A Family of Heroes

21 09 2009

I’m sure you all know that to us writers, our characters are almost like our children. We lovingly watch them grow and change and become outstanding people. So far the tales of the Scorpion Moon Trilogy have come out as the hero’s tale. I’ve learned that hero can mean very different things in different people.

In Book 1, Widow’s Peak, I started out with a not so shiny champion. Life has not been good to Alaine de la Vierre. This medieval bad boy was one of the best assassins in Europe. Successful as a troubadour, and popular with the ladies at the court of King Henry II, Laine has the perfect cover for his nefarious profession. And the profession provides him a chance for the thing he wants most. Revenge. But like all good heroes, something makes him want out. What, you may ask could turn a deadly assassin into a hero? Why love, of course. Laine discovers that love and kindness have more to offer him than revenge. First he discovers the love of a family, then he discovers the love of a good woman. What more could a bad boy need?

In Kissed By A Rose, Book 2 in the series, my hero is the total opposite of the hero of Book 1. Sir James Barnard has always had everything in life. A member of the Norman nobility, Jamie has been raised in a loving family and given every advantage. When his father is killed in the Holy Land, Jamie determines to become what his father was, a knight of renown.  He is successful in becoming a favored knight in King Henry’s court, but finds he is missing the most important thing his father had, a fulfilling life. I’m in the process of writing Book 2, so Jamie is still making that journey toward finding fulfillment, but I know his heroine will give him what he needs. It is romance, after all.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, from all kinds of backgrounds. Christian, the hero of Book 3, Until the End of Time, is still taking shape in my mind’s eye, but I’m sure that love will find him in the end.

WidowsPeak_w1019_680I can’t believe that the release day for Widow’s Peak is almost here! In just two more days, Amye and Laine (my heroine and hero) finally get to make their debut.  Here’s a short excerpt:

The ride from the glen up the ridge found the hunting party in good spirits. They had taken several animals, including a young boar that had been disrupting the peace of the flocks. Siward made the shot that had taken the pig. Amye liked to reward the most successful hunter with a small prize at supper.

“What reward would an unmarried knight like?” she thought to herself. Her question was interrupted by a great rustling from the trees above her. The party came to a halt as branches and leaves began to tumble to the ground.

Two men crashed through the canopy and landed with a loud thump against the forest floor. Her mount wheeled away, but Amye turned the horse back toward the melee. One of the men had risen and now looked her straight in the eyes. He seemed about to run but suddenly dropped to his knees and fell face forward into the moss of the forest floor.

Amye quickly slid from Jester’s back and hurried toward the fallen stranger. Her men, not far behind, surrounded her before she could get to the bodies. Gervais pulled her away.

“My lady, stay back. These men may be dangerous.”

“They are obviously injured,” Amye tossed back.

Gervais knelt between the men and placed two fingers against the neck of the one who had nearly run away.

“He is still alive.” He turned and checked the other. “This one, however, is dead.”

Amye sighed and made the sign of the cross over her heart. “Well, at least we can help the living,” she said.

“My lady, you know nothing about this man. He could be a thief or a murderer,” Gervais countered.

She studied the countenance of the fallen man. Though a deep purple bruise had begun to swell on his cheek, his face was quite handsome.

“I have seen him somewhere before, but I cannot think where. What if he is someone important?”

Folding his arms across his chest, Gervais looked at her with a piqued expression, but she ignored him and inched closer to get a better look at the man lying on the ground.

“From the looks of him, I don’t think he will be able to hurt us for a while yet. I do know he is injured and he is on my land. That makes me responsible for him.” She gave her old friend the look of resolve that said she had made up her mind.

Finally, he uncrossed his arms, but his face still frowned in disapproval. “William, take Lady Barnard back to the castle. Bring the cart back for them.” Gervais nodded toward the motionless bodies. “Half of you come with me. We shall search the woods to see if there are others. The rest of you wait here.”

****

Laine crawled up out of the darkness, but did not open his eyes until he felt the cool wet cloth covering them. His head ached like the devil and confusion filled his thoughts as he came to realize that he rested on a soft feather bed and not on the hard forest floor. Where am I? How have I come here?

He did recall that when he reached the manor, the gate was shut and the guards had refused entry to a lone stranger. He had returned to the forest that ran along the ridge, hoping to avoid the assassin for one more night.

He reached up, lifted the cloth, and peeked at his surroundings. A lone candle penetrated the darkness of the room. Laine rose up on his elbows to see if he could determine his situation. A bad mistake. His head ached even more and began to spin.

“Wait, lie still.” A woman’s hands reached out and helped him lie back. “You took quite a fall. You were lucky though.”

A beautiful oval face leaned close, as she pulled the bedcover up around him.

“Your companion broke his neck. I’m sorry there was nothing we could do for him. You rest. We will speak anon.”

She turned to rewet the cloth and placed it back over his forehead. The coolness helped to stop the spinning, and he breathed a deep sigh of relief. He had been able to best his opponent.

Laine closed his eyes. At least he did not have to worry about assassins for the moment. It would take some time for them to discover what happened and send someone else. For the first time in many months, he could rest easy, which he promptly did.

In a special release day contest I’m giving away three special prizes. A $10 Amazon gift certificate, an autographed copy of Widow’s Peak, and a beautiful pewter necklace I brought back from my trip to Wales last spring.  Winners will also be entered in the Super Contest that I’m holding over at my personal blog, Never Too Late For Love.

All you have to do to enter is between now and 11:59 on September 23rd, leave a comment on this post about what kind of hero you like best and why.  Do you like a knight in shining armor, or do you prefer a reformed bad boy? An action adventure hero or the nice guy next door? At Midnight on Thursday September 24th, I’ll pick three winners from the commenters.

WidowsPeak_w1019_680Widow’s Peak  Available  Now in Print  from The Wild Rose Press and at Amazon.com

Available in e-book format September 23rd from The Wild Rose Press





Hero Worship

7 09 2009

First of all, Happy Labor Day!

We’re celebrating here at Write Direction as we jump into the month of September because two of our author bloggers have new releases this month. Wish for the Moon by Sandra Jones and Widow’s Peak by Hanna Rhys Barnes will both be available later this month. They’ll tell you more when they post in the coming weeks. They’re both also planning contests in honor of their releases so make sure you check back and comment on the blog throughout September!

This month we’re all pondering What Makes a Hero? As a writer, I put a lot of thought into my characters because to me, they’re the most important part of the book. I have to know my characters as people, and know them well before I go very far with my plot. How can I know how my hero will react in a certain situation if I don’t know him, know how he thinks, know his insecurities, know his motivations, know his fears, know his sense of humor?

I’m a fan of character sheets. I know the thought of filling in worksheets for characters makes many authors shudder and fight nausea, but I like them. I don’t necessarily enjoy spending hours filling them out, but I make myself do it because I need to. It’s part of my process—the getting to know you stage. And it’s the stage where I fall in love with my hero. I have to know him better than the reader ever will because I have to love him enough to write him in such a way that my readers will forgive him his flaws and inevitable stupidity that leads to him almost losing the heroine in the black moment. 🙂 I have to write him in such a way that the reader will fall in love with him too.

I’m a pre-published writer (I phrase it that way because it sounds so much more optimistic than unpublished), so I can’t use heroes from my own works in progress and expect any of you to know who I’m talking about. Instead, I’ll just go into my own hero worship mode and tell you about my writing idol and her hunky heroes.

If you haven’t read Suzanne Brockmann, you should. I have a lot of keeper authors in the romance genre, and of those I have a very short list for whom I buy hardcover. Suzanne’s at the top. Even of my keeper authors (not naming names), many huge blockbuster best-selling writers tend to re-write the same hero. Oh he’s mutated from book to book, and his name’s always different, but his insecurities reappear, or his mannerisms are the same, or his brooding alpha male persona that actually masks a wounded sensitive man feels familiar.

Suzanne’s Troubleshooters heroes are different. When I’m talking to someone about her books, I don’t ever have to think “hum…which book was that? Was that in the book with the FBI agent or the military guy? And what were their names?” The characters, not just the heroes, in the Troubleshooters books are as different as each of my family members, work colleagues, and writing buddies. They’re distinctly unique. And that’s what I consider the pinnacle of good characterization. Her accomplishment is even more impressive because it’s a fifteen book series with over fifty recurring characters and extremely complicated overlapping plotlines.

[Digression: The fifteenth book came out in July and contained an announcement that there would be one more book but that it would be the last one in the series. At that point, my heart and breathing rates elevated and I rushed to my computer to send Staci Culver a panicked e-mail instructing her to tell me I had read it wrong and it wasn’t true. I have since read an online interview with Suzanne Brockmann where she explained that she was merely taking a “hiatus” from the series for a while. Please mean it, please mean it, please mean it. I can understand her wanting to move on to other projects, but at the same time, she’s created an addiction for me and I really don’t want to be left without a fix, LOL.]

I should clarify that my personal writing goals do not include writing characters like Suzanne’s. I don’t want to write or sound like anybody else. I hope my writing has the stamp of my own unique style and voice. I don’t want to recreate Tom or Decker or Dave or Izzy. I just want to hone my characterization skills to the level of Suzanne’s (or as close as I can get) so that the heroes that spring forth from my head can be just as unique and to-die-for-sexy as hers.

So… Talk to me about heroes. Who’s your writing hero? Who are your favorite heroes from novels you’ve read? If you’re a writer, what methods do you use when creating heroes? Comment away, and remember to check back for more details on Sandra’s and Hanna’s new release contests.





Who Doesn’t Love a Cowboy Hero?

1 06 2009

Cowboy Up

Here at The Write Direction, we’re celebrating June as Summer Fun Month.  I kicked off my summer with a trip to the rodeo.  And it was fun–beautiful horses, cute kids on ponies, Dandies riding in figure eights, ridiculous clown jokes, and of course, lots of eye candy in cowboy hats.

There’s just something about a cowboy that’s sexy. The ruggedness, the Wranglers, the boots, the swagger–and they do swagger, even when they’re limping out of the arena after being thrown head first off a bucking bronc. And I’m not the only one thinking come-hither thoughts about cowboys.

Cowboy heroes are a staple in romance novels (especially categories), so lots of readers out there melt at the idea of a hard working, hand-calloused, Stetson-wearing alpha male.  I’ve been advised by several writerly sources, both published with Harlequin and pursuing publication with Harlequin, that cowboy heroes are the way to go if you want a request (and hopefully a contract). I think they’re probably right.

Don’t get me wrong–throwing in a cowboy won’t make up for poor writing or weak plot lines or substandard characterization or any other writer’s pitfall. But if a writer already has an affinity for cowboys, then working a story around a tried and true character type with high marketability can’t be a bad idea.

I was in Walmart over the weekend, perusing the Harlequin section. I counted how many of the covers featured cowboys. Five. And they crossed three different lines–Blaze, Desire, and Silhouette Special Edition. Also keep in mind that it’s the very end of the month, so I was primarily looking at the May leftovers before the June books fill the shelves.  And…I’ll go ahead and admit it.  This wasn’t the first time I’ve counted cowboy covers.  Frankly, five is a low number. I’ve seen a lot more than that in the past.

I have two works in progress that feature cowboy heroes–a romantic suspense and a small town contemporary. My trip to the rodeo provided some great inspiration. I’ve got to write down my sensory details before I forget the experience.

What about you?  Does your heart melt over a cowboy?  Do you have a favorite romance novel featuring a cowboy hero?  Do you have a link to worksafe cowboy eye candy?  Throw your western themed thoughts at me via a comment and you’ll be entered to win our June contest prize!

Speaking of contest prizes…

Our June Summer Fun contest prize is a beach bag filled with all kinds of summer goodies!  As we add new posts throughout the month, we’ll be adding prizes to the bag.  Then, at the end of the month, one lucky commenter will win it all.  Stop back throughout the month and comment on additional June blog posts to increase your chances to win.  We’ll randomly draw for a winner at the end of the month.

This week, I’m contributing a fun summer read…and wouldn’t you know it?  It has a cowboy cover! The first item in the tote bag is The Texas Twins by Tina Leonard. I haven’t read it yet…it’s a June release, but Harlequin American is one of my favorite lines.  And it’s awfully hard to resist a cover with TWO cowboys.

The Texas Twins by Tina Leonard