What Makes A Good Romance?

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When I was younger, I used to borrow books from the library. No, no — I don’t mean check them out with my library card. I mean borrow them. You know: stuff one inside my book bag before anyone noticed, smuggle it out of the library and into my house then read it underneath the privacy of my covers by the dim yellow glow of a flashlight swiped from my father’s work bench. When I put the book up for the night, I’d carefully conceal it underneath my mattress where my parents would never find it. And when I finally finished it, I’d return it to its rightful place on the library shelf and find another.

Borrow, read, return, and repeat.

What genre was I so secretive about? Romance, of course. Something eleven-year-old me wasn’t allowed to read, and something adult me still can’t get enough of.

On January 31st, 2017, my very own romance novel will be sitting on book store shelves. True story! But between you and me, I never intended to publish. Not that I didn’t want to. It had always been something I’d fantasized about, even as a child. I just didn’t think something like that could ever happen to someone like me. So when I wrote Strawberry Wine, I wrote it for me. I wrote it for the story that played over and over inside my head every time I heard the song by the same name on the radio, performed by country singer Deana Carter. I never actually thought anyone would read it! And now, as I contemplate my second published novel, I’m left to wonder: what makes a great romance? Here are my thoughts:

  • The main ingredient is … you guessed it. Romance. Romance has to be the main plot. Not just sex. I mean, sex is good. Very good. But I want the whole will they or won’t they end up together? I want the slow burn of infatuation that inevitably builds into a raging inferno of love (so cheesy, I know!).
  • I want meaningful connections with secondary characters. They help make the story more believable. And above all else, authenticity is a must. Secondary characters give the story depth and can be an excellent way to introduce a bit of contrast or comedy. Even tragedy, if you must.
  • I want conflict. Not in real life, of course, but in books. The best way to do this is to make sure at least one of your main characters is fighting the relationship. Do they have a history of failed affairs? Are they damaged in some way? Suffering from a horrific loss? Is the romance forbidden? Internal conflict is more important than external conflict (and yes, you need both) because the reader needs to be left wondering will they or won’t they end up together? It’s especially successful if the internal conflict and the external conflict come into play simultaneously. It gets me every single time!
  • Perfection is for chumps! I don’t want perfect characters, I want them to be flawed. I want them to be human; to be real. I want them to make mistakes and I want consequences to their actions. Imperfect characters make for better storytelling, and writers want readers to experience emotions through the characters they’ve created. Not only that, but by the end of the story, your characters need to have grown. They can’t grow if they have no weakness.
  • I, myself, want that happy ending. At least in a romance. It’s a must! By the end of the book, I want to have fallen in love with the couple and their journey, and I want them to end up together. But this isn’t always the case. A happy ending isn’t guaranteed, and some readers are okay with that. It’s all a matter of personal preference. Happy endings are mine. What’s yours?

These are what make a good romance for me, but what makes a good romance for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

STRAWBERRY WINE Cover Reveal!

After months of waiting, I am thrilled to share with you the new cover of STRAWBERRY WINE! Thank you Kensington Publishing, it’s absolutely beautiful!

Available for preorder now! In bookstores January 31, 2017!

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About the Book:

How do you know if a first love is made to last?

Addison Monroe was eighteen when she fell for Jake Grady, a college student working on her family’s farm for the summer. With his sapphire eyes and killer smile, Jake could have had any girl in Lakeside, Georgia. But he wanted Addy, and for those brief, wonderful months—before circumstances drove them irrevocably apart—they belonged to each other.

Ten years later, Addy is engaged to a doctor and working in Atlanta as a physician’s assistant. Life feels full and satisfying. Yet memories of that long-ago summer and wine-flavored kisses are hard to shake. On a return visit to Lakeside, Addy crosses paths with Jake again, and soon finds herself at an unexpected crossroads. So much has changed, and Addy has chosen another route. And the magic of first love can never be rekindled…can it?

Where to Preorder:

Kensington Publishing     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Books-A-Million 

Google Play      Kobo     iTunes

Where to Review:

GoodReads     Amazon (beginning January 31, 2017)

Sayonara, RT Booklovers Convention 2016!

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Wow, what a ride. For my very first writers’ convention ever, I really hit the jackpot (no gambling pun intended)!

For those of you who do not know, I attended this year’s RT Booklovers Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada—six fun-filled days where I had the opportunity to mix business with pleasure! There were over 200 workshops readers and writers could attend featuring a wide range of topics, from YA Spooky Slumber Party to Charmed by the Cowboy (and everything in between). Feel like discussing New Adult trends with the very writers you read? There was an event for that! Are you an aspiring author ready to pitch your book to several eager agents and publishers? There was an event for that, too!

You could literally hob-nob with your favorite authors at one panel then go straight to another where you’d receive a gift bag full of goodies, including books—yes, FREE BOOKS! It doesn’t get any better than that (just make sure you have plenty of room in your suitcase to take them all home)! It truly was an amazing experience. And on the final day of the convention, more than 625 authors gathered at the Giant Book Fair to sign their books, including Brenda Drake, Jennifer Armentrout, Shayla Black, Sylvia Day, Kiera Cass, Eloisa James, Tessa Dare, Anna Todd … and the list goes on and on. Talk about a fan-girl experience! As an avid reader, this convention was a dream come true. And as an author, I found it to be very inspirational.

Participants could either register for the full six day event, which included several after-hour parties, or purchase individual day passes. Basically, it was a giant party where you could mix and mingle with readers, authors, bloggers, editors, agents and publishers. In fact, there was so much to do you had to pick and choose! It was impossible to fit everything in.

My advice to anyone hoping to attend a future event—besides wear comfortable shoes—is to go over the schedule very carefully and decide which workshops are most important to you. Every hour, new events and panels begin and often times there are several interesting topics taking place at once. You’ll need to know in advance which ones to hit so you do not miss out on something you really want to do. And don’t forget to leave room to eat or before you know it you’ll have missed meals!

After it was all said and done, I left Las Vegas feeling exhausted yet motivated. I met new friends and found something I would love to participate in every year—and plan to! Next year the convention will take place May 2nd—May 7th in Atlanta, Georgia. Who knows … maybe I’ll even be signing my very own book at that one. Eek!

So mark your calendars now! I promise—you won’t regret it.

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Authors Lindsey Summers, Ali Novak, Sarah Benson and me … living it up at RT Booklovers Convention 2016!