Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Helen's Spring Break

Sorry, I'm a bit late getting going this morning. Still recovering from spring break in Mexico with my daughter. Group of kids and their parents on a last big senior hurrah. It was the first time I’d ever been to Playa del Carmen, a town located on the Caribbean south of Cancun. First time I’ve ever been to and an all-inclusive resort, as well, but that topic will have to wait for another blog.

That's me in the black shirt at Senor Frog's, and yes, it's a barstool the waiter has his hands on. Puhleez! I wouldn't be caught dead in a bikini.

Hey! Maybe we could have a Happy Hour dedicated to spring break. Now there’s an idea. Take a few Miami Vices and Tequila Poppers, mix them with some Scooby Snacks and some Dirty Bananas, and we got Sex on the Beach!

Like I said, fodder for another blog.

Anyway ...

For all the good food and gorgeous beaches, we could have been at a multitude of different resorts in Mexico. Except for the fact that we were in the heart of the Mayan Riviera, the coastal region once inhabited by the Mayan civilization. Forget the food, drinks, and sand. This is what made my writer’s heart trip a little faster.

Despite the fact that my first book, Treasure, starts out with a Mayan prince placing a curse on a golden cross, last week was my first opportunity to hike around an actual Mayan ruin, something much better suited to my personality, not to mention my skin type, than hanging around a pool or beach. Blame it on my Irish blood, seems my body mostly burns and freckles when situated that close to the equator. I suppose we could also blame my heritage for the need for cervasa in the heat, but that gets us round to the all-inclusive thing again. Geesh!

Back to the Maya.

The Mayan civilization has long been considered one of the most culturally dynamic societies in the world, dating from 1800 BC to around 1700, when the Spaniards came calling. That’s a reign of around 3500 years. By comparison, the Inca ruled for only about 400 years, from somewhere around 1200 to 1600. Although there are still Maya living today, the culture itself is struggling to maintain traditions.

The ruin I visited is called Tulum, apparently the only Mayan settlement along the ocean, developed for it’s natural bay and location along trade routes. The Maya traded up and down the coast with other settlements and cultures. They had written language, used astronomy for calendars, and developed advanced agriculture and architecture techniques. But for all their advances, the Maya were strictly divided by social class.

I walked under the shade of the mangroves and palms at Tulum and couldn’t help but imagine a young farmer boy sneaking through the shadows in the dead of night to visit his princess. Forbidden love, myth, ancient tradition. Those ruins that got the juices flowing. I imagined a modern day hero and heroine somehow involved in a Mayan myth, searching for some ancient Mayan secret. I’m sure there are plenty.

Still, I have to admit, as much fun as it sounds I’m leery of the concept. An agent once told me that adventure romances were a “genre in my own mind,” meaning there was no market for them. I have no sales numbers on how Treasure did and my next adventure romance doesn’t come out until June.

What say you, the readers?
Are you interested in adventure romances featuring everyday heroes? Or is there only room for the military angle? The cops, and the SEALSs, and the marines?

Oh, I almost forgot … a round of kamikazes, bartender. On me!


Betina Krahn said...

What time is it? Noon? Okay, I'll take a kamakaze, too, barkeep!

And as for adventure romance being all in your mind. . . I darn well hope not! I think it's high time we romance folk moved into thriller, action, adventure territory. . .heaven knows the reading world could use some originality and some readable romance mixed with the adventure in those genres.

AND. . . I think our books (yeah, I like to think I write it too!) deserve a special designation. "Romantic adventure" or "Adventure romance". . . either would satisfy me. Right now, we're stuck with simplistic historical or contemporary romance labels. . . not nearly descriptive enough for what we write.

We are writers. . . hear us roar. Our books need better marketing!

Okay, maybe that's the kamikaze talking. Or not!

Betina Krahn said...

Oooooooo. . . Helen. . . I forgot to say how much I love those photos! Great stuff! And what fun to discover it with your daughter! What a great mom you are!

Cindy Gerard said...

Helen I am so jealous!! I have been long fascinated by the Mayan culture and all the mystic and history surrounding it. Hope to visit some ruins myself some day. And as for working adventure into our books - ahem - the time has arrived. Under The Wire is an adventure from start to finish - beginning in Nicaragua, returning to the states and then moving on to the h/h on the run for their lives through exotic Sri Lanka. It's sold well and people seem to like the adventure and the book is a RITA finalist. I'm not mentioning all of this just to hype the book - really - but I'm thinking perhaps we are seeing a shift in the wind. Anyone remember Theresa Wier's "Amazon Lily" (Hi Theresa!!) That book rocked and was a major hit after the fact as her publisher was leery of the concept. Another book "River of Eden" by my buddy Glenna McReynolds (aka: Tara Janzen) was set in the Amazon. Readers loved it, BUT the publisher didn't get behind it because again, they were afraid it wouldn't have mass appeal. They were wrong.
So bring on the action adventure stories - I know I have more planned in my future and I love writing them. And coincidently, one of my upcoming projects is set in the Yucatan and involves a mysterious Mayan artifact. Guess we'll see what happens but I'm curious too about what readers think of these exotic locales and wild adventures.

Helen Brenna said...

Okay, Betina and Cindy, you've got me all pumped up now.

I've read Glenna's River of Eden and loved it. Will have to keep an eye out for Amazon Lily - what a title, Theresa!!

But see, the marketing and publishers not getting behind this kind of book is what I'm worried about.

Time will tell.

Christie Ridgway said...

I love romantic adventures! I really, really like jungle romances. What's the title of the one by Karen Robards where they were handcuffed together. Were they in the jungle or the forest? No matter, I loved it.

Helen, we spent spring break in the Mayan Riviera a couple of years ago. I loved Tulum and Chichen Itza. It was incredible to be so close to what remains of that ancient civlization. We also have been to several Mexican all-inclusives and have had wonderful experiences. I'm glad you had a good time!

Debra Dixon said...

Helen-- It's so odd you're thinking about romantic adventure and a Mayan book and then end one of comments with the phrase "time will tell."

Why? Because the Mayan's had a calendar system about 10,000 times more accurate than the one we use today. There was a History Channel special on yesterday! I'm not kidding.

Mayan's were devoted to all things "time" and keeping track of the universe. They developed very complicated systems.

So, maybe time will tell when it comes to a Mayan adventure romance!

Helen Brenna said...

Christie's remembering handcuffs in a book and nothing else ... hmmmm ... very interesting.

Boy, isn't that the truth about the Mayans and time, Deb? They were obsessed with astronomy and predicting the movements of the planets, etc... Their sacred structures were built around the path of the rising sun. Fascinating. It is ironic that I used that phrase. But true.

Michele Hauf said...

Adventure romance! Yes! That's what I believe I've always written, though you could never tell that from the back cover copy. Publishers dont' want readers to know the adventure quotient is as high as the romance quotient in a story.
Pity about the Bombshells. Maybe if the romance quotient had been higher in those...

I need adventure in my romances. And even in the other genres it's not mentioned all that much. I'm working on a story for the Rogue Angel series right now. (Men's adventure stories featuring a female archeologist hero who wields Joan of Arc's sword.) They are all about adventure and saving the day, but do you know what it says on the spine? Sci-Fi! What the...?

I think it's because bookstores don't have a place to shelve those kinds of books, so they've got to try place them in other genres. Wouldn't it be cool to have an 'Adventure' section in the bookstore?


Helen Brenna said...

I think you hit it, Michele. No room for separate shelf space, and that likely makes publisher's reluctant to spin off an entirely new sub-genre. I guess a lot of romance stories have adventure or suspense elements in them.

Fiona said...

This shows up alot in films, adventure with romance or romance with adventure. It works in any genre, such as scifi, mystery or romance.

I wasn't a big romance reader, until I started reading Romantic Suspense. I love the mystery/thriller part and the romance makes a more complete package for me.

Once I started looking in the romance section, I found many subgenres that I love!

Helen Brenna said...

You can tell a romantic suspense, I think, from the covers.

But what says "Adventure Romance?" Is it the title, the back blurb? I don't see it in the covers.

Kaitlin said...

It doesn't matter what kind of hero is in a book as long as it's well written. There are so many books out there that seem like a retread of a billion other books already out. *sigh* Sorry, rant over. LOL!

I love adventure romances and have read some where the heroine was the tough one and the guy was the fish out of water. They seemed like a breath of fresh air to me. :)

lois greiman said...

Gorgeous pics, Helen. There's so much amazing history out there. It can't help but jumpstart the imagination. And yeah, I think marketing is a little behind the ball where adventure is concerned. So cheers to kick-ass women.

Helen Brenna said...

That's good to know, Kaitlin. My sense, overall, is that reader's have more varied interests than many publishing houses give them credit for.

Cheers to you too, Lois. A little too early in the morning for a Rainbow shot, though. Think I'll stick to tea!

anne frasier said...

thanks for the mention of amazon lily, cindy!

yeah, that book has a really low print run and i never found it in any bookstores -- and it was because it was a romantic adventure. it wasn't even reviewed in RT. that was 1988 and i think a lot of things have changed since then, but it still seems that the problems with the genre have remained. i think it might be that it needs a new description. when i hear adventure i think of two people running, possibly through an exotic location. that's just not compelling enough for me. maybe thriller or suspense might work better because it's broader and give the mind more to post.

love the pictures, helen!

Betina Krahn said...

What says "adventure romance"?

For me it's a pyramid or a shiny bit of gold that looks like treasure or a scroll and some kind of esoteric symbol. How about that? The big three of adventure. . . riches, exotic locales, and mystery. Maybe if those are on the cover, adventure doesn't need to be on the spine. . . because I already know that there will be adventure involved just from seeing those time-tested symbols.

Okay-- now I'm running off the rails, here. Because I really would love to see a "romantic adventure" designation or even better, an "Adventure Romance" label! Until then, the covers will have to convey it. And at the risk of self-promoting, I have to say that the cover for True Desires probably does it as well as any I've seen. (See column to the right. Isn't that a great pyramid? a delicious butterfly? a handsome guy? Together they say adventure to me!)

Helen Brenna said...

You're right, of course, Betina. The covers do often convey the expectation of adventure. On Treasure they used a waterfall. Not a lot, but something. On my new cover Machu Picchu is in the background. I was excited to see that. We'll see if it equates to sales.