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writing life

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


Writing for Fun or Profit

Fun or Profit-


It’s no secret that I write mostly for women.

Mostly. Not entirely.

When I was little and read books written for boys–and there were many–in my head, if there wasn’t one, I always inserted a girl. IMHO, girl perspectives brought something extra to those stories. While boy books made me think, I looked for books that also made me feel. Those weren’t as common as you’d expect.

As a teenager I was reading westerns I borrowed from my father and Harlequin romances supplied my grandmother. That’s how I got my thinking/feeling fix. (I once referred to Louis L’Amours as romances for guys and I thought the male librarian was going to have a stroke.)

I got my start reading fantasy a little later in life with Thieves’ World. Those books had female protagonists. They were kickass. I was hooked. I moved on to Piers Anthony’s Chronicles of Immortality. After that it was Guy Gavriel Kay, David Eddings, and Terry Goodkind.

But that’s not all I read. Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick/Jayne Castle, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and M.M. Kaye all factored in.

These days, as a writer, my optimal mix is 50% romance and 50% plot. While I write primarily for women, I want my books to also appeal to those male readers who want a story that makes them feel as well as think.

This book is about cowboys and aliens, and a kickass female sheriff who’s also a retired gunfighter.

There aren’t any cowboys, aliens or demons. There are Canadian spies!

This cover is so misleading. It’s about cowboys and demons.















All of this brings me to the point of my post. Yes, I write for profit. This is my career and I love it. But I also write for fun. I want to share what I love with my reades, and I love ideas  (and apparently cowboys). I love exploring “What ifs.” I have enough story outlines to take me through the next decade.

I hope you’ll join me.


How to Be Happy in 2016

I wasn’t planning to post New Year’s Resolutions, but I found that not marking the new year made me twitchy. And the truth is, I really do go back occasionally and check out what was important to me at the first of the year. I’m easily distracted and it keeps me from wandering too far down a dead-end trail.

This year, my plan is to do things that make me happy. I was surprised by how little it takes. (So see? Already, my resolutions are paying off.)

Here are 5 things that make me happy and I resolve to do more often in 2016:

  1. Showering before leaving the house. When you work from home, this one takes on a whole new level of joy. It also makes the people who work at Canada Post happy, and the bank and the grocery store, so it’s a win all around.
  2. Watching Netflix with the Foreign Guy. We do this a lot already and it makes us both happy, so I think I’m on track.
  3. Getting out of the house more often. This one doesn’t make me happy but it does make the Foreign Guy happy, which in turn makes me happy, so it’s got a secondary benefit. I don’t plan to leave the house alone, mind you. I’m taking him with me. Unless it’s my leaving the house alone that makes him happy… In which case that makes me ragey. (This one might take more thought. And therapy.)
  4. Running. Believe it or not, I really like running. Getting out of the habit hasn’t made me happy. I need to work this back into my schedule, although perhaps not on the same scale I used to. It requires a huge time commitment. Yoga, on the other hand. I hate yoga.
  5. Writing. I can’t believe this one makes me happy either, but it does. I thought it made me crazy. Actually, I think it’s the characters who make me happy. We hang out together and I never have to leave the house. (Making number three on my list seem even more out of place.)
  6. Hanging with family. I had to include this one as a bonus, because our family is awesome. Not just the Foreign Guy and our sons, but our brothers and sisters, too (his included). Let’s not forget the nieces and nephews and our mothers. The Foreign Guy’s family is a little harder to hang with because they’re all in another country, but they’re still fun. And each year, our mothers become a little more important to us.

So. Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what’s going to make you happy in 2016!

And may your year be amazing.

Deadlines are Hell

This is how I feel when a deadline approaches, but this is my sister, not me.

This is how I feel when a deadline approaches, but this is my sister, not me.

Don’t get me wrong.

I’m thrilled to have writing contracts while working on projects of my own. I love both my publishers. A part of me secretly loves the adrenaline rush that comes with working under pressure, too. But deadlines have to be met.  I think it’s written in some law somewhere. The thought of missing one gives me anxiety attacks.

I’m a slow writer. I try to write the cleanest first draft possible so my editor and I can concentrate on making the story the best it can be, not have to fiddle with grammar and spelling. I dawdle. I polish. I choose my words carefully.

This week however–the one before the book is due–all that goes out the window. Things get ugly. I’m currently resorting to pen and notebook so I can clean up the important scenes as I add them to the electronic file. This process keeps me off Facebook and away from spider solitaire. (My win percentage is 25%, btw.)

I’ve got spreadsheets, story outlines, and cheat sheets for scene structure. I have an awesome critique partner as a fresh set of eyes who keeps me accountable. She’s waiting for new pages. I’m super organized at this stage because I have to be. There’s no time to rewrite the major turning points or change character motivations. I don’t get to play with my word choices. (I wish I could say the same about spider solitaire.)

While the deadline itself can be hell, especially when the countdown on this last week has started, the day after that deadline is sweet.

I have two sets of revisions already lined up to keep that adrenaline pumping.

Recipe news:

We had another recipe win this week. Black bean and sausage chili. Just swap out the kidney beans and hamburger, cut the sausage into bite-sized chunks and cook it, (or what the heck, crumble it up and fry it like you would hamburger), and voila! It’s pretty darned tasty. Not to mention easy. And easy is the biggest seller for me when it comes to cooking.