Writing Tips

Daily Decadence from My Couch

iStock_000003016186XSmallToday, my decadence is editing from home and turbo coffee that will give me the jitters. It’s pretty luxurious to work on one’s couch–easily my favorite place in any domicile. My other decadence–at least, this week–was getting so thoroughly lost in this fabulous romance that I’m sad it’s over. I might read it again.

Because I read romance all day, I don’t seek it out as much in my spare time. But sometimes, I’ll grab a different kind of romance from the norm of what I edit and feel that jolt of happiness by the end. This is what I look for–by day or night:

1. I love reunion romances, especially if they broke up because of a misunderstanding. More than this, though, I like when two strangers meet and get to know each other. The build-up to that first time will keep me turning the pages. Even more exciting is when they meet under bizarre circumstances, like during a natural disaster, in the coat check room, on the day the divorce goes through.

2. A heroine I can root for. She doesn’t have to be too sassy, wisecracking or stubborn. And she can’t be too depressed about her situation. In fact, the sad-sack or feisty heroine (who is secretly perfect) is tiresome. I just want a heroine who’s, like, cool — someone I could admire and be friends with. She’s the woman in whom I could confide my deep (and shallow) thoughts and visa versa, who likes to go out for coffee, and see the stupid movies my husband can’t stomach. She will go to a  Duran Duran concert with me, provided we can get someone to babysit her kids.

3. It’s rare that I get a submission where the hero is an actor/musician/athlete, but I have bought books with this kind of hero. When writers ask what I’m looking for, I usually say, a “great voice” or “loveable characters.” The writer’s writing will decide the story/genre so I can’t rule out anything. My personal taste is the more Alpha hero or someone who is a mixed bag of insecurities and strengths. He is mystifying.

4. Another way to grab my attention is to go to unpredictable places in your story. I know the romance will end happily, but I like surprise and complexity. This can be challenging to do in romance, but not impossible. Just don’t pull in the nasty one-dimensional ex-girlfriend at the end.

5. In romance, the decadence for me is not the love scene but the first kissing scene. Don’t put it off until p. 200, but also, an abrupt mouth-mashing session on p. 1 doesn’t usually work–at least not for me. I like to be romanced a little before I get involved.

6. Sometimes I like pure fantasy in romance. Like he’s a gazillionaire and wants this one unassuming heroine. She looks stressed so he buys her a new wardrobe, takes her to a  spa, then to his private island and gives her drinks with cute little straws in them. For a while, she doesn’t have to worry about bills, laundry, or deadlines.

7. Most of what I edit is suspense or homey, family-based stories. Outside of this, I seek out historicals, the occasional YA, paranormal and urban romance. But I’m grateful for any story that makes me lose track of time.

So thanks to all of you who help me do just that.


Real-Life Romance to Become a Book: Did This Really Happen to Me?

sampayshieMy love of romance began with The Love Boat and that flirtation between Lynda Carter and Lyle Waggoner in Wonder Woman. I consumed stories more feverishly when Nici, my high school BFF and future matron-of-honor, handed me my first Harlequin Presents circa 1983–when I was negative 10 years old. There were a few detours before I wound up editing romance novels full-time and–shockingly–finding a hero of my own.

My husband and I have a great love story, but I didn’t consider writing about it for public consumption, aside from the occasional mention on social media. Even though we got to meet Anderson Cooper and appear on the Rachael Ray Show, I still thought, we are far too boring. Secretly, I wrote a few versions of our romance with the intention of stowing them in my closet, along with my many pairs of black shoes and questionable knitting projects.

Late last year, I was telling someone about how Sam and I reconnected, and it hit home how uplifting our story is. It’s about finding love after you’ve given up (and the irony of editing romance through nasty breakups). One of the reasons why I read romance is that the stories make me happy. Of course, I want to write my happy story. In February, this book sold to Dutton and will be coming out early next year. It details my growing love of the romance genre, running parallel to my decreasing interest in real-life romance–until Sam.

I still can’t believe this happened to me, even though I spent the last five months writing and writing. I can’t believe it to the point where I haven’t said much except to a few friends, colleagues and family. Well, until now! What an extraordinary journey this has been.

Please pinch me.