Stand alone books and one more giveaway
This is my final week as the Author of the Month at My Fiction Nook.
You see, they suggested “Maybe something funny,” and I went into total block on it. There are writers who can tell a funny little anecdote at the drop of the hat. Read Amy Lane’s blog. Read Thorny Sterling’s. I have major envy for that talent. I like to think there is humor in my books, in a subtle way, but I don’t have that gift of the absurd.
Humor is one of the four main things I look for when I read a romance though. A little snark, a funny moment, even a clever bit of word-play—humor lurks somewhere in most of the books I really love to read. So those four criteria?
First, I want characters I can like and cheer for. I don’t mind if they have to reform somewhat to get there—Jake Riordan, I’m looking at you—but I want to like them by the end. My own stories first appear when I hear the voice of a guy who wants his story told. Caring about that man and his journey is what launches the book.
Second, I want realistic emotions. I enjoy anything from sweet to heartbreaking, but I do want to feel it. That feeling of connection is very individual, personal, and hard to quantify. It’s always a surprise to me how other readers and I can agree on dozens of books, and yet there will be one that has me with my heart aching and just bores them. Or one they say had them sobbing that leaves me cold.
Pulling the reader into the story emotionally is a challenge for writers, and what works with one reader will not with another. I have side by side reviews of “couldn’t put this down even to sleep” and “DNF I was soooo bored.” (And perhaps this is a place to say again, all reviews are welcome, the good, the bad, and even the ugly. Readers who talk about the books they read are community, sustenance and keep this profession interesting. The difference in opinions is what makes discussing books fun, and leaves room for all of us different writers to find an audience.) The writers who consistently pull emotional connections from me are the ones you’ll see me recommending at every opportunity. In romance, more than any other genre, we get to share the emotional life of the characters.
My third preference is that bit of humor. Not necessarily laughing-out-loud, but just the occasional quirk that tells me the characters and the author have some sense of proportion, some ability not to take themselves too deadly seriously. The very best authors can give me that little self-deprecating quip even in a scene that will break my heart. That’s a gift.
And the fourth is hope. I don’t need a Happy Ever After or even a Happy For Now ending on every book. But I need it to contain some kind of hope. Real life is hard enough. Things beyond your control will batter and hurt people you love, at some point—if you care about anyone, that’s inevitable. Romance is about the hope of happiness, the hope of love, the idea that there are people out there who will put someone else’s well-being ahead of their own. It is about overcoming adversity and finding, at the end of your trials, the reward of a person to share the good times and the bad. Hope.
And that’s probably why I write. To transmute pain, loneliness, anxiety, fear, prejudice, and loss into the gold of hope, love and joy. And to share that journey, for characters who feel real, with readers. I wrote just for myself for decades, because putting hope and joy on paper made me feel it. There is sweetness now in having readers share that world.
The stand alone books featured on My Fiction Nook this time represent parts of that journey for me.
Lies and Consequences – the first book I ever published, a plot-crazy romp of a thriller that I simple put onto Smashwords for free, before I had published anything, so readers could share the fun.
The Rebuilding Year – two men who have been battered by life, finding each other and a new start together. A book about finding love wherever it appears, even if it’s unexpected and unfamiliar. And valuing that love for the treasure it is. (And yes, the sequel will be coming, although it is still a work in progress.)
And Sole Support – a book I wrote in a big part for myself. After a long period dealing with my mum’s Alzheimer’s, I was pretty blocked in my writing. So I started the story of Kellen, a man in a similar situation, not a perfect guy and one made less perfect by the stress of his helplessness in the face of his mother’s decline. (Much like myself—my poor husband got neglected at times, when all the rest was overwhelming.) Then I gave Kellen a guy like Mike, whose heart was big enough to deal with all of Kellen’s crap, and help him redeem himself. And at the end, despite the pain of family in trouble, I gave them love. And hope. And found that I could write again.
There is one more giveaway of any backlist book, if you comment on My Fiction Nook – Kaje Harper Finale. Thanks to everyone who has stopped by there all month, and congrats to the three previous winners. (Learning Curve seems to be the popular choice so far 🙂 See you there.