The Romance of Renovation Shows

Romance? Renovation shows?

Yes, really. Trust me on this.Home Town graphic

A renovation show, especially a show like Home Town (on HGTV), is the house and family version of a romance novel. For those who haven’t seen it, Home Town is set in Laurel, Mississippi, and has woodworker Ben Napier and designer Erin Napier (the most delightful, sweet married couple ever!) renovating older houses for people who are looking to move to their town. It’s the epitome of sweet, feel-good television, and it’s become one of my go-to shows during this pandemic, when I need something to take my mind off of my current reality. It helps keep my anxiety in check, though that’s a whole other post!

Home renovation with people

A renovation show, like a romance novel, has a specific structure. There’s the introduction or first meeting of the house and the people buying it. There’s the plan, and the execution of that plan, the building up of the house, where everyone falls in love. And then, with very few exceptions, something goes wrong. There’s a black moment. It could be the discovery of termites (shudder!) or bats (cute but stinky!) or half your floor rotted away. Whatever it is, it can put the renovation in jeopardy, either through damage or cost. You know that things will work out in the end, but you don’t know how. And then, finally, the building is done, and the people who have bought the house get to see how it’s turned out, and everyone lives happily ever after in their gorgeous house.

A romance novel starts with the meeting of the two (or more) love interests. There’s the pursuing of the romantic relationship, the build-up, the falling in love. And then, there’s something to make the characters doubt their love, or something that gets in their way. And that black moment happens, where you’re not sure how things will turn out, or how they can possibly succeed. But you get to the climax, and love wins out, and everyone lives happily ever after.

See what I mean?

Do you have a renovation show favourite? Or perhaps a romance novel whose story revolves around a renovation? Let me know in the comments! I’m always looking for new shows or books!

A tease of what I’m working on…

Cathy Pegau tagged me, and thus here are my answers!

1) What am I working on?

I just finished a novel for Bold Strokes Books (Betting on Love), and I’m back in gear with The London Game (the sequel to The Paris Game).

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My work has been called ‘gritty noir-romance’, so I tend to work with anti-heroes, and characters of questionable morals.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I’m intrigued by how people can justify doing things that are morally questionable, and how they can still be good-intentioned people even though what they’re doing is wrong. This goes back to reading old noir and detective stories, where the detective or PI is pretty much as morally bankrupt as the guys he’s trying to beat. In one of my favourite books, pardoned gangster Roy Earle (in WR Burnett’s ‘High Sierra’) takes part in a robbery because he owes the man who pardoned him, but yet he still yearns for the everyday: love, marriage, settling down.

4) How does my writing process work?

I’m more of a plotter; at the very minimum I have an outline or a plot summary, and all the main characters have been sketched out. On ‘Betting on Love’, I did up a plot summary, blurb, and sketches for the four mains. It helped, and I wrote quickly and well. (or at least, I think I did! When I get edits back, we’ll see 😉 )

I haven’t tagged anyone else, but if you want to play, drop me a comment and I’ll link to your post!


I finished the first draft of my gangster novel tonight! Of course there’s lots more work to be done (hello transcribing, editing, and the inevitable rewrites.) Here’s the blurb:

THE ORPHEUS is a tumultous tale of gangsters and flappers in 1925 Chicago. Cecilia is a desperate young woman that finds a job as a taxi dancer and meets the love of her life: Nell Prescott, the moll of a top Italian gangster lieutenant named Franky. To evade Franky and in order to be with Nell, she has to pretend to be in love with another, up-and-coming gangster, the Irish-American Patrick Sheridan.

Getting used to pitching my book.

I’ve attended more than a few Christmas parties and gatherings in the last month – probably too many. And one thing I’ve learned is that I need to carry business cards (promoting my blog) with me at all times. Also, the pitch for my novel will get a massive workout.

Discussing my book with friends and strangers has been easier than discussing it with family. Family are excited, but the moment I say ‘erotic fiction’, the squirming begins. I might have a few takers, but definitely lots of love to my grandfather for saying that he’ll read it, but he might find it a bit weird.

Christmas parties with friends this year have turned into actual networking opportunities, as I was fortunate to meet a few other writers (television, mostly) and talk shop. At the one party I’m pretty sure that I repeated my pitch at least a dozen times over the course of the evening. That has helped in refining what bits work and what bits don’t catch much interest. (Using ‘Parisian cabaret singer’ has gone over better as it helps to set the scene as well as identify the character. The phrase ‘seducing a young Canadian student’ is nearly always awkward, and I’m going to have to figure out something better.)

This week I’m off work, so I plan to get as much writing done as I can. I’d like to finish the chapter I’m working on and start on the next. I hardly wrote anything over Christmas and I need to get back at it.

And a bit of a plug, just before the new year…
I learned a lot from the Calgary Public Library’s Writer in Residence this fall, the very awesome Gail Bowen. I’d recommend her books if you’re a fan of mystery novels, and her blog is a fun read!

Sleepless nights…

…often mean productivity for my writing, as those hours whiled away lying in bed usually include a whole host of images and ideas running through my mind.

Last night, I came up with a title for my novel. (I’d had a working title, but I wasn’t especially fond of it.)

Of course, I still would have liked to get more sleep.

Sex? Yes please!

I was chatting to my mother about my novel, and she asked me if there was going to be any sex in it. I said yes, and she asked why.

Firstly, I’d rather have sex in a novel than violence. (I’d also rather have sex in a film, too.) Secondly, I think that people likely have sex more often than they experience violence. I’d like to think that, though I know there are people whose lives will have that reversed. I want to look at intimate relationships, and that often includes sex.

I’m not writing for an audience that only reads award-winning novels. I know that I’m writing for an audience that likes romance novels, that likes erotica, and that enjoys something a bit beyond the norm.

Character Studies

I do some sort of study for the majority of my characters. But for the little bits and bobs for those peripheral characters, the ones that are passing through, or even just those people who might catch your eye as they’re walking on past, I rely upon my people-watching addiction. Whenever I’m out of the house, waiting for the bus, walking downtown, going to the grocery store, or traveling (my favourite), I’m always watching.

You know how your mother told you to keep your shirt tucked in and ironed because someone might notice? That someone is most likely me. I won’t say anything, and I don’t bother making value judgements about what you’re wearing, but it might get noted down on a scrap of paper and filed for further reference.

Two quick descriptions from while I was waiting for the bus:
A professorial type, late 40s, trying to look hip with his carefully chosen jeans – not too worn, but still trendy – and violet sweater vest over a lavender shirt and matching tie. What makes the look are the square glasses and the tweed jacket with elbow patches. And just a bit of stubble with his salt-and-pepper hair.

A tall, stooped older man, scuffing his shoes on the sidewalk. He’s plainly dressed, but his clothes are ill-fitting. He’s holding a paper cup of coffee and at first glance it appears that he is muttering to it. Give him a robe and some rosary beads and he’d be a monk instead of just a bit crazy.

Bienvenue and welcome.

Consider this my foray into Web 2.0 as I work on my novel. I keep reading about securing my ‘brand’, but as “alyssapalmer” and “” were taken, I’m using “alyssalinnpalmer” instead. Take that, people with my name!

So…. the novel.

A chanteuse and an art thief wager over the innocence of a young traveller.

I was going to say “A French chanteuse”, but it seemed a bit redundant. Though I wonder if it would be helpful for those who have no knowledge whatsoever of French? I’ve been trying out both on friends and family and the use of “French” in the premise seems to help establish the scene. I’m tempted to say “A Parisian chanteuse” (or “Parisienne”, if I was going to be fussy) to be even more specific.

Anyway, that’s it. I’m working on a rewrite, and I’ve essentially canned 50K of the original 60K~ story. I’m far more confident with the New Novel, and I’m in possession of a full and detailed outline. Hopefully this time is the charm.