Saturday, June 27 2015
Anyone who knows me as an author knows my books are character driven, which means I have to create believable characters and I have to know them really well before I plop them down on page one of my book and let them run with the story. Sometimes I think I know them perfectly, and I am so sure I know what is going to happen next that when they take a hard turn away from my expectations, it’s surprising. But it’s also rewarding to know they are strong with hearts and minds of their own.
Most of my books are romances so they have a hero and a heroine created for people to care about. But who could ever care about Miss Nothing but Sweetness or Mr. Perfect and knows it? Often it’s the flaws in our characters that make them loveable. Even the traditional Alpha male who’s as handsome as a god and totally ripped, super smart and capable of lifting a car off a trapped child or shooting a neat round hole in the villain’s forehead from 1000 yards out has to have something to make him human. Maybe it’s his mom who’s ill and he never feels he can do enough to care for her. Or perhaps he has to hide his tears when a good friend dies. He might be haunted by memories from childhood or nightmares of things he’s seen or done. Maybe trusting his heart scares the crap out of him, or maybe he just can’t find the words to tell someone how much he cares.
Some of the heroes I’ve fallen the most in love with don’t even fit that description. In Pamela Morsi’s book, Simple Jess, she creates such a memorable hero who isn’t as smart, or successful and at first glance is the last man you would believe is the hero. But for all the heroic attributes he doesn’t have, he has a heart of gold, and an understanding of what the heroine needs that surprises everyone. If you haven’t read that book, you should. He’s one of my favorite heroes of all time.
It’s equally important for heroines to have their flaws. Sweetness and light and never making a wrong step can get pretty boring pretty quickly. Most readers want their heroines to have some spunk and sass. They want their heroines to make mistakes and find the courage and strength to overcome them. Maybe she did have an alcoholic father who beat her and she has never been able to forgive him, but when she comes upon a man so beaten down by his demons that he has chosen alcohol to forget, she can find the courage to see through the exterior to the hurting human being underneath and reach out to him.
But just as our heroines and heroes need to have flaws to be real, our villains need to have something that makes them real. Even a Mafia don can love his mother, or a hit man can have a soft spot for a dog. Perhaps the man is ruthless about tearing down his adversaries in business, but he never fails to be a gentleman to a woman. I recently critiqued a story that had a villain who was involved with running an enterprise that included enslaving people and rape and worse, yet every now and then the author gave this man a spark of human decency that made me care about him in spite of what he was doing. I began to see how he’d gotten where he was and that he sometimes wished he was not. He was still the bad guy, but flickers of his humanity made him a character with depth that the reader could relate to.
My first book published, Whatever It Takes is a mainstream intrigue and there are several point of view characters: my hero, of course, three other secondary characters who are decent people and one who is not so nice. All of them have secrets or things they aren’t always proud of. My main character has a past he has to face up to and deal with and it is the choices he makes that make him a hero. My villain discovers something about himself and what he’d believed in and dedicated his life to that revolted him and he, too has to make a choice. It is those choices that made them human and turn them into characters the reader can care about and cheer for.
Check out what some of these other great authors have to say about heroes, heroines and villains:
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Helena Fairfax http://helenafairfax.com/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/
Tuesday, June 23 2015
Since I will be on the road on my usual blog day, headed north for another summer in New England, I thought I'd reprise a blog from an earlier summer that a lot of folk enjoyed. For those who've read it before, I hope you still find it amusing and for those who've started following my blog since this was originally posted . . . enjoy. Duff is still with me, and looking forward to spending another vacation on the island, too.
It's 5:30 A.M. I'm Sound asleep and my cell phone rings. Mind you, this is a surprising occurrence all by itself because my cell phone doesn't get a great signal out here on my island and almost never rings, even when I can call out. But ring it did and the woman on the other end tells me she has my dog at her house. I'm still fighting off the residue of sleep and trying to figure out how my dog, who I left camped on the couch in the cabin when I went to bed in my tent could possibly be somewhere else at this unGodly hour. She tells me his name and that she got my number off his tag, thank goodness for the tag I got him, and then tells me that she is on a road that is miles from where I am.
So, I scramble out of bed and into some clothes, then head out. Unfortunately, this is not like being home where the car is conveniently parked outside my door. To get to my car, I have to get into a rowboat, row ashore and haul the boat up, then hike up Cardiac Hill to where my car is parked. All of this takes close to twenty minutes and I'm gasping for breath as I unlock the car and fall into the driver's seat. (I really need to get back into shape - maybe I should have a call-out that makes me hustle up this hill several times a day?)
Duff, when I finally get to the lady's house, hops in the car like "what's the problem Mom? I was just out for a little walk?" He is soooo in trouble! I made him get off the comfy sofa and accompany me to the tent for the night. He wasn't very pleased, but then, he asked for it.
As if the unauthorized field trip wasn't enough yesterday, when a thunderstorm barreled in on us, instead of retreating to the dark recesses under the bunk for safety, this time Duff decided to try digging his way under the mattress on TOP of the bunk. In the process he shredded the new sheets my sister had put on the bed. So, today I wake up, fortunately after a full night's sleep, and it's cold out. And since it's cold and windy, I decide today is a good day to head to Concord to fix the thunderstorm/fireworks issue once and for all by purchasing a crate for Duff to find refuge in. Once again, we head to shore in the rowboat and climb the hill - so maybe once a day will be a good start on that getting in shape deal? Anyway, I consult the app on my phone to find out where the closest PetCo is and off we go.
Here's where it begins to seem like my life is turning into a sit-com. I miss the turn in Concord and immediately begin to look for places to get turned around. The first two intersections are clearly labels NO U-TURN, so I finally pull into a parking lot, check the little map on my phone again and head back the way I came. Next thing I know, there are blue flashing lights in my rear-view mirror. The cop doesn't look old enough to be out of high school yet, but I'll cut him some slack since that's probably just my personal perspective given the old lady I looked at in the mirror an hour or so earlier. He asks if I know why he pulled me over. Honestly, I had no idea. I hadn't been speeding. Didn't take the U-turn even though I wanted to and hadn't been yaking on my phone so I said no. He tells me he pulled me over for the U-turn. Then goes on to explain that it's technically illegal to turn into private property, which a parking lot is, to avoid a traffic directive. Are you kidding me? This is New Hampshire. Where they refuse to pass ordinances to make folk wear seat belts or helmets on motorcycles and you're telling me I broke the law turning into a parking lot???
But he was nice. Young but nice. When I told him I was lost and trying to find my way to PetCo, he gives me detailed directions. Then he takes my license and registration -"just to make sure I'm not running from the law in Florida!"
So, now I'm back on my island and I got here promising I WILL NOT GO OFF THE ISLAND FOR THE REST OF THE WEEK! But that was before I couldn't remember if I'd actually locked the car when I got back. So, looks like today I'll have two hikes up Cardiac Hill to work on getting into shape, after all. Might as well. It's still too cold to go for a swim.
Tuesday, June 16 2015
I grew up in New England and we have our share of wonderful men who truly fit the term “gentleman.” But since moving to the south, I’ve discovered that there is something unique and special about “southern gentlemen.” And I’m finally realizing that difference is part of how they were brought up.
When I was in my twenties and traveling through North Carolina, I had to pull over to change my infant son’s diaper. In the very short time it took to get the job done, three different men pulled over to see if I needed help. I was surprised by the offers because my car didn’t have an obvious flat nor did I have the hood up with steam pouring out and I wasn’t standing at the side of the road looking lost. Each of the men who took the time to pull over and see if they could help were polite and after discovering my reason for stopping, wished me a safe journey as they climbed back into their trucks. That was my first introduction to “southern gentlemen.” I’d had truly distressing things happen along the road in New England, including an accident that rendered my car undrivable long before cell phones made calling for help easy, yet no one stopped to offer assistance.
For several great years, I worked as an office administrator for an investment broker. Doug was thoughtful and generous, interesting and smart and just plain fun to work for. He had also been in the Army for thirteen years, and on leaving active duty, joined the reserves. I used to joke that you could take the boy out of the Army but you couldn’t take the Army out of the boy. I met him when he was just a Major, but his dedication and commitment to the Army kept him advancing until he retired as a full colonel. When he made Lt. Colonel, he became the commander of the training battalion for the State of Maine, which put in him in charge of five different companies whose day-to-day operations were overseen by regular Army staff sergeants. That was my first introduction to being called ma’am. No one in the State of Maine calls a woman ma’am. In fact, in my entire life, I’d never been called that in any New England state. Answering the phones was one of my tasks, and I always knew I had one of Doug’s “men” on the line when I was greeted with Good morning, Ma’am. I found that small level of respect, inculcated by their military training to be pleasant and very welcome. No matter how brief the conversation, or how urgent the reason for their call, the contrast between their civility and the greetings from regular business clients was refreshing.
So now I’ve moved south permanently and the manners that men and boys learn here has become underscored everywhere I go. The fact that all the bagboys at the grocery offer to wheel your cart out to the lot for you every time you shop was the first thing to surprise me. That NEVER happens in New England even when you are very old, or coping with a handful of small children. The other day I was walking my dog along a road that winds through a county park along the edge of the waterway and I noted, not for the first time, that every single man that drove by me waved as they passed. Nothing flashy, just a brief salute of acknowledgement in passing. In one spot a teenage boy was casting out a fishing net while three very bold herons hovered close by hoping for a snack. I commented that he had an audience and the young man looked up and replied, “Yes, Ma’am.”
There’s a lot I love about where I’ve chosen to live, but this small mark of respect, this ingrained civility that I’m sure the men who show it never even question is a very special bonus.
Tuesday, June 09 2015
Trusting Will, book 3 in the Camerons of Tide’s Way series is out and available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play and iBooks.
Will is the younger of the Cameron twins, the middle child in the family of five children. Ben (Loving Meg) has always been the serious twin: patient, conservative, and reliable. Will wants everything yesterday. Although Will is not the youngest in the family, he’s the one everyone else jokingly refers to as the grown up kid. He works just as hard as everyone else, but he plays harder. Philip plays tennis, Ben enjoys golf and Jake (Falling for Zoe) loves to explore the intercoastal waterway in his kayak when his busy life permits. Will, on the other hand, jumps out of airplanes, takes kiteboarding to its limits, and rappels down anything, the steeper and more dangerous the better. Will is a North Carolina State Trooper, rides a motorcycle on the job work and pushes himself to excel in everything he does.
When Will took over his nephew’s Cub Scout den when the former leader got transferred, he discovered he loved working with the eager young scouts, especially Sam, a boy desperately in need of a man in his life. Sam’s mother is a knockout and as soon as he discovers she’s a single mom, Will is determined to pursue her. Now, if only he could impress her as easily as he impresses Sam.
But it's little wonder that Brianna Reagan, who’s already had her heart broken by a man who put his life on the line in the service of his country, isn’t eager to get involved with another bigger-than-life, alpha kind of guy who’s willing to risk his life wearing the uniform of a law enforcement officer and seems to thrive on danger. She might have managed to keep from getting involved with Will at all if only he hadn’t turned out to be so darned good with her son, Sam. If only he didn't make her pulse race when he looked at her with interest in his eyes. If only he didn't always seem to know what she needed, even when she was in denial.
An excerpt from Trusting Will:
Fort Benning, Georgia, three years ago
Brianna Reagan woke with a start, her heart racing, and her chest tight with apprehension. She listened for something unusual. Something unexpected. But there was nothing.
Nothing but the sound of her startled heart thrumming in her ears and her son playing in the next room.
Sam’s piping five-year-old voice issued orders to his army of tiny soldiers. He had always loved the little figures his father had given him, but since the day they’d taken Ed to the airport at the start of his most recent deployment, the little green men had become an obsession.
“Guess what, Daddy? I’m going to be a general when I grow up,” Sam announced, nodding his head in determination. “And you’re going to be really proud of me.”
“I’m real proud of you already,” Ed replied with a suspicious sheen in his bright blue eyes. He stiffened into a formal salute, then unable to maintain the distance, scooped Sam into his arms and hugged him hard before putting him back on his feet and turning to Bree.
Bree dismissed the haunting daydream abruptly, sat up and swung her feet over the side of the bed. As she reached to shut off the alarm she hadn’t needed, she stopped a moment to gaze at Ed’s photo that sat next to the clock. It was his formal military portrait, but even in that solemn pose, Ed hadn’t been able to keep the twinkle of mischief out of his eyes. Sam was a miniature of his dad. Same dark hair, same blue eyes. Same mischievous sparkle. Bree blew the portrait a kiss and slid to her feet. It was time to get Sam moving, get some breakfast into him and head off to work.
At her dresser, Bree dragged a brush through her tangled blond hair and wistfully considered the idea of cutting it. Except that Ed loved it long. She pulled it into a ponytail and worked an elastic band around its thick bulk, then leaned forward to check for new wrinkles. Twenty-seven wasn’t old, but already little lines fanned out from the corners of her dark eyes. Too much worry and stress, she thought as she reached for her robe and headed for the hall.
The solid thunk of a car door shutting out in front of their base-housing duplex halted her in her tracks. She turned and hurried to the window
Her heart froze in horrified denial.
Bree’s world telescoped into a narrow tunnel focused on the flat gray-blue tops of the dress uniform caps moving purposefully up her front walk. Desperately, Bree tried to think of any other reason two officers in dress uniforms would be coming to her door so early on a Monday morning.
But her heart already knew. There could be only one reason these men had come.
Her chest constricted in pain, and her head roared. Her eyes ached, but there were no tears. Not now. Not yet. She raised a clenched fist to her mouth, knuckles white with strain as her heart plunged into the unavoidable knowledge that her life would never be the same again.
Available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.
Note: Short Stories, Loving Ben and Mike's Wager are free on Kindle.
Tuesday, June 02 2015
If you’re a bookworm like me, you probably recognize that empty feeling you get when you read the final words in the latest really great book. I get the same feeling when I’m writing a book, but in the back of my mind I know I can always revisit these people. Maybe, if there’s still a lot of story that could be told, you have this hopeful little feeling that you can write another book featuring the characters you’ve come to love. Surely that’s the emotion that keeps Diana Gabaldon going even though she’s already produced thousands of pages in seven books about Jamie and Claire Fraser. But as readers, we don’t have that option. We can hope the author has more ideas in store, but more often than not, he or she has moved on to new characters and a new story, often in a new place and even a different time.
So, you’ve just clicked back to the menu in your electronic reader, or closed the cover of this book you just loved and set it aside. What now? Well….. now you want to find another great book. Maybe even better than the last. My first recourse used to be to hurry down to the library or the closest bookstore and see what else this author wrote. Today it’s even easier – just head to Barnes&Noble.com or Amazon.com. Online booksellers have even done some of the homework, showing the covers of books others who enjoyed the book you just finished ‘also bought.’ The most exciting thing is to discover that this author has dozens more books already out and you won’t have to wait until their next book is released. But what if this is their first book, or you’ve already read their other books? What if none of the suggested books appeals to you?
That’s when you start paying attention to your friends who’ve been raving about a new author they just discovered. One of the nice things about Facebook, in spite of the games they play that leave you out of so many posts, or about Twitter in spite of the thousands of posts you can’t possibly keep up with, is that authors and their friends or enthusiastic readers post links to books all the time. Books you might never have discovered otherwise. For people like me, it’s a win-win bonanza.
But today, I’d like to hear about the books my blog readers have read and loved. Or Authors. I especially like to find new authors. So, please, leave me a comment – tell me what your favorite book/author of all time is and also what is the most recent book you’ve read that you just loved and couldn’t stop raving about. I’m going to compile a list of all the new suggestions you ladies and gentlemen make and two of you will win a $10.00 GC to either Barnes & Noble or Amazon – your choice. Be sure to leave me info on how to reach you, preferably an email address, which you can send privately to me via firstname.lastname@example.org