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Friday, June 29, 2007

GettingSummer Write! Good Guys Don't finish Last - the Beta Man.

So much has been written about the Alpha Man, the strong, confident silent type that sometimes, we don't realize that there's a place for the Beta man in our romances. Beta heroes are sexy. They are compassionate. They are sometimes the heroine's best friend.
The Beta Man has many of the same physical attributes as the Alpha man. He's handsome, strong and appealing. But there's a more sensitive side to him. He's Joe Average, who sometimes wears his heart on his sleeve. He's not JR Ewing of th oil business. He's Bobby Ewing. He's not Dr. McSteamy in Grey's Anatomy. He's George, everyone's best friend.

The Beta Man is the father trying to raise his teen-age daughter or the mechanic who loves what he does for a living. He's the boy next door in love with the girl who got away. He's a man struggling for success, or just plain happy with his lot in life, whatever that may be. He has a tender side and at times. he can't help but show it. He is NOT James Bond, but he too is a man every reader can fall in love with.
Berkley Sensation author Karen Kay says that her ideal man is never cruel. "It takes real strength to be understanding and refuse to budge from one's ideals when it would be way too easy to lash out and be cruel.

Bestselling author Maureen Child says, "A real man has to have a good sense of humor ... the most important thing for me."

Probably the most "Beta" hero I've ever written is Shane Graham in my western historical, Abducted at the Altar. In fact, the original story had been rejected because he was too "beta", too willing to help the heroine. I sat on that story for a while, but loved it so much, that I reworked his character a little and was able to sell it to my publisher. He's a great hero, strong when he needed to be strong, a true reluctant caring man-next-door type for my feisty heroine, Dorie McCabe.

Another great example of Beta Man is the hero, Danny Tucker in Erin McCarthy's book, Heiress for Hire. It's a story that has stayed with me for a long time and recently became a 2007 Rita nominee.

A Beta Man is often:

Boy next-door type
Shows his emotions
A man worth knowing and loving

Traits he shares with an Alpha Man:
Often misunderstood
Sexually appealing
Comfortable in his own skin
Next up on the blog: The "Why's" of your character. How to develop your character's traits before you write a single word.
This weekend I'll be doing copyedits for my upcoming western romance, Bodine's Bounty and I'll be volunteering my time with Operation Gratitude - helping to assemble and fill boxes of essentials in mass numbers for our US soldiers around the globe. It'll be a busy time. Wishing you a great weekend!
We'll be picking a winner for my Between the CEO's Sheets contest on June 30th. You still have time! Good luck and always:
Happy Reading!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Getting Summer Write - Traits of the VERY Alpha Male

I love writing alpha males. As you might know now, the new Desires are chock full of them! Women love a take-charge kind of man. Reese Fortune from Fortunes Vengeful Groom and Wade Beaumont from Between the CEO's Sheets fit that bill perfectly.

If you don't believe me, think about Janet Evanovich's lastest - Lean, Mean Thirteen, the 13th book in the series. Why does that book enchant, intrigue and satisfy us? Well, for a romance lover, it's not only the humor and crazy situations, but it's the well-defined male characters we all want to know more about. And Stephanie Plum is one lucky lady. She has TWO Alpha Males in love with her.

Ranger is the extreme of an alpha male. You don't get much more alpha than him. In fact, he's soooo cool, calm and collected, he's almost not human. We never see his emotions. I really hope they don't make a movie or TV series about these characters. No one man can fill Ranger's shoes. There isn't a man out there THAT COOL. He's off the charts and that's why we love him.

Joe Morelli, the other Alpha male character is a cop. He's soooo HOT. Women love him because he's a loyal guy. He's got principles. He's good at his job. He knows what he wants. He was once a BAD BOY, but he's matured now. And we love that about him too. Again, no actor can fill his shoes. Our expectations are Joe are that high.

So to pinpoint :What are Alpha Male characteristics?

In control of his emotions
Shows his vulnerable side rarely
Sexually appealing
The man every woman wants

Senior Mills and Boon Editor, Linda Fildew says this: "We
believe readers seek out the Alpha Male as a fantasy, an
embodiment of heroic qualities, including the positive use
of power." She goes on to say, "Above all, remember that he is the man every woman wants. If you are in love with your hero, then your reader will be too."

For me he's James Bond in a business suit, or wearing a Glock and keeping the streets of Everytown, USA safe, or the ultimate gladiator 0r the bad boy next door or my favorite, the rough, tough cowboy. He's what we call a REAL MAN. And we all know we love real men, right?
Coming next on the blog:
Nice Guys Don't Finish Last - the Beta Man.
BETWEEN THE CEO'S SHEETS -available now in bookstores. Also available as an Ebook or online at or Amazon. com
Enter my Summer Romance Junkies contest.
And there's still some time to enter my

Monday, June 25, 2007

Characters Don't Live in a Vacuum/Layering

Summer Write!
Here's some more on Characters and why we love/hate them.

What is it about your favorite characters that draw you to them? Are they flamboyant or loners or happy-go-lucky or stick-in-the-muds? Are they Debbie Downers or Susie Sunshine? On a different note, who is the villain who stayed with you long after you finished the book? Did you hate or fear him? Did he provoke emotions in you? If he did, the writer did her job.

Do the hero/heroine have character quirks, are they flawed somewhat in a way that has the reader rooting for and caring about them? Make your main characters three-dimensional. Give them traits that ring true. Know them as much as you can BEFORE writing them. No one is perfect in real life and in romance writing, often it’s the physical or emotional flaws that create the story or conflict. At the very least, their flaws will enhance the story. If we don’t care about the characters, we don’t care about the story.

Characters don’t exist in a vacuum. They are a product of their environment. Character traits are influenced by culture, location, occupation and the historical period. Their behavior, attitudes, expressiveness, philosophy are all influenced by their background. What religion are they? How much education did they receive? What is their social standing? And so on. All this greatly influences WHO they are.

Characters need to be consistent, but that doesn’t mean they are stereotypes or predicable. Their CORE personality defines them. If they deviate from their CORE, they may come across as incredible (and I mean unbelievable), their actions won’t make sense. The reader won’t buy the situation you’ve put them in, making you as a writer lose credibility. I once got a rejection where my editor didn’t buy what my hero was doing. It was inconsistent to the character I had created. When building a character, start with broad strokes, make them true and consistent then fill in the details; those character quirks, qualities of emotion, values and attitudes that make them interesting, unique and special.

In essence, LAYER your character, giving him or her many facets to their personality. Often you have to actually write many chapters, for me it’s usually 3, before you can really get a good handle on the characters. You’ll know the basics about them, but perhaps you won’t know some of the more interesting things that make the story work.

When I was writing Between the CEO's Sheets, my June Desire, I knew something about Gina and Wade's relationship in the past. I knew they'd fallen in love nine years prior and I knew that Wade didn't fall in love easily. Gina had broken his heart, but Wade wasn't a man to show his emotions. So when they reconnected nine years later, he had revenge and payback on his mind. I also knew he felt bitterness toward his father for abandoning his family in favor of building his beloved company, Triple B. But I had to tie those emotions into his story with Gina in order to really see who he was.

Gina came to Wade out of desperation. She'd held a secret for many years and sacrificed her love of Wade to protect him all those years ago. Gina was a character who'd been knocked down a few times in her life. She had the courage to stand up again and again. I knew Gina had to be really strong to be a match for Wade. So, here we have a heroine who'd had a great life and future taken away from her as a young woman when her parents died. She'd been forced to leave a wonderful man behind and start a new life for herself in another city. Gina had a fear of the water and I knew, no matter how much Wade wanted revenge, he would never prey on those fears. Instead, I knew that Wade had to be the one to help her overcome them. Even when Wade thinks the worst of Gina, he would not take ill advantage of her.

I knew Wade was stubborn. He'd felt he'd been wronged in life. He was a good brother, a hard-driving but fair businessman. He was a man who protected his heart. He grew up hating his father. The more I wrote about him, the more I understood him. He came to life and became a great character- one we'd seen first in Bunking Down with the Boss as Sam's brother. I

If you think of the movie, Jerry McGuire -- Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger have a great first meet in the airport, where she is frantically looking for her young son, who had wandered off. What woman can’t relate to that feeling? Immediately we like her. Immediately we feel her unease. She can't find her son. This is a great device to gain instant sympathy for a character. Put them in a precarious situation from the get-go. Make it fun, or serious, or dangerous, but make it INTERESTING .

This movie is a great example of characterization. Jerry McGuire is a hero, a good guy, but he’s so flawed that the heroine can’t help but see it. There’s this great line where she says to her disapproving sister, “I love him for the man he wants to be. I love him for the man he almost is.” The movie was successful for many reasons, but the one reason it stands out is that there is character growth. We see a change in Tom Cruise’s character, it’s gradual, and it really doesn’t hit home until the very end of the story when he achieves his goal, both monetarily and professionally, but feels at a complete loss because he has no one to share his success with. He goes home and lays his heart on the line to his wife.(something he was never able to do in the past) In this movie, we see facets of each character which clearly defines them. Layering the characters, makes them believeable.

We are the sum total of all of our life's experiences, whether good or bad. We are molded by events in our lives. Some authors write a character trait list. This is a good exercise to see how well you know the characters. For me, I write three chapters and the characters tell me who they are. They speak to me. It's best put this way:Anne Lamott, in her book, “Bird by Bird” says of characters: “Just don’t pretend to know more about your characters than they do, because you don’t. Stay open to them. It’s teatime and all the dolls are at the table. Listen. It’s that simple. "

Next up on the blog: Traits of the very Alpha Male.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Getting Summer Write! What Makes a Memorable Book?

Summer Write!


Have you ever asked yourself what makes a memorable book, story or movie? Why did you get into it? What compelled you to keep reading or watching the screen? If you had to label one thing that you remembered most about a story or movie, what would that be?

For me, and for most editors and readers -- it's the characters. Great characterization brings interest and intrigue. It's hard to enjoy a movie or read a book if you can't relate to the main characters. It's even harder if they aren't sympathetic meaning they are someone that you want to learn more about, someone you can sympathize with, someone that will hold your interest. If you don't find them worthy or redeemable in some way, you won't care about them.

So does that mean that you have to make your characters perfect in every way? Do you have to sugar coat them to make them sympathetic? The answer is a big resounding NO. In fact, perfect characters make for boring reads. The reason we root for and cheer on a character, is because they're FLAWED and we can sympathize with them. Or if not, we can certainly understand them even if we don't think much of them in the beginning.

The movies that have stuck with me, have done so because the story told was compelling. And why? Because the hero wasn't such a nice guy. He wasn't a man you'd expect. Same with the heroine. Think of "An Officer and a Gentlemen". Richard Gere's character came with major baggage. He didn't get along with his fellow boot-campers. He was a loner, a man who needed no one. He had issues with his father. Didn't believe in commitment. He was selfish in the beginning, but mostly, HE WAS INTERESTING. And in some ways, we could relate to him, though we didn't necessarily like him.

Think of Patrick Swayze's character, "Johnny" in Dirty Dancing. He thought Baby was a spoiled rich daddy's girl. He wasn't nice to her. He was every mother's nightmare for their daughter. But we saw his layered character, when he comes to the aid of his friend. We saw a softer side of him, and gradually, we came to understand him. Baby on the other hand, never really took risks. She was truly "daddy's little girl." She was the good daughter, the one her parents could always count on. She was the "baby." Until she met Johnny. Then everything in her life changed. She began to take risks, to come of age, to become the woman she was meant to be. WE LIKED HER, because at one time in our lives, maybe, we were just like her. Or maybe, we remember falling for the unattainable dangerous boy who'd never be within our grasp. Whatever the reason, both of these characters STUCK with us. We knew them. We liked them. We rooted for them.

In Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, we see a really ditzy character in our heroine. From way back in the first book, (she's up to #13 now) Stephanie captures our imagination. She gets herself in big trouble every time, finds herself chosing between two hot sexy boyfriends, Joe and Ranger. She's got a nutty grandmother, a pet hamster named Rex who is her best friend, a flamboyant partner, ex-hooker, Lula. With the Plum series, I was a late bloomer, not having read them from the beginning, yet after reading the first paragraph on the first page, I knew I'd read the entire series. Couldn't wait to catch up. AND I turned my sister and best friend onto the series.


Stephanie Plum was different than any character I've ever read. A female bounty hunter in the heart of New Jersey? She was witty and silly and fun. Being a romantic at heart, I couldn't pass up the chance to see who Stephanie would end up with. Would it be Joe Morelli or Ranger? I still want to know -- but I do have a favorite. Do you?

What character stuck with you for days or weeks or months after you've read the book or seen the movie? Ask yourself why that is.

Tune in on Tuesday for: Characters Don't Exist in a Vacuum/ Layering your Characters.

And be sure to enter my Summer Contest at Romance Junkies:

Good News: Between the CEO'S Sheet's hits #7 on Borders/Waldenbooks list in June! Bunking Down with the Boss is nominated for the National Reader's Choice Award!

Friday, June 22, 2007


Unique and Useful Tips! (I love these - Martha would be proud)

Reheat Pizza: Heat up leftover pizza in a non-stick skillet on top of the stove, set heat to med-low and heat till warm. This keeps the crust crispy. No soggy micro pizza. I saw this on the cooking channel and it really works.

Easy Deviled Eggs: Put cooked egg yolks in a zip lock bag. Seal, mash till they are all broken up. Add remainder of ingredients, reseal, keep mashing it up mixing thoroughly, cut the tip of the baggy, squeeze mixture into egg. Just throw bag away when done. Easy clean up.

Expanding Frosting: (I like this one a lot! Especially the lower calorie count)

When you buy a container of cake frosting from the store, whip it with your mixer for a few minutes. You can double it in size. You get to frost more cake/cupcakes with the same amount. You also eat less sugar/calories per serving.

Reheating refrigerated bread: To warm biscuits, pancakes, or muffins that were refrigerated, place them in a microwave with a cup of water. The increased moisture will keep the food moist and help it reheat faster.

Newspaper weeds away: Start putting Wet Newspapers around your plants. Work the nutrients in your soil. Put layers of wet newspapers around the plants overlapping as you go. Cover with mulch and forget about weeds. Weeds will get through some gardening plastic fabrics but they will not get through wet newspapers. {NOTE if you are ever stuck and have to sleep outside and it is cold, put newspapers inside your clothes The layers of paper trap air and act as insulation.

Broken Glass: Use a dry cotton ball to pick up little broken pieces of Glass- the fibers catch ones you can't see!

No More Mosquitoes: Place a dryer sheet in your pocket. It will keep the mosquitoes away.

Squirrel Away!: To keep squirrels from eating your plants sprinkle your plants with cayenne pepper. The cayenne pepper doesn't hurt the plant and the squirrels won't come near it.

Flexible vacuum: To get something out of a heat register or under the fridge add an empty paper towel roll or empty gift wrap roll to the end of your vacuum. It can be bent or flattened to get in narrow openings.

Reducing Static Cling: Pin a small safety pin to the seam of your slip and you will not have a clingy skirt or dress. Same thing works with slacks that cling when wearing panty hose. Place pin in seam of slacks and - voila - static is gone.

Measuring Cups: Before you pour sticky substances into a measuring cup, fill it with hot water. Dump out the hot water, but don't dry the cup. Next, add your ingredient, such as peanut butter, and watch how easily it comes right out.

Foggy Windshield? : Hate foggy windshields? Buy a chalkboard eraser and keep it in the glove box of your car. When the windows fog, rub with the eraser! Works better than a cloth!

Reopening envelope: If you seal an envelope and then realize you forgot to include Something inside, just place your sealed envelope in the freezer for an hour or two. Voila! It unseals easily.

Conditioner: Use your hair conditioner to shave your legs. It's a lot cheaper Than shaving cream and leaves your legs really smooth. It's also a great way to use up the conditioner you bought but didn't like when you tried it in your hair...

Goodbye Fruit Flies: To get rid of pesky fruit flies, take a small glass, fill it 1/2" With Apple Cider Vinegar and 2 drops of dishwashing liquid, mix well. You will find those flies drawn to the cup and gone forever!

Get Rid of Ants: Put small piles of cornmeal where you see ants. They eat it, take it "home," & can't digest it so it kills them. It may take a week or so, especially if it rains, but it works & you don't have the worry about pets or small children being harmed!

Take baby powder to the beach: Keep a small bottle of baby powder in your beach bag. When you're ready to leave the beach sprinkle yourself and kids with the powder and the sand will slide right off your skin.

Great tips aren't they? I hope you can use many of these. I know I will!

Enter my contest at Romance Junkies:

Coming next Monday on Charlene's Blog - Getting Summer Write! Writing hints, tips and ways to sell your story.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


I'm not really a TV junkie, but this past season I have to admit I've been hooked on some of the shows. I had an auto-watch list that went far beyond my usual television viewing. Every night, I'd relish sitting down in front of the tube, after a long day at the computer and vegging-out. My list is long, but here's a few: Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, Dancing with Stars, American Idol, Lost, What About Brian, Smallville, Deal or No Deal, Numbers. The reality shows were a must -- must know, must be able to speak about the contestants the next day with friends, must have a vote. And I miss game shows from my youth, so I'd watch everything new like 1 vs 100 and Identity. I'd gotten lost in TV land and now that all the shows are off or airing repeats - I don't watch repeats, probably for the same reason I don't eat leftovers, now I'm filling my nights when I'm not editing or reading emails with the other joys of my life.

Top Ten List:

Playing cards with Hubby. (new game Phase Ten is awesome!)
Playing tennis
Reading books in one sitting (or two - if my vision blurs)
Taking evening walks
Doing pilates
Talking to friends
Working for Operation Gratitude (see last post)
Arranging my photo albums
Dreaming up new story plots
Getting to bed earlier

That's my Top Ten list of Non-TV Nights.
Can you relate?