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What is a romance anyway?

My neighbor's husband kind of irritated me recently when he called romances “trashy novels”. Ahem. Has he ever read one? Especially a good one by a best-selling author? Even if it's not his thing, I think he'd be forced to admit that the writing is as good as–or even better than–other popular genres.

When you think of romance novels–if you ever do–you probably picture Harlequin's category books. You know, the thin books that come out every month with names like The Captain of Industry's Cavorting Concubine. And hey, don't knock 'em. In spite of some goofy titles these are well-written stories packed with conflict and emotion.

But there are so many more types of romances out there. Maybe you just call them bestsellers. Ever hear of Nora Roberts, Allison Brennan, Sherilynn Kenyon, Suzanne Brockmann, Sandra Brown? Romance writers all.

The only requirements for a romance are the HEA (happily ever after), and that the purpose of the story is to bring the couple together. That's it. I'm writing romantic suspense. My MCs (main characters) get shot at, thrown overboard, kidnapped, and more. But, those are all elements of the plot that conspire to keep my unsuspecting couple together long enough to fall in love.

I love the action and intrigue, but my ultimate goal is the happy ending. How is a romance different from other novels where the couple commits at the end? It's all about the focus.

For example, in the movie Avatar, Jake and Neytiri (I had to look that up) get an HEA. But the movie's not a romance, because the point of the story wasn't their relationship. Their romance was an integral part of the plot, but not the purpose of the movie. So, Avatar would be a story with romantic elements, rather than a romance.

The desire for love is universal. That's what romances are all about. There's a subgenre for every taste (paranormal, suspense, historical, comedy, inspirational).

If you've never read a romance, try it. You might be surprised.

Procrastination Station

Need a break from all that hard work? Check out some of these fun sites:

Cake Wrecks: This site had me laughing so hard I couldn't breathe. Funny mistakes, and some desserts that are just plain wrong.

The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotes: For the grammar geek who needs a laugh. Has a blogroll of “humorous” grammar sites.

My Husband is Annoying: Next time you're irritated with your own spouse, check out this site. Maybe he's not so bad after all…

Passive-aggressive notes: For the non-confrontationalist in each of us.

Bad Parking: Now you have a place where you can rant about those annoying people who don't know how to park.

Now, why can't my research always be this fun? Got any humorous sites to share?

A wordy cause

Like words? Why not adopt an endangered one?

Improve your vocabulary and procrastinate your day away at, brought to you by the great folks who publish the Oxford English Dictionary (a.k.a. The OED).

All of the words on the site are in danger of being dropped from the English language. Ever hear of veprecose, coquinate, or tortiloquy? I told you they were endangered.

I was surprised to see ten-cent store on the list. I guess with inflation dollar store has taken over.

Anyway, here's my attempt to help. “I recently got back from my trip to the veprecose lands of southern Arizona.”

Veprecose: full of prickly shrubs or bushes.

Have fun!

(No squirrel today. I haven't met my writing goal yet. :-()

Inventions to make Q proud

I always thought Q stole the show in the James Bond movies. Bond might be more like the hero in one of my novels, but Q was the real hero coming up with gadgets to save Bond's ass in any situation. He had a prescient knack for inventing the perfect toy for whatever predicament Bond was going to face.

December's issue of Popular Science had a list of their 100 Best Innovations of the Year, and there are some gadgets that would make Q proud. While I found cool items in every category, especially Health, the products that really caught my eye were in the Security category. Since I'm focusing on military and law enforcement in my writing these days, here are some of the gizmos that would be fun to incorporate into a story.

  • X-flex wallpaper: super-flexible wallpaper keeps walls from collapsing–and contains flying debris–when hit by a bomb blast. This one fed right into my love of plastics and textiles.
  • XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System: Huh? This mouthful allows a soldier to program where a bullet should explode, so if the target is around a corner, the bullet will fly just past the end of the building and then blow up, sending shrapnel everywhere.
  • Ears gunshot detector: the Ears system can pinpoint the origin of a gunshot in less than a tenth of a second, allowing troops on the ground to find snipers more easily.

These may not be as fun for a book, but I also want to give a shout out to the following:

  • In the Automotive category, Ford Active Park Assist enables the car to parallel-park itself. If I ever move back to the big city, I need this!
  • In Health, the Lung Flute makes it easier and cheaper for people with chronic lung congestion to break up the mucus that plagues them. Gross, but so simple it's amazing.
  • Also in Health, the Hygreen system ensures that medical workers have sanitized their hands before handling patients. In a field test, it brought infection rates to zero! I'm all for that.

The Daily Squirrel: complaint

Lucy glanced at the clock and stifled a groan. Two more hours and an endless line of customers with complaints about the new operating system.

The stifling hot air was tinged with sweat and anger, but her temperature shot up several degrees when she spied Kurt Lloyd in her line. She had talked to him briefly at a party thrown by her roommate's ex-boyfriend, but he probably didn't even remember meeting her. Her dreams, however, had been about nothing but him for months now.

As the customer before Kurt turned to leave, Lucy pushed the damp hair off her face and took a deep breath. She'd give anything for a quick shower right then. How embarrassing to be seen in her dumpy polyester knit polo shirt with the big orange logo. She blew out a frustrated breath. At least he wouldn't know who she was.

Putting on her best smile, she asked, “How can I help you, sir?”

“Well,” he glanced at her nametag, “Lucy. I have a complaint.”

Of course. She pulled up a new form on the computer. “Yes, sir. What's the problem?”

He flashed her a movie-star smile complete with dimples and fixed his blazing green eyes on her. “The problem is that you haven't been back to any of Rick's parties, and I've been waiting to ask you out to dinner. Is that something you can help me with?”

Lucy's mind reeled with shock and her stomach dipped, but she managed to stay upright. He remembered her? And he was asking her out? With all the poise she could muster, Lucy said, “Yes, sir. I believe I can.” She wrote down her phone number and slid it across the counter, then turned to the next customer with a grin. “May I help you, ma'am?”

Too much

Guess which house belongs to the writer?

In case you can't read it, it says, “DITTO” with an arrow pointing to the electric wonderland. ūüôā

If you haven't seen it yet, check out The Twelve Tips on Queries (instead of the 12 Days of Christmas) on Janet Reid's blog. It perfectly captures the angst of the aspiring writer with humor!

In the spirit of the holidays, I'm adding a few of my favorite gift ideas for writers to the blog mix…

  • Scuba slate or AquaNotes waterproof paper for capturing those ideas in the shower
  • Fingerless mittens to keep hands warm while typing
  • Subscription to Writer's Digest
  • Gift certificate to any bookstore
  • Gift certificate to an office supply store
  • Ear plugs
  • Lap desk

Final note. For those who knew I'd entered, I did not place in the The Harlequin Presents Writing Competition 2009, but congratulations to those who did! My only hope for Counting on You now is if they ask for a partial based on the entry. Otherwise, I think that book is shelved.

Forward into romantic suspense. I just ordered several books about undercover DEA agents and the drug wars in Mexico/US. I'm hoping it will give me some valuable background for Floater and the series.

[No squirrel today. I have to get ready for a holiday party. Yikes!]

This Blog Needs a Man-Eating Jellyfish

Jane Austen and creatures from the deep? Hmm.

I have family in town, but here's a fun article from the author of “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters”, Ben H. Winters.

This Scene Could Really Use a Man-Eating Jellyfish
How I wrote Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.
By Ben H. Winters

The Daily Squirrel: gun

His gun lay only inches from his fingertips, but he couldn't reach it. Sweat slid past his ear as he relaxed his shoulder and stretched his arm until his finger grazed the muzzle. Sending up a silent plea of desperation, he willed the gun to come to him.

It didn't obey.

Arnold cried out in frustration, his breath coming in short gasps. His head throbbed and the room swirled around him as his shoulder protested his efforts. He couldn't remember why he needed the gun, but he knew it was urgent.