Sunday, September 19, 2021

What the heck is 'seasoned' romance?

 

You may have heard the term 'seasoned' romance. On some sites like Amazon and Smashwords, the keywords 'later in life romance' are used to identify romance novels that feature heroines and heroes who are a bit more mature and often embracing a second chance at love. As an author in the 'a bit more mature' (at least age wise) category, I began to write seasoned romance stories over the past few years. And I love them. What does seasoned romance offer that contemporary romance doesn't? They both tell a story of love and romance and a happy ending.

That's all true. But writing older characters who have been around the block once or twice and, frankly, have more baggage (or wisdom) gives the author so much more with which to work in both character development and plot/story line. We older folks often know things--things we've garnered through life experience and by making mistakes. Often those things make us more interesting, more complicated, and a lot more fun. Besides, trying to relate to a pair of twenty-somethings falling in love and dealing with the conflicts that threaten their happiness is a distant memory to those of us two decades or more beyond those years.

How many times have you said, "If I knew then what I know now..." Well, my characters know now what they didn't know then, and that can make romance all the more interesting, scary, wonderful, and fun--did I say scary? The more mature folks I've talked with who find themselves on a second or third go-round in the romance department generally say how confusing and scary the world of dating can be. It's not as simple as dinner, dancing, and a dalliance (does anyone use that word anymore?). In any case, you know what I mean. Often there are past hurts and losses that come into play. Adult children can be either supportive of a new relationship, or a royal pain in the arse. When sixty-something Mom starts dating again, everyone panics. Sometimes even Mom. Dating can seem like a minefield. Especially when you don't know the rules any longer. Imagine the sixty-something hero thinking of dating as he did in his twenties but pursuing a woman in her sixties. Those old pick-up lines just won't work anymore. If he's not more sophisticated, he'll end up making a fool of himself. And many do.

And, heavens, what about sex? I mean, these are old people we're talking about. Right? Wrong. These are mature adults with experience and desires. That's right, I said it. Mature men and women have desires. Fifty-, sixty-, and even seventy-somethings aren't dead yet. Crafting realistic sex scenes to fit the character's age and experience can be a challenge. It can also be a lot of fun. Don't rule anything out. Mature characters bring more to the table. Or to the floor, the bedroom, or the back seat. In the case of Sarah in Sarah's Second Act, the hottest scene takes place on a boat.

In a seasoned romance, the hero and heroine also can bring a deeper understanding of themselves, what drives them, what they want. And what they don't want. They've had time and opportunity to learn what works for them and what doesn't. They may have lived their dream and, now retired, have to find a new dream or new passion to pursue. Many have lost the first loves of their lives, some having delayed romance and marriage for the sake of a career. It's not that the more mature characters have lived a life, learned from it, and now have it all together. What fun would that be? They have their own doubts, fears, and challenges. Just because they've lived longer doesn't mean they have the recipe down for the perfect relationship. But they bring a little more seasoning to the relationship. Which is why I personally prefer the term 'seasoned' to 'later-in-life.' Salty, spicy, with a sprinkle of pepper and a dash of hot sauce.

Seasoned or later-in-life romance offers readers a story that can better parallel those of the more mature reader. Just as contemporary romance novels appeal to those in their twenties and thirties because the stories can mirror their own or the story they wish was theirs and they can better relate to characters closer to their age, seasoned romance offers the same advantages to the more mature reader.

As with any book, my goal in writing seasoned romance stories is to give readers something to smile about, something that gives hope, that draws on one's emotions, and ends up with the reader feeling good about the outcome. The great thing about writing seasoned romance is I end up with a story my more mature readers can relate to. Or so I hope. 

Here are a sampling of some of my seasond romance novels:


And some of my women's fiction novels include seasoned romances:


All of these and more are available at Amazon.com



Thursday, November 12, 2020

Introducing Photographer and Book Cover Artist Tina Pappas Lee

I've received a lot of compliments on several of my book covers. I want to introduce you to one of the cover artists who have created a few of those covers. Meet photographer and cover artist Tina Pappas Lee.

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We always hear that people typically use one side or another of their brain - the creative side or the analytic side. Well, I guess I’m just plain odd because my career spans both equally and I enjoy both - although the creative is winning out the older I get!

I ran an ad agency for many, many years which played into both, but I found myself drawn to the creative side more and more. The bottom line was always important to keep the client happy, but I loved going on photo shoots and sitting in creative brain-storming sessions. I have had many high end clients such as Black and Decker and Macworld Magazine. One such client, Cigna Retirement and Investment Services came to me after years of servicing their account at the agency and asked me to come and build them an in-house agency. I agreed, and they gave me an entire floor in their corporate offices to do that. We were extremely successful - and again - using both sides of my brain - I was the creative director as well as the face of Cigna to their customers, and I had to supervise 25 people. Eventually I left corporate America and started my own boutique agency. Then 9-11 struck, my dad became ill and eventually passed, and I moved from CT to the south to be near him and family.

Because of the attack on our homeland, I made the decision to go in a different direction after the move and became a Special Investigator. For the past 18 years, I’ve conducted background investigations for the government - specifically the military. But I still needed that creative outlet. I purchased my first digital Canon camera and became addicted. I did it mostly for fun or to sell my prints on Etsy, but in 2016 I found an article about a woman who used her photography for book covers and that piqued my interest. Could my photography be on the cover of a novel - sure, why not I thought! So, I submitted my portfolio to an international agency and was accepted. They didn’t actively promote American photographers because they were based in Europe, but I did get my first cover with them which was NY Times bestselling author, John Hart. That book, Redemption Road, immediately became a bestseller, and I was thrilled. After that I was fortunate to get covers through this agency by well-known authors such as Danielle Steele, Carol Wyer, and Nicholas Sparks.

But they were few and far between - only 13 covers in over two years. And I wanted more than just handing my photos over to an agency who would then sell it to a publisher. I wanted to actually design the covers. So the research began - who was the best company out there for me to work with to achieve that goal? I decided it was Self Pub Book Covers and signed with them in August 2018 and have since sold 83 covers.  I have been so blessed to be able to design covers for some of the most wonderful authors in the world. Yes, there were people I had met through the international agency who questioned why I would want to give up the big name publishers/authors to work with mostly Indie authors. I explained it’s because I love that they, the author’s themselves, choose my covers! What better compliment could there be? I know that authors who have major publishers don’t typically have any say in what their cover looks like. I want my covers to be loved by the author. After all - it’s their story! They have poured their heart and soul into their work, just as I have in designing the cover. I now have relationships with so many of the them and they inspire me. I hope I do the same for them. 

I still use most of my own photography for my covers, but I do use some stock photography in composites or when I can’t get out to shoot. Yes, it’s more labor intensive shooting my own, and most designers just use stock photos, but there is ownership in what I do. When I see my own photography on a cover, I know what went into it and the fun I had creating the scene. And authors know they are truly getting one-of-a-kind covers and so many have told me they appreciate that. I also design custom covers for authors who have been referred by other photographers so if you have a need, feel free to contact me directly at tml1656@comcast.net.

 

You can also follow me on MeWe at: mewe.com/i/tinalee35

If you would like to see my gallery of over 700 covers on SPBC, please copy and paste the link below:

https://selfpubbookcovers.com/index.php?option=com_author&view=searchartist&username=tinapappaslee

When not working, I spend my free time with husband, daughter, son-in-law, grandsons, my sweet 13 year old Labradoodle named Maggie or my wonder pony, Napoleon (show name: Little Dictator).

* * *

I discovered Tina's fabulous cover art work when I was looking for covers for some of my republished books. I fell in love with her work--the beauty, simplicity, the artistry, and the way the covers represented the stories. You can browse all of her work at the above link she provided. But let me share a few of the fabulous covers she created that grace some of my books.





Thursday, September 24, 2020

Chloe's Choice

 I'm so happy to present my 31st novel, Chloe's Choice. 



April Hanover returns to her small hometown in Delaware to recover from a bad break-up and to try to convince her father to retire and sell the family business. Mike Grainger moved back to Parkville after his wife died and left him a single parent to their young daughter, Chloe. His work as a contractor puts him at odds with the townspeople of Parkville, including April’s father and his own mother. April is not looking for a relationship. Mike can’t see another marriage in his immediate future. Chloe has other ideas. April and Mike soon learn you can’t underestimate the determination of five-year-old.


Chloe's Choice features not one but two seasoned romances. While April and Mike are looking for love in all the wrong places until Chloe shows them where they need to be, April's father, Hank, and Mike's mother, Eleanor share a friendship that grows into something more.

Chloe proves you should never underestimate the determination of a five year old.

We're living in challenging times right now, and it can be difficult to find something to smile about. It was a delight to write this story. I hope it will delight my readers as well.

Available now at: Amazon.com and at Smashwords.com


















Friday, September 18, 2020

What We Really Want from a Romance Novel ~ Cassidy Wells

I love hearing other authors talk about their perspectives on writing or on their own writing journey. I'll be featuring at least one author or artist here on One Woman's Write each month. I've invited author Cassidy Wells to get us started. Welcome, Cassidy.


I haven’t always loved romance novels. Frankly, the ones I read in my early 30s were historical romance, and the female characters were controlled by men. As I think back on them, it amazes me that I could believe that a woman would fall for man when the relationship was so unequal and nonconsensual. Well, I was young, and it was a much different time.

Just as society has changed over the years, and women have demanded relationship equality, romance novels have changed, too. These days the romance heroine isn’t saved by the hero; she very often saves herself and others.

Romance novels are increasingly popular. In fact, they may be one of the most popular genres of fiction. Romance readers span all age ranges, and the types of romance novels are diverse and varied. Some take place in exotic locales, others in small towns. Some characters are young adults and the romance is a coming of age story. Others are in their late twenties and early thirties. Still other stories are known as “seasoned” romance with main characters in their forties and beyond. The search for love isn’t confined to only certain ages anymore.

Sometimes the romance is sweet, and sexuality is alluded to in “fade out” scenes, much like old Hollywood romantic comedies. Others are explicit and paint the picture of how sexuality is expressed naturally within the context of the growing relationship.

At the center of a romance novel is always a relationship. Whatever emotional baggage the main and supporting characters bring into the story, they must make the changes necessary to grow beyond their history, their experiences, and their relationship foibles. The love story is always central.

There may be danger and war, or threats and villains that jeopardize the characters and the relationship. Sometimes the theme is a second chance romance after an earlier relationship has crashed and burned. Some are stories of friends who turn into lovers. Some stories explore love at first sight. Others tell of relationships that mature like fine wine over years or even decades.

Usually the main characters in romance novels, just like people in real life, struggle to overcome trust issues; insecurities; fear; commitment issues; unrealistic expectations; histories of abuse, rejection, loneliness and trauma; misunderstandings and communication problems; and different beliefs about what the future could bring, if, in fact, love really could conquer all.

The most important promise of a romance novel is of a happy ending—a “happily ever after,” or at least a “happily for now.” The appeal is that the internal or external issues that threaten the relationship are resolved and leave the lovers to appreciate each other in new ways. Those of us who become invested in their story are left feeling emotionally satisfied and optimistic.

These days, the power of romance novels and this happy ending is even more compelling as people throughout the world are faced with the uncertainty of a global pandemic. Our lives have changed, and our relationships have changed. Many of us feel disconnected by the circumstances health concerns impose upon us.

The good news is that there may be more time to read and lose ourselves in challenging, but ultimately hopeful relationships found in the different types of romance novels. Despite the fact that they are fictional, they provide an outlet for our own hopes and dreams for love and optimism.

After all, isn’t that what we all want? Love, romance, and most of all, hope for a happy ending.

 


Cassidy Wells is a snarky, sassy, outspoken storyteller, and the author of an increasing pile of romance novels. She is 32 today, tomorrow, and perpetually. Cassidy is the invention of a former psychologist who decided to abandon the couch for the pen (well, really for keyboard and word-processing software). After years of doing psychotherapy, Cassidy decided to ensure that her characters made the changes she always wanted her clients to make. Get a FREE copy of That Night in CancĂșn at https://BookHip.com/FGRAHA. That Night in CancĂșn is the story of what can happen when you’re far from home under a tropical moon, with something to prove… Also check out her Ridgeview, Tennessee Series, which takes place in a small town in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains.


You can also read my review of Cassidy's book: Saved by a Warrior Dog: A Military Romance on Amazon.com

Monday, May 25, 2020

Reaching a Milestone in the Midst of a Pandemic

Yesterday, I hit a milestone. I published novel #30. Normally, this would be a cause for celebration. Well, in fact, it is cause. Unfortunately we live now in the midst of a deadly pandemic. A virus that has successfully scared the crap out of me. Still, life goes on and novels are written. But this time begged the question, metaphorically: If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears, does it make a sound?

Would I have invited a lot of people to a book release party? No. Not my style. I would have gone out to dinner with a friend or friends just to at least acknowledge this milestone in my publishing career. But there's this matter of the virus from hell that dictates how we socialize, where we socialize, and how many can gather in one place at one time. And the question hangs like the Sword of Damacles--is it safe out there? I'm not whining. I'm pointing out the challenge of life as usual during this time. There no 'life as usual' right now.

I released my book in the wee hours of the morning of May 24th. It was important for me to do so becaue this book is dedicated to my mom who would have turned 95 that day. I announced the arrival of Running in Place on Facebook. And I so appreciate those family members, friends, and readers who acknowledged the book. Many of whom went to purchase their copy right away.

Running in Place is women's fiction, primarily. Someting I've not written for a while. This particular book has been at least ten years in the writing. It started with a title and a concept.  And, yes, a similarity to where I was in my own life at that time--running in place. The book has taken so many twists and turns and plot shifts over the years. It is a work of frustration, commitment (oddly, a key theme in the book), and of passion. The book deserved a better welcoming into the world than I've been able to give it. And that has been the bigger reminder of the restrictive time in which we live--for now. This time of running in place--working from home, eating at home, spending time at home. 

So, I suppose you could say Running in Place is a book for the time. In any case, here's a glimpse.



Available now at Amazon.com

Callie Regan has commitment issues. Everyone seems to see this except Callie. Which, when she comes to the same realization, makes her question her own skills as a therapist. She’s learned that the best way to confront a problem is to keep moving. Permanence has not been a factor in her life. She thinks she’s found the perfect solution for the stability she seeks. Still, she can’t quite say ‘yes.’ The solution—move. And she does. To rural Mississippi. There’s truth in the saying: Wherever you go, there you are. She finds herself once again running in place and going nowhere. And she’s not alone. 

She meets others who are, in their own ways, marking time. Billie, a young former runner and Iraq war amputee, who has to learn to walk again. Arcadia, a woman who spent years imprisoned because she put her life on the line out of love. Clinton, isolated because of losses that come with age. Mary Alice, who can’t break free of the beliefs and the fears that hold her captive.


~ * ~

I hope that you all are staying safe during this time. I hope you're finding creative ways to fill the time, and that you have the resources you need to sustain you. I hope you find little ways to celebrate the goodness of life and your own achievements. Stay strong. Embrace life. Say yes to the possibilites and dreams.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

After the Fear and Grief



I've spent a lot of time alone. I live alone, so it's not unusual. What is unusual is feeling that aloneness. I've felt that more in the past few weeks than ever before. When I can no longer fill the quiet with TV or music, I've taken moments here and there to listen to the stillness around me. I live in an apartment complex that is obviously very well-built because I don't hear my neighbors. I've always considered that to be a plus. Now I sit in the quiet and wish for a bump against the wall, the reverberation of a door slam from somewhere below, the sound of children laughing outside, or the roar of a car engine. I find myself longing for those sounds of normal life. I fear we've lost that normal forever. I want to say that we'll survive this and return to life as normal, but I can't assume either of those things. Who will survive? Who will not? It's a crap shoot. There are no guarantees.

As for returning to life as normal--that may or may not be a good thing. Think about the ways we're seeing this crisis with the Corona virus impacting our world. Sadly, we see people getting sick, having to go into quarantine, and many are dying pretty much alone with the exception of those tending to their care from behind masks and gloves. Those people, by the way, are the true heroes of this time. It's frightening, really. I fear and go into a near panic with every tickle in my throat, every sneeze, every cough, every bit of a headache--all of which are typical for me due to seasonal allergies. But I ask, "Is this the virus? Is this going to take me down? Am I sick? Do I need to call someone to take Stormy and care for her?" The fear isn't crippling. Not yet. But it has me shaken.


This virus, this invisible monster, has made me re-evaluate. It's certainly been a learning. I've learned how little control I have in life. I've learned I'm not all that significant, no more so than anyone else. I've learned how little I need as I watch people scramble to get the basics like milk, eggs, and toilet paper. How much is enough? We don't seem to know anymore. We're all just scared.


Then I hear news stories about how the environment is being impacted in a positive way. The once-green and muddy canals of Venice are crystal blue and being visited again by dolphins. Mountain vistas previously shrouded in polluted clouds are visible, the skies above them clear and bright. The earth is seizing this down time to breathe and renew.


We humans are asked or, in some cases, ordered to stay home. Stay away from one another. Stop the spread of the virus by refusing it a new host to take hold. It's the only way. It's all we've got. (I'll avoid the political aspects of poor decisions and bad timing and why this is all we've got.) New language has sprung up: social distancing, self-isolating. Words that those introverts among us--like myself--not only understand but embrace. We are our own worse enemies in this fight. We have one job to do to win--stay home. And, yet, people deny the severity of the pandemic, deny the expert medical opinions that inform us, refuse to give up their "rights" to congregate, hence furthering the life of this monster that could take us all down. Lives have been turned inside out with job loss, illness and death in families, the change of plans.


Plans. All of us have plans. I had plans for a trip to visit family and friends. Canceled. I had plans for a beach vacation with friends. Canceled. I have plans for a July trip that will likely be canceled. It's a hassle arguing with airlines to get a refund or at least a credit, to cancel reservations for a beach house, to face the disappointments. It would be a bigger hassle to be hospitalized and possibly die alone in a sterile hospital room and have family and friends grieving a funeral they could not attend.


This crisis should help us put things into perspective. It has forced us to change our daily routines and our longer-range plans. It has forced us to slow down. It has forced us to more carefully tend to our finances. It has forced some of us to ask for and/or accept help we would never have had to request or receive. It has forced us to evaluate just what we do need and what we can live without. It has forced us to hold onto the love we share with others and cherish them.


What about tomorrow? Not Thursday as in 'that' tomorrow. What about when this is over or at least over enough that we can come out of our hiding spaces and into life again? What will our lives look like? Many will be having to start over as surely as if a hurricane had swept ashore and washed everything out to sea. How do we rebuild, or do we build something new? How do we heal from the fear and the grief and lean into hope again? How do we lean into a new normal and create the lives we want?


I hope I take to heart the learnings I've gotten from this so far. And it's far from over. But I hope my life, if I survive this, takes on new meaning, reflecting all that I've learned from this--that I don't need nearly as much stuff as I think I do; that I do need the people in my life to be in this with me; that I have a great capacity to care about others and tend to their needs above my own; that I should and can take better care of myself--physically and emotionally; that when it comes to an invisible virus with the potential to wipe out masses of human life, we all become one. We are all in this together. We fear the same. We grieve the same. We love the same. We die the same. And we will be given the same opportunity to come out of this a better person, with the chance to live in harmony in a better world.


This is what I believe comes after the fear and grief. Hope and understanding and acceptance and purpose and humanity, along with a greater love and respect for our earth. We are in the midst of what Christians recognize as Holy Week. It's a time for atonement and sacrifice and joy, only then to stand in the darkness of Good Friday. But we emerge into the light of hope and resurrection of Easter Sunday. I don't think it's an accident that we were told earlier that this week would be the most trying and filled with loss, but that then the expectation is that things will begin slowly to improve. Don't be afraid to stand in the dark, stay home, close the doors, and wait. New life will come.




Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Hallmark Movies, Hot Chocolate, and Inspiration

It's that time of year when the Hallmark Channel provides a constantly running venue of Christmas stories certain to take us 'home' to those cozy small towns that touch our hearts. I grew up in a cozy small town that would have, at one time, been the prefect Hallmark movie setting. I have to admit, I'm a sucker for a small town--houses with picket fences, town squares, a little hamlet where everyone knows everyone and life is good all the time.

I recently treated myself to a Hallmark Christmas movie marathon, complete with a mug of hot chocolate. And inspiration struck. I was transported to a small town in the mountains of Southwestern Pennsylvania, in the region where I grew up. One of my favorite places to visit is the little town of Ohiopyle and the state park by the same name, in particular the falls. As I watched movies titled Christmas in _________ (fill in the blank), a kernel of a story took seed.

I thought I was writing a short story about Christmas in the fictional town of Falls Village, but patterned after Ohiopyle. My characters, however, had minds of their own and a longer love story to tell. What came of ten days of writing is Falling for Mr. Christmas: A Second Chance Holiday Romance novella.



If you're captivated by small town romances and second chance stories set at Christmastime, you'll no doubt enjoy Falling for Mr. Christmas, It's a sweet story of finding love when and where you don't expect it.

Now available in ebook and paperback at Amazon.com and at Smashwords

Other Christmas stories you might enjoy are: Reinventing Christmas, A Kiss for Christmas, and Upon A Midnight Clear. All available at Amazon.com

I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas.

                                                                               Linda