It’s Not My Problem YOU’RE on a Diet

I enjoy romances. I think every story is better with a romantic subplot, be it a thriller or hardcore military sci-fi space opera. I’ve written everything from slash fanfic, to steamy paranormal romance (Redclaw Security), to passionate, but closed-door historical romances (Redclaw Origins), and now cozy mysteries, which aren’t romances at all, but have a romantic arc (Ginny Reese Mysteries).

These days, as both a writer and a reader, I find myself leaning more toward off-page/closed door stories. That’s just where I am on my storytelling path in life right now. It doesn’t mean I find stories with more spice icky, or obscene, or whatever. Between the overwhelming stresses in my life and world events, such as the pandemic, I find myself craving a certain kind of story to get me through the day–and for me, personally, that happens not to be very spicy at the moment.

And might I say while I’m fine with describing stories with on-page sex scenes as “spicy” or “steamy” or filling up my texts with hot peppers or eggplant emojis, I LOATHE almost every term we use to describe books with no on-screen sex. “Sweet” is barely tolerable to me–it makes my teeth ache to think about it. “Clean” and/or “wholesome” make me want to throw things–as if stories with open door sex scenes are some how dirty, immoral, and obscene.

Romancelandia: we need a better term for closed door romances!! But I digress.

I happen to wander across this dividing line at will, choosing what level of heat I want to experience on a given day, in a given story, with a particular set of characters… and I know many other readers who do as well. There are also strong vocal defenders of their preferences. You’ll see discussions of “do they bang?” and there are websites devoted to providing readers with the information they desire about the kind of stories they seek. And yes, sometimes there is an element of condescension in some of these discussions conducted by the “we want banging!” side.

But you know what’s NOT there? Condemnation of readers and writers who prefer something else. 

Today I saw on Twitter a romance author share part of a communication she’d received from a reader that chastised her for taking what seemed to be a fun premise and sinking into “lewd” content that caused the reader not only to throw the book away, but contact the author to advise she should write more “wholesome” books.

I’m sorry, but this is wrong. You didn’t like the book? It didn’t meet your expectations? Fine. That happens. If that’s not the kind of story you want to read, you chalk it up to a mistake and you don’t purchase from that author again because now you know that this is the kind of story she enjoys writing. Have very specific reading needs where the romance heat levels don’t exceed your precise definitions? Create or join a Facebook or Discord group where you can gather with like-minded readers and share your recommendations.

I can’t imagine someone going to a closed-door romance writer and saying, “Based on the cover, title, and blurb, I thought this was going to be a fun, sexy romp. Instead, there was a level of chastity from the very beginning that made my skin crawl. How dare you take the characters into the bedroom and shut the door in my face! I was going to share this story with my friends, but instead I threw your book in the trash where it belongs. If you would consider taking that puritanical stick out of your characters’ butts and write a real, steamy romance story, I would consider reading it.”

Do you see how ludicrous that sounds?

What is different about the stance of some of the “wholesome” books-only reader is the level of righteousness that infuses their sense of entitlement. The implication that anyone who enjoys any other kind of content is somehow immoral, crude, and needs to be shamed. That their content should be modified–or banned.

Book banning is on the rise here in the US, with the rallying cry of “We must protect the children!” (despite the fact there has never been a mass killing of schoolchildren from reading a book, whereas guns are now the leading cause of death of children and adolescents in the US). Now a Virginia delegate, not content with having books reflecting diversity removed from schools, has filed a lawsuit against Barnes and Noble to prevent certain books from being sold to minors. Yes, in some cases, there are adult themes that can be controversial. However, the Virginia Beach school board member who has been spearheading many of the book banning campaigns reportedly hasn’t read many of the books she wants banned. I think it is very telling that the ten most frequently banned books in the US at this time most often deal with themes regarding self-discovery and embracing the differences of others. In Wyoming, some librarians may even face criminal charges for stocking certain books, usually pertaining to sex education and LBGTQ issues.

First they want to police the school library. Then it’s the public library. Now it’s an attempt to force a private company to do the same.

But tell me again how we shouldn’t perform background checks and waiting periods on people wishing to purchase automatic weapons, increase the age limit on buying guns, place restrictions on how much ammo can be purchased, and so on. It’s not the same, you say? You’re right. Because no one has ever walked into a school and killed a classroom of kids with a book. No one has ever walked into a church, a grocery store, or a movie theater carrying a book they got from the library and murdered the people within. No one has ever stood at window of a Vegas hotel and killed or injured nearly 500 people by lobbing books at them.

In another attempt to prevent school age children access to banned books, some school districts are removing the digital library service Overdrive from school access. Why? Because Overdrive lists books prohibited in those school districts.

Amazon has long dampened the ability for erotica to be found on a site search–now recent changes to their policies have stripped some books of their best-selling ranks and moved them out of their former categories into the erotica section, which greatly limits visibility and the ability to advertise these stories on the platform. Amazon makes up 80% of the average indie author’s sales. Amazon has the right as a private company to do this. Just as you have the right as a consumer not to read material you don’t want to read.

I find it ironic that the people who are the loudest about the “slippery slope” arguments when it comes to the 2nd Amendment have no problem icing down the sidewalks for the 1st Amendment, however.

Now you may think, well, this won’t affect me or my reading. And if you are part of the clean/wholesome only crowd, you may be right. For now.

Because there is always going to be someone out there who decides that their version of wholesome is the only correct, morally pure version–and that all other kinds of “wholesome” stories must follow suit or be banned.

And that’s my problem with this aspect of the creeping Purity Culture. It’s not enough to say, “I’ve decided to eliminate all gluten from my diet.” It’s saying “Gluten is an evil, horrible ingredient that should be banned from all food, and since no one in my family is eating gluten, we don’t think you should either.”

We don’t want pizza in our schools. Bakeries should stop selling cookies, croissants, doughnuts, and bagels. I refuse to have these things in my home and I DON’T WANT YOU TO HAVE THE PLEASURE OF CONSUMING THESE FOODS EITHER. The very fact that you take pleasure in a slice of warm crusty bread, fresh from the oven and slathered in butter means you are an immoral, filthy person. And if you are an immoral, dirty bread-eater, then your crude habits are putting my children and family at risk of doing the same. And THAT I will not tolerate.

See how that sounds?

You want to give up eating gluten? Want to go keto? Be my guest. But don’t cry foul when you have to walk past the bakery early on a Sunday morning and the smell of doughnuts reminds you of how good they can be.

Romancing the Vote: The Most AMAZING Auction ever!!

Whew! Have you checked out Romancing the Vote’s auction to raise money for Fair Fight yet? If not, why not?

You won’t BELIEVE the amazing items up for grabs! No, seriously, if you haven’t gone to look yet, run and do so now! Facetime with your favorite authors! Manuscript critiques by industry leaders. Copy editing, cover art, consults with scriptwriters and show runners! Autographed books, gift baskets, HOMEMADE COOKIES, jewelry, embroidery, and more. You can donate directly to Fair Fight, or you can roll your sleeves up and dive into a bidding war for your coveted item! There’s something for every desire and budget, so check it out!

I’m offering a Redclaw Origins package, which includes signed copies of the award-winning Bishop Takes Knight and Bishop’s Gambit, as well as some swag and a mystery surprise gift (hint: jewelry).

But the auction ends soon! You only have until 8 pm CST on Feb 18 to fight for your prizes! So run, don’t walk, to the auction and get your bids in! Good luck, and happy bidding!

Am I TikTok Famous Yet?

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

I first heard about TikTok in 2020. It seemed to be a place where people made short videos (not in my skill set) where they danced (so not me!) or make-up tutorials (interesting but how many can you watch?). I had ZERO interest to start an account or even watch more than one or two cute animal videos that friends sent to me.

I had a lot of concerns about the format:

  1. Did I REALLY need to be on yet another social media platform?? Especially one that seemed to rely heavily on putting your face out there? Sure there are accounts where people managed to make entertaining content while not showing their face, but did they get the same following? Probably not.
  2. Did you see the part about “entertaining content”? I’m a writer, not an actress, producer, or sound editor. There’s a reason I live mostly behind a keyboard.
  3. The format seemed to be similar to tumblr, which I hated. A constant flow of bite sized posts with little way of tracking the ones you liked (or so I thought). 
  4. I have a LOT of reasons for not wanting my face on social media. I’ve had a stalker. I’m concerned my place of employment would take exception to the fact I’ve written a few racy romances (even though most of mine are fairly tame).
  5. I kept hearing concerns about the security of your information, given that TT is a subsidiary of a Chinese-based company.
  6. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to come up with more than 1-2 videos before running out of ideas.
  7. Almost everyone I saw on TikTok was gorgeous, and I’m not. I’m old, frumpy, and at least 40 pounds overweight. I grew up hearing how homely I was, and that the worst thing a woman could do was show her age and gain weight, so naturally, I did both. I absolutely loathe looking in the mirror. I’m not kidding. 

So I resisted the urge to join. I kept hearing what a great place BookTok was, however, and the FOMO was strong. Then too, I kept seeing these hysterically funny videos by Alisha Rai showing up on my Twitter and Instagram feeds, where she depicts little conversations between Satan and one of his minions. They are utterly brilliant. Still, I held out. TikTok wasn’t for me.

But then authors kept saying what an AMAZING place TikTok was for discoverability, especially for smaller authors or your backlist. And I was mightily tempted. Maybe I could make some vids without showing my face? Mark Dawson did a five day challenge in his Self-Publishing Formula group, and I decided to create an account and make a few videos. Shabby efforts at first. I had no idea what I was doing.

But then I got snowed in for a 3-day weekend, and I watched a LOT of TikTok. I tried out recipes, started Tai Chi, laughed over cute animal vids, considered side hustles that would let me quit the day job, began watching makeup tutorials aimed at my age group (so frustrating that makeup tends to look TERRIBLE on me now), and got really, really frustrated with the poor quality of my videos. It reminded me of when I first joined livejournal and I didn’t know how to code or embed images and I wanted to play SO BADLY that I taught myself.

So I began watching a crap-ton of TT tutorials. And then I discovered that Canva had a mobile app that allowed you to upload your creations directly to TT! I learned out to change the font, color, and size of my text, and how to make it appear at exactly the right time in the video.

And then, God help me. I discovered the filters. I began playing with filters, wigs, makeup, and transitions  I saved sound clips to use, got ideas from watching others, and became the queen of lip-syncing. I learned how to do the clever transitions, and have had a blast making short vids. Me, who rarely took videos and hadn’t the foggiest idea how to edit ANYTHING before TT. I was doing something I haven’t done in a very long time–probably not since the beginning of the pandemic–I was having fun. Okay, so not TikTok famous, and haven’t make a single sale as far as I can tell. And my friends were quick to point out that the filters and wigs weren’t disguising me–anyone who knew me would recognize me. I discovered then that I’d truly run out of f*cks to give. I didn’t care. Might my coworkers run across my videos? Yeah. Could I get fired? Maybe. But the thought of that doesn’t terrify me as much as it used to. I used to believe I was trapped, that I didn’t have the skill set to do much of anything else if I lost my job and jobs in this area are few and far between. A few weeks on TikTok, and suddenly I’m not afraid of that anymore.

BUT….

 

I haven’t written more than 100 words in the last two weeks. I’ve drafted over 30 TikTok videos, however. Sounds good, right? Only that’s about 10 days worth of content, according to the algorithms for getting notice on TT. I had the day off yesterday, and instead of writing, I made TT videos all morning long. I wasn’t sleeping well before I joined TT, but I was at least attempting to go to bed at a reasonable time. Now I’m often up past 1 am when I have work the next day. I’m hearing 15 second sound clips in my head all the time. My ability to focus, a little shaky already, has gone in the GUTTER. I also find myself picking up my phone and checking TT every couple of minutes. It feels like an addiction, peeps.

I suspect it’s like anything else when I first discover it–I dive in headfirst and become completely absorbed until I master the skills I want to use, and then my obsession will settle down. Moving forward, I’ll have to practice a little self-control. I’m doing a lot of things wrong, too. My posts don’t have any call to action, and I’m not staying in my niche/lane. I probably have more writers following me than readers. I’ve gained over 700 followers in 2 weeks, but at least half (if not more) of those are bots or men looking for a good time (seriously, you think TT is a dating app??). And sadly, I am not TikTok famous. Yet.

But that’s okay because, for now, I’m having fun.

 

What’s New in 2022: It’s a Party and You’re All Invited!

I don’t know about you, but somehow the end of the year snuck up on me without my realizing it. Life got crazy there for a while, and I never got around to making my EOY post, which is fine because I hate doing those kinds of reflective summaries anyway. I never seem to have been as productive or as successful as I might have hoped, you know?

Most of you who follow this blog know I like to create a power word or phrase for the coming year, and that looks like it will be a bust this year as well. I chose fearless for 2019. It was audacious for 2020. Resilent for 2021. I think maybe it’s time to retire power words for a while, don’t you?

I had a Tarot reading done for 2021 heading into 2022. The Tower and Judgement cards were major players in my life in 2021 (sadly, this could apply pretty much to every year since 2016), with the Devil and the Fool being factors in the upcoming year. I can overcome if I play to my strengths and ditch my issues with self-confidence and self-sabotage. Sounds ominous? I think so, too. 😉

I was recently exposed to Covid through the workplace, which led to a scramble to get tested. I’m negative at the moment, but isolating from my high-risk family members to be on the safe side.

All in all, I’m surprised I’ve gotten anything accomplished this month!

But the good news is I finished the draft of the second Ginny Reese book: The Dog Days of Murder! It’s off to editing soon. Look for a release date late winter, early spring! If you are signed up for my newsletter, you’ll get a sneak peek at the cover before everyone else! The gang’s all there: Ginny, her dog Remy, Ming the Merciless, the Siamese cat, as well as the cast of characters living in Greenbrier, including her mother, the indomitable Julia Reese! Ginny’s plans to open her own vet practice go awry when a newcomer swoops into town with mysterious financial backing AND a connection to Joe. Of course, this new veterinarian winds up getting murdered, right? 🙂

I did a fun interview with Marcia James about pets in books and why I include them. Be sure to check it out and see some great pictures! 

Tomorrow, I’m participating in a big release day bash for Kerry Blaisell’s latest release, Damning the Dead. There’s going to be a Facebook party with 13 other authors, with games and prizes galore. Not only are you invited, but you should invite your friends too! It’s Jan 5 from 4-7:30 Pacific Standard Time, so be sure to join us!! Join the group now so you won’t miss a thing!

Here’s the schedule:

Schedule of participating authors:
  • Jeff D. Ellis ~ 4:00 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Bob Herold ~ 4:15 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Tena Stetler ~ 4:30 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Dan Rice ~ 4:45 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • McKenna Dean ~ 5:00 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Hunter Skye ~ 5:15 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Pamela Thibodeaux ~ 5:30 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Shelly Chalmers ~ 5:45 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Theresa Finn ~ 6:00 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Augustina Van Hoven ~ 6:15 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Janet Raye Stevens ~ 6:30 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Anna M. Taylor ~ 6:45 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Sally Brandle ~ 7:00 PM PACIFIC TIME

 

And now that I’ve finished the second Ginny Reese book, it’s time for me to go back to Bishop and Knight’s story. When we last left them, Rhett and Peter had become very close, but they’d also been fired from Redclaw and hired by the competition: Rian Stirling! We all know that Rian has his eye on Rhett as well, so this doesn’t bode well for our intrepid duo. Sometimes, however, you must form an alliance with an enemy to defeat a more powerful adversary. No spoilers, but we’ll find out the source of all those mysterious artifacts and why the planet has been seeded with them…

 

Maybe I should chose a power word after all. How does confidence sound? 🙂

 

 

Holiday Gift Guide for the Writer in Your Life

Photo by Monstera from Pexels

It’s that time of year again–when we start thinking about holiday shopping and what the writer in our lives might want as a gift. Okay, that writer is me. Just kidding! Okay, maybe I’m only kidding a little.

See, most non-writers don’t have a clue what kind of gift to give to the authors in their lives. They want to show their support! They want to give something useful. But if you’re not a writer yourself, it’s hard to know what to get. That’s why I’m going to recommend a few things myself but I’m also opening the door for YOUR suggestions. Tell me what you’ve been longing for, what you have on your wish list, what you’d dearly love the most. I want to know about it! Who knows, someone you love might stumble across this list and get you the one thing YOU’VE been hoping for!

Let’s start with the easiest kinds of gifts to shop for: books on craft! There are SO many out there, and many are targeted to genre as well. I know a lot of people who recommend Anne Lamont’s Bird by Bird and Stephen King’s On Writing. For romance writers, many consider Romancing the Beat an invaluable tool. I’m also a big fan of The Emotion Thesaurus (and the other books in that line).

But as a mystery writer, I also love books on forensics and police procedure, as well toxicology, poisons and the other means by which you can kill someone. Keep in mind, books on craft aren’t necessarily about writing per se; they can also include books and courses on marketing, advertising, and so on. 

What about planners? I would be lost without my Author’s Planner by Audrey Hughey!

It’s more than just another notebook or calendar. SO MUCH MORE. You can track your daily and weekly goals, your expenditures (to make doing your taxes so much easier!), plan your marketing and social media campaigns, newsletters, you name it! What I love about it is it’s large enough for me to work in without cramming tiny notes everywhere, and the coil-bound cover allows it to lay flat while you’re working on it. It’s a bit like having an organizer, an accountability partner, a cheerleader, and a coach all rolled up into one.
 
The 2021 Author’s Planner is designed to be your all-in-one day planner and writing-career coach, helping you organize your writing life and get on a clear path to reach your goals.
 
Have you thought about editing software? I bet you haven’t! But there are some great programs out there. I like ProWritingAid the best, but there are lots of services out there. Right now, PWA is having a Black Friday sale until 11/30/21 so you can get a year’s subscription up to 50% off!
 
Online courses are also wonderful! There are all kinds of courses on mastering Amazon ads, writing blurbs, or just writing in general. I got a lot out of Inkers Con last year, and the best part is you have access to the materials for three years after the conference! I’m toying with attending live versus digital in 2022, but to be honest, it’s FAR more economic for me to attend digitally–no airfare, no hotel, no boarding the dogs… and I can attend in my PJs if I want! You can still get access to the 2021 Conference if you want to start there. I believe it’s discounted right now!
 
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been toying with looking into such software as Scrivener, Vellum, and Atticus for formatting to take my self-published books to the next level. Unfortunately, Vellum is for Macs, but sometimes I’m tempted. I’m very tempted…. 
 
Likewise, the author in your life might be jonesing for some graphics programs, such as the premium services offered by Canva or Bookbrush. Sure, we can use the free versions, but the paid services allow us to take our publications and social media graphics to that coveted next level of professional design.
 
If all else fails, offer to gift your writer the funds to cover the purchase of cover art or professional editing! Those two items right there represent a huge chunk of investment, and something most indie authors would love a little help with.
 
So what about you? What’s on your wish list? What have you been eyeing for yourself or someone else?

Have You Written a Holiday Romance or Mystery? Tell Me About It!

Last week I posted about my love of holiday movies and books. I’m particularly fond of holiday romances, but I’m partial to holiday mysteries too. In last week’s post I asked for your recommendations, and I certainly want to hear about your favorite books and holiday movies, so drop in at that post and tell me more!

But this week I want to hear all about the holiday stories you’ve written! Doesn’t matter if they were published this year or in years past, I want to know all about them! Drop your links, share your blurbs and teasers. SHOW ME THE STORIES!

I’d love to make this the ultimate 2021 Holiday Book Shopping List!

 

As much as I love holiday romances, I haven’t actually written one myself. Maybe next year! The closest I’ve come is my snowed-in paranormal romance, Ghost of a Chance. She’s a fangirl with a dark secret. His inner wolf isn’t speaking to him. Pitted against each other for an valuable inheritance, cut off from the outside world, they must learn to work together when a series of increasingly dangerous events threatens their lives. When it becomes clear that these incidents aren’t accidental, who can they trust?

Like snowed-in stories? Then check it out!

But PLEASE leave me your holiday book links!! 

 

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year: I Need Your Holiday Movie and Book Recommendations!

Okay, so those who know me know I am a SUCKER for holiday-themed romance stories and movies. I got hooked on them as a teenager when I discovered an anthology of Regency Holiday Romances. I devoured it, and have looked for more every holiday season.

For me, that “holiday season” starts in November, and some years lasts until March. I crave romances that take place in snowy venues, mysteries in snow-bound country homes, average girls who find their prince in a fictional kingdom in the snow-covered Alps.

See, the key ingredient for me is snow. It’s a rarity here, and cause for celebration because Snow Day! Am I right? When you live in the hot, humid, sweltering South, you pine for ice skating parties, sledding down monster hills, and drinking hot cocoa by a crackling fire in the hearth. I love stories where the girl returns or arrives in a small town and falls in love–probably because I am not a city girl myself. I love wreaths on the doors, and baking snickerdoodles, and at this time of year, I want holiday stories and movies.

Mostly because the message of these stories is guaranteed to be uplifting. There is joy, hope, love and a little bit of magic to be had in these stories, and we could all use a little bit more of that these days.

This is the first of a series of Holiday-Themed Posts asking for your recommendations.

This post is for story and movie recommendations. This time, Monday Nov 8, I’d like very much if you’d sell me on YOUR favorite holiday movie or novel. This post is for you to recommend something you love, but not your own work, please. Next week, Monday Nov 15th, I’ll ask for links to YOUR holiday stories–and I want to hear about them ALL. There are 12 holidays of all nationalities and religions celebrated in December alone–if you’ve written a story set during one of these times, I want to hear about it! It does not have to be a new release, either! The post after that, Monday Nov 22, I’m going to be asking for your gift-giving recommendations, with special focus on those for writers.

I have some current favorite movies to share with you here. Yes, I love It’s a Wonderful Life, Christmas in Connecticut, Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, and not a single Christmas goes by without a re-watch of The Muppet Christmas Carol. But I also love The Holiday, with Jack Black, Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, and Jude Law. A fun, heartwarming movie about finding your place with the right people. I also adore Last Holiday with Queen Latifah–I adore how she finds her inner lioness when she thinks she is about to die. I’m also a sucker for The Princess Switch movies–how many characters can Vanessa Hudgens play in one movie? Can they possibly add a 4th character? We’ll have to see! Because I also love musicals, I make a point of re-watching A Cinderella Story: A Christmas Wish. Just love this one! I’m also fond of A Princess for Christmas, in part because I really like Katie McGrath as an actress and she brings her skill to this movie.

As for stories, there are almost too many to share! I have on tap to read On Christmas Tree Cove by Sarah Vance-Tompkins, Holiday Ever After by Jill Shalvis, The Holiday Switch by Tif Marcelo, and Jenny Holiday’s A Princess for Christmas. In the past, I’ve enjoyed A Timeless Christmas by Alexis Stanton, It Happened One Christmas (Anthology), Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory, A Wallflower Christmas by Lisa Kleypas, and SO MANY MORE. It’s embarrassing how many of these stories I have on my Kindle, and I’m looking for more!

So share with me YOUR favorite holiday movies and stories! I want them all! Tell me where I can find them, but more importantly, why do you love it so? Why should I love it too?? I can’t wait to indulge!

Bishop’s Gambit on sale for a limited time!

Hey! To celebrate the recent honors for Bishop’ Gambit, for a limited time you can grab this story for just 99 cents! Bishop’s Gambit recently placed Second in the 2021 Daphne du Maurier Awards for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense and placed Second in the 2021 PRISM Awards for Light Paranormal Romance.

They’re back and the fun–and trouble–is just beginning! Join Bishop and Knight as they must pose as a married couple to root out the strange disturbances occurring in an upscale suburban neighborhood! 

Bishop’s Gambit (Redclaw Origins Book 2)

Newly-minted secret agent Rhett Bishop would rather face down a horde of angry wolf shifters or her father’s former mob contacts than accept her current assignment: pose undercover as a suburban housewife, complete with a husband, slippers, and pipe.

But after the debacle of her previous mission, Rhett has a lot to prove.

To redeem herself in the eyes of Redclaw Security, and to carry out her mission without distractions, she must table her budding relationship with Peter Knight while the two of them uncover the secrets of Forest Grove.

Armed with her trusty ray gun, her unique little dog, and Knight’s brains, Rhett is confident she can handle whatever the suburbs can throw at her.

Until they lob a curveball.

Bishop’s Gambit was also named a Top Pick by The Romance Reviews!

Kirkus Reviews describes as “thoroughly entertaining and witty, with a nicely judged mix of genres.”

Available from Amazon and these other retailers.

Sale ends soon so grab your copy ASAP!

What do Romances and Mysteries Have in Common?

The other evening I popped into an online book discussion group being held by the Carnegie Library, hosted by Jennie Ellis. I only found out about the book club at the last moment, and joined because while I hadn’t read the featured book, I had read other books by the author, Julia Buckley, and she was going to be present.

What ensued was a delightful hour in which Ms. Buckley described her writing process, and how she came to create her various series, including the Hungarian Tea House Mysteries. She also fielded questions about the publishing industry, her past projects, and what to expect from her in the future.

Toward the end of the discussion, the subject of cozy mysteries in general came up. I lamented that many publishing houses had dropped their cozy lines, and the consensus was this was an inexplicable decision on their part because like romance readers, cozy readers are voracious.

That got me to thinking about the other ways in which romance and mysteries have commonalities, and it occurred to me during the discussion that one of the biggest things the two genres have in common is their contract with the reader.

There’s only one hard-and-fast rule in Romance: there must be a happily ever after (HEA) or at the least, a happily for now (HFN). That means that no matter what happened during the course of the story, we should have either a declaration of commitment between the couple or some indication they are going to be together in the future. It does not mean there must be a baby in the epilogue, though this is an addendum many authors and readers enjoy. It also doesn’t mean that the entire story must be fluffy and light without any angst or difficult storylines. Sometimes the reward of the HEA is all the sweeter for the suffering that took place before reaching that point.

I was having this discussion with my husband this morning, and he brought up (on cue) Romeo and Juliet. Everyone brings up R&J! Shakespeare’s play is not a romance but a tragedy. I went on to say that one of the reasons people take exception to Nicholas Sparks’ books being labeled as romances is the frequent lack of a HEA. Romances have ONE rule.

“Okay,” my husband said, “but what if the purpose of breaking the contract is to get you to look at something from another point of view?”

“Then categorize it as something else,” I countered. “Put it like this: suppose you bought a sci-fi story based on the cover and the blurb. You had every expectation of reading a military space opera based on these things, but instead, you get a romance. You’d be disappointed, especially if you were in the mood for something different.”

“But the Murderbot books aren’t just science fiction,” he offered. “They explore relationships, what it means to have friends, to be human.”

“Themes science fiction explores all the time. Romance has one rule. HEA. How you get there can vary in a million different ways but you have to get there.”

Which brings me to the rule I believe mysteries–or at least cozy mysteries–have: justice will be served.

Like romances, the route at which you arrive at justice can take many forms. I can recall reading an old Ellery Queen novel once in which Ellery figured out who the killer was, but for various reasons, couldn’t go forward with the conviction. At the time, the ending enraged me so much, I threw the book across the room. As a much older and wiser person, I can see the ending made sense, and that the authors had not broken their contract with me, the way I thought they did when I read the story.

It was the frustration of my expectations that angered me so much when I read that story.

The contract should be sacred in my book.

In a mystery, you’re presented with a crime of some sort (not necessarily a murder, but that is often the case). There may be a romance as well–certainly I was more invested in Lord Peter Wimsey’s investigations when they included Harriet Vane–but the romance isn’t central to the story. The central story is the puzzle, the “whodunnit”, behind the shady activity. A mystery writer should make all the clues available to the reader as well, not holding back vital information that the sleuth has access to but the reader does not. It’s part of the deal: providing enough information for the reader to connect the dots while hopefully obscuring the solution until the very end. 

The one rule of mystery? The good guys win.

I think this is why the mystery genre has its devoted following. It’s the same concept as it is with romance: you have certain expectations when you enter into the story. You picked up the story because you were in the mood for something specific. Perhaps you chose a romance because needed to hear that love conquers all. Or perhaps you went with a mystery because you needed to believe that crooked bad guys would someday get their comeuppance.

When I choose to read genre fiction, I do so because I want a certain kind of story with expectations of it ending in a certain way. Let me tell you, with the stresses I’ve been under the past few years, I select my entertainment carefully these days. I don’t read as much sci-fi as I used to because the storylines are often darker and less likely to end well. Am I coddling myself a bit right now? You bet. At some point, when life doesn’t hurt so much, when my mental health is more stable, I’m sure I will go back to stories and movies with darker themes.

While I fully believe there’s a place for having your beliefs challenged, or your insight expanded, I think that can still be done within the confines of a contract if you’re writing genre fiction. Not writing genre fiction? The sky’s the limit! Torture your protagonists! Throw them off a cliff. Let the bad guys win.

But call it something other than romance if your story ends in sorrow, and something other than mystery if the murder is never solved. Your readers will thank you.

Cover Reveal: On Christmas Tree Cove by Sarah Vance-Tompkins

If you’re like me, and love Christmas stories, you probably want to start reading them as soon as there’s a chill in the air. Well, good news! You can pre-order Sarah Vance-Tomkins upcoming release and get it in October to read it!



On Christmas Tree Cove
Sarah Vance-Tompkins
Published by: Tule Publishing
Publication date: October 27th
2021
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Holiday, Romance

This Christmas calls for a special touch of magic…

December was always a special time for seaplane pilot Morgan Adair, but after losing her parents six years ago, the holiday is a quiet affair. When her siblings announce
plans to sell the family home, Morgan longs to experience her favorite, now-forgotten tradition one more time: a lighted tree that, for over a hundred years, has appeared floating on a boat in the harbor every Christmas Eve.

 

The Taylors were always rivals to the Adairs in the once-thriving fishing village of Christmas Tree Cove, but Jesse Taylor was much more. He wanted to be understanding
when Morgan set aside their plans to escape to Chicago in order to hold her family together, but his future as a successful freelance photographer soared on without her.

 

As Morgan dives deeper into the history of the mysterious holiday appearance, she discovers that true love has always been at the heart of the annual tradition. Can the wonder of
Christmas and a few surprises along the way rekindle that love for Morgan and Jesse too?

Add to Goodreads / Pre-order

 

Author Bio:

Sarah Vance-Tompkins was born in a small town in northern Michigan. She spent every
summer exploring the sugar sand beaches near Sleeping Bear National Park. She left her heart
behind when she moved to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California. She received an MFA in Film Production and went on to work in feature film development in
Hollywood. She has worked as a reporter for a weekly entertainment trade publication, written press releases, the directions for use on personal lubricant bottles, and breathless descriptions of engagement rings for an online jewelry store. She lives in a small town north of Los Angeles with her husband and two unruly cats.

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