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Dindi is kidnapped to be the bride of a shark... To escape she must untangle a terrible curse caused by a love and magic gone wrong.


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The Unfinished Song - This Young Adult Epic Fantasy series has sold over  70,000 copies and has 1,072 Five Star Ratings on Goodreads.

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June 26, 2015

How to Use Reiteration in Romance

Arwen and Aragorn-barbies
Staurt Horwitz in his book Book Architecture makes the case for using Reiterations to create structure for a novel without tying yourself to a linear outline. Especially if you’re writing a literary book, a book with multiple viewpoint characters or multiple timelines, this method is gold.

Horwitz is weak on one point where Coyne is strong, however: Genre specific advice.

But how about if one combined Coyne’s and Horwitz’s methods?

I’m going to take my list of Obligatory Scenes for Romance, inspired by Coyne, and mash it up with Horwitz’s Reiteration method. Let’s see what happens!

First, here’s a re-cap of Obligatory Scenes for Romance.

  1. The Cute Meet: Meeting the each other is an unusual, even life-changing event, or occurs during some life-changing event. (If they knew each other long ago, this is replaced by an Unexpected Reunion. Sometimes, the Cute Meet is included too, as a prologue or a flashback.)
  2. The External Problem: Something outside the heroine and hero keeps them apart.
  3. The Internal Problem: Some internal wound keeps the heroine and hero apart.
  4. The Draw: Despite the problems, something forces the heroine and hero to spend time together.
  5. The First Kiss: The heroine and hero express their attraction for the first time.
  6. The First Fight: The heroine and hero quarrel, but overcome their difficulty.
  7. The Commitment: The heroine and hero admit to loving one another or in some way commit to one another.
  8. The Betrayal: Despite their commitment, either the external force or internal force keeping the lover apart threatens to separate them forever. There seems to be no way to overcome this.
  9. Love Conquers All: The heroine and hero overcome the betrayal, proving the strength of their commitment (even, in a tragedy like Romeo and Juliet, or a romance without a HEA like The Titanic or The Notebook) despite death). In other almost-romances, or romances involving very young teens, an ambiguous “happily ever after for now” is acceptable.
  10. The Happily Ever After (HEA): In a true sits-on-the-romance-shelf genre Romance, as opposed to a strongly romantic story that might end tragically, the hero and heroine remain in love, remain together, and remain alive: they live happily ever after. Their HEA may be confirmed in an epilogue, or whenever the couple shows up in later books (about other couples) of the same series.

First of all, notice Points 9 and 10. The larger Theme, and the outcome that proves that Theme, for all Genre Romance (as opposed to Women’s Fiction or literary novels with a love story) must be “Love Conquers All” and a Happily Ever After (HEA). This is part of the Genre. If you don’t like it, don’t write Genre Romance. That’s pretty simple.

That doesn’t let you off the hook from developing your own Theme, however. This will be a variation of Love Conquers All, a specific example of what kind of problem Love Conquers. For instance, in 50 Shades of Grey it would be: Love is stronger than sexual sadism. The theme of Pride and Prejudice would be: Love is stronger than social prejudice. Another book might have the theme: Love is stronger than greed. One of my favorites is the HEA version of Romeo and Juliet: Love is stronger than enmity.

So far, that’s just Romance 101.

Here’s where it gets interesting. In my list of Obligatory Scenes, there were three that bugged me, the scenes I labeled 2-4 on the list: the External Problem, the Internal Problem, and the Draw. They weren’t quite right—because they weren’t Obligatory Scenes, as such, but rather ongoing elements necessary to drive the Romance. These elements might go into every scene, in fact!

I was trying to use a linear sequence, but what I needed was a set of parallel sequences—a grid. First let’s leave only the real scenes in our list:

  1. The Cute Meet: Meeting the each other is an unusual, even life-changing event, or occurs during some life-changing event. (If they knew each other long ago, this is replaced by an Unexpected Reunion. Sometimes, the Cute Meet is included too, as a prologue or a flashback.)
  2. The First Kiss: The heroine and hero express their attraction for the first time.
  3. The First Fight: The heroine and hero quarrel, but overcome their difficulty.
  4. The Commitment: The heroine and hero admit to loving one another or in some way commit to one another.
  5. The Betrayal: Despite their commitment, either the external force or internal force keeping the lover apart threatens to separate them forever. There seems to be no way to overcome this.
  6. The Happily Ever After (HEA): In a true sits-on-the-romance-shelf genre Romance, as opposed to a strongly romantic story that might end tragically, the hero and heroine remain in love, remain together, and remain alive: they live happily ever after. Their HEA may be confirmed in an epilogue, or whenever the couple shows up in later books (about other couples) of the same series.

What happened to 2-4 and 9? They are still there, but along a different axis. Let’s look again at that list once we’ve turned it into a Reiteration Grid:

Romance Obligatory Scene Grid

The Grid allows us to see that Reiterations can (potentially) iterate in every scene. (They don’t have to but they could.) This is critical, because touching on these narrative events is key to making a romance romantic. Each Obligatory Scene, as well as the other scenes in the book, will combine more than one Reiteration Arc.

Let’s take the Cute Meet. Looking at the Grid, we can see a there are several elements that might go into that scene. First there’s an iteration of Draw—the reason they are meeting and will continue to meet. Instantly, they are attracted to one another, though at this point it might be purely physical attraction. There may be an iteration of the External problem already evident. And even at this point, we should see the first iteration of the Heroine’s secret and the Hero’s secret, though the hint might be so well disguised we don’t recognize it as the first iteration of that Reiteration Arc until we’ve seen further iterations.

Least it seem the Grid is too, dare I say it, formulaic, let me emphasize that each individual story will have a different palette of Reiterations flowing into scenes. The Heroine and Hero might meet for the first time before they know that something is going to continue to work together, so there may be no Draw iteration in Cute Meet. Or they may meet, be attracted and go right to the First Kiss scene before an External antagonist pulls them away and stirs up the doubts that become an Internal Problem for one or both of them.

It’s not always necessary for the Heroine and Hero to both have a secret/internal issue. Sometimes it’s just one or the other. In Twilight, Bella is a normal girl; Edward has a secret. But in the subplot romance of Bella and Jacob, both Bella and Jacob have an internal issue. Jacob has a secret identity. Bella’s issue is that she’s still in love with Edward. In the Bella/Edward romance, they are able to overcome their external and internal problems, whereas Bella/Jacob are not. (Obviously the Bella/Jacob love story could not stand alone and still have the required HEA, but as a subplot, it works. Romances can have bittersweet, unhappy for now, or even unhappily ever after subplots for the third wheel. Usually, though a HEA is implied even for the loser of a love triangle, unless the rival was a Baddie.)

This Grid is solely for Obligatory Scenes. It could easily be expanded along the y-axis to include all the beats of a standard Narrative Arc. Several of the Obligatory Scenes are also usually broken up into successive scenes in a standard length novel.

The First Kiss can be extended into a sequence in either direction: The First Look, the First Touch, the First Time to First Base, the First Time Making Love, the Second Time Making Love…and so on. In Romantic Erotica, the first sex scene might occur about two seconds after the Cute Meet. A Sweet Romance might replace the First Kiss scene with a gentle holding-hands gesture, and the couple might not kiss until the final scene when the preacher says: “You may kiss the bride!”

A Romance trilogy that follows the same couple may extend the later beats, such as Kiss, Fight, Commitment and Betrayal, several times, with a new arc in each book. The true HEA is withheld until the last book in the series.

June 24, 2015

Tara Maya’s Review: The Reluctant Concubine

Caveat—Reader Beware!

My reviews are written from a writer’s perspective, with an eye to dissecting good novels to find out what makes them work. Although I try to avoid explicitly discussing book endings, I am not as careful about avoiding all spoilers as some reviewers. If find if I employ too much caution about giving away plot twists, I am not able to provide a concrete analysis of the book’s structure. And frankly, I hate vague reviews.

So… there may be spoilers. If that bothers you, read the book first. Then come back and read my analysis and let me know if you agree…or what I missed!

Reluctant Concubine-cover

Title: Reluctant Concubine (Hardstorm Saga Book 1)

Author: Dana Marton

Genre: Fantasy Romance

Read: First Time

Style: First Person Past

Type: Kindle ebook

* * * * *

Plot Summary:

Tera’s own father sells her into slavery to the ruthless Kadar people. The Kadar keep women in harems for the pleasure of a few feudal lords, and pride themselves on their martial prowess. Tera is purchased by the cruel first wife of a harem because Tera is supposed to be a magical healer. Unfortunately, she hasn’t come into her powers yet. When she is called on to heal the head wife’s daughter, Tera has to hide her deficiency.

Though Tera brings the daughter back from the brink of death, things only grow worse when the head wife and her daughter plot to keep Lord Gilrem, the brother of the High Lord their drugged prisoner. Lord Gilrem is a not a kind man either. When he’d first arrived at the House, his men nearly raped Tera and he did nothing to aide her. Nonetheless, her innate sense of right and wrong compels her to help him escape. The ungrateful oaf immediately reneges on his promise to help her escape as well, and leaves her to bear the punishment for helping him on her own.

It is not due to Lord Gildrem but to Tera’s reputation as a Healer that the High Lord himself arrives (in Chapter 7) and takes her as his own property. The High Lord Batumar has a fearsome scar and an even more fearsome reputation: every concubine he’s ever had has been killed. Yet the first night he has Tera, and she resists him, he tells her: “You will come to no harm from me tonight.”

On the road to his palace, Tera tames a tiger and assists (unsuccessfully) in the interrogation of a traitor. There’s an enemy warlord who threatens all the peoples, both Tera’s and the Kadar, with a conquest even more brutal than that of the Kadar.

Once at the palace, Tera is the only occupant of the harem. All the others who once lived there are dead—how? Why? She dares not ask.

At the palace, however, Tera’s healing magic finally awakens. She is able to ease some of Batumar’s old war injuries. While there, she also investigates the mystery surrounding her mother’s death, for her mother died in this very capital. As her healing powers expand, she makes herself useful to the servants of the palace, healing their ailments and illnesses. She makes an enemy, however. The Shaman Shartor distrusts her and tries to foment others to distrust her as a sorceress.

A strange aspect of the novel picks up (around Chapter 13) with the introduction of a magical “mist.” When this mystic fog rolls through the city, everyone else hides, but when Tera goes out into the mist, she encounters some old men who identify themselves as sacred Guardians. They knew her mother. They warn her that the Emperor Drakhar is the real danger.

Despite wandering off into the mist, she returns to the palace harem and to Batumar, where the romance and sexual tension continues to build. Eventually she understands the secret behind the empty harem and the tragedy in Batumar’s past. She also comes to realize he is not the man she feared and despised.

When he is imprisoned by the enemy, she risks her life to try to rescue him.


Heroine /MC: Tera daughter of Chalee

Hero: Batumar

Villainess: Kumra, cruel head wife

Villain: Shartor, shaman who accuses her of being a sorceress


The setting of the novel serves to drive the relationships. As the heroine lives mostly confined to the interiors, the outside politics feels removed. This is compounded by the first person PoV, which keeps the reader’s focus confined to Tera’s personal observations. We don’t have multiple angles to see the story unfold, so the battles, for instance, remain distant. It works in this novel, but it’s one of the reasons I wonder where the rest of the series will go.


I would say that the main focus of this novel was the romance, but structurally, it’s more complex than that. The heroine doesn’t even meet the hero until Chapter 7. In Chapter 13, a subplot which ties the heroine to a more typical Fantasy “Prophecy of the Chosen One” type plot begins, and the final four chapters of the story involve the heroine in a rescue-adventure to save her beloved from the forces of the series villains. In all these respects, the reader is gently prepared for the larger scope of the series.

Personal Remarks:

This is the first book in a romantic fantasy epic. The romantic tension in this book was amazing, but I’m not sure how it can be continued in the rest of the saga, since the hero and the heroine have already declared and consummated their love. Either something has to come between them—and it would have to be pretty severe to match the emotional intensity of the original romance—or they will ally together in future books against a common foe and the series will be more fantasy than romance. I enjoy fantasy of course, but the strength of this first book was the fraught emotion, sexual peril, and angst, not so much the worldbuilding; is this going to change? A third possibility is that another couple or another relationship will come to the fore. In common with other authors who combine Romantic Fantasy and Epic Fantasy, Dana Marton has an interesting challenge to maintain the tension across several books.


Then Tahar reappeared in the doorway, with Onra behind him, and I forgot to worry about my mother. Onra stood naked, her pale flesh glowing in the trembling light cast by the torches. She stayed where she stood, while Tahar, an arrogant smile on his face, seated himself amid loud cheers.

“Does this mean he keeps her?” I whispered.

“He would have sent her straight to the Pleasure Hall, then,” one of the girls answered.

My heart ached for Onra as she walked slowly across the endless room. A woman servant threw flower petals on her and thanked her for bringing good luck to the House. The warriors banged their fists on the tables, whistled, and made other rude noises.

She slowed when she walked by our window, blood smeared on her white thighs. Her head held high, she shed no tears. When she reached the outside door, her mother wrapped in her a blanket and led her into the cold night.

A young warrior stood from the end of the table.

“Tonight, she will be had by many,” the redhead next to me whispered. “Straight from the Lord’s bed, her virgin’s blood still flowing. It’s good luck for the men.”

Life without freedom runs on its own time.

I looked at the High Lord who would either take my body tonight or my freedom forever, or likely both, without a thought to my wishes.

I might have met him only that night, but I knew him all the same. He was a man who lived by his strength and probably despised compassion. He led his nation to war season after season. His people cared little about the ideals that were important to mine. I had known his Palace Guard, and I had known his brother, and what I knew about them told me a lot about the High Lord. I had despised him before I ever set eyes on him, and now that he owned me, I despised him more.

Strong anger in a man with a weak spirit was a dangerous thing.


Kindle Locations: 4364

My reading time: 5 hrs



June 15, 2015

What is Fantasy Romance? (Guest Post by Amy Raby)

Loving Fairy Couple In A Bed Of Grass
Are you a fantasy reader who enjoys pairing the characters off in romantic relationships? Do you sometimes wish a fantasy novel would spend more time on the characters, go a little deeper into what makes them tick? If so, fantasy romance is the genre for you.

When I started writing my own fantasy novels, I found myself beginning not with situations but with characters. I spent a lot of time on worldbuilding, but I didn’t create my characters for the purpose of revealing the world. Rather, I created my world for the purpose of revealing the characters. My first novel (never published) was about two men on an adventure. They were a mage and a thief, essentially, and I put them in constant conflict with each other.

Someone beta-read the novel and was confused. “It reads like a buddy movie,” he said. Yes, it was supposed to! The reader seemed to think a fantasy novel couldn’t spend so much time on the characters and their relationship. Maybe that novel didn’t work, but I knew that writing about characters and relationships was what I wanted to do.

I’d been reading science fiction and fantasy since childhood. I discovered the romance genre later in life, and when I did, I realized this was what I’d been missing. Here were the character-driven books I’d been looking for. This was the genre I was meant to write. But I didn’t want to give up my fantasy worlds and magic and dragons. So I started writing romances that took place in fantasy worlds.

Fantasy romance novels sit astride two genres. They are romance novels, fulfilling all the requirements of the romance genre. And they are fantasy novels, fulfilling all the requirements of the fantasy genre. I aim for a 50/50 split between romantic content and fantasy adventure content.

At this point I don’t even know how to write a novel that’s not fantasy romance. Having two intertwined storylines gives me so much narrative freedom, as well as advantages in pacing. We’ve just had a big action scene as part of the adventure storyline? It’s time for a quieter scene focused on the romance. My romantic couple just had a big fight and they’re not speaking to each other? Get them together with new developments in the adventure storyline that force them into contact.

Adding magic to a romantic relationship can be all kinds of fun. I had a great time writing the playful love scenes in one novel, in which the man had the power to turn invisible. Magic can also serve as an equalizer for female characters. I enjoy writing powerful, magically gifted heroines.

When I started writing fantasy romance, I thought I was the only person doing it. I’d never read a novel in this hybrid genre in my life—although several novels shelved in the fantasy section might have qualified (one by Ellen Kushner, several by Barbara Hambly).

But I was wrong. I wasn’t the only one. It’s a lesser known genre, but a few fantasy romance authors have been published by Penguin, and self-publishing has really flung open the doors for fantasy romance, adding many talented authors to the mix. We’re an emerging genre, and we’re building steam. The world is full of readers who grew up reading fantasy novels and also love romance. Those are the readers we’re writing for.

June 9, 2015

Novel Excerpt: The Fire Seer by Amy Raby

The Fire SeerAbout The Fire Seer:


Taya has risen from humble roots to become a fire seer in the Coalition of Mages. Eager to prove herself, she arrives in the town of Hrappa to locate a “jackal”—a mage operating outside the Coalition’s authority—who has murdered three people.

But in Hrappa, she discovers that the man assigned to be her bodyguard is Mandir, her nemesis from years ago. When she and Mandir were students, he bullied her so severely he was sentenced to a year of penance and moved to another temple.

When Mandir sees that he’s been partnered with Taya, all his old torment comes rushing back. He’s had a crush on Taya since the day they began their training, but he pushed her away, ashamed of his attraction to someone so far beneath his social class. He regrets that now and intends to make an honest attempt to win her heart—if she can forgive him for his past sins.

But first they must find the murderous jackal, before the jackal finds them.



Chapter 1: Hrappa

Taya trotted her black mare past the flat, unwelcoming stares of the Hrappan townsfolk. She faced forward, reminding herself not to take it personally. It wasn’t who she was that bothered them. It was what she represented.

The sunlight was fading as she rode up to the Hall of Judgment. A haughty-looking servant in belted indigo awaited her on the steps. Taya dropped lightly from the mare’s back and brushed the travel dust from her clothes. She’d come in Coalition regalia, as per instructions. Over her short riding pants, she wore a green robe of soft cotton. A belt of worked silver with a fire agate mounted on the buckle encircled her waist. Her hair was pulled up into a fan-shaped headdress, and her arms jangled with bracelets—silver, since her people did not wear gold.

The servant’s gaze raked her. “You must be the drain-cleaner we sent for.”

Taya blinked in surprise. “No, I’m Coalition.”

“Ah,” said the servant, taking the mare’s reins. “I never would have guessed.”

Taya’s cheeks warmed. Sometimes she didn’t notice right away when a person was being insincere.

The servant straightened. “What am I supposed to do with that?”

Lumbering up the stairs was Piru, her pack elephant. He was a dwarf variety, no larger than her mare, but tame and loyal and incredibly strong. “Put him in a stall next to the mare. Has my partner arrived?”

“He arrived yesterday.”

He. So her partner was a man. Taya didn’t care one way or another, so long as he was competent, but she’d been curious.

The servant circled the elephant dubiously. “Where’s the lead rope?”

“You don’t need one. Just take the mare and he’ll follow her. His name is Piru. Give him a good feed of hay and scratch him behind the ears.”

The servant gave her a look that said, I’d sooner rub a sand viper’s belly.

Poor Piru. Maybe Taya would be able to visit him in the stable herself. “Is my partner available for me to confer with before I see the magistrate?”

“The magistrate wants to see you immediately. Your partner is with him.” The servant pointed. “Straight inside, first hallway on the right, second door on the left.” He whistled, and a boy padded up the steps. The two of them spoke briefly, and the boy took the mare’s reins and led her away. Piru started to follow but hesitated, turning his gray head to Taya in confusion.

“Go on,” she urged, and Piru trotted off, ears flapping. Taya smiled.

She straightened her headdress, noting with exasperation that several locks of her hair had come loose. She tried shoving them back in, but other pieces fell out, and she decided just to leave it be. She wouldn’t make a perfect impression, but how could she be expected to after traveling all day?

Aside from its huge size and arched entryway, the Hall of Judgment was like most Hrappan buildings, a flat rectangle of baked brick. The building was stuffy inside, but now that the sun had dropped below the horizon, it would cool off. Taya turned into the first hallway on the right and looked for the second door on the left. It was guarded by a lightly armored man with a bronze mace at his belt. She caught the guard’s eye and he nodded, granting her permission to enter.

The room was unexpectedly large. A gentle breeze threaded through two windows overlooking a leafy courtyard. A high seat rested upon a raised dais, undoubtedly the chair from which the magistrate handed down his decisions, but it was empty. Three men sat around a table in the center of the room.

One of the men was old and sick—disturbingly so. His stomach was bloated and misshapen, his hair lank, and his face sweaty, as if sitting in a chair was a great effort for him. Taya suspected he was near death.

The man sitting next to him was young and healthy. Both bore the facial tattoos of the ruling caste and were well dressed. The third man, who had his back to her, wore Coalition green and silver and was obviously her partner. Seeing him, her anxiety about the mission eased a little. He looked like the sort of man one could depend on—tall and strong, with a confident manner. He was a quradum, one of the Coalition’s magic-using warriors, and his role was to protect and advise her. Given the hostility of the townsfolk here, she might need protection. As for advice, she welcomed any guidance on her inaugural mission. She hoped her partner was as seasoned as he looked.

The younger man stood to welcome her but the sick man only gave her an apologetic look. Taya gathered he was not capable of standing. Her partner rose, too, with leonine grace. As he turned, she moved toward him eagerly and froze in shock.

She knew that face.

Even if she had been uncertain in her recollection, the facial tattoos were unmistakable. The sunburst on his forehead and the lines just beneath his eyelids, all in dark red, marked him as a member of the royal house. She was looking at Mandir isu Sarrum. Taya felt sick.

Recognition dawned in Mandir’s eyes as well, and he went as still as an onager jack who catches the scent of a lion in the grass.

Buy The Fire Seer by Amy Raby.

June 5, 2015

What’s the Difference Between Romantic Fantasy and Fantasy Romance?

There are few stories that aren’t improved by a strong romance; but this does not make every story a Romance in the sense of belonging to the Romance Genre, i.e. a book that would be shelf-mates with Bodice Rippers and Regencies.

The same distinction coheres to the difference between a Fantasy novel with a strong romance (what we might call a romantic Fantasy) and a Fantasy Romance. The former may be High Fantasy or Urban Fantasy or Epic Fantasy, albeit with a satisfying romantic subplot. The latter is a Bodice Ripper with dragons.

By the way, I intend no condescension by the term Bodice Ripper. My purpose is not pour forth contempt upon the Romance Genre, as a cheap way of making some other kind of book look more sophisticated by implication. I enjoy Fantasy and I enjoy Romance, and I like most ways of combining the two. The distinction is not terribly important to me as a reader. As a writer, however, it is very important, since the genres target overlapping but different readerships.

Genre Romance will have the Romance front and center to the plot. It will usually be the first element introduced and the last element resolved, but even if a subplot appears on stage first, or a battle with the Baddie adds the finishing touch to the climax, the Heroine and Hero realizing their love for one another will be the most important and highly developed storyline in the novel.

This means—by necessity—all other storylines will be less developed. In a Fantasy or Science Fiction or Historical novel, that means that if the book is Genre Romance, the worldbuilding, scientific exploration, or historical events will be less complex than in a straight Fantasy, Science Fiction or Historical novel. This is isn’t because Romance writers are idiots who can’t research history, science or mythology, it’s part of the Genre requirements. It meets the needs and expectations of Romance Genre readers.

However, a Fantasy novel, like Enchantment by Orson Scott Card, can still contain a storyline that qualifies as “Romance” with a capital “R.” Enchantment, in my opinion, has too complex and rich a presentation of mythology, history, and characterization to quality as Genre Romance; many readers who prefer more Romance to Fantasy won’t have the patience for details about when the Cyrillic alphabet evolved. And Card eschews traditional roles for his Hero, such as “Alpha Male,” and his characters don’t spend nearly enough stage time pinning over one another (or lusting for one another) to make Enchantment even close to a Dragon Bodice Ripper.

Yet a Romance is still at the heart of the story in a way that will reward the more fantasy-tolerant Romance fan. Even more importantly, Card obeys all the Rules of Big R Romance.

So what are they?

Romance with a capital “R” must go above and beyond a story with a male and a female character who fall in love, a couple in love adventuring together, or a couple in love separated by an external force.

The first set of rules have to do with Conflict During Courtship:

  • The Heroine and Hero must spend most of the novel interacting—not apart
  • The novel must spend time demonstrating how the Heroine and Hero are strongly drawn to one another
  • The Heroine and Hero must have internal needs or fears that cause conflict between them which keep them apart emotionally despite being physically together and being strongly attracted to each other

This may seem counterintuitive. Hero and Heroine fall in love at first sight—wicked Wizard captures Heroine—Hero defeats minions of Wizard and finally the Wizard to save her—they live happily ever after. Isn’t that a love story? Sure. Isn’t that a Romance? Not in the sense of Genre Romance, no.

Romance in the capital “R” sense must be driven by conflict between the Heroine and the Hero. Most Romances will also have an external force trying to pry the couple apart—whether it be a rival suitor, a jealous jade, an evil wizard or a nasty mother-in-law. But a good Romance must have an internal conflict that keeps the couple apart as well. At least one or both lovers must have some secret need or fear that keeps each from trusting the other. Falling in love isn’t easy—it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever done.

The second set of rules have to do with the Resolution of the Relationship:

  • The Heroine and Hero must attain a emotional and physical union
  • The Heroine and Hero must choose to be together exclusively
  • The Heroine and Hero must live Happily Ever After (HEA)

In a Sweet Romance, the physical consummation of the relationship may be kept behind a closed door. In a Hot Romance, the legal niceties of marriage may less relevant or explicit. And in a Young Adult Romance, both sex and marriage may be more implied as a future possibility rather than explicitly explored. But exclusivity, monogamy, and happiness are all absolutely necessary. This is called the HEA.

By the way, this is often a distinguishing feature that divides Women’s Fiction from Genre Romance. In Women’s Fiction, the Heroine might fall in love with a married man. The Heroine and Hero might not end up together. One or the other or both might die tragically. Or the story might extend far beyond their realization of physical and emotional closeness to a period of time when they are again riven apart, by changing emotions, by time, by death or by fate.

Some examples of extremely romantic stories are therefore not Romance in the sense I mean: Titanic, The Notebook, The Time Traveler’s Wife…. These are fabulous love stories but they violate the Resolution of the Relationship by either denying their lovers a Happy Ending, or going past the Happy Ending into a bittersweet addendum.

It’s fine to have a romantic relationship in a story that doesn’t hit all the “rules.” But if you do intend to put in a Romance that will increase the cross-genre appeal of your novel, it’s important to understand what notes to hit to make that romance sing.

June 2, 2015

June Theme: Fantasy Romance

Loving Fairy Couple In A Bed Of GrassUpcoming Blog Candy

Over the next year, I plan to kick up the voltage at the blog. I’ll be cooking up lots of candy posts for readers and writers. Whether you’re just browsing for your next fave read or whether you’re struggling to write someone’s fave read, I hope you’ll find some gems here in the upcoming months. To keep it fun, every month will explore a new theme and subgenre of speculative fiction. Most of the posts will relate to the theme, and the books featured will be related to the featured subgenre.

First, I’ll be posting once a week, on Friday, about whatever’s on my mind. Generally, I’ll blog about Writing Craft. I have read the advice, probably sound, that writers shouldn’t blog about writing, because most readers aren’t interested in writing, only in reading. Fair enough. But since I’m a writer, writing techniques are mainly what I think about when I’m not writing fiction. I mean, sure, I could write a housekeeping blog, but the advice would amount to: “Ignore that mess. Keep writing.”

So… I’ll just stick to writing, and your kitchen will thank me for it.

On Wednesdays, I’m going to be sharing some of my own Book Reviews. I won’t review every book I read, but only those I think are both (a) excellent, and (b) relevant to the theme & genre I’ve chosen to feature that month.

On Mondays, a Guest Blogger will either share some advice on writing craft in general or contribute some thoughts on the month’s theme or genre. Regular guest bloggers will be Rayne Hall, Mattie Adams, and Jack P.

Since I can’t review as many books as I like, I’ll continue to post Excerpt from great speculative novels whenever I have a chance. I’ll also periodically share books on writing craft, “Recommended for Writers.”


Themes for the Summer Months

June: Fantasy Romance

July: Villains & Anti-Heroes / Urban Fantasy

August: Military Fantasy


June Theme: Fantasy Romance

In June, a month long associated with Hera (Juno), the goddess of marriage, our theme will be Fantasy Romance. I’ll be asking, “What’s the difference between a romantic Fantasy and a Fantasy Romance?” Then I’ll look at two different approaches to writing a novel, one beloved by Outliners and one useful even for Pantsers—and finally ask how these might both help come up with a helpful structure for writing a Romance.

Among the books I’ll be reviewing is The Fire Seer, so I was thrilled when the author, Amy Raby, agreed to write a guest post for us, giving her take on, “What is Fantasy Romance?” …and why it’s so rewarding to write and read. Mattie Adams, author of the mystery series The Hot Dog Detective, will write about the special challenges that come with writing romance into a long series of related but stand-alone novels. Rayne Hall will contribute to the blog this month with her usual helpful tips about writing craft and book marketing.

Novels I’ll be reviewing:


Writing craft books I’ll be recommending: