You gotta love happily ever afters!

happilyeverafterWhen asked why I write romance novels, I always give the same answer – there are not enough happy endings in the world. And I mean it. Call me a Pollyanna. I like my rose-colored glasses. That’s not to say I don’t live in reality, I can assure you that I do, but when I want to relax and unwind, I want to read or watch a good love story. I want the same thing when I write. “Once upon a time” is one of my favorite phrases in fiction, right up there with “And they lived happily ever after”.

I want to experience the hero and heroine falling in love, going through all the relationship firsts, and struggling to be together against all odds (the more substantial the odds the better). I want to know that no matter what their love will conquer all. They will triumph in the end. They will get their reward and so will I as a faithful reader. Or when I’m writing, I can get the same thrill my characters do when my hero and heroine achieve their Happily Ever After (HEA).

With hard economic times, lots of pessimism out there, too much stress and too much work, who needs a book or a movie where the hero or heroine dies, someone gets maimed or the villain wins in the end.

Screw that.

I want to smile, to laugh, to cry “good” tears. I want that “damn, that was good” feeling ala Joan Wilder in Romancing the Stone. I refuse to read a wall-banger because “everyone else is reading it” or wish I had watched the news instead of the latest film meant to make me “think.” After a hard day at work with only a few moments to manage my personal life each day, do I really want to use my limited free time to get depressed at how harsh life can be? I would rather eat a bucket full of broken glass, thank you very much.

That being said, I like it best when our favorite characters earn their happy ending. Characters that are flawed, get a few bumps along the way, and have to wrestle some internal as well as external demons along the way.

A heroine does not have to be pure as the driven snow when she meets our hero, but she does have to worthy of falling in love with, worth the struggle he must endure to win her heart, not to mention to overcome the obstacles in their path. She must be strong, smart and courageous in her own right, helping the hero (even if begrudgingly at times) at every turn throughout the course of the story. Dim bulbs need not apply.

The hero can be a jerk on his way to redemption, but he can’t be a heel forever. Wounded alpha-males trying to prove they don’t need anyone only to find out they most certainly do are among my favorites, but so are the Everyman beta-types finding their true calling on the way to saving the world, who also can’t believe they finally found the one girl who “gets” them.

With all the ups and downs in life, a good love story can give us all some comfort – a proverbial port in the storm. So, as we hunker down for winter and the days are bleak outside in New England, remember a happily ever after has the power to chase your troubles away – if only for a day.

Write Your Own Kind of Music

musicblogA few years ago, almost by accident, I learned that listening to music while I write can spark tremendous creativity and inspire me to write words I didn’t even know I had in me. I was working on a new manuscript at the time and couldn’t get past the first five chapters. I wasn’t even stuck in the middle; I was mired in the quicksand of a good idea that wasn’t turning out so hot on the page. I was, however, determined not to give up on yet another almost manuscript. I decided to dig in, to stubbornly press on, and of course not much happened. Then I moved, and we all know how much writing usually gets done when a major life event occurs.

But, the move ended up providing me with a fresh start for my writing in a most unexpected way. I found the CDs for a music course I took in college again and feeling nostalgic I listened to the CDs. The CDs were filled with many of the classics, Mozart, Copeland, Smentana, Lidzt, and Brahms, to name just a few.

The music was powerful, emotional, compelling. It moved me, so I listened to it again and again, and then, almost like magic, the music and my characters began to fuse together and I finally I knew how to fix my story.

Life is tremendously busy these days and finding ways to write can be difficult. I’ve been trying to do at least an hour a day, no worries that the words are far from perfect, just as long as they reach the page. To keep me focused and motivated, I’ve been listening to tons of music while I write and I’m thankful to report the magic is still along for the ride.

For me, I think music gets all the parts I need to write (my head and my heart) headed in the same direction. Music is like a force of nature unto itself – it can move you physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. The word music finds its origins in the Greek word for muse, so I suppose it is no surprise it can be such an effective tool while writing.

I tend to stick to movie soundtracks, think Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, LOST (composer Michael Giacchino is a musical gem I would recommend to anyone), and Pride and Prejudice (2008), among many others, but depending on what I’m writing, more contemporary music can help to spark my imagination as well (thank you Coldplay, U2, Lifehouse, Sarah MacLachan, The Killers, and anything from the 60s and 70s).

Hey, it’s good to be eclectic.