Or, a discovery of what ‘romance’ really means, and not in a genre sense.
I’m what you call a ‘practical’ person. A realist. I’ve been through heartache, loves lost and found, and now, in my late 40’s, I’ve settled into a content domestic life, with children. I appreciate the stability of my current situation. I can let my adventures come from my imagination without feeling the need to live them myself.
As a result, I cannot remember the last time I even picked up a romance novel. Once the staple of my youth, where emerging feelings throbbed and curiosity poked, my adult bookshelves are lined with stories where romance is a secondary part of the plot, if present at all.
And yet, as time passes, and I consider myself ever more the pragmatist, I also find myself bucking against that acceptance of a life without ‘romance’. Don’t misunderstand me, my life is full of love and joy, and yes, the odd romantic gesture. Yet, we all, in my opinion and irrespective of how content we are in our lives, need occasionally to recall what it is to feel those fluttering sensations. Those tender moments when we remind ourselves of a commitment to another person. Or perhaps, seek solace that our yearning for acceptance, for love perhaps, is not a solitary experience, but a shared one.
It is basic human nature to seek out something which makes us feel less alone.
Romance fills that gap. In literature, the romance genre is perhaps the biggest of all, which testifies to how many people want to experience those sensations through the words and worlds of characters.
When I started writing, I was determined to focus not on the coming together of two characters, but on the evolution of their relationship. How the dynamic between characters evolved through the challenges of life (and, if you’ve read the Naturae series, you’ll know, there are quite a few disasters along the way!). The romance, the love and care between the two main characters, changes as it does for most of us in a long term relationship, but there is always the hope that binds them together, that they can share their lives and rely on one another. I am saving the beginnings of Aioffe and Joshua’s relationship for a prequel – Destiny Awaiting.
I was given the opportunity to write a short story recently, and come together with an international group of authors to publish a short story anthology exploring the various dimensions of romance. The book, A Season for Romance, is a collection of 22 stories, from 10 authors, loosely including the theme of Spring and blossoming love, from all shades, creeds, and creatures – meaning it covers a multitude of genres and pairings! My contribution – when two of my side characters, Nemis and Spenser, meet – can be found within its pages.
So, what is a Romance?
But, as I read the entire collection in readiness for publication, I was struck by the variety of interpretations my fellow authors have with regard to what constitutes ‘romance’. For some, it’s that heart-thumping first encounter. For others, it’s the dawning realisation that someone you have known for a long time might be more than just the friend, or teacher, or friend’s brother. The situations in which the romance arrives are varied and highly imaginative.
What has stuck with me over the following days as I digested the anthology as a whole, is that within all of the stories, what I missed as a young reader maybe, is that romance equates to hope.
Yes, HOPE. That sometimes intangible, elusive feeling that life could be better. Not ‘love’ and its many forms. Love is too big, somehow. It sprawls and spreads, morphing into different versions of itself according to whom it encounters.
And that is what I have taken away from this experience. Hope is what I try to convey in my work, I just never really thought of it more than just an aspect of romance until now. It is, I believe, at the very core of romance.
If you would like to read A Season for Romance, it publishes on the 31st of May 2022. Advance reader copies can be downloaded here. There is beauty, tenderness, angst, and even humour in these carefully crafted stories meant to transport you to distant, fantastical worlds where love is just moments away. Being short stories, they are the perfect size for you to read over a quick cuppa, or whilst waiting for a train.
The anthology will be free as an e-book, because the stories we want to share are the romance we perhaps all need to feel human. Feel connected.
What I realise now is that, as authors, we actually wanted to share our hope as well.
Read more about the Season for Romance authors and their stories below.
Erica Damon is a writer, equestrian, and artist living in Western Massachusetts. She calls herself compulsively creative, and that has led to a collection of ‘what ifs?’ in her back pocket. A self-directed degree from UMass Amherst Commonwealth Honors College furthered her exploration outside of the ordinary. That same sense of wonder weaves its way into her fiction. If she’s not writing, she’s likely out riding horses while the ideas swirl in the background.
Snippet from 16 Months and Lightyears Away:
It had been nearly a decade since he saw Henry, and even though they had both grown past the last remnants of teenage awkwardness, there was no doubt as to who was standing before him. Henry had the panicked look of a trapped animal, his eyes darting for the nearest escape route, but there wasn’t one. “Del…” Delphius’ ship had docked with Henry’s and there was no turning back. For either of them.
Isla Ryder grew up around horses but never owned one of her own, instead settling for riding lessons and every horse book she could find. When those books stopped being enough, she began writing her own. Throughout school, she loved creative writing classes and earned a BDIC degree from UMass Amherst. She has published a series of sweet cowboy romance novellas and loves working with other authors as an alpha reader and developmental editor.
Snippet from Love in the Round Pen:
The other horses at the barn spent the spring prepping for a summer of competitions. Cassie had won piles of ribbons over the years, but never felt as driven to win as the other girls. Marc had never gone to the shows with them. He would stay behind to care for the horses left at home. Perhaps that wasn’t such a bad idea all along. Astro pranced around the pen. There was no way Cassie would step inside with him. She would have given up on the ragged-looking horse just like her father. The realization stung. But there was Marc, standing in the pen and getting Astro to dance circles around him. To the untrained eye, it might look like chaos, and while it might have begun that way, it was different now. It was beautiful. The gelding lowered his head and let out a snort, his feet coming to stillness.
The author of numerous Flash Romance stories from High Fantasy to Cyberpunk, Naito Diamond focuses on prospects for our future in the technological field (esp. Augmented Intelligence series), evolution of civilization, and the existence of alternative civilizations.
With a background in software development and an interest in AI, medical innovations, and neuropsychology, she adds authentic details to her stories. Her fondness for human nature enables her to create flawed but lovable characters.
She lives in a small European country, in a house surrounded by forest, with a German Shepherd, a ginger cat, and a rooster.
Snippet from Red String:
The door closed behind me. I was in the prince’s bed-chamber, standing there like a fool, with no idea of what to do next. The prince sat on the love-seat at the foot of his bed and crossed his legs. Chin resting on one hand, he fixed his gaze upon me. My eyes wandered to a stack of opened letters on his table. Neatly bound, they lay there — each envelope of a different color. On top of the stack lay a royal blue envelope… My heart skipped a beat as I recalled the color I picked each year to match the cravat he wore the day before I ended up not giving the love potion to him. I gulped. Does he…suspect me?
Cassia Hall is the author of the Seasons Cycle, an LGBTQ-friendly series, a spin-off from her main Lake Traveler Saga. Her poetry collections include Poems of Myth & Magick and Songs of Love & Longing.
She composes songs for her characters, using music – the universal language of love – to convey their messages. She believes that, just as music goes beyond barriers of language, colour and creed, stories go straight to our hearts, allowing us to understand and accept ourselves and one another.
She lives in Toronto, Canada where the winters are long and the other seasons very precious.
Snippet from Buttons…
Pull yourself together! This may be your only chance. He cleared his throat and recited a Karenyan folk poem that he then translated for her. It was about a bluebird that flew high enough to see that the world was larger than it expected, but not as terrifying as other bluebirds made it out to be. “Is that true?” she asked, smiling a little.
“Well,” he said, trying to convey the message of his heart in a foreign tongue, “the world very large, and some places not so safe…” He looked down at her, determined to remember this moment, locking this memory into his heart. “But, birds who go in pairs…they safer than most.”
She gave a little laugh, which made Drito feel quite clever. For a magical moment, he almost forgot who she was and who he was not. Feeling as though he were in a dream, he asked, “Your mermaid, why she sing?”
As a writer, Rebecca Fuentes enjoys exploring the dynamics of human interactions and our relationship with the divine. She turns coffee and daydreams into fantasy stories, including her upcoming Oracle Trilogy.
Rebecca has a background in education and child development and enjoys anthropology, history, and psychology. Her childhood interest in mythology and fairy tales fueled her love for the fantasy genre.
Rebecca lives in the Rocky Mountains with her husband, six children, two dogs, and two cats. She collects books and interesting friends. When she isn’t writing and spending time with family, she draws old-school art of her characters.
Snippet from Desert Bloom:
“I came to release you.” Azim captured her hands in his. “You escaped the invasion twice, and found the temple in the wilderness against all odds. The gods guided me to you as surely as I led you here.” He ran his fingers lightly up her neck to her jaw line, cradling her face.
The evening was gathering. Sundown would come and godlight would glow in his eyes. Keziah pressed her palms flat against his chest, caught between him and the pool of water under the ledge. Blossoms spread around her feet, bright in the shadows. Bright and sharp as the hope in her chest.
I want to hope and love. I want to believe the gods care.
Darkness crowded around him, a cloak of night sky. It was peaceful, like watching the stars come out. He caressed her cheeks. “Let the rains come, Keziah. Even the desert rejoices in the spring.”
By day, Jan juggles consultancy work with her family, but by night she sneaks off into the past. Her penchant for sprinkling history with magic is fueled by coffee and Cadburys. When not writing, Jan takes her dogs and small monsters into the countryside, especially if there is a castle or historic building there with a cosy coffee shop in which to escape the rain of Manchester, England. Jan is the author of the Tudor-set historical fantasy Naturae Series and other historical fiction works, as well as the Mitch and Mooch Try childrens books.
Excerpt from Spring Rescue
I know my destined love will come for me. I’ve sensed his faceless presence in my lonely seer visions. This moment has fuelled my fantasies and filled my witchy senses for years, long before I was even trapped here. A brave knight charging to my side, kind and strong, bursting with the best of humanity, to rescue me from the darkness of this hole deep underground in the Beneath.
Yet, having screamed for hours, my powers useless for escape, when the door crashes open, I have only the strength to raise my head and peer at the flickering lamplight. I swallow, heart pounding. This is the moment we will meet.
“C’mon. Hurry up, Nemis!”
My heartbeat falters. It’s Joshua, my fae friend. And he sounds like he’s swallowed a turnip.
He is definitely not The One.
Adam Gaffen is the author of the near-future, LGBTQ-inclusive science fiction series, The Cassidy Chronicles. A prequel, Memories of Aiyana, was recently released by one of his main characters and he’s not sure how he feels about that.
He’s a frequent guest at cons and enjoys sending his stories out into the world to entertain, educate, and enhance reader’s lives.
He lives in Colorado with his wife, five dogs, five cats, and wonders where all the time goes.
“You know me. Jump first, knit a parachute on the way down.” Kendra Cassidy, A Quiet Revolution.
Excerpt from Springtime in…Houston, We Have a Problem:
Oh god, I’m wearing my flight suit!
How could she make an impression on this goddess among mortals in greys?
Her goddess stretched out an arm and put her hand on Lexie’s shoulder. The voice was musical. “Hey, babe, is this guy boring you? I’m from another planet.”
The words echoed in Lexie, awakening her. “Yes,” she half-whispered, rising from her seat. She was barely aware of Marcus rising as well and the goddess turning her attention to him.
“She’s with me!” Marcus protested.
“I don’t think so,” Aphrodite sang, certainty in her tune.
Heran Phillips likes a touch of realism in her romance. She has been writing speculative science fiction and fantasy for a decade under the name Ye Olde Bard, and enjoys researching subjects to the fullest to better depict her characters and worlds.
Her stories focus on the struggles of life and romance as a person with disabilities. It is her hope that such stories will help shine a light on disabled people like herself.
Snippet from To Sleep in a Bed of Deer:
“Don’t worry,” Skye said with an apologetic smile. “My herd can be a bit of a pain, but I’m sure they just want to make sure you’re good enough to court me.” Her tail tucked behind her. “I know Faro don’t usually cuddle together, but I thought you’d enjoy the experience. Just the two of us cuddling unshifted on a bed of deer.”
Sarah Rajah infuses themes of love into everything she writes because she believes that love is the glue that holds all universes together, no matter how fantastic or mundane. Her characters realize that love in all its forms overcomes the darkness in all of us.
With a background in human resources, Sarah has unique insight into people and diversity, which she crafts into her stories.
Sarah has two very special boys and a husband she loves beyond words. They inspire her to push boundaries and love more deeply every day.
Snippet from Confession:
Warren gazed at me like I had said the most interesting thing in the entire province. His emerald-green eyes sparkled. I blinked. “What?”
He shook his head and looked down. “Nothing. Just…the sun caught your hair and made it seem even brighter for a moment.”
I smoothed my frizzy curls. Well, I attempted to. It didn’t help that I had red hair. It made me look like a walking fuzzy fireball. “Don’t tease me. I can’t help my unruly hair.”
“I’m not teasing, Abigail,” Warren said softly. He reached between the hanging branches to tuck a stray curl behind my ear.
Natalie J. Holden
Natalie could never find herself in the real world, so she created her own. Two hundred of them. Taking inspiration from everything, from nuclear physics and evolution to anthropology and myth, she created an entire universe of magic and wonder, and then populated it with people and beings she’d like to meet. So far, she’s published a novel “The Outworlder”, a short story collection “Other Worlds”, and a novelette “Octopus Song”. When not writing, she spends her time reading, cooking, and walking in the parks.
Snippet from Feathers:
Before he knew it, he was sitting on the ground across from Braeg and talking about his costume. At the festival, he would wear a coat of winter hare pelts decorated with bear claws to symbolise the winter; he’d shake it off at the beginning of the dance. Underneath, he’d be wearing a skirt of finest leather, dyed in his village and emblazoned with his family insignia, kept in place by a wide belt decorated with amethyst beads. Additional decoration would include arm–and leg-bands of bear tusks, and a wide necklace of green snail shells. His black hair would be braided and kept in place by a headband decorated with more beads and cowrie shells.