Why Romance? Why not?

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There are dayslike todaywhen I find myself on the receiving end of…

The look.

It’s the one people lay on me after learning what I do for a livingmore specifically, the fact that I write…

Wait for it…

ROMANCE.

It’s a look that evolves from…

Are you serious?

To…

No, you can’t be serious.

To…

Holy @#%&, you ARE serious.

To…

Oh, how cute. You actually think you’re a REAL writer.

And, to further drive the spike into my already fragile ego, a saccharine-laced response usually piggybacks “the look,” something along the lines of…

“Those books are okay to read if you don’t want to think too much.”

Ouch.

Unfortunately, this perplexing (and rather unwarranted) romance-is-a-subpar-genre attitude is something I’ve been running into for as long as I can remember.

There’s an assumption shared by many that neither effort nor intelligence is required to write romance novels and that their pages contain nothing but embarrassingly sappy drivel. And if you actually read them, then God help you, because you’d better be armed with one mother of a justifiable reasonnamely, your brain needing a sabbatical.

Pffft.

Personally speaking, I can tell you that reading and writing romance has nothing to do with a lack of creative depth or an unhealthy penchant for heaving bosoms and quivering loins.

By the way, 99.999% of romance imprints did away with those terms eons ago.

Fact: Romance consistently wins out as the best-selling literary genre…by a landslide.

Yet, ironically, it comes up the rear in terms of respect and credibility…which, if I’m being frank, kind of steams my clams.

Whether or not people admit it, they’re reading romance and lots of it. So, you know what I say?

Be proud!

When you’re engaged in bookish chit-chat with someone who asks you, “Why romance?” you can fire back with a simple, but effective…

“Why not?”

Then point them in the direction of a book like Pride and Prejudice and I’ll bet they never ask you that question again.

The one thing I love most about voracious romance readers is that they…just…get it. If you’re reading this right now, then chances are, you do too.

And I am so grateful to have you along!

Of course, I’m not suggesting that everyone should go gaga over romance novels, because as we all know, art in its various forms is subjective. What one gets off on the other may yawn over. It’s a matter of personal preference.

Even as a self-proclaimed sucker for all things swoon-worthy, I still enjoy dipping my eyeballs into horror, mystery, suspense, and fantasy.

Stephen King, if you’re reading this, I love you!

(Who am I kidding? There’s no chance in hell he’s reading this.)

What I’m saying is that romance deserves equal inclusion as a legitimized, stigma-free genre among its industry counterparts.

Does that mean all romance novels are worth critical acclaim? Heck no. There are some sucky ones out there for sure. But do other genres have their own share of craptastic representation? You betcha.

Again, if you follow this blog, then I’m probably preaching to the choir. Maybe you’re actually a romance writer yourself. If so, then you’re also familiar with “the look.”

There will always be people who don’t understand, or even want to, and that’s okay. Because the rest of us know that with the romance genre, there is so much more than meets the eye upon that curious first glance. It’s the type of fiction that gets into your mind and stays there, the type that explores love and intimacy from within the intricate tapestry of the human condition. It inspires hopeand yes, even change. So…

Whether you read it…or create it…

I hope it inspires you too.

If you’re proud to be a romance fan, let me know by leaving a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

 

Copyright © S. A. Healey

 

Image source: flickr.com – Tsahi Levent-Levi, artist

 

 

Book Review – Web of Darkness by Paris Andren

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It’s official. Paris Andren writes unputdownable books.

After devouring her debut release—Pointe of Darkness (LA Dark Series) (Volume 1)—in one nail-noshing sitting (read my review here), I couldn’t wait to get my stubby, greedy fingers on her highly-anticipated sequel…

WEB OF DARKNESS (LA Dark Series) (Volume 2)

And wouldn’t you know it…I also consumed this book by way of a single, multi-hour adventure in page turning.

It’s that good.

The story picks up where Pointe of Darkness left off, with its main characters fleeing from, yet still chained to, the underground world of sex slavery and human trafficking. The heavy nature of the subject matter is neither trivialized nor glorified, and I am enormously impressed with the special care Ms. Andren took to treat it with the staunch realism it deserves.

Speaking of which, Web of Darkness almost gives off a non-fiction sort of vibe, a testament to the author’s ability to pull readers into the crux of a problem that is closer to home than we think. We ride every emotion in tandem with the characters until they become our own.

Now, that’s talent.

Web of Darkness didn’t just give me feels…it gave me all the feels Joy, sorrow, desperation, heartbreak, terror, devastation, hope, anxiety, desire, love—you name it—I was in total immersion mode.

Andren’s writing is superb, using alternating points of view to the story’s advantage, deepening our connections to returning protagonists Ava and Sage, introducing us to new characters, and giving us an unobstructed look into the evil mindset.

The description, dialog, and pacing were on point(e) (see what I did there?), keeping me in a near constant state of pulse-thumping suspense. I seriously couldn’t stop reading if I tried because I just had to know what was going to happen next. Every time I was convinced I had it all figured out…BAM…it was time to think again!

This book is chock-full of page-turning elements: darkness, action, mystery, intrigue, blush-inducing eroticism, and most of all…

Romance.

Because at its essence, Web of Darkness is a love story…albeit an unconventional one, but that’s what makes it special. After all, love isn’t conceived from puppies and unicorns alone. Sometimes fate brings hearts together under extraordinary circumstances. And, to me, there’s something especially satisfying about witnessing the progression of love as it fights against all odds to prevail.

But, the big question is…

Does love indeed win out in the end?

Well, you know I can’t tell you that!

So, what are you waiting for? Grab your copy of Web of Darkness today!

Get it on your Kindle

Get it in Paperback

And don’t forget to leave a review. 🙂

To find out more about Paris Andren, visit her website: http://www.pariswrites.com.

Happy reading!

~ Sue

 

Image source: Amazon.com

 

Anything (a short story)

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We were each to come separately.

We had to be smart. Cautious. Cover our tracks. Travel as far as the money would take us. Away from the horrors of the past.

The location was perfect, a tourist’s seventh heaven—presently cloaked in the kind of night that reverberated a palpable electricity, prickling my skin with its righteous appeal. Fireflies sparked the air while a seemingly endless band of katydids worked the crowd, crooning en masse in a harmonious buzz of rhythmic exultation. But I wasn’t here for the music or the ambiance.

I was here for her, the only woman in this world who ever gave a damn about me. The one person I’d do anything for.  Anything.

I could still smell the blood on my hands.

For a fleeting moment, I wondered if she’d actually go through with it—uproot her life for a bastard like me. A small part of me secretly hoped she’d bail on the arrangement, maybe turn me in. Not because I didn’t value my freedom or want her here.

But because she deserved better.

Then, I felt it—that tug—her heart in proximity, drawing me forward. Emerging through the tea-lit trees, she looked wired, nervous. She fussed with her hair, blunt red layers that were a far cry from her signature jet-black curls. Still, I’d have known her anywhere. Even downcast and uncertain, those big brown eyes always gave her away…

My beloved Leila.

Wearing a baggy olive dress that hung to her ankles, she hugged herself gracefully against the wind and I sighed. Only she could don such an outfit and make it regal. Puffing out her chest, she filled her lungs with the moony sky. She lifted her gaze to take in her surroundings—and froze.

She saw me.

Of their own accord, my knees grew weak, yet my feet persisted, propelling me to my fate. I inched closer while noticing the rapid rise and fall of her chest, indicating that she was just as affected as I.

I wanted to say something. Something important. Something profound. My mouth opened but the syllables hid under my tongue.

Searching her face, I aimed to process her expression. My efforts were awarded with a heart-stopping smile. I took her hand, relishing the contact and the warmth of her skin. Studying our entwined fingers, she chewed her lower lip then put her head on my shoulder. And that was all that needed to be said.

All the plans we made and all the dreams we shared and all the times we ached with the desire to have something tangible, culminated in this moment—our clean slate.

I felt happy. And hopeful. For the first time in my life.

I had no idea how long we stood like this while vacationers thrust to action around us, oblivious to who we were and everything we’d been through to get here. All I knew was that I suddenly stopped breathing. And then I heard it:

The slow-crunch approach of vehicles from behind. Too many to count.

No. Please God…

My fingers went numb—she was squeezing me, hard. She heard it too. The telltale drawl of engines was distant then on top of us.

I shot her a look…

Run.

I let go of her hand and she took off, yet my boots remained rooted to the ground. Like I said, I’d do anything for her.

Anything.

Initially, she made good distance before coming to an abrupt stop, as if sensing the growing gulf between us. Her head whipped around. Her body followed suit. Her eyes held mine for a beat before registering what it all meant. Vigorously shaking her head, she held out her arms and started to run…this time, to me.

No. Go back, foolish girl.

Boys in blue appeared from the shadows, detaining Leila in short order, resulting in the sort of outburst I never thought she was capable of, a sound akin to a person being burned alive. She wailed. She sobbed. She shrieked incomprehensible language. It made me crazy to watch her unravel this way, yet the rational part of my brain knew she was merely being held for her protection.

I was the one they had come for.

Emotion sliced through me like a hot blade. Sadness for the person I should’ve been. Envy for the better man who would one day give the only woman I ever loved all the things I never could. Remorse for the tender heart in front of me that I would have to leave behind. Regret for all the time I wasted doing wrong.

But tonight…I would do something right.

With a deep inhale, I made my peace with what I couldn’t change. I would give them what they wanted: The pretender with more aliases than there were months in the year. The grifter with outstanding warrants all over the U.S. The shyster who wouldn’t know an honest dollar if it bit him in the ass. The cutthroat who rid a subpar human of his breath and resilience.

Truth be told, I wasn’t a killer by nature. I simply did what I had to do…for her. She was always my reason. Always the exception.

After all, this was no ordinary love.

They say every man has his breaking point. I learned mine the day I encountered her father, and the way he looked at her—the way no blood relation had any business doing. Upon being welcomed into his home, it was clear I was touching upon something outside my criminal realm…something vile and sinister. Even with Leila right at my side, he never took his eyes off her, continuously adjusting himself in his too-tight polyester slacks as if to entice, sucking on home-rolled smokes until their ashes became one with the carpet.

I took special interest in his “wall of fame” as he called it, where dozens of dusty photographs of Leila dangled from rusted nails—as well as one of her mother.

God rest her soul.

First thing I noticed was that Leila didn’t smile. Not in the pictures or in her father’s company. Second, was the fear written all over her face…in past and present tense. So absolute it made my blood curdle.

Then all I could think about were her headaches. The anxiety. The tremors in her hands. How she cried the first time we made love…flinched whenever I touched her hair. How the smell of tobacco made her languid and nauseous. How the scars on her right breast resembled inflicted burns from cigarettes. The way she called out in her sleep…

“Mommy, can you hear me?”

And I realized that being summoned to the place where she grew up was her way of turning a spotlight on the secrets she could never say out loud. She needed me to see…to understand…

Because she loved me.

So as I broke his nose and spit in his eye, he only laughed…while his daughter cried. That’s when I stepped out of my right mind to commit a crime worthy of a true sinner.

Then, just like that, it was over.

And now, so it was…for me.

I was surrounded. The tourists were gone. I could no longer see her, though I still heard her crying.

Don’t be sad, my beloved. He can’t hurt you anymore.

I went for my pocket. That always made them twitch. But I did it for Leila. Because, for her, I’d do anything.

“Leila, can you hear me? I love you.”

Click.

 

Copyright © S. A. Healey

 

Image source: flickr.com – Danielle Elder, photographer

 

Throw The Book At Me

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Miracles really do happen. Case in point:

This is the second time I’ve blogged this month.

Shocking, right?

Wait. There’s more…

I have written more words in the first few weeks of 2017 than I had during the entire second half of 2016.

Unfathomable!

Seriously, no one is more surprised than I. Divine intervention must be to blame. Either that, or something’s “up” with these new Starbucks Cascara Lattes I’ve been sucking down like it’s my job.

Whatever the reason, I feel like raising the roof in grateful praise of this seemingly new lease on creativity.

Hallelujah!

Of course, it’s entirely possible that tomorrow could put me in a staring contest with a blank screen. Or have me fretting over a single sentence for ten hours straight. Or encourage me to repeatedly bang my head against the keyboard just for kicks.

But I’d rather not think about that right now.

What I have been giving substantial thought to, however, is the type of content I’d like to feature on this blog going forward. After plugging away on WordPress (albeit sporadically) for nearly four years, I’m eager to steer this site in more a definitive, yet expansive direction. Hence, its new name:

THROW THE BOOK AT ME

I’m not doing away with the stuff I usually post here—but rather, building upon it—resulting (hopefully) in a more interesting and varied pit stop for those who share my affinity for The Three Rs…

Reading, (w)Riting, and Romance.

Future posts will include anything and everything bookish and love inspired, such as one-shots (flash fiction), poems, editorials, book reviews, book release announcements, and author spotlights.

Reviews and spotlights will, in large part, showcase independently published authors and their literary offerings in the romance genre.

I also plan to share my own experiences as an indie author—the good, the bad, and the downright awkward. Not that I consider myself a self-publishing expert by any stretch of the imagination. But if I can spare any writer contemplating the indie route even a fraction of my rookie mistakes, I’ll be a happy camper.

Who knows? Maybe by the time my tenth book comes out (if I’m lucky enough to get that far), I’ll actually know what the heck I’m doing. 😉

Thanks for reading! Oh, and if there’s anything authorly/bookish/romantic you’d like to see covered on this blog, feel free to make a suggestion in the comments. x

~ Sue

 

Copyright © S. A. Healey

 

Image source: flickr.com – Nathan O’Nions, photographer

 

A New Year For Keeping Promises

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We’ve all got history.

Some we honor with nostalgic fondness. Some we barely remember. Some we only fess up to after liberal helpings of liquid encouragement plunge us into bouts of facepalm retrospect, leaving us with that one gnawing question…

What the eff was I thinking?

And then, of course, some history…

We wish like hell we could forget.

But each experience teaches us something fundamentally important, no matter how far or well we’ve traveled within the circle of life.

Even as I nudge my way through the upper echelon of middle age, life continues to teach me, sometimes in jarring ways, that it is full of change. And, often…

Of endings.

Yet, I also take comfort in having learned long ago that some things are forever, like the certainty that I will always love my family, my children, and my soulmate.

And that I will always hold precious…

My dreams.

After all, passions provide purpose, and they are omnipresent…

In all of us.

Every January, we tend to embark on quests for self-betterment, reuniting our dreams with the due diligence that abandoned them sometime around mid-February the previous year.

We ache to be reborn. We pitch Stuart Smalley-esque affirmations to our expectant reflections. We make promises. And then, gradually…

We break them.

Why?

Because the vows we make to ourselves are the hardest to keep.

I can personally vouch for this.

Anyone who has followed this blog for any length of time could probably guess that my dreams heavily revolve around writing, books, writing, romance, writing, and…

Did I mention writing?

So call me Captain Obvious, but I love to write! LOVE. IT. Always have, always will.

However, when I bid adieu to 2016 with champagne flute in-hand, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the writerly promises I’d made to myself that went unfulfilled—namely, the stories in my head that were supposed to end up in print, but didn’t.

Sure, I could blame everything from chronic PMS to those cat-versus-cucumber YouTube compilations that are oh-so-addictive, but the truth?

I allowed my aspirations to fall out of focus.

If you’re a word nerd like me, you know that life as a writer can be incredibly isolating. Keeping the dream alive requires persistence and sacrifice, which can pose a challenge for those of us who suffer the guilt of said sacrifice, conditioning us to then give precedence to everything else.

We assign our dreams “hobby” or “back burner” status, a confusing contradiction since we don’t actually think of them in these terms.

But sometimes, that’s all it takes to bring our active pursuits to a grinding halt. We may even try convincing ourselves that none of it really matters, especially when there are so many other things that require our time and attention.

But deep down, we know better.

My love affair with the written word began as an adolescent. I discovered the freedom and catharsis of gliding ink across paper, an exercise inspired by one of my idols at the time, author Judy Blume.

Back then, I was struggling to find myself and where I might fit in the world—a literal work in progress. But despite not yet knowing who or where I wanted to be, as long as I had words, I was moving.

And that was good enough for me.

Whenever I reminisce on that time, I not only fall in love with writing all over again, but I realize…

I am still a work in progress.

So this year, whether I finish writing one book, six, or even zilch, the part of me that thrives on stringing words and chasing stories will always be there, even when life throws curveballs that try to tell me otherwise.

I don’t know about you, but I feel a responsibility to keep those promises I left hanging in 2016.

So, with that, I raise my pen…

And feel a novel coming on. 😉

 

Copyright © S. A. Healey

 

Image source: pexels.com – Ed Gregory, photographer