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?