Tuesday, November 13, 2018

A Sultry Performance Available for Pre-Order! / Trends in Romance Novels: Conform or Dare to be Different?

When I was in junior high, a number of the kids in my class went out and purchased the same Tommy Hilfiger jacket, all in different colors. With billions of fashion items available for sale in the market, their statement had obviously been a planned one, and one thing was clear. A trend had been born, one that others would take notice of and ultimately, emulate. It's hard to say what makes something catch on with people and something else not but when my parents bought me that same jacket in yet another color I felt as though I had conformed somehow. The popular kids in my school might believe I'd gotten the memo somehow, but there was nothing unique about my style. I'd lost my originality, become a follower, if you will.


Much like athletic attire marketed to adolescents, romance novels too, go through waves of trend. We've seen billionaire romances reign as the "it" thing, as well as stories about vampires. I hear cowboy romances have made something of a comeback, too (Which is great to hear! Though I do believe many of these stories being published today are contemporaries. I love a great, Historical Western!). As was the case with my classmates though, it isn't always clear where these trends begin--with movies, perhaps, or a bestselling novel by a well-known author? Once a trend is born however, many of us are surely tempted to follow it. As authors, we are hardly an exception to this temptation. We know there's a built-in audience for a particular niche or sub-genre, so we, or our publisher, encourages us to write this type of story. There isn't anything wrong with conforming a bit.  Brilliant works can be born this way. As long as they are the stories of your heart, that is.



"Write the story that's in your heart." I've heard this advice given many times and though I believe the good-hearted authors who give it are as well-meaning as anyone, I also feel that at times it is said tongue-in-cheek, as, let's face it, we're all trying to make a name for ourselves in this business. And though few of us may be able to afford to write full time, the rest of us are probably striving to get there. Can we really afford to look a gift horse in the mouth, particularly in a world where said gifts are few and far between?


I've been a published author for 7 years. I consider myself to be at the early stages of my career and though I've never been personally tempted to write to a trend, I have been told on a couple of occasions by caring fellow authors that stories about dancers, like the characters in my Rabourn Theater Series, are not the hot item right now. I considered that advice a bit. But the truth is that I fell in love with this series before I started writing it! Two powerful families battling for control of the artistic world they've dreamed into life--it isn't all that unlike the world we live in, when you think about it. Except at Rabourn Theater, characters often act on the passion many of us hold inside. And though battle hard, fighting powerful adversaries and facing plenty of danger along the way, all those good-intentioned heroes and heroines will find love AND achieve their happily ever after!


There is hardly shame in writing a story based around a popular romantic trope--we are strengthened as writers when we perform outside our comfort zone, and as readers, when we sample a sub-genre we weren't planning to, and a new love is born. But if you've got a story inside you that must be told, be bold enough to take the risk to write it, even if the odds of success are stacked against you. The only "bad" story is the one that is never written at all!     


Drama has returned to Rabourn Theater!

A Sultry Performance is now available for Pre-Order!




Chris Gordon will do anything to avenge his wife's murder, but falling in love with her killer's fiancee wasn't part of the plan...


Available for Pre-Order:


Amazon:



Barnes & Noble:




Enjoy an exclusive Excerpt from A Sultry Performance:





     

Friday, October 26, 2018

Romance is Happiness, A Sultry Performance Releases December 4th and My Review of When Lightning Strikes by Brenda Novak

As an author, one of my favorite questions to be asked in an interview or panel discussion is "Would you ever write in any other genre besides romance?" Though I rarely say never to anything, my answer to this particular question is always a resounding, "No!" Why? Because romance is what drives me to write the words I do, romance excites me in ways nothing else does. I'm a writer second, a romantic first. It's love, passion and happily ever after that are running through my veins. I didn't realize it at first but romance was what got me into writing in the first place and what made me the author I am today.


Recently, I had to take a long hiatus from writing. I was juggling a million different priorities in my life and though I swore to myself that I would always make the time for writing, for a while there I simply couldn't do it. Recently however, I began making a transition to slowly incorporate writing back into my day and what a positive impact it has made! More so than any sort of work I might be doing, I look forward to my writing time. I cherish it. I think about it when I'm not doing it and I dream about my characters when I'm asleep. Yes, my mind is working overtime to fill in plot holes, to make sense of where my story is going, to get to know my characters at the core of who they are. But more so, I simply can't get enough romance in my day. Romance, particularly romance which contains some element of suspense, excites me in a way that nothing else does. I love when two unlikely characters realize they're in love with the worst possible person that they could be in love with. I love when there is a villain, not an absolute monster necessarily, but an antagonist just evil enough to drive the heroine straight into the arms of her waiting hero.  I love to see that same villain reform later on, not a necessary ingredient in a good romance, but one I especially like to explore in my own novels. After all, what could be more romantic than seeing a man whom everyone else saw as nonredeemable, turn his life around in a major way and get his own happily ever after?

No offense to other genres, because all forms of fiction are fantabulous in my book! But if the book I'm reading doesn't contain some element of romance, I'm likely to put it down. I need a dashing hero to sweep me off my feet and I want to experience every moment leading up to him doing it. I know I'm not alone in this. It's been said a million times but a really good love story never gets old!          




Drama has returned to Rabourn Theater...



A Sultry Performance Releases 
December 4, 2018!





Chris Gordon will do anything to avenge his wife's murder, but falling in love with her killer's fiancee wasn't part of the plan...


Preview an exclusive excerpt from A Sultry Performance:





My Review of 
When Lightning Strikes by Brenda Novak:




I actually purchased this story by accident. I'm a fan of Brenda Novak's romantic suspense novels, but contemporary romance isn't typically my sub-genre of choice. I'm not one to stop reading a story once I've started it, however, so I read on. I'm so glad I did! When Lightning Strikes is an enjoyable read with a satisfying ending and a number of surprises along the way. Simon is a well-known actor who's made a number of mistakes, but the thing he regrets most is losing custody of his son, Ty. Gail is a journalist who's written a number of articles about the playboy actor and is almost as stubborn as he is. The two are like oil and water, and when they find themselves in the middle of a PR nightmare, they decide the best option is to marry one another, an elaborate stunt intended to save Simon's reputation along with Gail's career. What they actually do however is save one another on a much deeper level as the two fall unexpectedly, head-over-heels in love. Their story was a little slow at times but what absolutely amazed me was the way that Ms. Novak took an unlikely hero and heroine--who really hate each other as the story begins--and make them fall in love. Watching this happen was highly enjoyable and though I generally prefer a bit more suspense and danger, there are a couple of big twists that made my jaw drop, one in particular. Well written, and I love that a good bit of the story is set in Whiskey Creek--small town romances are always fun!  









Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Power of Creativity and A Sultry Performance Cover Reveal

Sitting at breakfast at the New Jersey Romance Writers Conference several years back, I remember being especially moved.  Conferences are designed to motivate us as writers, to bring together a community of people who share a similar passion so that we can all learn, motivate and inspire one another.  But this particular speaker blew my mind.  I'm embarrassed to say that I can't even remember who our breakfast speaker was at this particular conference but she had me walking away from the table feeling like I was going to change the entire world by writing romance novels. I don't believe I've done that as of yet, but give me a little time! I started writing very young, and have been motivated to do it ever since. I was, at least, until one day, I wasn't.


Like most people, I have many friends for whom, writing is not their passion. I'll break that down even further and say that writing FICTION is not their passion--it is a rather tight knit community of people who would rather make up their own stories, versus living in the "real world" every minute of every day. I've also heard writers who once loved writing say that writing no longer brought them joy. My heart broke for those writers and I thought that will never be me. I'll live my entire life through, have a career, a family but writing romance will always be my passion, my purpose. Then, things began to change, like a torrent I couldn't control. The web designer I'd been using since the beginning of my writing career shut down. Changes occurred at my publishing house. And in the midst of all of it, I fell in love. The most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me affected my inspiration in a major way because what I had been searching for in my heart was found. I had my other half. And I lost my inner muse in the process.

I've been reading articles in RWA's Romance Writers Report, written by authors who share my feelings about our modern day world. It's tough out there right now and as if the negativity that is rampant in our day-to-day lives and our internet isn't enough to dry up inspiration, the money isn't always there. Lines are cut by publishers, sale numbers aren't always what we expect them to be and authors who had a lot of success just a few years ago don't necessarily have that success today. That's enough to make any writer feel as though they're on a fool's errand, only, we're not fools. We're wonderfully talented, uniquely gifted individuals with the power to entertain.  We evoke laughter and tears and happiness and with that ability, we hold the power to reshape this cynical world we live in for better or for worse. Don't ever forget that, guys! 


We all have ups and downs in our writing careers, and in our lives. I experienced plenty of both this past year and having come through it a stronger person, I've remembered that I have a responsibility to my creative mind. I may not always have the time to write as much as I might like to, but writing is a part of my soul. It is as much a part of who I am as the body I reside in and I plan on making the most of it. I begin today by doing something I've been looking forward to for some time, revealing the cover of my 8th novel, A Sultry Performance. This story was even more fun to write than the two before it, though as with all of my stories, you need not read the other titles in the series to enjoy. Chris Gordon, stage manager at Rabourn Theater will do anything to avenge his wife's murder, but falling in love with her fiancee's killer wasn't part of the plan! Fasten your seatbelts cause this one's gonna be a bumpy ride! Release date will follow shortly!

Thank you so very much my dear readers and friends, for your support, encouragement and love! This story, and the final 2 titles in the Rabourn Theater Series are for you!



I'm thrilled to reveal the cover of 
A Sultry Performance! 

Click on the cover to preview an exclusive excerpt from the story! 



Chris Gordon, stage manager at Rabourn Theater, suspects his late wife's hit-and-run was never an accident. He believes the man she was having an affair with, Oakley Sutherland, was responsible and he vows to get Evelyn justice, igniting a plot to ensnare Oakley, working through Oakley's fiancee, Victoria.

A well-known exotic dancer by night, Victoria Morrow has been fighting to make a better life for herself, and she won't be taken advantage of. But when the most handsome man at Rabourn Theater takes an interest in her, she finds herself spiraling down a path she never expected to. Can Victoria resist Chris's charms? Or will both of them fall prey to the danger that lurks in the wings?


  

Friday, October 5, 2018

The Digital Age - Delightful or Dangerous?

I recently received a letter from fellow author Jel Jones.  Though Jel and I have never met in person, we have a great deal in common, and we bonded over our similar interests in books and tranquil imagery, on Facebook.  It's ironic that we met through social media because it was Jel's instinct to send me an "old-fashioned" snail mail letter, which got me thinking about how much our world, and more specifically the world of books, has changed in such a short period of time. I am rather new to the world of publishing, as I have only been a published author since 2011. But things have changed rapidly in our industry in the last seven years and I wonder, as I observe social media outlets constantly updating and making "improvements" to their sites, where this is all going. Where is the world of fiction headed?


It wasn't all that long ago that the internet did not exist. Paper newspapers, the kind that got ink on your hands as you read them, were a primary source of news for most people. Magazines (actual paper magazines) were poolside reading and paperback novels were the way fiction was delivered to eager readers. I know many readers who still prefer reading a paperback novel over a digital one (myself included!) but the dawning of digital publishing changed things exponentially. Traditional publishing was the only form of publishing once upon a time, meaning the authors were at the mercy of the gatekeepers, so to speak. On the other hand, there were a number of traditional publishers then that no longer exist today, which equated to many more lines through which authors could have their work exposed to existing readers. Contests, such as Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart Contest, might have played a critical role in launching an author's career, as it meant getting your work in front of agents and editors who played a key role in making one's dreams come true. Once this happened, your traditional publisher did something that is becoming rarer and rarer today - they helped authors market their books. For instance, publishers sometimes advertised a book club, something a reader could join through which the publisher would send them a select number of titles in a month. As there was no internet of course, these clubs were advertised on an old fashioned postcard, inserted into a book in such a way that the reader could tear the card out, complete it and mail it into the publisher. It sounds as though I'm talking about something that must have occurred a hundred years ago! But as older millenials such as myself, or certainly anyone older than us could tell you, it really wasn't that long ago.

What's so bad about progress, you ask. After all, the dawning of new technology has given authors the opportunity to take control of their own destinies, and as one who has never considered herself a team player, I don't necessarily see this as a bad thing. But, as I recently observed that my eyes felt quite strained after yet another long day at a computer I realized just how much that our world really has changed. It's almost unheard of these days not to have a smart phone, not to drive past a bus stop and see the kids who are waiting for the school bus not engaging in conversations but instead scrolling through their phones.  They might be reading a digital book. Though, my gut instinct tells me that is probably not the case.


I've attended many workshops in which authors are told that it is absolutely essential to an author's career today, to have a social media presence. Workshop moderators insist that even if author's aren't necessarily into the idea, it's still good to be present on at least one or two social media outlets, just to let readers know you're alive. I agree with this thinking to a degree, but I see the harm in it as well. First of all, no matter how much we may tell ourselves that we're going to limit our time on social media, we almost always wind up spending more. We're curious about what our friends have recently posted, and it's critical, of course, that we do our own posting as well. Replying to comments has become more important than reading the mail. And don't even get me started on political posts. Authors who once got together on Facebook to share pictures of their dogs and grandchildren are being torn apart by a political war exacerbated by the ease with which messages are sent back and forth across the web within the blink of an eye. Is this really benefiting our writing careers? How about our human relations in general?


I miss the days of sitting in my mother's yard, with a glass of lemonade in one hand and a paperback book in the other. I miss the feeling of being able to truly shut out the world around me when reading or writing a good book because in essence the world is NOT all around me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Naturally, I write this message as a blog post which I will later share with my reader and writer friends through social media. But I do hope those who agree with my thinking will somehow find a way to step back from it all and strive to simplify our lives once again, and to remember what used to make the world of fiction and romance so great. Books are still the greatest source of relaxation. I only hope that by the time that it is finally my turn to take my own kids to the library to pick out books to read, there will still be a library to take them to! 



My review of Four Brothers in Love by Jel Jones:




   

I greatly enjoyed Four Brothers in Love, as it is not your every day, run-of-the-mill romance novel. Where another author might have broken the stories of each of these four brothers out into individual books as part of a series, Jel Jones combines their stories, alternating scenes between brothers Rome, Paris, Britain and Sydney and their respective partners, making for a colorful, dynamic read.

Veronica Franklin, mother to the story's heroes, is a force to be reckoned with. As her late husband Ryan made a name for himself in the acting world, Veronica believes her sons should do the same, and nothing less will do, least of all careers at Franklin Gas, the family business, as it happens. Veronica believes her sons should fall in love with and be married to women whom she sees as worthy of them, namely, rich women, and she manipulates numerous situations in order to get her sons together with the women she deems their best prospects, their next-door neighbors, the Taylors. I kept waiting to see when Veronica would get hers, but there are many twists and turns in this story as this well-meaning widow is hiding dark secrets which gave me reason to pause and sympathize with her character.

Brothers Sydney and Paris quickly fall in love with the Taylor sisters, but there is much complication in the works for the eldest brother, Rome, and his younger brother Britain. Courtney, a young woman who works for Franklin Gas quickly replaces feelings she believed she had for Rome, for his younger brother, as the two share lunch together. Her crush spirals out of control and when Britain rejects her, Courtney finds herself once again entangled with the eldest Franklin brother, and the drama only intensifies from there. Meanwhile, Paris is caught up in his own real-life drama, but you'll have to read the story to see it all unfold!

Another element that distinguishes this story from your everyday romance novel is the ending - the book ends on a suspenseful cliffhanger I never saw coming!

This book is the first I've read of Jel Jones's titles and it was a real treat! I enjoyed getting caught up in the drama surrounding the Franklin brothers and I can't wait to read Four Brothers in Darkness!



My Review of Four Brothers in Darkness by Jel Jones:




I greatly enjoyed Four Brothers in Love, the first title in this series, and was very much looking forward to Four Brothers in Darkness. Definitely worth the wait! This book lives up to its title as nearly every character is dealing with some sort of darkness, a tragic loss or an unexpected occurrence, namely a very suspenseful one.

The story begins where Book 1 ends on a cliffhanger, where Sydney Franklin, one of the four brothers, has been abducted by their later father's former agent, Jack Coleman. Jack appears to be unhinged, as he confesses to having been in love with Ryan Franklin and intends for Sydney to serve in his father's place, as his partner. Sydney assures Jack he isn't gay, and upon coming to regret his actions, Jack starts a fire and appears to take his own life. Did Jack really die in the fire? Meanwhile, Sydney has his own theories that Mr. Coleman mistook feelings of friendship toward his father to be more, and doesn't hate the man who abducted him the way others around him believe he should.

Rome Franklin, the oldest brother, is dealing with problems of his own. Finally married to the woman he loves, Rome believes he has everything a man could ask for until a tragic plane accident takes the lives of his new wife Amber's children. Amber goes into shock, threatening their marriage, and very existence.

But perhaps the person to suffer the most in this story is the Franklin brothers' Aunt Catherine. Catherine's ex-husband comes back into her life, hoping to make amends and start anew. But he's keeping a big secret, and when things go awry and Antonio is shot, a chain of events ignites, prompting Catherine to confess to his murder.

There are twists and turns aplenty in this page-turning story. Get ready for another cliffhanger and fasten your seatbelts! Four Brothers in Darkness will remain in your mind long after you've turned the last page! 

Saturday, September 29, 2018

How My Love of Soap Operas Inspired My Passion For Writing Romance

Yesterday, on social media, I took the liberty of posting the following comment:

Preempting soap operas for news briefings at the expense of loyal viewers is the real crime in America. This needs to be stopped!

Though I was not making a political statement, and was pleased to see that I did not receive any negative commentary in reply, I did hesitate, at first, to make this comment, as I was unsure of how it would be construed. Fortunately, my friends in the writing and book community took my words exactly as I intended them, to, through a bit of light humor, convey the notion that soap operas are a very important part of my life. I don't feel that humorous romantic fiction should be brushed aside for yet another broadcast of news that can be viewed on countless other channels including channels owned by the same networks - many people agree with me. And I'm hoping to inspire more people to see the importance of having downtime in our lives, especially that which is gained through reading, writing and watching fiction. As someone who lives in a household where fellow adults are glued to the news day in and day out, I find a constant flow of mildly-suspenseful, romantic stories to be a critical ingredient to being inspired, and staying positive overall.

My first introduction to the world of soaps began when I was 6 years old, watching Days of Our Lives with my mother.  I was lucky to have a mother who could be at home with me as I was growing up, and even luckier that in the midst of her enjoying a show she loved herself, she inadvertently introduced me to a world of danger, suspense, drama and romance unlike anything my very young self had ever seen. As any fan of soaps could tell you, the storylines in this medium never really end--one blends into another and yet another leading to often larger than life scenarios. Writers are let go, actor changes are inevitable and consequently, stories, at times, are better than at others. Fortunately, for me, timing at this most impressionable age was very much on my side. Romance on Days of Our Lives in the 80s was at an all-time high, as the focus of most every story was "super-couples," couples for whom falling in love lasted forever, much like the happily ever after we're guaranteed in our romance novels. One couple in particular kicked it off for me in a major way. I owe much of the inspiration I found in my early days to magical romantic adventure of characters Jennifer Horton and Jack Devereaux.

I don't remember all the ins and outs Jack and Jennifer's romance.  I was quite young, as I've said. I do however remember a few key things about their early days that I will always carry with me. Jack is a flawed hero. Believing himself to be the product of his evil father and stepfather, he commits unthinkable crimes and naturally, he comes to believe himself to be unworthy of love. Enter Jennifer, who, by Salem's standards is both highly innocent, and very much a class act. She sees something good in our flawed Jack that no one else does. Very much in love with him, knowing he is secretly in love with her too Jennifer persists, even when Jack pushes her away countless times. Even a strong heroine has her limits. A fight worse than the others they've have pushes Jennifer into another man's arms, and as she is about to walk down the aisle with that man (in true soap opera form!) it is at that moment that Jack realizes he cannot live without her. He abducts Jennifer on the day of her wedding and takes her on a fire truck (yes, on a fire truck!) to her family's cabin in the woods. The romance, as I'm sure you can imagine, only gets better from there, as does the suspense and though "Jennifer" has been involved in countless other stories on the show since the 80's and "Jack" let go numerous times, I have never forgotten the highest point of their story. It inspired one of my first novels, Dangerous Secret, and more importantly it inspired my author brand with the notion that former villains can be reformed, and when they are it is oh so fulfilling!

Fast forward to my teen years. I am home once again on summer break and NBC picks up a brand new soap opera to air right after Days of Our Lives, called Passions. This show had many interesting moments as well, my personal favorite being when Noah Bennett and Fancy Crane were introduced to the cast. Initially, we were met with a case of bad-boy meets superficial princess, but these characters matured as the plot unfolded. They too fell in love, something that was a lot of fun to watch as several accidental run in's occur as the two leave their brief stint in Las Vegas behind them and head back to their families in Harmony, Maine. "Noah" too was a huge inspiration for me, as I found myself falling in love with this small-town charmer. I was devastated when the show broke him and Fancy up and determined to right the wrong they'd done. (Writing the "wrongs" of TV writers has inspired many of my stories!) In this instance, I kept Noah's character at the forefront of my mind, later using bits and pieces of his character along with my own unique recipe to create my very first hero, Alec Westwood.   

This brings me to another point, one which I definitely think is worth mentioning.  For years I've been afraid to admit to fellow writers and readers that I've often used soap opera actors as my own personal acting crew in my mind, both as I'm reading stories, and as I'm writing them. When I was first starting out as a writer, I wasn't sure if doing such a thing would be construed as plagiarism, even though I knew that I was creating my own original storylines and characters. When I later learned through social media and other avenues, that I was not alone in this practice, I began to relax a great deal. Using a known actor as "visual inspiration" in your mind is NOT plagiarism and in fact this practice can be highly beneficial. Inspiration fuels inspiration. Like the movie industry, soap operas provide a Rolodex of actors which can be used for this purpose, and as many of these actors have portrayed roles on multiple soaps, we're often provided with an opportunity to see the same actors playing different roles. This has helped me to see actors for who they are, actors, and it has at times made it even easier for me to envision someone playing an original character in my mind.

I've met many readers, and writers, along the way who've told me they don't watch soaps. I'm not certain if that is because these individuals simply haven't had the pleasure of being indoctrinated into this most special universe, or because they don't want to own up to enjoying what many refer to as a "guilty pleasure." To the latter, I say this. Classifying soap operas as something trivial and unimportant is as harmful as doing the same to romance novels, and I say this as an author who loves my genre and craft with every fiber of my being. We in the world of fiction need to stick together, particularly when there is so much "real life" all around us, to distract us from the escape we need!

The number of soap operas on TV has dwindled significantly over the years, and sadly, at this point in time only 4 remain. Speaking as someone who has worked in companies where a TV was present in the cafeteria, one for which a fellow employee could not wait to get his hands on the remote control only so that he could fill the room with yet more news commentary, I say this: all of us need more fiction in our lives! Our minds need a break from the harsh reality we create, a break to dream and to imagine and, as the Phantom of the Opera says, to let our fantasies unwind! We don't need another news program or a reality TV show - we've got plenty of those! So I hope that those of you who love soaps as much as I do (and hopefully I've convinced a few reluctant people to try something new!) will continue to keep the ratings strong for our remaining soaps, and possibly even convince the powers that be to produce some new soap operas (Yes, even at this late point in history when fiction seems to be a dying art, I believe anything is possible!)

Yes, I intended humor in my Facebook statement. But when networks brush soap operas aside for the news, whatever the news may be, it says something to me. It says that we as a society don't care enough about fiction to make it a priority in our lives and that there are more "important things" going on in the world, (says TPTB) namely, not fiction. I can't accept that. I need fiction, particularly, romantic fiction, to be  an important part of my life. Something that brings me joy is something that is definitely worth fighting for!      

     


Enjoy one of my most inspired stories!

Dangerous Magic is on Sale for 99 Cents!




Amazon Buy Link: amazon.com/dp/B00VF1FLYS


     

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Joy of Storytelling

I've just returned from my summer vacation, which, as many of you know, I typically take once a year, to the White Mountains. My home-away-from-home inspired my debut series, and it often serves as a place where I can gather my thoughts, recharge and reflect on the past year. In this secluded paradise of pine trees, rocks, rivers and lakes, I can relax and concentrate in a way that is nearly impossible to do at any other time throughout the course of a busy year. I cherish my opportunity to be in this place and I often use it to focus on something I love more than almost anything else in the world - a good book! This year, cruising the book sale at the Naples Public Library, I stumbled upon a title by Cassie Edwards, an author whose work I've greatly enjoyed in the past. I enjoy Ms. Edwards's stories, not only because of her amazing characters and dynamic plot lines, but because she creates a world completely unlike the ones in which I create for the characters in my own stories. Reading Sun Hawk, a Native American romance, I was taken back to a time and place I know well, both from the descriptions provided in Cassie Edwards's novels, and in those of other historic romance authors. While I was immersing myself in the story however, my mind was not entirely focused, as more so than the fun of Sun Hawk's and Summer Hope's romance, I was reminded of the joy of storytelling, something I haven't experienced for myself in quite some time, something I long to experience again, yet, for a wide variety of reasons, life as of late has taken me in other directions.


Storytelling, by definition, is the activity of telling or writing stories. Whereas fantasy, though similar in concept, is described as the activity of imagining things, especially those that are impossible or improbable. In a world of readers and writers who are drawn to different genres and subgenres, I find this subtle distinction to be very interesting, as it labels fantasy (the precursor to storytelling, if you will) as being particularly geared toward the impossible and the improbable. It was these very elements that drew me to the world of fiction, first, as a child, watching soap operas with my mother, viewing stories that often focused on larger than life circumstances and situations and then as an adult watching Smallville, a TV show that centers around the teenage life of Superman, a scifi drama with enough romance to qualify as a soap opera in its own right, but also, paranormal and suspenseful elements, including but not limited to the appearances of aliens, mad scientists and danger at every turn. Danger excites me. Romance and passion excite me! (They make a killer combination, too!) I've heard other writers say that other fiction often inspires their own writing, and I am no exception to this rule. I think the reason why this method works is simple - inspiration fuels inspiration. When I'm engrossed in a larger-than-life universe that is full of romance and suspense, I feel as though I've come home.



I've participated in many discussions with other writers, both panel-style as well as informal, conversations dissecting the differences between writers who pre-plot their stories and those who fly by the seat of their pants, so to speak, jumping right into the fire and putting the pieces together as they come naturally, with no strict guidelines to restrict their creativity. The difference between these methods is a discussion in and of itself, but I will simply make mention of the fact that working against one's own instinctive method may stifle creativity, whereas going with the flow can jumpstart it - for me, fantasizing about a story through the practice of outlining it can turn a simple idea into a full blown novel, or at least the blueprints for one. It is not surprising then, that when a burst of inspiration strikes, my mind gets right to work on an outline, working out the beginning, middle and ending of a story even before my fingers hit the keys. I call this fantasizing, and the fact that I also happen to love the impossible and improbable - that's a plus! If I'm creating an outline in my mind, (as it began to, in between reading chapters) there's an excellent chance a novel will follow!



Time is a luxury few of us can afford in a busy world, packed daily with that which we love to do and that which we have to. But when reading a favorite author's work, a world of ideas can come into one's mind, and it can inspire an infinite number of stories. I can't promise it will always work this way, but for me, reading in a different genre than the one I write in often fuels my creativity, and I have learned to take inspiration from where it comes. As we kick off September, a time many of us consider a new beginning, I hope to once again make storytelling an integral part of my life. Thank you, Cassie Edwards, and all of you, my reader and writer friends, for your encouragement and inspiration. My muse is infinitely grateful!




My Review of Cassie Edwards's Sun Hawk:




This wasn't my favorite story by Cassie Edwards, but I'm always up for one of her Indian romances! The story stands out among her titles, as the hero, Sun Hawk, is born white, but is raised by the Ojibwa and grows up to become their chief. Though the romance occurs rather quickly, I enjoyed watching him fall in love with Summer Hope, who is so much like Sun hawk in so many ways. A lot of telling occurs where I would have preferred things be shown, but I couldn't help falling in love with Ms. Edward's characters, all of whom are strong and easy to relate to, sans villain Pierre. I especially enjoyed one of Sun Hawk's greatest surprises as he stumbles upon someone he definitely wasn't expecting to. I won't spoil the story for you, so if you'd like to escape with a good Indian romance, give this title a read and see for yourself! 










Amazon Purchase Link: 




     
              

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Alpha Heroes: Certifiable Creeps or Desirable Lovers?

For the longest time, I had no idea what an 'Alpha Hero' was. A multi-published romance novelist, I am especially embarrassed to admit that I did in fact remain in the dark about this for quite some time, maintaining only a faint idea of what the term meant, which I'd acquired solely by using context clues. I'd heard, in various writers' workshops and such that 'alpha heroes' were a popular archetype for heroes often used in romance novels. Every hero falls under the categorization of at least 1 archetype, the workshop leaders said, or perhaps several archetypes, but every type of character has been done before and understanding what archetype your hero falls under and learning how to purposefully create characters associated with a particular archetype will strengthen your writing tenfold..  My vague understanding of what an alpha hero was, at this point in time, was that he was a bad-boy, plain and simple, and that, often times this arrogant man must learn from his mistakes before he can win the heart of the heroine. True enough. Though, my understanding deepened further as time went on, and I went on to create several alpha heroes of my own. Recently, the wheels in my head began turning regarding alphas once again, when I encountered Evander "Vander" Septimus Brody, hero in Eloisa James's Four Nights with the Duke.


By definition, an alpha male is said to be the dominant male animal in a particular group, or man tending to assume a dominant or domineering role in social or professional situations. Searching for 'alpha hero' books via Goodreads.com, the first book list sited is for 'Controlling/Sexy/Possessive Men,' followed by 'So you love a Bad Boy or Tortured Hero,' then 'Questionable Alphas: Dominant, Possessive, Jealous, Controlling, sometimes scary but always hot,' and, 'Hot Alpha Males' followed by 'Male Characters You Would Run From If They Tried To Date You.' Arguably, all of these classifications are clever ways of describing alphas. However, any loyal romance reader, or writer, (or ANY reader/writer for that matter!) knows that no two heroes are ever exactly the same. Heroes, like all characters, are a blend of traits and characteristics, quirks and distinctions. They are a combination of archetypes if you will, meaning, that, in essence, the percentage of "alpha" each alpha hero contains, varies.  Some, like Vander, may be more arrogant than others, making them harder to forgive in the end. The question, as readers, and writers, which we probably ask ourselves, subconsciously or otherwise, is, has the author gone too far?  Can we forgive this hero and, if so, can we give him our heart?

A couple of years ago, I created a workshop, which I presented to the New Jersey Romance Writers, entitled, Reforming the Former Villain: Does He Have What it Takes to Be a Hero? The inspiring idea behind this workshop had to do with reforming villains from previous stories, and turning them into the hero in a later story in a series. I've done this several times in my own stories, and though I am certainly not the only author who has done so, I'd never come across another who'd done so. I wanted to be sure that, A. It was not against "the rules" to reform a former villain, and, B. Prove to myself that my former villain could be forgiven for his past sins both by the heroine and by readers, because, let's face it, if he cannot be forgiven, then no one can accept him as the hero, let alone fall in love with him. I did. And, this same concept can be applied to alpha heroes, as they too must be forgiven for their sins in order for the reader to feel as though he or she has reached the point of happily ever after.  Alphas too can be forgiven for, (for lack of a better phrase) acting like an ass for a good part of the story, as long as he is reformable, and as long as he does, in fact, reform. When the moment of happily ever after comes, we give the hero our heart as the heroine has, knowing that he is a truly good man at the core. As every hero is different, there are an infinite number of ways the author can make this happen for us. Here are a few I've utilized in my writing.

  •  Said alpha hasn't gone "too" far, meaning that he hasn't said or done something completely horrible, with little to no justification for his actions, so much so that we cannot bring ourselves to forgive him for them.
  •  He is truly sorry for the things he's done. (And we know it!)
  •  A respectable heroine can love this man, because he himself is worthy of her respect. 

There is no right or wrong when it comes to telling a story. The story is a product of the author's and when it comes to creating an alpha that readers can appreciate, only she and her readers can be the judge. That said, let me say that it is my personal opinion that a hero who has completely crossed the moral lines by committing a serious crime, such as rape or murder, without a strong motivation behind his actions, or extenuating circumstance has probably lost my love. These extreme examples, however, are not the only ways a hero can pass the point of no return, and, as I immersed myself in the early pages of Vander Brody's story, I found myself extremely turned off to this historical bad-boy, particularly with the way that Vander was so convinced that the heroine, Mia, wanted him in the bedroom, and believed her blazing desire to be the reason she'd blackmailed him into marrying her, when in reality she'd done so to protect her disabled nephew. Rather than merely being cocky, Vander is quite cruel to Mia, and, seeing right off that this was the case, I decided to check out reviews for the title, to see if other readers shared my negative opinion of him. I was not surprised to find that many did not forgive this arrogant man in the end, yet what did surprise me was that I myself DID forgive him. As with matters in real life, things in this story are not always as they appear and it was my personal feeling that Vander (who becomes quite caring as the story progresses) does learn from his mistakes. Though he is hardly my favorite hero, he does treat Mia with respect, concern and great love in the end and even becomes a man that a reader can love, too.

It's been a while since I've read a story in which the hero had such a strong impact on me. But my initial feelings changed from beginning to end, both about Four Nights With the Duke and by alpha heroes in general. Seeing such an initially cruel man undergo an almost-complete transformation reminded me of how strong the power of love can be and that, at the end of the day, we are all human. As we breathe life into our characters, and enjoy their stories along with them, let us not forget that any hero, no matter how much he has to learn, is capable of seeing the light. And let's face it, fellow romance-lovers. Isn't a happily ever after that much better when it is well and truly earned? 







In the course of one disastrous evening, diamond smuggling kingpin Colin Westwood learns that his best recruit is missing in action, and that the man has been keeping a secret for years—he has a twenty six year old daughter. Determined to protect his identity, Colin vows to find the young woman, and keep her silent at any cost. Intrigued to learn that she is actually the attractive woman he caught sneaking around in his bedroom, he makes Julia an offer. Come to New York City with him to search for her missing father…as his mistress.

When Julia Dyson learns her father has been abducted, she believes his hidden profession may be to blame. But when she discovers a man’s name in her Dad's caller history, a man suspected of shady business activity and also her teenage crush, she decides to take matters into her own hands. She confronts her father's presumed abductor, resulting in an unforgettable kiss, and his offer of a dangerous proposition indeed.

Though becoming Colin’s mistress could very well be her undoing, Julia must choose—give in to her desires, or protect her already-broken heart…