Elizabeth: Valentine’s Day Curmudgeon

Who could pass up chocolate dipped strawberries or heart-shaped cookies?

Unlike some of the others here on the blog, I didn’t need Michaeline’s reminder on Sunday to know Valentine’s Day was fast approaching though, frankly, it’s a holiday I’d just as soon forget.

That probably sounds strange coming from a romance writer and a life-long fan of Happily-Ever-After but the day unfortunately has some pretty negative memories attached to it.  While it may be a magnet for love for most, for me it’s when I got laid off from a job I loved – twice – and when my mom lapsed into a fatal coma.

Hardly the stuff of a cheery Hallmark greeting card.

You’d never know I harbored a dislike of the holiday by looking around my house or in my office at work though.  There’s a heart-shaped wreath on the front porch, a vase of fresh roses on the dining room table, and a Valentine-y plaque and a bowl of chocolate hearts on the corner of my desk. Continue reading

Nancy: Valentine’s Day Traditions

A few days ago, Michaeline gave us the best possible reminder that Valentine’s Day is coming by sharing a romantic short story with us. What I found disturbing – and admitting this could get my romance writer card pulled – is that I actually needed the reminder.

It’s safe to say it’s not a high-priority holiday in our house.

However, we sometimes enjoy a small Valentine’s Day celebration. When we remember it. And we have a few traditions on those occasions, including handmade cards and a special double chocolate dessert. No flowers (I’m allergic to nearly everything with pollen), and no dinner at a crowded restaurant (amirite, fellow introverts?). In their dating days, my daughter and now son-in-law began their tradition of celebrating every Valentine’s Day in a different city. This year’s destination: Honolulu, HI. White sand, 75°F weather, and tropical drinks. (I raised a smart kid.) Continue reading

Michaeline: A Love Story for Valentine Week

A stylish Japanese modern girl with a black bob, beautiful eyes and lips, and a stylish sheath dress. The art is titled "Tipsy".

Anna Kitt, on working holiday in New York City. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Every love story has its conflict, and weak lovers can see it. Their love is paralyzed, and eventually stillborn as they realize just how impossible it is to love this person at this time in this place. But true lovers don’t see the conflict. Love is blind, you see. The lovers are like two cats in a bag, struggling against this unsee-able confinement, but together for as long as it takes to make peace with the bag or get out. That’s why when I saw Anna for the first time, I fell in love instead of running away.

I walked into that bakery in Korea-town, looking for a little something sweet on a cold February day, and I saw her by the pain au chocolat. Black bob, perfect cat-eye liner capturing dark brown eyes, and she was elegant in something black and floofy around the hips with a red fur stole over her shoulders. I reached around to take the last piece of ganache cream cake, when she grabbed my wrist.

“I don’t think you want that, mister,” she said. “It’s mine.”

My first instinct was to back up, stuttering something like, “Of course, madam” and scurrying away but then she gave me the side-eye, and then I saw those red lips, and something funny happened in my chest, and I said, “Why don’t we share it?”

She smiled, and that funny thing in my chest turned into a raging, roaring fire. “My name is Anna,” she said.

“Ray Perez,” I said, and almost kissed her hand before remembering what century I was in.

So, that’s how we wound up sharing a little rectangle of chocolate cake while Continue reading

Michaeline: Olivia, Jack and the Stupid Cupid

A male skater, a woman on a swan-shaped sled, and a small cupid playing the flute beside them.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

It was one of those beautiful February days – the sky was blue and the ice on the rink was rock hard. Olivia took another leisurely turn around the pond, idly wondering if Jack was ready to go inside yet. Jack zoomed past her, a vision of gracefulness in black leggings and a black turtleneck, his black hair in winter spikes and roses in his pale cheeks. At the far end of the pond, just where she could best appreciate his athleticism, he jumped and spun, drew a heart in the ice, then zoomed around again in long, lazy strokes. He was like a Mercedes on ice – he didn’t seem to be putting in any effort, but in two heartbeats, he was behind her, slowing down in a spray of ice crystals, then gently taking her hand.

“Cold, darling?” he said.

“Not yet,” Olivia said. “But maybe we can go in about 15 minutes?”

“All right. Skater’s waltz?” He kissed her nose, and pushed off, pulling her behind him while humming a ridiculously resonant version of “The Blue Danube”. It had been almost an entire year since they met, and Olivia was as crazy about him as she was when he first showed up on her doorstep. Always the showoff, he turned and skated backwards, now holding both her hands, dazzling her with his smile. And that was the reason neither of them saw the snowfairy in her tiny sled drawn by a floppy Shih Tzu, barrelling across the pond and right into their skating path.

Everyone went down in a tumble of arms and legs, with the snowfairy winding up on top, her sled underneath, and her doggy spinning around on the ice like a furry Roomba, barking furiously at the outrage. Continue reading

Michille: Stages of Intimacy

Desmond_Morris_(1969)With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I was reminded of an RWA session I attended a couple of years ago with Linda Howard in which she presented Desmond Morris’s 12 Stages of Intimacy as a means to build sexual tension in a story. I believe it comes from his Intimate Behaviour: A Zoologist’s Classic Study of Human Intimacy, but I can’t confirm that because it is out of print. I would love to get a copy of it.

Of course, with the recent deluge of sexual harassment/assault accusations and subsequent consequences, the can apply to that conversation also – as in – how far down this list can you go before it is considered harassment/assault.

The list is below: Continue reading

Nancy: Love for the Long Haul

kiss-on-windowBecause most of us here on the blog write (and read!) a lot of romance, the week of Valentine’s Day presents an opportunity to talk about that core component of a romance story: love. More specifically, believable, happily ever after (HEA) love.

I thought about HEA love this past week when Maria V. Snyder posted on her FB page about the need for Valentine’s Day cards for 25+-year relationships, cards along the lines of “you annoy me and drive me crazy but I’m still willing to put up with it” or “we worked hard to mesh and I don’t want to train anyone else”. Yeah, those aren’t quite the messages we tend to read or write in our romance novels, but they are tongue-in-cheek reminders that there are real-life HEAs.

Back in the fiction world, though, that ‘believable HEA’ part isn’t always easy to write, and doesn’t always resonate with readers. For example, Continue reading

Jilly: Romantic Gestures

Romantic GesturesHappy Valentine’s Day!

What’s the most romantic gesture, real or fictional, you can think of?

Credible, lasting, loving relationships are the sine qua non of the romance genre, and we romance writers spend a lot of mental energy trying to find moving ways to show what Michaeline described so perfectly yesterday: two people who find each other beautiful, and suitable, and who listen to each other and get each other. A meeting of both minds and hearts.

The three magic words are important, but they’re an empty promise unless they’re backed by concrete, specific actions.

In real life, the evidence suggests that many people believe throwing money at their beloved is the way to go – last year the estimated retail spending on Valentine’s day in the US alone was almost $19 billion – but in fiction, at least, the reader expects more.

Continue reading