Men who read romance and other mythical creatures.

Romance is for women, right? Men wouldn’t touch the stuff, right?

Oh, naysayers, I am shaking my head at you! Why? Because you’re wrong. There are men out there who regularly read romance…and not because a book with a sexy cover happened to fall into their hands. They seek it out.

Don’t believe me?

This past week, I received a lovely message from a reader on Goodreads. I won’t post his message here but I was tickled pink when I read it. This young man reached out to let me know he was a fan, that he had read the majority of my books and was looking forward to following my series as they continued.  You can imagine my delight (thank you, Jay Jay!)

Is this reader alone in his reading preferences? Is he like the mythical unicorn, wonderful to contemplate but entirely imaginary? I don’t think so.  I’ve had reviews on my books from other men before. The readers aren’t the only ones devouring the genre either. There are also male romance authors out there. Some do quite well. I assume these men actually read what they write.

Why is there still such a stigma surrounding men reading romance? Are men not allowed to love or explore the theme of love in literature? I thought it was pretty much universal.

Of course, we can look to our literary history. Romances have always been considered frivolous and fluffy…you know, very much what women have been considered by some men. I recall reading an article some time ago about male romance authors with Mills & Boon who had to write under female pen names in order to get their romances published. Sure, this was years ago, decades even, and yet the stigma remains.

I see the general derision in my library work sometimes. When romance novels pass the circulation desk, some male customers curl their lips. Heck, some women take the same stance as well. That’s a whole other post and I won’t get into that now.  There’s really no need for this scorn. I just know in my heart of hearts some of these customers have dog-eared romances tucked into their bedside tables, where no one will ever find them.

What would you really think if, on your commute to work, you started seeing men reading romance novels out in the open? Would you honestly do a double take upon seeing a dude reading the latest scorcher on the subway? What sort of judgment call would you make, if any? Would you assume his wife made him read the book or that he was eclectic in his tastes? Would he seem any less masculine?

There are so many things in this life that divide us. Let’s not allow books to be one of them.  We love what we love and no one should make us feel inferior for it.

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I want to suck your blood.

Isn’t it odd that sometimes, when we’re craving something new, we turn to something old? In my case, this means a return to one of my first loves, vampire lit.

As my readers know, I’ve recently finished up a couple of books (and a series). I’ve also begun work on a new contemporary series and am trying to find a good home for it. More on that soon, I hope. However, I need to keep writing and my tastes are currently running to the paranormal again, in particular those sexy vampires.

Yes, I know. Others have beaten me to the punch. My vampire book will certainly not be the first, but I also know it won’t be the last.

Paranormal readers love vamps. I don’t think a month has gone by in which a reader hasn’t asked me to write one. How can I say no? And quite frankly, I love them too. I always have.  I first met Count Dracula in grade school. I hung out with Lestat when I was 15. I dreamed about all the others for years. Yes, even Edward. He’s romantic. Of course, I love him.

But will my vamps sparkle? No. First of all, it’s been done. Secondly, I like my vamps unrepentant and capable of, well, evil. They are vampires, after all. Yes, they will be my heroes but I don’t want their heroic qualities to be evident at first. We will see their darker sides. We will luxuriate in their excess. We will want to sin with them.

I plan to return to the basics with these vampires. They can’t go out during the day time. Sunlight stings, to say the least. They need to drink blood. No getting around that. They can shift shapes. Oh, and they aren’t too fond of wooden stakes.

No magic rings. No wonderful potions that allow them to walk by day. No eating steak as a back up food supply. I want them to be down and dirty and bloody.

But sexy, too. We need to get sexy in there as well.

How can my heroines possibly love these monsters? We’ll find a way. As you’ll soon learn, my human heroines have a couple of interesting tricks up their sleeves too. They might be repulsed at first but I suspect that feeling won’t last long. It never does.

If my vampire heroes suddenly appear at your window late one night, will you give them permission to enter? I’ll make it worth your while.

 

 

 

 

Conflict, schmonflict. An author grapples with literary tension.

If you follow me on Facebook and other platforms, you may have noticed I am embarking not only on a new book but a new series. I’m currently working on the second book in my unpublished (cross fingers) series Handymen.

As I typically do at the start of a new romance, I  flesh out the various conflicts in the novel. Who has an issue? Who has a wound? How will those various problems spark tension between the characters, leading to emotional confrontations, lots of hot sex and enduring love?

Conflict is what drives a plot, right? I will freely admit I’ve spent countless hours trying to find ways to up the ante and throw new hurdles at my characters.

But how much is too much?

My good pal Monette Michaels (Have you read her books? She’s wonderful) has often said to me, “I don’t like angst in my books.” I understand what Monette is saying. It’s sort of like the wheel of punishment I call Coronation Street, my favourite British soap opera. As the characters struggle with problem after problem, one begins to wonder just how much they can take, while staying sane.

I recently read a bestseller (I mean huge seller, like gazillions) and was surprised at the source of conflict in the novel. Basically, it stemmed from the hero and heroine trying their hardest not to fall in love. Sure, secrets were revealed and personalities clashed, but for the most part, the conflict was all about the love affair.

So, angst.

I always thought we needed external conflict as well. That’s what they tell us in writing classes. Internal conflict, on its own, might not be strong enough. You need to toss in more drama (note, not melodrama.)

So how does a writer find balance?

I suppose the first thing we need to do as writers is decide what sort of story we are writing. If our characters are dealing with some sort of “end of days” scenario, complete with zombies, killer bees and mass destruction, yeah, I’d say we need some more oomph in the tension department. Evil villains must be vanquished. Heroes must prevail.

However, if our story revolves around a quieter setting and more lifelike tension, it is probably okay to scale back on the sources of conflict. After all, conflict comes in many sizes and shapes. Sometimes it’s a disagreement with the in-laws. Sometimes it’s neighbors vying for the ribbon in a gardening contest. Sometimes it’s two people trying their hardest not to fall in love. Of course, not all of these are worthy of a book, in my opinion. The only gardening contests that interest me are the ones in which one of the competitors ends up with a pair of shears in his back (sorry- I cut my teeth with cozy mysteries.)

As I begin my new book, I’m tempted to up the ante once again. How else can I make my characters suffer? But then again, I remember that love and relationships often come with suffering too. Perhaps I don’t need to toss so many angst-ridden Frisbees at my hero’s head.

Perhaps I just need to release him into the world and see what sort of trouble he encounters on his own.