Heroes – Jerks or Nice Guys?


I was posting out on Twitter and Facebook tonight, bemoaning the fact that yet another set of characters has reared their heads and demanded to be written. This book will take some research, like they all do, but even so, the words are flowing out of my fingers at a pace I don’t dare interrupt. When I’m inspired like that, I tend to write like gangbusters, getting as many as 25K words down in a week. Problem is, I have a book I REALLY want (and need) to finish, but it’s just not calling to me. The reason being is that my hero is too nice.
Yup, you heard that right. My hero is too nice. He’s basically a good guy. Nothing wrong with that, but when I write, a good guy is not who I’m looking for. If you’ve read any of my books, you know that my heroes tend to be, well, assholes. At least that’s how they come off to the heroine. Yet, somehow, she sees behind the jerkface façade to the man underneath. And basically, he’s an honorable guy. So why am I having such trouble with the hero who’s the honorable guy from the start?
Couple things I suppose. The fantasy of “taming the bad boy” lurks in many women’s hearts. Because who doesn’t want to be the one who makes him fall in love to the point he’d risk everything he is and has to make her happy? Make him see being the honorable guy in himself is acceptable. Isn’t that what romance is all about?
But here’s the other issue – this nice hero is boring me. He was fun at first, but he quickly became bland to me. I’ve gone back and tried to make him darker, but it’s simply not working. Even when he’s being dominating (cause ALL my heroes are), he’s not daunting enough. I don’t necessarily want him to be evil, or innately cruel, but he has to have something in his past that makes him behave somewhat “un-heroically” at times. He has what he believes is a reason to behave the way he does.  Because if he doesn’t have that reason, and realize at some point that reason may no longer be valid, how can he learn from his mistakes and be redeemed? Right?
My heroes, for all of their meanness, always feel some sort of remorse for their actions, even if they stubbornly refuse to let that regret guide them at whatever moment. The heroine is the one who ensures he learns what he needs to. She teaches him that it’s all right to forgive, accept, admit mistakes. And sometimes, she encourages him, or helps him, take brutal action against his enemies. Showing him that sometimes, being a jerk is perfectly acceptable!
What do you think? Jerks or nice guys? 
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Catching Up


Here we go again – if you follow this blog, by now, you know I’m probably one of the worst bloggers ever. The last several months have been incredibly busy, and what time I’ve had to devote toward writing (anything), has gone toward the projects I’ve been bouncing between for months, rather than this blog. One project is now complete, the other is thisclose to being done. Family issues have taken a chunk of time as well, and unfortunately, the blog was the sacrifice while I worked through it all. I still haven’t figured out how I managed when I was working full time. While I now have more time available, I find it fills up much more quickly. And no matter how carefully I plan out my days and weeks, something pops up nearly every single day to trash that. However, I take great satisfaction in knowing several of my house projects are also done, though that list seems to grow way faster than I can keep up with.
 
I’ve decided to try some new things here – I’ll be hosting some author interviews and the like, and I thought I would also do some brief reviews of some of my recent reading material. I’ve managed to read a few books while at the gym (thank you Kindle App!), it’s a great way to make that 45 minutes on the treadmill or elliptical go much faster.
But before I get to all that, I figured I should share a little about the projects I’ve been working on. As I may have mentioned before, I am a HUGE fan of History Channel’s original show, Vikings. I have long planned to write a series about Vikings, and the show inspired me to push that plan to the top of my ever-growing list of books I plan to write. I recently finished the first in what is currently a trilogy, though I may want to add to that. I had a lot of fun writing it, even through the dark moments of the story.  I’ll share more info on the release of that book as I get it. In the meantime, I can’t wait to get on to the next books. I already know that book 2 will be a deeply emotional book. The heroine is introduced in book 1, and at that point, she’s not very likeable, so I have a tough road ahead of me to redeem her. But her story is a bit dark, she’s suffered tremendously, and that’s part of what drove her behavior in book 1. I’m looking forward to revisiting the gritty and bloody world of 9th century Scandinavia.
The other project is the third in my Medieval Warriors series. I’m also enjoying this – these characters have been kicking around in my head for a very long time, though their story has changed drastically from its first incarnation. It’s also a bit longer than the first two books in the series, and I am calling it a prequel, since it tells the story of Gillian and Royce, the parents of Marissa and Rowan from the first two books. I also have a fourth book planned in that series – and it’s got a cool paranormal twist!
And lo and behold, just this last week I think I solved the huge plot dilemma I had for a shelved project. This one is a vampire tale, and incorporates several BDSM elements. I’ve combined both of my favorite genres with this one! This story also has some very dark moments, which I love to write. So that story is now back in the queue for finishing/polishing.
Last but not least, summer is finally here. I love summer – it is my absolute favorite season. That may have something to do with the fact I was born the day before the summer solstice. I have found over the years that people tend to prefer the season they were born in most of all. Of course, there are exceptions, but generally, most of the people I’ve discussed this theory with have agreed. So if you’re a summer baby like me, enjoy! For those who prefer the colder climates, don’t worry – they’ll be here again before we know it.

End of an Era – and Vikings!

It’s been real quiet around here lately! As usual, things are hairy. My last post addressed the fact I’m about to become unemployed, and that reality has resulted in some pretty insane weeks. I’m busier than ever preparing to transition my job and responsibilities to someone else in another division, and it’s made me take a good hard look at all that I do here. I don’t think even I realized just how much that was! I was asked to stay for an additional month to help complete the transition, and I agreed to that, because I just can’t drop overnight what I’ve spent so many years working so hard at. I figure the extra month will help me be able to let it go a little easier – though I’ll admit, I didn’t expect to be so damn possessive! It’s the end of an era for me, and a beginning of a new one, though clearly, I still have mixed emotions about the whole situation. But I am looking forward to being home for a little while and having the time to focus on other things.
Specifically, writing. I currently have two completed books I am doing a final pass on – another vampire tale that has been in the works and close to finished for what seems like forever, and the next paranormal involving magic and magical people. And there’s another historical in the works as well, though it’s taking longer to get finished than I’d thought it would. The goal is to be done with those three by the time I am done with the day job, because my next writing goal is to start another series.
I’ve been watching the new History Channel series, Vikings. And while I’ve had plans for a Viking trilogy for some time, watching this show has thrust those ideas to the forefront. I am loving almost everything about it – even the at-times disturbing violence. I like the gritty reality portrayed, and the characters are compelling and complex – and based on real historical figures..
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) is sexy as hell! And his wife Lagertha is as coolly kick-ass as he is. I love their chemistry – that scene where they’re fighting, and she’s beating the crap out of him, and he’s not holding back either, but it’s turning them both on – damn, sexiest thing I’ve seen on basic cable in forever! I’m looking forward to exploring the perceptions and realities of the women of the time, because it’s so different from so many other cultures.
The villains are properly villainous – I’ve always been a fan of Gabriel Byrne, but I really loathe him here (that’s a good thing, BTW), though I do like the clues we get as to what makes him tick. But I’m really liking Rollo, Ragnar’s brother, a lot. He’s showing many signs he could be a villain to reckon with, and since I am particularly partial to villains, I’m drawn to that side of his character and can’t wait to see how far over the line his dark side evolves. Hopefully not so far that he ends up dead before the first season’s over.
I’m learning quite a bit about both versions of the characters – the TV version and the real versions, though even the real versions are usually steeped in myth and often a combination of more than one real historical person.
When I first thought about writing a Viking trilogy, probably about a year ago, I added the idea to my spreadsheet, and a couple of lines about what direction I thought the first book might take. I’ve kept some of that, but watching this show has made the ideas sprout with vengeance. Between watching and digging into the history behind the series, I now have plots for the first two books.  I’ll need to do more research, which I’m looking forward to, but come May, I plan on starting that series, and will actually have the time to devote to it.

A (Tarnished) Silver Lining?

This week, a lot of whispers, rumors and suspicion were finally put to rest.  After months and months of speculation and gossip going around the building at my day job, we learned that my particular department is splitting. More specifically, some of our product lines are going to be handled under another division, in California. Which means the remaining product line will roll up to another division as well. Which means just about all of us are out of jobs.
I have to say, until now, I’ve been lucky. I’ve always worked in a profitable group, or been in a position where I was truly needed to be able for my group to operate at a profit. For several years, this particular group was an amazing performer – we were one of the smallest staffed groups around, and we blew our numbers away and put profit on the bottom line year after year, usually in larger numbers than a lot of groups with bigger budgets and staffs did. We won all sorts of awards for our profitability, innovative ways to run the business and the way we closed big deals. It’s nice to be part of a group in that position.
Things have turned a bit in last couple of years – for lots of factors that everyone has faced in some respect. The economy brought a general slowdown in business. Since we’re a Japanese company, the natural disasters in 2011 in Japan and Thailand affected us adversely in several huge ways. There were other factors as well. But we were turning it around. Slowly, perhaps, but we definitely showed signs of improvement. And now they’re giving it all to another part of the company.
I’ll admit to being unhappy about this – after all, I’ve spent 24 years with this company, the last 16 with this particular group, so it is like my home and family in a lot of ways. I have the best boss ever, she, like me, is a working mom with kids of similar ages, and we get along in so many ways. The funny thing is her husband’s family has a lot of connections to mine as well, so she almost really is like family. But I’ve built up a lot with this company besides that. Benefits, vacation time, and flexibility help me balance and take care of my family as I need to. I live close enough to go home for lunch! Not to mention, the feeling of belonging in the group and the company are a big part of this job too. Liking what I do and liking the people I do it with is another plus. So the idea of giving all that up and starting from scratch at this stage in my life is more than just a little unnerving. But hey, I’ll deal. It’s not like I have a choice. Besides, that 24 years definitely works in my favor for a lot of other things, like severance.
Then there’s another side to this – the silver lining maybe I’m digging really deep for. I’ll be home during the day – at least, most likely, for a while. A lot of things I’ve never been able to do because I work outside the home will now be do-able – participating and volunteering at school for my kids, working out in the mornings and finally getting back into the routine that I let fall by the wayside, grocery shopping when the stores are quieter than the times I normally have to go, cooking dinner fresh almost every day. And I can write!
The dream/goal has always been that one day I would be able to write full time. My best time to write is always mid-morning to early afternoon anyway, as I’ve proven to myself many many times over the years, so to be able to devote that time on a daily basis to writing is literally my dream come true. And now it looks like I might get the chance to actually do it, or at least see if I can make it work. So in that respect, I’m sort of looking forward to the end of my time here.
Then again, nothing is certain yet. While it’s more likely than not I’ll be unemployed come the spring, this is a big company and there are always opportunities. So with all the reorganizing going on, there’s the chance I could find a landing spot. And everything will go on as usual. And the dream gets put on hold for a little bit longer. I have mixed emotions about that scenario as well. But it does take care of things like medical benefits, vacation time and the fact I have a daughter going to college in a couple of years. And now I’m super glad I spaced my kids 8 years apart, as unintentional as it may have been.
I suppose what’s annoying me most about the whole thing is that the two hours I get to myself each evening before I pass out have been totally unproductive. The distraction is killing my motivation and focus. My two WIPs were going along gangbusters until the last two weeks. Now, I stare at the screen and my notes and still can’t make it work. And I’m so damn close to wrapping one up for good! Figures. Of course, it doesn’t help that there are a million things going on in our world too, so the idea of having 8 extra hours a day to manage it sure is appealing while I juggle everything and try to stay coherent and somewhat sane.
I feel like I’m standing at a fork in the road – except the choice isn’t mine, I have to wait for someone to make it for me. I don’t like not being the one in the driver’s seat, though I’ll admit, the unknown, as frightening as it can be, is also exciting. This could turn out to be a very defining moment.

Age Brings Wisdom, Right?

Today’s my birthday. I usually love my birthday, even if it does signify getting older and all that goes along with that. This year, I’m not as enthralled as I usually am, even if I am only 29! I refuse to divulge it even in my own home because my son is a blabbermouth – no chance of his learning my real age until he’s at least to this point, so I will always ever refer to myself as 29. Though he’s likely to remind me that now I’m 30.

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve finally reached the point that I don’t care anymore, the day is no different than any other, or the fact that I’m approaching a milestone that I really don’t want to approach. Maybe it’s because I still need to lose about 30 lbs. and start working out regularly, like I used to (curse you Curves, for closing all the damn locations near me!), because I need to start feeling younger again. Or maybe the fact that I now need glasses and will be getting them in a week or so is hitting home. The tests the doctor wants me to take. Hey, other than the standard female things, when did I start needing a doctor regularly, damn it?

Lately my 16 year old heart has been feeling more 30-ish and that can’t be a good thing, can it? Somehow, it bugs me. I want to hold onto my youth and keep partying like I did when I was 19, and I find it’s not so easy anymore. Not that I’m going to give that up – just have to get and keep my partying self in better shape, for better stamina! 😀

One thing I’ve also noticed is that I’ve been making my heroines a little older than I used to, well, except for Marissa in Warrior’s Vengeance and the heroine(s) to come in the sequel/prequels, the time period kind of needs them to be fairly young. Not sure why my more modern heroines are older, and the really odd thing is I find myself feeling more maternal toward my heroines rather than identifying fully with them. It’s weird, how my perception of them has changed. There’s less of “me” in them than there used to be, and they have complete personalities of their own. Maybe I’ve finally gotten to be old enough that I realize that fairy-tale ending ain’t never gonna happen for me, so I’ll give it to them.  Or maybe it’s that I’ve changed so much over the years that the parts of me that are in my heroines are not parts of me that are still relevant to me today.
Maybe I’m just getting better at compartmentalizing and sorting. Though I would rather have this skill applied to my home and office, rather than the emotional and rambling train of thoughts, thank you very much. I find plotting comes a little easier – is that because I’ve garnered enough knowledge in my advanced years to be able to make sense of things that I used to just wing without any sort of reasonable explanation? (Is that last sentence even grammatically correct?)
Anyway, a lot of this has come to me over the last couple of days, as I approach my day, realizing how short the span is separating me from that horrifying number and fighting it as hard as I can. But there are positives, especially when it comes to writing.
I’m better disciplined (though not by much), and I am honestly secure in knowing what I put into words is thousands and thousands of times better than what my first attempts look like. I’m good, damn it, and it may have taken a while to get to that point, but every minute, even the depressing I’m-giving-it-up-can’t-do-this-anymore ones, were worth it. I feel confident in giving advice and support to newer writers. I didn’t have that confidence for a loooong time. I feel like I know what I’m doing, more often than I feel like I don’t. Why the hell did it take so long to tip the scales the other way?
As for acknowledging today, I’m going to do my best to keep the day in general low-key, though I’m not past using it to my advantage when I need to. 😉 But I want it to be a regular day amidst the insanity of all the others. We’ll see how that pans out. Since everyone except me and the little guy have plans tomorrow, the odds of it being a quiet normal day are actually pretty good. I’m hoping, anyway!
And since it’s a birthday, it’s time for presents! I’ll give a few commenters a copy of any one of my titles, winners’ choice.

All I ask for is a Little Respect

I’ve been a terrible blogger. It’s over a month since my last post, and to be honest, there hasn’t been a lot to talk about. I have a recap for the RWA conference, which I keep adding to, and will eventually post that here. The thing is, the evil day job has consumed tons of my time during the day, and I’ve been working furiously on my revisions for my medieval capture/forced seduction book. And, I was just on vacation with the family. I did manage to get some serious editing time in, and I added about 3K words to the ms, but there’s still a little more to go. I am “thisclose” to wrapping that up.
Part of my problem is that I am not one of those lucky writers who has unconditional support from my DH. My kids think my writing career is awesome (though, to be fair, my 14 yo daughter is a bit embarrassed, despite her own sudden interest in writing), but DH just keeps insisting it’s nothing more than a very expensive hobby. For the last several weeks, I’ve had that consistently brought up, to the point where I am ready to commit violence. Even my in-laws (who I just spent a lovely week with) think he’s being a bit harsh.
It’s not easy to constantly have him tell me I shouldn’t be writing, I should be cleaning or doing laundry, doing something the kids need. Writing is not important enough to warrant the attention I give it. I’m not going anywhere, and until I make some serious money, it’s not worth the investment I put into it. Some of you may have noticed I’ve been very light on promo and advertising in the last few months. I’m trying to curb expenses as much as I can, just so he’ll STFU already! Especially since all my writing time lately comes after 10pm on the weeknights and early weekend mornings. It’s all I can do (other than the rare day when I have nothing going on at work, or am at home), and that time is sacred to me. I will ignore everything and everyone (including the internet) until I get my 2K in words, or 50 or so pages edited. So yeah, when he comes down and starts in with the “What are you doing now? Don’t you have something better to do?” crap, I tend to get downright nasty.
I suppose I should be a little more understanding – he’s not much of a reader, doesn’t get the allure of a great story, so I shouldn’t expect him to understand what it feels like to craft a great story. Writers are basically readers at heart, and without his being a reader, he’ll never get it. I should be used to this by now, we’ve been together 27 years, married for 19 of those years. I guess he always thought I’d get tired or bored by it, or give in after so many years of rejection (I almost did, I think he was really pissed when my friends pulled me off the ledge!). And now that I’m starting to achieve my dreams, he’s starting to realize this isn’t going away. Which is why I am working so hard to get my next books completed, polished and ready for submission. There is the medieval, and the sci-fi two-fer, and hopefully, all three will contracted this year sometime, so I can start on the next book in my Magiste series. I actually have two more planned for that world, with a ton of notes for more.
Then maybe, finally, I might get a little respect around here.

What A Difference A Year Makes

Literally. At this time last year, I was in the throes of a very emotional roller-coaster ride in my pursuit of publication. For close to twenty years, I’ve been a member of RWA and my local chapter, as well as other organizations and chapters. I’ve taken classes, attended conferences, pitched my manuscripts in various venues, and done all I could to improve my craft. I wrote at least seven 100K+ word manuscripts. My writing improved, I developed some wonderful friendships, and I basically enjoyed the process, as frustrating as it could be at times. I’ve always prided myself on a thick skin, and welcomed comments, both good and bad, with eagerness. After all, every suggestion or comment to my work could only improve it, right?

Last year, it all came crashing down. Many of my critique partners know that last summer, when it all came to a head, was probably the very worst time for me, in all my years of writing for publication. Suddenly, there were no good things to hear, only bad, and some of it was truly scathing or harsh. Even after pitches and requests for partials and sometimes full manuscripts, my submissions either vanished into the ether, and my follow-up emails went ignored, or I was dismissed with haste. I was at the point where I almost gave up writing altogether, for other reasons as well as the rejections. I took steps to make a clean break – big steps. I disengaged from various writers’ loops, unfollowed a lot of people on Twitter, and cut myself off from the writing world. When Healing the Mage placed dead last in Passionate Ink’s Stroke of Midnight contest, it seemed to be the final confirmation of the new path I was about to embark upon – one without writing in my life. Two very dear friends, and fantastic critique partners, Janet Walters and Kathy Attalla, were critical in talking me back from the ledge, and encouraged me not to give up. I had publishers on my list I really wanted to submit to, but after the beating I had taken up to that point, I was really afraid to chance it again at that time. After all, when more than one editor sends you standard one-line form rejections (this happened several times after glowing comments and very eager requests for the full), and another tells you not to submit to them again, and still others just ignore you outright, it kind of throws you off course and tarnishes the dream. And I guess I’d hit my limit for how much rejection I could take.

Of course, that all changed when Noble Romance Publishing contracted In The Devil’s Arms. I’d long had Noble on my list of targeted publishers, but my ego and confidence in my writing skills had taken such a blow, I almost didn’t submit. Obviously, I am glad Janet and Kathy were there for the push I needed, and we all know how it turned out! 🙂

So here I am after a rough year, and as eager to write as I was way back when I first started. As my critique partners know, I cut my teeth on historicals, particularly medieval. And last November, I decided to go back to that time period and wrote the first draft of an erotic medieval tale, one that involves capture-fantasy, and features BDSM and ménage elements. Now I am in the middle of revising and polishing, and enjoying the tale as I do so. After I finished it, I pretty much put it aside to get through the holidays and finish up my revisions on Healing the Mage, so the story is feeling rather new to me again, Of course, there are some plot holes to fix, and plenty of typos to correct, and as I am working to fix those, I am realizing that I don’t think I could ever not write. Somehow, some way, whether it be fan fiction, or my own little fantasies, I would write.

I’m not sure what brought all of this to my head in the last few days. But I’ve been thinking the last few days about how close I came to throwing it all away and how very glad I am that I didn’t. Thanks to some friends who knew better than I did, even if at that particular moment, I didn’t want to listen. Thanks guys!