Posted On February 1, 2013 by Print This Post

Valentine Schmalentine with Handsome Hansel

Help me welcome Handsome Hansel from the Dance of Romance as he tells us how he REALLY feels about Valentine’s Day.

Let me explain.

I have a (small enough) problem with Valentine’s Day that I have decided to poo poo it on a website dedicated to Romance in front of friends, colleagues, and our visitors. (Relax Carrie, I’ve got this. :) )

Each and every one of us are writers. And while we may not ALL write romance, those who don’t almost always have a love story sub-plot somewhere embedded in their story. Our readers would tap and swipe their fingertip to the nearest e-book store for another to read if we forced our characters together; made them profess feelings for one another just because they’re supposed to. Aka: Valentine’s Day on paper.

Let’s admit it… The ether of the holidays and New Years have barely evaporated and we are accosted by stores, commercials, and flower shops demanding we spend money to prove we (REALLY) love our significant others. Actually the burden is mostly on the men to prove this point. It’s on them to make this Valentine’s Day more memorable than the last one. After-all their wife of 20 years, fiancé, or girlfriend-of-the-moment expect to be swept off their feet. That puts a lot of pressure on us guys. Just like our second love scene in our first novel, our second novel, or our second trilogy puts pressure on us. Our readers and fans expect us to do something we haven’t done before.

I gave some advice, one semi-Gentleman Jack filled night, to a friend of mine who had been rather inattentive to his spouse for quite some time. I told him if he didn’t give her what she wanted somebody else would. Common sense. The same holds true for us as authors. We need to give our readers what they need and want. Otherwise they will leave us for another. Not that our readers don’t sleep around anyhow! We need them to stay loyal to us when we are back in port. (My notes say to insert obscure reference here.)

So how do we do that?

While we write romance we need to treat our readers as if they are our partners. A partner we truly care about and want to make happy at any cost. Ironically, not in actions but with words. We need to surprise, titilate and excite our readers with original story lines, character types which aren’t repeated, and a unique word for penis. (I’ll wait until the laughter dies down.) Isn’t that what we want in our own relationships? To be wowed? To be taken by surprise?

1153857_72660521Now I understand comfort and complacency. My dad sends my mom a large bouquet of carnations on their anniversary. The number of carnations equal the anniversary they are celebrating and…side note… equal one less than my age. Credit to them; they’ve made it happen. My mom knows she’s getting these carnations but she wants more than carnations. Yet, if those carnations didn’t show up she’d be devastated. Our readers aren’t any different. They still expect what we’ve given them in the past but they want us to up our game. And while they may stick with us for another novel or two, at some point they’ll leave us if we don’t.

In order to do this we need to look inward. We need to reflect. Maybe even go back and reread what we have written. We need to push ourselves to be better… AND still be commonplace at the same time. It’s important we inject our future characters, plots, and story-lines with genuine, energetic intention. It’s difficult. Take it from a man – having to take each and every Valentine’s Day and make it bigger and better than the last is a challenge. But…under the right circumstances and with the right woman (reader), I (we) will find a way.

1209302_77394892It’s best, I’ve found, to decide what you would want from your partner first. You still want the Valentine’s Day card waiting for you with your man-made breakfast but you also don’t want to go to the same restaurant year in and year out either. What would you want for yourself? Dinner in the city followed by dancing? Perhaps all of the furniture moved aside in the living room with blankets covering the floor and a candlelit homemade dinner in the center? What would give you goosebumps? What would make you giddy again? We need to do the same when we plan our stories. What would we like to read? What would excite us enough to where we wouldn’t want to put it down?

Fortunately most writers write for themselves as much as their readers and it shows. I’m a Pantser rather than a Planner when I write. I honestly don’t know where my story is going until I get there. My whole life I’ve been a spur of the moment type so I guess it’s carried itself over into my writing. For me planning can go wrong, sporadic has nowhere to go than where it already is. Whichever path you use to write, it’s important to know what you’ve already written to know what you need to write. It’s not an easy feat to stay true to ourselves and at the same time constantly reinvent.

As I write this it is still a few weeks from V-Day. Earlier I had spent some time at a local mall gathering ideas and people watching. I couldn’t help but notice the number of ladies walking around with Victoria’s Secret bags. (Some smiling. Some not.) Now, while they may have simply been underwear or pajama shopping, I couldn’t help but wonder if they weren’t beginning to anticipate their Valentine’s Day evening; nervously hoping everything comes off without a hitch. (Double entendre on purpose.) I wondered if they were secretly hoping to be surprised. I envisioned them waking Valentine’s Day morning like a kid on Christmas. I sincerely hoped they would get everything they wanted. Whether it be the simplicity of a cozy night at home or a $3,000 dollar diamond ring.

Our fans and readers do the same thing when they know we are about to put another story out. The fans will wonder what the cover will look like. They’ll anticipate the characters and where the story will take place. They look forward to our gift of another Valentine’s Day on paper. It’s up to us not to let them down by thinking outside the box and pushing ourselves to be better, more creative, and reverent.
I live in the city and state that came up with Sweetest Day. Think Valentine’s Day lite and it’s celebrated in October. While I respect the reason for these holidays I feel everyday should be V-day. We should be consistent throughout the year in our relationship with our significant other. The same can be said for our readers. In this day and age they follow us on Twitter, we have blogs and Facebook pages and it’s just as important during our 140 character moments with our readers we stay true to who we are and at the same time build the anticipation for our next novel so that our readers can’t wait until that day comes. Just as we all want our partners to flirt with us, tease us with naughty words whispered in our ear, and go out of their way to make us feel important; so too must we do the author equivalent with our readers.

If we always do that AND give them a Valentine’s Day they’ll never forget they’ll still respect us in the morning.

HH

***

I’d like to hear your thoughts on how you manage to up your game with each new story.

Join us on Monday for LynDee Walker Talks Dialogue

***

Bio: Like most of us, I’ve been around the block a time or two (or three) in the relationship world. I like to think of myself as having a pretty thick skin, however, that skin doesn’t surround the heart.

I’ve been in love; I’ve been in lust. I’ve been hurt and got up to do it all again, each time having learned more of myself as well as “wants” and “don’t wants” for my next relationship. Amazingly enough, I never gave up on that one true love wrapped in Romance. You can visit me here, at http://thedanceofromanceonline.com

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Handsome Hansel

Discussion

25 Responses to “Valentine Schmalentine with Handsome Hansel”

  1. Hi HH,

    There’s has been a lot of pressure on Valentine’s Day since kindergarten. When I was a child, I only gave penny Valentines to my friends. Now, everybody gets one. Which is good and bad. Everyone expects something for V-Day. For my stories, I focus on the heroine’s expectations. I set the bar low. The hero makes the first hurdle, but I keep raising the bar for every jump after.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | February 1, 2013, 8:12 am
    • Good Morning, Mary Jo!

      I, too, remember handing out Valentines in school A looong time ago. :)

      I like that you make the hero exceed your heroine’s expectations. That’s what I feel almost everybody wants. Not just in what they read but in their lives as well.

      Thanks for commenting!

      HH

      Posted by HH | February 1, 2013, 10:53 am
  2. Morning HH!

    I’m one of those rare women who have no expectations of anything for Valentine’s – except a busy night at the restaurant. =) But I do remember in my previous life expecting flowers or chocolate or both.

    I hope I can also give my readers what they expect – a fun read and a few giggles. That’s my plan!

    Thanks for your great post!!!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | February 1, 2013, 8:34 am
  3. What a thought-provoking challenge to writers. We are trying to keep the excitement in our relationship with our readers. We all know at least one author who merely phoned in a story and we ended up leaving.
    A particularly heinous situation is when we are expecting him to show up at the front door for a date, only to realize he has sent a stand-in.

    Posted by M. R. Cornelius | February 1, 2013, 10:18 am
  4. Marsha,

    I have to say, you brought up a topic I wanted so badly to weave into this post.

    James Patterson comes to mind. I’m thrilled to know I am not the only one who loathes authors who “dial it in”. He (supposedly) give an idea, premiss, etc to another author and they write the book. Then he throws his name on it with the (real) author as well and it sells because JP’s name is on it.

    For me, that is a major league snubbing of your fans. Taking them for granted comes to the surface too.

    How would anyone feel if they answered the door for a date and found another man standing there who says, “James isn’t coming. He told me to take you to TGIFridays and then I’m supposed to take you to see Les Miserables afterwards.”

    While you’re going to the same places James was going to take you to…the personality you expected to share these things is missing. It can’t possibly EVER be the same as the real thing.

    That personality comes through in writing as well.

    Thanks for helping me to get THAT off my chest! :)

    HH

    Posted by HH | February 1, 2013, 11:07 am
  5. Good post, HH! My take on this might be different since I write mysteries, but I think the same theories apply across genre. Mystery readers stay interested if the plot is intriguing and has a jaw-dropping twist at the end. I think the same goes for a good romance plot. At least for me, I prefer romances that keep me guessing ‘til the end. Will the relationship work out? Will he get the girl? Is it happily-ever-after or forever doomed? If the author can pull it off, I always go back for seconds.

    Posted by susan furlong bolliger | February 1, 2013, 11:17 am
    • Hey Susan!

      It’s so good to have you drop by.

      I agree that, no matter the genre, it’s suspense that is the driving force. Otherwise our readers would never turn the page!

      Thanks again for commenting and taking the time.

      All my best,
      HH

      Posted by HH | February 1, 2013, 12:37 pm
  6. Ahhh, Valentine’s Day. That made up holiday so the system can make millions upon millions on flowers, chocolates and jewelry to “prove” our love when to THINK of what else that money could go to.

    Personally, my admiration comes from the REAL story behind the now monopolized holiday, where St. Valentine was killed for marrying lovers in secret. A martyr for love, he was.

    But I digress…

    My dear HH, I was having similar thoughts to this earlier today when I knew it was time for me to write a new blog post after 2 weeks. For me, it’s just a matter of saying to myself, “Ok, it’s time to connect to the Divine and pull something beautiful out of thin air.” Once I put myself into that place…the creation comes. It’s all about allowing the stream to flow in. If I find myself stressed about it, I won’t write. I have to get into feeling good about expressing something, therefore the words flow effortlessly.

    Posted by C.A. White | February 1, 2013, 3:47 pm
  7. C.A.,

    I couldn’t agree more. For me, it’s about mindset. There is no way anything respectable will hit the screen unless I’m able to be in the mood myself.

    Thanks so much for your comments!

    HH

    Posted by HH | February 1, 2013, 4:33 pm
  8. Hmm… Hansel, this gives me some great fodder for some Valentiny Schmalentiny scenes in my next book. As always you’ve got me thinking!
    Thanks,
    –A

    Posted by Amy Denim (@AmyDenim) | February 1, 2013, 5:19 pm
  9. H.H., et al. ,

    I’m still in the “chasing” phase of being published, and am finding the small things in my everyday life are helping “up my game.”
    I mentally tweak things from everyday life, from say, different characters perspectives;from the villains perspective, or the heroines perspective,or the significant ‘support’ character perspective, etc. I do it for fun, but am finding a bonus with doing this type of “tweaking” is that it can (not always, but frequently) help me maneuver through blocks.

    We all know that movies get their best ideas from books(and the 80′s); who didn’t love the romantic, sexy, pottery- wheel scene in “Ghost?” Alan Alda gets gets found out by head of iceberg lettuce in the movie “Sweet Liberty,”.(im not telling; you’ll have to watch the movie. Googling it is cheating.) I remember those iceberg lettuce scenes, but i can’t tell you what the movie was about, so don’t discount those little every day things!

    tweaks, cheeks and sneaks,

    ~Zeal

    Posted by ~Zeal | February 1, 2013, 5:48 pm
  10. For once, I’m just going to take notes as I go along reading what is most likely another masterpiece.

    The thing about V-Day is, that I have no problem with the day when I’m single, but when I’m in a relationship, I do have a problem with it. Not because I don’t want to give my better half something, because I do and I would like to get something too, but what I have an issue with on this day, is the high expectations that comes with such a ‘special’ day.

    Personally, on this day, I think a card and perhaps a dinner or a weekend away is enough. There’s no need for expensive gifts. (That’s my honest opinion, so, my future man should take note. ;))

    When it comes to books, I have the same opinion as with my movies and TV shows. There really is no need for love, friendships or romance to keep me hooked in. I really think that it IS possible to have a story of any kind be awesome without those elements in it. (Yes, I’m a girl, I do enjoy romance.)

    I also think it’s a high misconception that it is only the dude’s job to do special somethings on special days. You’re in a relationship (usually) with two people. I don’t think a woman should just expect stuff and not give back. (That’s my point, it’s about the expectations that I have a problem with.)

    Same goes for me, as a reader of HH’s stories. I honestly have no expectations. I don’t want my writer to feel like he has to impress me. I rather (just like in
    relationships) have my person to listen to my opinions and TRY to do something with it rather then shower me with things that are just luxurious things. Having
    said that, one should reinvent themselves with every new book. Just like gift giving from my person, I don’t want to receive the same thing over and over again.

    What is being wowed when it comes to relationships? I don’t like surprises in life so, I won’t like being surprised in my relationship either. At least not in a big
    way. I can easily adapt though with whatever life wants to throw my way.

    I’m a very loyal person. So if I genuinely like a person (whatever that person may be in life in a professional sense.), I’ll stick with this person till there
    comes a moment when said person tells me that it’s time to move on.

    While I don’t like surprises, I’m not a long term planner either. As life has taught me, it doesn’t do me any good to plan long term.

    Posted by Soraya E. | February 1, 2013, 6:05 pm
    • Soraya, Soraya, Soraya… ;)

      I PROMISE you that there is a man out there dreaming the same dreams you do and wishing for the same things you wish for. This man is looking for you but is just as tentative in revealing his true feelings.

      When you and this man connect, long term planning will all fall into place. It will seem easy, purposeful, and redundant in the best of ways. (Think Second Nature with an ego.)

      There is no one I want to see find her happily ever after than you.

      Thanks for being a fan. Thanks for being a friend.

      HH

      Posted by HH | February 1, 2013, 9:58 pm
  11. p.s.

    i’m pretty sure this isnt anything more experienced writers and “chasers” haven’t thought of, or been told somewhere, before. I just thought i would include it for those, who, like me, have only ‘just’ gulped down their fear-knot, ditched their ego’s and actually tried out their first line.

    Posted by ~Zeal | February 1, 2013, 6:48 pm
  12. i’m kind of an amalgam of the comments made by others. i am a romantic but i have not had a warm fuzzy anticipatory feeling about Valentine’s day since i was 5 when we’d make cards & share the candies that had the mushy sentiments inscribed. Don’t get me wrong, i’m not anti-valentine i’m just not enthusiastic about the day. Which is kind of a paradox for me because i’m usually promoting and/or selling items & encouraging other’s enthusiasm about the day ;D. #cupid

    Posted by sookietex | February 1, 2013, 7:40 pm
    • S,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment.

      Next, I’d like to point something out which may be a bit awkward but something I strongly believe in…

      … When you write about yourself, please capitalize your “I”s. You deserve every ounce of self respect you own.

      No matter how you feel now, there WILL be a time (sooner rather than later) in which you have a significant other who caters to your every whim.

      Forget V-Day! It’s the other 364 days in which our partners prover their worth! :)

      HH

      Posted by HH | February 1, 2013, 10:04 pm
  13. My number one (and pretty much only) expectation (no, make that demand) for Valentine’s Day is that my name be spelled correctly on the card. I still remember back in third grade getting a card from the boy who lived in the house behind me (nothing romantic about it, by the way – we all made Valentine’s for every other kid in the class) and he spelled my name “Beakey” on the envelope. Yes, apparently I hold grudges for bad spelling. Who knew?

    My husband and I don’t exchange Valentine’s gifts and he always outdoes me when it comes to selecting great cards. (And I’m a card fanatic, so that’s saying something!)

    He did give me a Valentine’s gift the first year we were going out. (A big stuffed animal was sitting on my front porch when I opened the door. Perfect!)

    I’m kind of a cheap date with this holiday. I’ve never received chocolates or jewelry but I think my husband did once send me flowers when he had to be out of town on Valentine’s Day.

    I consider this a greeting card holiday, and usually send Valentine’s to all my brothers and sisters, plus their kids and my own kids. Sometimes I’ll send them a box of candy hearts with hokey messages.

    Valentine’s Day kind of bothers me because it makes single people feel unwanted and it makes couples feel a sort of gift-giving performance anxiety.

    When it comes to romance novels, though, I 100% agree. I EXPECT a happy ending and if I don’t get that I turn mean and nasty. I’m pretty forgiving about everything else.

    Thanks for a fun post!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | February 1, 2013, 9:32 pm
  14. Becky…Beakey…Beck…Beckums…Beckie…oh hell with it…

    (To know me is to get me. :)

    It IS funny how things so simple from the past carry our feelings into the now and then. I went to kindergarten and half of first grade with a certain Suzie Whatzherface and it STILL effects me in my current relationships. She had THAT much of an effect on me.

    I agree that there should be a certain expectation when it come to the stories we read… the excitement lies in the way they get us there!

    Thanks for the comment!

    HH

    Posted by HH | February 2, 2013, 3:39 pm
  15. One of the best Valentine’s was in 3rd grade oddly enough. I was the new kid that year. We opened our cards and for the first time, I found a little red heart on a necklace from one of the cutest boys in class. I realized later in life that it was his Mom that put that little necklace in the card – she was one of the Best Mom’s I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. And her son is also a great friend even so many years later! So, I have learned that Valentine’s should be an every day feeling of Love and Kindness.

    Posted by Chris Brandstatter | February 3, 2013, 2:57 am
  16. As ever, a really enjoyable thought provoking post where you manage to interwine two highly pertinent themes.

    I enjoy the fuss that goes with Valentine’s Day – there are a bunch of men out there who have all sorts of sterling qualities, but are slightly unimaginative & need the nudge of the 14th to actually consider treating their other half. (Not my husband, btw… he’s a sweetie & very thoughtful).

    As for the writing – it can be a balancing act, ensuring that you are ticking all the boxes for your genre & readers’ expectations. But I would also say – if you have a completely different idea that you want to try out, just go with it! (That can also be a useful tip in the bedroom as well…)

    Posted by sjhigbee | February 3, 2013, 7:33 pm
  17. I love that your dad still gives your mom flowers for their anniversary, and that it matches the number of years they’ve been married! So sweet HH!

    Posted by Linda Carmical | February 7, 2013, 6:06 pm

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