When I saw an ad for a position as the Charlotte Romance Examiner, I thought, "I'm a writer. I write romance. This will be perfect for me." It was not a job to make money, but rather an extra-curricular activity—one that was right up my alley.
The challenge to this perfect opportunity was that I was supposed to write editorials featuring the fine city of Charlotte and associate romance to it. After about the third or fourth "Eat at Joes, it is romantic", you're going to start to lose your audience. So, I reconsidered the parameters, which were to focus on romance, and inject some local flare.
I confess, I'm a romantic suspense author, and the fiction demon inside me started plotting immediately. Yes, I held true to the editorial guidelines and submitted articles you would anticipate reading in a venue such as this, but I introduced a new take to the traditional act of restaurant reporting.
This new line of articles will be featured under "Chance Encounters", where instead of a documentary about a restaurant, you will find a three or four paragraph snippet of fiction taking place in that eatery. I thought why not make the reader feel what it's like to be here? Make the reader think that it is possible that they can find romance if they eat in this restaurant.
In addition to this little tangent, I have introduced a character called Leila Jennings, in my "Leila on the Lake" feature. Once a week readers will be able to read the adventures of Leila as she settles into her new life on the lake, just north of Charlotte. Again, they can learn about the area while reading about some of Leila’s eccentric neighbors and coworkers.
See what you get when you mix a romance author with journalism!
Sample from Chance Encounters on the Charlotte Romance Examiner site.
Picture yourself sitting outside the Corkscrew Wine Bar in Birkdale Commons. You are holding a glass of Chardonnay and the soft scent of apple tickles your nose. It is early evening on a pleasant August night. The temperature is cool enough that this wrought iron table beneath a tree is too irresistible to resist. You sit quietly listening to the outdoor band performing a subtle mix of Blues and Jimmy Buffet on the Green. Before you, a bustle of shoppers pass by, some recently released from the Regal Theater. You can hear clips of their animated conversations as they recap the romantic comedy they just saw.
A crowd has started to form at the base of the stage, yet you are far enough away, sheltered in your little force field of tranquility. When the waitress appears with a menu and a smile, you ask for some more time, content to sip your glass of wine and remain a bystander to the activity a little bit longer. As she walks back inside you feel a brief rush of the air-conditioning and you sit back in your chair with a happy sigh.
“Excuse me, are you using this chair?”
Before even looking up you make a quick assessment of your surroundings and see that the outside dining area of the Corkscrew has filled up and there is only one table vacant, seemingly scavenged of its chairs by nearby parties.
“No,” You finally glance up into eyes that are soft and brown. Intrigued your gaze expands, rising just over six feet to take in the image of the man before you.
“I have to finish this paperwork for work,” he explains in a deep voice, “and I thought it might be less stressful with a glass of wine and some background music.”
You glance down at your closed laptop. The same laptop you have purposely neglected in favor of this glass of Chardonnay. Your eyes lift six feet again and you offer a hesitant smile and reply, “No, I’m not using the chair.”