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September 22nd, 2008 by Shannon Stacey
The State of Real Estate
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Last year there was a great deal of buzz about Wal-Mart only stocking bestsellers and cutting mid-list authors from their coveted shelves. Considering how many books they move, it wasn’t good news for the industry or for readers.

For a while I’d practically hold my breath every time I pushed my cart down the book aisle, afraid I’d find only a few bestsellers and an extra helping of Rand McNallys. And then, one day, the change came.

I found at least three times the number of romances. Yes, there were more. More bestsellers, more mid-list, more romance! My Wal-mart rearranged and came up with shelving for the hardcovers, the bestselling mass markets and the category romances. And on the other side of the aisle, several shelves of mid-list romances along with the perennial backlist offerings of Nora Roberts, Leigh Greenwood and Catherine Coulter.

Several months later, my grocery store of choice—Market Basket—cut down on the toys and moved the childrens’ books under them, making room for several short shelves of mid-list romance in addition to the bestsellers and category. More. Yay!

On the down side, I noticed last week that Hannaford—the grocery store I use if I’m on that side of town—is no longer carrying category romance. They had their grand opening the weekend of my wedding, so for fifteen and a half years I could throw a Harlequin or Silhouette into the cart on my way to the registers. Now they have picture books, the top five or six bestsellers and a selection of Sudoku books.

But overall I’ve seen an increase in the shelf space for romance in general and mid-list in particular. How about where you are? Have you seen the dire predictions come to pass in your area, or can you still buy your happily ever after and your Tide with Bleach in the same store?

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September 19th, 2008 by Kerry Allen
Heroinely Virtue
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Have you heard the one about the young woman who decided to auction off her virginity to fund her master’s studies in marriage and family counseling?

It’s not a joke, actually, and “Natalie Dylan” (as she’s calling herself for the duration of the stunt) isn’t the pioneer you might think. Dig past the recent entries in the Great Big Book of Google and you’ll find several such stories, though Nat’s aggressive marketing strategy promises to rake in the highest profit to date. This situation has led me to ponder many things, such as:

  1. Who wants marriage and family counseling from someone who prostitutes herself with international news coverage of the event? Silly question. The same people who’d buy a parenting book from Lynne Spears.
  2. What’s the point of using an alias when pictures of your face and nearly naked body are all over the internet, television, and print media? It’s like she attended a Clark Kent seminar on identity concealment.
  3. Where are the bidders coming up with all this money (the bidding is allegedly at $250,000 at the time of this writing)? Imagine that meeting with the loan officer. “Yes, I’d like to take out a second mortgage on my home so I can purchase one-time use of a virgin.”

As I pondered (and my RTB deadline loomed), my thoughts came around to the sort of sexual history I’m willing to tolerate in a romance novel heroine. The range is fairly broad.

Some readers cannot abide the virgin heroine, but I made it into my twenties intact, so to speak, and therefore don’t find a lack of sexual experience unrealistic even in a contemporary—although, if the heroine gets past puberty without figuring out independently how the buttons work, I do wonder a little about her awareness level.

Some readers can’t stomach a heroine who’s had sex, but never good sex—until the hero waves his magic wand and presto! Instant multiple orgasms ensue. I don’t find that unrealistic because many women have unsatisfying sexual relationships. Okay, maybe the magic wand thing is a bit farfetched, but aren’t we told from the first birds-and-bees talk that it’s special when you’re in love? You just can’t sell me on an HEA if the sex remains lousy, so by all means, bring on the magic.

And then there’s the heroine who’s had a great sex life before the hero came along, but she still can’t win because some readers think she’s too promiscuous. I say, good for her. May she blow the hero’s mind with her unabashed boldness.

This, however, is as far as I’m willing to accompany a romance heroine. I read what was marketed as a romance novel a while back in which the heroine had relationships with two men. I could accept that because they were relationships—she cared about each of them and couldn’t choose one over the other. When she picked up a third guy in a bar, I thought, “Ah, she’s going to get him alone and torture information out of him.” Except she didn’t torture him at all when she got him alone. At that point, the heroine became little more than an ambulatory vagina, and I stopped reading. Limit reached. My real-life standards about indiscriminate sex with strangers are evidently too strong to be suspended for a book’s benefit.

Had the book been marketed as UF (where I strongly feel it belonged), I may have reacted differently, but when ”ROMANCE” is printed on the spine, I have certain expectations, one being that the journey toward true love does not include humping every available protuberance encountered along the way. Similarly, I couldn’t read a romance novel about a heroine who voluntarily exchanged sex for money, launching a publicity campaign to glamorize an activity in which most women involved are exploited, abused, and in many cases literally enslaved, giggling all the while about how clever and progressive she is. She might make an interesting character study in aberrant behavior, but I sure don’t want to see her ride off into the sunset with Mr. Wonderful.

Where are your lines drawn when it comes to heroinely virtue or lack thereof, and do you find they vary between romance and other genres?

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September 18th, 2008 by Kara Lennox
Fantasy Men vs. Good Husbands
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Once I was invited to the home of an author who is well known for her dark, dark alpha heroes. I was curious as to what her husband would be like. But he turned out to be this big, sweet teddy-bear of a guy, a kind of nerdy engineer who was clearly besotted by his wife of 20+ years and would do anything in the world for her.

This got me to thinking–why do so many of us read and write about these dark, edgy, tortured heroes who drive racecars and slay dragons, then turn around and marry the guy with the boring job and the mismatched socks? There is a major disconnect here between our fantasy men and the men we choose as our life mates–the “good husbands.”

For example:
Fantasy Men are dark, dangerous and mysterious.
Good Husbands don’t have secrets. They tell you anything you want to know, sometimes more than you want to know. They’re SAFE.

Fantasy Men are arrogant and controlling. They have a sense of entitlement (per one publisher’s guidelines)
Good Husbands are nice. They’re flexible, accommodating and quietly confident. They don’t expect to be given anything they haven’t earned.

Fantasy Men are powerful and command respect. They never ask for help and never make the wrong decision.
Good Husbands share power and authority, and they earn respect. They make mistakes all the time but they aren’t afraid to admit them and learn from them, or ask for help if needed. (However, they won’t ask for directions!)

Fantasy Men are tortured souls with bad, bad things in their pasts.
Good Husbands might have sad or tragic pasts, but they’ve gotten past the bad stuff and haven’t let it taint their entire lives.

Fantasy Men consider falling in love with the heroine a weakness, because it’s the one thing in their lives they can’t control.
Good Husbands think falling in love with their wives is the best thing that ever happened to them. They don’t consider emotion a personality flaw.

Fantasy Men are reduced to total incompetence by a crying baby.
Good Husbands can change a stinky diaper in their sleep.

Fantasy Men ride Harleys.
Good Husbands drive a safe car with a baby car seat in back.

Fantasy Men are so dang good-looking that beautiful supermodels fall all over them, but of course they’re never tempted by anyone but the heroine.
Good Husbands might be handsome, but most of us aren’t going to see our husbands in a Calvin Klein ad. And they don’t have that supermodel problem.

Fantasy Men never, but never belch or fart.
Good Husbands … okay, maybe this isn’t the most endearing feature of a real man. But let’s face it. They can’t help themselves.

Granted, I’ve made some huge generalizations here. But by and large, we write about one kind of man, but we marry an entirely different kind. (And if you, a friend or loved one has ever hooked up with Mr. Dark, Dangerous and Tortured, you know why Mr. Kind, Safe and Reliable is the better choice.)

So why the disconnect? Why is our fantasy so radically different from the reality most of us choose, a reality that is good for us and pro-survival? Are we hanging on to outdated hard-wiring from our caveman days?

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September 17th, 2008 by Sylvia Day
On The Road Again
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When this post first goes up, I will still be in bed here in California. But a few hours later, I will be walking barefoot through the airport security checkpoint, getting ready for an all-day, cross country trip to a readers/authors gathering.  It’s my fourth conference trip this year, in addition to trips I’ve made for speaking engagements. I’ve turned down other offers, because I have books to write and a family to spend time with. But I’m already scheduled for two conference trips next year, with a few more invitations under consideration.

Who knew writers could spend so much time on the road?

There are a lot of reasons why I go to these events. Some are to expand my knowledge of my craft. Others are for connecting with the readers who spend their time and money on my books. And some are to share a few of my experiences with other writers. I never regret the effort, because I always come away with something new and valuable. I’ve forged beautiful and supportive frienships during my travels, and spending time with other voracious readers like myself is always a treat.

I love to talk about books (not my own, I don’t know what to say) and hear about the authors who are exciting readers now.  I remember reading somewhere that publishing is the only industry that doesn’t ask its consumers what they want. (I’ve heard that the reason for this is because readers don’t know what’s going to be the next big thing until the editors discover it and put it out there.) So for me, the face-to-face connection with readers helps me see what’s happening now and what they’d like to see more of. It’s certainly not a comprehensive poll, but it is very interesting!

So while I’ll be up before dawn to write before the day begins, I’m still looking forward to the trip and the new friends and memories I will make while I’m gone.

Have you attended any conferences this year? What do you get out of them? If you haven’t been to a conference before but plan to eventually, what do you hope to get out of the experience?

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September 16th, 2008 by Misa Ramirez
The Rainbow Side of Life
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Serial killers, depravity, warped sensibilities, scary people… If I’m being honest, I’m kind of tired of seeing the dark and twisted side of things.

There are people I know who really enjoy exploring the dark side of life. They are interested in really understanding the psyche and figuring out what makes people tick…particularly bad people.

I’m not one of those people.

The happily ever after that is built into romance–and romantic suspense–is the core of what I like about the genre, and when I read it, the happily ever after is the thing that keeps me turning the pages. The dichotomy between the extremes of dark suspense and happily ever after, while highlighting the importance of love and the renewing spirit of humanity, still illustrates the evil that permeates our everyday lives, even on the periphery. It can be so disturbing that it sucks the happiness right out of me. I begin to fear who lives next door, wonder if there’s a lunatic watching my kids’ schools, worry that something dark and awful will befall someone I love.

I don’t like those feelings. At all.

I know evil exists. I know misfortune exists. I’ve been touched by it. What I’ve found, as I grow older, is that I don’t particularly like being reminded of it in the books I read. Don’t get me wrong…I don’t live with my head buried in the sand. I’m socially conscious, believe in serving, and put myself out there to help and be part of the world around me. I work hard to emphasize social awareness and servitude to my kids so that they understand the lottery they won by being born in the United States, the privilege they live with, and the fact that they are blessed in a world where not everyone is so fortunate.

I don’t take my life, or my good fortune, for granted.

So why do I shy away from books that highlight the dark side of humanity? In my books–both those that I read, and those that I write–I want to escape. That’s not to say that the books I read and write are fluff; they’re not! I read a wide range of books with a wide range of themes. Many are character driven books that explore personal journeys. They’re not all romances. They just don’t typically have to do with serial killers. The bottom line is that I like to see the more positive side of life, and sometimes fiction is the only way I can get there.
Hurricane Ike can be raging all around me–as it just did for so many, but in my fiction world, it’s sunny and bright and through the struggles, there’s always a rainbow. I reach out to help, care about the people who are suffering, and at the end of the day, a book that sees life in a more positive light is the thing that keeps me going.

At RWA’s National conference last year, Lisa Kleypas gave the keynote address. I remember her telling a story about her ravaged town and the destruction of her house. She talked about how she and her mom visited Walmart to stock up on basic supplies. When they met up after their shopping at the checkout line, they both had–as part of their necessities–a romance novel. The uplifting spirit of such a book is renewing and we all need that every now and then, especially in the face of our own everyday tragedies and struggles. So, in general, the dark, dark suspense is not what I turn to anymore.

I know that SO many people LOVE romantic suspense and get the renewal talked about above from those books because there is a happily ever after. There is love and redemption and people who survive at all costs. If you love romantic suspense, how do you separate yourself from the darkness in the books and the darkness in our lives and in our world?

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September 15th, 2008 by Robin
Reading Romance:  A Conversion Narrative
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Unlike most genre readers, I came to Romance late, years, in fact, after discovering the genre through one of my college roommates. And like any convert, once I got into Romance (through that same college roommate, now one of my BFFs), I embraced the genre with the enthusiasm of a true zealot, convinced that all my friends who love books were missing out on some incredible reads.

But my experience trying to convert those other friends has not, by and large, been very successful. A book here and there might slip through: I got one friend hooked on JD Robb’s In Death series, another got a handful of books into Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, and Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse has been a relatively easy sell – but none of those series is pure Romance.

Even my own conversion was a bit rough. One of the first Romance novels I read was Kinsale’s The Shadow and The Star, and my first time through the book convinced me that Leda embodied every Romance stereotype I suspected the genre proffered. Then there was Black Silk by Judith Ivory, which was an immediate keeper, hitting all my literary fiction buttons, I suspect. I probably started The Windflower ten times before I was finally able to read it through, and by that time, I was immersed in the genre, so the datedness of some of the language didn’t distract me.

But the road to that acceptance was by no means straight. It took me three good reads of the Kinsale book before I understood how Leda was subverting more stereotypes than she was affirming, and those progressive reads took place within the context of more historical Romance reading: Patricia Gaffney, the Laura London Regencies, Jo Goodman, more Kinsale and Ivory books, and then on to Lisa Kleypas, Loretta Chase, Emma Holly, and Susan Johnson, among others.

I read a lot of books in a short period of time, learning the language of Romance, its dominant types and tropes, metaphors and themes, immersing myself in its different iterations. For a long time I couldn’t read contemporaries, because each book I picked up read like a battle of sexual politics, exhausting me and distracting me from the romantic theme. It wasn’t until I was much better schooled in the genre that I could read contemporaries and not feel overset by the sexual politics. It was the same for category Romance; I had to be almost fluent in Romance before I could widely appreciate the compacted page count and time frame in category.

No one knows better that Romance is a paradigm than veteran readers and outsiders; the only difference is the way each responds to its characteristics and limits. Had I not been introduced to the genre by someone who knew my taste in books, I cannot imagine where I would have started reading, and what the results would have been. For almost a full year, I was reading almost exclusively out of print books pulled from a carefully prepared list. Once I ventured off that list, there were many highs and lows, but because I had already experienced some incredible books, I persisted past the lows.

So to some degree I understand when my friends don’t automatically make the conversion to genre Romance. Like any language, Romance seems most easily mastered young, which may be why so many of its readers trace their love of the genre to their teens. As a late bloomer I had to polish up my translation skills when I started reading Romance, since it didn’t fit immediately into my reading expectations and experiences. Because I had such a strong interest in popular fiction and had studied the captivity narrative out of which genre Romance evolved, I wanted to appreciate and enjoy the genre, which probably kept me reading when others might have resisted.

And now that I am a convert, I worry, sometimes, that all those things I noticed so readily when I first started the genre are still very much there but invisible to me somehow. I want a little of that skepticism back, along with the novice’s curiosity that often led to excitement at reading something I had never seen before. For every book that unsettled and frustrated me, another surprised and delighted me, and both reactions were exciting in their own way. Now I most definitely enjoy Romance, but sometimes I worry that my sharpness as a reader has been blunted by my proficiency at reading genre.

And as for getting others to share the love, I am starting to believe that the later one is introduced to the genre the harder it will be to convert.

So tell me, what was your conversion to the genre like? Did you start early or later, and was your love of the genre immediate or gradual? Have you ever tried to convert someone else to the genre, and how has that worked? Do you think Romance readers have something in common that makes them love the genre, or do you think that anyone can embrace the genre if they just read the right book?

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September 12th, 2008 by Eric Selinger
The Rorschach Burqa
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I don’t often wish for a cell-phone camera–and, to be honest, I’m not the sort of guy who would actually use one to snap a picture surreptitiously. A few months ago, though, I saw something that made me wish, however briefly, that I had one handy: an image that haunts me, especially today, on the anniversary of 9/11.

(Yup, I’m one of those last-minute posters. Writing this yesterday, I won’t say when. But it’s in, so no harm done, right?)

It was a Tuesday night, around 6 o’clock. I was on my way from work to my synagogue, picking up the kids from Hebrew school, and since I was running early, I figured I’d pass the time by browsing the romance section of my local chain bookstore.

I’d started near the end of the alphabet, looking for a copy of Bertrice Small’s The Kadin, which I’ve been thinking of adding to my next romance syllabus. No luck there, but they did have a couple of Laura Kinsales, freshly reissued, so I lost myself in the opening chapter of Midsummer Moon. (Now there’s a book I want to teach someday!) A few pages later, checking my watch, I decided to take one quick look at the other side of the romance aisle before I hit the road.

And there she was: a woman, veiled, in a jet-black burqa, sitting on the floor with a romance open in her lap and a stack of them at her side.

She didn’t look up, and I didn’t stare. Burqas, saris, shtreimels: in my neighborhood, you see them all daily. Still, the contrast between her clothes and the books she was reading made the image not only memorable, but also a sort of rorschach test.

When I tell friends and colleagues the story, they project all sorts of ideas into it. One student of mine, from Bosnia, reacted sharply and sympathetically: “Oh, that poor woman!” To her, the clothing meant repression, and the novels, a secret escape. Another had the opposite reaction. “Maybe she always loved romance novels,” she said, “and she’s just kept reading them. Just because she’s super-modest in public doesn’t mean she’s super-repressed.” Some picture her as an immigrant, learning English and a strange new culture. Others imagine she’s moved here from Pakistan, a Mills & Boon reader from her girlhood, longing for a taste of home. A few of my students immediately claim of her as one of their own: a native-born Chicagoan, proud of her heritage, who’d have told me off, and rightly so, if I’d paused for a second look.

Was she young? Was she old? Rebellious? Shocked? Nonchalant? I’ll never know. But when I see a woman in a burqa, now, in person or on the news, a few of the cliches that filled my head a few years back have now been displaced by a much quirkier, comforting thought:

“I wonder if she’s a romance reader, too?”

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September 11th, 2008 by May K
You Call Yourself What?
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Some of the pseudonyms (at least, I hope they didn’t have parents cruel enough to name their children such) I’ve seen over the years online really do boggle my mind.

On websites? Blogs? It doesn’t bother me. If it did, it would be calling the kettle black, really, given the username I use on most websites when I am not going by just my first name.

On book covers? Yeah. It bothers me. It bothers me a lot, enough that I won’t buy a book because of it. I’m not one for ’serious fiction.’ But the fact is that these pseudonyms make it impossible for me to take the author seriously, which means that I’m not willing to plunk down cash for their books.

I figure the reason for the…umh…shall we say odd? pseudonyms is to be different. Just look at the sidebars on RTB. Loads of Jens of every possible spelling, at least half a dozen Lindas and another half a dozen Michelles. I get it, but some of these pseudonyms are, to quote Angela James on another matter altogether, ’so different they border on ridiculous.’

I won’t name names, but it also makes me wonder about the publisher of the book. Even at an e-press, there has to be more than one person (well, most of the time anyway) who has their hands on the book at some point in the production process. So why hasn’t somebody or someone stopped them, somewhere along the way?

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September 10th, 2008 by Allison Brennan
Taboos
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As seems to happen in cyberspace, conversations become cyclical. One email loop or blog will talk about a specific topic, and suddenly everyone is talking about it at the same time and you’re not sure who started the conversation.

This has recently happened in communities I’m in related to the subject of what is taboo in romance. (And fill-in your favorite sub-genre, because it’s not just straight contemporary romance, but romantic suspense, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, historical romance, etc., etc.)

But many people aren’t talking about what’s forbidden (if there is anything that’s forbidden), but if people would want to read this type of book. For example, someone will ask a question, “I’m writing a book about a dog falling in love with a cat. Would this be something you’d want to read?” The responses are polar opposites, from “I’d never read a book like that!” to “I’ve been waiting forever to read a book like that!”

The topics are wide and varied. Divorce, remarriage, the death or murder of a child, a cheating spouse, heroines who sleep around, having a dog’s POV in the story, etc., etc. Some very serious, some not-so-serious.

These conversations aren’t limited to writers loops. They are discussed among readers as well, as evidenced by me lurking last night on a few romance message boards as I contemplated writing this blog. I wanted to see if these strong opinions were reserved for writers, or if readers shared them. Well, they do. Many readers won’t read books with certain plot devices . . . though they are usually willing to give their favorite authors a chance.

As a writer, I’ve had to learn a hard lesson. It’s really a life lesson: You Can’t Please Everyone. We all try, right? We want to be good wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, employees, bosses. But when you spread yourself too thin, you end up exhausted and unable to please anyone because you’ll never be able to meet all their expectations.

This is true in writing. No matter what you write, someone is going to hate it. They might hate your character, your story, or the premise. It doesn’t matter. Even the most popular authors don’t please every reader out there, even every reader of that genre or every one of their fans with every book.

So that’s the first thing that aspiring writers need to learn: you can’t please everyone. Who can you please then? Well, the first person you MUST please is yourself. As Stephen King says, “Write with the door closed.” He refers to your first draft, your sloppy copy, your rough draft, whatever you want to call it. Get the story down on paper the way you want to tell it, without thinking about fans or readers or editors or agents. Write the story you love, tell it the way you want.

King goes on to say, “Edit with the window open.” Listen to suggestions on how to improve the story, create better characters, tighten the prose, keeping an eye out for things that may not be working.

The single most important thing in writing is passion. YOU must have passion for your story. YOU must love what you’re writing. Aspiring writers are constantly asking about what’s selling? What’s hot? What’s the market like? I say, it doesn’t matter. Because if you don’t love what’s hot, you’re not going to effectively write it. You won’t have the passion for it. That will show in your writing.

This holds true for any controversial plot. If you want to write a book about infidelity, because you have this wonderful story that’s bursting inside you and you want to pour it out and see where it goes, DO IT! Why do you care if an email list of writers tell you they would never read a book like that? Because in the end, I believe that it’s all in the execution. One writer can take the idea and it’ll bomb; another will take the exact same premise and hit the bestseller lists.

Does this mean there aren’t any taboos? That everything goes? Yes . . . and no. Controversial or “taboo” topics can be hard to write, but they can also be the most emotionally rewarding. The thing to remember is: you can’t please everyone. If you’re writing something you are passionate about, do it–knowing that some editors and some agents and some readers are not going to love it. You’ll be rejected. But if an editor loves it, chances are there are readers out there who will love it–it’s just finding them and writing to them.

Voice is so important in fiction. When I discovered my “voice” was naturally darker than I thought, I let it go–meaning, I stopped restraining my writing and pulling back. I was scared–because not everyone likes dark romantic suspense. Not everyone wants to be scared or nervous or checking their doors three times before the go to bed. But this is me, and I had to accept that not everyone would love my books before I could truly release my voice and write what came naturally, rather than forcing my prose into a mold I thought I needed to stay in to sell.

Joining writers groups like Romance Writers of America and Sisters in Crime and others can be hugely beneficial in so many ways to aspiring writers; however, it can also be stifling when you find out there are “rules” and you try so hard to follow them.

I would argue that in following these rules, in not pushing the envelope in whatever you’re writing be it suspense, comedy, angst, hot sex, that you’re stifling your natural creative voice and diminishing your passion. Without passion (and I’m not talking sex), it’s much harder to sell.

Now all that said, you need to know what you love to read, what you love to write, and what publishers publish what you love to read and write. Because some publishers do have “taboos” and they’re all different. But generally, it’s all in the execution–and if you can pull it off, go for it.

Every reader has their own “taboo” subjects. Some people don’t like books with animals, or children who talk on the page, or secret baby stories, or blond heroes. Some are more serious taboos, like no books with children who die, no books about infidelity, no books about rape.

I’d considered asking people what book subject matter they would never read, but then I decided to do something more positive . . . so I’d like to know a book you’ve read that dealt with one of your personal taboos that you ended up liking in spite of or because of the taboo plot point or character trait. Was it the author? The voice? The execution? All of the above?

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September 9th, 2008 by Special Guest
Quiz: Paranormal Romance or Urban Fantasy By Jackie Kessler
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This one’s an oldie but goodie. Enjoy!

It seems like the distinction between paranormal romance and urban fantasy is blurring more and more. What’s a writer to do? Here’s a little quiz to help you determine whether the book you’re working on will be shelved in the Romance section or in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section.

1. The heroine is a virgin. In the story, she…
A. Will fall in love with the hero and will give him the greatest gift of
all: her virginity.
B. Will almost be fed to a dragon/be sacrificed in an evil ritual.
C. Will never be burdened with her period, even though she’s not pregnant.

2. The noble hero…
A. Is looking for his one try love to save/heal/complete himself.
B. Is looking for the super magic item that will save/heal his kingdom/country/king.
C. Is looking for the magic item but won’t turn down a roll in the hay.

3. When the hero and heroine meet…
A. Sparks will fly.
B. Weapons will fly.
C. Witty banter will fly.

4. The hero and heroine will sleep with each other…
A. After a long courtship/build up of sexual tension.
B. Maybe. Or not. Depends how tired they are after all the battles.
C. As often as possible.

5. After the first time they make love…
A. The countdown is on until their first major disagreement/fight.
B. They gear up and continue on their journey and don’t discuss what occurred between them until journey’s end, if they’re both still alive.
C. The heroine suddenly has a magical ability she never had before.

6. The Big Bad Evil is chasing the intrepid lovers. The lovers…
A. Stop everything and have sex.
B. Fight the Big Bad Evil, which may lead to one of them becoming gravely wounded.
C. Fight the Big Bad Evil, win, and then have sex.

7. Along the way, the hero or heroine is tempted to have sex with someone besides their intended. They…
A. Fight the temptation; after all, this vixen/gigolo isn’t their true love.
B. Will ignore the distraction and will get on with the quest.
C. First determine whether the tempter has the magic item they’ve been questing for, then may have sex, as long as it nets them the magic item.

8. In a choice between saving the lover or saving the magic item, the hero…
A. Will save the lover, of course; the magic item is inconsequential.
B. Will save the magic item, of course; sacrifice is expected in the battle between Good and Evil.
C. Will save the lover, of course; the magic item will wind up being saves as a result of this show of dedication.

9. The ending of the story…
A. Will be a happily ever after.
B. Will have the forces of Good defeat the forces of Evil.
C. Will be a setup for the next book.

If you answered mostly A, congratulations–you’ve written a paranormal romance!

If you answered mostly B, congratulations–you’ve written an urban fantasy!

If you answered mostly C, then congratulations–you’ve written a book that your editor will determine how to market!

Jackie Kessler is the author of the Hell on Earth series, which you can find in the Romance section and read even if you usually frequent the Science Fiction/Fantasy section. Jackie is also the co-author of BLACK & WHITE, a dystopian superhero novel coauthored by Caitlin Kittredge, which will be published by Bantam Spectra in summer 2009. For more about Jackie, visit her
website: www.jackiekessler.com. And remember: love your inner demon.

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