15 Romance Clichés–Love ‘Em or Leave ‘Em?

young romantic couple kissing in front of sunset in santa monicaEvery genre has its clichés and I sort of love them because they can be like chicken soup or The Brady Bunch, i.e. comforting old friends. At the same time, when you’re a voracious reader, these clichés get tired and seem like a quick exit. As a professional reader, I see certain things so much I could just die*. Here are some offenses I would urge romance writers to avoid from now on:

  1. Referring to sex as a “dance as old as time.” You know what’s as old as time? Mitosis! Or if you have another belief: God. So really, sex isn’t a dance as old as time. For me, personally, the hustle is a dance as old as time because, for me, that’s when time began.
  2. The hero says he’s hungry but not for food. Let’s just say lovin’ and feasting aren’t the same thing, but comparisons are made interchangeably throughout acts of whoopee. He feasted on her body. He sipped her lips.  I’ve programmed myself not to wince over this hungry-not-for-food cliché. Instead, I try to think of Duran Duran**. Here, though, Simon Le Bon is hungry but not for food. Alas.
  3. The heroine runs into the hero–literally***. And as their hands touch, this odd bolt of electricity goes up their arms! Wonder what that could mean…? I say it’s from rug burn.
  4. They engage in the Missionary position 90% of the time. I get it because the hero and heroine are face to face. It’s more intimate. In a category romance, you certainly don’t want the first act of forever love to begin with, “Get on your knees, Sarah.” One time I was reading a romance and I became a little agitated because the hero and heroine weren’t in the usual face to face position. So shocked was I that I didn’t skim the sexy and romantic scene. Well done, romance writer!
  5. His tongue “sweeps past her lips.” There’s no pretty way to describe French kissing, but I’m tired of this one.
  6. Running his tongue along the outside of her lips. I’ve read this bit of foreplay since the 80s. And it’s still happening! I may be naive about technique, but ew.
  7. The heroine dabs on gloss, and that’s the extent of putting on her face. I know the heroine is supposed to be low maintenance. Do real-life heroes like kissing gloss? Maybe it’s an aesthetic thing in romance, but heroines don’t all need gloss. Okay, maybe they do. Here’s what I use, just because I like it.
  8. When she’s really driving him nuts, the hero runs a hand through his hair. I know he can’t reach for a Xanax. It’s good he has hair, right? At least he’s not balling his hands into fists. On TV, you’d see the actor clench his jaw (indicating frustration). It’s a valid reaction to aggravation, but cliché.
  9. Starting your story with a dream, car ride, breakup, anything in italics. This normally makes me put down a book. I just can’t do it! My eyes are too feeble to read italics for long stretches. Now if it’s a manuscript I’ve already bought, I forge ahead and consider how important it is to the story to begin this way.
  10. Kissing her thoroughly, senseless, or breathless. You can’t exactly say he kissed so powerfully as to bring on an asthma attack. After this mind-melting experience, which causes respiratory distress, her lips are swollen from his kisses. I understand that the writer wants to convey intensity. There are other ways. These have been used again and again.
  11. He has a baritone voice. Just overused. I like a good Irish tenor myself.
  12. He’s seeing how she has curves in all the right places. What about the wrong places? Whenever I read this, I laugh a little to myself.
  13. A real annoyance to me is the combative banter between the hero and heroine, especially at the beginning, to show he’s arrogant and she’s a spitfire! There are people one can hate on sight, but wouldn’t you be polite? If these characters are going to bicker, the writer should show motivation behind it aside from temperamental issues or irritation masking desire.
  14. After their lovemaking****, the hero cooks breakfast, especially eggs. So many heroes, as it turns out, can make omelets. They go to omelet school before they take out a lady. What a heroine really wants is a nice gooey Cinnabon in the morning–or that’s just me.
  15. The heroine says at the beginning that she has no time for love. I never believe this. It’s a deliberate set-up to show us just how radically her world is about to change. I have a friend who has no time for love. He works at his day job and spends all his free time dazzling in the entertainment industry. “What about love?” I queried. He acted as if I’d asked him about string theory. If the heroine has no time for love, she wouldn’t even be thinking this or saying it. When in doubt, show us how busy and indifferent she is.

As I wrote above, these clichés can be welcome to a reader, but it should be every writer’s challenge to forge a new path. Make it even more memorable and creative for us, your old, new and future readers.

*Hyperbole is a real-life cliché.

**This doesn’t take much.

***Misuse and overuse of “literally” drives me batty these days, not literally.

****I hate this word because it seems to old-fashioned, but in romance, you can’t avoid it, especially when describing coitus in meetings or with authors. Sex can be too technical, making love too syrupy. Boinking isn’t an option either, so it’s lovemaking or the love scene (s).

25 Things You Don’t Know About Me

2806004-jawsAfter reading US Magazine‘s 25 Things You Didn’t Know About Me section and missing those Facebook invites to share personal facts, I thought I’d take advantage of my Narcissism 1st amendment rights and do my own confessional! So here are some things you may not know about me. Though…maybe you do.

1. I like going into Duane Reade and buying a lot of crap.

2. Since using this lip balm, I’m now obsessed and keep at least 4 on hand.

3. The number 107 has followed me since childhood. I see it everywhere.

4. Being out in a storm is my favorite thing–as long as it doesn’t hurt me.

5. My all-time favorite movie is Jaws.

6. I love to run but am extremely lazy.

7. I’ve been reading tarot cards for the last 20 years. Yes, I started because of a boy.

8. I’m an insomniac (I’ve tried everything).

9. I started wearing an eyemask to sleep in my 40s. No idea…

10. After the Pan Am flight 103 blew up, I developed a fear of flying, which I still have, but I get on the plane anyway.

11. Since this commercial, I’ve been using the same skin cream for almost 30 years.

12. Ironing and starching clothes relaxes me.

13. I collect ribbon. I’m not sure why, unless Laura Ingalls and Nellie Olsen need it for the church social.

14. It’s important to me that I live in a country where people can have different opinions on the same topic. Red and blue and purple should be able to co-exist.

15. I love that a cup of coffee cures my headache 99% of the time.21eaea3a236b9ba62475fce3c4ee56d1

16. I’d never owned any kind of diamond until my husband proposed.

17. In high school, I cracked my jaw while blowing a funky smoke ring*, and I’ve been able to tell the weather ever since.

18. I want to read everything.

19. My husband accepts my girl-crush on Jane Lynch. Every time she’s on the screen, I can’t look away, especially in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Role Models.

20. It takes a gallon of oil to keep my hair from being broom-like.

21. Since living in NYC, I’ve learned to carry essentials in case of an emergency: tiger balm, eucalyptus oil, anti-bacterial wipes, a mini-elephant (for good luck), Advil, Altoids, back-up Altoids, secret money, cell phone–and I always wear sneakers so I can run if I need to in case of attack, storm, blackout.

22. One of the most embarrassing moments of my life: My dorm mother caught me imaginary slow dancing with my imaginary boyfriend Nick Rhodes (sophomore year of high school, when I took a short hiatus from my long-term imaginary boyfriend, John Taylor). She said, “Okay…?”

23. I read Hard Times by Charles Dickens when I was 10, just to impress my parents. I don’t remember anything about it.

24. I did the calligraphy on diplomas for four years of high school seniors (damn those who had two middle names!) when I was in high school.

25. Four years later, I still can’t believe I’m married and to such a cool guy. How amazing!

 

*I don’t smoke anymore.

The Crush You Can’t Explain

Recently, I was sitting in a class, wondering why my teacher seemed especially enjoyable to me. After a good half hour of analysis, his sudden smile brought my fascination into focus. He resembles a star I could binge-watch without end. I can only explain my love in pictures:

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hbken

 

 

 

 

 

hbjyd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donald Sutherland is a god on TV and in film. He’s the voice telling you that grapefruit season yielded particularly succulent delights for your drinking pleasure. DS’s majesty permeates the cosmos. Now that I’ve confessed, dear reader, it’s your turn. Who do you love inexplicably?

An Ordinary Day Editing Romance

Goal for the day: Edit 100 pages of overdue manuscript.

7:45: Roll out of bed. Out the door by 8:06. I know, 21 minutes to get ready is amazing. I’m a brat about commuting so  I figure if I’m half asleep, it’s better for fellow commuters. It takes me 10 minutes to get to work. When I lived further uptown, my commute was at least an hour–still not bad at all. Some of my colleagues commute almost 2 hours each way, every day.

8:30: I work on the back cover copy of the four books I oversee from month to month. I also review the Front Sales (or Page One), which is usually a catchy scene. Then I approve the author bios, book lists, dedications and send to our copyediting team. This takes a while since we usually rewrite copy to get wording just right. In addition, a lot of fact-checking is involved.

10:00: Mass phone meeting where I learn more about a side of the business I don’t usually encounter.

11:00: Because I’m old school, I edit first on paper. This kills many trees and I’m sure I’ll wind up in a fiery chamber underground. But it saves my eyes at the same time that it adds a couple hours to my workload. I spend a good chunk of the day transferring my paper notes into our editing program. While I do this, I listen to this movie‘s soundtrack. So relaxing!

Noon: I realize I forgot to change into my fancy shoes. This is an idle thought. I don’t do anything about it. Silently figure I can get through the day in comfortable shoes and I don’t need to look taller. Run out to get Valentine’s Day cards (b/c Papyrus store downstairs is my drug of choice) and lunch. Back to editing program until 2-ish.

2:00: Restless wandering of halls, running little errands. The long walk to the mailroom is good exercise. To up my FitBit numbers, I do this at least twice. I also grab some of our new books, which have arrived on the communal bookshelf. I  socialize, touch base.

I get three compliments on my sweater, which I’d worried was either hideous or gorgeous. Verdict: gorgeous.

3:00: Department meeting, which is pleasantly boisterous (informative, too, of course) and lasts until I have to go home.

How many pages did I edit on the overdue manuscript? 0. Guess what I’m doing today?

me in H office

Happy Paperback Birthday to Romance Is My Day Job!

IMG_2513So that storm. Yeah. No way could I traverse ankle-high snowbanks on my block, not even in my fiercest worm-stompers. That’s my lame attempt at sarcasm. Can I confess that I was kind of excited for a big, massive pile of snow and totally inconvenient delays and shut-downs? I’m from Upstate New York. It’s in my DNA to crave snow as high as a house. I shouldn’t be disappointed. All I have to do is think of what a nightmare Tropical Storm Sandy was–and how poorly I dealt with losing my first world comforts* for five days.

I digress!

Speaking of first world comforts, on my book birthday, I’m afraid I didn’t go to B&N because in dutiful editor fashion, I was glued to an overdue manuscript (and it was cold out). Friday is the day I will stalk myself on bookshelves** and celebrate this achievement once again. To tide me over until Friday, my Q&A with Biographile is live!

By the end of the day, I started watching Friday Night Lights, which has rendered me worthless for the rest of the night. Coach Taylor is a role model. His pep talks inspire me to begin anew, every 43 minutes. I will kick some butt. I won’t ever quit. Not on this field. And I can kick a field goal 46 yards (totally can).

*Easy Internets, ice cream, trustworthy sandwiches, light in bathroom, candy as evil sin and not only food that is fresh.

**Narcissism is okay if you can back it up!

Romance Is My Day Job Arrives with Juno

IMG_2508My author copies of Romance Is My Day Job arrived today and I got that giddiness every writer has when seeing tangible proof of her story. I’m very lucky I got to experience this five times with the same book: hard copy, audio, Polish version, Thorndike large print, and now paperback! That’s a lot of giddiness for 309 pages. Is there a better boost during what will be–potentially–one of the worst blizzards in New York history?

I added to the joy–ignoring my no dairy, no sugar, no gluten–with some Ben & Jerry’s (salted caramel core) and pecan sandies. If you crush the cookie on the ice cream, you have a perfect dessert, except for the lack of whipped cream. Then I remembered my secret Reese’s Peanut Butter stash. Am I prepared for this storm or what?

Tomorrow, as the storm is underway, the paperback should be on shelves. I’m hoping to trek over to a bookstore to find it.