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Longmire vs. Justified

(Let me start with an apology if the formatting of this post is wonky. I’ve been fighting it all day and finally gave up)

When I first talked about new shows starting for the summer, I mentioned that I hoped that Longmire would fill the gap left by one of my favorite shows, Justified. I mean, troubled lawman in a cowboy hat — sounds pretty good. Now that I’ve watched the first two episodes of Longmire, I’m ready to report.

Walt Longmire

First, Walt Longmire is a good looking man, but he’s definitely of the old West cowboy flavor. I’d much rather look at Raylan. Longmire does offer up a deputy, Branch, who I remember from Saving Grace, and while he’s yummy, I don’t like the character much, which takes away some of the pleasure from the eye candy.

Branch Connelly

Next, in looking at the characters, I think Walt could be almost as fascinating as Raylan. I remember way back in the first season of Justified, Raylan’s ex-wife Winona (ugh) said that he was the angriest man she’d ever known. And deep down it’s true; Raylan is an angry man. Walt, on the other hand, is a sad man. His wife died a year ago and he checked out. Although he kept his position as sheriff, he hasn’t much participated in life, and his deputies covered for him. Now, though, he’s coming back in. He’s decided that he wants to run for sheriff again, which puts him running against his deputy, Branch. One little quirk about Walt that I like is that litter drives him nuts. He’ll chase down a paper wrapper just so he can pick it up and get it off the street.

The last thing, and this is a big one, is dialogue. I wrote months ago about the superb dialogue in Justified. The dialogue in Justified reads they way we would all love to sound if we planned out everything we wanted to say, but it suits the characters, particularly Raylan, perfectly. After watching the first episode of Longmire, I thought maybe I hit another great example.

In that first episode, Walt stops and watches birds flying overhead. His deputy, Vic, says, “Hey, Walt. Wacha doin’?” His response?

“Thinking. I do that sometimes before I talk.”

No, it’s not the rambling God-I-love-this-dialogue speech, but this kind of line sums up who Walt is, much like Raylan’s commentary on his lack of “interest in shitkicker-on-shitkicker crime.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t get that same feeling about the dialogue in episode 2. While I still enjoyed the show and Walt is one of those intelligent, well-seasoned sheriffs that is often underestimated because he’s old school (doesn’t have a cell phone, doesn’t use a computer). I’m going to keep watching because my hope is that we’ll get more of that character-revealing dialogue.

I also think that the secondary characters, if they get a chance to be fully developed, will be interesting to watch. The one female deputy, Vic, is a transplant from Philadelphia where she was a homicide detective. We haven’t gotten her story about why she moved, but really, it has to be good, right? What could get you to move to Wyoming if you were a city girl? I think Branch running against Walt will make for good drama. They’re both good cops, but they antagonize each other. Lou Diamond Phillips plays Walt’s best friend, Henry Standing Bear. I wonder how they became friends.

The last thing that makes this show watchable is the setting itself. The big open expanse of land is beautiful. From what I understand, the show is filmed in New Mexico, which disappointed me. I watched the first episode believing that I was seeing Wyoming. Either way, still beautiful.

Have you watched Longmire? What do you think?

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Who Do You Love? Alpha or Beta Heroes?

I wasn’t really sure what I was going to write about today and then I read an interview with Ruthie Knox. Ruthie’s new book About Last Night comes out next week. I thought the release date was today, so I was quite disappointed to find out I’m a week early. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I love Ruthie’s first book and I’ve been waiting forever for this one.

For those of you who like free books, I plan to do a giveaway of Ruthie’s book next week since you lost out on an extra raffle chance here during the Diamond Jubilee celebration.

Anyway, in the interview, Ruthie talks about Beta heroes. I totally agree with her when she says that most readers equate beta with weenie.

In fact, I was probably one of those readers.

Then I started writing.

I love an alpha hero. There’s something about a strong man who takes charge. Alphas tend to be possessive and controlling. Maybe even a little caveman-ish. And it’s very satisfying to watch him come undone over a woman.

I’ve spoken before about the adage “write what you know.” My first manuscripts were romantic suspense because that’s what I read. Both of those heroes had a military background. (I’m married to a Marine.)

Both of those manuscripts, while a great learning experience, didn’t fit me. Then I started to write contemporary romance. My debut, More Than This, has been through a ton of revisions because I was still finding my voice, and because I needed to learn to let the characters be themselves.

Part of me is always drawn to writing an alpha, mostly because in my mind, an alpha is a take-charge kind of guy and a beta kind of just lets things happen. I’ve tried to make my heroes be alpha when they didn’t want to be.

Over the past few years, I’ve learned that a beta hero is not a weenie, and he also takes charge when he needs to.

But I think I like Ruthie’s definition best. A beta hero is a “fundamentally nurturing person.”

Reading that single line rang so true to me, I had to stop. It was a total revelation.

Holy shit. I write beta heroes.

Ruthie goes on to say that while beta heroes are strong, they’re less likely to impose their will on others. Even looking back to my first manuscripts, one of those two heroes is clearly beta. I just didn’t realize it back then.

As I started writing this blog post and thinking about the other heroes I’ve written, it’s become more obvious. Using Ruthie’s definition, all of my heroes are beta (except for maybe one). I have a manuscript of a finished book that I need to revise and part of why I’ve continued to write other things instead of revising is because I know the hero is a mess in that book. Now I realize that once again, I tried to make a guy an alpha who is really a beta. I’m still not sure how to fix him, but that’s a problem for a different day.

Even my hero in book 2, who is a self-made millionaire, is a beta. In my current WIP, the hero is a laid back party guy, also a beta.

How did this happen? It’s not like I spend a lot of time trying to define my heroes, or that I try to write a certain type. For me, my characters are people that develop in my head and I haven’t thought much about labeling them until now. Some days, I love being a writer. Today is one of those days. I love it when something just clicks. 🙂

Do you think about hero type when you choose a book? Do you prefer one (alpha/beta) over another? Finally, are there certain occupations that you think you need to be an alpha for? (Can a cop be a beta?)

Friday Favorites – Hello and Goodbye

I’m running late with today’s post because my modem decided to go crazy yesterday. Just stopped working (while I was in the middle of finalizing lesson plans for last night). Then it started working again hours later. Needless to say, a new modem is in my very near future.

So many good things to read this week!

First up, TV–

I talked yesterday about how excited I am that there’s less than a month until the return of True Blood. Chelsea Mueller over on Heroes and Heartbreakers has a post about one way in which the show improves on the books. I agree that having the story told from multiple points of view is great. I think the show gives us a better feel for all of the characters and their separate plots.

Over on Popwatch Denise Warner does a side-by-side comparison of the love stories of two of my favorite shows: Bones and Castle. The comparison only looks at the first 4 seasons, so it leaves out Booth and Bones getting busy, but for those of you who watched the Castle season finale know that Kate and Castle finally got together too.

Tiffany White has a post about the new shows that will be premiering this summer. I’m sure I’ll be checking some of them out.

Love and writing–

Since I write contemporary romance, I spend a lot of time thinking about couples and falling in love. Because of that, I thought it was silly to separate these categories.

Ingrid Schaffenburg writes about finding true love and how your soulmate will find you no matter what. I don’t know that I believe in the idea of a soulmate, mostly because that means that there’s really only supposed to be ONE person for us out there. I like the concept, and it certainly serves me as a writer, but I don’t know that I totally buy into it.

Emma Burcart had an enlightened moment when she discovered that personality really is more important than looks. She questions if you can be attracted to a guy who’s a jerk and I can absolutely claim that it’s a very real possibility. I’ve done it — lots 🙂

Over on the Lady Scribes blog, Andris Bear describes the meaning of different kinds of kisses. I think this is fascinating and something I will definitely incorporate into my writing.

Alisa Kwitney has a post about the flawed hero in contemporary romance. I found this really interesting because it touches on a couple of things I’ve talked about in recent weeks. While at the RT convention, Susan Elizabeth Phillips talked about the old school romances and why they were so popular — because the little secretary was able to conquer the shipping magnate. This post goes along with that idea and how heroes are presented today. Alisa also mentions a m/m book written by Damon Suede, who is the author that coined the term “come hands” that I mentioned in my post from RT about writing sex scenes.

Fun–

For any mom who has ever had her own words thrown back at her, I give you Erin Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms. We’ve all been there 🙂

I found this post from Pink Chocolate Break especially timely because I’m working on creating a workshop for writers. A friend of mine commented on my ability to remain calm during my journey to publication and she suggested I create a workshop on Zen in Publishing. It’s only in its infancy (like I have notes scribbled down haphazardly) but this post might give me more ideas. Zen tips to live by.

And finally, I couldn’t finish this week without mentioning the loss of Maurice Sendak. I didn’t know his books as a child. I didn’t grow up in a house of readers and we had few books. But my children know his books and we’ve shared a lot of great times reading about the wild things.

What is your favorite children’s book?

Men Fall in Love Faster than Women – Really?

image taken from http://www.proprofs.com

Recently I saw a news article on the topic of men falling in love. I went to find the original source and couldn’t find anything from the past couple of weeks, but I did find this one from last summer. Why it took Yahoo 9 months to run something similar is beyond me. Basically, a woman, Elizabeth Noble, wanted to write a novel about reunited lovers and did some research. What she found was that:

1. Men fall in love more quickly than women. “Nearly a quarter said they believed in love at first sight and knew whether a girl was ‘the one’ within seconds.”

2. Men fall in love more often than women. Women tend to have just one true love and the average British man falls in love three times.

3. Men are more likely to pine after their first love.

4. Men tend to say “I love you” first.

There are more observations that the author makes, but these are the ones that stand out for me as a romance writer. I think for the most part, numbers 1, 2, and 4 go hand-in-hand. If you’re quick to fall in love, you’re more likely to say it and do it more often.

I wonder why it is, though, that it always seems to be that the woman is painted as the romantic. According to the research, women are more likely to take their time falling in love and they seek advice from friends and family. I’ve talked about my belief (or lack of) in love at first sight here.

I think that because men are visual creatures and are more likely to equate physical love with emotional love, they are then more likely to turn insta-lust into love. I have no basis for this, other than my own experiences with men I know. So, if there are men out there, please chime in.

I wonder if what they think is love, really is. Of course, there’s no way to measure love, but when I look back at the one guy I thought I loved, it doesn’t compare to the love I have with my husband. Does that make sense?

Men are do-ers not thinkers; therefore, if they believe they’re in love, they’re going to say it. I can believe that men would say “I love you first,” especially because I think a lot of women think that if they say it too early, they’ll scare the man off or they’ll be seen as clingy.

Number 3 is the one observation that really makes the most sense for me. I believe this and I think it’s the reason why reunited lovers stories sell so  well. I think men do have  a hard time really letting go of that first love. Because of that, if at some point that first love re-enters a man’s life, he’d definitely consider another chance, even if she broke his heart the first time around. In most reunited lovers stories the man has never truly gotten over the woman. Sure he’s had sex with plenty of women, but no serious relationships. Sometimes this holds true for the woman as well, but I think it’s almost expected for the hero.

I know for me, now that I’ve read this research, I’m going to pay closer attention to the books I read to see if they reflect this. Off the top of my head, I couldn’t guess, but now I’m going to check it out.

What’s your experience? Do men fall in love quicker than women? If so, why is it almost always portrayed as the woman falling fast?

Friday Favorites – A Little Night Magic and Writing Links

Before I get to my mash-up of awesome links this week, I want to tell you about a book I just finished: A Little Night Magic by Lucy March. If any of you have read my Friday Favorites posts, you know that I’ve talked about Lucy March (AKA Lani Diane Rich) before. She’s a great writer and an excellent teacher. I was intrigued by this book when Lucy posted an excerpt of an earlier draft on her blog.

Here’s the blurb, taken from Lucy’s web site:

Olivia Kiskey needs a change. She’s been working at the same Nodaway Falls, NY, waffle house since she was a teenager; not a lot of upward mobility there. She’s been in love with Tobias the cook for the last four years; he’s never made a move. Every Saturday night, she gathers with her three best friends – Peach, Millie, and Stacy – and drinks the same margaritas while listening to the same old stories. Intent on changing her life, she puts her house on the market, buys a one-way ticket to Europe, and announces her plans to her friends… but then she meets Davina Granville, a strange and mystical southern woman who shows Olivia that there is more to her small town life than she ever dreamed. As her latent magical powers come to the surface, Olivia discovers that having an interesting life is maybe not all it’s cracked up to be. The dark side of someone else’s magic is taking over good people in town, and changing them into vessels of malevolence… including Millie, who has been a shining example of sweetness for Liv since they were kids. Unwilling to cede her home to darkness, she battles the demons of her familial past and her magical present, and learns that the important things in life – friendship, love, magic and waffles – can get a girl through almost anything the Universe can throw at her.

I really like this book. It is phenomenally crafted and will keep you involved every step of the way. There are no parts to skip here. As you can tell by the blurb, the book is about Liv. This story is all about her growing and changing. It is also a romance and you do get the requisite HEA.

I have a small confession to make: I fell in love with Tobias long before this book was near publication. As I said, Lucy posted an excerpt and I was gone.(FYI – the scenes are still up on her blog and they’re NOT in the book. It’s like the out takes from a really good movie) Anyway, my one and only complaint about this book, and it’s not even really about the book, is that there’s not enough Tobias in it.

The book is told in first person and I love Liv’s voice, but in general, I’m a third person kind of gal. Being in first person fits with Liv’s journey, but I wanted more time with Liv and Tobias. Granted, there’s a lot of bad shit going on in the story that needs to be dealt with, but the romance lover in me wanted more time with them. Don’t get me wrong, the scenes between Liv and Tobias are unbelievably emotional and charged with tension (the good kind). I just personally wanted to get inside Tobias’s head.

That’s enough blathering on about Tobias. Go get the book; you won’t be disappointed. And I’m obviously not the only one that feels that way since it went for its second printing after only being out for a day.

On to my weekly mash-up. This week all of my links are writing related, but even if you’re not a writer, you’ll enjoy them:

Music as inspiration:

Catie Rhodes did a great post about how music can inspire us. I listen to the radio all the time and the lyrics to songs have helped me create many characters.

Lucy March is back with Jennifer Crusie and Anne Stuart and they talk about using a soundtrack and creating a collage for your novel. I never did either of these things until I took a Discovery writing class with Lucy (Isn’t it weird how when we know people on line, we refer to them as friends, even if we’ve never really met?). First, don’t get discouraged by looking at Jennifer Crusie’s collages. They are works of art. You don’t need to be that talented. I struggled with doing both the collage and the soundtrack, but I’m really glad I did. Now, when I’m away from my WIP because I’m revising and editing other projects, I have the collage and music to pull me back into the story. At some point, I’ll post my stuff that I did for the class. I really wish I’d made them for the book I’m revising now. I have no doubt it would help the whole process.

On perseverance:

Tawna Fenske talks about pushing through the crap to find success in her post “Taking One Mouthful at a Time

Over on the Wordbitches site, Elena Aitken talks about finding the time to write. It’s a question that a lot of people ask writers, especially those with small children. My answer: write when the kids are busy. I am the master of pounding out 1000 words during any practice for any sport or activity. You’d be surprised at how quickly those words add up.

Kristen Lamb talks about what it takes to become a career author, which is the ultimate goal for most of us. It’s more than just pounding out the words, but we have to maintain a balance or it won’t work.

Finally, just for fun, Marcy Kennedy has a post for the Geek in all of us. What Star Trek Race Are You? I thought I would’ve been Spock, but it turns out, I’m Borg, like Seven of Nine (if only I could look that good too 🙂  )

Who are you most like?

The Broken Hero

It’s after nine p.m. Monday night and I realized that I had no blog post for today. Nada. Usually I have something at least drafted, even if it’s just a title and an opening paragraph. But it’s been one of those weeks where a lot has been going on (mostly good) and I’ve been wrapped up and the blog faded from my mind at least temporarily. So I went to my handy file of ideas. (You have one of those, right? Things you find and say, “I might use this one day.”)

Anyway, I came across this post from November that explains why Batman is the greatest superhero. Now, I’ve never been much of a comic book reader, but I’ve always liked superheroes. Especially Batman. I grew up watching reruns of the 1960s TV show. All of my kids have played with the action figures and watched many versions of the Justice League. In fact, my youngest daughter absolutely loves superheroes. For a long time, Batman was her best friend (invisible as he was to the rest of us).

At a party recently I was talking to a friend’s husband and we chatted about all sorts of stuff, and I discovered my inner geek peeking out. We talked Star Wars (new and old) and super heroes. During the conversation, I mentioned that Batman had always been my favorite because he was just a regular guy but had that mysterious bad boy image. Who could resist?

Then, my friend mentioned that Batman was damaged goods, which made him a bad choice. Which got me to thinking. Some people might call Batman an anti-hero (which I talked about here). Maybe they’re right, but for me, he’s a broken hero or a tortured hero.

I love to read about a broken hero. There’s something about watching him fall in love and healing whatever is wrong with him that is so completely satisfying. I know a lot of readers love a tortured hero.

The why of it got me wondering. Because really, those guys tend to be total downers. They’re not uplifting or hopeful or even funny most of the time. They tend to be cold and distant, caught up in their own twisty dark side. Why the hell do we like them?

Maybe it’s because as women, we’re supposed to be nurturers. We want to care for those that are hurt and the tortured hero is nothing but deeply scarred. In having a hero that is so damaged, it makes it easier for the reader to become emotionally invested. I think that another part of it is that these guys tend to be alpha – take charge, do what needs to get done. I always find that sexy.

As much as they are always in control, it’s so much fun to watch them lose control as they fall in love. I think that’s where the hope lies. That love is possible even for these men who seem (and believe themselves) to be totally unloveable. And finally, there is great satisfaction in knowing that the heroine is the one who rescues him.

The last great tortured hero I read was John in Inez Kelley’s Sweet As Sin. I talked about it a couple of months ago. If you love a broken hero, you’ll love him.

Who was the last broken hero you read and loved?

First Kisses

One of my first posts a couple of months ago talked about being a bad kisser. Today I want to talk about excellent first kisses. I think most people have experienced the good, the bad, and the so-so for a first kiss. But I believe that sometimes, it goes beyond being good, deep into WOW territory and that’s the kind of kiss I look for, especially the first kiss, between my characters.

I read a lot of romances because it’s a great way to take a break from my work and my writing, while still keeping my brain engaged. I’ve read about all kinds of kisses, but I find that most kisses between the hero and heroine fall into one of two categories: the passionate – hard and fast, or the sensual – slow and gentle.

Neither kind of kiss is better than the other. They both serve their purpose. It boils down mostly to what fits the characters. I’m in the middle of revising one manuscript while I write my current WIP. I find myself rereading those early scenes, the first kisses because they feel off. Part of it, especially in my WIP, might be because I don’t know my characters as well as I think I do. Are they passionate or sensual?

I think I tend to go for the sensual by default. It’s my fallback kiss. But the more I go through revisions, I think I might have to ramp things up to suit the characters. I have one heroine who is flighty and fun and one that is worse than a stick in the mud. (In fact, the hero often accuses her of having a stick placed elsewhere. 🙂  )

Then, I went back to my list of YouTube videos to use in this post and I got lost. I went back and searched some more. Really tough work, let me tell you, watching steamy kisses for hours at a time… Anyway, I digress again. What I found in looking at all those videos, is that while my supposition about the two types of kisses seems to hold up, it also looks like more often than not, that first kiss is of the slow and sensual variety.

Which made me think some more. Maybe it fits that the slow kiss is the first kiss. Both people are kind of seeing what works, hoping not to get shut down. Then I thought about times when the harder, more passionate kiss might come into play (other than when heading directly for the bedroom). I think if the characters have a history and the sexual tension has built up enough, I think that’s where the hard and fast kiss comes in. Maybe they’re friends-turned-lovers or they are lovers reunited.

Either way, it definitely makes me look at my characters more carefully before I have them lock lips.

Here is a cool collection of kisses (one of many I looked at) for your viewing pleasure:

What do you think? Is the first kiss between the hero and heroine based more on the characters or on their history? Do you have a preference for the type of kiss you like to read?