Tag Archives: romance

Lessons on Love

My youngest, Miss Drama, does not have a phone or tablet of her own. She uses my phone to sometimes text her friends. It didn’t occur to her that since it’s MY phone, I’m totally going to read what was said.

For all you men out there reflecting back on your adolescence and wondering what girls said about you, well, it was pretty much this, and some of my friends’ spelling was equally bad and they couldn’t blame it on auto-correct.


According to the texts, her friend has a crush on a little boy, but clearly beauty is in the eye of the beholder because Miss Drama just isn’t seeing it.


But back to her admirer….

So class, what have we learned? The way to a 10 year old’s heart is to be funny and not have a triangle head, and maybe not to go overboard with saying “you’re hot” all the time and trying to “protect” your crush when she doesn’t ask you to. That gets you named a “do do bird”.


Writer’s Ramble: Sela Carsen

Today  we have with us paranormal romance author, Sela Carsen! She’s here to educate us on romance. No, you can’t have her number. No, you can’t have mine either. We are not the romance you are looking for. Move along.

Sela Carsen was born into a traveling family, then married a military man to continue her gypsy lifestyle. With her husband of 20 years, their two teens, her mother, the dog, and the cat, she’s finally (temporarily) settled in the Midwest. Between bouts of packing and unpacking, she writes paranormal romances, with or without dead bodies. Your pick.



HC and I met for the first time recently at MidSouthCon, which was a fun and eye-opening experience for me, as it was also my first full con experience. People are cool. Weird and cool.

Upon our return to our regularly scheduled lives, she asked if I’d come and write a blog post for her on Romance. Big R, genre romance.

I’m guessing y’all aren’t romance readers.

[HC here! I read romance, among other things, and I’ve found if you stick a romance plot in a book with explosions guys read it and think it’s AWESOME.]

Which is actually kind of neat for me. I spend a lot of my days surrounded (online) by romance writers and readers, and it’s wonderfully comforting to have that touch-point in common. We speak the same language, as it were. One of the most enlightening experiences I ever had was going to a Pop Culture Association conference, and sitting down to dinner with people who looked at genre romance from the perspective of serious literary criticism. My inner nerd nearly exploded in joy.

But it’s good to get out of my comfort zone, too.

Crafting a Romance – Fiction vs. Reality

Today, we’ll start with the basics. The rules, as it were, of romance. There are two.

Yes, just two. According to Romance Writers of America, the only elements necessary for writing genre romance are:

  1. A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.
  2. An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.

That’s it. No, there are no rules about sex scenes. I know plenty of great – and popular – romance writers who don’t write sex on the page at all. I also know writers who write things that’ll fry the circuits on your Kindle.

Also, no, there’s no machine at the Harlequin headquarters that cranks out plots and characters for a mix-and-match game. I’ll tell you something about the folks who have made HQ the top individual publisher of romance in the world – “110 titles a month in 34 languages in 110 international markets on six continents.”: these people know their audience.

They know who their readers are, and they understand what their readers are after.

The readers are after the fantasy.

Kelly Faircloth at Jezebel wrote a fantastic piece about a year ago that goes into the history of HQ, but my favorite part of the article is this:

“There’s a persistent tendency to assume that romance fans read only on a single level. Either we’re housewives fluttering against the confinement of the patriarchy like moths at a kitchen window, or we’re deluded foot soldiers in the backlash to the feminist movement, or we’re dowds somehow simultaneously repressed and sex-crazed. What so many critics miss is that it’s perfectly possible to roll your eyes at yet another hero with [a] jet, an island and an over inflated sense of his own authority; arch your brow at the fucked-up gender politics of a particular scene; cheer when the heroine reads the hero the riot act; and swoon at the emotional climax.”

Why do you think this one genre accounts for $1.08 billion in annual sales?

We’re writing the fantasy.

That’s what it really comes down to. Whether there are wizards slinging spells, aliens shooting ray guns, cowboys throwing lassos, or billionaires taking over yet another family-run business (but taking the owner’s daughter instead, a la Beauty and the Beast), it’s all a fantasy.

In real life, we’re just ordinary folks. We’re self-actualized, we’re busy, we’ve got a lot going on in our lives. We do the job thing, we do the family thing. We come home at night, make dinner, do the dishes, put the kids to bed, and binge watch NCIS and/or Supernatural.

Raise your hand if you want to read about that.

I didn’t think so.

So instead, we fantasize. We lose ourselves in worlds where there never seem to be dirty dishes in the sink. Instead, we want to read about a Russian mob enforcer who kidnaps the heroine – leaving behind her dishes – because she accidentally witnessed a hit, but instead of killing her, he falls in love with her.

That’s not so different from the hacker who follows the White Rabbit to a club, and gets asked if he wants a red pill or a blue pill.

The biggest difference is that romance – whether it’s contemporary, paranormal, SFF, or any of a thousand sub-genres and niches – is focused on the development of the relationship between the main characters. There can be world building to rival George R.R. Martin, there can be plot twists to out-do Gone Girl, there can be characters who start out as old men but turn green and go to war, but the focus isn’t primarily on the plot or the world. The story is the relationship.

And, of course, all that plotting and world building and sticky relationship stuff leads to the Happy Ever After. These days, romance readers are better about the Happy For Now ending,  something you frequently see in series, but what you don’t do…what you never, ever do at the risk of pissing off thousands of readers who will then burn you in effigy on a flaming pile of your books – is you don’t cheat your reader out of a happy ending.

Just. Don’t.

Romance readers don’t think it’s clever. When we pick up a romance novel, we have certain expectations. We don’t think killing off your MC is a neat twist. We think we just invested our time, our money, and our emotions on characters we came to embrace and love…and then you screwed us over.

But if you can give us that fantasy, and end it with a contented sigh, everyone is happy. Readers, as well as writers, because readers will pay us real money to make them happy again.

Now, by fantasy, some writers think that women all have the same fantasy. That it’s all the same domineering alpha male towering over a submissive female without a thought in her Fifty Shades of Gray Matter.

I’m not going to say it doesn’t happen. And I’m not going to say that alpha males aren’t a huge seller. They are. They totally are.

But a lot of the alpha males of romance fantasies aren’t the same as they were back in the 70s and 80s. Yes, they’re take charge leaders who have very, very pretty chesticles, but when they screw up (when, not if), they’re smart enough to admit it and change, rather than lose the woman who would walk away, rather than put up with his crap. And if they’re broken-hearted heroes, they know – or they learn – to lean on their heroines for emotional support.

The heroines, especially, have changed. Where Kathleen Woodiwiss and Barbara Cartland made romance writing history with their sweet, naïve, ingénue heroines, those gals are much harder to find these days. Heroines, like real women, come in every shape and size, every degree of character from nurturing mama to hard-ass billionaire. And just like real women, the extremes aren’t mutually exclusive.

Crafting a romance comes with the truth that people are people. It can be tough to figure out where fiction and reality separate. There are romances out there – sweet, happy romances – that are about the bill paying and the dish washing and the diaper changing. The fantasy is having a partner to share those experiences in a way that can seem like a dream sometimes. Just as much as there are stories where the hero is such an asshole that you want to scream “Run!” at the heroine. And there are readers for all of them.

Romance lets you roll with the fantasy, no matter what kind of characters you like.

Want a charming rogue of a space pirate falling in love with a nerdy archaeologist, looking for remnants of old Earth? Got it.

Want a drug-addicted bi doctor in love with his charismatic boyfriend, and a former prostitute, and her rock-star girlfriend, all working to bring down a shining city with a rotten core in a dystopian future? Yup, that’s out there, too.

Alien Viking wolf shifters protecting the Earth from other alien invaders, and falling in love with humans? Totally. I should know. I write them. 😉

There are billionaires and bear shifters, cowboys and virgins, boys next door and tough female cops out there for every taste.

As long as the relationship is front and center, and we all get our happy sighs at the end, it’s all good. And that’s the reality of romance.

If you liked what Sela had to say, hop over to her website, her Facebook Page or check out her books!

Weekly Writers’ Ramble: Book Review of “A Case of Spontaneous Combustion”

I sort of dropped the ball with my Weekly Writers’ Ramble, what with the craziness of the last few months. I shall now make all efforts to get the ball bouncing again.

After I finished my dissertation draft, and before I discovered the file was corrupted and panicked (If I disappear again, this is why.), I picked up Stephanie Osborn’s newest release in the Displaced Detective series, “A Case of Spontaneous Combustion”. If you like, you can meander over to Amazon for the blurb. I’ll wait.

Back? Good.

This is book five in the series, and personally I found it likely her best so far. Whereas the first few had some slow pacing in sections, this book kept the story moving  right along. It is well written, well edited, and the author makes excellent use of language and dialect with her characters.

In Book 5, for once, all of existence is not at stake. We can’t always go about blowing up the multiverse, you know. Still, terrorists are at work, and it is up to Sherlock, MI-5, and eventually Skye to ferret them out.

The story opens with Skye taking a simple solo case, which inadvertently triggers a marital spat. The ensuing events take their toll on both husband and wife, as each of them begins to doubt the other. It’s a case of she said A, he heard B and he said X and she heard Y sort of thing.

With Sherlock working without Skye, readers get to see him take on a case in much the same fashion as when he reined on 221B Baker Street.

Some readers might wonder where all the physics went. After all, isn’t this science fiction? You bet. Hang in there. After all, Skye can’t solve a problem she doesn’t even know about. Once she joins Sherlock on the case and has time to breathe, the physics commences.

The series demonstrates growth in both characters and at the end we get the sense that it will be far harder to rattle their faith in each other after this. It’s a fun read with familiar characters and the series simply keeps getting better. If you like genre mash-ups, give this a try!

displaced detetive

Blog Tour 2

The second post in my blog tour is up.

Marble meme

Skipping around the interwebs…aka Blog Tour

Some wonderful writer associates are letting me play on their blogs. In each blog I’ll discuss something about writing, be it style, inspiration, or encouragement for aspiring writers.

The first post can be found here, at my publisher’s blog. Each post that I share also comes with a small excerpt of Fated Bonds.  Check out each post as I link them for new little bits.

While you’re there, check out their blogs.  I’ll let Basement Cat handle the rest of the PR.

A message from Basement Cat:

You clicked the link, right? Don’t make me get up from here to check.

Don't make me get up from here to make you click the blog.

Bright, shiny, ooh….

It’s hot off the presses, and well, the digital bandwidth!

You can get the Kindle version on Amazon and the Nook version is coming soon. Due to website issues, all orders (including digital copies) are being sent out by a real live person, so don’t panic when it takes a bit for the email with your copy to arrive.  Yes, each of you gets personal service at Inkstained Succubus. Buy. Read. Enjoy. Share!

Click to order!

coverNotice: Explicit M/F and M/M sexual situations, romance, and scenes of violence.

“Fated Bonds”- Character Interview

Today we’re doing something a bit different– a character interview.

As some of you may have seen, my novel “Fated Bonds” will be out this Wednesday. Tala Neil is the heroine of the story. Her brother, Kevin Neil, is here with us today to share some details about Tala and their life.


So, hi there, and welcome to my blog!

Hey. Happy to be here.

Tala’s story, and in part, your story, is coming out soon and I hear that you wanted to tell us some things about your sister?

Yep. Now don’t get me wrong, Tala is totally badass, but I thought I’d share some stories you won’t hear from her; stuff only a sibling knows.  [Kevin winks.] As her brother, it’s my sacred duty to make sure she doesn’t get too big an ego, ya know?

Yes, and my sister does exactly that to me on a regular basis. Before we get into spilling Tala’s secrets, why don’t you tell us what it’s like to be a mage?

Sure.  For one, there aren’t any mage schools anymore. There aren’t enough of us. Traditions are passed down a family line and if you’re lucky, you know where to look for more information. Most human magic users are no more than kitchen witches now.
The secret’s out, supposedly, but people don’t believe there are mages and vampires and stuff unless they run into it first hand. We’re considered urban legends or bad pseudoscience. I once lit a teacher’s desk on fire, totally accidental, of course. The guy convinced himself that it was an electrical fire, even though it was an old-school wooden desk and nowhere near cords or an outlet.

Wow.  That must have been difficult for y’all growing up.

I suppose. You get used to it, eventually. I was a bookworm and socially awkward, so I didn’t really care. Tala, however, aspired to have a social life in high school. There was this one time she attempted to cast a spell, kind of like a no-see spell, but not as complex. The goal was to keep Mom from noticing she’d snuck out of the house. As spells like that have a way of doing, it backfired. She didn’t do it right, ended up blue as a smurf for a week and had to pretend she had the flu. She never made the rendezvous with snobby Sarah’s crowd and she got  grounded.

Blue? That can happen?


 A reader submitted a question. They asked, “Is Tala a nose wiggle or head-bob spell caster?”

[laughs] Neither. When she was a kid she’d bite her bottom lip and scrunch up her face, but she learned to be subtle. With small spells, sometimes it’s just a small finger snap, or even a blink. Personally, I like to wave my wand dramatically, but I’ve broken a few lamps and vases that way.
Magic is all about will and power. Now big spells require casting a circle and all that jazz, but that’s because you summon the elements, god, and goddess. Whenever you summon, it’s best to make sure uninvited parties can’t join in the fun.

Another reader question regards familiars. Do y’all have them?

Nope, at least not unless you count dust bunnies.

Tala is several years older than you, right?

Yeah. Eight, to be precise.

What was it like when y’all were growing up? Did she play with you? Were you friends or did you fight a lot?

She was bossy. We played some, but once she got to be a teen she was pretty busy. To be honest, she was more like a second mom. We love our mom, but she’s battled severe depression since Tala’s dad was killed. 

What age did you each start using magic?

I think we were both pretty precocious. A lot of mage-born kids are casting simple spells by ten or twelve. We could both cast by six. We weren’t technically allowed to cast spells outside of practice time, but I remember Tala making my action figures battle to entertain me.

So do you have to be a mage or can you opt out?

People opted out so much that entire family lines have gone mundane. Hundreds of years of witch hunts took their toll. The families that remain, like mine, take the responsibility very seriously. So, while we could technically decide to never practice magic, neither Tala or I got the option as a kid to skip the training. Our mother was a bit ruthless. Of course, she had reason to be. Without our training, we might fall prey to Mordecai. She lost her husband to him. She didn’t want to lose us.

I see. So, magic is serious business.

Usually, yes.

Were you ever jealous of your sister?

Of course. If any sibling out there claims that they were never, ever jealous, I say they are lying. It’s human nature. She was older and so it seemed like I was always playing catch-up.  It didn’t help that I crushed on some of the guys she brought home. She made everything look so effortless and I felt awkward. As I got older and found my own niche, I quit trying to be her and the jealousy faded away.

What made Tala decide to go into law enforcement? Does she ever bring her work home with her?

Short answer, her dad. He was a journalist before he married Mom. He switched to online freelance stuff after they married– lower profile. Tala tells me that he’d tell her stories back from his investigative journalist days. That, combined with the injustice of losing him at such a young age, I think it gave her a bit of a ‘save the world’ complex. Back before Alexander, she’d lug case files home. She lived and breathed work. She’s developed hobbies and stuff, but she’s still pretty dedicated to justice.

Has she ever had a really horrible case, and what did she have to do afterwards to detox?

Yeah, she has. She’s probably had more than I know about. I didn’t really pay much attention early in her career. The ones where kids are the victims– it gets to her. She bottles it all up until she closes the case or the trail goes cold. If she closes the case, she gets shitfaced drunk at home afterward. The ones that grow cold put her in a pissy mood for months. She’ll spend a lot of time beating the crap out of the punching dummy at the gym until she accepts the inevitable. Every once in awhile she pulls the case out, goes over it again, and ends up back at the gym.

Okay while we all know that the police deal with more than their share of ugliness on a day to day basis, we’ve also heard of some really amusing, heart warming encounters.  Does Tala have a favorite?

 Her mentor, Greg, was a really nice guy. He and his wife came to dinner every once in awhile. They had her over to their place it seems like every other weekend. On cold mornings, at the start of every shift Greg would pick up coffee for himself, Tala, and get four extras. When they went out in the cruiser, he’d stop at Greenly Park and hand out the coffees to some of the homeless. Of course the mayor passed that asinine law not long after Greg died, and they have to lock any indigents up now if they find them in the park. Tala never seems to find any. [Smiles]  So, that’s my favorite.
Tala acts like a hardass, but I’ve seen her get all teary when she reads about cops doing stuff, like buying people shoes, or whatnot.

Do you have any other stories you’d like to share?

Well, one of my favorites is the time she cornered Angela in the woods and made her faint, but you’ll have to read the book to find out how that happened.

I’m sure our readers will take you up on that. Thank you, Kevin!