Irish Alpha Heroes and St. Patricks Day

Casey ClipperHappy St. Patrick's Day! 

Our chapter president Casey Clipper has agreed to tell us a bit about writing Irish Alpha Heroes. 

How's that for good luck? 

So it back and enjoy. 

If you also create heroes based on aspects of your own cultural background, please share in the comments. 

Contemporary Romance: What was it about growing up in an Irish family that you wanted to translate into fiction?

Casey Clipper: It wasn’t necessarily the growing up in an Irish family but more watching the men, like my father and grandfather and uncle (I have a few, but the one who reminds me of my dad the most), that made me fashion the heroes in my stories after them, in a sense.

Watching the way the men in the family treated their wives, gave me first-hand knowledge of the whole alpha personality, who loves and adores the woman in his life. They treated their wives in an extremely respectful manner, acknowledging their wives ran the household and being perfectly fine with that, with zero macho ego thing, holding them in such high regard in their lives.

Yet, they were also the “men of the house”, taking care of their families and spouses. From the outside and looking back on the interaction and daily routines, it’s quite fascinating. (I unfortunately have to speak in past tense because my grandparents and my mother are no longer with us.) 

CR: Do you have any favorite family stories or anecdotes?

CC: Well, my grandmother was probably the most superstitious woman I’ve ever known and managed to pass that down? I don’t spill salt, walk under a ladder, and definitely change directions if a black cat crosses my path. And do not bring an outside broom inside. That was a heated battle in my house a couple years ago between myself and my husband.

four leaf cloverThere is also the memory of Sundays at my grandparents’ home. After church, the entire family—aunts, uncles, grandchildren—would go to my grandparents for dinner and then after the three oldest granddaughters (yes, I’m in the top 3) did the dishes, the aunts and uncles and my grandfather played cards with nickels, dimes, and quarters.

CR: Are your heroes based on actual people from your life? 

CC: Not one of my heroes are based off anyone in my life. They’re really based off an ideal man (though with his own issues) in my mind at the time of writing a novel.

Of course, they’re all alphas and all love their women and are all supportive of their heroine and naturally have to go through their arcs, but I can honestly say that not one character is written with someone specific in mind.

CR: Do you have a process for researching Irish culture?

CC: Names. I research names and their meanings. Even last names. For instance, Murphy (which is used in The Love Series) in 2014 was the most number one surname in Ireland. O’s in front of a name mean “grandson of” or “decedent of” while Mac’s in front of names mean “son of”. Ryan (used in Unexpected Love) means little king. Neil, which I use for a last name in my The Men of Law series, means passionate. 

CR: Are there any stereotypes / myths about Irish culture that bother you?

CC: That the Irish are drinkers. Yes, you’ll always have those in any culture that are stereotypical, but for the most part, we aren’t going to the pub every night and downing Guinness or whiskey and getting into brawls.

CR: Why do you think St. Patrick’s Day has become so universal?

CC: I think because it’s a time where you can go to the pub or to a neighbor's (which is where I’ll be), decked out in your green, listen to Irish music, maybe have some Jamison or Baileys or a Guinness, eat some corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes and relax in the company of friends and family.

In an atmosphere that is just plain fun. I think the American version of St. Patrick’s Day has become more about celebrating good times with everyone, even strangers at the pub. And I think we all need that in our lives right now more than ever. Right?

CR: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

CC: Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! We’re all Irish today!

* Thank you so much, Casey! *

Learn more about Casey at http://caseyclipper.com

Attn: All the Single Ladies — You Are Astonishing!

~ Melina Kantor Hello, All the Single Ladies, My last post in our honor was about HEA’s and why we are more than capable of writing them. I’m back! I wasn’t planning on writing another post about “single ladies,” but there’s something I feel the need to discuss. Actually, there's a part of that something I’d rather not discuss in public, but I’ll take one for the team and admit that two weeks ago, I went to a singles event at my synagogue. (Yeah, I know. Gasp. Ick. What was I thinking? In all fairness, it was one of the nicest I've been to and with the exception of the problem I'm about to talk about, I actually enjoyed it.) I live in Jerusalem, where being single, especially at my age, is not the norm and something a lot of people want to help me “fix.” There are even matchmakers floating around. No kidding. They’re all very nice, but yeah, things can get a little “Fiddler on the Roof.” So there I was at Shabbat dinner, seated at a table with a randomly selected batch of single men, thinking, as I often do, about how I could work this particular situation into a novel. And then came the speaker. A married male. He had some questions and suggestions: “Think about why you’re not married.” Easy peasy. Because I haven’t met the right guy. Actually, I'd bet that most of the people in this room are single because they haven't found matches who meet their standards.  Plus, I'm busy living my own life.  Do you take the time to talk to yourself and get to know yourself, who you are, and what you want in a relationship?” Oh, honey. I’m single. I spend a lot of time with myself. I think I’ve got the “knowing myself” part covered. As for the what I want? Bless your heart. I actually have figured it out, and I shared it with the world. Thanks for asking, though.” “Confidence will help attract the right person. What do you need to do to develop the confidence you need to attract the right guy?” Look, I may be five feet tall and I have a voice not so dissimilar to Bernadette’s from The Big Bang Theory. I can be shy and introverted at times. I'll never be willing to bungee jump off a tall building.  But if you think I lack confidence, think again.  I sat there annoyed and edgy.  Honestly, I was insulted. Enough with the assumptions. Confidence manifests itself in many forms, some of which may not be so obvious. My single friends don't sit at home in sweatpants, eating Ben & Jerry's and feeling sorry for themselves because they aren't married. They're too busy buying their own homes, writing novels, producing podcasts, moving up in their careers, and, in the case of one friend, running marathons. She's trained for and run seven. Even my single friends with multiple cats do not, in any way, fit the description of a "crazy old cat lady." As for me, I've been busy building a life and a business in a new country. By myself (sadly, my two dogs haven't been pulling their weight). This got me thinking about romance novel heroines, and I had a sudden realization.  Guess what! HEA’s come at the end of a romance novel. Which means that in every romance novel ever written, the protagonist is a fellow single lady throughout the majority of the story. And that means that we’d better portray them as the strong, independent, and confident women they are. So, how do we do that? What are the characteristics of a truly confident protagonist? Let's discuss. Thunderdome style. Ready?

Who's more confident?

Buffy Summers vs Rachel Greene

Rachel Green

Okay, I'll explain. Combat boots, trucks, and power tools don’t equal confidence. Your protagonist may appear to be tough as nails. You can dress her in leather jackets. You can put her on a motorcycle. But all that is for show. When it comes to confidence, you might want to dig deeper. Let’s take a look at Buffy. She’s pretty tough, right? I mean, the woman had to figure out the plural of apocalypse once saving the world became something she did on a regular basis. Now, it feels like sacrilege to say anything critical of Buffy or The Honorable Joss Whedon, and I hate being mad at my beloved Xander. But when it comes to Riley, I can’t help it. Riley made Buffy visibly shrink. Instead of admiring her for her mental, emotional and physical strength, he was jealous. Ew. Jealousy is more than "not good." It's downright dangerous. And Buffy saw the jealousy and tried to make herself less than to boost his ego. Clearly, the woman needed to blast Ace of Base and "see the sign." When (spoiler alert), Riley was on his way out of the picture and I was waiting to cheer, Xander gave Buffy the most insulting lecture ever, which Buffy not only endured but seemed to take to heart, and then she got all weepy that Riley the Manipulative Wimp was leaving. Seriously? She never should have put up with him for so long. She needed the confidence to know that she deserved better. She needed to make this her anthem: Note: I’ve taken self-defense and am hoping to take more classes. Yeah, it feels good to know that I have the ability to break a brick with my bare hand (pictured here wrapped in ribbon), but what matters to me more than that is the mental strength the class gave me. I have confidence in my ability to protect myself. All of the protagonists in the trilogy I’m working on take self-defense. They wear shirts that say “Fight Like a Girl,” but they never have to lift a finger to anyone. The point is, they could But again, it's the mental strength that matters more. The ability to be alone, make one’s own decisions and take care of oneself does equal confidence. You know who has that ability? Rachel Green. And yes, I do mean the one with the haircut. She left her loser fiance and moved to the city, where she cut up her father’s credit cards and got a job to support herself. Waitress at a coffee house may not be the first job that comes to mind when thinking about success, but for Rachel, even though she wasn’t great at her job, it helped her grow up and develop a whole boatload of skills. She knew what she liked and she knew she wanted to end up in fashion. And that was before Ross. Then, when Ross came into the picture, she had enough confidence to know what she didn’t deserve: She didn’t even fall for this romantic gesture. Don’t you love how she handled this? Look how successful Rachel was by the end of the show’s run. Yes, she ended up with Ross. But that wasn’t because she had to fix anything about herself in order to be in a relationship with him. Ross had to grow and change to get himself up to her standards.

Who's more confident?

Elena Alvarez vs Rory Gilmore

Elena Alvarez

Okay, I'll explain. Brains and success don’t equal confidence. You know those books Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches refers to as “competence porn?” It’s always fun to read about a woman to is great at her job and can take care of herself. You could argue that the brilliant Rory Gilmore is the poster girl for competence porn. You would think that with her high grades, acceptance to three ivy-league schools, and the adoration of her entire town, she’d have just a little more faith in herself. Alas, no. She ended up with Jess even after he spoke to her like this: Um. . . I don't think so. And not long after that, she slept with her married ex-boyfriend. That's right. Attractive, intelligent Rory who could pretty much take her pick of guys lacked the confidence to do just that. So she went running back to Dean. Not to mention that after she got some harsh criticism about her performance as an intern, she stole a yacht and dropped out of Yale. OMGTWFBBQ. Are you kidding me? If she'd had confidence, after that one foreboding night alone cleaning her keyboard, she would have washed that man right out of her hair:  I guarantee that the quality of her life would have shot up, and the Gilmore Girls reboot would have been less depressing. Living “one day at a time” and leaning on female family and friends does equal confidence. Elena Alvarez, the fifteen-year-old daughter of a self-proclaimed "badass" single female veteran and granddaughter of an immigrant from Cuba certainly has role models when it comes to confidence and independence. Her best friend, Carmen, is also pretty incredible. Elena refuses to wear make-up and is never afraid to stand up for what she believes in: For the sake of those of you who haven’t seen the Netflix reboot of “One Day at a Time,” I won’t spoil the show even more. But I will warn you that the father - daughter dance scene of the season finale will rip your heart out and then totally make your year. (Not to mention that the whole storyline with Elena's outfit had me all choked up.) Just trust me on this. Watch the show (it gets better towards the end of the season) and pay attention to the behavior of the women - especially Elena. And check out Rita Moreno opening those curtains at the 0:35 mark: Every woman, single or married, should have that kind of confidence.

Who's more confident?

Amy Farrah Fowler vs Maria

Amy Farrah Fowler

Okay, I'll explain. Knowing what you like, not conforming, and asking for what you want does equal confidence.  I don't even know how to start talking about Amy Farrah Fowler. She slices brains with the utmost precision. She dresses the way she feels most comfortable and doesn't adjust her style to fit in with the more classicly trendy Penny and Bernadette. She enjoys playing the harp and isn't shy about singing: And she takes zero s*&% from Sheldon: Best of all, when it comes to sex. . . well, this says it all: In fact, Amy and Sheldon's relationship has sparked a whole new conversation about consent. Feeling pretty does not equal confidence. Is there a more romantic movie than West Side Story? Wow. Isn’t it beautiful? I could listen to the songs, which I used to sing when I studied voice, on a continuous loop. Isn’t Maria confident? She stands up to her family and recognizes how gorgeous she is: If only she didn’t feel pretty just because she was “loved by a pretty wonderful boy.” There’s just one other tiny, itty bitty little thing. . .  Uh, Maria? A boy like that? Really? Because you know, he um. . . would and did kill your brother. Well, that, and you’ve known him twenty-four hours. She was an ingenue. Clearly, she didn't realize what that leads to. Yes, conflict fuels our stories. But in my opinion, there is such a thing as too much conflict. How about this version of the story: Maria sends Tony’s ass to jail, helps her family’s business thrive while she figures out what she wants to do in life, and marries a guy who is actually deserving of her (and isn’t, you know, a murderer). So. . .  As you can see from these examples, plenty of women who are in relationships a) don’t know what they want and b) lack confidence. You know what else? If the argument that men are attracted to confidence was 100% true, Julia Roberts would have gotten herself off the streets and into more “decent” clothes before Richard Gere was attracted to her. (And by extension, Eliza Doolittle would have lost her accent on her own before Henry Higgins gave her a second glance.) We wouldn’t all have that at least one friend who settled for “low hanging fruit” (those are the words of a dating coach from that afore mentioned singles event) because he showed interest in her and she couldn’t handle being single for two minutes. Being saved by a man who boosts your ego does not equal confidence. If your protagonist’s journey involves gaining confidence, please oh please let the source be just about anything that’s not a man. We, as romance writers, are trained to think about conflict and character arcs. But you know what? In the end, a “happily ever after” has more to do with chance, chemistry and sexual tension than anything else. All of that self-discovery and contrived confidence building matters a lot less (if at all). Getting married is NOT an accomplishment. Yes, relationships take work. But. Natalie Brooke says is best:
“You don’t have to have a brain, drive or special skill set to get married. You just have to have a willing partner.”
She also points out that:
“It is 2016 and being popped the question is still more celebrated than academic and professional pursuits of women. Yes, college graduations and landing a great career and receiving wonderful promotions are all received with happiness from friends and family, but not even close to the same level of elation received when you announce that you are getting hitched. This is my experience, at least.”
So, Single Ladies. You haven’t found your match. That's very much okay. Don't ever let anybody tell you that being single is a) a problem and / or b) something for which you should be blamed.  Don't ever settle:  
"Playing with matches
A girl can get burned
So,
Bring me no ring
Groom me no groom
Find me no find
Catch me no catch
Unless he's a matchless match."
Most importantly, never forget that you, like the protagonists you write, are astonishing:
“There's a life That I am meant to lead A life like nothing I have known I can feel it And it's far from here I've got to find it on my own Even now I feel it's heat upon my skin. A life of passion that pulls me from within, A life that I am making to begin. There must be somewhere I can be Astonishing Astonishing I'll find my way I'll find it far away I'll find it in unexpected and unknown I'll find my life in my own way Today"
Hopefully, the same is true for your protagonists. Oh, and hey. Don’t worry. Just like last time, I’ll leave you with some Beyonce (By coincidence, I found this video thanks to a Facebook post from the organization that offers my self-defense classes):
“They love the way I walk 'Cause I walk with a vengeance And they listen to me when I talk 'Cause I ain't pretendin' It took a while, now I understand Just where I'm going I know the world and I know who I am It's 'bout time I show it (ahh)”

* What traits do you like to see in a confident protagonist? Feel free to give examples! 

Melina writes contemporary romance with a pinch of oregano and a dash of chutzpah. She loves to travel, especially to her family’s village in Crete, and turn her adventures into research for her novels. In July of 2012, she moved to Jerusalem with her adorable but sneaky cocker spaniel. Her family now includes an incredibly sweet yet troubled rescue puppy. You can visit her at http://melinakantor.com

Where I Get My Hero-spiration, a.k.a. The Top Ten Reasons Why I Love Supernatural

RGA photo~ By Rebecca Grace Allen I have been a fangirl of the CW’s Supernatural for years. If you don’t watch the show, or never got past some of the more gory, monster-of-the-week episodes, I am sad for you, because in my opinion, it’s one of the best-written shows out there. It’s about Sam and Dean Winchester, two brothers who hunt all things evil in an attempt to save the world. Played by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, the two characters were the inspiration for my heroes in the first two Portland Rebels books. Want to know why the two of them are worthy of Hero-spiration (or just why Supernatural rocks the Casbah)? Here are my top ten reasons:

1. Sam without a shirt on.

(I could stop here, because seriously, do you need more reasons than that?) hero_1

 2. Dean’s expressions.

Dean is the soldier of the two brothers, powering through no matter what, but he’s also the comic relief. And whether he’s smiling, laughing or crying, Dean makes some of the best faces out there. I sometimes work on writing down the way he looks to practice how characters express emotion. Check out this Buzzfeed post of the top 25 Swoonworthy Dean faces.

3. Real men do cry.

Sam and Dean are some of the toughest characters out there. They’ve lost both their parents, as well as their pseudo father figure Bobby Singer. They have both literally been to hell and back.  Everything in their worlds wrecks them, so when their emotions break lose, these guys aren’t afraid to cry.  And their beautiful crying faces motivate me to write characters whose sadness breaks through in the same way.

hero_3

4. Smexin.

This show has some of the most incredible made-for-TV sex scenes I’ve ever seen. If you’re looking for some hot and heavy inspiration, here’s Sam and Ruby. You’re welcome.

5. Angels watching porn.

Sam and Dean are both befriend by the angel Castiel in season four, and many of their adventures with Cas have him trying to understand human behavior. I’m always struggling to put a bit of comedy in my books—they’re usually extremely angsty—so I’m always looking for comic inspiration. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of anything funnier than an angel trying to understand porn. hero

6. A seriously badass soundtrack.

AC/DC to Iron Maiden, Metallica to Led Zeppelin, and even nabbing Kansas’ “Carry on My Wayward Son” as the theme song, Supernatural is a classic rock lover’s dream. I’ve often pulled songs from it for some of my writing playlists. Even the actors rock out to it.

7. Awesome pop culture references.

While the overarching theme of the show is on the dark side, many of the episodes are on the lighthearted side, and the writers are always poking fun at pop culture. This doesn’t necessarily help with my writing in anyway, but it is pretty entertaining! Season 6, episode five is about vampires and is titled “Live Free or Twihard.” One of my favorite episodes, “The French Mistake” has Sam and Dean magically appearing in a world where Supernatural is an actual TV show.  There is also more than an occasional reference to the Back to the Future movies. (Thanks to Buzzfeed for this awesome side-by-side comparison.)

hero_7

8. The concept of brotherhood.

I don’t have any siblings, which makes it challenging to write about both sibling rivalry and the bond that exists between brothers. Supernatural has both in spades. Sam and Dean often poke fun at one another, but they will also do absolutely anything for one another. They literally have died for one another. (And come back to life afterward several times over– yay for TV’s reality-bending rules!) Nothing is more important to these two than family, and the actors are really like brothers in real life, which I love. Here they are at Jared’s wedding.

hero_8

 9. “Wink wink, nudge nudge” moments.

The writers are always putting in little mentions to current events which break across that fourth wall, such as this awesome line from Crowley, the King of Hell, in Season 11, episode 22.  He’s another character you can be inspired by, because he’s a villain and a bit of comic relief all rolled up into one with a lovely accent to boot.

hero_9

10. Jared’s always keep fighting campaign.

Recently, Jared admitted to suffering from depression, and has now become very vocal about it with his Always Keep Fighting Campaign. I’m always impressed when any celebrity speaks up for mental illness, and in recent months, he has spearheaded a bunch of fundraisers. Other cast members from Supernatural have gotten on board with his campaigns as well. If all that’s not enough to get you watching, and maybe gaining some hero-spiration of your own, I don’t know what is. Check back with me this November after I go to my first Supernatural Con! Rebecca Grace Allen writes sweet, sexy and soul searching romance, emphasis on the sexy! She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a double concentration in Creative Writing and Literary Comparison, as well as a Master of Science in Elementary Education, both of which seemed like good ideas at the time. After stumbling through careers in entertainment, publishing, law and teaching, she’s returned to her first love: writing. A self-admitted caffeine addict and gym rat, she lives in upstate New York with her husband, two parakeets, and a cat with a very unusual foot fetish. Her new release, The Theory of Deviance, is out on August 2, 2016.

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Romancing the Jerk [REPOST]

Phyllis Towzey 2015~ By Jane Peden Writing a hero readers will fall in love with is always challenging – but never more so than in category romance.  Especially if you are writing about presumptuous arrogant billionaires whose cold hearts and rash judgments are in dire need of redeeming.  You know the type.  The CEO who seduces his secretary, then fires her when she’s falsely accused of being a corporate spy.  The heir to the throne who shows up on his discarded girlfriend’s doorstep and demands that she leave her job and her country behind and go with him to a distant land, or else he’ll take their child away from her forever.  The corporate raider who forces an old rival’s daughter to marry him under threat of destroying her father’s business. See?  You already don’t like him . . . But the author knows that by the end of the book, this man will be totally worthy of the heroine’s love. In my debut novel, The Millionaire’s Unexpected Proposal, I struggled with making my heroine likeable.  I wrote a secret baby story, where the heroine shows up five years after a Las Vegas fling, with the hero’s child in tow.   Not only did she never tell him she was pregnant – she also married another man she didn’t love for money, and passed the child off as her husband’s.  Only now, when she’s a widow facing an ugly custody suit by her former in-laws, does she run to the hero for help. Did she have good reasons for her choices?  Of course.  But I worried that readers wouldn’t be willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Well, readers liked my heroine just fine.  They had much less tolerance for my hero, whose anger and lack of trust in the heroine seemed to me to be completely justified.  More than one reader-reviewer lamented Sam is such a jerk.  And a few even went so far as to say that by the time he groveled at the end of the book it was just too late. Looking back on those reactions, I’ve concluded that category romance readers – the vast majority of whom are women – come to the book hard-wired to identify with the heroine.  So it’s easier for them to accept her motivation as genuine.  The hero, on the other hard, better prove himself worthy of both the heroine’s and the reader’s love. And you have to lay the groundwork early on, or readers – and agents and editors – may never read past the first chapter. Here are some ways to romance the jerk hero, and keep readers from giving up on him, regardless of whether you are writing category or single title:
  • Give the reader some insight into his motivation as soon as possible. You don’t have to tell all in the first few chapters, but drop a few hints about why he’s so closed off emotionally.
  • Show us one little vulnerability.  Maybe he has a soft spot for stray dogs. Or he can’t resist jelly doughnuts.
  • Give him a backstory that parallels a point of conflict in your story.
  • Have him admire – even fleetingly – some trait of the heroine’s.
  • Give him a touch of self-awareness.  He knows he’s being a jerk, but believe he has no alternative.
  • Have a likeable secondary character find him worthy of admiration or trust.  If they like him, there must be something more beneath the surface, right?
By including one or more of these ingredients, you humanize your hero and make the reader want to dig deeper to discover why he behaves the way he does – and they’ll be invested in his struggle to overcome the obstacles he’s put in his own path. Because what good is an HEA if no one is rooting for it? * What are the characteristics of your favorite heroes? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.  Jane Peden is a Florida trial attorney who writes sexy contemporary romances set in the exciting South Florida city of Miami, where millionaire lawyers live extravagant lifestyles and find love when they least expect it. When Jane isn’t in court, you can find her at the beach with her laptop, dreaming up stories about successful, confident men who know what they want and how to get it, and smart, sexy women who demand love on their own terms.  Jane lives on the Gulf Coast of Florida with her husband, two kids, two dogs, and a fish.  Jane’s debut novel, The Millionaires’ Unexpected Proposal – the first in her Miami Lawyers series - was released through Entangled Publishing’s Indulgence line in March 2015.  

Website || Facebook || Twitter || jane@janepeden.com

Turning A Villain Into A Hero: Alan Rickman

SVT2015~ By Sarah Vance-Tompkins I fell in love with Alan Rickman in Truly, Madly, Deeply, a sweet indie movie about finding closure after the loss of a love.

I had no idea how good he was at being bad until I saw him as Hans Gruber in Die Hard. Dressed in a Saville Row suit, with a vaguely European accent, he bursts onto the screen, opposite some delicious man candy in the form of Bruce Willis and Alexander Godunov, and dares you to look away. Every time I watch Die Hard, I am reminded once again, why Hans Gruber is at the top of so many lists of favorite movie villains. There is so much you can love to hate, especially the way Rickman played him. Rickman didn’t think of Gruber that way. “I’m not playing the villain,” he once said in an interview with The New Yorker magazine. “I’m just playing somebody who wants certain things in life, has made certain choices, and goes after them.”
"I don't play villains. I play interesting people."
Maybe that's why Hans Gruber is so much more than just a classic villain. As the movie hurtles toward the climax, there is a scene when the female heroine, Holly Gennaro, confronts Hans after realizing he is not a political extremist.
"After all of your posturing, all your little speeches, you're nothing but a common thief," she says.
Hans grabs her by the arm, and pulls her close. The top of Holly's blouse is hanging open, and they're both breathing heavy. "I am an exceptional thief, Mrs. McClane. And since I'm moving up to kidnapping, you should be more polite." Wait? What? What is going on here? My 'anything-can-be-a-romance' imagination has transformed Die Hard from a popcorn- action flick into a romantic suspense plot bunny. What will happen next? Will Holly and Hans find passion in each other's arms? Or will the FBI find them before they make it to the secluded beach where they'll be 'collecting twenty percent'? Maybe I should be writing this down. Can you think of other movie villains or bad guys who could be transformed into romance heroes just by looking at the story from their unique point-of-view? Who are your favorites? Sarah Vance-Tompkins received an MFA in Film Production from the University of Southern California. She went on to work in feature film development. She is a member of the Los Angeles Romance Authors RWA, the Contemporary Romance RWA, and the Young Adult RWA. Her debut YA novella, KISSES ON A PAPER AIRPLANE will be released by Inkspell Publishing in May 2016. 

Writing romance: why perfect men make boring heroes [REPOST]

KATIE RED SHIRT (1 of 1)~ By Katie McCoach Note: This article was originally published on the Standoutbooks blog and can be viewed here. Recently I was reading a promising romance novel, and then, in the midst of chapter six, I found myself placing the book face down on my kitchen table in frustration. The hero was absolutely perfect. And I was bored out of my mind. A perfect man—that sounds amazing, right? That’s what we want in a romance novel. We want our heroine to find the perfect man to live happily ever after with. Sure, it sounds nice, but it’s not exactly exciting.
If he’s already perfect, what’s left for the heroine to bring to his life?
Let’s take a look at why the perfect man isn’t perfect for a riveting romance novel.

The perfect man is flawless

Flaws make a person human, and flaws on a man are endearing and intriguing. Maybe, such as in It Happened One Wedding by Julie James, he’s too cocky for his own good and can’t believe it when a woman can’t resist his charm. Or, like in What I Love About You by Rachel Gibson, he is an alcoholic with PTSD so he doesn’t want people to get too close. So wait, he has fears to overcome? And the heroine can help him?
Except his fears/flaws keep him from letting her help him. Will they? Won’t they? Ahh, now we have a story to follow—now we are invested. The more tortured, the better. Flaws are relatable, perfection is not.

The perfect man lacks conflict

Conflict is the driving force of a story, it’s the fuel, it’s the heart. Whatever you want to call it, conflict is necessary in a novel because without it there is no story. A perfect man has nothing to overcome, nothing to change, and no problems to face when he and the heroine connect. I don’t know about you, but my eyes are glazing over already. Take It Happened One Wedding again as an example. In this contemporary romance, our hero hits on our heroine and she shoots him down hard and fast. He can’t believe it! They think that’s the last time they’ll see each other, but what do you know—they are the best man and maid of honor in a wedding and they better learn how to get along. I’m definitely staying awake for that story. One of my favorite writing quotes is by Linda Howard. She says,
If your hero is a firefighter, your heroine better be an arsonist.
If there is nothing holding the hero and heroine back from being together, then we’ve reached their happy ending 50,000 words early.

The perfect man doesn’t experience personal growth

If a man has no room to grow when he meets the heroine, are they really meant to be together? When I read a romance, I want to see how the characters compliment each other—how they inspire each other to become their best selves. A man (or any character for that matter) that doesn’t grow by the end of the book makes you wonder why you’re reading in the first place. “If conflict is the lifeblood of a story, the protagonist’s goal is its compass.” And the only way a character can accomplish that goal and defeat the conflict before them is to grow as a person. For example in Taste – A Love Story by Tracy Ewens, the man who takes care of everyone around him finally learns how to rely on someone else. In conclusion, we may dream about meeting the perfect man or woman in real life, but meeting them on paper is about as boring and flat as a blank piece of paper itself. To write an enticing hero, he should be flawed, conflicted, and grow as a human being. Basically, our hero’s not perfect until he meets his mate. Have you read a story with a boring hero or heroine? What made them so? Leave a comment and share your thoughts [no specific book titles, please]! KATIE McCOACH is a freelance developmental book editor at KM Editorial working with authors of all levels to help them create their best story possible. Katie is a member of Romance Writers of America and the Editorial Freelancers Association. She has had essays published in TrainWrite and Kalliope and is currently writing a contemporary romance novel. For advice on editing, writing, and publishing visit her blog at http://www.katiemccoach.com/blog and be sure to also follow her on Twitter @KatieMcCoach.

Romancing the Jerk

Phyllis Towzey 2015~ By Jane Peden Writing a hero readers will fall in love with is always challenging – but never more so than in category romance.  Especially if you are writing about presumptuous arrogant billionaires whose cold hearts and rash judgments are in dire need of redeeming.  You know the type.  The CEO who seduces his secretary, then fires her when she’s falsely accused of being a corporate spy.  The heir to the throne who shows up on his discarded girlfriend’s doorstep and demands that she leave her job and her country behind and go with him to a distant land, or else he’ll take their child away from her forever.  The corporate raider who forces an old rival’s daughter to marry him under threat of destroying her father’s business. See?  You already don’t like him . . . But the author knows that by the end of the book, this man will be totally worthy of the heroine’s love. In my debut novel, The Millionaire’s Unexpected Proposal, I struggled with making my heroine likeable.  I wrote a secret baby story, where the heroine shows up five years after a Las Vegas fling, with the hero’s child in tow.   Not only did she never tell him she was pregnant – she also married another man she didn’t love for money, and passed the child off as her husband’s.  Only now, when she’s a widow facing an ugly custody suit by her former in-laws, does she run to the hero for help. Did she have good reasons for her choices?  Of course.  But I worried that readers wouldn’t be willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Well, readers liked my heroine just fine.  They had much less tolerance for my hero, whose anger and lack of trust in the heroine seemed to me to be completely justified.  More than one reader-reviewer lamented Sam is such a jerk.  And a few even went so far as to say that by the time he groveled at the end of the book it was just too late. Looking back on those reactions, I’ve concluded that category romance readers – the vast majority of whom are women – come to the book hard-wired to identify with the heroine.  So it’s easier for them to accept her motivation as genuine.  The hero, on the other hard, better prove himself worthy of both the heroine’s and the reader’s love. And you have to lay the groundwork early on, or readers – and agents and editors – may never read past the first chapter. Here are some ways to romance the jerk hero, and keep readers from giving up on him, regardless of whether you are writing category or single title:
  • Give the reader some insight into his motivation as soon as possible. You don’t have to tell all in the first few chapters, but drop a few hints about why he’s so closed off emotionally.
  • Show us one little vulnerability.  Maybe he has a soft spot for stray dogs. Or he can’t resist jelly doughnuts.
  • Give him a backstory that parallels a point of conflict in your story.
  • Have him admire – even fleetingly – some trait of the heroine’s.
  • Give him a touch of self-awareness.  He knows he’s being a jerk, but believe he has no alternative.
  • Have a likeable secondary character find him worthy of admiration or trust.  If they like him, there must be something more beneath the surface, right?
By including one or more of these ingredients, you humanize your hero and make the reader want to dig deeper to discover why he behaves the way he does – and they’ll be invested in his struggle to overcome the obstacles he’s put in his own path. Because what good is an HEA if no one is rooting for it? * What are the characteristics of your favorite heroes? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.  Jane Peden is a Florida trial attorney who writes sexy contemporary romances set in the exciting South Florida city of Miami, where millionaire lawyers live extravagant lifestyles and find love when they least expect it. When Jane isn’t in court, you can find her at the beach with her laptop, dreaming up stories about successful, confident men who know what they want and how to get it, and smart, sexy women who demand love on their own terms.  Jane lives on the Gulf Coast of Florida with her husband, two kids, two dogs, and a fish.  Jane’s debut novel, The Millionaires’ Unexpected Proposal – the first in her Miami Lawyers series - was released through Entangled Publishing’s Indulgence line in March 2015.  

Website || Facebook || Twitter || jane@janepeden.com

Writing romance: why perfect men make boring heroes

KATIE RED SHIRT (1 of 1)~ By Katie McCoach Note: This article was originally published on the Standoutbooks blog and can be viewed here: https://www.standoutbooks.com/writing-romance-perfect-men-make-boring-heroes/  Recently I was reading a promising romance novel, and then, in the midst of chapter six, I found myself placing the book face down on my kitchen table in frustration. The hero was absolutely perfect. And I was bored out of my mind. A perfect man—that sounds amazing, right? That’s what we want in a romance novel. We want our heroine to find the perfect man to live happily ever after with. Sure, it sounds nice, but it’s not exactly exciting.
If he’s already perfect, what’s left for the heroine to bring to his life?
Let’s take a look at why the perfect man isn’t perfect for a riveting romance novel.

The perfect man is flawless

Flaws make a person human, and flaws on a man are endearing and intriguing. Maybe, such as in It Happened One Wedding by Julie James, he’s too cocky for his own good and can’t believe it when a woman can’t resist his charm. Or, like in What I Love About You by Rachel Gibson, he is an alcoholic with PTSD so he doesn’t want people to get too close. So wait, he has fears to overcome? And the heroine can help him?
Except his fears/flaws keep him from letting her help him. Will they? Won’t they? Ahh, now we have a story to follow—now we are invested. The more tortured, the better. Flaws are relatable, perfection is not.

The perfect man lacks conflict

Conflict is the driving force of a story, it’s the fuel, it’s the heart. Whatever you want to call it, conflict is necessary in a novel because without it there is no story. A perfect man has nothing to overcome, nothing to change, and no problems to face when he and the heroine connect. I don’t know about you, but my eyes are glazing over already. Take It Happened One Wedding again as an example. In this contemporary romance, our hero hits on our heroine and she shoots him down hard and fast. He can’t believe it! They think that’s the last time they’ll see each other, but what do you know—they are the best man and maid of honor in a wedding and they better learn how to get along. I’m definitely staying awake for that story. One of my favorite writing quotes is by Linda Howard. She says,
If your hero is a firefighter, your heroine better be an arsonist.
If there is nothing holding the hero and heroine back from being together, then we’ve reached their happy ending 50,000 words early.

The perfect man doesn’t experience personal growth

If a man has no room to grow when he meets the heroine, are they really meant to be together? When I read a romance, I want to see how the characters compliment each other—how they inspire each other to become their best selves. A man (or any character for that matter) that doesn’t grow by the end of the book makes you wonder why you’re reading in the first place. “If conflict is the lifeblood of a story, the protagonist’s goal is its compass.” And the only way a character can accomplish that goal and defeat the conflict before them is to grow as a person. For example in Taste – A Love Story by Tracy Ewens, the man who takes care of everyone around him finally learns how to rely on someone else. In conclusion, we may dream about meeting the perfect man or woman in real life, but meeting them on paper is about as boring and flat as a blank piece of paper itself. To write an enticing hero, he should be flawed, conflicted, and grow as a human being. Basically, our hero’s not perfect until he meets his mate. Have you read a story with a boring hero or heroine? What made them so? Leave a comment and share your thoughts [no specific book titles, please]! KATIE McCOACH is a freelance developmental book editor at KM Editorial working with authors of all levels to help them create their best story possible. Katie is a member of Romance Writers of America and the Editorial Freelancers Association. She has had essays published in TrainWrite and Kalliope and is currently writing a contemporary romance novel. For advice on editing, writing, and publishing visit her blog at http://www.katiemccoach.com/blog and be sure to also follow her on Twitter @KatieMcCoach.