Valentine Romance Confessions from C.D. Hersh



We have a confession to make—we’re hopeless romantics, and we watch the Bachelor and Bachelorette every season.  Hey, what else would you expect from high school sweethearts who’ve lasted as long as we have? Catherine gets a Valentine gift every year. Donald always gets a card. (He doesn’t like chocolate or flowers.) Sometimes, Catherine even gets serenaded in restaurants on Valentine’s Day. Wanting others to experience this great thing called true love is one of the reasons we’re hooked on love, and the show. This season we’re rooting for Iowa farm-boy bachelor Chris Soules. And we missed this Monday’s show, so we don’t know who he kicked off. Wahhh!


Sure, we know the show is set up to create drama, drama, and more drama. That’s evident from the commercial clips. The last show we saw ended in one of the bachelorettes having a panic attack on the hallway floor, and no rose ceremony. We were bummed. They purposely disguise who’s left on upcoming shows so we’ll tune in to find out. And, we do. Because we’re hooked.


Controversy, drama, and shock value are key to this reality show. So much so that we often have trouble believing that the controversial characters don’t go out the door the first time they screw up. This season Chris kept the falling-down-drunk bachelorette for several weeks as well as another girl who was a bit on the spooky-got-a-screw-loose-lala train. He knew they were strange, yet he kept giving them another chance. He even let the drunk come back one evening when she showed up unexpectedly for the cocktail party. Talk about conflict. You could see the blazing arrows shooting from the eyes of the rest of the girls. Bad choice on Chris’s part, and the party crasher was sent home before the evening was over.


Lest you wonder where this is going, we’d like to draw an analogy to The Bachelor/Bachelorette shows and romance novels. Because even though most of the contestants don’t end up married or even dating, there are some real parallels between the two forms of entertainment. By the way, we’re convinced they don’t marry because they usually don’t pick the girl, or guy, we’re rooting for.


So, here’s why we think the Bachelor/Bachelorette reality shows can be a model for romance novels.


  • The romance is off the scale in the Bachelor/Bachelorette show. After all, who dates 25 people at the same time? Our romances, even if they are one-on-one, need to start with heart-pounding beginnings. Readers want romance outside the norm of their everyday lives. They also want enough reality that they could see themselves finding love.
  • The conflict is off the scale. With 25 women competing for one man, you can bet it’s tense. Your book needs conflict, conflict, and more conflict. Throw the characters, and their love lives, under the bus every chance you get. The eternal struggle between man and woman needs to be a part of your story. If your characters get together too easily, get along so well they just know they’re meant for one another, or the relationship feels as comfortable as a pair of old shoes, then you are missing the mark. It’s rare that a bachelor or bachelorette keeps someone with whom they just feel comfortable. Even though contestants say they want someone who can be a friend first and lover second—which is what we feel relationships should be built on—they appear to yearn for the bad boys or bad girls, even when they’ve been warned. It’s why Chris kept falling-down-drunk girl and wacko-girl. He felt or saw something in them that made him want to know them better. Your characters must yearn for the character who isn’t good for them. They must need to want to be together as much as they know they should be apart.
  • Readers, and viewers, love those exotic settings. This doesn’t mean every book you write has to be set in Timbuktu or Fiji, or Europe. It does mean that even in the most ordinary of settings you must give the readers something different to spark their interests.
  • The characters in our books, and in the show, experience a wide range of emotions. The women who get kicked off the show cry. They’re terrified when they have to bungy jump or do something outside their comfort zones. The women who stay cry because things aren’t going their way. They rejoice when Chris pays attention to them. They get mad at the other contestants. They form friendships and alliances, make enemies, and scheme. If your characters’ emotions are static, you’re missing the mark. Sure, they might not bawl like babies, but they must experience emotion on a bigger than normal scale.
  • Your readers, and the viewers of the show, are also on emotional rollercoasters. Whenever a contestant makes a bad choice, we groan—out loud. When a girl cries because one of the men has broken her heart we break out the tissues. When the bachelor or bachelorette keeps the ones we like, we celebrate. Because we know how important true love is, we empathize with them. When your readers come alongside your characters to experience love, they need to feel the characters’ emotions. Make them break out the tissues and exhale “Aaahhhh” when the book ends. Or, if it’s a series, make them say “Aaahh,” and then give them a heart-stopping teaser to propel them into the next book.
  • Last, but not least, your heroine and hero should make lifetime commitments, or the book should end with the promise of that happening, which is what makes a great ending to the show. Even if the show’s star picks the one we don’t want, but they look happy and that proposal is heartfelt, Catherine breaks out the tissues in empathic happiness for them. If your books aren’t ending with a HEA promise, then you’re not writing classic romance. Your ending needs to be stronger than most of the After the Rose Ceremony shows we’ve seen. The engagement ring needs to be front and center. The couple needs to be smiling and happy. The date needs to be set and the producers need to promise to foot the wedding bill and invite all the viewers. Make your reader believe your couple is in forever love.


Romance books are about happily ever after. The premise of the Bachelor/Bachelorette is built on HEA. The stars of the reality show keep saying “My spouse is in this room.” “I want to find a wife.” I want to find my forever partner.” The promise of HEA is why we keep watching the Bachelor/Bachelorette and why we write romance.


Your reader knows there’s a HEA waiting at the end of the book, but they want a thrilling ride to the end as much as we want to see those crazy women fighting for Chris. We’ll keep rooting for Chris’s and every other bachelor/bachelorette stars’ HEA. Because, as we said before, we are hopeless romantics … and we know the Happily Ever After ending is possible.


Do you watch the Bachelor? Who are you rooting for this season?


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First Love by Linda Bennett Pennell

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I am sharing my personal story of first love. I doubt anyone ever forgets his or her first love. The newness of the experience, the sweetness, the poignancy stay with us into old age, I guess because there can only be one first.

First Love

We met in class as so often happens with first loves. I felt someone’s eyes on me and turned to see who it was. Wow! I was bowled over. He was so cute in that scruffy, cowboy sort of way that we now find so appealing, but at the time was generally frowned upon. I didn’t care that his jeans were torn and his shirt was faded. Or that he had a reputation. John was interested in me. That was all that mattered. We got to know each other over a meal, and then another. Pretty soon, we were an item. He wasn’t afraid to show his affection in public and didn’t seem to care that his friends thought our relationship was silly. He took their teasing with the amused indulgence the noble sometimes bestow on lesser beings. His family wasn’t so pleased. They considered me an uppity city girl.

My friends were at once thrilled and appalled. John was known to be something of a bad boy, but they all agreed he was the best looking guy they knew. Whenever one of my friends decried his lack of suitability, I quietly reminded her that no one else had a boyfriend. The girl would usually sigh meaningfully and nod. John and I became something of a minor celebrity couple among the female population.

I would like to be able to say that the relationship lasted for many years, but alas, it went the way of so many young romances. For a while we were deeply in “like” as we called it in those days, but with the passage of time, the pressures from friends and family became too great. We began to argue and drifted apart.

I occasionally think about John with a touch of nostalgia, but my older, wiser self knows it was not meant to be. We were seven and my mother, who taught John’s first grade brother in the classroom next door, was not amused!

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Writing is haaaaard.

Today is my first post here at the SMP blog—yay! I’ve recently joined the SMP family and my paranormal romance/urban fantasy, Releasing the Demons, is slated for release (pun intended) this summer. No date yet, but you can check out the blurb here if you’re so inclined. :)

I won’t bore you with my backstory (although it’s interesting if I do say so myself :P), but I’m a physician-in-training by day (and night, let’s face it) and I write PNR/UF by night (or weekends/vacations mostly, ha). I try to keep both careers separate, since I tend to write about dark and controversial subjects, but there are the rare few who know both of my alter egos. As expected, people find doctoring disproportionately harder and more impressive than writing, including my family. And sure, you could say that. Doctors invest an incredible amount of time, energy, and money (LOTS of money) into our careers. We’re exhausted, overworked, and underslept. We’re drained of our physical, emotional, and psychological energy by the end of the day, but we do it ‘cause we love it. Sure, it sounds a little masochistic, but there’s nothing like saving someone’s life or improving the health of others for years to come.

But you know what?

Writing is hard too.

The act of completing a novel is grossly underestimated by those who don’t understand the process. I get a lot of “writing must be fun,” and “I’d like to write a book some day,” and yes, it’s fun, but so is extracting a clot from someone’s brain—it’s not easy. We all have our ups and downs when we open that first blank document and start typing. There are highs and lows (just like in medicine) and it drains us mentally, physically and emotionally (yep, like medicine). Don’t get me wrong, medicine and fiction are two different monsters, but you’d be surprised about the similarities. I’m sure many other careers have their own parallels, but both can be an obsession and a struggle.

Just like in first year gross anatomy, we open up that document (*cough*body*cough*) and we’re excited. We have this whole story built up inside us and we’re bursting at the seams. We’re on a roll, typing away and letting the words flow out of us (Brains! Hearts! Guts! STUNNING!).

Then we hit a wall about a third to halfway through the book and the doubts settle in (as is the case during the second year of med school, around boards time), instilling fear in all of us.

“What the hell am I doing?”

“Who am I to write this?” (Who am I to operate on/treat/take care of someone?)

“I’m just a hack and I’ll never pull this off.”


But we power through, don’t we? We fight the angst and uncertainty and put our heads down and type (study) away. Finally, we get our groove back at the two-thirds mark (third year of med school, when we become part of the medical team). Then we’re flying high, soaring through the rest of the story ‘cause we’ve regained our confidence and inspiration, and you know what, *raises fist* “I CAN DO THIS, MOTHER[redacted]!” (yep, that’s fourth year of med school in a nutshell).

We finish our first draft (match into a residency program and graduate)! We let it cool off and revel in our success. Then we pull that manuscript back out and start the revision/editing process (residency training) and we do it over and over again until it’s the best story (skill) possible. Finally, it goes off into the universe (as attending physicians) and we make the world a better place.

Of course, throughout this whole process, we’re laughing, crying, bleeding, punching, screaming. We learn things we never knew about ourselves and reach a potential we never knew we could. We lose and gain, we kill our darlings and give others a happy ending, and we feel more complete because of it.

See? Not so different after all.

Hell yeah, writing is hard. But it’s worth every drop of blood, sweat and tears and we’d do it all over again (and often do) if we could. Why?

‘Cause we’re masochists and there’s nothing in the world that makes us happier. ;)


L.D. Rose is a neurotic physician by day, crazed writer by night, and all around wannabe superhero. She writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy, but she’s been known to delve into horror, sci-fi, and medical suspense on occasion. 

L.D. Rose is a member of the RWA and the Romance Writers of Connecticut and Lower New York (CoLoNY). She currently lives in Rhode Island with her studly hubby, her hyperactive boxer, and her two devious cats.

To read more about her work, visit her website or say hello to her on Facebook or Twitter.

FB author page

Posted in Life-Snippets from L.D. | Tagged , , , , | 25 Comments

My Sexy Valentine – Tina Susedik

MySexyValentine400 DigitalWith Valentine’s Day only one week away, what better time than now to grab a copy of “My Sexy Valentine” a sexy, steamy, collection of short stories by six Soul Mate Publishing authors.

Last fall, the call went out for submissions for short stories for a Valentine’s anthology. I’d already been part of the Christmas anthology, “All I Want for Christmas is a Soul Mate,” and thought it would be fun to do a Valentine’s story. With only six authors participating, it gave me a chance to write a little longer story than with the Christmas one.

Someone asked me in an interview where I got the idea for “The Valentine’s Proposal.” I thought long and hard and couldn’t come up with an answer except, “I’m not sure, the story was just there when I needed it.” And that was the truth.

As with many stories, this one didn’t end up the way I’d “planned” it. In my rough draft, I had Janetta Simonson as a rather timid woman. As I revised, I found she wanted to be more feisty, more in charge of her destiny. I liked her better that way.

Excerpt from “The Valentine’s Proposal”

“Wait.” He grabbed her again. “I don’t have a choice. I have to marry her or her father will do something awful to me.” He shuffled his feet and wouldn’t meet her eyes. “I got in over my head with gambling and he’s making me marry her. She’s kinda nuts, and he can’t palm her off on anyone else.”

“Wow. That simply makes everything better, doesn’t it?” She poked a finger in his chest. “Here’s what I think, Frederick Herman Schiminheister. If you ever contact me again, I’ll make sure little miss nutcase’s father knows you planned to have a mistress. I’ll make sure engagement ringI’m present and enjoy the pain he inflicts on you. Understand? You leave me the hell alone. As for your ring?” She held it up to his face, swung her arm back and hurled it into  the crowd of revelers. “Go get it.”

She folded her arms over her chest and smiled as Fred screamed, running into the crowd, skittering to and fro between the dancers.

“Bastard,” she murmured, thinking how she’d sworn more in the past few minutes than in her entire life. She entered the woman’s bathroom. Pressing her palms on the counter, she stared in the mirror. Where were the tears? Hell, yes, she was angry. But sad? Maybe it said something about the truth of their relationship. She hoped the little witch made his life a living hell.

“All right, Janetta Simonson.” She stretched her tall frame to her full height and looked herself in the eyes. “You have two choices. You can stay in here and wallow in self-pity, or you can go out there, find yourself a man and get laid. No more little miss librarian, or should I say former librarian. Hell, it’s Valentine’s Day.” She threw back her shoulders, fluffed her long dark hair, and marched to the door.

“Look out men, here I come, and I sure hope I do.”

Blurbs for the six stories:

Cheryl Yeko: “Valentine’s Day Breakup:” Finding her fiancé in a clutch with the coat check girl sends Shelly straight ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????into the arms of her Soul Mate.

Char Chaffin: “I’ve Got a Heart-On for You:” How hard can it be to stash three kids with an overnight babysitter, slip into something ridiculously decadent and skimpy, and do naughty things to each other by candlelight on Valentine’s Day?

Sex-deprived spouses Sam and Dell might be finding out pretty soon, and not in the way they’d hoped.

Sage Spelling: “Inked Hearts:” One night. No boundaries. Uninhibited passion.

Boycotting Valentine’s Day had been Piper’s preferred way of protecting her heart until she collided with bad boy-sexy-tattoo artist, Dex. Driven with lust, Piper has her first one-nightstand, but dreads morning and saying goodbye to the man who stirred her innermost desires.

Lynn Cahoon: “The Twelve Days of Valentines:” As her home business grows, a specialty jam creator receives gifts from a secret admirer. When the news breaks, two men step up claiming to be the gifter. As the twelve days pass, can she figure out the clues and claim her Mr. Right?

S.C. Mitchell: “Valentine’s Day Canceled:” When Thor’s son Magni, the new King of Asgaard, cancels Valentine’s day, Astrid knows something is drastically wrong. Can she make things right again and save the fertility festival?

My pictureTina Susedik: “The Valentine’s Day Proposal:” When a Valentine’s Day proposal doesn’t go the way she expected, librarian Janetta Simonson’s life is changed in ways she’d never dreamed.

Amazon link:

 Tina’s Links: Web:


Twitter: @tinasusedik





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TED Talks – An Alternative Resource by Rebecca Heflin

Last week, while researching my WIP, I Googled “biology of love,” thinking I’d find articles, books, etc. on the topic. What I found was TED Talks.

Have you ever watched a TED Talk? A few friends have presented them. They can be very addicting, and the breadth of topics is vast and diverse. Everything from deep brain stimulation to education, and from sex to love. There are some REALLY smart people in the world, and their expertise can help when you’re researching your next book.

We’re all familiar with Google Earth, Wikipedia, and YouTube as resources. I really love YouTube for when I need to see how something technical is done, and I rely on those other resources often, but I’d overlooked TED Talks. Until last week. I listened to two fascinating TED Talks by Helen Fisher, biological anthropologist, one about our brains in love, and the other about why we love.

Writing a character who was, or is, the victim of domestic violence, and you want to understand why domestic violence victims stay? There’s a TED Talk on that.

Need to learn more about body language? There’s a TED Talk on that. And after you’ve done all your research and written that masterpiece, how do you market it? How do you spread the word? There’s a TED Talk for that, too.

And the really cool thing about the TED Talks – they not only provide insight into a topic, but they also provide inspiration. Watching Helen Fisher’s talk about our brains in love, I had a couple epiphanies for my WIP.

So the next time you’re perusing the internet, stop by TED Talks and check out their offerings. But beware, they are as addicting as funny cat videos on YouTube.

Posted in According to Rebecca | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Sports and Books

Trailblazer Fan PhotoI am a great spectator at most sporting events. I understand the rules and objectives of every game and appreciate the display of athletic ability and teamwork. I am not a fan of any one sport, or team, enough to want to watch it on TV. However, if I’m in a stadium full of fans to watch a game between well matched competitors I’m an enthusiastic fan girl.

I operate the same way with my writer friends, especially at monthly chapter meetings. We celebrate each milestone on the road to becoming a romance novelist. This means we even applaud rejections for our manuscripts because that means we completed a novel,  and sent it out into the world. These announcement parts of the meeting are sort of like a cross between tent church revival meetings and a Mary Kay
sales convention. The awards and prizes at each meeting are usually books.

Monthly chapter meetings have sustained me through ten years with friendships. I’ve stayed connected with writers even when I wasn’t actively pursuing a career as a romance novelist. My dream and intent has always been clear, but my motivation has been conflicted by life events. Fortunately, having a deep understanding of goals, motivations, and conflicts, is good research for novelists – especially in the game of romance.

This is why I always come back to the analogy of romance novels being comparable to sporting events. When we enter a stadium, or open the cover of the book, we know how the competition is going to end but we’re there to watch it happen and cheer or cry along with the players and fans.

When I wasn’t writing romance novels I researched and tried on the role of coach, manager, and promoter, but there were always those novels sitting on my shelf and only I could mold them. There were the memories of being a player in the game. But I was also watching the rules and the venues change. It’s been fascinating and exciting to watch the evolution of books into digital readers. It’s a whole new stadium.

But the game is still the same, and I love playing it. The game begins with the cute-meet. Then there’s conflict and drama, interspersed with some attraction and tension. A few kisses and denials end the first half. The second half begins with a stronger determination, an unobtainable fantasy, and a few reality checks because this is a competition between evenly matched players.

The final quarter begins with higher stakes, a faster pace, the awareness that someone is going to lose. But who? Oh wait, am I talking basketball or romance novels? In basketball – one team wins. Even if the game goes into overtime. In romance, both teams lose until they check their egos and get a clue. As the writer of the story I never take my competitors (lovers!) to the altar of compromise and cooperation. I just give them an awesome kiss of potential bliss and write – The End.

So where’s the next game? Oh, right. I need to write it. I think I’ll read first. Many do an awesome job in the romance game.

Posted in Soul Mate Publishing | 3 Comments

A Romance By Any Other Name – Elle Hill

Before landing at Soul Mate, I sent a past manuscript off to another publisher. It came back with the following comments: “Well-written, but not really a romance.”

After reading my latest novel, my fiancé put it down, turned to me, and said, “It’s weird and awesome, but it’s not a romance.”

Um, what? Of course my books are romances. I’ve been gulping down frothy, romantic yumminess since I was a pre-teen. Heck, I’ve probably read more romances than there are variations on the feisty-heroine-trapped-by-tragic-circumstances-into-a-marriage-she-doesn’t-(but-really-kinda-does)-want, romantic theme. Every stumble into a hero’s arms; every misunderstood interaction with an ex; every improbable, simultaneous orgasm: I’ve read it all, people.

This bodice ain't gonna rip itself, you know.

This bodice ain’t gonna rip itself, you know.

Oh yes, I’m a romance professional (a ro-pro?). While I devour a lot of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, I’m truly at home with the romance, from its tried-and-true formulas to its gooey, homey core. Seven years ago, come time to put fingers to keyboards and write my great American novel, I knew exactly what genre I wanted to embrace. HEA all the way, baby!

Below I’ve compiled a checklist of what I think are crucial components of the romance. The first three are required and the last few mere suggestions, maybe some a bit more serious than others.

  1. Romance should be the driving force behind the story. Yeah, kind of obvious, but it bears mentioning. Your main characters? The romantic leads. The central tension? Whether your romantic couple will end up together (hint: they will; see below). All other plot devices, from minor characters to various subplots, should mirror or echo the novel’s chief driving force, which is, simply, The Romance.
  1. HEA. Come on – you know it’s true. A romance isn’t a romance that ends without some kind of promise of eternal, quite possibly Disney-esque, togetherness. A guarantee of happily ever after may be as realistic as the aforementioned simultaneous orgasm, but we don’t park ourselves in front of romance novels in order to work through existential angst. If we wanted ambiguity, we’d reread The Handmaid’s Tale while spooning chocolate ice cream into our mouths and glaring at our spouses.
  1. Feelings are central. Romances novels come in a huge array of subgenres, from historical to paranormal. These variations introduce some new and interesting elements, but regardless of what accessories the romance wears, emotions are the ultimate little black dress. Plot lines may be elaborate or simple, trite or creative; the one thing that unites them is the emphasis on the primacy of feelings. Action, adventure, elaborate world building, historical accuracy, and intricate mysteries are all well and good, but if the feelings ain’t taking center stage, we ain’t got a romance, folks.
  1. Romances need to steer clear of politics and other controversial topics. Your hero protests LGBT Pride Parades with signs like “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”? Your shero worked for a time as a nurse at Planned Parenthood? Best keep it under wraps. Romance is the single best-selling fiction genre; it didn’t get that way through polarizing.
  1. Let’s be real: Romances are pretty darn formulaic: 1. meeting, 2. attraction, 3. icky conflict, 4. yummy resolution, 5. HEA. Given the escapist nature of romances, we don’t like to dip our toes into too much of the unknown. Chaos and ambiguity are real. Romances are fantasies. We’ll stick with the tried-and-true, thank you very much.
  1. People love alphas. They do. Sheroes have become stronger over the years, but the hero usually remains that much stronger. He’s the protector. The personification of the raw power of love. The wild stallion who can only be tamed by the feisty, loving shero who will never give up on him. She nurtures him, and he channels his mountainous passion into adoring her and keeping her safe, even if from him. Think Twilight, minus the sparkles.
  1. Everyone needs to be hot, even if hot in their “own way.” Romances are fantasies, right? Few readers want to project ourselves onto peeps who, well, look like reality. Like, you know, us. Yes, but. While we may secretly want our sheroes to cause a teensy bit of rubbernecking, they also can’t be gorgeous like those annoying, preppie cheerleaders in high school who got nominated for homecoming queen and dated the quarterback while we spent our evenings highlighting information on the War of 1812. Enter the shero-who-doesn’t-know-she’s-beautiful; it’s a thin but productive line between fantasy and relatability. As for the hero, he just needs to be sexy. He may be too rugged to be pretty, but he’s still a nice hunk of denim-clad manflesh.

I actually have a few more comments, some tongue-in-cheek and some more serious, but I think I’ll stop here. Looking back, I can see I actually don’t do all of these things. I definitely don’t divorce politics from my books, and my sheroes are never pretty. Plus, as people keep reminding me, my heroes are usually pretty darn beta.

But the romance. It’s all about the romance. Do I put in the center of my novels the amazing dance between romantic desire and self-realization? Are emotions the propellers that drive my books toward their dramatic conclusions? Am I happily-ever-aftering all over the place? Mostly. Maybe I do romance slightly differently, but I do do it. At the end of the day, I’m a purveyor of escapist fantasies that, while a bit more political, still emphasize the importance of love above all things.

Posted in Excerpts from Elle! | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments