August 20th, 2008 by Nephele Tempest
It’s pretty obvious to me that fairy tales are the stuff that romance readers are made of. My favorite movie when I was little was the Walt Disney version of Cinderella, but I loved the story long before I ever saw the film. Someone — my mother? a family friend? — had bought me a hardcover, illustrated copy of the old Charles Perrault version when I was very small. The cover was pale pink with an iridescent illustration mounted in the center of the front, and the illustrations inside looked like old fashioned paintings, the colors muted and somehow even more magical because they had that nineteenth century feeling to them. The pumpkin that became the gilded coach had winding green vines stretching out to either side, and Cinderella’s ball gown was edged in gold. And of course the prince was handsome, with thick, dark hair and a serene expression — until, of course, his dream girl ran off, and then he looked suitably miserable.
The film held a different appeal. Yes, my little girl heart went pitter patter when Cinderella danced with the prince at the ball, but the guys over at Disney knew that preschoolers had a limited attention span for true love, and so they threw in a lot of other things to keep us entranced. I think it was my favorite Disney film because of those other details more than anything else. The idea of little mice and birds helping you dress in the morning (as opposed to your mother yelling up that breakfast was getting cold while you struggled with your head caught in the hem of your pullover) really appealed to me. The wicked step-mother and step-sisters were wonderfully vivid villains, more real and scary than any witch because they wield very authentic and possible power over Cinderella. And I adored the music — I ran around singing “bibbity bobbity boo” for days on end after I saw the movie, to the point where my mother bought me the record for my birthday.
Now I’m a bit (okay, quite a bit) older, but I still have a soft spot for Cinderella. When my parents packed their house up to move last winter, I made sure my beloved old book was one of the volumes that made it into the box and not into the pile for Goodwill. When the film first came out of the infamous Disney vaults and made an appearance on VHS, my college roommate knew to buy me a copy. And I still feel a bit of a thrill when I see Cinderella wandering around at Disneyland.
But what, exactly, is the lasting magic of this story for me? Yes, I’m a fan of the other fairy tale heroines, both original and Disney versions, but Cinderella remains my number one pick. So I sat down to analyze it, as only someone who spends way too much time thinking about romance stories can do, and I came up with a few reasons:
1. I like Cinderella as a person. This is a girl who works hard with a smile on her face, despite having been turned into a servant in her own home. She’s not stupid — she knows her step-mother and step-sisters treat her badly and that they’re in the wrong, but she sees that being bitter won’t really get her anywhere. The girl’s a smart cookie.
2. She appreciates a windfall. Cinderella may be surprised by her fairy godmother’s appearance, but she knows better than to turn down such a wonderful gift. She’s grateful, and then she makes the most of her opportunity.
3. The danger in this story is real. The step-mother and step-sisters are human, manipulative women with power in their hands. They have Cinderella at their mercy, and there’s not much I find more frightening than a real-to-life threat that a reader can relate to. Witches and vampires are lots of fun, but give me a situation that I could see happening next door, and that’s going to keep me up at night.
4. I also like the prince. This is a boy who knows a good thing when he sees it. I also like that he’s willing to hold out for true love; he won’t marry just any princess, he wants to marry this particular girl. We all want a man who will fight for us. Even if that means fondling every smelly foot in the kingdom to find the one that fits that lost shoe.
5. Which brings me to my last point: How can you not love a story that hangs on a beautiful, custom-made slipper, glass or otherwise? ( I was a shoe lover even as a child.)
Next month I’m going to Disney World with my brother and sister-in-law and my two nieces. The baby is two, and apparently obsessed with Snow White. She wore the costume last year for Halloween, and now watches the DVD repeatedly as often as her parents will let her. She told my mother “high ho” on the phone the other night. My mother mumbled something about seven dirty old men, and how my niece has a lot to learn. I just figured she’s more or less on the right track, and that there’s another romance reader in the making.
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August 19th, 2008 by Misa Ramirez
“Having courage means being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”
That about sums up a cowboy, doesn’t it? They’re strong, courageous, and all man.
There are tons of web sites about cowboys, and there are myths galore about them. Take this one, for example: “A Cowboy would be your typical, dirty, horse riding type. He drank until he fell over; fought everyone around him, rode a horse everywhere, pushed cattle around the county, and was a lonely soul.”
So what is it that makes a cowboy so appealing? There’s an allure to them that is unmistakeable. A dangerous mystique. The cowboy lives in a man’s world, a world that women just aren’t privy to. While I think I may have only read one [Lonesome Dove], I do love a cowboy.
Some of the characters in my own books are contemporary cowboys or ranchers. They rope cattle, ride horses, work their ranches. One of them doesn’t have anything to do with horses and cows, though they are in his past. Today’s cowboy is trying to get back to his roots, trying to recapture the mystique and allure of the past.
Cowboys have that X factor appeal that is undefinable. [My husband and his buddies call it the man-card. They have each lost ‘man-cards’ due to some un-macho behavior they’ve exhibited.] Whether the X factor is attitude, action, emotion or a combination, the fact is that the thing that makes a cowboy appealing is the same thing that gives Texans their bountiful Pride. It’s an identity–and a powerful one at that. Being a modern-day cowboy [not redneck, though--mark the distinction] clearly defines a man as tough, courageous, and puro macho.
Look at these modern-day cowboys:
Ty Murray: Jewel just married her rodeo star cowboy. His cowboy hat is as much a part of him as any other piece of his clothing. It’s part of who he is, and that makes him kind of cool.
Tim McGraw: He’s almost never seen without his cowboy hat on. It’s just a Southern thing, I’m learning [as a new resident of the Lone Start state]. Everyone has a hat and a big Texas Star on or in their house somewhere]. Would Tim look like Tim without his hat? I’m not sure I’d recognize him. He’s a family man, a truly admirable thing in today’s world, and he’s got a quite strength about him.
Val Kilmer: He’s a slick Doc Holliday.
Kevin Costner in Wyatt Earp: He rides a horse like he knows what he’s doing. And there’s Dennis Quaid as Doc Holliday, a great role for him.
Clint Eastwood in almost everything he does and every movie he’s made. He’s the quintessential cowboy, even when he’s not wearing the garb.
Who are some other contemporary cowboys, real-life or fictional, that feed the mystique?
August 18th, 2008 by Kara Lennox
I used to privately sneer at people who had writer’s block. I teach a workshop on how to avoid it and how to deal with it, for cryin’ out loud. I used to believe that it didn’t really exist, that people who were “blocked” were simply afraid or lazy or making excuses.
Until I got blocked.
It doesn’t feel at all like I imagined.
For a long time, I was in denial. I told myself that I’d worked my fanny off finishing up a trilogy (true) and that I needed a little time off to recharge (possibly true). But a week or two should be all that’s required, and, let’s see: It’s been two months. I also tried to hide my lack of productivity from other people. But now the truth is out.
It is a strange feeling, sitting in front of the computer, file open to the last thing I worked on, and nothing comes to mind. I tell myself that I need to do more pre-writing (possibly true). I know that books write easier for me when I have a clear idea where I’m going and have at least some major plot points worked out. So I go back and forth with ideas. I jot things down. I do interviews with my characters. I research. I read great authors in hopes of absorbing some shred of their genius.
Still, I don’t write, at least not with any regularity.
Maybe I should put this book aside and start another. Sometimes a story benefits from sitting on the back burner for a while. But, while I can’t get worked up about this book, neither does another idea hold any more appeal. I’ve tried changing locales, changing the time of day I write, getting up earlier, going to bed later. Nothing works. Even my husband, who is always so supportive, is starting to get that impatient look and probably having nightmares about having to support me and my high-flying lifestyle. (Anyone who knows me is laughing right about now.)
I am, however, seeing glimmers of hope. A week ago I wrote five new pages, and on Wednesday I finished a synopsis. I’m starting to feel that familiar tug of excitement near my heart, that happy suspicion that maybe this book really is good. I even thought of a title I like. I find myself thinking about the story when doing other things, and even wishing I could be at the computer when I’m not. It feels like I have some hideous disease, but the symptoms are abating, and maybe it will go into remission.
Friday (the last day I wrote) I wrote one new scene and revised several pages. I worked for two solid hours without watching the clock or obsessively checking my e-mail.
It’s probably too early to tell, but I believe I’ll get through this. Perhaps, though, if I practiced saying, “You want fries with that?” on a regular basis, or put on a pair of pantyhose and heels for an eight-hour stretch, the block would dissolve a lot faster.
August 15th, 2008 by Shannon Stacey
I think I was still a teenager the first time I saw the RITA award for the first time, and a dream was born. I remember feeling awe, desire, and a burning belief that if I worked hard enough, I could have one, too. Epic want.
So when those conversations come and go regarding the award’s meaning, its validity and so on, I tune most of it out. Some writers dream of the NYT list, I dream of RITA. I was a little suprised not to see an announcement of the winners of such a prestigious industry award here, so let’s do it!
The 2008 RITA Awards for…
Best First Book—Dead Girls Are Easy by Terry Garey
Best Contemporary Series Romance—Snowbound by Janice Johnson (Harlequin Superromance)
Best Contemporary Series Romance:
Suspense/Adventure—Treasure by Helen Brenna (Harlequin Superromance)
Best Contemporary Single Title Romance—Catch of the Day by Kristan Higgins
Best Historical Romance—Lessons of Desire by Madeline Hunter
Best Inspirational Romance—A Touch of Grace by Linda Goodnight (Steeple Hill Love Inspired)
Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements—Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
Best Paranormal Romance—Lover Revealed by J.R. Ward
Best Regency Historical Romance—The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever by Julia Quinn
Best Romance Novella—“Born in My Heart” in Like Mother, Like Daughter by Jennifer Greene (Harlequin NEXT)
Best Romantic Suspense—Ice Blue by Anne Stuart
Best Young Adult Romance—Wicked Lovely by Melissa
I still despise the new category divides, but I was thrilled by Kristan Higgins’s win. All three of her books have knocked my socks off. I was a little surprised a Superromance won the Best Category Series: Suspense/Adventure award. I haven’t read it (yet), but I expected an Intrigue or a Silhouette Romantic Suspense to take it. I’ve read Snowbound and Lover Revealed, and really enjoyed them both. Now it’s time to hunt down the others.
How about you? Do you read the RITA winners, knowing the authors achieved a level of excellence a panel of their peers deemed worthy of recognition? If you’re a writer, do you try to learn from them? If you’re reader, do you seek them out? If you follow the RITAs, how do you think the new categories worked out?
And just for grins, last year I left my suggestions for category romance divisions in the comments of Karen Templeton’s blog:
Best Series Romance Featuring Dead People
Best Series Romance Featuring Naked People
Best Series Romance Featuring Pews
Best Series Romance—Everybody Else
August 14th, 2008 by Allison Brennan
Conference season is pretty much over for 2008. There’s a few non-romance conferences, like Bouchercon this fall, but for the most part all the biggies are done. It’s a time to reflect on what we’ve learned, what we loved, what didn’t work for us, and remember that in the end, conferences are primarily for networking, learning about craft and business (even us published authors still have a lot to learn), meeting with agents and editors, and even a bit of promotion. It doesn’t hurt to have new bookmarks printed or a few books to give away!
I wanted to take this time to reflect on a larger problem that was only highlighted at the RWA conference, but really is not just a conference issue. It’s a blog issue, a local meeting issue, an industry issue. In fact, it extends to all facets of life–family, friends, work, church, school. That is, giving people the benefit of the doubt.
In this era where celebrities are caught with their pants down, without make-up, looking too fat or too skinny or seen whispering intimately with another woman’s husband, we often make snap judgments about their lifestyle or what is going on. The cliche “a picture says a thousand words” is true–but in the era of photoshop or carefully framed shots, we might not be seeing the whole picture and thus basing our judgment on misinformation.
This reality of the modern information era was really highlighted during my years working in the State Legislature. The obvious example–reporters misquoting someone–happens more than I had ever thought. I could sit in an interview and know exactly what was said, and dropping a couple words can make the subject either seem more brilliant than he really is, or a total idiot. In committee hearings, I could listen to hours of testimony and be moved beyond words, but when you read about it in the paper, you get the one idiot who said something stupid and that’s the “quote” and result of the hearing.
In the writing world, there are authors who never participate in conferences. Perhaps they’ve never been, or used to go but don’t find them valuable, or are so introverted they don’t want to be around 2,500 other writers. In RWA, we have career professionals outside of writing–lawyers, doctors, teachers, scientists, cops–the list goes on and on. We have career authors, new authors, midlist authors, unpublished authors. We have people at every level of their writing career. There are agents, editors, publicists, bloggers, reporters, family, the list goes on. There are women with young kids, grown kids, no kids. Grandmothers and daughters. Black, white, Asian, and every other race. Christian, Jewish and Atheists. Married, divorced, single. Republicans, Democrats and Independents. Americans, British, Australians, Canadians, and more. We are diverse in ways few organizations are. We’re united by one thing: writing romance.
But because we are so diverse, and we don’t know each other well–outside of a few close friends or an annual sitdown at the conference bar–we can build up an image and then that image is distorted, we balk.
A favorite author who you picked up at the airport at your last RWA meeting only three months ago doesn’t remember your name; worse, ignores you completely when she sees you.
A friend doesn’t wave back when you see them across the lobby.
Your chapter member–who you see every month–doesn’t remember you’re in the same local chapter.
Your agent ignores you and goes off with who you believe is her favorite client.
Your editor takes you to lunch, but Jane Smith to dinner. Worse, your editor doesn’t remember you by sight.
Our reaction is to be sad, angry, flustered, slighted. We were wronged, but maybe we can’t articulate why we feel wronged. Or we articulate it, giving voice to our frustration, seeking justification that we were slighted in some manner. Often, the slight gets spun out of control as the rumor mill starts churn.
The rumor weed–for those who’ve watched Veggie Tales can attest!–can grow under the poisoned water of perceived slights, wrongs, or repeated rumors. It grows and can tear apart a person, a group, an organization.
But what really is happening is that we aren’t giving someone the benefit of the doubt.
Yes, an author you picked up from JFK and drove two hours to your chapter conference should absolutely remember your name.
But what if she had just gotten off the phone with her daughter who had a miscarriage the night before?
Yes, a writing buddy should acknowledge your greeting–it’s only polite.
But what if she had just discovered her suitcase–with not only her Rita dress but her laptop with the book due Monday–had been lost by the airlines?
Your editor should know you by sight–she has your author photo, doesn’t she?
But what if she didn’t recognize you with the new blonde ‘do and glasses? Or you’ve never met her, but you’ve talked on the phone for three years and she knows you are Jane Smith . . . but maybe she left her glasses in the hotel room and your badge is blurry?
Every day, people have small and large problems that they have to deal with and sometimes, being “on” constantly at a conference is hard, especially when the problems seem overwhelming. What if your husband dropped your daughter off at one place, and there’s a small family emergency and you try to reach your daughter, but she’s not there, she’s not answering her cell phone, and none of her friends know where she is? Would you be making small talk with a friend?
At this last conference, I know people who had to deal with some pretty tough stuff while trying to fulfilling their obligations at the conference.
. . . A bestselling author whose mother had a heart attack the night before, but she wasn’t told until she arrived at the conference.
. . . An editor whose long-time, elderly cat went missing.
. . . An author who learned via email that a close friend had cancer.
. . . A writer who was woken up late nearly every night of the conference by her husband because his sleep was interrupted taking care of their child and he wanted her help.
These aren’t things that someone is going to just offer up. We’re mostly women so we tend to want to know everything and we want to help fix it. It’s hardwired into us, we think that talking about the problems and commiserating is a solution. And I believe it is–just not with everyone in the world.
People get jet-lagged and aren’t at their best and brightest. People can be preoccupied, with good news or bad news or maybe even no news. People are nervous meeting their agent or editor for the first time. When I first went to the Reno conference, six months before my first book came out, with my JD Robb book in hand, waiting in line . . . I put the book in front of Nora to sign and inserted my foot in my mouth. Something about her inspiring me to keep my ass in the chair. Oh, yes, I said the “A” word. I’d wanted to say something more about her setting a good example, yada yada, but instead I blurted out the first thing I thought of. (Fortunately, I figured, Nora Roberts meets so many people at every conference she couldn’t possibly have remembered my name even if she did read it on my badge.)
This goes beyond personal connections and into email, but this post is already getting too long! I respond to all my email, usually within a week, but sometimes I get backlogged. Or, when I was moving, I was without Internet access for a couple days, moving, and on deadline . . . and was hugely backlogged. Sometimes cyberspace can eat a message and the intended recipient didn’t receive it. No one should assume that just because someone didn’t respond in a day, week, or month that they even received the message. And sarcasm? Sarcasm often falls flat in written form, especially in email. But I could do a whole blog about misunderstanding the intent of information emails.
I’m not saying anything new or noteworthy. But a few mutterings I heard at conference about this author or that editor or such-and-such a writer upset me. How do we know that the person we’re criticizing didn’t just have bad news? How do we know the person actually saw us? Or maybe she was late to her editor meeting–and she’d never met her editor before?
Things happen, and we’re not always at 100% all the time. We all know this, but sometimes we think that at conference everyone should be completely with it whenever they are out of their hotel room.
This is why I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt. I rarely know the whole story. Maybe the author really is a complete bitch, but most of the time, I really do believe something is going on and my perception of what is or isn’t happening is skewed.
I’m sure there are plenty of stories out there where you made an assumption that was wrong, or where someone assumed the worst about you based on part of the picture. Maybe if you all share your stories, everyone, including me, will take perceived slights in stride next time around.
August 13th, 2008 by Kerry Allen
You’re a heroine without a hero. Your matchmaker has been sued out of business for breach of contract related to her short-lived TV series. Last week, your mother added Twitter to her numerous methods of nagging you about her lack of grandchildren.
What’s a single girl to do?
Let a friend hook you up. Her true love almost certainly has attractive, interesting, and available friends, relatives, or even enemies in need of female companionship. There’s no shame in being a sequel.
Cast your net in the workplace. Illicit encounters in the copy room can add a lot of spice to a relationship with that sexy boss, partner, or underling. There’s no real danger here—fictional sexual harassment laws are notoriously lax.
Take a class. You’ll know in advance you share at least one common interest with your fellow students, and a man who can admit he doesn’t know everything is a rare and beautiful find. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to observe firsthand whether he can be trained.
Head to the meat market—literally. Multitask, combining that necessary trip to the store with your quest for love. Pay close attention to how he handles the chicken breasts. If you like what you see, attract his attention by demonstrating your masterful grasp of that pork loin.
Give online dating a chance. It’s no longer the last bastion of hope for losers. (For proof, just look at all the attractive people in the commercials.) Even if you don’t find a suitable mate online, you might attract a sociopath who can help you…
Become the victim of a crime. With the exception of the obligatory rotund, balding, and surly partner, fictional cops are in excellent shape, civic-minded, protective, and bring their own handcuffs (if you’re into that sort of thing).
If all else fails, hit the bars. No, not to pick up alcoholic men. Ply your writer with top-shelf booze until her vision blurs enough that she mistakes you for her Muse. Give her a pen and a cocktail napkin and dictate to her precisely what you’re looking for. When she recovers from the hangover, she’ll think it an inspired idea and get to work on your happy ending right away.
August 12th, 2008 by Sylvia Day
Are you watching the Olympic Games? I’m riveted.
I find the quest for gold to be tremendously inspiring. I get teary when the National anthem plays, and I shout madly as “underdog” athletes race past their favored competitors. I understand how much time they’ve invested in their goal–the long hours and the sacrifice of simple pleasures such as staying up late or eating something they shouldn’t. Michael Phelps says his life is eating, sleeping, and swimming. My admiration is boundless. I cheer from behind my laptop screen, sneaking in peeks at the action between stretches of typing.
As I watch the athletes on the television, I note their joy and sorrow, their feelings of accomplishment and disappointment. Every event is both a dream realized and a hope dashed. Some will go home empty-handed, despite giving years of their life to the pursuit of their goal. But with or without a medal, every athlete in Beijing is a winner just for giving their heart and soul to chasing their dreams. I find that tremendously uplifting. Watching replays of Derek Redmond hobbling toward the finish line brings me to tears. Such beauty of spirit is awesome to witness. As a writer, I try to capture some of that beauty with mere words on a page. As a reader, I treasure the books that succeed in that task.
The uniquely human ability to hope and to dream is what we most love about the novels that adorn our keeper shelves. The characters and their journeys touch and move us, their pain and joy linger long after the last page is turned. The fictional dramas in my favorite books are no less real to me than the ones unfolding on my television screen every night. There is magic on my bookshelves, beloved gifts from my favorite authors to me.
The Olympic Games are more than just a tally of medals won and lost. They are a celebration of the human spirit we all share. I’m inspired both for my own sake and for the sake of the characters I have yet to write.
Are you watching the Olympics? Which Olympic moment, past or present, most inspires you?
August 11th, 2008 by Eric Selinger
Last month my wife and I celebrated our twentieth anniversary. We didn’t make a big fuss of the day itself; earlier this summer we took a long trip to Ireland with the kids, and that was the main celebration. But we went for lunch at a little French place we discovered years ago, and as Smug Marrieds will, we did some reminiscing.
Two things struck me as we did. First, the happy surprise of how much of our life now had its roots in things we were up to in the earliest years of our marriage: things we’d screwed up that we’ve since gotten right, and minor events or chance encounters that had turned into major projects or accomplishments. The other, though, was the number of sad memories that overhang swaths of our marriage. There were deaths in the family, relatives’ troubles that sucked us in, and simply “the dark days” (as in, “those were the dark days, weren’t they?”) when one job search or other went badly, or when work overwhelmed us, or couldn’t be balanced with waking up at all hours to care for a baby, a toddler, a fragile kindergartener.
I’m still not sure how we got through some of those days, but I do know this: at some point, about a dozen years ago, I sat down and rewrote my memories of them, and it changed my life.
I forced myself, not just to look back, but to write down a list of days, hours, even the briefest instants when things were good, no matter the context, even if they soured moments later. I got the idea from the poet Molly Peacock, I think; she writes somewhere about keeping a “happiness journal” for a year, forcing herself at the end of each day to think of at least one moment that was happy, and write it down. By the time I was done, I had a new way to think about those years: not a story to tell myself, again and again and again, about how lousy we’d had it, but a thread of bright spots where somehow, by whatever luck, we’d been happy anyway.
This was before I started reading romance–although my impulse to start reading romance actually sprang from something I noticed later, looking back at that list. (No, you don’t get to know what!) But romance heroes and heroines, maybe especially the heroines, make moves like that all the time. They find new ways to tell their life stories, and in the process, they break old habits in dealing with both the past and the present. Some of my colleagues groove on alpha-male tears, but me, I get my thrill from those inward turning points, like the one in Jennifer Crusie’s Welcome to Temptation where Sophie Dempsey stops herself from stumbling back into a slough of annoyance:
It occurred to her that this thought wasn’t getting her anywhere. It was the same thought she’d been having for fifteen years without any insight or growth. It was the thought that had led her into two years of mind-numbing security with Brandon, it was the thought that had kept her from having the kind of wickedly abandoned sex she’d been having since she met Phin. It was, in short, nonproductive.
Worse than that, it was boring.
“I’m through with you,” she said to the cherries. “It’s a brand-new day.”
It wasn’t that easy in real life–but you know, I’ve had moments just like Sophie’s. And knowing that you’ve had them once makes it easier, much easier, to have them again.
Last Friday, stressed out by a half-dozen projects, I took a long with my wife. As we talked through what we were facing next week, and how little we’d each accomplished in the week before, I noticed that we were doing together that same sort of active re-writing: letting ourselves off the hook for our failures and honing in, instead, on a fistful of tiny victories.
Is it an accident that we do this so readily now and that we’re both romance readers? Maybe so, but whatever the cause, it’s not a bad way to spend an hour. Or the next fifty years, either.
August 10th, 2008 by Special Guest
Last month my husband and I visited the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame in Waco, Texas. We’d seen it from the interstate for years but never taken the time to stop. This trip through we made it a goal.
This is the law enforcement Rangers we’re talking about and not the baseball kind. After watching a History Channel video, we began to explore the artifacts and details of a proud Texas tradition. Just across from the gift shop was a room depicting the Texas Rangers in the media. It drew me like a magnet.
Movies, television shows, music, comic books, novels. There were posters and costumes, props. All had Texas Ranger themes. And there, proudly displayed with novels by Larry McMurtry and Elmer Kelton, were romance novels. Although there are surely more, the ones featured were by Joan Johnston, Diana Palmer, Pamela Ingraham, and Lyn Ellis.
I didn’t write down the particular titles, as I was busy scribbling the author’s names on a scrap of paper retrieved from the bottom of my travel bag. And I was smiling, so proud of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame! Romance may be frowned upon elsewhere, but there, in a place devoted to one of the romance genre’s favorite archetypes, romance was honored.
Have you ever found romance novels where you least expected them?
This post was submitted by Kay Layton Sisk.
August 8th, 2008 by Barbara Samuel
The spring I was fifteen, my grandmother and I set off on an adventure across the west, riding in her gigantic red Lincoln Continental. I had with me a brown paper grocery bag packed to the brim with Harlequin Presents that one of my babysitting clients gave me, and I ripped through those babies at a pace of about one every two or three hours (depending on the scenery in the real world and my grandmother’s desire for conversation). They took me all over the world, to castles in Spain and the Greek Islands, to Argentina and the Italian Alps and the Outback. There were some in Switzerland, as I recall, and a couple set in Austria, but I never liked those as well. Give me a Spanish count or a Greek tycoon every time.
That trip with my grandmother turned into quite an adventure. We were stranded in a blizzard in Wyoming and swooned over the soft green beauty of the Columbia River valley and finally made it all the way to Seattle to see my uncle. I remember the motels we stayed in, and the blizzard, and that sack of novels, shifting my inner landscape.
The Presents line was–and is–partly a travelogue, a window into an often exotic culture, a far away land where the man is rich and the customs are confusing, but our plucky heroine prevails. On that spring road trip, their fairy tales planted in me a longing for adventure and travel that has never abated, and has sometimes been one of the more stable dreams in my life. Children and books sometimes don’t behave. Romance has had its ups and downs. Travel, however, remains as thrilling and interesting and rewarding as it was that year I discovered my thirst for wandering in my grandmother’s red Lincoln.
In eleven days, I’m leaving for Australia. The trip on the plane is fifteen hours, which will require some serious reading material. Weight restrictions and the desire to have a least a couple of changes of clothes won’t allow me to take a bag full of Harlequin Presents. I strongly considered buying a Kindle, but decided to save that cash for the adventure. I also deeply enjoy visiting bookstores on foreign shores, so I’ll stock up in Melbourne.
That still leaves me trying to decide what I will take on the plane for my internal journey. Last year in Matera, I met Liz Fielding and I’ve stashed a couple of her titles to take with me. One great thing about category novels is the size–compact and light enough to have a few tucked into the backpack. I think I should find a Presents that is set in the Outback, don’t you?
Travel is only one of the many things I learned from reading romance novels. How about you? What have you learned from romance novels?