23 December 2012

The Phantom of the Opera

Okay, I've talked about this before. Many times.

The Phantom or Erik, is my favorite dark hero.

I’ve heard a lot of nay saying about him, like “He’s a crazy sadistic, stalker, murderer dude.”
Okay, sure, but he’s a broken soul. Scarred and unloved. All he loves is Christine Daae.
The moment the Phantom walked out onto the stage back in 1992 when I first saw it, in Toronto at the Pantages theatre with Colm Wilkinson I fell head over heels in love. I hate Raoul. Still hate that pretty boy to be honest.
And at the end of the opera, when she leaves him for Raoul, but come back one final time to kiss him *fans self* swoon. My husband knows if he wants to get me in the mood fast he just has to put on the Phantom with Gerard Butler.
*ahem* Sorry I know, TMI.
Gerard didn’t have the voice range that Colm did, but DAYUM, even with half his face horrifically scarred he is mighty fine. That scene from Past the Point of No Return gets me hot under the collar all the time.

I wanted to know more about the Phantom. Where did he come from? What happened to his face? This is why I’m so fascinated and attracted to him. What made him the way he is and how can I heal him? ;-)
Not much is known about the Phantom at all, other than his name is Erik and a few snippets from this song:
This face, which earned a mother’s fear and loathing…
A mask, my first unfeeling scrap of clothing…
 Even though Christine left the Phantom, his love for her remained true. He left her alone, but watched from afar. True to her, even though rich annoying pretty boy got her, he remained faithful even placing the rose on her grave years later.

And this final kiss scene *swoon* gets me every time. EVERY TIME.
The musical made such an impression on me, I was 14 at the time, I wrote copious amounts of fan fiction and would act out the musical in my room, alone, singing to the tape I bought from the souvenir stand.
It also helped fan the flames of my burgeoning romance writing career. No I don’t write about stalker/murders with half melted faces …but I’ve been tempted! >:)
It’s safe to say that The Phantom is my first ever dark romance hero.
Who’s yours?

21 December 2012

Happy Doomsday!

My kids, bless their little hearts, asked me if the world was really going to end today. I said, “No, honey. The Mayans just ran out of fingers and toes to count on.” 

This is actually a pretty egregious disservice to the civilization that gave us 0, thereby screwing over millenia of math students, but making binary coders blissfully happy.

Still, predicting Armageddon is getting to be a little monotonous. I mean, as far back as I can remember, the end of the world has come and gone at least eight times. But I still keep getting up in the morning. No cars have mysteriously and suddenly lost their drivers in a cloud of glory. Asteroids keep missing us. The moon is still in orbit.

Yep. Life goes on.

Nuts. I guess that means I’d better figure out what’s for dinner tonight!

20 December 2012

Dark and Delicious

We are gathered here today to discuss that noblest of foods, the very heart of which is a chemical compound so divine it is called "theobromide," or "food of the gods":


And not just any chocolate, either, folks; no, today, we are gathered to discuss the only kind of chocolate worth discussing and that would be


Dark chocolate even has articles written about its health benefits.  But here's the thing, folks:  dark chocolate means you get more sex.  It means you're more intelligent.  It means you're funnier and more attractive.

In short, dark chocolate is the perfect food.

Dark chocolate in coffee is even better.

And dark chocolate drizzled on my lover's stomach to be licked off...

In the meantime, while you're waiting, here are some chocolate links:

15 December 2012

The Dark. The Delicious. The Scrooge?

Marley's ghost confronts Scrooge.
(John Leech, 1843)
My husband claims the lessons of A Christmas Carol are in keeping with any situation.  I thought he was blowing smoke until I sat down to write my “Dark and Delicious Heroes” post for this month’s Beyond the Veil.
Scrooge is the ultimate dark romantic hero.  Who knew?
Seriously.  He’s older.  (Way older.)  He’s intelligent, frighteningly competent and experienced in a variety of lethal skills.  You think Jason Bourne’s a killer?  When it comes to kill counts, the Jason’s a piker.  A single one of Marley & Scrooge’s foreclosures would’ve taken out whole neighborhoods without the need to resort to a single anti-personnel weapon.
And messed up?  Let me count the ways.  His mom died giving him birth.  His father hated him and sent him off to one of those dreadful British boarding schools for years.  He lost his beloved sister in circumstances painfully reminiscent of his mother’s death.  The ultimate in internal conflicts got between him and the love of his youth.
While we’re at it, let’s not forget the paranormal angle.  The story features four named ghosts and a host of lesser spirits wailing at the fringes.  Gotta count that toward his score on the dark side.
Most importantly, he is spectacularly redeemed by the end of the story.  In fact, his redemption is so spectacular, we feel compelled to repeat and embellish it year after year in readings, plays, movies, parodies and cartoons.  For some of us, it just isn’t Christmas until some form of Scrooge wakes up on December 25 and realizes everything is different, today and forever after.
Like Corrina, I think this possibility of redemptive change is the reason we love literature’s bad boys.  If Scrooge can find his way back to his humanity and love, so can we all.  We love him, because his transfiguration is the mirror of our hope. 
The same applies to Romance’s dark and delicious heroes.  When it comes to genre books, we may not seek out the exact same hero every time, but we certainly crave that rush of hope.
Which makes these heroes such a good topic for December’s blog.  Through them we hope, and through that hope we find a reason to brave the rolling year.  Not too shabby for characters with seemingly no redeeming social value.
Wishing you and yours the best of the season.  May your Hannukah, Solstice, Christmas, Kwanza and New Year be filled with wonderful surprises and a thousand reasons for hope in 2013!
Happy holidays!
Jean Marie Ward

13 December 2012

Redemption & Romance

I'm always drawn to a good redemption story, especially for romance heroes.

I'm not sure what it is that so fascinates me about a person trying desperately to change. But I love seeing a person who has messed up in the worst way overcoming their past.

The classic example of this is my obsession with the 1980s television show, The Equalizer.

Robert McCall used to work for the CIA. He's killed a lot of people, to the point where he talks about being haunted by the face of every one who has died because of him.

In the pilot, McCall's decided he's had enough blood and death and he quits the CIA and takes out an ad in the newspaper: "Odds against you? Need help? Call the Equalizer!"

His former CIA colleague calls McCall the "most dangerous man he's ever met" and says the government won't let him walk away. McCall tells them to take their best shot. A friend aware of the situation tells him "I'll cry at your funeral." McCall says "I'll be there."

When the woman he's protecting from a stalker says "I'd like to get to know you better," McCall responds with "you wouldn't."

It's no wonder I was hooked on this show from the beginning.

Later, McCall struggles to do things the right way but every now and then the backslides, like killing the rapists who hurt one of his clients. Or using a bomb to blow up the people who kidnap his daughter. Or the time when the wedding he's attending is crashed by terrorists. He uses a doorstop from the bathroom to kill one of the terrorists before going after the others.

McCall has been the template for two of my romance heroes. The first manuscript is as yet unpublished and that character is not nearly as dark as McCall.

The second, however, is *darker* than McCall. That's Philip Drake of Phoenix Legacy. Drake, like McCall, is a former black ops CIA agent. And, like McCall, he's a killer but now he's trying to figure out how to do the right thing.

If he can figure out what that right thing is.

Philip is a bit of a psychopath. Because he was raised by an abusive father and because he had to kill his stepfather and several others to survive to adulthood, Philip's morals basically are "protect the person I care about and all others are expendable." Laws and regular morality mean nothing to him. The only person who matters is his foster daughter, Beth, who he rescued during a mission years ago. Beth is Philip's one fragile hold on humanity.

Philip has the ability to heal himself of nearly any injury. This means he looks young, even though he says he's too old and cynical to look under thirty. It also means because he gets an adrenaline rush when his body heals, Philip is addicted to pain, to the point where he physically harms himself just to feel at all.

So he's a stone-cold killer who's addicted to pain with a very fragile hold on his humanity. I thought Philip was extreme for a romance hero but then I talked briefly with Anne Stuart--who's known for her dark heroes--and she said "I love it." With that kind of endorsement, I went ahead and wrote the story.

So who's Philip's heroine? No other than the daughter of the people Philip had to kill in order to survive as a teenager. (He did have one other very good reason--protecting someone else-- but that's a spoiler, so I'd rather not say.) As the blurb says, Del Sefton is ready to cheerfully spit on his grave.

Except my bad guys have involved Del by impregnating her using Philip's sperm. The bad guys want to grow the next generation of psychic healers. They tried to keep Philip from finding out but he does. And he's less than pleased.

So Del's carrying the baby of someone she blames for the worst tragedy in her life. And Philip has to convince her to trust him or the bad guys will get her and the child.

Here's an excerpt:

Philip pounded the floor, digging the glass shards in deeper. Pain shot up his arms. Blood pooled onto the floor. He closed his eyes, breathing heavily. Sweat poured down his back. He held up his bloody hands and opened his eyes.

He still imagined holding Del. The lust triggered by the pain spread through his body. 

He imagined Del in his arms, in the back seat of the Charger. She wasn’t a child any longer, she was a beautiful woman, one who’d saved his life, one who—

One whose life had been wrecked so she could carry a child who was either his brother or his son.

Blood slid down his arms, soaking his shirt.

What a mess.

Daydreaming about her wouldn’t help. Neither would crippling himself before he caught the men looking for her. Wrecked hands wouldn’t help him find Genet, they wouldn’t help him interrogate Cheshire.

They wouldn’t help him make certain Del and her son could live in peace.

Philip pulled out a pocketknife and flicked the shards out of his knuckles, one by one. Pain slashed at him. He grinned, riding with it, feeling his nerves sizzle with the agony. His erection pushed against his jeans. He ignored it. He’d not give into it, not when thinking about Del. She didn’t deserve that.

It's a measure of how messed up Philip is that when Del finally lets loose her anger at him violently, he's all "oh, that's good, more."

Let's just say the sex scene is quite intense.

Maybe it's because the characters, particularly Philip, are so lost that the ending to this story makes me so happy. They had to come so far from where they'd been to care about each other.

And that's the trick of a great redemption story. Their happy ending, under the worse circumstances, somehow gives me hope that I can redeem my own very mundane mistakes.

Though the other part of me says the story was fun to write because Philip is so single-mindedly without conscience about protecting those he loves. Get in his way? You're dead. Kidnap his woman? He'll crash his truck into your house. Shoot him? He'll shrug it off and keep coming.

Sorta like the Terminator. But hotter. And (I would hope) better in bed.

Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek and superhero. She's written the Phoenix Institute series for Samhain Publishing, including Phoenix Rising, Luminous, and Phoenix Legacy. She also is a co-editor for the GeekMom blog on Wired.com. And would love to write a great redemption story for Magneto, if she could imagine Michael Fassbender in the role. www.corrina-lawson.com

12 December 2012

The Next Big Thing

Happy Holidays!

I've been tagged by Kathy Sullivan as part of The Next Big Thing blog-a-thon. Apparently this was started by Kathryn Kuitenbrower. Each tagged author answers 10 questions about what they are currently working on. Here we go!

What is the working title of your next book?
Currently it's A Stitch in Time. But I'm not crazy about it. The previous book, which is with my agent waiting patiently for a Forever Home, is Smoke and Mirrors, and I wanted to keep it in the same vein, since the books are similar -- not sequels, more like companions. If I can come up with something else, it will change.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I had already finished Smoke & Mirrors and wanted to do another Steampunk Fairy Tale. When I was coming up with an idea for the first one, I fought like heck to NOT write Cinderella, but that was what wanted to be written. Then I thought, okay, Sleeping Beauty. Hmm...how can I do that, when the main character is SLEEPING through most of the story. And how can the prince come and wake her 100 years later? Hey, time travel! And hey two POV's for the book, just like in the last one. It's coming out rather interesting.

What genre does your book fall under?
YA Fantasy, specifically Steampunk, with Romantic elements.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I am never any good at answering this question, because I have what they look like in my head when I'm writing and it never matches any known actor. Only once did I have someone in mind when I wrote a character. In The Sword of Danu, the smith god Gobihniu is John Barrowman.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Steampunk Sleeping Beauty Time Travel with global conspiracy. And Romance. Wait, that's more than one...

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I have an agent -- the awesome and cute-as-a-button Terri Wolf, of AKA Literary. She is currently shopping Smoke & Mirrors, and I am hoping she'll take this one on too. Or we'll just sell both in the same deal... ;)

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I am still working on this one, but have about 20,000 words. First drafts take anywhere from six months to a year, depending on what else gets in the way. Now that graduate school is finished, I am hoping to work a whole lot faster.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I would compare it to other types of Steampunk and historical fantasy, things like Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare and perhaps The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross. Almost like a mash-up of the two of those with a little of the Sherlock Holmes movies (with Robert Downey, Jr.) thrown in.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I really enjoy the whole Steampunk movement, and I am a fairy tale junkie. It just seemed natural to put the two together. In Smoke & Mirrors, I used a lot of names from my own family tree from that late 19th-early 20th century time period. I sort of did the same for this book, but only for a couple of characters.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Hmmm...there's adventure, love, the Secret Service, time travel. And a Capuchin monkey named Tesla. What else could you want?

To continue the blog chain I am tagging Kim Baccellia, Lisa Mantchev, Charlotte Bennardo, and Jean Marie Ward

10 December 2012

Dark and Delicious Heroes

We love our bad boys, don't we?

Lexxie touched on some of the reasons why I like to read about them and watch them in movies. It's all about the attitude. They are smart, sometimes sophisticated, don't care what others think and basically do what they want to get what they want.

And if a bad boy sets his sights on a girl? Well, we know what comes next...fireworks.

Who doesn't like to watch fireworks?

Cain, from my book, Soul Stealer, is one of my greatest bad guys. He's sexy, smart, and a loner. As the General of the Death Squad, he is required to stand guard as a person's soul rips from their body.  He is not supposed to feel for his victims or listen to silly begging for more time. He's heard and seen it all and nothing phases him.

Until the day he comes to kill Sara, a woman working against him to save lives.

Sara is the one person who gets to him and is the only woman he wishes he could spend more time with. Her goodness touches him and for a moment, he feels. A very bad thing for Death.

A good thing for love.

He will fight demons and all the Powers that Be for her, risking his own demise. Can Sara shred the hard case around his heart?

That's what I love to see--bad boys who have attitude but will let one woman in.



03 December 2012

Darkly Dreaming of a Devilish, Dashing Hero

I love my dark, tormented heroes. The kind that would never were a white hat or ride a white horse. The kind that not only rebels against the system, but snarls at it as well. Or makes sarcastic jokes about it. There are many heroes that fall in this category for me. Han Solo, I think was the first to capture my heart. Along the way many more have joined the anti-hero space pirate. Two of my favourites are Darryl Dixon and Dexter Morgan.

I know having the hots for a serial killer is kinda wrong, but how can you not be drawn to Dexter. He's intelligent, powerful, attentative, tenacious and passionate. Sure, that passion usually only comes out when he's killing someone, but that someone inevitably did something very very bad and deserves to be killed. So really, that's a plus for Dexter, yes? Besides, when you look into Dexter's eyes you can see there's a world of devilish naughtiness just waiting for the right woman to set free.

Darryl Dixon is a another matter all together. A man from the wrong side of the tracks, Darryl has become my favourite object of lust. So much so, I watched The Walking Dead last night petrified he might not make it to the end of the show. He's tough, doesn't waste words, looks utterly sexy scuffed up and dirty, rides the loudest bloody hog in a world where zombies are drawn to sound and knows how to fire a cross-bow with perfection. Added to that, he's caring. He tries to hide it, but he is. And that makes him all the more delicious to dream of.

I've written my own fair share of dark heroes. Tormented and skirting the boundaries of acceptable behaviour for a hero. I think, of them all, my favourite would have to be Raq Tornado from The Boundaries: Agent.

Raq is a haunted man. Noble by birth, he is the most highly trained killer in all the known quadrants. He's ruthless, cold and extremely efficient at achieving what he sets out to do. When Raq is assigned a target to terminate, that target's number is up. But Raq loves deeply. More deeply than anyone realises. He is willing to throw away his birthright and all the money and power that comes with it for the woman he falls in love with. So what happens when that woman almost has him killed? And what will he do to her when he finally catches her?

Agent: The Boundaries

Intel-Patrol Corp agent, Jaienna Ti has gone rogue. Now that she’s saved her sister from a life of sexual slavery at the hands of a cruel crime lord, she is fighting a battle of a different kind – one involving her heart and the brooding Boundary Guardian, Zeric Arctos. 

Zeric has his own battle. An ancient curse renders him a savage beast unlike any the Boundaries has seen before. Once only anger triggered the change, but now his driving hunger for Jaienna is threatening to set the werewolf free. And he doesn’t know if he can control it.

When the head of the Intel-Patrol Corp sends an agent out to retrieve Jaienna, the two face a threat more dangerous than any before. Raq Tornada. Violent, tenacious and deadly, Raq is an agent to fear. He’s also Jaienna’s ex-lover. And he has a score to settle with her.

The Outer Boundaries is a dangerous cesspool of sin, lust and depravity. 

And its about to get wild.

Warning: There's still lots of wild sex in space going on...but now there's also a significant amount of violence. And sarcasm. And wild sex in space. Did I mention the wild sex in space?

25 November 2012

Guilty Confession

I still love old school heroines. It's like brain candy for me. I was raised on old school heroines and I still enjoy them.

Do I write them? No. Not in the least, but I do love revisiting my favorite books and reading about them.

I think the only old school heroine I loathe, and I mean, LOATHE is Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With the Wind. I'm sorry, but she was just a big beyotch and I know I'll get slack.

I still remember reading my first old school heroine. She was Maggie Afton of Connie Mason's Ice and Rapture.

I still have a very well worn copy of the book, it's falling apart from multiple reads and I keep it because it was one of the last two books my Grandmother read before she died (the other book was Jewels by Danielle Steele, which I also love).

I took those two books from her hospital room. I'd already read them, because we read things together as she tried to fight the cancer which killed her. It was a way to spend time together and I don't think my mother knew her mother was debauching her daughter. LOL!

My grandma (Nanny) always like to read "Hot books. The hotter the better."

Funny, now I write erotic romance.

I digress, Maggie Afton was plucky, a reporter and willing to do STUPID things to get to the Goldfields during the Yukon Goldrush. And I mean stupid things, like trusting two varmints to take her to the goldfields where they planned to rape and kill her. Thank goodness Chase McGarrett (the Hero) stepped in, but that's a whole other post on HIM!

She also could have saved herself some serious heart ache and issues if she would've just TALKED TO THE HERO! Jayzus, woman for being a reporter she was a bit stubborn.

But I loved her. I still love her. She is my favorite old school heroine of all time.

Do you have a favorite old school heroine you love?

22 November 2012

Where We Come From – The Influence of Our History, Recent or Long Gone

by A. Catherine Noon

For those of you in the States, Happy Thanksgiving! For the rest of you, Happy Thursday! As my family pauses to take stock, and make a feast (and, to be honest, make stock when we take the turkey carcass on Friday and make soup out of it, but I digress), I got to thinking: where do I come from? I’m blonde, blue-eyed, and pale complected; to many in my multicultural neighborhood (and I’m not kidding, there are seventeen different languages spoken just on my block here in Chicago) I am a “White American,” or just, “White.” What does that mean? Am I?

When my father’s grandparents came here from Ireland to escape the crushing poverty of the Potato Famine and political unrest, they arrived to a New York City that hated Irish. Signs saying “No Irish” peppered the city and to be heard speaking in brogue was akin to being considered “White trash” today. I don’t know much about what my great-grandfather did, but I know they were very poor. My grandfather joined the United States Marines and became a full Colonel before he retired after the end of WWII. At one point he commanded the El Toro Air Base in Torrance, California.

My mother’s grandparents owned shares in several banks and ran a general store, among other things. There is a house on the National Historic Register on the Battlefield at Gettysburg that was in my family and is known by my grandmother’s maiden name. My mothers’ family has been here since before the American Revolution, in fact, and we trace our lineage back to a German soldier who served the colonial forces. I’m not sure if that means he was a mercenary, as many German soldiers of the time were, or if he simply came from German ancestry. I do know that he is the only person I’ve found in my family tree who isn’t from Ireland, England, or Scotland.

I remember once when a Polish-Italian-American friend of mine asked me about my background. I showed her the family tree on my mother’s side and explained some of what I know about my father’s and she seemed wistful. Her family could only go back about three generations because of the giant, gaping wound that World War II created. Even if she knew the town in Poland from where her mother’s family came, the records were destroyed when the Nazis and then the Soviets invaded. The information is simply not there.

It wasn’t until I moved here to Chicago and came in contact with a large and proud Irish-American cultural group that I realized what I’d been missing. I’d always felt a sense of not-belonging, whether it was when I was a child and didn’t fit in or as an adult when I didn’t know what “my culture” was. Other friends who had strong ethnic and religious backgrounds seemed to have a sense of place that I didn’t. I couldn’t even claim California as heritage; I was born in Boston. So who am I?

The Irish-American culture here felt like home in a way I never experienced before. All of a sudden, people talked like me and reminded me of my dad and his side of my family. Of course, the “eff-bomb” is a common swearword, but it’s deeper than that. It’s something indefinable. For all my years working amongst, and fighting for the value of, multicultural individuals, I never felt truly at home in any particular culture where I lived. I’m a good mimic and speak several languages, so I could “fake it,” but the bedrock never really appeared for me. Meeting others of my same cultural background changed that and all of a sudden I felt at home in a peculiar, unexplainable way.

I feel sorry for refugees. Not in the way the words “feel sorry for” evoke feelings of pity; I don’t mean that. I mean that there is a deep wrenching loss when you don’t belong. Culture shock is very real and very painful. Not being able to communicate due to language differences is jarring, whether you’re trying to talk about something meaningful or you simply want to order a pizza. I watch coworkers speed up when they talk to non-native English speakers, as though by impatience alone they will convey their meaning better. I watch friends of mine yell into a drive-through where a non-native English speaker is trying to take their order. This is unfair and interferes with the process of communication, of getting onto the same page so we can learn from each other and create something that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

That said, I don’t think I ever really “got it” that cultural acceptance can ease our minds at some deep, unspoken, pre-language place. There is a relief in knowing you don’t have to explain your cultural context, because it’s already understood. It wasn’t until I met the Irish-American community here that I experienced that. All of a sudden, I had a sense I knew where “my people” lived.

Wherever you are today, whatever your cultural or ethnic background, I wish you well. This country, despite what the recent political rhetoric would say to the contrary, was founded out of the simple desire of disparate people to find a place they could be themselves in peace, along with others trying to do the same. Maryland was for the Catholics, Connecticut and Massachusetts for the Puritans, the South to the British landowners, and all sorts of other groups besides – the waves of Irish, German, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Polish, Mexican, Middle-Eastern… the endless list of individuals who live here and try to create homes and families together. To me, that is what Thanksgiving is about – giving thanks for this place we call home, despite its faults and because of its strengths.

Especially in light of what’s happening in the Gaza Strip right now, home is something we cannot take for granted. If we have homes that are at peace and safe, if our children can play without threat, if we can put food on the table, then we are wealthy indeed. And if you live in a place at war, or not at peace, then may you be safe and may the gods grant you speedy end to the conflict and that you and yours find safety and serenity.

My links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora 
Knoontime Knitting:  Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Ravelry
Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Website | Facebook
Team Blogs: Nightlight | The Writers Retreat Blog | Beyond the Veil | LGBT Fantasy Fans and Writers
Publishers: Samhain Publishing | Torquere Press

Check out BURNING BRIGHT, available from Samhain Publishing.
Check out EMERALD FIRE, available from Torquere Books.
Check out "Taking a Chance", part of the Charity Sips 2012 to benefit NOH8, available from Torquere Books.
Watch for TIGER TIGER, coming July 2013 from Samhain Publishing.

18 November 2012

A #NaNoWriMo Success Story!

It's a good time, I think, with November drawing to a close and thousands of NaNoWriMo authors gasping over their keyboards to give them a bit of inspiration. I've written on my blog other thoughts on the month-long exercise in insanity and how to get the most you can out of it with or without finishing the 50K run.

Here's another one.

"Blood of the Pride" started off as a NaNo project a few years ago, a second try at winning the contest after doing so the previous year with "Blaze of Glory". That book was still in edits and I wanted to do something different, something away from the superhero romance. The first sentence came to me...

"I smelled the blood before I had a chance to look for it, the tangy, dense scent landing on the back of my tongue."

Right then I knew this was going to be a detective novel of a different sort, of a cat shifter who couldn't shift and was outcast from her people. Rebecca Desjardin talked her way through the book and I pulled it off, finishing the first draft before the end of the month.

And, as you can see... it sold.

In fact, it sold so well to Carina Press that not only is there an audiobook out for "Blood of the Pride" but it's also been included in the Direct-To-Consumer for Harlequin's February 2013 paranormal shipment to their subscribers. So it's going to print.

And then there's this:

Yep. A sequel.

The second in four books under contract with Carina Press. "Claws Bared" comes out in January 2013 in ebook and in audiobook format. The third and fourth books are due in June and September. I'm hoping for them to also go to print.

This was a NaNoWriMo project. This is a project I worked on long after the month was over and edited to death before submitting it.

This is a NaNo success story as far as I'm concerned.

And if it could happen to me it could happen to you.

You may feel overwhelmed with the words on the page. You might feel like you're floundering and just can't get up; wallowing in the speed writing.

It's okay. It's okay NOT to finish by the end of the month. But you have to finish.

And then, if you want, edit edit edit to death.

Because you CAN sell a NaNo novel.

I did.

And you can too.

Now get back to that keyboard!

17 November 2012

Talking About Old School And Older

Synchronicity lives at Beyond the Veil.  Who knew both Anya and I would both be taking a trip in the Way Back Machine this month?  Instead of Mills and Boon, however, my  engine turned out to be Bob Osborne on TCM and this month's festival of great movie adaptations.

Great books seldom make movies as great as John Huston's version of Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon.  They're even more rarely true to the book and and its larger than life female characters.  Hammett's Brigid O’Shaughnessy displays all the necessary qualifications for a classic old school heroine.  She’s twenty-three, possessed of porcelain skin and big blue eyes, and prefers to talk in a breathy, girlish voice.  Mary Astor was ten years older than the literary Brigid when she played the role, but everything else about her portrayal comes straight from Hammett.

I’m watching her now.  Our classic old school heroine just kneed a guy in the nuts less than two minutes after pistol whipping him.

Welcome to the world of real old school heroines.  Brigid might have been the ultimate bad girl, but Dashiell Hammet didn’t write wimpy women.  Even good girls like Nora Charles could handle whatever the plot dished out.  As one of The Thin Man's gunsels pointed out, she was a woman with hair on her chest.  But what would you expect from a man who's life partner was Lillian Hellman?

Shakespeare wrote some notable drips (Ophelia, anyone?  To say nothing of Juliet, the original Little Miss Too Stupid To Live).  But he also gave us Viola and Beatrice, who famously yearned to a certain cad’s heart in the marketplace.  And they were Shakespeare’s good girls.

Homer gave us Penelope.  The Arabian Nights gave us Scheherazade.  You can’t get much more old school than that. 

My point is, you can’t equate “old school heroine” with weak or ineffectual.  You can’t even use those words to describe virginal heroines.  Elizabeth Bennett is unquestionably a virgin, but no one could question her tough-mindedness.  No one could say she lacks agency. 

Most of the weak-minded lack of agency we associate with old school heroines was in fact a product of mid-twentieth century genre publishing tropes, specifically the belief of certain publishing executives that the women who helped win World War II didn't want to read about women as multi-faceted and capable as they were. 

It would be tempting to blame this view on the 1950s' desperate search for normalcy amid the Red Scare and very real fears of nuclear annihilation.  After all, this is the era which gave us the insulting neuroses and emotional fragility of Doris Day’s portrayal of Jo McKenna in the 1956 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much.  But three years earlier, in Otto Preminger’s The Moon Is Blue, Maggie MacNamara played good girl Patty O’Neill—a girl who states right up front that she’s a virgin and plans to stay that way—as a smart professional woman who confounds dedicated playboys William Holden and David Niven.  Not only that, she does it dressed like an old school Barbie—tiny waist, pony tail, Mamie Eisenhower bangs and all.

In fact, the attitudes of publishing executives on the subject of “acceptable” heroines lagged far behind what was happening in American and European society, especially as the Seventies gave way to the Eighties.  In Reflections on the Magic of Writing, a new compilation of Diana Wynne Jones’s essays and lectures, Jones writes about how she had to “sneak” a strong female hero into Dogsbody by telling it from the dog’s point of view.  It took her years to work up to writing Polly in Fire and Hemlock and (my personal favorite) Sophie in Howl’s Moving Castle.

If one of the most well-respected literary fantasy writers of the late 20th century had to tread carefully in her fictional depictions of girls and women, imagine what it was like trying to work in the hothouse environment of series romance.  Yet series romance writers, as much as Jones and romantic mystery writers like Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters, were working to change perceptions of women and women characters from the inside out.

Personally, I’m thrilled the most insulting aspects of mid-century romance heroines have gone out of literary fashion.  I like reading books that reflect the realities of my life as a woman, about heroines who can kick a guy in the nuts for lying and still qualify for an HEA.  But that doesn’t mean the realities of my life are the only valid realities out there.

As far as I’m concerned there’s still room for old school good girls.  After all, there’s a lot to be said for women who triumph over the constraints of their circumstances like Beatrice and Elizabeth Bennett, Scheherazade and Patty O’Neill.

To say nothing of Sophie.

Jean Marie Ward

(And if you want to read more about Reflections on the Magic of Writing—and how could you not?—I strongly recommend Ana’s review at Things Mean A Lot.)