What happens when science meets love?

Romance writers spend a lot of time trying to come up with new and interesting ways to describe what a person feels when they experience love.

It turns out that scientists are also finding intriguing ways of showing what happens when we love someone.

This wonderful video shows a light-hearted competition between six people who are put into an MRI machine and told to think about love. Whoever’s brain lights up the strongest and longest wins.

It’s a simple premise, but what comes out of it is more than a visual depiction of our brains’ reactions to various chemicals or memories. Do yourself a favor – take 15 minutes out of your day to listen to the “contestants” talk about their experiences of love and what it means.

From a 75-year-old man who spends the time reflecting on his wife of 50-something years, to a young man whose heart has been broken, to a 10-year-old boy who thinks about his new baby cousin, it’s a beautiful and life-affirming statement on how varied love can be.

Did you watch it? Did the winners surprise you? If you were taking part in the experiment, who would you think about?

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My favorite quality in a romance novel

I went to an extremely small high school. There were only 46 students in my graduating class (36 girls and 13 boys – yep, pretty crappy odds for a chubby girl with a feathered mullet).

I babysat for my vice principal and our English teacher acted as a chaperone at one of my friend’s sleepovers.

I tell you this so it won’t seem strange that I remember my class getting into a personal conversation with one of my teachers in which we asked him about the women he’d dated before meeting his wife. And I remember how flabbergasted we all were when he shrugged and admitted, “I probably could’ve been happily married to any one of them.”

Shock horror!

We were incensed that he could believe such a thing. Surely marriage was about finding that one person you couldn’t live without, the one who made your life immeasurably better.

Fifteen years later, I still believe wholeheartedly that romantic love is about finding that one person who fulfills you, understands you, and (to borrow a cliche) completes you like no one else.

No. One. Else.

Strangely, it’s taken me twenty years of reading romance to realize that that’s my favorite quality in a romance novel. I want characters who are incomplete without each other.

And even more strangely, I’ve read a lot of romance novels where I just don’t feel this between the characters. These are the books that leave me feeling ‘meh’. But when an author creates characters who fit together like no one else…

that is a book that I’ll read over and over.

What’s your favorite quality in a romance novel? Do you believe it’s possible in real life to find the one person who fulfills you better than anyone else, or is there more than one possible “love of your life” out there?

Why do all the romance heroes have six packs? – Guest post by Roni Loren

First, I’d like to thank Kat for inviting me over here to her blog. You gotta love someone who says–I’d like you to guest post and can you make it about sex? LOL

Why, yes, yes I can actually. : )

A couple of weeks ago, I ran across this article via Twitter (where all interesting things come from) on Slate called P0rn Women Want: Why Does it Make Men So Uncomfortable?  The post was basically about this guy:

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James Deen. (Pauses to snicker about the ridiculous stage names.) But anyway, apparently this guy is causing a stir because he is appealing to women-which is obviously not the market p0rn targets. Here’s what they say of Deen:

Deen has carved out a niche in the industry by looking like the one guy who doesn’t belong there. Scroll through L.A.’s top p0rn agency sites and you’ll find… just a few dozen men available…. These guys all have a familiar look—neck chains, frosted tips, unreasonable biceps, tribal tattoos. Deen looks like he was plucked from a particularly intellectual frat house.

Which of course made me think–yes, this is why most women roll their eyes at p0rn. Beyond the complete lack of story line and emotional connection, the dudes are ugly and the girls are fake-looking. If the male actors looked like Alexander Skarsgard or Bradley Cooper, I’m thinking we ladies might change our mind and take a peek.

Come on, you know you’d look.
But the reason, the article hypothesizes, that guys who are “prettier” don’t get hired in p0rn is because it makes the guys watching it uncomfortable. Because *gasp* they don’t want to have any sexytime feelings about the guys. The post says:

The straight male performer must be attractive enough to serve as a prop, but not so attractive that he becomes the object of desire.

Hmm. Okay, maybe I could see that if a guy is particularly homophobic or un-evolved. But it seemed a little far-fetched. So, of course, I asked my husband (who is mostly evolved and finds p0rn more comedic than sexy) his opinion. After a derisive snort, he said, “It’s not about guys worrying about gay feelings. The reason is the same reason your romance novels have Mr. Perfect as the hero and Ms. Average Every Day Girl as the heroine.”

And you know what? He had a good point.

In fantasy, whether it be via books or something visual, we naturally put ourselves in the heroine’s (or hero’s if you’re a guy) shoes. If the heroine is written as some gorgeous model type who never gains a pound, never has an insecurity, and who wakes up with perfect hair–none of us are going to be able to relate. So most often, romance writers create heroines we “get”. And though she may actually BE beautiful, she doesn’t know it. We only see her beauty through the hero’s eyes when we’re in his POV. (Because isn’t that really our fantasy? That the guy we love sees us as the most beautiful girl even if we aren’t to the rest of the world.)

But on the flipside, in our fantasy, in addition to having the guy be smart and kind-hearted and loving, we do want him to look like Bradley Cooper or Alexander Skarsgard. Men haven’t cornered the market on being visual, you know. It’s not to say we hold up our mates to those six-pack ab, slay the dragon, alpha standards, but everything is exaggerated in fantasy.

Which is the same reason why the guys look like they do in p0rn and the girls are the exaggerated female “ideal” (giant boobs, skinny, long hair, always ready and willing, etc.) The guys don’t want to think–damn, in order to land that kind of girl I’d have to look like Brad Pitt. They want to think, hey, I’m better looking than that frosted-tipped, tribal tattooed guy. I could totally bed this girl.

*snort*

So even though men and women are built very differently, it seems we have some things in common when it comes to this. We’re all a little insecure and we all can go a little overboard in fantasy land. It does kind of make me want to write a less than perfect-looking hero though, just to make a point.

But in the meantime, you can admire the perfect abs of my hero Reid on the cover of CRASH INTO YOU. 😉  *pets*

Any thoughts on all of this? Anyone think it really is guys being afraid the pretty boys will make them think impure thoughts? And how do you like your heroes in your books? Does your mate ever give you flack for reading romance novels with half-naked men on the front?


Roni wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she likes to think her storytelling ability has.
Her debut romance CRASH INTO YOU releases January 3, 2012 from Berkley Heat/Penguin. If you want to read more posts like this one or follow her journey to debut authorhood, you can visit her writing blog FictionGroupie or her author blog. She also tweets way too much for her own good.

Giveaway!

One lucky commenter will win a copy of Roni’s debut, Crash Into You. I’ll randomly select the winner on Tuesday December 27th. Good luck!

5 reasons I wish I were a romance heroine

Many of us romance readers wish we had the same things the heroines we read about get: a beautiful man who adores us, a close community of friends, fantastic sex, and a guaranteed happy ending.

But a tweet from Lauren Plude, editorial assistant at Grand Central Publishing, got me thinking. Lauren wrote: “One of the many reasons I sometimes wish I was a romance heroine–they never seem to have to wait for AM laundry delivery.”

Since I read that while working on a really annoying project, I started thinking about all the little blessings romance heroines have in their lives.

Forget the hot heroes; these are the real reasons I wish I were a romance heroine:

1. They never have to scrub toilets, grout or bathroom caulking.

2. Their hero is always willing to pitch in with dishwashing—often insisting on it without even being asked (unthinkable!).

3. If I were a Harlequin Presents heroine, I could own an art gallery in Sydney without actually having to work hard at managing it while I run around with my billionaire lover.

4. I’d have friends with exactly the skills and experience I’d need to rely on for every problem in my life.

5. Perhaps most importantly, though, nine hours at the office could be glossed over in a paragraph.

What are the little blessings that make you envy romance heroines?

This is cross-posted at The Season

Does it matter what an author looks like?

Have you ever scheduled a professional photography session, then woken up five minutes beforehand, not taking time to wash, brush your hair or gather enough energy to smile?

Neither have I—at least, not since a hot guy I liked looked at my college ID photo and said, “Ugh! Looks like you just woke up from a crack sleep.”

Authors take a lot of care over the photo that will be printed in the back of their books and all around the internet as they promote their work. Debut authors today even get their blog, Facebook and Twitter followers involved in selecting the best photo.

Why? Because, to a certain extent, it matters what we look like. We all want to present ourselves in a way that makes readers feel connected with us, and humans connect when they can read signals in each other’s faces—like a friendly smile. And thank God we do that, because looking around the animal kingdom, it seems that the alternative is sniffing each other’s rear-bits, and I dread to think how publishers would replicate that in the back of a book.

The problem is that we’ve all got insecurities, right? Please tell me I’m not alone in this. Several weeks ago I asked a professional photographer friend at work if he’d take some pictures of me for my blog. Most of the photos I have of myself are taken on holiday, where I look happy but sweaty or tired. Ever since Mat agreed to take my picture, I’ve been putting off the date. My hair’s too shaggy. My brows are too bushy. My chin’s too…well, let’s be kind and say “undefined”.

Those are mostly things I can control. But what about characteristics that we can’t control—like our age—which can lead to others judging us?

Continue reading “Does it matter what an author looks like?”