How to write romance – resources

Romance is one of those genres that nobody thinks they can write. Everybody I’ve talked to assumes that you can only write it while hyped up on feels, possibly after watching a marathon of chick movies.

But romance is like any other genre–it has nuts and bolts. And techniques. And beats. And reader expectations. Just like how mystery genres involve clever murders and murderers, and thrillers involve world-encompassing conspiracies and high body counts.

I’ve read and watched plenty of romance. Any Disney flick has a love story in it. You can’t swing a dead cat in the YA fantasy genre without getting caught in a love triangle. If you’ve circulated among books and movies, you’ve likely seen a couple of romantic stories in your life. Heck, if you’re married, you’ve LIVED it.

See this obvious bad-boy leading guy? He's my brother. Sorry ladies, he's taken. ;-)
See this obvious bad-boy leading guy? He’s my brother. Sorry ladies, he’s taken. 😉

A while ago, I set out to educate myself on how the structure of a romantic story works. Here’s what I found:

Jami Gold’s Romance Beat Sheet. This is basically a list of major romantic plot points, and where they should happen in the story. You can plug EVERY chick flick EVER into this list.

On the same page, she has a bunch of links to other blogs containing romance stuff. For me, the most helpful was this series on Identity and Essence. It also explains exactly how to work a love triangle, and why one guy is never quite right for the girl.

Now, if you combine that with Rachel Aaron’s info on how she learned to write 10,000 words a day, you’re golden. I personally can’t write 10k a day, since it requires about 7 hours of free time (yeah, right), but I’ve found her idea about the quick notes and the “candy bar scene” to be a total gold mine.

Small people. The inevitable outcome of a good romance.
Small people. The inevitable outcome of a good romance.

So there you are. The resources I’ve found most useful for learning to write romance. Now go forth, and write romantic entanglements without fear!

A good thing is a bad thing when it’s forced on you

Dave Ramsey is a good guy. His ministry has helped millions of folks get out of debt.

But my extended family has used him and his materials to beat my husband and I over the head for the past several years. We’re even doing Ramsey’s system, but that’s never enough. We get to hear allllllll about Dave Ramsey, Dave Ramsey, Dave Ramsey, until we’re ready to vomit at the sheer mention of his name.

So last night, they cajoled and planned and arm-twisted until they got us to go to the Smart Money seminar, which was here in Phoenix. Late on a Wednesday night. They even offered to watch the kids while we went. So here’s how it went:

3:30. The boy I babysit is picked up early. We jump in the car and head to the family members’ who have forced us into this.

4:00. We arrive and drop off the kids. The family have added a stone stream bed to their front yard, as well as a new front walk and resurfaced the porch a bright sunflower yellow. We express wonder to each other about why work on the house like this if they’re moving.

4:30. We get to the park-and-ride metro down in Tempe. Parking is extremely expensive downtown, especially with a Phoenix Suns game, as there was last night. The train arrives about 4:38.

5:05. We arrive downtown. There are skyscrapers. There are weird traffic lanes. There is tons of window shopping. We eat dinner at a burger joint. There are far too many French fries involved.

5:30. We hike a couple of blocks down to the Symphony Hall, where there is a line of people around three sides of the building. They’re all holding Dave Ramsey tickets. Our hearts sink. The line begins moving as we get there, so we get inside fairly quickly.

6:00. We are seated inside plush, cushy Symphony Hall. It’s the kind of theater with a bottom level and a balcony, and it was sold out. We sat toward the back, under the balcony. There were smoke machines and a laser show.


6:30. Dave Ramsey’s announcer comes out and starts the preshow. They advertise health care and life insurance. They play money-related games like the Price is Right. In general they keep the audience entertained. Ryan and I are moderately amused. We’re also somewhat concerned about the amounts of beer being consumed around us.

7:00. Dave Ramsey’s segment starts. The theater goes dark. There is an impressive light show via the smoke machines. There is a DVD intro for the “Smart Money” seminar thing. It’s slick. When Ramsey comes out, people are screaming and jumping up and down. I’ve been to concerts with less enthusiasm. And beer.

Ramsey says “Spend less than you make”, and that’s the extent of his wisdom. The rest we know from his various books/videos. He’s entertaining, but we don’t really learn anything. The crowd is completely fanboy.

8:00. One of his co-hosts comes on. He’s a black guy named Chris with a really deep voice, and I enjoy him on the principle that he hasn’t been shoved down our throats.

8:30. The seminar breaks for intermission. The class will resume at 9. We have a 30 minute train ride and a 20 minute drive back to get the kids, then another 20 to get home. We bail without remorse.

9:00. We are on the train, listening to people arguing about whether the speed of gravity is faster than the speed of light. Ryan and I listen and shake our heads at the sheer amount of stupidity. The main guy in the argument looks like Jack Sparrow, complete with beads in his hair.

9:45. We pick up the kids, who have spent 4 hours watching Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends. Apparently this is what the parent in charge deems entertaining. Second-youngest is asleep. We haul everyone home. I’m very glad to have my kids back.

10:15. We finally get home, exhausted.

This morning, my husband and I have tried to figure out the point of this exercise. We’re doing the Ramsey debt snowball thing. We’re managing our money with a budget. We own all his books. Why isn’t that enough? These relatives of ours will never be pleased with us.

Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Even Dave Ramsey.

The eternal good/bad review conundrum

I like to read books. Who here saw that coming?

*raises hand*

I try to only read books that I know I’m going to like, or heavily suspect that I might like. I don’t like giving books bad reviews–heck, I don’t like giving mediocre reviews. I prefer those glowing “OMG this book was rad” reviews that other readers totally ignore.

It’s why I’m usually hesitant read random books from people I know. I don’t want to hurt their feelings with a lousy review.

3 stars

When I do read a crummy book, I only review it on Goodreads. Goodreads is kind of like Facebook for books, and doesn’t affect sales ranks the way Amazon reviews do. And it’s been a while since I really ripped into a book, anyway. The lowest rating I’ve given in the last six months has been 3 stars. That’s a “It was okay” rating.

But that still leaves the sticky question–what to do about a peer’s book that I felt had issues, but it’s too late to fix them?

Refuse to leave a review at all? Notify the author that I had issues? Leave a dishonest review?

I have to keep reminding myself that reviews are for other readers, not the author. Any time I’ve left scorchingly honest reviews, those reviews get up-ranked by people on Amazon. Much to my chagrin.


What do you think? Only review when you love something, or be honest? And if honest, do you confine your honesty to Goodreads?

Son’s 8th birthday and vacation

This past week, we packed up the family and drove from Arizona to California, where we stayed with family and celebrated my son’s 8th birthday.

We had a great big hotdog and marshmallow roast with all the kiddos and cousins. It made them all so happy! My son said that he usually hates hotdogs, but cooked over a fire, they’re delicious.


Hotdogs are best when slathered in ketchup. Here’s Grandpa opening more dogs to throw on the BBQ for the adults.


Creeper cake! Because Minecraft.


Everybody singing happy birthday! Actually there were more people in the room, they just didn’t all fit on camera.


Blowing out those candles.

As you can see, it was a great birthday. I’ll have more pictures in later posts. 🙂

Glorious Sonic Boom concept art post, and step by step matte painting

So I’ve been playing Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric lately. And this game is so gorgeous, it makes my crusty artist’s heart sing. Check out some of this concept art:




Arent’t they wonderful? As a Sonic fan from the mid-90s, seeing this kind of treatment makes me sooooo happy. I’ve been playing it, and the world is massively intriguing. Kind of civilization built on top of a previous, advanced civilization, only the modern day people are slowly recovering the old technology.

Anyway, I had to make a stab at drawing something like this, myself. It’s time for a matte painting!

Note: A true matte painting is made with photos. This is what they typically look like.

Dubrovnik Matte Painting

Since I’m an utter noob, I just painted over a free render from deviantart.

So! Here’s the render I started with.

As you can see, a fairly serviceable render. It’s just called Jungle Ruins.


Here I painted in the background. I started with just a lot of vertical strokes of light and dark green. Then I darkened the trees, and used a lot of Photoshop texture brushes to suggest foilage, moss, vines, all that messy jungle stuff.


I painted in the characters in various stages, as I worked out the light direction, and how they were going to interact with their environment. The statue was tricky, because it had to match the background as much as possible. I painted it with rough, messy Photoshop brushes to get that stony, mossy texture.


Now for all the foreground leaves and plants. This helps the bottom of the render to blend into the jungle. I could have done more on this, but I was just experimenting. My next will be better. Anyway, the arch above the statue, in particular, got lots of moss and vines, and leaves catching the light. Lots of moss hanging from the vines.


Beams of light for the win! This was when I added the highlights on the characters and statue, because I knew how strong the light was supposed to be, and what color it was.


I made a new layer, flood filled it with blue green, and set the layer setting to Soft Light. Makes a nice green cast over everything. You could achieve this same effect in physical media with a blue green wash.


Last was a lot of little details, like the circuitry on the statue, implying that it’s waking up in the presence of people. Gotta have a story in the picture, you know?

And there you go! Painting this was basically like eating candy, only afterward, instead of having a sick stomach, I had a piece of artwork. Score!

I can’t wait to try more paintings like this, only, you know, spend more time and make them far more awesome.