Romancing the Jerk [REPOST]

Phyllis Towzey 2015~ By Jane Peden

Writing a hero readers will fall in love with is always challenging – but never more so than in category romance.  Especially if you are writing about presumptuous arrogant billionaires whose cold hearts and rash judgments are in dire need of redeeming.  You know the type.  The CEO who seduces his secretary, then fires her when she’s falsely accused of being a corporate spy.  The heir to the throne who shows up on his discarded girlfriend’s doorstep and demands that she leave her job and her country behind and go with him to a distant land, or else he’ll take their child away from her forever.  The corporate raider who forces an old rival’s daughter to marry him under threat of destroying her father’s business.

See?  You already don’t like him . . .

But the author knows that by the end of the book, this man will be totally worthy of the heroine’s love.

In my debut novel, The Millionaire’s Unexpected Proposal, I struggled with making my heroine likeable.  I wrote a secret baby story, where the heroine shows up five years after a Las Vegas fling, with the hero’s child in tow.   Not only did she never tell him she was pregnant – she also married another man she didn’t love for money, and passed the child off as her husband’s.  Only now, when she’s a widow facing an ugly custody suit by her former in-laws, does she run to the hero for help.

Did she have good reasons for her choices?  Of course.  But I worried that readers wouldn’t be willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Well, readers liked my heroine just fine.  They had much less tolerance for my hero, whose anger and lack of trust in the heroine seemed to me to be completely justified.  More than one reader-reviewer lamented Sam is such a jerk.  And a few even went so far as to say that by the time he groveled at the end of the book it was just too late.

Looking back on those reactions, I’ve concluded that category romance readers – the vast majority of whom are women – come to the book hard-wired to identify with the heroine.  So it’s easier for them to accept her motivation as genuine.  The hero, on the other hard, better prove himself worthy of both the heroine’s and the reader’s love.

And you have to lay the groundwork early on, or readers – and agents and editors – may never read past the first chapter.

Here are some ways to romance the jerk hero, and keep readers from giving up on him, regardless of whether you are writing category or single title:

  • Give the reader some insight into his motivation as soon as possible. You don’t have to tell all in the first few chapters, but drop a few hints about why he’s so closed off emotionally.
  • Show us one little vulnerability.  Maybe he has a soft spot for stray dogs. Or he can’t resist jelly doughnuts.
  • Give him a backstory that parallels a point of conflict in your story.
  • Have him admire – even fleetingly – some trait of the heroine’s.
  • Give him a touch of self-awareness.  He knows he’s being a jerk, but believe he has no alternative.
  • Have a likeable secondary character find him worthy of admiration or trust.  If they like him, there must be something more beneath the surface, right?

By including one or more of these ingredients, you humanize your hero and make the reader want to dig deeper to discover why he behaves the way he does – and they’ll be invested in his struggle to overcome the obstacles he’s put in his own path.

Because what good is an HEA if no one is rooting for it?

* What are the characteristics of your favorite heroes? Leave a comment and share your thoughts. 

Jane Peden is a Florida trial attorney who writes sexy contemporary romances set in the exciting South Florida city of Miami, where millionaire lawyers live extravagant lifestyles and find love when they least expect it. When Jane isn’t in court, you can find her at the beach with her laptop, dreaming up stories about successful, confident men who know what they want and how to get it, and smart, sexy women who demand love on their own terms.  Jane lives on the Gulf Coast of Florida with her husband, two kids, two dogs, and a fish.  Jane’s debut novel, The Millionaires’ Unexpected Proposal – the first in her Miami Lawyers series – was released through Entangled Publishing’s Indulgence line in March 2015.  

Website || Facebook || Twitter ||

Writing Novellas and Novels in the Same Series [REPOST]

Deb author photo~ By Deborah Blake 

Someone asked me in an interview recently what the difference was between writing novellas and novels in the same series, and if one was easier than the other. The answer, of course, is that they are both hard. But that each one has its own challenges and its own rewards.

So far in my Baba Yaga series, I have written two novellas and four novels (the third one just came out February second, and the next one will be out in October) and it has been interesting to play with the different forms.

Unlike some of my author friends, I haven’t written very much short fiction. Other than a couple of short stories (including the one published in The Pagan Anthology of Short Fiction), I’ve almost exclusively written in the long form. In fact, when Berkley asked me to write a prequel novella for the Baba Yaga series, I’d never written a novella before.

It’s harder than you’d think.

With a novel, the challenge is mostly in coming up with enough story to fill the pages—about 90,000 to 100,000 words worth. You need to build complicated characters and intricate intertwined plotlines and create enough tension to keep people reading chapter after chapter. Of course, in a series, you may have some of the same characters showing up over and over, but since an author can never assume that his or her readers have actually read the previous books in the series, each book also need to recap the necessary information from the other books without using the dreaded “info dump.”

In a novella, on the other hand, you don’t have time to explore either the characters or the plot in such depth, so you need to be able to get across much of the same feeling in a lot fewer words. On the other other hand, it is a lot shorter, so it is way faster to write!

I had two different goals with the two novellas, in part because they fell at different places in the series. The prequel novella, Wickedly Magical, came out before the first novel and was intended to introduce the reader to all three of the Baba Yaga characters who would be featured in the first three books, but most especially to Barbara, the protagonist from WICKEDLY DANGEROUS. My hope was that the story would intrigue people enough that they would go on to read the longer novel. (Side note: as far as I can tell, it worked! Yay!)

The second novella, which fell after books one and two, and before three, was more of a fun piece that allowed me to follow up on what happened with Barbara after her main “story” was wrapped up at the end of her book. (She does show up in book three and book four. Very pushy, our Barbara.) It was, in some ways, a gift for my readers, who wanted to know what happened next. Wickedly Ever After is a glimpse into what happened after the fairy tale ending. Did she live happily ever after or didn’t she? The novella got to answer that question.

I wouldn’t say that I prefer writing one form over the other. Each has its plusses and minuses. What I really love is being able to tell the stories of the Baba Yagas (and now, their companions The Riders) and share them with my readers. Hopefully my modern take on the traditional Russian fairy tale witches has pleased my readers, no matter what the length of the story.

Have you written a series? What tips to you have? Please share in the comments! 

Deborah Blake is the author of the Baba Yaga paranormal romance series, including Wickedly Magical, Wickedly Dangerous and Wickedly Wonderful (Berkley) as well as eight books on modern witchcraft from Llewellyn Worldwide. She has an ongoing column in Witches & Pagans Magazine and was featured in The Pagan Anthology of Short Fiction. She can be found at

Friday Writing Prompt - With Inspiration from Gilmore Girls

Luke and Lorelai

Happy Friday!

To kick off the weekend, we’ve got a writing prompt.

This week, your protagonist has just broken up with her fiance and she learns a very important lesson.

This prompt is a little cheesier than usual, but oh well.

Don’t be shy. Dive in and give this a shot. It’ll get you warmed up for a weekend of writing, and prompts are a great exercise in learning about your voice.

It’s also, um, kind of stolen borrowed from an episode of Gilmore Girls.

The Scene

Though your protagonist is carrying on with life as usual, she’s had a lot on her mind since breaking up with her fiance.

In particular, she’s starting to think about the people in her life, and who she’ll always be able to count on.

One night, during a conversation with a guy who’s always been “just a friend,” she decides to have a conversation that goes something like this:

Protagonist: I don’t have very many people in my life who are in my life permanently forever. They will always be there for me. I will always be there for them, you know? There’s [she lists a few people] and . . . you. I mean, at least I think I’ve got —“

“Friend:” You do.

Protagonist: Good. Just checking. 

Your task: Contine the conversation. Do they keep talking about how they feel or do they change the subject? Are things awkward or do things feel strangely right? 

Leave your scene in the comments! Stuck? This should help. (Or at least keep you entertained.)

If you’ve got a favorite Gilmore Girls moment (or Friends moment, Seinfeld moment, or moment from any TV show moment you love) that would make a good writing prompt, let me know!

Find more writing prompts. . . 

Beyond the Typical Contemporary Character Occupations

claire_boston~ Claire Boston

The suggested topic for this blog was common contemporary vocations; doctors/nurses, military, business mogul/secretary, cowboy and I have to admit when I saw the list I groaned. It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good romance with those occupations, but I do get a little tired of them. The romances that really excite me are those that step away from what’s normal or common. I love learning little things about other people’s lives and jobs when I’m reading.

One romance that sticks clearly in my head is Nora Roberts’ Chasing Fire about the fire fighters who parachute in to fight fires. It was exciting, fresh and new and I loved finding out more about the whole fire-fighting process.

When I’m brainstorming what occupation my latest hero and heroine are going to have, I ask myself two things:

  1. What does the story need?
  2. What do I want to learn more about?

Story is important and if you want your characters to be able to go gallivanting across the globe, then they can’t have a 9-5 job or major responsibilities – unless of course they pay the consequences of the gallivanting later. It also needs to fit the setting – a swimming teacher in the middle of the Arctic might not work.

Sometimes you need to be a little bit flexible. I had to adjust the type of company my characters worked for in my latest book, Break the Rules. Originally the idea was sparked by reading a true account of some miners being stuck underground for two weeks after an earthquake. I wanted my characters to work in safety on an underground mine in Western Australia, which is where I live, but my publisher wanted the story to be set in the US. I’d already set a series in Houston, so I looked at the industry in the area and decided an oil refinery had as much use for safety advisors as a mine did, and so while the vocation didn’t change, the setting did.

Another thing to think about is changing the tropes of romance. I know the male business mogul/female secretary is a really popular trope, but I grow weary of it. Why can’t the heroine be the billionaire? So instead of complaining about it, I did something about it. In the second book in The Flanagan Sisters series, Change of Heart, my heroine is the software billionaire. I had so much fun writing her, and though her secretary is male, he isn’t the hero (though he may be for a future book).

I think the key to writing strong characters is the ability to have fun with them and really explore what is important in their world. This could mean that you get to explore what interests you and what you enjoy. I don’t need to tell you that one of the best things about writing is being able to explore places, occupations and cultures that you might not otherwise have an excuse to explore. Sometimes this very research can give you a story that you never would have thought of writing. In my Flanagan Sisters series I wanted to explore ethnic diversity and I made the sisters half-Hispanic, half-Irish migrants from El Salvador. This opened a whole different world to me. Before I knew it I was researching unaccompanied child migrants from Central America which became a key thread in the whole series. If I’d stuck with the common occupations and my default white character, I wouldn’t have found this different and fascinating subject. So next time you’re thinking about character, consider reaching for the obscure jobs, or putting a twist on common tropes. I think your readers will thank you.

Claire Boston is the best-selling author of The Texan Quartet. In 2014 she was nominated for an Australian Romance Readers Award as Favourite New Romance Author.

Claire is proactive in organising social gatherings and educational opportunities for local authors. She is an active volunteer for Romance Writers of Australia, as a mentor for aspiring authors and the reader judge coordinator.

When Claire’s not writing she can be found in the garden attempting to grow vegetables, or racing around a vintage motocross track.

Claire lives in Western Australia, just south of Perth, with her husband, who loves even her most annoying quirks, and her grubby, but adorable Australian bulldog.

Turning A Villain Into A Hero: Alan Rickman

SVT2015~ By Sarah Vance-Tompkins

I fell in love with Alan Rickman in Truly, Madly, Deeply, a sweet indie movie about finding closure after the loss of a love.

I had no idea how good he was at being bad until I saw him as Hans Gruber in Die Hard.

Dressed in a Saville Row suit, with a vaguely European accent, he bursts onto the screen, opposite some delicious man candy in the form of Bruce Willis and Alexander Godunov, and dares you to look away.

Every time I watch Die Hard, I am reminded once again, why Hans Gruber is at the top of so many lists of favorite movie villains. There is so much you can love to hate, especially the way Rickman played him.

Rickman didn’t think of Gruber that way. “I’m not playing the villain,” he once said in an interview with The New Yorker magazine. “I’m just playing somebody who wants certain things in life, has made certain choices, and goes after them.”

“I don’t play villains. I play interesting people.”

Maybe that’s why Hans Gruber is so much more than just a classic villain.

As the movie hurtles toward the climax, there is a scene when the female heroine, Holly Gennaro, confronts Hans after realizing he is not a political extremist.

“After all of your posturing, all your little speeches, you’re nothing but a common thief,” she says.

Hans grabs her by the arm, and pulls her close. The top of Holly’s blouse is hanging open, and they’re both breathing heavy. “I am an exceptional thief, Mrs. McClane. And since I’m moving up to kidnapping, you should be more polite.”

Wait? What? What is going on here? My ‘anything-can-be-a-romance’ imagination has transformed Die Hard from a popcorn- action flick into a romantic suspense plot bunny.

What will happen next? Will Holly and Hans find passion in each other’s arms? Or will the FBI find them before they make it to the secluded beach where they’ll be ‘collecting twenty percent’?

Maybe I should be writing this down.

Can you think of other movie villains or bad guys who could be transformed into romance heroes just by looking at the story from their unique point-of-view? Who are your favorites?

Sarah Vance-Tompkins received an MFA in Film Production from the University of Southern California. She went on to work in feature film development. She is a member of the Los Angeles Romance Authors RWA, the Contemporary Romance RWA, and the Young Adult RWA. Her debut YA novella, KISSES ON A PAPER AIRPLANE will be released by Inkspell Publishing in May 2016. 

Them's the Rules

samantha_tonge~ By Samantha Tonge

Note: This post was originally posted here.

There are many so-called rules to do with writing which I diligently stuck to as an aspiring writer. However, when I started mixing on-line with experienced authors, their view was to learn the rules, yes – but not so that you necessarily stick to them, but so you can break them with confidence. And now, years later, I couldn’t agree more.


Here are a few of the more common rules writers talk about, and my view on them – other authors, of course, might disagree! This is simply my opinion of what I find works.

Show not Tell.

Yes. Very important. This involves the reader more in the story and makes them figure things our for themselves, which results in a far more satisfying experience. Don’t tell the reader Sarah is depressed. Show this by having her refuse to eat a slice of her favourite cake or sit staring at a newspaper but not turn the page for half-an-hour. Don’t tell your reader how John is angry. Show this by him walking into the room fists curled, cheeks flushed and eyes flashing.

However… sometimes showing just doesn’t make sense. One emotion I always struggle to describe is “sheepish.” A character has done something wrong and is found out – they may not give eye contact or they may fiddle with their watch or clear their throat and start rambling or… I mean it really can, sometimes, be quite exhausting getting your character to do a whole manner of actions when you could just say: Megan looked sheepish.

So I use my common sense. My general rule is show where you can, as long as it doesn’t hinder the rhyme and flow of the sentence and story.

Write from the heart.

Hmm. Writers are told this again and again. And for the most part I agree. However I am first and foremost a commercial writer. I hope for an audience; aim to make a living from my writing. It is my career. So I keep an eye on the market as well and try to connect with the Zeitgeist when I choose a theme or title.

Only once have I not done this. Years ago with a novel that is firmly under my bed. It is chicklit set in Ancient Egypt. Many people I mention this book to say they would LOVE to read it – it even stars Tutankhamun! But it doesn’t fit the market. Didn’t back then. Still doesn’t now. An agent or publisher doesn’t know where to place it. So that was one year’s wasted work – not in terms of learning about writing, but in terms of pushing my career forwards and trying to get an agent and publishing deal.

Don’t over-use exclamation marks.

I do love a good exclamation mark! (Ha, see what I did there :) ) But again, they can produce lazy writing. And I recall one agent who said she doesn’t read a submission if there is an exclamation mark on the first page. An exclamation mark can show anger, surprise or humour…. any strong emotion, when often the words should be doing that. For example:
“I can’t believe you just did that!” said Paul

as opposed to

“I can’t believe you just did that.’ Paul’s jaw dropped.

So, once again, I try to be selective. If the sentence is really important or super emotional, an exclamation mark might just be what is needed. And I do think it depends on genre. I use them reasonably liberally in my romantic comedies – but I do carefully consider each one.

Avoid too much backstory in the opening chapters.

Oh yes. Please! I cannot bear this and my eye drops to the bottom of the page immediately if I start a new book and the opening is full of the main character’s history. The irony is, this is one of my own biggest faults when writing a first draft, and I always end up having to restructure my first chapters. Don’t do it! When you meet someone new in real life and start to get to know them, you don’t begin by sitting them down and pouring our your whole life story, do you? So I take my time and try to thread the information in subtly so that the reader gets to know your character more slowly – this will make them emotionally connect with the character in a more natural way and getting a reader to care about your protagonist, or their story, is the key to getting them to read on.

So there you have it. My view on just a few of the more well-known rules. And yes them’s the rules – but we aren’t in school now. My advice would be to learn them inside out and then trust your instincts and confidence to know when to break them.

Samantha Tonge lives in Cheshire with her lovely family and a cat that thinks it’s a dog. When not writing, she spends her days cycling and willing cakes to rise. She has sold over 80 short stories to women’s magazines. Her bestselling debut novel, Doubting Abbey, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction best Ebook award in 2014. Her 2015 summer novel Game of Scones hit #5 in the UK Kindle chart and won the Love Stories Awards 2015 Best Romantic Ebook category. Writing romantic comedies is her passion. Her summer book 2016 comes out in July and is called Breakfast at Poldark’s!

Writing romance: why perfect men make boring heroes [REPOST]

KATIE RED SHIRT (1 of 1)~ By Katie McCoach

Note: This article was originally published on the Standoutbooks blog and can be viewed here.

Recently I was reading a promising romance novel, and then, in the midst of chapter six, I found myself placing the book face down on my kitchen table in frustration.

The hero was absolutely perfect.

And I was bored out of my mind.

A perfect man—that sounds amazing, right? That’s what we want in a romance novel. We want our heroine to find the perfect man to live happily ever after with.

Sure, it sounds nice, but it’s not exactly exciting.

If he’s already perfect, what’s left for the heroine to bring to his life?

Let’s take a look at why the perfect man isn’t perfect for a riveting romance novel.

The perfect man is flawless

Flaws make a person human, and flaws on a man are endearing and intriguing.

Maybe, such as in It Happened One Wedding by Julie James, he’s too cocky for his own good and can’t believe it when a woman can’t resist his charm. Or, like in What I Love About You by Rachel Gibson, he is an alcoholic with PTSD so he doesn’t want people to get too close.

So wait, he has fears to overcome? And the heroine can help him?

Except his fears/flaws keep him from letting her help him. Will they? Won’t they? Ahh, now we have a story to follow—now we are invested.

The more tortured, the better. Flaws are relatable, perfection is not.

The perfect man lacks conflict

Conflict is the driving force of a story, it’s the fuel, it’s the heart. Whatever you want to call it, conflict is necessary in a novel because without it there is no story. A perfect man has nothing to overcome, nothing to change, and no problems to face when he and the heroine connect.

I don’t know about you, but my eyes are glazing over already.

Take It Happened One Wedding again as an example. In this contemporary romance, our hero hits on our heroine and she shoots him down hard and fast. He can’t believe it! They think that’s the last time they’ll see each other, but what do you know—they are the best man and maid of honor in a wedding and they better learn how to get along. I’m definitely staying awake for that story.

One of my favorite writing quotes is by Linda Howard. She says,

If your hero is a firefighter, your heroine better be an arsonist.

If there is nothing holding the hero and heroine back from being together, then we’ve reached their happy ending 50,000 words early.

The perfect man doesn’t experience personal growth

If a man has no room to grow when he meets the heroine, are they really meant to be together?

When I read a romance, I want to see how the characters compliment each other—how they inspire each other to become their best selves. A man (or any character for that matter) that doesn’t grow by the end of the book makes you wonder why you’re reading in the first place. “If conflict is the lifeblood of a story, the protagonist’s goal is its compass.” And the only way a character can accomplish that goal and defeat the conflict before them is to grow as a person.

For example in Taste – A Love Story by Tracy Ewens, the man who takes care of everyone around him finally learns how to rely on someone else.

In conclusion, we may dream about meeting the perfect man or woman in real life, but meeting them on paper is about as boring and flat as a blank piece of paper itself. To write an enticing hero, he should be flawed, conflicted, and grow as a human being. Basically, our hero’s not perfect until he meets his mate.

Have you read a story with a boring hero or heroine? What made them so?

Leave a comment and share your thoughts [no specific book titles, please]!

KATIE McCOACH is a freelance developmental book editor at KM Editorial working with authors of all levels to help them create their best story possible. Katie is a member of Romance Writers of America and the Editorial Freelancers Association. She has had essays published in TrainWrite and Kalliope and is currently writing a contemporary romance novel. For advice on editing, writing, and publishing visit her blog at and be sure to also follow her on Twitter @KatieMcCoach.

Friday Writing Prompt - Inspired by Luke and Lorelai


Happy Friday!

To kick off the weekend, we’ve got a writing prompt.

This week, your protagonist is going on a date and ends up hanging out with someone unexpected.

But the “someone” is “just a friend.”


Don’t be shy. Dive in and give this a shot. It’ll get you warmed up for a weekend of writing, and prompts are a great exercise in learning about your voice.

It’s also, um, kind of stolen borrowed from an episode of Gilmore Girls.

The Scene:

Your best friend is nervous about her first date with her long-time crush.

After much debate, she has finally convinced you to make it a double date by tagging along with her date’s cousin.

Turns out, this cousin the rudest, most whiny man you have ever met. At the restaurant, he does nothing but embarrass you by making immature comments to the waiter about the food.

After dinner, you suggest going somewhere more casual for dessert and coffee, and end up at a diner, where you run into a guy that’s “just a friend.”

Your date, annoyed that the group isn’t doing what he wants to do, leaves.

So as not to intrude on your friend’s date, you sit with your “just a friend.”

He knows exactly what to order for you. He teases you in a kind, affectionate way. He finds a deck of cards and lets you win every game you play by letting you bend the rules.

Meanwhile, you watch your friend, jealous at the site of the beginnings of a relationship.

Leave your scene in the comments! Stuck? This should help. (Or at least keep you entertained.)

The scene this prompt is based on begins at 1:47.


If you’ve got a favorite Gilmore Girls moment (or Friends moment, Seinfeld moment, or moment from any TV show moment you love) that would make a good writing prompt, let me know!

Find more writing prompts. . . 

Pick Your Paranormal Parameters [REPOST]

Densie Webb_2013~ By Densie Webb

Tell someone that your novel is paranormal. Go ahead, I dare you. Stand back and watch their reaction as they try to process what exactly that means. Are we talking witches and warlocks, werewolves and shape shifters, evil spirits and poltergeists, angels and demons, zombies and vampires? Are there warring factions, lords of the underworld, are there good vampires or bad and are they pitted against one another? Is it creepy? Does it keep you up at night? Is it gory and gross? Is it funny? Is it a love story? Hey, even ghouls need love, as evidenced in Issac Marion’s, Warm Bodies. Or is it an epic apocalyptic tale such as Guillermo Del Toro’s and Chuck Hogan’s The Strain or Justin Cronin’s, The Passage? Or perhaps it’s a Darynda Jones’ novel, such as First Grave on the Right, which deals with the undead in riotous ways  (the son of Satan is actually a pretty nice guy) and without a single vampire in sight.

Is it an older society that believes with a religious conviction that the undead exist, so they always carry crosses or are they armed with silver bullets? Or maybe they have town séances, exorcisms or the story involves Tarot-card-reading gypsies? Or is it an unsuspecting modern city that pooh-poohs the idea of the supernatural? All of these parameters define what your paranormal novel is and how your characters react to the realization that the things that go bump in the night are all too real. I bring all this up because my current WIP is a paranormal romance, and the topic of what exactly should make up a paranormal story has been weighing heavily on my mind.

My story is about vampires. Okay, what was your initial reaction? Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire? Stephanie Myer’s Twilight?  Charlaine Harris’ True Blood?  One is dead serious (no pun intended); one is over-the-top romantic, yet chaste; and one has more than a dash of humor mixed in with the sex and gore. They’re all paranormal stories and they’re all about vampires, but they’re unlikely to attract the same group of readers.

My story happens to be contemporary, takes place in New York and involves twenty-something characters. Okay, one of them has been twenty-something “for a while,” but you get my point. It’s romantic, yes, but I’m attempting to relate it to modern-day relationship issues. A challenge, I admit, but one I’m having fun with. Just the fact that it takes place in present-day New York, creates a whole different mental picture of what the story is about. I’ve eliminated creepy castles, marauding villagers wielding torches, capes and bats. There are no coffins, no bodies rising from the grave to seek revenge in the night. There are no spells or stakes to the heart. And I’ve taken it upon myself to not once utter the word “vampire.” Partly because it’s reached clichéd territory, thanks to Twilight, and because it’s perfectly clear what they are, without saying it “out loud.” My hope is that it will draw readers in, as the MC is drawn in as she tries to accept her predicament and attempts to figure out how it all might possibly fit into to her very modern life.

When you pen paranormal, you can take your story to the limit of credulity, have your creatures cracking jokes or tightly rein it all in so it feels suffocatingly, frighteningly real. The bottom line is, to say you’re writing a “paranormal novel” is like saying you’re writing women’s fiction or romance. It’s a broad umbrella that covers acres and acres of fiction territory. You’re the author; it’s your call which spot under the umbrella you choose to stand.

Densie Webb (that’s Densie, not Denise) has spent a long career as a freelance nonfiction writer and editor, specializing in health and nutrition, and has published several books and tons of articles on the topic over the years. Her debut novel “You’ll Be Thinking of Me” was released by Soul Mate Publishing in January 2015 as an ebook. It is also available in paperback and as an audiobook. She grew up in Louisiana, spent 13 years in New York, and settled in Austin, TX, where it’s summer nine months out of the year.  She is an avid walker (not of the dead variety, though she loves anything to do with zombies, vampires or post-apocalyptic worlds), drinks too much coffee and has a small “devil dog” that keeps her on her toes. She is currently working on a second novel.

Metamorphosis: Romance Trash-Talker to Romance Reader-Writer

How I fell into the lustful and loving arms of Contemporary Romance Novels…

rissa~ By Rissa Brahm

Note: This post originally appeared here.


Only a year and a half ago I was a full-fledged trash-talking anti-romance-novel snob! A total Judgy Judy bitch (!in my mind, not out loud!) toward anyone reading or writing “that smut, that waste-of time crap with the mushy happy endings!”

And now? Now, not only can I not get through my towering (virtual Kindle) pile of to-be-reads (my go-to genre is of course hot contemporary) but I’ve run my fingers and wrists ragged having completed three novels of my debut series! And my head and heart continue to spin on—far beyond books four and five of my Paradise South series. There are just so many more stories and characters and conflicts to write!

It all started with my mother, and it pretty much runs a full circle, which you’ll see in a bit.

So, I was a curious little girl…but I was a “good” little girl, too. Danielle Steel novels stared at me from my mom’s book shelf… butnever did I dare open one. That would be disgusting of me! No one spoke to me about sex and my folks’ relationship had been very…well, hands-off. I mean, I wasn’t supposed to do anything I’d be “ashamed to tell my dad about.” The fact that mom nor dad ever spoke to me about intercourse, love, intimacy, or anything else likely tucked behind those crazy-and-explicit Danielle Steel covers… Needless to say, I kinda got the shame-laced message loud and clear.


Now I realize that I most definitely wanted to peek, to open, to indulge, to fulfill my curiosity! I’ve learned about myself as a woman—as a sexual, feeling being—through reading and writing romance (more on this another time.) But the point is, as I got older, my romance-novel-snobbery deepened and surfaced—all at the same time.

I’d been an English/Creative Writing major in college. Literature—that was “of my level.” And I would someday write that—literature!

Until I left school early to enter the wonderful world of small business—the family business. My husband’s side was in hospitality: restaurants, hotels, even RV Resorts, and being my father’s daughter (he’s a CPA/Attorney/Computer programmer, F.F. Sakes), I took immediate control of the financial and administrative reins. The part in me that dreamed of writing “literary” fiction (however horrendous my dribble was then LOL) got back-burnered.

After twenty years of being a small woman in a “big-man’s corporate world,” the recession of 2008 hit. The economic downturn slammed the family business in the face and the gut—then stomped on its foot for good measure. After tying up loose ends, by 2014, I found myself jobless.

Here comes the gorgeous glittering golden lining! Jobless and without a college degree, what the hell to do? I started freelancing—more admin. stuff that I was tremendous at but that I totally flippin’ despised. I cringed through it until my mother suggested that perhaps I try beta reading/proofreading fiction, and romance novels seemed to be the most prevalent fiction out there. “For at least a little side money,” she’d said.

“Ick, romance?” But really, who the hell was I to be on a high horse?

I listened to my mother, for once, thank GOD!


First I had to get a few romances under my belt because how can you beta read romance if you don’t read it—or any genre anymore since because the family business had taken me 24/7/365. Anyway, Jane Austin’s Pride & Prejudice (“forced” on me in high school, already) became my baby step into the genre. Still reluctant and haughty-as-hell about the whole thing, “At least P&P isliterature,” I’d said to myself. Plus, I admitted in my head, I held the teensiest interest regarding my possible change in perspective of the story after two decades and a marriage and kid later.

Result—the re-read of Pride & Prejudice thrilled me! It had the HEA I remembered but I didn’t cringe! The HEA had been earned, Elizabeth’s strength and voice remained intact, and symbiosis had been reached! And, OMG, Mr. Darcey—enough said! (Sidebar: tall, silent types happen to be among my favorite heroes.)

Anyway, the hooks were in me. I moved onto contemporary romance recommendations. Those that hit me: Jojo Moyes, Me Before You (no HEA, more a love story, but I was great with that), then the HFN sequel After You . I followed those with some hotter stuff: Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series, Jasinda Wilder’s Falling series, Laura Kaye’s novella Hearts in Darkness, Nalini Singh’s Rock Kiss series; Laurelin Paige, Megan Hart, Maya Banks, Colleen Hoover and on and on (and that’s a lot of reading for the damn-slow reader that I am, by the way!) But after a bunch of books under my belt, I felt ready-ish and actually excited to take on a few beta projects.

Not only did I love beta reading for unpublished romance writers—I loved critiquing them, breaking them down, contriving in my head deeper conflicts to be had and twists to be added—but, low and behold, my own stories started swirling around my head. My own stories?

Yes—my own plots and arcs with my own strong female characters who had things to learn and identities to figure out before being open to/ready for the love and lust of and with another. Shit, I wanted to write! And I wanted to write romance!?!

I said screw it and began.

From October 2014 to now I have been writing FT and now my debut 5-book series is 80% done and I’m busting my ass to finish for scheduled incremental roll-out starting this spring.

A transformation has been made—from a condescending and conceited romance-novel caterpillar to a gratified, thankful, and proud romance reading-and-writing butterfly (one that’s just unfolding its wings!)

Thanks mom, thanks inspirational romance authors, and thanks future readers! Here’s to spreading some fluttering feelings and hot sparks to more and more romance trash-talkers and haters (like the former-me) throughout the world ;-) !

Have you had to defend your love for romance? How did it go down?

And, has reading romance taught/changed/widened your perspectives on women’s sexuality? If so, how? What books stand out to you?

Contemporary romance author Rissa Brahm grew up in New York and has since lived in all four corners of the United States, and beyond. The beautiful paradise of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico—the core setting of her soul-deep & sensual debut series, Paradise South—is Rissa’s most recent and beloved home.

When not chained-by-choice to her MacBook, she is embarking on outdoor adventures with her husband and little girl, eating amazing Indian food with something chocolate for dessert; reading good, hot scorchers in bed; biking, long walks, and yoga; zoning out to killer music from across the decades and the globe; and getting lost only to discover a new exciting route home again.

Tempting Isabel, Book 1 of the Paradise South series, launches May 24, 2016, followed by Taking Jana, and Catching Preeya in June and July. To learn more about Rissa and her romances, visit her website or shout out to her on Facebook or Twitter

Check out Rissa’s giveaway