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spy games

On Writing Romance


I was on the radio earlier this week (thank you, News 95.7 and The Sheldon MacLeod Show !) promoting my Spy Games series and one of the questions was about romance writing and why I chose it. (My husband once asked me the same question, btw–“Shouldn’t you *be* romantic?!?”)

But honestly, that’s not what interests me the most in my writing.

My contemporary books come in with a fairly even mix of romance and plot. I’m as interested in my characters’ daily lives as I am in their developing relationships.

(And I don’t only write romance. I have a dystopian fantasy series—previously published as the Demon Outlaws, now rewritten and with brand-new covers!—coming in the fall of 2017, and they have much more plot to them now. They’re no longer classed as romances.)

I have a background in social anthropology however, and it’s the snapshot in time that fascinates me about romance novels in general, both from a macro and micro perspective. For example, romance novels track the feminist movement. When I started reading them in the 1970’s, heroines were secretaries and nurses, and submissive to the more powerful heroes. We then saw the rise of the “bodice rippers” which showed women asserting themselves more. Now heroines are CEOs, doctors, pilots, (and spies!) and the relationships are more of a partnership. There’s room in these books for the alpha hero, but also the beta. These trends are reflected in the other genres, but I write contemporary romances so I’m talking about what I know best.

Culturally, romances also show glimpses into today’s society and what’s happening in daily lives. They reflect what’s relevant to the Real World. Characters are using Blackberries. (ßThat’s meant to be a dated reference. Who uses Blackberries anymore?) They’re traveling to popular destinations. We now have same-sex romances and multi-cultural romances. You see a lot of romantic suspense involving Navy SEALs. A few years ago, they were all searching for Osama bin Laden… I got tired of those so I wrote about Canadian spies. (If you want to know why, then read more about me here. It turns out I have useful knowledge!)

Even the romantic relationships themselves are snapshots. “Falling in love” is the first step to a lifelong commitment. Women’s Fiction (a separate genre) often follows what happens next in human relationships–or perhaps the murkier, messier side of them.

I know I have a lot of writer and reader friends out there. What’s your take on romance? Why write it? Why pick one up to read?

Why would you not?

Thank you to Syd Gill Design


Interview with Kim from Read Your Writes


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Today I’m interviewing Kim from Read Your Writes Book Reviews! Kim recently celebrated her 4-year blogging anniversary.

Kim’s a bit shy and a whole lot private.



We’re going to get to know her better today. I’ve got to say, as much fun as it is to talk about myself, this interview was even better.

So let’s get started. 

Welcome, Kim! Let’s start with the most obvious. What got you into blogging and reviewing? What keeps you going?

Hmm.  Okay, so here’s the long story.  On a Thanksgiving trip to Texas, my nephew wanted to go to the movies.  He insisted we see Twilight.  I complained the whole way there.  Then I fell in love with the movie and wanted to know more about the series.  But the book was freaking long.  I mean seriously, who reads a book that’s 500+ pages?  On the same trip, my mother gave me my first Nora Roberts book saying, “Your head is always in the clouds, you can read this.”  I started reading the book there and on the airplane ride back.  I thought, “Hey, reading isn’t so bad.”  I then decided to give Twilight a try.

I got into blogging because being a stay-at-home mom sucks.  It’s boring and you’re by yourself all the time.  Let’s face it, there’s just so much communication you can have with a two year old.  And I’m sure my husband got tired of me calling him at work for absolutely nothing at all.  He’s actually the one who came up with the idea of me blogging.  That way I could be behind the computer (because I’m shy) and still interact with people.  Plus I wasn’t going to Target every day, buying things I didn’t need, just to talk to the cashiers.

What keeps me going?  I love reading books and getting to interact with people.  I’ve had the opportunity to meet some really nice authors and some not so nice ones.  I don’t get paid for this, but reviewing and blogging is a job.  It’s a pretty cool one too.

Tell us the first scene from a book you’ve reviewed that immediately pops into your head. No cheating! (And yes, you will be judged.)

Okay. The first scene that pops in my head is from Victoria James’ The Best Man’s Baby.  The heroine finds out she’s pregnant by her best friend’s husband’s brother and said brother (Jake) has been MIA since the night they were together. There’s a barbeque and Jake shows up with one of his flings. The heroine is upset and walks up to him and says, “Welcome home daddy,”as she sticks the pregnancy test stick in his burger.

Obviously, you’re well-read and read across a lot of genres. What’s your biggest turn-off? (It can be anything—cover, blurb, writing, combination of all of the above….) What’s the fingernails-on-the-chalkboard for you?

I’m a visual person.  Covers grab my attention.  If I don’t like the cover, then I’m not wasting my time reading the blurb.  I know that sounds bad, but it happens.  Now, if it’s an author I like I just ignore the cover (okay I still think to myself this is bad), but still read the book.

I hate getting cold emails from tour companies I’ve never heard of.  I only use a select few, because there are A LOT of bad ones out there.

I also hate group emails where the person is so rude that they don’t bother to BCC people.  Oh and authors signing me up for their newsletters without asking me.  I know you signed me up because the email is going to the wrong account.

You have children and they’re never going to see this—so which one would you give away? And under what circumstances?

I went through hell for my kids.  They’re stuck with me FOREVER!  Even when I’m dead, I want them to hear my voice in their heads.

When authors ask you for favours –*ahem*—what’s your initial reaction? Again, no cheating!

What kind of favor are you talking about?  If you ask about helping to hide a dead body.  NOT going to happen.  I can’t go to jail.  I wouldn’t last there.

Now, if you’re talking appearing on the blog, I’m cool with that.  Usually, I spend about 5 minutes being excited someone asked to appear.  But it’s also the way I’m approached.  I have a name, so use it.  If someone wants me to read their book and I can’t I tend to feel really bad.

If you could get away with murder, which fictional character would you kill? How would you do it?

Oh. I just got this wicked smile on my face.  I’m sure there are several.  But the first character to pop into my head is the mother from Wendy S. Marcus’ Loving You Is Easy.  The mother is/was all about status.  She didn’t care that her daughter was date raped by her boyfriend and his friend.  The boyfriend had prominent, elicit parents.  The mother thought her daughter should be happy that he was dating her.

Nora Roberts, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Melissa Marr walk into a bar. All three are hitting on Lee Child. Who do you root for?

I found my love of reading through Nora Roberts, so I have to root for her.

Boxers, briefs, or boxer-briefs? Loincloth? (Sorry—just watched Tarzan last week….) White or black socks? What’s your opinion on ball caps?

Boxers and I don’t care.  Ball caps worn backwards.

Of the critters currently roaming your back yard—which would you eat first if that zombie apocalypse ever strikes?

You’re funny.  Well, there is Thomas the snake in the backyard.  Since I gave him a name, I can’t possibly kill and eat him. Plus, there’s the issue of me being afraid of snakes.  The lizards creep me out too.  There’s the frogs, but I’m sure they’re slimy.  I guess I’m going to have to go with one of the squirrels.  I’m sure I can figure out how to cook it. I’m just not sure how to catch it and kill it.  Okay, I’m royally screwed here.  I’m going to starve to death and the zombies who I don’t like are going to kill me.

And let’s end with another obvious question… Who’s your second favourite author? (Because we’re just going to go ahead and assume that your first is me.)

Wow. You aren’t nice at all.  Second favorite author…..I have a slew of favorite authors.  There’s absolutely NO way I can give them numbers.

Okay Ms. Paula, this was fun.  Thanks for putting me on the spot.  I now understand what you authors go through, when I ask you questions.  But seriously, thank you for asking me to appear on your blog.  If anyone cares (please care), they can find me online at these places.

Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Bloglovin’

Kim, thanks for being here! You are truly a good sport—despite being a sissy when it comes to zombies ’n squirrel-killin’… I bet you’ll get over that pretty quick. Especially if they’re zombie squirrels.

Don’t eat those ones.

And because interviews are so much fun, next week I’ll introduce readers to three of the male characters from my Spy Games series. (Trust me, Kim. You got off easy.)

Readers, if you have any questions for Kim, be sure to leave them in the comments below. She’s a little cagey about her criminal past, though. Be sensitive.

Have a happy week! And don’t forget to follow her!

It’s all in the Trope

A trope is a recurring literary device that’s been proven to appeal to a broad audience. In romance writing, authors often rely on particular tropes when outlining their stories. Some authors do it consciously, others, instinctively. The point is, tropes tend to crop up in stories, particularly successful ones, whether an author means for them to or not.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.


(Yeah. That might be going too far.)

I consciously choose tropes for my contemporary romances. I don’t for my fantasy and paranormal stories though, because I prefer for the romance to grow from the story’s plot and theme. I’m sure the tropes are there–I just don’t make a point of paying attention to them.

You can find dozens of tropes lists on the internet, but to save you some time, you can check one of them out here.

My latest contemporary release Her Spy to Have utilizes three romantic tropes–Enemies to Lovers, Damsel in Distress, and Different Worlds. I also added an Ugly Duckling trope, but it’s not as obvious and is mixed in with Different Worlds and Damsel in Distress. Garrett first sees Isabelle as plain, but later realizes she chooses to make herself inconspicuous. As the attraction between them grows he realizes she’s a chameleon. People presenting themselves as something they’re not is a recurring theme in the story.

Damsel in Distress is actually one of my least favourite tropes. I like my women with backbone. So, while Isabelle in Her Spy to Have definitely starts off in distress, that’s not who she really is. She’s actually very resourceful. She was getting herself out of a bad situation when Garrett enters the picture. To be fair, he’s not really charging to her rescue. He’s suffering from morbid curiosity more than anything.

You can read Chapter One to see what I mean.

Damsel in distress

This is why tropes are such successful storytelling devices. When an author uses them properly, they’re a starting point only. The whole point of creative writing is to be, well, creative. Don’t have your heroine spending the whole story internally whining about how she’s not beautiful enough for the hero, or the hero obsessing over how she’s not as pretty as his usual type. That’s why using more than one trope gives a story a better effect. Isabelle’s biggest problem really is that she’s a Damsel in Distress, but she’s actively trying to resolve it on her own. Garrett’s biggest problem is that they’re from Different Worlds–he’s a CSIS agent and she’s the daughter of a criminal involved in international espionage. The Enemies to Lovers trope is a problem for them both. They somehow have to resolve the problems the tropes cause them.

If you’ve already read Her Spy to Have, you can get a sneak preview of the second book in the series, Her Spy to Hold, which is coming in May. You can also stay in touch by signing up for my newsletter here to be among the first to find out about upcoming releases.


That Feeling When You Grand Slam a New Series

I have a contemporary romance spy series coming in March!

Spy baby


And it feels pretty amazing. I love the concept, the characters, and pretty much everything about it.

But first, before we talk about me…

I had a chance to read an Advance Review Copy (ARC) of Samanthe Beck’s newest book, Emergency Engagement, releasing tomorrow. And, as usual, her book is fantastic. I hope she feels good about this first book in her newest series, because she has every right.


There are a number of reasons I love Ms. Beck’s books. She writes the best dialogue. Her sense of humour shines through. Her books, for the most part, are fairly low angst, even when they’re angsty.

I love the angst in Emergency Engagement, but it’s not at all depressing. Her hero has issues, but he’s no moody EMO. If you’ve got a soft heart though, you might need some tissues about 3/4 through. Fortunately for me, I’m heartless. I was totally there for the laughs. Plenty of those, too.

And Ms. Beck can write. I can’t stress that enough. I love the way the words flow in her stories. It’s like reading poetry. Naughty poetry mind you, but a step or two up from the dirty limericks you passed around in fifth grade. Or maybe that was just me.

You can check out Emergency Engagement here if you don’t believe me. (FYI, Amazon offers free samples.)

Now, back to me…

(Cues the drumroll.)

I finished the second book in my upcoming Spy Games series today.

Yes, I'm very happy

Yes, I’m very happy

The first book, Her Spy To Have, (featuring Garrett and Isabelle), releases March 15th. As soon as I get a cover I’ll share.

Book 2, Her Spy To Hold, (Kale and Irina’s story) is tentatively scheduled for May.

Book 3 is now officially in the works!

What are you reading this week?