Pale Ghosts – The Evolution of Ideas

Every night, a pale owl perches, standing guard outside my window. It is magnificent and white. I took a walk with my sons, counting long poop stains on my neighbors roofs (great quest for young boys!) We counted 11 homes.

So, if you are my close neighbor, chances are you are being watched over while you slumber. I can’t go to sleep until I look for it now. The owl and I are both creatures of the night. Most writers are.

Naturally, I took to research to find out what kind of owl peers through my windows. My conclusion is that it’s a barn owl, sometimes called a ghost owl. I listened to its call online and the snapping noise was identical. I was sad to read that they only live for 1-2 years in the wild.

Read further to see how my every day ideas develop into words on the page:

1- Connection: This ghost owl reminded me of a ghost raven I wanted to write into one of my works in progress. I’ve mentioned many times before how I LOVE research. When I say research, I don’t mean Wikipedia or listening to boring old professors. I’m talking about delving deep into the cavernous origins that make you question your sanity and everything you hold to be true. I think I like doing research as much as I like to write. It’s hard to decide what to use and what to keep.

Here is a side-note about a writing program called Scrivener. If you are a serious writer, you MUST learn how to use this program. While I am writing my novels, I can link research, notes, and thoughts in a little side bar as my book develops. Before Scrivener, in Word, I used to have two separate documents. One being my novel in progress, and one for all the research, quotes, and findings.

Also, whenever I need to delve even more deep, I schedule a lunch date with my older brother. I don’t know anyone who knows more about the bazaar than him. This says a lot because I have gone to so, so many conferences and many of them being about fantasy and the unusual. I don’t know where he finds half his stuff. Here is a link to his blog ARTDUH.COM. So, I suggest you find someone who is half crazy to bounce ideas off of. 🙂

2- Morph connections into my own creation and history: Back to the pale raven from my novel… Here is a brief example of how I take mythology, legend, and folklore and morph it into my own creation of history. Below you will follow my brain trail and see how I filter and process information and then make it my own.

The Norse God Odin had two ravens. Huginn (thought) and Muninn (memory).


Both ravens flew around the earth and reported what they saw to Odin every night. Make connections… Have we seen this else where, when birds report with information? Hmm… How about Noah and the dove, or even Maleficent and her raven. (hello, my article on resonance) I’ve had a curiosity about ravens from my first reading of Edgar Allen Poe decades ago. I love his writing and have his collections on my bed stand.

3- My mind spins further and I research everything I can find about ravens and how smart they are and their origin stories in most every culture and ancient civilization. Then I find a story that sticks and I ask the question “What if?” — Here is where an author steals. Here is where I make it my own by asking questions. — What If… all the ebony feathers of my character’s pet raven were plucked out, save but one? What If… that scrawny bird and my main character were banished? Upon near death, what if a medicine man, much like my findings in Indian folklore, were to resurrect the bird and it became a pale ghost raven? And that single black lingering feather, was the only tie it had to mortality and loyalty to my character.

4- So then I think of my setting and characters, and think “how can I use this in my book?” How can I morph my findings and ideas into my novel and make it believable? Well, give it life. Give it history. Give it backstory. Ground them into your setting. See things through their eyes. Give them an action that shows their personality. Do I want to make my raven playful by ruffling up my characters hair with its beak? Or do I want to make it sinister by plucking out someone’s eye? Your characters will speak to you, even if it is an animal or bird. Listen to them. Don’t fight who they are.

5- Finally, write. When all the pieces have fit together and I have an idea of where I want the story to go, I do a loose outline. This is when I open my other document or sidebar in Scrivener and jot down all my ideas because they come as fast as a freight train. The scenes and characters open up and it is so fun to see how the story and your brain trail evolves before your eyes.


*** To think… all of this started because of a white owl who spies on me as I sleep. This is what I was talking about in my post Hidden Gems. Ideas are everywhere. Sometimes you just have to open your window and mind to see. I am happy that the ghost owl chose to move in next door to me and bless me with its graceful short-lived presence.

Thanks for stopping by! I love your comments. Have you ever followed your brain trail? Do you have a different method that works for you?


Hidden Gems


This is a photo of me driving up to the mountains looking for hidden gems. It was by sheer accident, as my son snapped a photo of the waterfall, that the reflection on the car glass made my face appear to be part of the cliff. My hair weaves with the crags and crevices. My shoulders and body are clothed with trees and dirt.

There have been no alterations to this photo. I like to think that this reflects how much the mountains, and their plentiful hidden gems, are a part of me. 🙂

* A couple weeks ago I went to a low key concert in a neighbor’s home. The hosts had graciously brought in the talented singer/songwriter, J. Wagner. As usual, I sat, enamored to the songwriting.

Before one of the final songs, the musician talked about the dry spells that writers go through. He talked about a particularly long personal drought and how he wandered and wondered along the streets aimlessly, frustrated about his lost muse. People scuffed past, birds sang above, but still… nothing.

Out of the crowd, a gaggle of women past him. An elderly woman’s voice rang out and found his uninspired ears.

“Honey, I left my laughter buried beneath the river years ago.”

Golden, brilliant gem of words!

He said, that like a flash of lightening, a song came to him and he wrote it down in a notebook that he always kept in his pocket. It soon became this song…

Writers need to open our eyes and ears. And for heaven’s sake, don’t leave the house without a notebook.

So, I just finished up my taxes for the first year as a published author. As I was flipping through my receipts, I thought about all the things I should or could write off. Lunches with friends. Dinners with husband. Mileage up to the canyon. The sack lunch that I took hiking up to hidden hot pots. Writing is woven into every part of my life. Nuggets of inspiration fly through the night sky, or appear in a movie, or are in the way my kids react to one another.

A few years ago I heard a keynote from the amazing author Anne Perry. She spoke about the details in our lives that prick our hearts and make us stand in awe. Her hidden gem is “light dancing on water.” My mother’s is “clouds.” A friend of mine is “owls.” I thought to myself, “mine are the mountains.” If I am ever stuck in my writing, I take to the mountains. I always have, and I always will.

When I was in junior high I had a friend who said he wanted to marry me because he didn’t know any girl who loved nature and the mountains more than I. My husband said the same words. I said yes to him because I knew he was sincere and I loved the way he loved me… and the way he loved the mountains. 

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But what if our dry spell happens for no reason? What if we move to the desert, far away from mountains? Or we live in a city where there is pollution and not clouds? Or what if we are surrounded by all the things that should give us moments of brilliancy and reflection, but our minds are too polluted within the daily dredges that inspiration never gets filtered through?

Look smaller. Sometimes pearls of wisdom and diamonds of dialogue hit us on a crowded street when we are walking around aimlessly.

I find Hidden Gems everywhere. 

Because I look for them.

What is your hidden gem? Do you have a detail in life that inspires you?

Happy writing-


To Prologue or not to Prologue


Whether or not you should write a prologue into your novel, has been a debate that I have seen over the years. The topic has come up many times in writing conferences and during writing competitions.

I have written prologues for every one of my stories… and then omitted them.

Here’s why…

* Most of the time I realized that prologues are big info dumps for either world-building or history. (click here for my post on info dumping) Sure, it is very important information, but can it be integrated or even changed to chapter one with a few tweaks? If you are using the prologue to set the mood or create the setting, uh, why wouldn’t you just do that in chapter one?

* I realized most of the time my prologue didn’t hook my reader. (click here for my post on how to hook your reader.) No one wants to read a boring prologue, no matter how vital the background information. When you pick up a book from the library or bookstore, do you find yourself skimming past the prologue? Studies show that most people do.

* Prologues are sometimes snatched from a scene in the novel and placed in the beginning. Personally, I don’t like this kind of introduction to a story. I think of movies that do this and one of the only ones that worked for me was in Breaking Bad. The opening scene was Walt in his underwear in the middle of the desert.


Every scene thereafter leaves the viewer guessing… how did Walter White get there? When we finally find out, it clicks, but then the story continues past that scene. I think it is easier to do this kind of a prologue in movies, not books. It’s usually a sign of sloppy writing where the writer wants to tell the reader – wait, here’s a glimpse into the good stuff – but you won’t find it until half way through the book.

Personal experiences about Prologues.


* I have entered my works in progress into many first chapter and beginning of book contests. Most every competition has stated that they do not want the prologue included. They want it starting at Chapter One. Why? Because the judges want to get to the meat of the story. When I started to see this over and over again, I realized that I think the judges probably have the same attention span as future readers.

* The best advice I received was for my work in progress, Vagabond. It is a young adult low fantasy novel. Many fantasy and sci-fi novels have prologues. I thought I could bend the rules and keep it in the story because of the genre:

I was told a few years ago, and I wholeheartedly agree, that my prologue had a different voice than my first chapter. My prologue sounded somewhat biblical, which made me happy because that is what I was going for. But, and this is a Big But… the young adult reader would most likely think that my entire story was written that way. People, especially teenagers, have the same attention span as a goldfish. What teenager wants to read something that sounds biblical? Yea, the light dawned for me, too.

* I am in five writing groups. I have read a lot of prologues-in-progress. Last week I went to Dave Farland’s professional writing workshop. Most of us were fantasy writers. Therefore, most of us had written prologues. We contributed and critiqued each others work and I could see how many of the prologues were unnecessary. A few things the instructor Dave said were: don’t use, don’t use, don’t use.

* Personally, I love them in books. I always read them. I write them, too. That is why I write them for myself and then keep them for myself. They are helpful to the author because it fleshes out important information. But it’s best to keep it to yourself or use as deleted scenes for when your novel becomes a blockbuster movie! Prologues generally can be sprinkled into the novel — preferably in the first few chapters. I have used dialogue and short glimpses of backstory from my main character to incorporate the prologue.

* It felt like cutting off a leg when I cut my prologue from Vagabond. Was my story enough to stand on its own? Yes, I think it is stronger now. But I still love my prologue. Most of it was in my villains point of view, so I have sprinkled it elsewhere. I’ll keep it for when my books become movies. 🙂

I would love to hear your comments. Do you like to read or write prologues? If so, why? I would love conclusive evidence.

Happy writing –


Here are a few other blog posts on writing prologues that you might find helpful.

David Farland – My Story Doctor – follow his writing tips! He’s fantastic. I scanned for one on prologues and became impatient because he has maybe a couple hundred excellent tips on writing. So just read through all of them 🙂

Kristen Lamb – 7 Deadly Sins of Prologues – follow her fabulous blog!

K.M. Weiland – skip the prologue – good read!

Foremost Press

Do our tastes revert back to being a child? Here’s mine.


Recently, I attended a writers workshop where we talked about resonance within the genre that you write.

“Learn the language so you don’t sound like a fraud.”

Because fantasy is bone deep with me, I am going to dwell there in my writing for a while. I feel very comfortable within its realm. That is another reason why I love going to fantasy conferences and such. They are my people. I could chat about otherworldly things, forever.

I think back to everything I loved pre-junior high. Something happens to us in jr. high, where our tastes no longer become our own. We become jaded and want to impress others.

Below are some of my favorite things as a child and how I have incorporated them into my writing. These have become a part of my history and makeup. They are woven into my veins just as memory and DNA make who I am. As an adult, my tastes still run along what I couldn’t get enough of as a child.

When it comes to writing and reading, I love fantasy and magical realism.

My first two books that became published, were women’s contemporary fiction. I had written other books previous, but they will never see the light of day, unless I do major overhauls. Contemporary fiction means it could happen in real life. My books were stories that I needed to get out at the time. I will do more like them eventually, but the next 6 books in my queue all have fantasy elements and are geared toward young adult readers.



– Labyrinth. Oh David Bowie, the Goblin King! My first crush, swoon. Honestly, this was one of the most influential of my entire childhood. This was the first time I was introduced to the seduction and the sympathy to the dark side. Ah, and then he would sing and I would just melt. I would watch the entire show just for this song. “As the World falls down.”

– Legend. The conversation below was life changing to me. “The dreams of youth are the regrets of maturity. Through dreams I influence mankind.” I think this whole movie had amazing conversations, especially at the end when they defeat the darkness. “What is light without dark? What are you, without me? I am a part of you all. We are brothers, eternal.”

– Princess Bride. “As you wish.” Need I say more.

– Anything with a horse… when turned into a unicorn, even better.

– The Dark Crystal and The NeverEnding Story. Loved them and was truly frightened of the nothing! “What is the nothing?” “It’s the emptiness that’s left… the despair. People who have no hope are easy to control. And whoever has the control, has the power.”


– The Last Unicorn. This was my favorite animation of all time… ever. Yes, it’s creepy and weird and fueled many nightmares. But I loved it back then. Here’s a funny article I found about the movie.

The 20 Creepiest Moments from “The Last Unicorn”

– Robinhood. This animated disney trumped all the princess movies for me.

– The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit. We would watch all of the animated films from the ’70’s over and over and over.

I really wanted the Orcs to break into this song in Peter Jackson’s rendition. 🙂

– The Secret of Nimh


Thunder Cats


– Bridge to Terabithia. – First book that made me cry. I realized books have a magical power and influence on our emotions.

The Hobbit. My love of the LOTR books came later in high school. Although, I was very familiar with the story because of all animated films.

– The Witches.



– Where the sidewalk ends.

– The Highwayman. This narrative poem is without question, the number one reason why I fell in love with words. Back in the day, I had it memorized, much in the same way Anne did in Anne of Green Gables.


“The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees, The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas, The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor, And the highwayman came riding…

… He rose upright in the stirrups. He scarce could reach her hand, But she loosened her hair in the casement. His face burnt like a brand, As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast; And he kissed its waves in the moonlight, (O, sweet black waves in the moonlight!) Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the west.” The Highwayman – Alfred Noyes




Twelve Dancing Princesses.

– Red Riding Hood.


– Horses.

– Unicorns.

– Brothers action figures.


– I loved everything Pre-Rapheilite and of course fantasy art.

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I just started a Pinterest board of things that influenced me as a child that now resonate into my writing.

What genre do you write in and what are some of the details that resonate with you?

Happy writing-


Crawl out of the hole when writing a memoir.

Sitting alone in a crowded hole

Demons possess my inner soul

Caught in a place I can’t escape

The only way is to sit and wait

Fight the thoughts that encompass my mind.

Hurry up, I’ll soon go blind!

Blind to the consciousness of right and wrong

To lose that feeling, everything’s gone

Be strong enough to conquer the worst.

Crawl out of the hole is what to do first.

– from my novel Broken Smiles by Tara Mayoros


(image found on canyon

Sometimes we are stuck in the holes of our own making. We crawl, we fight, and we can emerge from our despair.

Recently I attended an intimate writers workshop. For some reason, many of the attendees have written or are in the process of writing memoirs. Most of the stories were born from past tragedies of life changing accidents, abuse, and thoughts of suicide. Words bring people together. Words heal. There is something uniquely sweet when virgin words are shared. Un-jaded by the industry, those shared moments whittled away at my heart and left me bleeding for their sorrow.

What does it mean to be brave?

Being brave to me, is sharing words that you know will cause a stir, maybe even a hurricane. One woman shared a piece that was gut-wrenchingly beautiful. She had sat on it for months and months, not wanting to offend others or tell her inner most secrets. Maybe it was because none of us knew each other before hand, or maybe she needed to have validation. For whatever the reason, she shared, and cried… and noticeably, a weight was lifted.

The instructor made a very good point when writing a difficult memory… write it with all of the emotion and feelings attached. Do not fight, do not filter your words. It is therapy. Feel what you write, if you want it to be felt by others.

Then, finally, when the story within you has been told, and a certain time and space has distanced you from it, dissect the placement of each word and scene. Don’t be hasty in publishing your final memoir. When writing memoirs, ask for permission from real life characters because everyone has a different side of the story. Or change the characters enough to not be obvious. When writing characters from real life, you run the risk of keeping those people and scenes in the past. You have suspended them in time by publishing them into your book. Do not imprison you and your characters into a book that you wrote fifteen years ago and the situation and people have changed personally.

Expect others to shy away from you. Expect judgements. You must put aside the fear of upsetting friends or family members. It will stunt you if you can’t get past writing the “safe” writing. If your words emerged from a sincere and ernest soul, how could you keep those words inside of you to simmer and boil from the inside? It feels a lot like climbing out of a dark hole, not knowing what the terrain will be like once you have solid ground.

Here are a few ways to dig deep and write a memoir:

Narrow down your life experience: A memoir isn’t your autobiography, it is a peek into your life. It is often one experience that impacted your life greatly. Focus on this one experience to share your message.

Pull out old photos, journals, and objects: This will help bring back the memories. These objects tie you to the past and will help you relive and resurrect the thoughts and feelings you had at the time.

Allow your emotions to flow: Do not write from your mind. Write from your heart. If the memories are scary and confronting, do not close your heart. Your writing will fall flat. I think it is important to write everyday to keep the feelings alive and fresh.


The silver lining of the long unseen clouds is that your memoir has the ability to change lives.

Many of the authors at the workshop, who were brave and took the plunge of publishing difficult words, shared reviews and comments from readers. The readers said that their books saved their own life or changed how they viewed the world. What better payback is there? No amount of royalties or fame can compare.

Isn’t it worth the fear of being judged?

I have started writing two different memoirs. It is difficult. Much harder than writing fiction or even non-fiction. Quite honestly, I have written fiction to escape what I would put into my memoir. I don’t know when I will ever be able to share my memoir, but in the meantime, I answer the call of my memories and crawl out of the hole which has kept me prisoner… and just write.

I love to hear from you. Please comment if you write memoirs or even blog and journal and have insight.



Branding… are we cattle or something???

“Step right up and let me assess your brand,” said the man in front of the velvet frosted counter. He tipped his top hat at me and then the magician at the eclectic carnival waved his magic wand.

I responded, “okay.” Because, well, who doesn’t want to know what in the world our brand is.


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His cape and bow tie, tinged with green silk and pressed to perfection, moved with grace as he bowed down in front of me. His gaze lingered at my shoes because, well, look how awesome they are.


Our eyes met again and when they did so, I noticed them glint behind his round spectacles.

“You obviously use your pen to wield great and terrible poetry,” he said. “You are a poet. Come hither, oh great one, and let me sell you a tale or two.”


None of this exchange actually happened, but my over active imagination saw this in full detail. I think the only real comparison was the perfectly coiffed mustache that splayed out from the corners of his smiling mouth. I do remember that fabulous mustache and maybe that is what sparked my imagination.

How this really played out was that I was at a fun fantasy and sci-fi writers conference for a bit this weekend. The guy behind the velvet covered table recruited people as they passed to enter into his competition for short stories and poetry anthologies that he published.

“You write poetry, don’t you?” he said as I walked by. I thought of the boxes and boxes in the basement full of discarded rhymes and riddles that I had marked as steaming piles of garbage that should never see the light of day.

I nodded my head. “Why yes, yes I do.” Okay, so maybe there were a few of them that deemed worthy of sunlight.

“Great, I knew it. I could just tell.”

I raised my eyebrows. A bit suspicious and a bit flattered.

“Well,” he said, handing me a flyer. “Let me tell you about this really cool opportunity…”


Earlier, like cattle, the crowd mooooved between classrooms where we could feed ourselves and munch on what other authors had to say. I sat through horror classes because I love to read and write horror. I sat through the genesis of mythology and folklore class because I use an over abundant display of that in my work in progress. Then there was the picture book class, the paranormal romance what-nots, and the marketing do-nots.

That conference experience didn’t really fill my brain with new, mind blowing insight, but I did learn some fun things and I went because, as an author, I believe we should remain teachable as I have shown in this post. But my experience with that conference did leave me wondering… what is my brand?


When I show up, do people envision me wearing armor because of my rally cry like in this post? If they do, I sure hope I have a sharp sword and majestic shield.

Or am I seen as a skier or a rock climber or a gardener?

But what about when it comes to writing? I know I am still a novice author. I probably should have thought about branding as a child and decided that I only wanted to write in one genre of fantasy, or horror, picture books, or romance. I should have, but didn’t. Now I am stuck here with a polyglot jar of genres.

I believe my brand will evolve as I evolve in my writing. As I publish more books, I will find my niche. Or maybe it will find me as I just continue to write for myself and not for others.


I suggest you just write. Don’t follow the crowd that often leaves you confused. I don’t think any of us know where we are going anyway. Maybe we are even following each other to the slaughter houses. So just write what is in you.

Often times the world doesn’t need your story at this point. You need your story.

I have a vision what I would like my brand to be. But then again, who didn’t dream of being the homecoming queen, or the captain of some sports team, or even the school newspaper photographer. Yes, I am referring to the cliques we find in high school. The more I go to these conferences, the more I see the similarities.

But people do classify, and readers often find an author they like because of the writing style. They become loyal because they know what to expect from you. In the meantime just write, write, write and your brand will show up… just like magic.


I love to hear from you. What is your brand? Do you have one? If so, how have you created your brand?

Happy writing –


Heat Ratings in Romance… should it be like the ratings in Rock Climbing??

I have been thinking about the different levels of heat in Romance novels lately.

There have been times that people told me I needed to add more heat into my novel Broken Smiles. There have also been times that critique partners told me I need to tone down the steam. Where is the balance? I decided to delve in and discover all of the levels of romance and what certain target audiences expect. This is mainly for my reference, and I am glad to share and hope that it will help some of you.

As I was thinking about what rating system I wanted to compare this to, I thought about rock climbing. I love rock climbing and had many friends growing up who were hard core climbers.


(photos of me, Tara, in Rock Canyon and Mystery Canyon)                                       


As romance novels become more and more mainstream, there needs to be a definite rating system. I don’t mean to throw the climbing community under the bus by referring to them, but the rating system they use is genius.

By going into detail and explaining each romance category in terms of 1-15a,b,c,d, the guessing game of heat level would be out in the open. There wouldn’t need to be a board of directors or big debates on what should go where when it comes to levels of sizzling heat in romance. We could simply look at it through the eyes of a child. And so that is what I have done…

*No Romance at all would be comparable to the rock climbing ratings of Class 1 to Class 4. These rock climbing ratings begins with:


Class 1 – Walking on an established trail

Children’s books, picture books


Class 2 – Hiking up a steep incline

Early Reader, Middle grade reader


Class 3 – Climbing up a steep hillside

Upper middle grade or Young Adult. Platonic interest between boy and girl.


Class 4 – bouldering or following a ledge. Sometimes a rope will be used for help.

Young Adult mild swearing or love interest. Internal emotions, but no follow through.


***The tricky bit is when we get to Class 5 in climbing. This is when ropes are used and technical rock climbing begins. Past Class 5, the climbs begin to become subdivided into categories.***



Class 5.0-5.4- climbing up a ramp or steep incline with good holds.

Super Sweet Romance – An innocent look, an internal feeling by one or more of the characters. No swearing.


Class 5.5-5.7 – steeper, more vertical. Still good holds and easily protected.

Sweet Romance – Maybe a brief touch or a steamy look. A walk around a garden alone (in historical fiction) Realistic sexual tension.


Class 5.8 – Vertical climbing on small holds

Mild Romance – Hand holding, a quick hug. Internal thoughts and feelings of love or lust.


Class 5.9 – Rocks might be slightly overhung, or smaller hand holds. With practice, beginner climbers can climb with confidence

Clean Romance – A brief kiss. A warm hug. More internal thoughts and feelings described in detail.

***Get clipped in, because it starts to get more intense!***


(My good friend Emily Ernst “rockin'” American Fork Canyon.

She told me this was about a 5.11a – I don’t believe her 🙂 )


Class 5.10 – This is where it becomes more intense. A beginner rock climber does not feel comfortable in this range unless they go often or have natural talent. The classifications break down even more into a,b,c,d.

Spicy Romance – a) A more intense kiss, closed bedroom scenes, b) maybe some swearing. c) If lovers do make love, it is implied and not graphically depicted. Much is left to the readers imagination. d) The focus is still on the emotions rather than the body parts.


Class 5.11 a,b,c,d – Steep and difficult routes with powerful and technical moves. Above average skill.

Steamy Romance –  a) Open door bedroom scenes, some nudity. b) We get heated feelings from the characters, but not in graphic detail. c) Maybe one or two mild love scenes in the novel and they tend to be longer scenes. d) Infidelity.


Class 5.12 a,b,c,d – Overhanging climbs. Requires delicate footwork on thin holds or long climbs requiring a great deal of balance. Expert level.

Hot Romance – a) Nudity and intimacy in detail. Authors start to use funny words to describe the intimate parts. b) Internal thought and dialogue are meant to make you feel that you are the one experiencing the sensations. c) The focus throughout the book are sexual feelings and desires. d) More description, but nothing wild or kinky.


Class 5.13 a,b,c,d – Very difficult climbs. Elite athletes.

Erotica – a) Hard core. b) Explicit language and bedroom scenes. There probably isn’t much of a story line at this point. c) The focus is mainly on sex. It probably takes a very gifted author to have a storyline beyond sex. But this is a Billion dollar industry, so there is a demand. I don’t think people read this genre for literary purposes!


Class 5.14 a,b,c,d – These climbs are among the hardest in the world and very few can even attempt them.

Graphic Erotica, a) Extremely explicit scenes and language. b) BDSM, c) rape, all explained in full detail with all of the feelings described. May include what others consider kinky. This is unlike rock climbing in that this genre is becoming mainstream. It is front and center in grocery stores and gas stations. Movies are being made.

***Often I have seen personally where girls have gone from reading Class 5.0-5.4 to Class 5.14 with no preparation or maturity in between. Imagine the years, the hours, and the training a climber dedicates to this level of skill. You can’t stick a beginner on an over hanging ledge and say “climb.” Nor should you. They would fall, they could die. Why then, is there no rating system to prepare or caution early readers?***


Class 5.15 – Very few people can climb on this level. I think Spiderman skills are needed.

Beyond Romance and Erotica- Think of the worst or most graphic thing you can think of, combine them all, and this would be there.


(My awesome sister Traci Stewart rock climbing on Moon Hill in China.

Climbs range from a 5.10b-5.14a)



In Rock Climbing, when new harder climbs are found, a new number is made. It is impossible to imagine someone being able to find and climb a 5.16. Just as it is impossible to imagine what will be acceptable and written in the literary world. This rating system leaves it open to both. Incomprehensible, but possible.

The thing I have found is that romance in novels can be very subjective. Everyone has different lines they will or will not cross. I have found this as I have been exposed to the romance writing community. There is a definite line that I will not cross in my writing and what I feel comfortable reading. The frustrating part comes when you don’t know what to expect when you pick up a book and then you invest in a story line and it takes you to a place you are frustrated or become uncomfortable with. Much in the same way that a cliff face might look climbable from below, but once you get half way up, you realize you are stuck.

Rock Climbers, I love you! You are genius (and hot!) May us romance writers use or borrow or steal your rating system??

Thanks for “hanging” with me and happy writing –