Monday, August 31, 2009


Are you an animal lover? Have you ever seen Jody Wallace and her cat Meankitty's blog? Well, I am being interview today - by the cat, not by Jody - so swing on by and check out my fawning supplication to her feline brilliance.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Happily Ever After

Today is my parents' 40th wedding anniversary. Just that. I don't have anything marvelous or meaningful to say. Just wow and here's to another forty years.

Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad! Here's to your Happily Ever After.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Aardvark Zygote

I've been thinking about alphabetization. What? Don't you sit around all day thinking about the alphabet?

Lots of writers have pen names. Privacy is a nice luxury and anonymity can be crucial if your boss at your day job might not be so understanding of your romance writing sideline. Picking a pen name can be a big decision. Hopefully, readers and writing collegues will be calling you that name for years to come, so kind of a big deal.

A writer friend of mine recently explained her rationale behind picking her pen name. She wanted something that was 1) easy to spell, 2) easy to remember, and 3) in the middle of the alphabet. Now, I'm totally onboard for #1 & #2. But the middle of the alphabet? What?

She then explained that she wanted her books shelved at "eye height" in bookstores. So not at the very beginning or end of the alphabet. Which presupposed that all bookstores have exactly the same height shelves and number of books and all sorts of other assumptions that seem pretty silly to me. I just can't get too worried about being an "A". I honestly don't think it's going to impact my career in a negative way. But maybe I'm underestimating the power of the alphabet.

I really think being memorable is more important. Which kind of makes me want to write a sci-fi book under the penname Zygote Aardvark (or Aadrvark Zygote) just to see what alphabetically inferior sales look like.

Seriously, does it matter? I like Cherry Adair. I like Scott Westerfield. I will go to the ends of the alphabet for them. Bending down, looking up, there is no shelf too high or too low. My love is not alphabetically impaired.

What about you? Are you a one-shelf shopper?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Writer: A Job Description

The other day I was blog-wandering, as I have been known to do when I am desperately trying to avoid anything resembling productivity (oh, yeah, like you never procrastinate? then what are you doing reading this, huh?), and I stumbled across something that struck me as so jaw-droppingly flat-out wrong that it smacked my gob bigtime.

An aspiring writer posted on her blog that if you have dialogue running through your head and find your lips moving as you drive, do the dishes, etc, then you are a writer even if you've never written a word. My reaction was succinct: "The f*ck you are."

There were more words following those, which perhaps can be best quoted as follows: "#%&#*%^&)#$(*%!?!"

After I calmed down a bit, I got to thinking about why that proclamation had flipped my switches so thoroughly. And, because I am quite fond of lists, I made a nice little list of all the ways this statement pissed me off.

#1: Writing is work. The process of getting the dialogue from my head onto the page is not magical and effortless. There is skill involved, believe it or not, and a heck of a lot of time. A heck of a lot of time. I cannot tell you how many times I have told someone I am a writer only to have them inform me that they are as well. When I express interest and inquire after their writing, I am often stunned to discover they have never written a word. They have this great idea for a book. They are sure they would be brilliant writers. All they have to do is write it. I'm not saying those people won't someday be writers, but until you put your ass in the chair and write the damn book, you are not a writer. And it is an insult to people who put in the work to call yourself one. (Note: I am not talking about "authors", a title which, to me at least, implies publication and profit. This is just about whether or not you can call yourself a writer, aspiring or otherwise.) To me, a writer is one who writes, so unless you've written something, you need to find another word.

#2: Writing is not just storytelling. You may be an entertainer, a talent, a gifted storyteller with oodles of ideas, but the mechanics of writing - the craft, if you will - are not handed out by God on high. Just because you have an idea doesn't mean you have the ability to write it. (Neither does it mean you lack the ability, but I'm just saying, voices in your head might be a symptom of a writerly disposition, but they do not a writer make.)

#3: Writing is work. It can also be a beloved hobby, a passion, or a dream. For many of us, it is something we cannot imagine our lives without. It is an intrinsic ingredient in our happiness. It is part of who we are. We make sacrifices for it. Marriages have been known to suffer and even dissolve when a spouse does not understand the writer's dedication. To assign the term "writer" to anyone who has ever taken a trip into their own imagination is to mock that dedication and the sacrifices we make.

If you are a writer, you write. And you don't need anyone to tell you that. You don't write? Not a writer. Sorry. If you want to be a writer, put your ass in that chair and write. What's stopping you?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


The following is a recipe for soothing irritations, mild or major, effectiveness guaranteed!
  1. Turn on the television. Find the worst show currently playing. (I highly recommend ABC family on Monday nights.) Sit down and really wallow in the dreadful dialogue and melodramatic acting. If you are the kind who likes to MST3K things, then by all means, go for it! (Tonight at my house featured frequent exclamations of "You can just go to heck!" and "Win one for the Gipper!")
  2. Following the television watching, when you are primed for ridiculousness: crank up Pink's "So What" (or a similar rock song that throws your rrrowr in the face of the world who would thwart you) and bellow along as you dance around the living room. (This is particularly recommended if you have a large window in your well-lit living room and the neighbors can see you making a fool of yourself.)
  3. Collapse onto the floor in a graceless heap. Moan in anguish, English, Italian and any other languages you might know. But make sure your moaning is loud and emphatically melodramatic. (Flinging your hand across your brow as you moan is strongly encouraged.)

Are you laughing yet? There. See? Don't you feel better?

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Greatest Game on Dirt

I went to a baseball game in Cleveland yesterday. Tragically, the Mariners lost (their play was very lackluster and we'll-gettum-next-year-esque even though they are technically still contenders this year). But it was baseball and thus a good day. And a couple of things happened that really entertained me on a student-of-human-nature front.

1. We showed up in time for batting practice. The visiting team usually takes BP second, so the Mariners were on the field and the Mariners bullpen was spread across the outfield catching fly balls and periodically flipping them into the stands. We went down onto the homerun porch in right where a couple dozen kids in Cleveland garb were clamoring to be given baseballs with constant shouts of "Over here!"

We watched Saturday's starter sprint across the outfield like he wanted to be Torii Hunter while his fellow pitchers stood in clusters chatting, occasionally picking up a baseball that rolled in their direction. We listened to the kids around us growing more desperate and more creative (and definitely louder) in their shouts as they were largely ignored by the pair of relief pitchers standing in right field. Then the bullpen coach, John Wetteland, trotted out.

He chatted with his pitchers, listened to the clamoring and then turned and wandered up to the fence with a couple of baseballs in his glove. He announced they were doing a sort of "case study". I couldn't really make out the rest of what he said because the kids were thrown into a frenzy of "Over here!"s by the proximity of the balls in his glove. After a few minutes wandering back and forth along the fence listening to the chaos, he seemed to get what he was looking for and flipped those two balls to a couple of kids right down front. A few minutes later he came back. This time, as the kids started their screaming, I heard him yell, "Yeah, we've established you're over there!" But the kids kept screaming it. Over and over and over. Finally, I shouted (had to in order to be heard) to the kid directly in front of me that he should say Please. He didn't hear me any more than he had heard the bullpen coach, but his mother did. She told him to say please. He did. And John Wetteland of the Seattle Mariners Coaching Staff tossed him a ball within five seconds of hearing that magic word. Shortly thereafter, the kids standing next to him caught on and there was a new shout, instead of "Over here!"

The sad thing? Not one of those kids thought of it themselves. And he had to wait a long time when he first wandered over to the fence to get that first please. Kudos, John Wetteland, on teaching manners and positive reinforcement, but what does it say about our society that instead of saying, "Please, sir, may I have a baseball?", a child's first inclination is to just scream "I'm over here!" as loud as they can and anticipate that whatever they want will be given to them. Is entitlement so rampant in our culture that they have forgotten the usefulness of the word please?

2. BP ended, the kids dispersed, we found our seats and the game began. The Indians are in the cellar so attendance was patchy and there were only two people in the entire row in front of us - a little girl with adorable blonde curls and her mother (grandmother? aunt?). My first awareness of this pair came in the middle of the first inning, when the little girl turned to her older-female-relative-type-person and asked what the score was. It was nil/nil. The Indians had yet to score their first run. But Mama (or whoever) didn't know that. She was gazing raptly at the game as if enthralled, but had no idea what the score was. I was puzzled.

Then Travis Hafner came up to bat and the little girl, who couldn't be more than ten but looked much younger than that, announced that he was hers. She was Mrs. Elizabeth Hafner. Her female-guardian-type-person then engaged in a mock argument over which of them got Hafner. This was a little creepy to me, partially due to the fact that Hafner is in his thirties and little Elizabeth is clearly not. I know kids like to pretend all sorts of things (hey, I like pretend myself. I'm all about fiction), but isn't she a little young to be throwing herself at ball players? Maybe she's a writer in training, and I'll someday read about her heroine's dramatic affair with a major leaguer, but something about the way she said it got my squick meter running high.

As the game progressed, Elizabeth would periodically turn to Mama (or whoever) and ask if the player at bat was cute. Not if he was a good player. Not if he ought to bunt or swing away, but whether he was cute. This sort of, "What do you think, Mommy? Is that one doable?" started to drive me nuts.

It bothered me in the exact same way a pair of women at a Mariners/White Sox game years ago bugged the hell out of me. They were so busy leaning over the rail trying to peer into the dugout to get a glimpse of Alex Rodriguez's ass, that they didn't even realize Edgar Martinez had just hit a three run homer to put the Mariners ahead. They didn't love the game. They loved the opportunity to ogle and objectify male athletes in snug pants. The female fan.

And I wonder why none of my male friends believe I know anything about the game when they first hear I'm a baseball junkie? Sheesh.

I love baseball. I could (and probably will at some point) wax poetic about all the things I love about baseball, but for the moment I'm going to leave it at the fact that it is a mental game. The odds are bad. You are batting against your own doubt, even more than the other team's relief pitcher with 98mph heat. Baseball is a sport, a superstition, and a bizarre alchemy of ability, teamwork, and magic. It's fear and arrogance. (<-Bonus for identifying the reference.)

I love this game, but I have never been (and hopefully never will be) the kind of girl who leans over railings to stare at asses. There are plenty of opportunities to appreciate the male form without acting like construction workers whistling at passersby. When did this reverse sexism become okay? When did objectifying the male ass become so damn popular? When did baseball players stop being heroes and become booties? And why? Is this the same reason romance covers feature the rippling abdomens of shirtless men? I don't buy my books based on eye-candy, but am I in the minority? I'd rather have a cover evoke a mood, a sense of heat or sultryness or humor or whatever is appropriate for the book than gaze at the hard packed six on some male model who looks nothing like the hero.

And somehow I've gotten from baseball to cover art. Mrg.

I'm feeling out of step. Kids who can't say please or are on the road to bending over railings to stare at asses... it's demoralizing to me. Is that the direction we're headed as a society? Am I the only one bothered by this?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fall Line Up

Here's the thing. I don't actually own a television. I know, I'm a freak of nature. However, thanks to the magic of Hulu (and the televisions owned by people I visit on a semi-regular basis) I do have some fav shows. And at the moment, for no reason (other than the fact that I am actively trying to procrastinate to avoid writing the next chapter on my WIP), I am going to talk about TV. Because I can.

Dollhouse (Fox) - Joss Whedon. Eliza Dushku. Bad-ass Futuristic Mind-control stuff! Need I say more? Really, this show rocks and rocks hard. Fantasy playground? Why, yes, that sounds lovely.

Burn Notice (USA) - Kickass with a side of hell yes. Michael Westin was a spy who got put on his government's naughty list and has been trying to get back onto the side of the "angels" (so to speak) for the last three seasons. This show rocks in a thousand different ways and two of those ways are Fiona and Sam - Michael's faithful sidekicks. Can I be Fiona when I grow up? Just think of all the things I could shoot and blow up! If you haven't seen this show, I can only ask what are you waiting for?

Leverage (TNT) - Not as good as Burn Notice, quite frankly, but I love me a good caper and this show is about as reliable on the caper-a-week front as they get. Ahhh, crime. I have a seriously disfunctional moral compass. Though these guys are distinctly in the crime-for-good camp.

Chuck (NBC) - Huh. Anyone else noticing a theme? Spies! Capers! Mind programming! This show is quirky delicious and never takes itself too seriously.

So You Think You Can Dance (Fox) - My aunt got me turned onto this show while I was visiting her. I'm not, as a rule, a big fan of America Votes! type shows because I get unspeakably annoyed by the popularity contest angle. But the dancers on this show are so freaking awesome and the choreography occcasionally rocks my freaking world so I have found I must watch.

Jeopardy! - Dude. Love Jeopoardy! Even though if I ever met Trebec in real life I would probably be tempted to lobotomize him with a melon-baller because the man annoys the hell out of me. But yeah, other than that, totally love Jeopardy! (And QuizMasterChallenge - for those of you who have public access TV in the DC metro area, seriously check this out. Those kids are freakishly smaaart.)

Mad Men (AMC) - Sharp, true, utterly brilliant. This show is an insanely good ensemble piece of beautiful complexity. Ah, Mad Men. How do I love thee.

Shows With Unnaturally Short Lifespans I Mourn the Loss of: Pushing Daisies, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Firefly...

Shows that Get More Ridiculously Awful Every Year and Lose Track of What Made Them Good in the First Place: Desperate Housewives, Heroes, Grey's Anatomy...

So what are your favorite shows? Which cancelled ones do you miss the most? What do you think is the most overrated show on television?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Week O' Reviews

Apparently it's the week of the reviews. This time it's Joyfully Reviewed: Tanya calls Serengeti Heat a "Fantastic shifter story!" (That's even her exclamation point! How 'bout that?)

And in unrelated news... the travels are commencing again. Chicago, Madison, Twin Cities, and Alaska, then Seattle. That takes me up to mid October. After that, who knows? What do you think? Should I go to Italy to visit my cousin? Australia because I've never been? The Florida Keys, because driving to Florida in hurricane season just sounds like my kind of fun? Survey says?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Oh, Amazon, You Remembered...

Amazon just gave me the sweetest birthday present! They added Serengeti Heat to the Kindle Store. Woot! Check it out, yo!

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday to mee-eeee, happy birthday to me.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cover Lovin'

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the newfound hotness of my new Karmic Consultants book's cover art! Look! It's The Ghost Exterminator: A Love Story! Woot! And look! A coming soon page and everything.

You like?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Look, Ma, No Hands!

This is me. No, not me on the roller coaster. I am the roller coaster. (Cuz it's a metaphor, yo.)

I go through these ups and downs as I write, edit & release a book and I've only recently realized that they are the same ups and the same downs every time. (I'm a slow study. My family has known this for years, apparently.)

I start off like the Top Thrill Dragster (at Cedar Point) or the Aerosmith ride (Disney MGM Studios) or Space Mountain (Disney Traditional). Fired out of a cannon. No click-click-click slow chug to the first drop for me. No, sir. I'm accelerated at multiple Gs. Zooooom! My enthusiasm for a new idea shoots me forward. "This book is amaaaaaazing!" I scream as I race up the first hill...

Then comes the first drop. The bottom falls out. A few thousand words in, suddenly reality (and gravity) hits and I go plummeting down. What the hell? I thought this book was good? It's boring! It's trying too hard! It's dreck!

But that's a short drop. Almost before I have time to fully realize I'm falling, I'm back up again. Jolted up so fast I'm almost lifted off my seat, banging against the harness. I don't fly quite so high this time (which is good because I won't have so far to fall). Then begins the dips and wobs and weebles, corkscrews and loop-de-loops of writing the middle of the book. It's pretty good. It's not so bad. It's not so good. It's mediocre. It's better than I thought it was! Not as good as I thought it was. Up, down, and upside down I go. But always racing forward.

Then the end! It's completed! A victory! Up we go! But then I have to let someone else see it. Oooh, anyone else feeling a little queasy? We just dropped down again so fast I think I left my stomach up there. But the beta readers like it (with a few suggestions) and I start back up again. This is the slow click-click-click chug to the next high as I polish and perfect and my confidence grows. This is a good book. Synopsis, cover-letter, it's ready to go. Out the door! They'll love it! They'll buy it! How could they not? It's fabulous!

I'm up pretty high now, but I'm not ready to fall yet. The waiting causes little teasing downs and ups that make me think I'm heading for the big drop, but I'm not. I'm at that point where I can see the entire amusement park spread out around me. So high up I can see the lake (manmade or otherwise) and look down on the giant ferris wheel. I glide high above it all. Waiting for the plunge I know is coming.

The response arrives. Scream with me! Throw your hands up! Before I even open it, I'm falling fast. (I always assume it's a no. I'm an optimist, but I can't seem to reprogram my brain to think positively when I see that response in my inbox.) I open it. Bad news? Keep falling, then click-click-click your way back up again with another submission. Good news? Whoosh. Up on top of the world again.

But it doesn't end there. You'd think I'd stay up, right? My book is getting published. But then come edits. First round edits (and this has nothing to do with how extensive or necessary they are, it just is) - I'm down. I think the book is awful. I don't know why, but this seems to be my pattern. I'll be wondering why my editor bought this piece of crap right up until the final edits. On my last chance to change a word before it goes to print that is when suddenly I will realize that this is a good book! Who knew? Up we go!

The book comes out and, after the initial high, we're in the dips, corkscrews and loop-de-loops again. Do readers like it? Some yes, some no. Ups and downs. Eventually, the ride evens out and I hop off. Wobbly -legged, but ready to jump on the next one.

But the tricky part? Being at four different points, on four different rollercoasters at the same time. Starting a book, editing a book, with one waiting in submission limbo and another just released. Are you dizzy yet? Welcome to my neurosis. The ups and downs and inside out turns of a writing life.

It's a good thing I love roller coasters.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Spotlight on Serengeti Heat! Woot!

Serengeti Heat is the Spotlight Review on the Romance Reviews Today Blog! Can I get a "woot!", ladies and gentlemen? "Fast paced and full of life, this steamy tale is one you won’t want to miss." Awww, RRT reviewer Lori Ann, you do say the sweetest things. Check it out: REVIEW!

And in other news... I'm starting to get really jazzed about my October Karmic Consultants book. The Ghost Exterminator: A Love Story. Cover art and excerpts and blurbs, oh my! As soon as they get the Big Boss's stamp of approval, I'll post 'em here for your viewing pleasure. This one is from the para-rom-com half of my personality and is my first book length release! There will be much dancing around the living room when this baby releases. October 27th, boys and girls. Mark your calendars.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Blank Page

You may have heard authors refer to the intimidation of the blank page. I don't have that fear. I love the possibilities of the blank page. I don't often feel stalled. There is always another idea coming. Another story to write.

However, right now, I don't have anything blogworthy to say. I'm writing huge chunks of awesome all over my new WIP, but blogging? Yeah, sorry. I'm not really feeling it.

So I apologize for my dearth o' posts over the last few days and warn you that a similar dearth o' posts might be on the agenda for the next little bit. Be consoled (if you like reading my booky witticisms as well as the ones I slap up here without the benefit of a brilliant editor) that I am hard at work on a new story that will kick large quantities of gluteous maximus.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Fallen Angels!

New Review, y'all! Check it out! Four Angels a la Fallen Angel Reviews:

So I'm excited about this review for two reasons. 1) There's this song called "Where Do Fallen Angels Go?" by Aerosmith that I kinda love with a passion that cannot be explained. And 2) The reviewer twigged to something (it bugged her-sorry, Ashley!) that I put in there as a set up for the next story in the series. That never fails to tickle me six shades of pink. (Pink - also an Aerosmith song.)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Best of the Best

I'm back at Damned Scribbling Women today, talking about my top five fav romance novels. Which books would make your top five list? What would you give to a genre-newbie to get them hooked for life?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Space Opera Awesomeness

Everywhere I look it's Space Opera these days. (Which is a good thing, definitely a good thing. Who doesn't love Firefly and Battlestar Galactica and... have I just revealed the depth of my geekery?) Samhain is doing a Space Opera Submissions Call. Which I almost considered writing something for (mostly because my aunt & I did a Firefly marathon when I was visiting her last month and I had Mal on the brain) but decided against. I'll just be an eager reader, this time.

And speaking of being an eager reader... Beyond the Rain by Jess Granger releases today!

“BEYOND THE RAIN is a fascinating, fast-paced futuristic romance that drops you in richly drawn exotic worlds — grim and beautiful, immerses you in extraordinary alien cultures, and wraps it all in a love story laced with heart-rending twists and turns. A fully intriguing read.”
— Linnea Sinclair, RITA® award winning author of HOPE’S FOLLY

In a universe torn apart by civil war, a warrior and a slave must fight for their freedom, for their lives, and for a love that may destroy them both…

After five years behind enemy lines, Captain Cyani is ready to retire to her homeworld of Azra as one of the Elite — the celibate warrior sisterhood that rules the planet. But first she must complete one final mission to rescue her fellow Union soldiers. The last thing she expects to find is a prisoner, chained and beaten — but radiating feral power and an unbroken spirit…

Soren is a Byralen, an enigmatic people who possess a unique hormone that they use to bond with their mates — and that is sold as a sexual narcotic in the shadow trade. For years, he has endured torture at the hands of his captors as they leeched his very essence. The last thing he expects is to be freed from slavery by a beautiful warrior woman with radiant blue eyes.

Driven by her rigid sense of honor, Cyani frees Soren even though her life hinges upon the success of her mission. But after so many years in bondage, his hormones are so unbalanced that he will die if he does not bond with a woman. Can the lovely but distant warrior be the woman he needs to survive, or will the forbidden bond destroy them?

Click HERE for an excerpt or HERE to buy it now!
I am absolutely thrilled about this release. Not just because it is Space-Opera-Awesome, but also because Jess Granger was one of the first writers I ever met when I went to my very first ever writing conference. This book was up for a Maggie Award that year. She later went on to sell it to Berkley and is now perched on the cusp of fame and fortune, but I can actually say I knew her when. How cool is that? Yeah, I'm gonna drop her name. I'm gonna drop it so hard, baby. Ahem. Yeah. I'm excited about this book. Beyond the Rain. Jess Granger. Awesome.

Monday, August 3, 2009

So Many Books, So Little Time

Good morning, darlings! I'm over at Damned Scribbling Women today, where there is gabbing to be had about which books are the important books to read. You remember that list of 100 Books the BBC put out, postulating that most people would have read only six? Is that the right list? Harry Potter alongside Thomas Hardy? Which books should we have to read? Come give me your two cents (or more cents, if you're feeling generous).

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Box

I'm confused.

So writers, we gab. Romance novels are an industry fueled by gossip, never let anyone tell you otherwise.

I'm chatting with a writer friend a few days ago and she says something about how Editors (those mythic creatures longing for nothing more than to publish our masterpieces of literary beauteousness) are looking for books that are outside "The Box", but they aren't finding them because Agents (those mythic creatures longing for nothing more than to negotiate six-figure deals for our masterpieces of literary beauteousness) are looking for the Sure Thing, A.K.A. books inside "The Box". And the Editors are being funnelled books by the Agents. And so... dissonance.

(For the record, I don't know what Editors or Agents are looking for. Ask them. They're nice people. They'll probably answer you. But don't be surprised if the answer is "I'll know it when I see it" or "Great writing" or some other extremely subjective fob-off. And we're off topic...)

This was said in response to an agent rejection I got (standard fare rejection, no mention of Boxes). My friend (who, it should be noted, does write outside The Box - such that even I, in my Box confusion, recognize this) was trying to comfort me that Editors would love me, if I could get through the Agent Firewall to them. (The Agent Firewall is a myth, by the way, lots of publishing houses accept unagented submissions these days.)

I then expressed confusion, because I thought I wrote inside The Box.

I thought there were happy little Box walls surrounding me on all sides, keeping me nice and safe and cozy. I thought I was the Sure Thing, maybe even playing it a little too safe. I was actually afraid I was too firmly ensconced inside The Box. Sure, I bend a few rules, but doesn't everyone these days? I kinda thought The Box had grown to encompass a little snark and some salty language. But my friend tells me my voice is not Boxy. And I'm not really sure what to do with that.

Where is The Box? (Not that kind of box, you filthy-minded wretches.) What does The Box look like? Can you help me find it? Cuz I'm groping in the dark here and not having much luck. (If you're still thinking of other boxes, you should be ashamed of yourself. Ashamed.)
Maybe there's more than one Box? One for paranormals, one for historicals, one for contemporaries? Maybe it's more of a storage locker somewhere filled with boxes?

I got nuthin' and this metaphor is getting unwieldy.

What is standard in romance these days? Not that I'm going to alter myself to be standard - yeah, that ain't happening - but if I'm a rebel, I'd like to at least know it. I'm not looking for The Box so I can cram myself into it, but rather just so I'll know where it is, what it looks like, and in what ways I'm coloring outside the lines.

What's the norm these days? Can you tell me? Cuz like I said, I'm confused.