Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Beyond the VEIL, Entangled with a Faun, an Experiment in Romance

The cover for my romance book...
A cover I helped make (I'm responsible
for the image of the main character,
which I created by combining
other images, the rest by Virginia McKevitt.)
As a writer and publisher of science fiction and fantasy and on occasion, horror, I know numerous other authors who write genres I don't write. Including romance.

A friend of mine, Parker J. Cole, informed me back perhaps in August of a project she and another romance writer (Lynn Donovan) were working with a couple of science fiction/fantasy authors Tom Bruno and Britt Mooney (note Kerry Nietz also expressed interest in maybe writing a future novel in this series, but hasn't written one as of now) to create a series of stories that are a hybrid of fantasy, science fiction, and romance. Though mainly romance.

I actually thought it might be interesting to participate. Yes, I volunteered myself to help write in a genre I neither read nor write--romance!

To be frank, it wasn't just because I wanted the opportunity to do something I hadn't done before and because I had already worked with Parker on the Beatitudes and Woes anthology I published this year (and working with Parker was a great experience). It was also because I've heard how much better romance sells than the genres I usually write and I was hoping for some of those romance dollars.

I didn't realize what I was getting myself into.

Note I'm not mainly a novelist, at least not at this point in my life I'm not. I've written some non-fiction and short fiction. I also have two novels I've written that are currently unpublished but are planned for release in 2020 (the first of these, The Crystal Doorway, I hope to have read in early January, just a few weeks away from my time of writing). So this is only my third novel--and it's by far my shortest. But I had a very hard time writing it.

For my fellow authors, you know that thing you do when you write a story in which you include elements that you like yourself as a reader? Because you know what you like, therefore you use that to build a story you hope others will also enjoy? Yeah, now imagine doing that for a genre you don't even read. Not easy!

The thing though is I thought it would be easy. I like stories with romantic elements. For example, I really like The Princess Bride. (This romance novel, Entangled with a Faun, drops some Princess Bride references, by the way.) I've even read some science fiction with romantic elements, like the short stories by classic sci-fi writer Stanley Weinbaum.

But perhaps the biggest difference between stories I'd read and the genre I decided to try to write is in the stories I've read with romantic elements, they generally wind up in the background. The focus is on other things and eventually, through hardship and trials, a male and female character realize at the end of the story that they are in love. That's romance, right?

As I've found out, actually no. That isn't romance.

Well, what I thought was romance is actually "romance-ish," or "romance-eque" maybe. Not totally wrong, but not close to right either. Because romance--well, clean romance anyway--is a genre about flirting. (Or at least that's what I think it's about, having written it once.)

And I made a horrible mistake right up front with my romance--to flirt, characters needed to be together. Sort of like a buddy cop movie, but instead of teasing each other, they flirt with each other. Until eventually the flirtation becomes a serious relationship. With the romance reader reading the flirtation a bit like I would combat scenes--"oh, that was close!" "almost lost it there!" "barely escaped that one!" "oh, I know he's gonna fall, but when?" So the beats of action and escape that relate to survival of characters in the kind of fiction I read is replaced by beats of emotional closeness or separation and swirling passion and pangs of the heart.

But, I'm off track--I should be talking about my mistake. My mistake was that I picked a male and female lead as part of a group of authors and also picked characters who spend little time together. She, the county sheriff, he the town librarian. A sheriff and a deputy or the sheriff and the FBI or something like that would have been a better choice, because the characters could naturally be together a lot. (Note, the group thing was a problem because once I'd committed myself I couldn't change characters since they were incorporated into other people's books.)

So I had to wrestle with how romance can happen with people who don't see each other very much. Of course they think about each other. They call--or don't call. There's an occurrence of flowers being sent off (see how personal I made that sound :) ). And a few other things, like brief visits. I had to work to make it plausible, and to my genuine surprise, it actually seems to have worked.

Though my story also has strong non-romance elements. There was just no way getting around it for me. I spend a little bit of time in the fantasy world and couldn't help writing some odd things there--it's what I do. I also made an action scene--in which there's real live shooting ongoing. Cause I'm very familiar with that stuff. Though I also wrote a showdown in which my main character, Lucy Spotted Wolf, is ganged up on in a conversation and made to feel very low, which is not something I would normally write.

My story wound up with two main tensions--one being a general lack of respect that Lucy faces in her work, where some treat law enforcement as a "boys-only club. The other being her sense of isolation in a small, mostly white town, coupled with loneliness as a woman who has been burned by men in past romantic relationships and who has steered away from things that hurt her emotionally.

Lucy has two encounters with fantasy creatures who cross over from another universe--one threatens her life, the other winds up entangled with her and her love interest and brings back to her a sense of whimsy and joy, helping restore her childhood love of fantasy that she felt for Narnia. So my book has not just one, but two separate resolutions to these issues (one right after the other).

And after I had gone through feeling incompetent and wanting to quit and doubting that I could ever write anything, let alone romance and certainly not this tale, I found myself reading back over the ending of the story I'd created with an astonishing warm glow of satisfaction. Hey that was actually really good!

I think I actually managed a mostly satisfying romance (with a lot of help from Parker J. Cole) with a really strong ending. And a good other story, too, with its own quite satisfying ending.

That's easy for me to say, of course, and it's always so possible for any author to be blind about his or her own writing. But my experience really was one of surprise--I thought I was sunk by this project and worried for a while that I would never be able to finish the story. But when I finished it, I read back over it and thought, "Hey, this is actually good! Wow!"

I actually don't feel embarrassed to recommend this book--and I was wondering about that for a while. It's a quick read and I think one that most readers will actually enjoy--even if you are a fantasy fan and not a romance fan. Or even if you are a romance fan and don't care that much about fantasy.  And I am so surprised to be telling you that! (And I'm telling you, I would not say so unless I thought so.)

As you will have noticed from my post, my book is also part of a series of stories, which includes a prologue and books 2, and 3. These other stories fill in the background for my tale and make it make sense.

Here's a link to the Prologue book (a.k.a book 1) on Amazon, written by Tom and Lynn: https://www.amazon.com/Beyond-VEIL-Prologue-Thomas-Bruno-ebook/dp/B07YYMCJMD

To book 2, by Tom Bruno: https://www.amazon.com/Entangled-Shade-Beyond-VEIL-Book-ebook/dp/B081BDLGMG

To book 3, by Lynn Donovan: https://www.amazon.com/Entangled-Faeries-Beyond-VEIL-Book-ebook/dp/B081HYB318

And finally, to my book, published as of the same date I'm writing this post (Dec 24th, 2019). Note it's a FREE read if you are an Amazon Prime member:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08339BFYG

Anyway, I hope you like the way the story wrapped up as much as I did! If you read it, write me a review and feel free to comment here about it.

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