Strong Women, Strong Heroes


Building on my post from a couple of weeks ago, where I talked about building the perfect hero, I’d like to talk a little bit more about how to create a supportive hero.  I write strong women, mostly, but they can be a bit clueless, or overwhelmed.  Mostly overwhelmed, which is my usual state in my day-to-day life.  It can take me a bit to figure out how to “fix” something, and in the meantime, I need the man in my life to be supportive, but not in there just trying to fix it for me.  And I like my heroines to be like that too – perfectly capable of fixing their own problems, if given time to figure it out.

So I have a list of ten things that a hero should do to let his heroine, the woman who will be the love of his life, get to the fix for her own problems, yet allow him to be supportive, too.  I’d love to hear about things you might add to this list (answer in the comments!)

1. Be Aware of Her Responsibilities

She has a lot going on.  Strong women always do.  So make sure you know what those things are before you decide to jump in and help.  You are only seeing the tip of the iceberg, I can guarantee you!

2. Step in Before She Burns Out or Loses It

Be watchful and know when you do need to step in.  No (wo)man is an island.  She may need your help at some point.  Don’t let her reach the point of being so overwhelmed that she can’t figure it out on her own.

3. Be An Active Participant

You are, or are going to be a couple.  Act like it!  Be there to catch her, listen to her, remove obstacles and distractions.  Help her be successful!

4. Stop Trying to Fix Her Problems

Hey, everyone needs a hero now and then.  But if left to her own devices, she’ll get this.  If she complains about what she can’t figure out or solve, she may just need to talk it through.  Don’t make suggestions or try to jump in like the White Knight and fix every little issue.  Chances are you don’t really know the whole story.  That will come out if you are patient.

5. Hold Her

Women are physical creatures too.  Sometimes, they just need to feel like they can rest for a minute.  Be that resting place.  Hold her, without expectations of more.  Believe me, the reward for your behavior WILL be coming later.

6. Let Her Talk For As Long As She Wants

Women are talkers.  They talk through problems, they talk through nerves, they talk through excitement and happiness.  Let her talk.  You will learn so much if you are listening.  Women aren’t that complicated, but you won’t know that unless you listen.

7. Be a Partner

Are you half of the whole?  Or just there when there is some crisis to solve?  Partnership is a two-way, 50/50 street.  Do your part.

8. Provide Her With Hope

Life is hard, even if it is a romance novel fairy tale.  Everyone needs to know there is hope in the future.  Hope beyond the ogre at the gate, the taxman at the door, the villain around the corner.  Be that hope for her.  Don’t give up, on her or yourself.

9. Be Useful

Seriously, what are you doing going fishing when there are things to be done?  Be useful.  What burden can you take that will give her the time and energy to solve her problems?

10. Ask Her How You Can Help

Were you already listening (Number 6).  If you were, you should already know how you can help, but maybe she hasn’t been clear or you aren’t sure what she meant.  Ask.  She will be more than happy to share the burden with you.

Do all these things, and I can guarantee you will not only get, but keep, the girl. And that’s the whole idea, right?

I’d love to hear the things you’d add to your list.  Leave them in the comments!

***

Fairest of the Faire

Fairest of the Faire book coverBlurb:

Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.

Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.

When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.

Available NOW!

Buy at Wild Rose Press:  (eBook and paperback)

Buy at Amazon (Kindle and paperback)

Buy at Barnes and Noble (Nook)

9 Ways to Creating the Perfect Hero


Science experimentThe hero:  perfect.  Muscular, kind-hearted, rich, capable, funny, ad just the right height.

But that’s not all there is to it, is there?  When we are writing the hero, there are so many elements that need to be considered.  After all, he really does need to be perfect. And human-ish.  And normal.  And above normal.

How can we even do this?  Our expectations are pretty high.  In addition to creating a spectacular physical specimen of a man, he needs to be perfect in other ways.  I think the following nine elements are important in a hero I’m going to let my heroine fall in love with.  You can let me know if you have things to add to the list, in the comments!

1. Genuine Kindness

Is he the fireman who rescues the kittens (easy out), or is he the guy that realizes the heroine may need a helping hand or that being kind, even to someone that can’t help him?  I’ll take the second.  A truly kind man doesn’t need a uniform (although that is hella sexy) to be kind.  He just needs an open heart and a sense of empathy or ability to see when someone is struggling.

2. Stability

Hoo-boy is this an important thing in real life.  And it is important in a story too.  The reader and the heroine both need to know that he is going to make it through the story, that he has his head, finances, and ambitions focused on success.

3. Emotionally Supportive

Is he going to react with anger and distrust, and ruin a good thing, or is he going to be that pulled-together guy who really does have the emotional answers?  And is he able to feel what the heroine feels, and support her through her journey too?

4. Some Actual Manners

Yes, I’m old school.  Please don’t use your fork as a spear to pick up your dinner and gnaw at it until it is gone.  Please open that door for me, and please walk on the side closest to the street.  Seriously, it’s not that hard.  Oh yes, and keep your burps and farts to yourself!

5. Reliability

Do what you say you will do, say what you mean, and live up to your obligations.  No one likes a slacker.

6.  An Open Heart

How else is he going to fall in love with her?  But this extends to more than just her.  This extends to the other people he may be interacting with in the story.  No one can resist an open-hearted man.  We just want to hug them and squeeze them and call them…(not George).

7. Generosity

Gimme your money!  Or at least, let me see you spend your money.  Don’t be a cheapskate.  And this applies to actions, too.  Don’t be stingy.  Strength is truly shown in how you treat others.

8. A Passion For Life

Another no-brainer, at least for me.  What is life without passion?  It doesn’t matter if you are into old cars, coaching little league soccer, growing perfect roses, or playing music.  Have a love of something besides yourself.  Passion for something is a complete turn-on.

9. Pride In Making People Smile

The world can be a dark, dark place.  And we tend to ramp up the negatives in our writing, because it is dramatic and helps the reader buy in better to the story and characters.  But don’t forget that humor is what really makes the world go around. Know when to laugh, and know how to make other people laugh.  The skill that allows you diffuse a situation with humor is one you can’t discount.  Everyone needs to laugh once in a while.

So, what do you think?  What would you add to this list?  Leave me a comment!

***

Fairest of the Faire

Fairest of the Faire book coverBlurb:

Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.

Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.

When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.

Available NOW!

Buy at Wild Rose Press:  (eBook and paperback)

Buy at Amazon (Kindle and paperback)

Buy at Barnes and Noble (Nook)

 

Writing is Hard


Writer's blockI have been getting some good writing in of late, although I’ve been breaking some rules.  That actually makes it a bit more difficult, although the outcome may turn out fine in the end.

The current work in progress is the circus novel, which is being written as a romance.  It was originally intended to be a longer Litfic piece, which I had started writing in 2008, but then Sara Gruen wrote Water for Elephants, and I thought my time for the LitFic had probably passed.  So I put it away.

But with the imminent demise of the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, I thought I should drag it back out and see if it could be a romance instead.  The problem with all of the prep work, outlining, and writing of a LitFic being transformed into a romance is that there is too much story.  There are too many characters, and too many scenes that don’t necessarily feed into a romance arc.  I know that generally, an epic-length romance is not going to sell. So that means slimming down the story, and slimming down the cast of characters.  But I want to be true to the story, and true to circus, while I’m doing it.

So about that rule-breaking…

Instead of writing in a linear way, which is my usual method, I’ve been doing some jumping and swimming and climbing and riding down the slide and doing it all over again.  I have an opening written, and the meeting of the main characters, and started writing a party scene.  But I’m struggling with that, so I moved ahead and wrote the ending.  Then I backed up and wrote  a rough draft of the Big Crisis, when a tornado rips the show apart and forces people to step up or to flee.  (You can guess what my FMC did, right?) It needs work but the basic scene is down.  Then I write the after-the-crisis scene, where the FMC and MMC finally get intimate.  Then I had to go back and write the scene where the elephant guy gets what’s coming to him.

And then I sit back and realize that I’ve got a whole lot more work to do!  I can’t have that intimate scene so late in the book.  I like puzzles, and I’m sure I’ll figure it out.  But in the meantime…

I’ve broken all my rules, and there’s still a ton more story to write.  There are a lot of missing pieces, and while the scenes themselves are good and are moving me forward on the project, breaking those rules make me uncomfortable.

But I’m not giving up. This is a story that needs to be told.  And I’m the one who’s going to be writing it!

I’d love to hear about your WIP.  What are you working on?

***

Fairest of the Faire

Fairest of the Faire book coverBlurb:

Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.

Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.

When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.

Available NOW!

Buy at Wild Rose Press:  (eBook and paperback)

Buy at Amazon (Kindle and paperback)

Buy at Barnes and Noble (Nook)

Oh, Loretta


What seems like a long time ago, but is really only about six years, I was part of a writing group that met every Wednesday at the local library.  I lived in a semi-rural area, kind of like I do now, and the library was a great gathering place.  It had been built in an old grocery store that backed up to thick woods, and sat in a plaza with a very authentic Mexican food restaurant, and a Shell gas station.  That’s how it is in rural areas – things are tucked in the strangest places.

Our group was small – a couple in their 40’s who drove from the city out to our meetings, a 30-something woman who had just been published by The Wild Rose Press (my publisher, who I was contracted with in 2014), myself, and Loretta.

Loretta was by far the most interesting person in our group.  She was 84 years old and “finally living her dream of writing.”  She had wanted to be a writer all her life.  She was full of stories.  She was working on a “true” story that involved people at the local VFW hall bar, aliens, mad cows, swamp gas, and murder.  She would read excerpts to us at our meetings, and it didn’t take long for me to look forward anxiously to the next chapter of her story.  It was fantastical stuff, written in awful format, but the story was enough to keep you interested.  She even wrote a “short” story for our non-juried anthology, in which we published stories from our group and from another writing group in the area.  A Tongue in Cheek History of Jefferson County was published the summer before I moved from Missouri to Colorado.

One of the things we did as a writing group was to give ourselves challenges.  I wasn’t fully invested in my novel-writing at that point, but the writing challenges gave me some inspiration to work with.  Sometimes, I provided a prompt from my Write-Brain book, which had a lot of prompts to work with.  We wrote to “the first thing I noticed was the splotch of catsup on his white shirt,” and “Down in the swamp,…” But Loretta’s favorite writing challenge was the six-word challenge.  All of us would provide six words that needed to be used in a story, giving us 30 words to work with.

Loretta’s favorite “word” was “cobalt blue.”  Yes, that’s two words, but we’re talking about Loretta, and no one ever had the heart to call her on “cobalt blue.” Any time we did this challenge, that would be her first contribution.  She loved that phrase. And to be honest, it made is be really creative about our stories.

I was able to use cobalt blue, along with all the other words, in a story I wrote that deserves to be a whole novel.  I love that story, and the main character, Bernice.  If it weren’t for Loretta, I wouldn’t have that story.

I am pretty sure Loretta is no longer on this earth.  I have no way of checking, as I’ve lost contact with the people in that writing group.  But I will never forget Loretta.  Every evening when the sun goes down, and the sky turns that deep, colorful blue you get at twilight, I think of Loretta.  Any time I see a blue dish, or a young lady with blue hair, I think of Loretta.  When I think of writing fantastical stories with aliens, or I pass a VFW hall, I think of Loretta.

And when I read my short story, called “Bernice,” I think of Loretta.  The story is published online, and maybe you’ll take a click over and read it.

As always, I’d love to have your comments.  And is there someone in your past that you will never forget, where certain sights or smells or sounds will bring that person back to life in your mind, even though they are long gone?

***

Fairest of the Faire

Fairest of the Faire book coverBlurb:

Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.

Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.

When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.

Available NOW!

Buy at Wild Rose Press:  (eBook and paperback)

Buy at Amazon (Kindle and paperback)

Buy at Barnes and Noble (Nook)

Circus is a Group Effort


As I work on my current project, a contemporary romance set on a circus, I would like to share some of the circus lingo and processes that go into putting on a one-ring show in the United States.  I will be sharing this over the next few posts of my blog.

Back in 2006 and 2007, I did considerable research on circuses, including purchasing a pretty extensive library of books, conducting interview with performers and working men, and attended the tent raisings that occur the morning of or the day before a circus performs.  The amount of coordination that goes into simply putting up a tent was really a surprise to me.  A big tent can be raised by a good tent crew in two hours – including getting the tent stakes into the ground, getting the poles up, stretching the canvas into place, putting up the side walls, and tying everything down once it is done.  This takes a massive group effort, but when I say “massive,” I mean the effort, and not necessarily the group.  A single-ring tent like the one for the Kelly Miller show (photo above is from that circus, credit me!) takes about 2 dozen men to put up, if that.  There are no “exclusive” jobs, either.  The same guys pounding in tent stakes by hand (see picture above) are also stretching the tent out, fixing tears in the canvas, tying things down, getting the seat wagons in and set up, blocking out the ring and putting up the ring curb, getting the sawdust down, putting up the fencing to guide visitors,  moving props into place, and many other tasks.  During the shows, many of these men are also helping to set up, stabilize, or take down rigging, moving and removing props to their positions, picking up trash, guarding the edges of the tent so that people don’t sneak in.  The minute the show is over, they are striking the seats and fences, and loosening the anchor ropes so they can get the tent down and packed into a truck before midnight.

Just so they can do it all again the next day.

It is arduous, physical work, but takes a finesse that would belie the mere grunt work of it all.  No one works harder on circus than the working men.  And hard-working men play hard, too.  Older stories talk about fights among workingmen, drunkeness and carousing at the local bars, getting left behind because they are hungover, or being tossed from the circus for being drunk on duty.  Makes me think of the old ways of the cowboys out west.  Work hard, play hard.  And those stores are true, and of course, just because we think we are more civilized now doesn’t mean that these things still don’t occur.  But in ways, you can see why it is the way it is.  Workingmen have the hardest jobs, the messiest jobs, and the least amount of rest of anyone on the circus.  And they aren’t receiving the premium play that the performers or bosses are.

When you go to a circus, you don’t see any of this.  You see the magic of the circus – the red white and blue tent, the bright lights, the performers in sequins, the gasps that accompany the daredevil acts, the beauty and grace of the show girls, the immensity of the Percheron horses in the Liberty Act.  In the background, the workingmen are what is keeping the whole thing together.  Remarkable, isn’t it?

Build Your Circus Vocabulary:

Patch:  Almost always a man, and the troubleshooter on the circus.  He deals with legal issues, permits, bribing or convincing of local officials (yes, it happens), smoothing over any issues with the towns or cities, and bailing circus people out of jail when they go on a bender or get caught grifting a guest.

Townie or Towner: These are the local people.  Usually said as a derogatory term for someone that has caused trouble or potentially will cause trouble. Circus people are always suspicious of towners.

House: the crowd in the tent.

Mud Show: These are smaller circuses that travel the country by truck.  Originally a term used for horse-drawn wagon shows.  They performed in whatever area they could rent from a nearby town – a field, an old fairgrounds, along the tracks, wherever.  When it would rain, they would find themselves in a mud pit, and getting out was an ordeal (still is).  Since most circuses these days are mud shows, it really refers to those not set up in an arena and rarely on pavement, and who struggle in spring with storms and the mud pits that are caused by them.

Seat Wagon: Portable seating, usually on wheels, where the bleachers fold up like origami so it becomes a trailer that can be pulled along behind a truck.  They are driven into the tent after it is set up and then pulled open to provide off-ground seating.

Tear Down: What happens immediately after a show.  The tent is taken down quickly and props and poles are stowed.  The quickest tear down I ever saw was about 90 minutes, in the dark, with a spitting rain.  They don’t mess around, and everything has its place.

Do you have a circus story you’d like to share?  Or a favorite circus act you like to see?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

 

Well, Hello There!


cherriesWhen I looked up, she was standing in front of me, a cherry pie in one hand, and the collar of a trouble-making little boy in the other.  She was wearing a dress covered in large yellow flowers, covered in a hot pink bibbed apron.  Her dark curly hair framed a freckled face with blue eyes, and she wore a thin headband festooned with tiny beaded flowers. Her name begins with a P, but I know no more of her name than that.

The pie steamed in her hand and I wondered momentarily how she wasn’t getting burned by holding it in her bare hand.  The little boy, red-headed and about 7 or 8 years old, wore a plaid shirt and denim shorts and looked defiant, rather than sorry.  His name was Corey.

I perceived a small white cottage  with a picket fence, on a property with a handful of other white frame houses, a couple barns, and a big shed that had been converted to a country-style store.  The fields around the houses and barn were filled with pumpkin vines, sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, squash, cabbages, gourds, and raspberry vines.  There were stacks of hay bales and piles of pumpkins of all sizes, and scenes of fall – tied corn stalks and scarecrow dummies and fences made up of spectacular mums of all colors.  The smells were wonderful – crunchy leaves underfoot, damp earth, apple cider, spicy sausage, and caramel-dipped apple slices. People inn sweatshirts and sweaters with kids in tow were tugging wagons behind them as they picked through the pumpkins and gourds.  Children climbed the hay bale towers.

And that’s how stories start.

Here I was, minding my own business, working on my current WIP and trying to finish up the homework for my online plotting course, and there she is. Miss P, ready for me to tell her story.  And the story of the red-headed little boy.

Of course, I sent her to the couch where all the other characters waiting for their stories to be written hang out.  Told her to help herself to some coffee and a cookie.  She just stood there, a smile on her face and her head cocked to one side, as if she were waiting for a better answer.  And behind her, in the doorway, was a tall, red-headed man named Kevin, wearing painter’s whites and looking worried and anxious.

I often think of my brain as being useful in the front, and full of things waiting for me in the back.  There is a big screen door back there.  The old fashioned kind made of wood with some scroll work on the edges and big springs to keep it closed, but no latch or lock.  Things can come and go as they please, with the understanding that if I am working on something, they need to stay back there in the waiting area and be quiet.  If they get bored, they can leave.  If their story is important, I’ll get to them eventually.  Miss P came through the screen door but then marched herself right up to the business end and demanded my immediate attention.

I am often asked how I come up with stories.  You’ve just seen it in action.  Miss P is not going to leave me be, and she, Corey, and Kevin will be my next story.  My heart is beating a little quicker, m mind is working the puzzle like a rubic’s cube to figure it out.  And my fingers are itching to write.  That’s a good thing, except for my current WIP, which will now go sit in the Drawer of Unfinished Things To Be Finished Later.  I will get back to it.  Someday.

At least I have a story to work on for National Novel Writing Month!

 

October!


morning fog in Estes Park, ColoradoHow is it October already?  Last time I checked it was still June.

Not that I’m complaining.  We are moving into my favorite time of the year.  The gardens are giving up the last of their bounty, the grass doesn’t need to be mowed anymore, and being outside is pleasant.  I like the fact that my house isn’t as hot as Satan’s Kitchen, and I can start to make some hearty soups for dinner instead of trying to figure out which meal will cause the least amount of heat to get added to the house.  It is the time of fresh-baked bread with jam, warm drinks, cool nights snuggled under the quilts, and brisk mornings with sun turning everything gold.

As my daily workload lightens, I have more time to spend on the things I really like to do.  That includes working on some of my neglected crafts, like the big rag rugs I’ve been crocheting out of sheets and the half-finished sewing projects that have been collecting dust in my sewing room.  And it includes writing!

In my last post I talked about the plotting bootcamp.  Although due to my current workload, I wasn’t able to keep up as well as I liked, I still got a lot out of it and have been working on my sad sad piece of a novel.  The exercises were really helpful for me, and I will continue to work through them over and over, until the process sticks better in my mind.  Many of the exercises allowed me the opportunity to dissect my characters, and find a few conflicts that I had not thought of before.  I’m still struggling with the difference between motivation and goals.  I know I need both, but when I write them down, I can’t tell which is which.  I also struggle with the difference between internal and external goals.  In my mind, all goals are internal – they are things the character wants and is working toward.  To me, “external” means something outside, perhaps forced upon by someone else.  Those aren’t really maintainable.  So, that struggle goes on.  I read and read about it, but I can’t seem to get them straight.

So, any help or examples in this area would be appreciated!

As we head toward the season of National Novel Writing Month, my most productive writing time of the year, I’m hoping I can iron out the rest of my plot so I can finish this draft.  That was my intention last year, and I didn’t even get close.  I’m going to have to hold my own feet to the fire on this one!

Do you feel motivated to write in the fall?  If not, when is your time of year for the most inspiration?