Sunday, December 27, 2015

Romance Rule #3 - Hero & Heroine Have Lots of Scenes Together

That's what I'm talking about. Quality time together.
I don't know what it is about certain romance novels, but sometimes you'll read half the novel before the hero and heroine even meet each other. (I've even read one where the hero and heroine have ZERO scenes together until the final chapter.) In a romance, I personally want the hero and heroine to meet as early on in the book as possible, and then to have many, many scenes together interacting and building romantic and sexual tension.

In Caribbean Jewel, my hero and heroine meet about 5 minutes into the action, on page 2 of the manuscript, just after Jolie jumps out of a second-story window to escape her guardian's manor...

...At last she burst into the clearing, panting. Bending over to brace her hands on her knees, she gasped for air for a few seconds, then forced herself to run again, half stumbling across the uneven terrain. She had crossed a good portion of the field when her flight was abruptly cut short.

“Madre de Dios!”  came a muffled exclamation from somewhere in the darkness, just before she collided head-on with a firm wall of solid muscle. Jolie tumbled ungracefully into the stranger’s arms. She caught her footing and immediately tried to jerk away from the darkly clad figure who held her in his firm embrace, blocking her flight.

The sound of wildly yelping dogs in the distance pierced the balmy night air.

“The hounds!” Jolie tried to twist away and run past the stranger.

He jerked her back. “¡Cálmate! Why are you fleeing, muchacha?”

She pushed both fists against his chest, again trying to free herself, to no avail. “Either haul me in and collect your reward or let me go! The hounds are coming!”

When I wrote Caribbean Jewel, I was obeying all my Romance Rules to a "T." I had a very clear idea of what I thought made a good romance novel, and I made sure I obeyed my inner rule-maker. Jolie and Marcano are together in 95% of the scenes in the novel, and I worked to build that romantic tension so bowstring-tight that by the time things finally start happening in the kiss/touch department, you are READY for it. You're crying for it. You're yelling, "whoop, whoop." Well, that was my intention, anyway.

Now, a confession. In my upcoming release Omaja Stone, this is the one Romance Rule I sort of broke. The hero and heroine don't meet until almost a third of the way through. But the plot trajectory for this novel was simply such that that is the way it is. I tried to think of any other way to do it, and it just doesn't serve the plot as well to start the book when they meet. In the end, I have to trust my storytelling instincts. (And, after they meet, they are together 95-97% of the time for the rest of the book.)

What do you guys think? Do you care if the hero and heroine are together a lot, or does absence make the heart fonder?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Romance Rule #2 - A Likable Heroine

If she's the heroine, I need to want to be her. Not dread seeing her coming.
The second thing that makes for a great romance novel in my opinion is a likable heroine, someone that I can relate to, identify with, and support throughout the story. I need to WANT her to win, and want her to get the man.

I like it best when I identify with her so closely that I sort of step into her skin and live the story with her. If I'm going to fall in love with the hero, I need to "be" the heroine in a sense, and it breaks me out of my little fantasy world if she's not someone I can identify with or like.

Again, I have to bring up Karen Marie Moning's Kiss of the Highlander as a great example of a likable heroine. You feel you could be best buds with Gwen, that if she lived in your apartment building or worked with you at the office you'd totally hang out with her.

Likable heroines have real problems and issues, and they don't see themselves as picture-perfect beauty queens. They have some doubts and insecurities, without being a complete neurotic about it, but in a "hey, I'm pretty normal like you" kind of way.

I also love heroines that drool over the hero right along with you, that aren't immune to his manly charms. I like it when she feels excited about getting his attention, because that's how I would feel.

And, I love heroines that fight for the right causes, show some intelligence, some courage, and some ambition.

And last, this might be just my little quirk, but I don't want her beauty to be over-the-top-perfect or constantly described in detail. Just enough to give me her general picture, and she'd better not be a world-famous super model. I want the hero's gorgeous looks to be up front and center and described down to the last tidbit, but not hers. I want to know he's attracted to her, and he can certainly think about some details of her beauty...but I don't want to constantly hear about it like I do the man's. But maybe that's just me.

So what about you? What's YOUR ideal heroine?


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Romance Rule #1 - A Delicious Hero


Jayla Jasso Romance novels heroes muscles beach hot guy
He looks like he can get the job done.
I started reading romance novels as a teenager, because my stepmom was a book addict and would devour several romances and fantasy novels each week. She and I would go to the local library every week in the summer and each check out the maximum number of romances we could, five each, then we'd both read all ten books and exchange them the following week for ten more. So by the time I was in my 20's, I had read probably hundreds of romances, everything from short Harlequins to the thicker mainstream ones, and I had formed a really clear idea of what, in my opinion, made a romance novel good, what made it great, what made it memorable, and what made it a page-turner.

I'll be honest with you, most romances we read during those years weren't good. Some of them were really bad. And a very few were amazing. To me, the amazing ones all have a few things in common, and those things form my "Rules" for Amazing Romance Reads.

Rule #1 - A Delicious Hero.

For me, the story has to involve a hero that I can fall in love with. That I basically DO fall in love with as I read about him. (I think a very, very good example of this would be Drustan in Karen Marie Moning's Kiss of the Highlander.)

My hero has to be strong both physically and emotionally, able and willing to make the right choices, possess honor and integrity, and fight for the girl. He needs to be a leader among other men without being an a-hole, while at the same time treating the heroine with some tenderness and compassion. And for me, the guy needs to at least try to do what's right, not be a cheat, a liar, a thief, a murderer, or anything else that's despicable. I want to know I'm in love with a good guy.

My hero needs to be vulnerable too, show some human struggles, some emotion, some heart, some sense of humor, some ability to laugh at himself and admit mistakes.

I'm sorry, but for me, he needs to be hot. I've read books where the hero's looks are never really described much (or he's deformed, ugly, hairy...), but I need a good mental-visual. I want to know what color his eyes are, what his hair looks like, and exactly how many muscles line those arms and that chest. Tell me about his flat abs, his sexy lips or whatever. I'm there.

My man needs to have some skill, like sword-fighting, hand-to-hand combat (like Val in Sweet Barbarian,) archery (like Yajna in Kiss of the Assassin,) running a brigantine (like Marcano in Caribbean Jewel,) catching bad guys, running a ranch, heading up an investigation, researching a cure, painting masterpieces, etc. (This feeds into another of my "Rules," that there be an engaging plot aside from and enriching the developing romance.)

You give me this recipe and I have a much greater chance of loving the novel. Without a yummy hero...eh. It's going to be hard for me to stay with the book for long.

What do you guys think? What makes a delicious hero in YOUR eyes???


Sunday, December 6, 2015

My De-Stressing After-Work Ritual

Yes, I'm a romance writer, but I also have a day job. And that day job involves teaching high school. And teaching high school, well, is not the most relaxing job in the world, except for during the months of June, July, and some of August. (Yeah, baby!)

So when I get home on weeknights, especially during the winter, my favorite first thing to do is sink into a hot bath. And when I get out, I put on comfy clothes and rub my "Joy and Wellness" combo of essential oils on the soles of my feet. (Why the feet? The soles of your feet are fast to absorb essential oils because of the large pores. Also, your feet are full of acupressure and reflexology points.)

I get my oils from YoungLiving.com, but you can also buy essential oils at health food stores and other shops. I use Young Living because their oils are so high-quality, each bottle lasts for months and months, and because I'm addicted to certain ones of their blends (like Peace & Calm I & II and Valor I & II,) but they are more expensive than most health-food-store brands, and you have to "sign up" as a distributor to buy them online because YL is a multi-level marketing scheme. Which I'm not a fan of, but that's how they do it, and just GOTTA have their oils, so oh well. (And by the way, if you do sign up at youngliving.com, please use my member #1410192 so you too can become part of my evil pyramid. Muhahaha.)

Basically what I do is shake one drop of each of a set of the five oils into my palm and then rub it on the sole of each foot (one drop per foot.) I always do the oils in a certain order: 

1) Valor or Valor II
2) Hope
3) Cypress
4) DiGize, and then
5) Joy. 

Then I rub the palms of my hands together and take a few big inhales of the combined, intoxicating fragrance, and smile. (It always makes me smile and go "mmm," no matter what kind of day I've had.) Cypress and DiGize (DiGize kind of stinks on its own) bring the feminine florals of the other three oils down a bit and make the overall scent just a tad more complex and masculine-ized, which to me is very yummy and soothing.

And then...I'm ready to write romance!


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