Be My Valentine Book Giveaway

The Be My Valentine Book Giveaway runs 2/6 through 2/11. The 1st place winner will receive all ten books (authors’ choice of format) and the 2nd place winner will receive three books (authors’ choice of format) of their choosing. A variety of genres, from fantasy to historical romance to suspense and more, are featured. 

Never fear if you don’t have social media–there are author newsletters and blogs you can follow to gain points. Most importantly, for an additional set of points, you have to answer this question: Do you like chocolate, and if so, what’s your favorite type (dark, milk, white, etc.)?

Although it isn’t a romance, my YA mystery A Shadow on the Snow has key scenes set during a Valentine’s Day snowstorm when my teen detective Rae Riley is chased by a mysterious figure. Here’s a snippet:

“At the sidewalk, I glanced up the hill. And dropped the bags.


“A figure, backlit by the streetlamp, stood at the corner.


“Spinning, I fell to my knees. I snagged the bags and, stumbling across the lot, reached the guardrail at the opposite side.


“I scrambled over it and fell five feet down the retaining wall into the little yard behind an empty building. Panting, I raised myself into hunched stance and ran, scrambling over snow-encrusted chunks of crumbling asphalt.

“Please, Father. It can’t end like this.”

A Shadow on the Snow

Enter at this link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/bfce54d317/?

Best of luck!

7 Key Elements of Romance Novels

Since my theme this year is “The Journey of Book”, we will be making stops throughout the year to study different genres. You can’t write for a genre without understanding its elements and reader’s expectations for it. So I am reposting Penny Zeller’s guest blog about the 7 key elements of romance novels. It’s a great post to get you familiar with the tropes of this genre.

While romance is one of the most popular genres, it’s not necessarily the easiest to write. Given this genre’s complexity, how can we, as authors, be sure our romance novels keep our readers turning the pages? Here are seven must-haves for romance novels.

Good character description 

As a visual person, it helps tremendously for me to have pictures of my main characters on hand before I begin writing a book. One of the best ways to do this is Pinterest boards. Create one for character inspiration you can refer back to for any book, as well as a dedicated individual board for each book you are writing.

When I was writing my first novel, I cut out the photo of my main male character and taped him to the edge of my computer monitor. When my husband, Lon, saw the picture that evening, our conversation went something like this:

Lon: “Who is that guy?”

Me: “Oh, that’s just Zach.”

Lon: “Zach? Do we know him?”

Me: “Well, you may not, but I do. He’s the main character in my book. A figment of my imagination.”

I still do this, although now my family is accustomed to seeing strange people taped all over my workspace. It helps to have your characters in front of you, whether taped to your monitor or a physical character board, or on a Pinterest board.

Great tip, Penny! Most of the time, I can’t write a character unless I can see them crystal clear in my imagination.

Attraction between characters  

While it may be a while before they like each other, there does have to be a level of attraction. Make sure that attraction covers more than just appearance.

Conflict

Make sure you have conflict in your romance novel. Keep the reader guessing and hoping the two main characters will someday have their happily ever after.

Relationship formers

In my novel, Love in Disguise, Emilie and Thad form a relationship over regularly having lunch together. They find they have common interests, likes, and dislikes. Give your characters ways to build and form their relationship through spending time together. Give them commonalities and some areas of agreement that brought them together.

Strengths and weaknesses

One of the easiest ways I have found to give characters strengths and weaknesses is to interview them. Ask “What words would your closest friends use to describe you?” Chances are, your main characters will come up with mostly strengths, but a few weaknesses too. Are they determined?  Creative? Organized? Flexible? Spontaneous? Energetic? Athletic? Nerdy? Flighty? A grudge holder? Easily bored? Risk-taker? Planner? Extroverted? Introverted?

Check to see what type of Myers Briggs personality your characters have and research that personality type. This helps develop their strengths and weaknesses even further.

Pacing

Disclaimer here: I love watching clean romantic comedies and chick-flicks. As such, I do realize the main characters have to fall in love quickly to fit the hour-and-a-half movie allotment. However, in our novels, we need to be sure we are pacing the romance well. Give your characters time before they fall head-over-heels in love. Let them discover why they’re falling in love. While attraction (see above) is important at first, it’s not what remains important. Allow your characters to fall in love with someone’s personality–their dedication to the Lord, their integrity, kindness, witty sense of humor, and generosity.

Or alternatively in the area of pacing, don’t have them dislike each other from page one to page 301 of a 302-page book, suddenly, falling in love on that second-to-the-last page. 

I think pacing is the hardest technique for a writer to learn. Great tip for keeping the romance real!

As authors, let’s give our readers a couple to root for by creating strong and relatable characters! 

A lot of your tips will work for any genre, not just romance. Thank you, Penny! 

For another perspective on the basic elements of writing a romance novel, click here.

For romance writing prompts, click here.

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Penny Zeller is known for her heartfelt stories of faith and her passion to impact lives for Christ through fiction. While she has had a love for writing since childhood, she began her adult writing career penning articles for national and regional publications on a wide variety of topics. Today Penny is a multi-published author of several inspirational books. She is also a homeschool mom and a fitness instructor.

When Penny is not dreaming up new characters, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters, camping, hiking, canoeing, reading, running, cycling, gardening, and playing volleyball.She is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency and loves to hear from her readers at her website www.pennyzeller.com and her blog, random thoughts from a day in the life of a wife, mom, and author, at www.pennyzeller.wordpress.com. You can also follow her on FacebookTwitterInstagramPinterestAmazon Author Central, and MeWe.

7 key elements of romance novels

Write a Romantic Backstory

The prompt to fit in with this month’s theme of love and romance challenges you to write romantic backstory for one of the couples in this picture. That’s what drew me to this photo–three couples who could be at very different stages in their relationships, providing the potential for very different backstories. What kind of romantic backstory could you write for the elderly couple? Or the couple walking away? Or the young couple on the bench? Leave your inspiration in the comments!

For more writing prompts for romance, click here.

Writing Stories about Valentine’s Day

Full disclosure: I don’t read romance. So it may seem strange for me to offer advice on writing stories about Valentine’s Day. But if you think of Valentine’s Day as a holiday that honors all kinds of loving relationships, then the day offers much more inspiration for stories.

I discovered this when I wrote my first mystery novel A Shadow on the Snow. The story is set in rural Ohio from the end of January to the end of March. In the middle, I planned a suspenseful chase through a snowstorm. My main character Rae has been doubting the strength of her new relationship with her newly-found father. I realized Valentine’s Day was the perfect day for her to come to grips with these doubts. And I could set my snowstorm chase then because in Ohio, we get all kinds of wild, wintery weather in February.

Below are some suggestions from past posts for writing about Valentine’s Day, either in romantic or non-romantic relationships.

Romantic Inspiration

New Love/Old Love: An elderly, married couple help an engaged or newlywed couple having troubles on Valentine’s Day. For the elderly couple to have more impact on the younger one, I think they shouldn’t be related. The couples can be neighbors. The two very different milestones in theses couples’ lives offer great contrast for storytelling.

Bittersweet: Write a story following a widower or widow experiencing his or her first Valentine’s Day since the death of the spouse.

Humorous: Write about a married couple trying to enjoy a romantic date night and being constantly frustrated with interruptions.

Bad Valentine’s Day: If you really want to stand Valentine’s Day on its head, have a couple break up on Valentine’s Day. That sounds so sad, I’m almost sorry I suggested it. But if the break up kicks off the story, then the uncouple have a chance to find new relationships or become reconciled.

Non-romantic Inspiration

Stepparents: A Valentine’s Day story could center on a child coming to some kind of friendly relationship with a stepparent. The child could actually be a child, or a teen, or a middle-aged adult who isn’t sure what to make of a widowed parent’s new spouse.

Grandparents: Explore the relationship between a grandparent and grandchild. Or to give the story a better twist, a great-grandparent and great-grandchild. It could be a simple story of the two characters enjoying each other’s company. Or maybe a deeper one in which the grandparent realizes the grandchild has a serious problem and needs to communicate that to the parents.

For writing prompts to inspire Valentine’s Day stories, click here.

How about you? When it comes to writing about Valentine’s Day, what advice can you give?

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