The secret ingredient to true love

I once stood at the window of our apartment, watching this guy and girl have a terrible fight in the rain. She was trying to leave, but the car was locked and he wouldn’t give her the keys. He was raging about how she had disrespected him. She refused to admit any wrongdoing, blaming him for his lack of love. To his credit, he never punched her, although she hit him a couple of times. Eventually, he stormed off and she called someone to pick her up.

It was fascinating. If the woman refuses to respect her man, he withholds the love that she craves. The relationship goes into a death spiral.

In our culture, women have been elevated to goddesses. But they are also not held accountable for their lack of respect. Very rarely is that addressed in fiction: women are always princesses and men are always Prince Charming. Except relationships don’t work that way. There has to be respect on both sides.

A while back, I got on a young adult fantasy kick. I read stacks of the things, mostly pulled at random off the library shelves. I’d pick up titles I’d seen on blogs, I’d read them for their pretty covers, I’d read them if they featured any monster but vampires.

I despise vampires. Blame it on some really, really awful fanfiction I read as a teen.

One thing I noticed over and over was that these authors seemed to have no idea what a healthy relationship looks like. The characters have random sex, love triangles, and abuse each other mercilessly. Respect is hard to find. And don’t get me started on the relationships these characters had with their parents.

Ugh.

Paranormal romance always follows the Beauty and the Beast formula. Girl is forced by circumstances into monster’s miserable world. She can free him from his prison, but it’s going to take a lot of effort on both their parts.

Corollary: the girl can join him in his miserable world instead of redeeming him (aka becoming a vampire), but it’s not as satisfying to the reader.

As a culture, we’ve lost the true meaning of love, which is self-sacrifice. Instead, we try to glorify this selfish, grasping, possessive, unhealthy thing and call it love.

This thing that we’ve become
Might look like love to some
All the lies you’ve fed to me
Leave me standing empty
With nothing to say

–The Huntress, The Echoing Green

I mean, nothing’s more romantic than Edward sneaking into Bella’s room at night to watch her sleep, right? Right? Or how about the werewolf growling, “MINE!”

twilight-vs-tangled

Yeah, right. Girls, this behavior is a warning sign, not something to seek out.

So I decided to try my hand at writing the whole teen paranormal romance thing. I had a few questions in mind that I wanted to explore in a story.

1. Can you love someone if you have no emotions?

2. What does a respectful, self-sacrificing relationship look like?

3. Can love redeem a monster?

The answers I eventually came up with:

1: Yes, because love is an act of will

2. Smoking hot

3. It helps the monster take responsibility for seeking his own redemption. No human being can really save another.

After reading so much fiction where love is basically elaborate lust, I needed to see what true romance looks like. So I cracked open the Song of Solomon.

Hoo boy. Song is HOT. I needed a cold shower after I finished.

What I learned, though, is that real romance happens not only when two people are attracted to each other, but when they highly respect each other. They’re willing to do anything for the other. And the longing. So much longing. In the Song, he leaves flowers on her door, so she runs out into the streets looking for him, and wanders until the city guards send her home. It’s a long time until she finds him. When she does, their joy (and intimate times) are so great that only metaphor can describe it.

As I wrote the Malevolent trilogy, I kept this in mind, ramping up the respect and self-sacrifice in each book. In book 1, we deal with the awkwardness of Mal and Libby meeting and figuring out Mal’s secrets. In book 2, they have an established relationship and their shared secrets are slowly killing them. Monsterhood comes at a high price.

The result is a super-hot romance, heavy on the feels, that has almost no physical contact. I think they kiss once in each book. Even the telepathy stuff is shown to be a bad thing after a while.

I kept coming back to respect. Respect respect respect. This is harder for women than for men. Women naturally give love and affection, while men naturally give respect.

If you can get this right–as well as the occasional failings, when they forget to respect each other and cause trouble instead–you can have a romance that is far more satisfying than just characters jumping into the sack together. I hope Malcontent is a decent picture of what this looks like. You know, if you were telepathically chained to a soulless monster. πŸ˜‰

Malcontent has officially launched! Now you can continue Mal and Libby’s story, as well as their deeper dive into danger.

Cover reveal: MALCONTENT

It’s finally here! Malcontent is ready, and now the buildup to launch begins!

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Six months after the events of MALEVOLENT, Mal and Libby are struggling with the side effects of having two souls combined in one body…and the uncomfortable intimacy it brings.

When Mal captures a hive of killer bees, they inform him of a new threat from the Necromancer. Dark barriers and dangerous sigils are mounted around the valley. At the same time, Libby begins training with the Marchers, who will instruct her in the use of life and death motes. But the Marchers are on a relentless hunt for the Lich Prince and his hidden soul – which she now carries inside of her.

Now Mal and Libby must find a way to extract Mal’s soul before they are caught by the Marchers – killed by the Necromancer – or destroyed by the slow subsumption of their souls.


MALCONTENT will be available on all retailers February 14th! (Isn’t that a totally appropriate release date?) I’m super excited for this book–it’s one of my best yet. There are feels. There is suspense. Mal and Libby’s relationship deepens. There may even be kissing. πŸ˜‰

Preorder here!

Sneak peek at chapter 1 here!

Malcontent sneak peek and Kindle Unlimited freebies

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I’m participating in a promo this week! Paranormal romance and urban fantasy, all free on Kindle Unlimited. There’s some really good stuff in there. So I’m entering my paranormal romance Malevolent! Click the pretty below to check it out!

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Read for free on Kindle Unlimited! Infomercial GET!

Anyway, Malevolent has been out for more than a year now. I would have had the sequel out already, but I kind of had a baby in November, and that always sets back all artistic endeavors by six months. Anyway! Book 2, Malcontent, is in final revisions and awaiting the jaded eye of a professional editor. I thought my loyal readers might like to read the first chapter and see how Mal and Libby are coping with the fallout after the events of book 1.


Libby

“You’re going to have to tell your parents eventually, Libby,” Mal said.

It was a hot August morning, and the sky was that brassy white color, like the lid on a casserole dish. Mal was gently wheeling a beehive on a dolly to its new position near the blueberry field. He’d poured so much smoke into the bees that they were comatose.

I leaned against a fence post and folded my arms. “I know what’s wrong with me. You know what’s wrong with me. I don’t need a psychiatric evaluation.” I tried to sound defiant, but inside I was quivering with terror.


Continue reading “Malcontent sneak peek and Kindle Unlimited freebies”

Three things werewolves can teach us about romance

From the Middle Ages and earlier, wolves were feared as man-eating monsters that killed people and livestock alike. Thus when people wanted a villain for a story, wolves were the first monsters that came to mind (the Big Bad Wolf, for example). A man who could turn into a wolf became a great metaphor for a human giving in to his base nature and feeding upon his own kind.

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Archer vs werewolves by HenriqueErias

Then came modern science, and people who studied these hated creatures. Wolves were on the verge of being wiped out due to ignorance and fear. Intrepid scientists risked everything to go camp out in the wilds and observe wolf packs, gambling that the animals weren’t the monsters they’ve been made out to be.
And hey! It turns out that wolves actually live in family units, care for their young, have elaborate social etiquette, and don’t really like eating humans. Wolves went from being hated and feared to being embraced as a sort of woodland fairy. They’re not nasty–they’re FLUFFY.

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Wolves by PanDaemonEon1

Cue the rise of the werewolf romance. Gone is the debased monster. A person who turns into a wolf is now a loveable, fluffy creature. Oh, sure, they may have some nasty habits, like killing people and eating them raw, but that’s not REALLY what werewolves are about. They’re about tapping into NAY-CHURE, maaaaaaaan.

hidden-harvest
Hidden Harvest by Nambroth


If you go to Amazon and type in “werewolf romance”, you’ll find a plethora of romances, ranging from sweet to spicy, of hawt women who swoon for a smoking hot werewolf dude with perfect abs. Twilight brought the werewolf romance genre into the limelight. Writers like Patricia Briggs invented this nutty pack structure where the Alpha exerts a psychic dominance over his pack, and being his mate is basically psychic arranged marriage.

So, what can this crazy genre teach us about romance?

1. The Mask

Most people have layers to their personality. They have their true self (the essence) and the Mask, or Identity–the self that they present to the world. This can be a false confidence, or the face of an attention-seeker, or a delicate needy person who needs to be taken care of. Sometimes this is the opposite of their true self.
With werewolves, this is the human self: the face that blends with the crowd. Nobody knows about the beast inside them. Outwardly they’ve got it together.

I played with this a lot in my first werewolf romance, Turned. A Victorian-ish gentleman and lady marry to combine their fortunes. Outwardly they give a show of happiness, but they don’t like each other, and lead almost entirely separate lives. While lonely, neither of them knows how to penetrate the mask of the other.

2. The essence (or identity)

This is the true self, the actual emotions, insecurities, warts, and all. This is where a person’s wounds are, their secrets, all the nasty things they’d rather not present to the world. This is also what makes a character in a book the most interesting.

The wolf part of a werewolf is a personification of this true self. This is where the monster comes into the open–claws, teeth, fur, stink, everything. People can see what’s been inside them all this time, and it’s torches-and-pitchforks time.

In romance, however, when two people see the essence of the other, and fall in love with that damaged, sinful person–that is real love.

In Turned, the estranged lord and lady are bitten, and fall under the werewolf curse. They’re forced to flee into the wilds, where they face hunger, cold, and other problems presented by the elements. Being stuck in animal form, they each see what the other is truly like. First they begin to sympathize with each other, then begin to love.

The werewolf form becomes a metaphor for mask and essence. Like all good fantasy, it takes a complex topic and gives it a form that we can ponder.

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Moon’s Gift by Goldenwolf

3. Love triangles

This is a necessary part of romance–when two guys are interested in the same girl. Two girls can also be interested in the same guy (although this isn’t as common, for some reason). We’ve all read this in books or seen it on TV: one guy will be perfect for the girl, while the other will be less perfect. This is where shipping wars start (remember Team Edward and Team Jacob?).

Again, it comes down to essence and identity. One guy will see her essence and love her for who she is, while the other will only love her mask. This is like a guy loving the girl even though she’s a werewolf, while the other guy loves her as a human with no idea about her werewolf half.

Vampires can also work this way–or any monster that looks human half the time. This is the lure of paranormal romance, because it takes romance, which is such a sticky, uncomfortable thing, and turns it into tidy black and white.

For more reading, check out Jami Gold’s romance beat sheet, and Michael Hauge’s lectures on mask and essence.

Amazon Prime day mega book sale!

If you are at all into Online Shopping, then I’m sure you’ve heard rumors of Amazon’s big “Prime Day” bash. July 15th only they will be hosting what they hope will be a bigger sales event than Black Friday. . .

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Well, of course most of us Indies are on Amazon anyway, so while you’re grabbing up big screen TVs or Kindles or whatever floats your boat, grab some Indie Books!

 

Here are some free and discounted Indie Deals for July 15th (all these promotions are subject to change so please check to make sure the price is still valid before you buy):

 

Her Imaginary Husband

HER IMAGINARY HUSBAND will be 99 cents ~ β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜… How can Nikki date the campus cop with Her Imaginary Husband hanging around? Romantic comedy. Click HERE.

 

Second Son (The Minstrel’s Song Book 2)

THE SECOND SON will be Free!

In an attempt to manipulate the future, a nation is forced to decide between brothers. A family-friendly-fantasy novel for all ages. Long before Aom-igh needed a champion, Llycaelon had a second son. Click HERE.

 

Turned: A Werewolf Love Story (The Regency Shifter Series Book 1)

TURNED will be Free!

A Sweet Shifter Paranormal Romance. Click HERE!

 

The Bramblewood Werebear (The Regency Shifter Series Book 2)

THE BRAMBLEWOOD WEREBEAR will be Free!

A Sweet Shifter Paranomral Romance. Click HERE!

 

A Stitch of Honor

A STITCH OF HONOR will be Free!

A Science Fiction short. Click HERE!

 

Malevolent (The Puzzle Box Series Book 1)

MALEVOLENT will be Free!

A YA Paranormal Romance. Click HERE!

 

Chronocrime (The Spacetime Legacy Book 2)

CHRONOCRIME will be Free!

A YA Urban Fantasy. Click HERE!

 

Dragon’s Bride (The Dragon and the Scholar Book 4)

DRAGON’S BRIDE will be Free!

The fourth book in the Dragon and the Scholar Saga, a Sweet Fantasy Romance sees Dragon Prince Ewan travel into the past to regain his human form and reunite with his beloved. Click HERE!

 

The Place of Voices (TimeDrifter Series Book 1)

THE PLACE OF VOICES will be Free!

“Uplifting and entertaining” Historical Fantasy THE PLACE OF VOICES by Lauren Lynch FREE July 15! Click HERE!

 

Operation Dark Angel: The Rise of Nicolaitanes (The Apocalyse Series Book 1)

OPERATION DARK ANGEL will be Free!

How can one military operation bring about the downfall of the world’s governments? What happens when a single man attempts to take over the entire world? Christian Thriller. Click HERE!

 

House of Slide Hotblood

HOUSE OF SLIDE HOTBLOOD will be Free!

A YA/Paranormal Fantasy! Click HERE!

 

Whispers of a Faded Dreamer

WHISPERS OF A FADED DREAMER will be 99 cents!

A YA Christian Fantasy! Click HERE!

 

Beauty Within (Riley Family Legacy Novellas Book 1)

BEAUTY WITHIN will be 99 cents!

Could a parking ticket signal Katherine’s second chance at life and maybe even love? A contemporary Christian romance. Click HERE!

 

Waiting for Appa: A Science Fiction Short Story

WAITING FOR APPA will be Free!

An Award Winning Christian SciFi Short Stroy! Click HERE!

Liberty (Citizens of Logan Pond Book 2)

LIBERTY will be 99 cents!

When the financial collapse of America wipes out life as Carrie knows it, she finds the will to survive with a man determined to hate her. Dystopian. Click HERE!

 

Shatterworld

SHATTERWORLD will be 99 cents!

Amish wannabees flee to another planet, only to find conflict has followed them.

Christian Middle Grade Scifi! Click HERE!

 

Beggar Magic

BEGGAR MAGIC will be 99 cents!

This YA Steampunk Inspired Fantasy takes you into a world of musical magic where two girls from different backgrounds must fight to defend what matters most. Click HERE!

 

Aerisia: Land Beyond the Sunset (The Sunset Lands Beyond Book 1)

AERISIA: LAND BEYOND THE SUNSET will be Free!

In this fantasy series, Hannah Winters has gone from Earth to Aerisia, college student to prophesied savior. She must now contend with danger, betrayal, and romance, while mastering a new skill… magic. Click HERE!

 

The Amazing Adventures of Toby the Trilby (The Toby the Trilby Series Book 1)

THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF TOBY THE TRILBY will be Free!

A Middle Grade Christian Dystopian SciFi! Click HERE!

 

The Devil’s Due (The Blackwell Files Book 5)

THE DEVIL’S DUE will be Free! A Thriller/mystery, former soldiers Alton Blackwell and Mallory Wilson are pulled back to Afghanistan to rescue a teenage friend whose Al-Qaeda uncle has nefarious plans for her. As they race to recover the teen, they battle Al-Qaeda terrorists, a resurgent cult, and a web of intrigue in which the label of friend and foe is not easily assigned. Β Click HERE!

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. πŸ˜‰

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!

Turned: A werewolf romance novella

I forgot to post about when I released my werewolf romance novella. Silly me!

Here it is:

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Amazon link

A loveless marriage. A werewolf curse.

In the rainy near-Earth land of Grayton, Bernard and Charlotte Preston lead separate lives. An arranged marriage has left them with plenty of money and a cold relationship. She craves social esteem–while she wishes for the love her marriage has never contained.

He is an alchemist who is desperately seeking a cure for the werewolf curse. Yet he, too, is plagued by loneliness and a wistful admiration for his distant wife.

When the werewolves attack Lyedyn City the night of the Spring Ball, Bernard and Charlotte together fall under the curse. Retaining only their sanity, they flee deep into the forest to escape the hunters. Hungry and afraid, the estranged couple works together to survive … and the romance they’ve never had begins to blossom.

But their newfound love may be cut short by the ruthless man who controls the werewolves, and who hopes a cure is never found.

This is a sweet paranormal romance with no sex.

This story started life as a fanfic very loosely based on World of Warcraft. But since the characters were mine and I only borrowed a few names and the setting, it was easy to rewrite into an original story. It remains near and dear to my heart.

Besides, I like love stories that aren’t quite guy-meets-girl. These two are already married, so their romance is that much sweeter.

Characters in love

In one of my writing groups, someone posted the following question:

Hoping I can get some advice here.

I’m wondering if there are some hard and fast rules regarding young protagonists
fallings in love?

How does one show rather than tell?

Or is telling more appropriate?

I just did a workshop on SEX and YA.

Now I write sweet, so I thought this would be something I would never write
about, but the course did talk about kissing and apparently, I did all my
kissing scenes wrong.

Apparently, in YA when there’s a kiss involved you must never titillate the
readers as there might be 13 year old readers.

So I wondered, if I did this wrong, what else am I doing wrong.

This naturally spawned a very interesting discussion, because everybody has different opinions on romance and how to write it. Quite apart from the debate of “how much sexual involvement is too much”, it’s more a question of, “How do two people fall in love at all?”

I had a couple of stories where I wrestled with this problem. This is what I discovered:

Romance is just one more conflict.

Forget about “Writing romance” for a minute. Focus on your characters. What are their likes and dislikes? What makes them tick? What insurmountable problem are they facing in this story?

Next, think about the last time you had a crush, whether it was on someone in a movie or a real life person. There was something about them you found attractive, right? They were cute. They were funny. They were nice. Somehow they touched an emotional chord in you, and you connected with them.

But they may or may not have connected with you. BINGO! Conflict!

People usually fall in love with their polar opposite, too. Make sure your characters have opposing qualities. One is outgoing and the other is shy. One likes gangsta rap and the other prefers ’70s rock. One drives with both feet on the pedals and the other has never had a speeding ticket in their life. Opposites attract. And those qualities also cause conflict between them.

If you’re a new writer and haven’t tackled romance before, it seems pretty scary. I know I toyed with it a lot in fanfic before I got comfortable writing it. It’s really not that hard. He likes her, she likes him, she hides her feelings and so does he, even though he would really like their relationship to go somewhere.

Heck, in Silver Lining, I threw the kitchen sink at the romance plot: Zeff’s slowly dying of poisoning from being roboticized, Knux is trying to build a working deroboticizer. She keeps trying to break it off, even though she’s crazy about him, because she doesn’t foresee any kind of future for them, and he’s spending all his free time arguing with her.

Zephyer and Knuckles

In A Worgen Love Story, an arranged marriage has left Charlotte and Bernard with no mutual love or regard whatsoever. In fact, they don’t fall in love until after they’ve been bitten and are forced to rely on each other for survival, even as they seek a way to reverse the werewolf curse.

Lots of conflict. Half the conflict stems from the romance itself, and two people developing very strong feelings for each other, and being willing to sacrifice, and even die, for their love.

I think this is why I can’t really get in to young people, sixteen and under, having romantic relationships. Unless you can pledge your lifelong devotion and then stick it out, it’s not very romantic. Romantic is Amy and Rory in Doctor Who fighting through the hard parts and growing old together.