As a writer, I have a big responsibility: I can’t bore my readers; I can’t underestimate them; and I have to share information. And when it comes to writing romances, not only do my readers want a good tale, they also expect to (vicariously) fall in love. So here are some of my rules:

  1. My hero and heroine need to be intelligent. Why? Because I have to love them both to in order write about them convincingly. They also have to exchange ideas, stimulate each other intellectually or their love won’t last.
  2. Both hero and heroine must always be real people with real interests. I don’t want to write about multi-millionaires, top-notch executives, flashy cars, diamonds, private planes and all the other trappings. They just don’t interest me. But the folks next door do, and if one of my heroes or heroines just happens to be successful, it’s because they love what they’re doing, not because of all the consumer goods money will buy.
  3. No one has to be perfectly beautiful. When people fall madly in love, they always think the person they’re in love with is just gorgeous anyway!
  4. The setting has to be wonderful. Reading a book should be like traveling to an unknown country, or opening a window onto a wonderful view. It has to be “transporting”!
  5. No silly misunderstandings that are as irritating as sandpaper because they take up so much time. Silly misunderstandings have you wishing people would just sit down for five minutes and talk things over so the real story can begin.
  6. The grammar has to be as perfect as I can make it and sentences have to sing. There also has to be a definite style — even if it’s a quirky one. And, of course, the story has to keep moving, have no boring moments, no dullness and certainly no tedious conversations.
  7. We have to get knowledge from a book: we can learn about ourselves, about a new way to solve a problem, a new way of thinking, or we can glean totally new information and find new vocabulary. Learning is what makes life exciting.
  8. There have to be other interesting or very strange secondary characters. Sure, the main story revolves around the hero and heroine, but they’re not on a desert island: other folks are there too, and sometimes they’re nosy, or nasty, or disruptive, or amusing or even ridiculous. They’re what makes a book fun.
  9. Most definitely, my heroes and heroines have to have a sense of humor — and that means they can laugh at themselves and their own absurdities.

In my romance, All About Charming Alice, I share a few tales about the settling of the west and give some information about reptiles (don’t scream). My heroine is Alice, an ex-actress who has found refuge in the Nevada desert, protects rattlers and rescues dogs; my hero, Jace is a determined bachelor, an art-loving city man, a writer and an historian who can hardly wait to get out of Nevada and head back to Chicago.

The story takes place in a small, crumbling community in the Nevada desert peopled by… well… the sort of cranks you’d expect to find way out in the back of nowhere: Pa and Ma Handy, collectors of odds and ends as well as gossip; Brad, the rather dull rancher; Rose, the inveterate flirt who chews up most of the males in the west; Mick, a beer-swilling eccentric; and a whole scramble of rescue dogs.

And since this is a romance, you can read all about how Jace and Alice tumble into that heady, dizzying world of new love.

(Originally written for the blog: Because Reading Is Better Than Real Life)

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