Flash Fiction!

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The second piece of the great remodel is ready: the Flash Fiction page! For the moment, three of my earlier works appear there, and I invite you to head over and enjoy these tasty morsels that I’m looking forward to sharing with you: You Are Mine, about a woman who doubts herself and with a delicious little twist at the end; You’re The One For Me, which reminds us how love is timeless and ageless; and I’ll Be Home For Christmas, in which a frustrated hostess receives a gift from her absent but clever husband.

And, stay tuned, as there will be more to come!

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Poetry!

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Yes, I know I’m moving slowly, but I have finished the first piece of the great remodel. The Poetry page is ready! So far, everything in it is work that I’ve published previously in this blog, although most of it was in late 2014 and the most recent was a year ago. So, unless you’re dedicated enough to drill through the category links, those pieces would be a little hard to find now, except for this reorganization.

So, if you haven’t seen them before, head on over and have a look, and hopefully you’ll like what you see. If you have read them already… well, head over anyway! Most, though not all, have some sort of romantic angle to them, whether it’s finding love or it’s heartbreak and loss. Looking back, I can see that I have a bit of a fascination with color and light, as well as mountains and travel. Two have a bit of a science-fiction feel to them, and one is a little bit steampunk, so maybe there’s something for every poetry lover out there?

See for yourself: Poetry

Coming soon, another page to gather up my flash fiction, serial short fiction, and excerpts.

I’ll Be Home For Christmas

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“Fabulous party, Kat! Thanks so much for inviting us. You really do know how to put on a dinner. Such a shame David couldn’t be here.”

Kathleen smiled and said good night to the last of her guests, wishing them a safe drive home through the snow. As soon as the door was shut, her smile disappeared. She turned back with a sigh to look over the mess of her living room and kitchen. Oh well, she thought, these dishes won’t clean themselves, so might as well get started.

Would it have been better if David had made it home? She wasn’t sure. Things had been a little tense between them before he left for this latest business trip, but they had always managed to hide such things behind an easy facade of marital bliss in front of guests before. Still, he should have been there, but the snow was coming down thick and who knew what the airport was like. She let the post-party melancholy wash over her, almost relieved to not have to be happy and cheerful for others any longer.

Kathleen started the first load in the dishwasher and began rinsing the remainder when the musical chime of the telephone interrupted her. David’s cellphone. His flight must have finally landed.

“Hey. Where are you? Everything ok?”

“Yeah. We got diverted to Grand Rapids. The airline offered everyone a hotel room.”

“Oh.” So he wasn’t coming home tonight. Kathleen wasn’t sure how she felt about that. She should have been disappointed, but her lack of disappointment was what disappointed her more.

“So how was the party? Sorry I missed it.”

“It was good. The Johnsons showed up after all.”

David laughed over the poor connection. Weather must have been interfering with his signal.

“Did they put on their usual show? Emily get drunk and flirt outrageously in front of Mike?”

In fact, Emily Johnson had done just that, as Kathleen had known she would. The previous year Emily had draped herself all over David at the party, whispering things into his ear, putting her hand on his hip, pushing her breast against his arm. Her husband Mike had silently steamed, drinking more and more while watching his wife with a frown, and Kathleen briefly entertained the idea of causing her own diversion. David had looked uncomfortable, but his erection had been pretty obvious through his slacks. This year had been no different, except instead of David, Emily picked on someone else. Kathleen had hoped they wouldn’t actually come, but they did.

“You know she did.” Kathleen hoped the bitterness wasn’t obvious in her voice. Really, she didn’t know why still threw these Christmas Eve parties, they just made her feel dejected, but everyone expected it of her.

“Hey. Kat. Really, I’m sorry I couldn’t be home. I know these things are draining for you.”

“Really, David? You’re not home for Christmas Eve; are you even going to be home for Christmas day? Did you have to wait ’til the last minute to fly home? Couldn’t you have come a day earlier?”

“Kat. Honey, I’m sorry about that.”

Kathleen felt awful. She knew it wasn’t David’s fault he’d had to go on this trip, and the client demanded he be there until the last minute. He wasn’t responsible for the weather or flight delays, but she just couldn’t help herself, taking her frustration out on her husband.

“I’m sorry, David. I know that was uncalled for. I’m just frustrated.”

“I know. I understand. Maybe I have a way to make it up to you.”

Was that a hint of something sly in his voice? What was he planning?

“What do you mean?”

“Tell me what you’re doing right now.”

“I’m doing the dishes and cleaning up, what else would I be doing?”

“Uh huh. Are you wearing your cocktail dress? The slinky little black number?”

Kathleen took a breath and let some of her frustration ebb away. It really was one of her favorite dresses, and now she remembered that David bought it for her last year.

“I am.”

“You know I’ve always thought you incredibly sexy in that dress.”

She smiled. “Yeah, well, right now it’s covered up with a kitchen apron so I don’t splash dirty, soapy water on it.”

“Wouldn’t it be even safer to take the dress off, and just wear the apron?”

“David! What, feeling a little lonely in your hotel room, are you?” Kathleen giggled.

“Just saying. It would be a shame to stain the dress. You’ve still got the fire going, right? It’s not cold? So why not go hang up the dress, nice and neat, and not take any chances?”

Despite herself, Kathleen felt a small tickle of arousal at his suggestion. Why not? Who was going to see, anyway, and it would make finishing the dishes more interesting to play along. She cradled the cordless phone against her shoulder and walked out into the living room, where indeed the fire still roared bright and warm, toasting the room.

“Ok. Ok, you win. Hold on a sec, I’m going to put the phone down a moment.”

She imagined she could hear his smile of satisfaction through the call. Now she felt silly about the idea, and considered just telling him she was removing the dress but not really doing it. After all, how would he know?

Then she looked at the photo of the two of them, together, on the mantel above the fire. They had taken that picture — was it a selfie? or a dualie? with both of them in it? — four years earlier while on a cruise in the Caribbean, and they both looked so happy in it. It had been Christmas then, too, except Christmas in Tortola was an entirely different affair from Christmas in Chicago. She had been happy then, she remembered. Very happy. David had made her feel so treasured, loved, and desired. She looked good in the photo, as did he — he was a very handsome man, was it his fault that drunken bitch Emily made a move on him? — and she realized that he made her feel sexy.

Kathleen shucked off the apron, then slinked out of the black dress. She was momentarily self-conscious, standing before the fire in nothing but heels, hold-ups, and panties. She carefully draped the dress over the back of a chair, then put the apron back on. Her nipples pebbled at the slightly rough texture of the apron brushing against them, and she began to feel a little naughty and, yes, sexy, doing this, even if there was no one to see. She picked up the phone.

“Ok. I did it.”

“Panties too, darling. I want you naked under that apron. You can leave your shoes and stockings on, if you’re wearing them.”

Kathleen blushed, which was silly because she was alone.

“David! I don’t know what’s come over you.” She thumbed her panties over her hips and let them fall to her ankles, then stepped out of them and bent down to pick them up and put them on the chair beside the dress. “There. I’m essentially naked, only the apron to cover me, and you know it doesn’t cover much.”

“Good thing you aren’t cooking with hot oil, then, eh, darling? Are you back in the kitchen now?”

“Yes.”

“Tell me what you’re doing.”

“Well, I’m washing dishes, of course. I mean, most of them are in the dishwasher, but I’m rinsing off the extras.”

“Uh huh. Are you bending over the sink?”

Kathleen blushed again. How could he make such an innocuous thing feel so wicked?

“Um… yes. A little bit.”

“Bend over more. Make sure that pert little bottom of yours sticks out while you rinse those dishes.”

Kathleen couldn’t quite believe how turned on she was. Heat pooled in her belly and between her legs and her breathing deepened. She ran the tap to rinse away scraps and added the plate to the pile.

“Do you have much more to do?”

“I’m just about finished.”

“Mmm, yes, you are, aren’t you?”

Kathleen squirmed, not entirely sure about that, but feeling delightfully naughty from the simple act of washing dishes in the nude.

“Now, darling, I want you to touch yourself.”

“Touch myself?”

“That’s right. You know what I mean. And tell me how it makes you feel.”

She couldn’t quite believe she was doing this, but she played along, reaching under the apron to cup her own breasts, enjoying the weight of them in her hands, and taking the nipples between thumb and forefinger.

“You aren’t talking to me, darling. What are you doing?”

“I… I’m touching my breasts.”

“You know you have the most gorgeous tits, don’t you? I’ve always loved them. Now put a hand between your legs and touch yourself there.”

“David…”

“For the sake of a stranded traveler?”

Kathleen took another deep breath, then did as he asked. She wasn’t very surprised to find herself incredibly wet. Why did this turn her on so much? They had never done phone sex before, but she couldn’t deny the arousal she felt from hearing David’s voice and knowing he was hearing her. She wondered what he was doing on his end of the phone.

“Are you wet, my love?”

“Yes.”

“You do know I love you, right?”

She did. He did love her, and she did know that. And she loved him, too. Somehow they had allowed themselves to forget this all-important fact, but it was still true.

“Yes, David. I do know. And I love you, too.”

“So you miss me right now?”

“Oh, David! You’re getting me all worked up over here, when you’re off in another city, hours away, with a snowstorm between us. Is this a special kind of cruelty?” She said that with a strained bit of laughter, then moaned very softly into the phone while continuing to touch herself. “David, I wish you were home. Right now.”

“I’ve sent you a gift.”

“A gift? How could you send me a gift? You just got off a plane in another city from where you’re supposed to be, another city from me.”

“I arranged for a special delivery. Open the front door.”

“What? I can’t do that! I’m naked!”

“No one will see, my love. Do this for me. Trust me. It’s waiting for you on the front porch. Just open the door.”

Kathleen had serious doubts now, but it was after Midnight, after all. David was right. Who would see? She would be quick, she wouldn’t actually step outside, just open the door and quickly grab whatever it was.

“Ok. You’re unbelievable, you know. I can’t imagine how you arranged a special delivery late at night on Christmas Eve in a snowstorm while stranded away from home.”

“I have my ways.”

She almost heard the smirk in his voice. She wondered if the gift was going to be something naughty, a sex toy or something of that sort. That would explain his mood and the phone call. She went to the door and peeked through the peephole. No one was there, of course, and the porch light was already out after the last guest had left, much earlier.

“All right, I’m opening the door. If I get mugged, it’ll be your fault!”

Kathleen unlatched the deadbolt and pulled the door inward. She was confused; there was nothing on the porch.

“There’s nothing here. It didn’t arrive. I hope you didn’t pay extra for this delivery.”

“Ah, but it did arrive, my love.”

David stepped into view from beside the doorway, cellphone to his ear, snowflakes covering the shoulders of his overcoat and sticking to his hair. Kathleen was so surprised she nearly dropped the handset. He grinned at her, taking her in from top to bottom, barely concealed behind the apron, then looked straight into her eyes and spoke into the phone again, so she heard his voice live and a half-second later as an echo through the handset.

“Merry Christmas, Kat. I love you.”

wicked_wednesday

[I have entered this story into Marie Rebelle’s “Wicked Wednesday” #134 for “Christmas 2014.” Click the button and be sure to read all the other entries!]

You’re The One For Me

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Sybil traced her finger slowly down Jack’s chest, luxuriating in the soft feel of the hair that grew there, in stark contrast to the lack of any on top of his head. His warm, solid presence comforted her, and for a moment she just soaked in it, breathed it in, letting her cares slip away.

Only for a moment, however. That old demon returned, as it always did, to nag at her. Was he really happy with her? Did his attention perhaps roam at times, caught up in someone more elegant, more beautiful, more slender, more… just more? Could she really still be enough for him, or would he seek someone who could do so much more for him than she ever could? She told herself this was silly, Jack had never once given any hint of anything like that, it was just her persistent insecurities talking to her. Still, she worried.

“Hey. I’m right here. Come back to me, sweetheart. What’s going on?”

Jack’s voice brought her back to the present, and his touch soothed her as he slid his hand along her side to her hip. His palm was calloused, the palm of a man who had worked hard with his hands, though his skin was not so rough as it had been. His firm grip on her hip reassured her, and Sybil looked up into his eyes, hovering only inches above her face. She saw only love there, and remembered why she was with this man. She ran her own hands down his body, tracing the contours of his back with her fingertips, before answering.

“I’m sorry, darling. Just… nothing. It’s nothing.”

His eyes questioned her, he knew it wasn’t just nothing, so to forestall any more questions Sybil leaned up and kissed his lips, still soft yet with their own touch of roughness to them. She brought her hands to his waist, gripped him there, and wrapped her legs around his.

It worked. Jack gave a soft moan against Sybil’s mouth and moved against her body. His hips rotated back and forth, and now Sybil gasped, sweetly filled and fulfilled, his heat warming her inside and out. This man, this beautiful man, making languorous and luxurious love to her, how could she ever doubt him?

She didn’t doubt him. It was herself she doubted. Oh, not her love for Jack. She loved him as passionately as ever, but how could he still desire her? So many other women were so much thinner, so much more graceful, had so much more energy.

Jack moved atop her, sliding his entire body first one way then the other, causing delightful little frissons of friction within her. Sybil brought her attention back to him, back to them, and she moved herself beneath him, squeezing him, pulling him in tightly.

“There you are,” he whispered against her ear, before gently biting her lobe. “I lost you for a moment, but I still know how to bring you back, don’t I?”

He did desire her. His body could not lie. After all this time, his passion for her remained unflagging. A tear formed in Sybil’s eye.

“Oh, Jack.” Her voice hitched, caught in an upwelling of emotion.

He stopped moving, pulled back just a bit to look in her eye.

“Darling, I know I’m not as young, not as strong as I used to be. I know you could have your pick of men, now as well as then, but you chose me, and I chose you. Nothing has ever made me more proud and more happy. Are you still happy with me?”

Sybil’s voice hitched again, this time in a choked off laugh rather than a cry.

“Oh, Jack,” she said again. “If you only knew the depth of my… well, you do know. You always have known. But it is you who could have your pick.” She turned her head, ran a hand through her grey hair against the pillow.

Jack cupped her face in his strong hand, brought her back to face him. “How long have we been married?”

She didn’t even have to think about it. “Forty-two years.”

“And do you remember what I said to you, forty-two years ago, that day we ran off, ignoring everything everyone told us, when we eloped off to Vegas? Do you remember?”

“I do.”

Jack laughed. “Yes, I said that, too, but before that.”

Sybil laughed with him, feeling much better already. “Yes, Jack, I remember.”

“It’s as true today as it was then, as it has been every day and every year since. What did I tell you?”

“You said, you’re the one for me.”

“That’s right, babe. I’ve gone bald, and you’ve gone grey, but around you I still feel like a twenty-two-year-old kid.” He grinned at her, randy and lascivious, and she loved it. She grinned back.

“You’re the one for me.”

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Clockwork Love

[Inspired by and in response to Willow Snow‘s “Clockwork Heart“]

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This clockwork love,
Winding down the gears,
Imperishable, perpetual,
Through time immemorial
Winding down the years.

The ticking tocks,
Spinning round the face,
Inexorable, inescapable,
A life not quite immortal,
Counting down the race.

The machine slows,
Gears are wearing out,
Inevitable, predictable,
All is breaking down yet
We are breaking out.

Our forms fade and
Functions fail, but then
Enduring, everlasting,
Love incorporeal survives
Timeless beyond our ken.

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Coffee Romance

I’m considering an entry for Frisky Feminist‘s Erotic Romance Anthology Love in the Time of Coffee. I mean, I love erotic romance, and I love coffee, so what’s not to like here? Of course, some seriously good writers that I know of are also considering entries, so competition might be… ahem… stiff. But, one has to start somewhere!

It’s not clear if the deadline for submissions is October 1 or December 1, so on the assumption it’s the former, I (and maybe you, too?) have to decide quickly. As in, very soon.

Here’s a snippet from the blurb at friskyfeminist.com:

Got a story about that sexy barista who keeps putting hearts on your cup? What about the brooding person in the corner that you just know is writing love poetry you’re dying to read?

We want to read it!

This comes right on the heels of Sheri Savill tweeting about coffee porn, which just got us all steaming and frothing for more, so the time must be right! At least right to ponder it over a cup of coffee.

What do you think?

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Starshine

Credit: NASA, Jeff Hester, and Paul Scowen (Arizona State University)

Image Credit: NASA, Jeff Hester, and Paul Scowen (Arizona State University)

Brightness falling,
Ancient light of distant galaxies
Crashing relentlessly,
A catastrophe aeons to unfurl;
Worlds bathed in brilliance
Cast by a thousand suns
Racing to their doom;
Millions of years, billions,
A cosmic blink while
Crawling from the murk,
Lifting eyes to the heavens,
Civilizations rise, empires fall,
Whole species fade away;
Still the novae explode,
Spinning gas and dust into
The shadow of the nebula
So the lovers may park and kiss
And hold each other under
A clear, starry night.

You Are Mine

A tear fell from her eye and slid ever so slowly across the curve of her cheek, pooling in the downturned corner of her mouth. He pulled her into his embrace and kissed the tear away.

“Are you so very disappointed in me?” she asked, gazing up into his eyes, trying to discern his thoughts there.

“Do I seem disappointed?”

She thought about everything that had just happened, turning it over in her mind. She had been so absorbed in her own experience of events, so focused on her own feelings, that she hadn’t really paid attention to how he seemed during it all, what he might be getting from it. She was mostly aware of what he was doing, of how it impacted her — and how those impacts felt — and not so much of how he might be feeling. Now she recalled the intense concentration on his face, the firm yet gentle touch of his other hand, and she realized he had been fully present in the moment, completely focused upon her, while she had selfishly spared thoughts only for herself. A fresh sense of unworthiness and selfishness washed over her, and once again she could not understand his interest in her, despite the evidence of his caring embrace, his soothing touch, his loving kiss. She sniffled softly before replying.

“No. No, you don’t, but I don’t understand why you put up with me. I’m so selfish! You are so good to me, and I don’t do anything for you, and, and… and no wonder I needed this, deserved this, what you just did, when you… I didn’t pay any attention to you! I should have been thinking about you, but all I could think about was what was happening to me, and when your hand… when it would…”

“Hush.” He put a finger to her lips, quieting her, cradling her on his lap. He kissed her brow and slowly her breathing calmed. “You were perfect. You gave me everything I could possibly desire. You lost yourself in the experience, gave yourself over to me completely, and that, my darling, is more beautiful to me than you could imagine.”

Again she found herself lost in his eyes, looking for what he wasn’t saying but finding only honesty there. With a start she realized that she trusted him completely, knew with every fiber of her being that he would always take care of her. She wanted to wrap her arms about him and hold on tight, never let go, but of course that wasn’t possible yet. She lay her head against his chest, curling herself in his lap, and he held her more tightly. She could feel his heart beating strongly beneath her cheek, and she marveled at the power he wielded over her. With a single word he could calm her fears. With a single touch he could inflame her passions. With a single glance he could hold her soul.

She wriggled against him, settling in comfortably, and she felt his heart race within his ribcage. Experimentally, she wiggled again, and again his pulse rate shot up. She smiled to herself, marveling at the power she apparently held over him, too, her doubts evaporating like summer rain steaming under the hot southern sun.

“Careful, pet, or you’re liable to get me started all over again,” he said with a soft chuckle, and that thought only made her want to wriggle more. She turned her face up toward his, and he leaned down to kiss her lips, long, languorous, and slow. Now she really wished she could wrap her fingers in his hair, twining them in its silky black length, caressing the touch of grey just beginning to show at his temples, but she contented herself with inhaling his breath, tasting his mouth, parting her lips to tease the tip of his tongue with her own.

She felt just a twinge of discomfort from her sore bottom, but that reminder only served to ignite further flames within her. The twinge and her reaction didn’t escape his notice, and he responded by taking her mouth even more fiercely, crushing her lips with his kiss, taking her lower lip between his teeth and biting to just the edge of pain. Briefly she wondered if afterwards her lips would also be bruised, sore, and red, but then she ceased all thought as he renewed his advance, crushing her thin body against his with the ferocity of his embrace.

After an eternity that flashed by in an instant, he withdrew and they both caught their breaths, panting from aroused passions. He kept her gaze locked on his eyes, lifting a hand to push back a strand of hair falling across her face.

“Do you still wonder if I’m disappointed with you, my pet?”

She smiled, all fears laid to rest. “No. No, I don’t.”

“And are you disappointed with me?”

“No, I am not.”

“Good, because I plan to keep you for a very long time.”

She squirmed again in his lap, happiness settling over her, suffusing her through and through.

“Ok, I don’t think we need these any longer,” he said, reaching around behind her. “But first, pet, what are you?”

She knew this game. She liked this game, and now she knew it wasn’t actually a game.

“I am yours.”

“That’s right,” he said, as he unlocked the cuffs from her wrists.

“You are mine.”

Second Chances

That evening, Paul arrived, flowers in hand, scrubbed and clean. Clearly he was going the extra mile. I told you he was a nice guy.

I met him at the door to my apartment, and as we stood there in the doorway awkwardly, I had a serious moment of doubt. What was he going to think of me? Oh well, he was here now, so I had better at least let him in. Maybe I could just pour some wine and drop the whole idea, just spend a relaxing evening, watching a movie or something.

No, that wasn’t going to work. The basic problem still existed, still needed to be solved, and besides, I had dumped this guy once already. Either we tried something different or the whole exercise was pointless. Going on as we did before was not an option for me.

Well, the wine was still a good idea. I was pretty nervous.

“Hi.”

He smiled broadly. “Hi. I, um, brought you these.” He handed me the flowers. I smiled and opened the door wider, ushering him into the living room of my tiny Queen Anne apartment. I nodded over at the bottle on the dining table.

“Pour us each a glass while I get these into some water.”

I pulled a vase out of a kitchen cabinet, filled it with water, cut the ends of the stems, and put the flowers into the vase. When I turned around, Paul had gotten the cork out of the pinot noir and was just pouring the second glass.

“We should let these breathe a little first,” he said.

I picked up one of the glasses and took a healthy swig. Paul just looked at me.

“What? The rest of it will breathe. I needed that now.”

“Are you ok, Olivia?”

“Why?”

“I don’t know, you just seem a little edgy.”

I took a second drink from my glass and looked him in the eye. How the hell was I supposed to do this? Well, only one way to find out if it was going to work.

“Come with me,” I said, then pointed at the bottle. “And bring that.”

Paul picked up the bottle and followed me into the bedroom. Now he was drinking from his glass, too.

“Um, Olivia? Are we even going to talk about, you know, the other night?”

I couldn’t quite meet his eye, so I just started unbuttoning my blouse. His eyes went wide and he opened his mouth but no further words came out. Having sort of thought this through earlier, although whatever plan I’d had was already shot to hell, I wasn’t wearing a bra. When I got the last button undone, I hesitated a moment, though why was beyond me. I mean, it wasn’t like we hadn’t already done it. He had definitely seen me naked before. Why was I so nervous now?

Before I could back out of it, I pulled the blouse open wide and slipped it off my shoulders. Paul’s gaze was firmly on my breasts now, the wine bottle in one hand and glass in the other all but forgotten. I blushed again, the heat spreading across the tops of my breasts, up my neck and onto my face, but I don’t think he even noticed. Moving quickly, nothing especially seductive about it, I shimmied out of my skirt and tugged my panties down. I stepped out of my heels, which frankly I had only put on for greeting him — I don’t usually bother wearing shoes inside the apartment — and stood there before him, naked as the day I was born, blushing even brighter red.

He didn’t say anything. His mouth was still open, and I wasn’t sure if he was shocked or excited. He was definitely surprised. I reached for my glass again and finished it off, then took the bottle from him, refilled my glass, and set the bottle on the nightstand.

“Well?” I said. “Are you just going to stand there?”

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Romantic Conflict

I think it may have been Tolkien who wrote “Adventure is something nasty happening to someone else far away,” though admittedly I am having trouble sourcing this quote today.

As an aside, I did find a similar quote attributed to David Niven: “Adventure. Ah yes. That’s someone else having a very rough go of it very far away. My idea of adventure is carrying a pint of bitters from one smoke-filled room to the next.” (http://www.baenebooks.com/chapters/0743498747/0743498747___6.htm)

Of course, what either of these quotes implies is that while we enjoy reading about adventure (or watching it on film), it may not be something we necessarily want to have happen to us. For all the interest in adventure tourism, or active sports and pastimes, true adventure implies an element of peril not sought for its own sake, but rather risked or endured, perhaps unwillingly, on the way to something else far more desirable.

In other words, adventure is conflict. Most of us seek to reduce conflict in our own lives, but in fiction, without conflict there isn’t much of a story. A group of characters sitting around having the time of their lives may sound like a lot of fun, but it isn’t very interesting to read about.

That means our protagonist is that someone else, and for the story to be interesting, she must have a very rough go of it. Nasty things must befall her, and then she must overcome them, gain strength through adversity, and return to her ordinary world wiser than before, having won the grand prize.

Herein lies the author’s conflict. We spend so much time with our protagonists, our main or lead characters, our heroes and heroines, that it is easy to identify with them. They are the children of our imagination. We grow to love them as we love ourselves, or as we love our best friends, and who would wish nastiness upon their best friend?

Yet we must, for the sake of the other children of our imagination, the stories themselves. We must array armies of conflict against our heroine, in all their serried ranks, and she must lose at least a few battles — though she can win one now and then, too — before ultimately emerging victorious. It’s painful to do, but our heroine must suffer — for the sake of art, of course.

So what does conflict look like in a romance, then? No one is swinging swords at our heroine (unless, perhaps, we are writing a paranormal fantasy romance), nor shooting bullets at her (or are we writing romantic suspense?). The grand prize she seeks, though she may not know it at first, is love. The barriers she must overcome on her quest for this prize are emotional more than physical.

There will be external conflict. She is not the only one seeking the hero’s heart.  She has a rival, one who may stop at nothing to steal the hero away from her. Perhaps her family, or the hero’s family, or workplace rules or societal politics, dictate that they should not be together. Perhaps the hero is, at first, simply uninterested, or he lives in a different world, moves in different circles, such that their paths would not cross in the normal state of affairs.

There will also be internal conflict. The heroine, or hero, or both, may have been hurt before, such that they now avoid entanglements, or they may inwardly consider themselves somehow unworthy of love, or of each other, not realizing at first how far from the truth this sentiment may be. The heroine will harbor some dark secret, some shadow from her past that she has struggled — and failed — to overcome, and just when things finally seem to be on a perfect trajectory, it will rear its ugly head to dash all hopes.

Naturally, she will ultimately triumph, defeating her inner demons and outer rivals, and win the hero’s heart for all eternity, as classic romantic tropes dictate, living happily ever after.

Or will she?

Romance is full of conflict, and in this we find a truth for both fiction and reality.