kind of research for your love scenes?

I guess you could call it research...I've found that an invaluable trait of all successful physical relationship is empathy. You have to be able to understand what your partner likes, doesn't like, and why. And you have to be able to figure out what they want without being told all the time. In order to do that, you have to talk to them, spend time with them, and try things until you find what works for you both. In a truly healthy physical relationship, one person won't enjoy something that the other person doesn't. This same empathetic trait assists in writing the love scenes in my books. Not only am I able to write Garrett as a lover, but also empathize enough with Meg that I can convincingly portray her wants and desires, and predict how she would realistically react to different kinds of touching. When in doubt, I've always been able to ask my wife or one of my female friends to look over something I've written and let me know what they think. Their input has been invaluable.

3.) What gave you the courage to break tradition?

I wasn't aware that I had broken any traditions. There are many male authors who write books with love scenes. And there are many female authors who don't. I just happen to be one of the former.

4.) What reactions have you received from readers?

Overall, they've been great. I have had a reviewer say she skipped those scenes because she doesn't like reading them, though she really enjoyed the rest of the book. It is fascinating to me the wide spectrum of opinions on at which point a love scene becomes pornographic. I've had readers tell me the scenes were very tame and tasteful, and I've had others say they were borderline erotica/pornography. It's interesting to me because it shows how subjective the measure is. But my publisher, Crescent Moon Press, does not publish erotica or pornography. So on as objective a scale as possible, I would say that if any of the love scenes in my book came to or crossed the line into erotica/pornography, they wouldn't have allowed them in the book. 

 5.) What does your lovely wife think of "those scenes?"

She loves them! She's a huge fan of my books. I'd say my biggest fan. She loves the scenes as well. And yes, she would tell me if she didn't like something. She always has before.

Sean will be here to answer questions and to give away a copy of THE SHADOW OF TIAMAT to one lucky winner who leaves a comment.

...and if you don't win, you can always get a copy at any of these locations:

Paperback from Amazon:
Paperback from B&N:
Kindle from Amazon:
Nook from B&N:
Other ebook formats:
Paperback from Books-A-Million:
Paperback from Powell's Books :
Paperback/ebook from Indiebound:
Thanks so much for coming today, Sean!