Jennifer's Journal


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What is a Romance?

A schism seems to be growing among romance readers and authors these days over what does or does not constitute a romance.  One side of this discussion adheres to the traditional definition, which is that a romance is a tale involving a man and a woman in events which lead to adventurous happenings and culminates in a happy ending.  The opposite view, one that has evolved in the last ten years or so, is that a romance is a story which concentrates solely on the emotional involvement of the hero and heroine.  The first allows for creation of setting, character and complex action while building a relationship that progresses to sensual accord and, finally, love.  The second requires constant association of the hero and heroine and the exploration of their intense sexual rapport.  Readers of the first type enjoy the mental stimulation of a plot which may include well-researched historical or contemporary incidents and political machinations against a backdrop of authentic sights and sounds.  Readers of the second care little for accurate depiction of settings or events but enjoy the emotional stimulation of high dramatics and titillating and/or explicit love scenes.


The inevitable result of this difference of opinion is that many of those judging contests or writing critiques for other purposes are raising the cry of, “This is not a romance!”   The question I ask is: Who says it isn’t?  By whose standard are they judging?


A romance is a story wherein the main focus is the relationship between the hero and heroine--be that relationship social, political, historical, emotional, physical or any and all these things.  Within these parameters, the events which carry the story forward can be as different as the writer creating it.  Attempting to narrow the definition of a romance to suit one’s own preference is a good way to kill off the genre completely.  The best romances, best stories of any kind, are written by those who are freest to make them what they will.


“I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”
--Anne Lamott


Saturday, January 14, 2006

On Creativity

The urge to create often takes several different directions.  Musicians become painters.  Actors do needlework while waiting on the set, or else write the screenplays in which they star.  Artists enjoy gardening, using their color sense to make vibrant beds of flowers.  And so on, and so on.  I’ve just returned from a quilting retreat.  Quilting entered my life about ten years ago when I took a class, just to keep my sister-in-law company.  Like so many before me, I was hooked by the interplay of color and graphic design.  Now it’s one of my favorite recreations—funny how that word has “create” as its root, isn’t it?  I have a quilting room that overflows with fabric, patterns and notions, and own seven or eight sewing machines, from a modern marvel by Viking to a circa 1870 treadle machine.  I collect sewing implements, as well, as my antiquing hobby feeds off my sewing hobby.  I’ve also segued from quilting into machine embroidery and beading; my bead collection is ever expanding.  This is all added to my long-time hobbies of painting, knitting, crochet and cross stitching.  The point here is that creative instinct is not static.  It doesn’t settle on one thing and exclude all others.  The artistic child in all of us loves to play, and giving free rein to that urge multiplies our creativity exponentially.  To become better writers, if that is our goal, we should give ourselves artistic freedom and boldly go wherever it takes us.  The result will be a freer mind, so freer expression of the words and emotions inside us.  

Monday, January 09, 2006


Here we are, a week into 2006, and what is different?  Well, DAWN ENCOUNTER, book #2 of my Masters at Arms series, is now on the stands.  It’s been so long since I submitted this book to my editor--June 1, 2004--and the information for it has been on my web site home page with the flash book video for such ages, that it seemed this time would never come.  But it’s been on the shelves for over a week now, and reviews and reader comments have been positive—which is always a relief!  In the meantime, ROGUE’S SALUTE (working title so subject to change) book #3 of the series featuring Italian sword master, Nicholas Pasquale, as the hero, is on my editor’s desk with a publication date of January 2007.  And I’m at work on book #4 which I’m calling GUARDED HEART, though, again, that’s subject to change.  This one is about Gavin Blackford, an English swordsman introduced in DAWN ENCOUNTER.  I’m also planning a research trip for book #5, which means going down to New Orleans and photocopying masses of pages from the newspapers of 1846 at the Williams Research Center.  (I’ll let you in on a secret here—the hero for this book will be a Kentuckian who was introduced in ROGUE’S SALUTE.)  It should be interesting to see the grand old city again, find out what has changed and what has remained the same.  Other than that, I’m writing, writing toward another June 1 deadline—but also working on a workshop to be given in Baton Rouge at the end of the month, getting my garden ready for spring, packing to attend a local quilting retreat and planning a summer trip to Ireland with my daughters and a sojourn in the Colorado mountains later in the year.  If the way a person begins a year in an indication of how it will go for the rest of it, then mine should be busy, productive and fun.  Hope everyone one else’s is the same.