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This year has been the year of learning to market and advertise my books properly. Well, so far it's been the year of trying to learn how to market and advertise. Some months I feel like I'm getting the hang of it, others not so much.

One of the things I've struggled with since day one in writing romance, is that I don't quite write to any one market or genre. I'm contemporary, sure, but that's super broad. And even in contemporary there's (usually) an expectation of steamy, sexy stuff that I very rarely write.

So, I suppose you're thinking I write the sweet sort of love stories. Which I do. Kind of. Except I swear a lot and you can't swear and market to sweet readers. Just doesn't work that way. And I can't not swear. Because I don't work that way.

Romantic comedy. That's where I lean heaviest. Buuuut, even though my dialogue is funny and there's usually plenty of humor to be found throughout the book, when you write about things like PTSD, or abuse, or addiction or really any sort of darker side of life stuff, apparently, people don't appreciate it being labeled comedy. Even if it is. Because all of life is comedy. If you have the (morbid) sense of humor for it.

Speaking of morbid. Know what the cardinal rule of romance writing is? A happy ending. Know what romance readers don't consider happy? When you end the story with a main character dying. (I know, no one told Nicholas Sparks). In my defense, I've never killed anyone at the end of a story. I kill them in the beginning. I just don't tell you until the end. I'm in a sort of gray area with the rules here.

For a while there, I thought, hey, maybe I write Chick Lit. Most of my stories are centered around the female characters more than the males. Maybe Chick Lit is where I live. But then I wrote One Moment At A Time and all but one chapter is written from Ben's perspective, so maybe not.

Really, I'd like to have my own genre. I'd call it something like 'soapy-sitcom-standalone where someone probably falls in love'. Because that's kind of how it plays out in my head while I'm writing. Sure, I'm centered around two main characters, but the rest of the cast always adds so much to the story. The friendships, the family dynamics, the pets, the town - sometimes the town's annual Christmas show - all come into play. THAT's where all the really great stuff happens. The romance, sure, that's fun - but all the other stuff is just as awesome. And so much more entertaining to write than a sex scene (listen, writing sex is not sexy. It's just awkward. It's like watching other people do it...really closely...while you take super detailed notes). And it's totally cool if that's your jam...and the jam of those you watch...but I just can't get into it.

So, in closing, I'm still learning. And while I get a little freaked out sometimes when I'm confronted with things like 'know your audience' and 'write to market' and 'stay in your lane' and 'find your niche' and so on and so forth, I also know, that in life, I am much like my books. I don't ever really belong anywhere. In Germany I was the only girl eating PB&J's at recess and celebrating 4th of July and in the US I'm the only girl who knows that the butter knife is actually a fish knife and that everyone is saying gouda wrong. I may not belong anywhere, but I can get along everywhere. And for me, that's worked out pretty well.

Maybe it doesn't have to be so different for my books.

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If you've read my work, you may have noticed that for romance novels, they're lacking in a lot of the traditional romantic gestures. Flowers, for example. I don't think any man I write ever buys any woman flowers. Because I personally hate getting flowers. It's like the least romantic thing you could do for me.

I didn't always feel this way.

Once upon a time, I fell in love with this guy who was standard romance to the extreme. He was all about the romantic dinners and sweet gifts. I can't even tell you how many times I woke up to find a bouquet for flowers and a cheesy but lovely Hallmark card sitting on my bedside table. This guy was everything I thought I ever wanted and I was sure he was my fairy tale prince.

He wasn't.

A few months into the relationship, he gradually became increasingly manipulative and hurtful until eventually, I found myself in a relationship that was so mentally and emotionally abusive I was so depressed and mentally fucked up I wound up sitting at the top of the stairs one day, thinking how easy it would be to just let myself fall...and wondering if it would be enough to do me in.

By the time I finally saw clearly enough to get myself out, I was so broken I spent the next four years surrounding myself only with unavailable men and those who were such obvious assholes I knew better than to get involved with them. Because there was no way I was ever letting anyone get close enough to hurt me ever again.

Until I did. But that's not the point.

The point is, I hate getting flowers.

But...I've also always had this secret fantasy in which I live happy ever after in my dream home with my dream guy and my very real but still dreamy child and dogs. And in this dream life, I have a table in the foyer where I always keep a large vase of fresh flowers. And, my dream guy regularly replaces them.

And that's romantic to me. Because then it's not about the flowers. It's about what the flowers mean to me. And the gesture. And doing something small that makes me happy in a big way.

That's my idea of romance. And I think you find that in my writing.

I don't have that dream guy or the dream house yet. But I decided a little while ago that I would start keeping flowers in a vase near my front door now. And so, today, for the very first time, I bought myself flowers. And it was awesome.

I also hate getting chocolates... But I'll save that for another post ;-)

In the meantime, I'm curious to hear from you guys - what's something that's considered romantic that instantly kills the romance for you?

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I'm kind of a one-woman-show in every aspect of my life these days, and the truth is, I really struggle with a sort of tunnel vision when it comes to all the 'needs' that require doing.

Like, the dinner that needs cooking.

The dishes that need washing.

The newsletter that needs sending.

The editing that needs finishing.

The ads that need setting up.

The kid that needs driving to theater.

The dog water that needs filling (I swear, this is like seventy percent of my life right here).

The room that needs vacuuming.

The dog that needs letting out.

The dog that needs letting in.

And so on, and so forth.

My life is an on-going to-do list, as I'm sure many can relate to.

But I don't always notice that I'm going, going, going.

Sometimes, it takes my eye starting to twitch before I realize I've been at the computer all day.

Or I catch myself getting snappy and impatient because I'm staying up too late, and getting up too early - or sometimes, getting up in the middle of the night because I'm awake and I might as well get some work done.

The thing that really hits me though, is when I give myself headaches because I'm literally too busy or too distracted to remember to breathe.

So, I'm trying to see a bigger picture. One in which I'm living in a more balanced way. Because even though I do stuff like yoga and crocheting which might look like I'm rocking that self-care and relaxation, the truth is, I can't even do those things without finding a need to do more. Stretch deeper. Get stronger. Make more goddamn blankets.

And I'm resorting to really lame tactics to force myself into this new vision I'm holding for myself. Like not replacing the lightbulb in my desk lamp in hopes that I'll shut down the computer once it's gets dark (it's not working so far, I'm typing in the dim light of the screen as we speak) and collecting credits for movie rentals to actually watch a movie before I'm ready to fall asleep (though I have yet to make use of them) and bribing myself with things like a new pendulum to encourage me to sit and meditate more (it's worked once so far).

But, I'm not giving up. Because I know not doing is just as important as all the doing. Maybe more so. (Energetically speaking. If you're into that sort of thing.) Plus, I feel like I've been missing a lot of the fun lately, and I'm just not okay with that anymore.

On that note, I'm open to suggestions. But don't hit me with the basics or the obvious. Like, give me some credit, I've probably already thought of those. I need the creative options. The 'this is weird but it works' stuff. So, let's hear it!

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