Should Anything be Taboo in Women’s Literature? #Romance14

There’s a scene in Bridget Jones’ Diary where Bridge realises she’s wearing her granny pants, just before she’s about to shag Mark Darcy. Cue a rushed bedroom trip where she swaps into some sexier knickers, and ta-da, she’s ready for sex.

Only… Is she? Continue reading

AJ Nuest’s Top Ten Reasons for Writing Fantasy Romance #Romance14

Greetings from across the pond and a huge, huge thanks to the lovely Charlotte Ledger for inviting me to participate in the HarperImpulse Festival of Romance! Whoo Hoo! I’m so excited to be here!

Since I’m the resident author of fantasy romance for HI, Charlotte thought it might be fun for me to offer an explanation why I choose to craft stories in this genre, what I enjoy and the qualities that appeal to me as a writer. When I sat back from the screen to give the topic some thought, I realized there wasn’t just one thing that propelled me to write fantasy romance, but several. So, I present to you…

AJ’s Top Ten Reasons for Writing Fantasy Romance

*bells, whistles, confetti*

1.  Supreme Omnipotence – LOL Okay, I fully realize this makes me sound like I have a God complex, but what can I say? The thing about writing fantasy that is different from all the other genres out there is the intricate world-building which must take place. It’s sorta like playing an intense game of Minecraft, if you will. I get to build my environment from the ground up – everything from defining the landscape, to developing the time period, to constructing a religious framework for the peoples contained within the story. It’s the one place I get to have complete control. Mmmwwwhahahaaaa…

2.  Complex Layering of Elements – Generally speaking, the fantasy genre contains within each story an antagonist which is—for lack of a better term—a puppet for the “real” bad guy. AHA! The reader is introduced to the original antagonist fairly early in the story and, as the layers are slowly peeled back, another, more evil, antagonist appears. This makes for a complex layering of elements which makes me rub my hands together in glee.

3.  External Conflict vs. Internal Conflict – I’m a sucker for angsty stories, and what better way to showcase this element than to have a hero and heroine desperately in love with each other while they are kept apart by circumstances outside their control? I also adore that moment in a fantasy romance when the reader is led to a place where they slap a hand on their chest and think, “How in the world are these two ever going to get out of this sticky wicket? These people are doomed!” And then, of course, I get to reveal the answer in a subsequent chapter which makes the reader exhale in relief. Creating that light bulb moment is so, so much fun. Nothing makes me happier than introducing a dire set of circumstances and solving the puzzle every time!

4. The Dialogue – Above all, I am a wordsmith. And, to me, there is nothing better than writing an eloquent line of verbiage that makes the reader swoon because of its romantic syntax. *gush, gush* Using old-world dialogue allows me to choose just the right word for these moments. Words that have become lost in our modern-day hurry to IM, PM and text with as little characters as possible. And yes, I’m that crazy loon who labors over a text for fifteen minutes because I can’t stand using acronyms or – God forbid – send a typo. *shudder*

5. Magical Elements – Yes, I love wizards, warlocks and sorceresses, but I also love the science behind the magic. How cool is it that an author can do a little research on the internet and voila! Modern day “magic” can be integrated into her story—those things my characters find otherworldly that, to us, are commonplace science. Makes me sound so much smarter than I really am…and I dare you to find one author who doesn’t love that. LOL

6. The Creatures – Confession time. I’m one of those geeks who loves dragons, unicorns, faeries, and things that go bump in the night. They make me squeal with delight. The cool thing about writing fantasy is I’m allowed create my very own beasts. In fact, I’m encouraged to do so. Sweet! I literally get to take the qualities I love from all those mythical creatures I’ve read about and whip up whatever oddity comes to mind. How outstanding is that?!?!

7. The Action – I am easily bored, and the eighteen tabs I consistently have open on my browser proves it. As such, I make it a point to challenge myself with each book I write. What better way to feed this personality trait than to craft an epic battle with multiple scenes, flipping back and forth between the action of the hero and heroine? Sort of like the quick-flash edits in an action flick where several takes on the same fight are all happening at once. I love that bam-bam-bam edge-of-your-seat action, and creating it with words? Oh, yeah…it’s so cool it gives me chills.

8. A Strong Heroine – I like a woman who knows her own mind and isn’t about to be a shrinking violet stuck in a high tower awaiting rescue from a handsome prince. Fantasy romance allows me to create heroines who push the boundaries. They are fighters—strong, independent and worthy of respect—and can pick up a weapon and rage against the enemy right alongside their swashbuckling heroes.

9. Swashbuckling Heroes – Speaking of which… My strong heroine needs to be balanced with a hero who is just as forthright and brave, and a man who is secure enough in his masculinity he isn’t threatened by a woman who is willing to stand tall and proud in the face of adversity. In fact, this quality is one of the things he finds most attractive in his girl. Besides, giving both my hero and heroine the heart and spirit of a warrior can make for some very passionate fight scenes if you get my drift. *eyebrow waggle*

10. The Prophecy – Nine times out of ten, fantasy novels contain a prophecy of some kind, and while this can be a complex element to add to the story, without fail, I always, always learn something new while researching specific elements I would like my prophecies to contain. I could get lost for hours reading about Greek mythology or Irish lore, and usually leave any research phase with enough notes to spark my imagination for two or three additional stories.

So, there you have it. The top ten reasons I write fantasy romance. What about you? What is your most favorite element of this genre? I’d love to know!

AJ Nuest is a multi-published, award-winning author who lives in the middle of a cornfield in NW Indiana. While she spends most days happily ensconced in crafting romance across a multitude of genres, an underground coup has been percolating. The dog’s just informed her the cat is secretly vying for dictatorship. You can follow AJ on Twitter @AJNuest.

The first part of AJ’s fantasy romance, The Golden Key Chronicles, is available to download for FREE right now

Amalia’s Survival Guide to Dating in Manhattan – Jill Knapp #Romance14

Jill Knapp is currently a blogger for The Huffington Post, and a former college professor. Her HarperImpulse debut, ‘What Happens to Men When They Move to Manhattan?’ is the first in a series of books she is writing about being young, single, and living in New York City. She is a native New Yorker, but currently resides in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Here Jill writes as her character, Amalia Hastings, to give you the top tips for dating in the Big Apple…

Hey everyone! My name’s Amalia Hastings, graduate student at New York University. I am here to give you some critical tips for dating in NYC. Think of me as your dating cruise director. Needless to say, I have been through a lot this past year. I got dumped by my “soul-mate”, Nicholas, fell in love with one of my best friends who is in a long term relationship with his college sweetheart, and I was trying to be set up with this really nice guy, Hayden who I kept blowing off! What other 23 year old do you know who has all of this drama? So whether you’re new to the city, or just feeling overwhelmed by the constant rotations of men in suits and hipsters hanging out with you in-between their band practice, here’s my New York dating survival guide!

  1. Make sure the guy you are dating is actually single:

Now, there are a few ways to go about doing this. There’s the obvious glancing down at his left hand to make sure there is no tan line where a wedding band should be. But some guys are tricky and keep their relationships/ marriages so well hidden, you’ll be blindsided to find out that work trip he took the other week was actually his honeymoon. So this is where good old Google comes in handy. Come through those search results with a fine toothed comb. If his name is Jonathan, try Jon, Johnny, John, or any other variation or nickname you’d ever heard someone call him. Check their Facebooks and cross reference them with their Twitter accounts. Chances are if there’s a pretty girl in a low cut shirt sitting on his lap in one of his pictures, it’s not his sister. Or if it is, you probably don’t want to be involved with that kind of family anyway!

  1. Stand your ground, and don’t let someone talk you into doing something you aren’t comfortable with:

Scenario- your date wants you to come up to the South Bronx to meet him at a bar you know is in a bad neighborhood. One top of it, you live in downtown Manhattan, and by subway it would take you no less than 45 minutes to get there. You express your discomfort with the situation, and he proceeds to do one of two things. If he is a gentlemen, he will understand your qualms, and agree to meet up with you someone more neutral to your respective homes. If he is a jerk, he will make a comment about you being narrow minded and unwilling to try new things. If he does the latter, cancel your date immediately. If he’s making you feel uncomfortable now in the “wooing” stage, imaging how he’s going to treat you when he’s 6 months in and completely past trying to impress you.

  1. He constantly breaks plans with you for a work related “emergency”:

Now unless your date is a medical doctor, an attorney, or works for the government, this really isn’t an excuse to constantly blow you off. We are all raised to believe that work comes first, but at what cost? Do you really want to date someone who is always blowing you off because their boss isn’t happy with the third draft of a press release they wrote the morning before? Another part of this is if they’re constantly checking their work e-mail or taking calls while they’re with you. We get it, you’re important. Moving on please…

  1. If he doesn’t support your career or your dreams:

I had a trip to Brazil planned for months that my boyfriend new about. At first he seemed really supportive, but as the trip became less of an idea and more of a reality, he lost his cool. Make sure the guy you’re dating knows that what goes on in your life is just as important as what goes on in his. Don’t ever play second fiddle to someone else’s career or dreams.

  1. Give the good guys a fair chance:

This piece of advice is the most important one of all. We all want the man who gives us butterflies in our stomach, but sometimes those butterflies are just our body’s way of telling us something isn’t right. Do you get super excited whenever the guy calls you? Does it only happen because you honestly weren’t expecting him to call? It’s better to date someone dependable, who you KNOW will call when they say they will, then go through the heart pounding anxiety of possibly having a date with the hot guy from the gym. You can tell the difference between someone genuinely caring about you, and someone who’s just going to be around for the short term. If you have a man in your life who you know would always be there for you, even if he doesn’t send your blood pressure through the roof when he saunters into a room, he’s the guy you should choose. I just hope one day I learn my own lesson.

You can find Jill on Twitter here. ‘What Happens to Men When They Move to Manhattan?’ will be available in July.

Dating in London – Brigid Coady #Romance14

Brigid Coady was born in the UK but raised round the world and spent most of her childhood with her nose in a book. She writes romance and young adult stories and loves country music. Her boyfriend says she has an unhealthy obsession with Kenny Chesney.

She now lives in London and is here to share her tips for dating in the big city…

Having been a single woman of a certain age in London for very many years, I’ve been asked to share some of my top tips for dating in the Capital. Dating in a city as large of London can be difficult and you need to use all your wiles and imagination. I would like to assure you that although it was a long, arduous and sometimes painful experience, no people were actually harmed in the making of this blog post.

Every day in London you use public transport to go to and from work. Just think of all those captive potential dates! Meeting people on public transport can be romantic and exciting. Eyes across a crowded carriage or a drunken flirtation at the bus stop; it can give you a great story when people ask how you met. Just be careful. Imagine it all goes horribly wrong and suddenly you can’t face your usual commute. You could be adding hours to your journey as you find alternative ways to work to avoid the embarrassment. There is a poor bloke who is probably still going the long way round to avoid the Bank/DLR interchange even though I haven’t travelled that way in years.

In surveys it says that many people meet their other half at work. In London it is an epidemic. Those boozy post work drinks or the company away days have caused many a marriage. I’ve had a few work related boyfriends in my life and it can add a certain frisson to your day when you know you’ll see them. However please do note that not all of these end well. Ask yourself if your love life or your career is more important? Because playing footsie under the meeting room table can be exciting but if it goes horribly wrong there is nothing worse than being stuck sitting next to your ex. If that happens start registering on job sites.

With all the coffee shops, pubs, bars and clubs in London you have a huge number of places to find a date. However a word of caution… is this your local or a favourite bar? Because you have to ask yourself if a meaningless date is worth it if you then can’t set foot in a much loved bar or pub because you are trying to hide from some less than stellar blokes.

Internet dating in London is like Internet dating anywhere, a question of the numbers. You have to reply to many messages and go on many dates to find anyone you actually click with. The perfect person in a message turns into the most boring man you’ve ever met and you’d rather stick chopsticks in your eyes than spend another minute with them. There is a lovely Vietnamese restaurant in Soho I can’t ever visit again due to post date traumatic stress. Dating on the Internet also reminds you that London isn’t as big as you think it is. It can be like ‘seven degrees of Kevin Bacon’; the bloke you are on a date with happens to be the brother of your Managing Director’s wife. That is when you agree to the second date and then let them down gently.

Speed Dating and Singles Parties have been around for ages. I don’t know how popular they still are because I have sworn NEVER to go to either again. If you fail to follow my lead I have a few tips:

1. Never ever, ever go speed dating with your incredibly attractive best friend. It will not do your ego any good especially if you are the person they have to ‘date’ next.

2. If one of the men leaves their speed dating crib notes on a table during a break, DO NOT READ THEM. It is like eavesdropping, no one hears good things… I’m still licking my wounds from reading I was ‘a bit of a weirdo’.

3. Singles parties always seem to have a mismatch of sexes. Too many women and you find yourself in a bun fight over statistically the only decent man there. Too many men and you are hunted. The last party I went to I had a better time outside talking to the security guard and had my first cigarette in eleven years. JUST SAY NO!

I hope these tips can help you navigate the tricky dating waters of London. Or alternatively you can do what I did, have a holiday romance thousands of miles away.

Brigid is the author of The Kiss Collection. You can find her on Twitter here.