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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?)

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For the Love of Royalty

Since I’m participating in the Diamond Jubilee blog hop (kind of, since WordPress won’t let me use the java script to include the links and raffle spot here), I thought I should do a post on America’s love for British royalty.

I remember the buzz when I was a kid about Charles and Diana’s wedding. I remember watching clips of it on TV. I was never a girly-girl, so I didn’t get the appeal.

Fast forward many years and now it’s buzz about William and Kate. I do admit a certain fascination for these two, only because for me they seem pretty normal. Up until the wedding, Kate struck me as a pretty down to earth girl, even though she was dating a prince. My interest is not so much in them being royalty, but in how being royalty seems to have changed her. It’s not a bad change. I don’t think that she’s all of a sudden become a bitch. She just looks different. Maybe more stuffy and formal?

I know a lot of people fell in love with them as a couple and couldn’t get enough. They’d read newspapers and magazines and they absolutely couldn’t miss the wedding. Not me, I couldn’t miss the sleep.

I don’t know that there was anything spectacular about their relationship that would make it noteworthy. Is it just because they’re royalty that makes it interesting? I suppose some people just treat it like they would any other celebrity couple, but for some reason it doesn’t have the same National Enquirer/paparazzi feel to it.

Are you fascinated by all things royal? What is it about them that makes Americans swoon?

Don’t forget the Diamond Jubilee blog hop in celebration of Ruthie Knox’s new book. Lots of prizes to win.

Diamond Jubilee

Hi all — I’m posting on a non-regular day because I’m participating in Romance at Random’s Jubilee blog hop. There are tons (okay, 26) of prizes, so hop around to gather your entries. The Diamond Jubilee marks the 60 anniversary of the Queen of England’s reign. The blog hop is to celebrate the release of Ruthis Knox’s new book ABOUT LAST NIGHT. I’ve been waiting for Ruthie’s next book since I read her debut months ago. I’m really looking forward to this book. Click on the photo to register to win one of the great prizes. (10 people will be winning Ruthie’s book, which doesn’t come out until next month). You can also hop to other blogs to increase your chances of winning.

The hero of About Last Night is Nev.  He feels trapped and miserable in his family’s banking empire located in downtown London, England. But beneath his pinstripes is an artist struggling to break free. Albeit, his bohemian-self is trying to emerge, Nev is respectful of his roots and tradition & we want to help him celebrate his queen.

Tag, I’m It – Lucky 7 Meme

image taken from Jennifer Oliver's blog http://www.small-escapes.com/?p=515

I don’t know if you’ve seen the latest meme being passed around the interwebs, but it’s called Lucky 7 and I’ve been tagged by Emma Burcart to share some writing from my WIP. Like most things that get passed around, Lucky 7 has its own set of rules:

Open your WIP (current work in progress) and

1. Go to page 77

2. Go to line 7 on that page

3. Copy the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs as they are written.

4. Tag 7 new authors.

I don’t mind sharing from my WIP, but since I have 2 going, I wasn’t sure which to share. One is finished and I’ve been revising like crazy (or at least it’s been making me crazy) and the other is only a little more than a third done in the first draft. Since I couldn’t decide, you get the bonus of reading 2 passages. Both are single-title contemporary romances.

First up, my work in revision. I hope this will be the second book for my contract with Kensington. Its tentative title is Exceeding Expectations.

            He suddenly realized the remark sounded like he was propositioning a hooker. He stepped back to think clearly. “Your commission. I’ll write you a check right now. Then it won’t matter.”

“Sorry, no deal. I work for my commission. I’ll get it when I find you a house.” She pushed off the table, intent on leaving.

He stepped in her path. “Just a kiss.” One that would surely lead to the bedroom. He never misread those signals.

The second passage is my crappy first draft. The book doesn’t have a title because I suck at coming up with titles. I keep my drafts saved under the heroine’s name. In this case, Elizabeth:

She broke the silence. “You never answered my question. Did you follow me?”

“No.”

“Then why are you here?”

He sighed, knowing she wouldn’t let him just enjoy holding her. The song ended and he leaned close to her ear. “I’m here for the same reasons everyone else is. I’m looking to get laid.”

***

Elizabeth couldn’t believe he’d said that. She was not here to get laid. She was visiting with friends and having fun.

Now that I’ve exposed a nearly-done and a barely done excerpt, I’m tagging the following 7 authors:

1. Kiersten Krum

2. Ruthie Knox

3. Asrai Devin

4. Jenny Hansen

5. Ryann Kerekes

6. Tiffany White

7. Renee Schuls-Jacobson

How do you feel about sharing work that’s not quite ready?

Emotion and Conflict – What’s Enough?

The idea for this post has been percolating in my brain for a while and I recently read a blog post by author Janice Hardy which sparked me to want to write it now. Her post is about stakes for the characters in a novel. I’m a little torn about what she says. I agree that you have to make readers care about your characters. You have to have something at stake. The hero and heroine have to have something personal at risk.

For me, this is where it gets sticky. I agree that characters have to have something personal at stake. In many books I’ve read lately, that personal stake is letting go of the past and the personal baggage that is mucking up life. Ms. Hardy says, “Stakes make the reader care, and stakes are about personal loss…If you feel it, then the characters will feel it. If the characters feel it, the reader will feel it.”

I agree with all of this and I’ve read a ton of books that drew me in emotionally as a reader because this is done well. My question then goes to conflict. Many writers will argue that you can’t have good conflict without an antagonist, a bad guy. The antagonist doesn’t have to be a serial killer or terrorist; it just needs to be someone that stops the protagonist (hero) from getting what he wants.

Kristen Lamb wrote about it here. I agree with what she says, especially when she says that the antagonist is the hardest concept to understand. Bob Mayer writes about it here. I’m sure if I spent some more time searching, I’d have a million more examples.

While I agree with the concept, I’ve begun to wonder if it matters to readers, specifically readers of contemporary romance. Of course, this interests me because this is the genre I write, but it’s also the genre I read. I’ve read quite a few books over the last year that have been light on the antagonist.

And I didn’t care.

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed me talking about Ruthie Knox’s book, Ride With Me. This is a great read. It’s about two people riding their bikes across America and they fall in love. I suppose at a stretch, you could call the hero’s sister an antagonist because she pushes him from his comfort zone and makes him interact with people. She’s the one who tricks him into having a riding partner. Ruthie does such a good job of making me care about the characters, that it didn’t matter to me that there was no antagonist. The conflict revolved around each if them getting over their own issues.

A few months ago, I wrote about one of my favorite books from last year, Inez Kelley’s Sweet as Sin. I adore this book. It’s dark and emotional and totally sucked me in. Now, it’s been a long time since I read it, but I can’t remember any antagonist. If there was one, it was unimportant to me.

Shannon Stacey has a trilogy that I read last year about the Kowalski family. The first and last book of the trilogy do have antagonists, but they read like antagonist-lite. In the first book, the antagonist would be the heroine’s boss, who is forcing her to get an interview with a famous writer, the heroine’s ex-boyfriend. In the last book, the heroine’s grandmother would be the antagonist because she wants her granddaughter to be married so she’s not alone. In the second book, there was no external antagonist that I can recall.

All of these books were published by the digital division of big publishers. Ride With Me is a Loveswept book (Random House), Sweet as Sin and the Yours trilogy are both from Carina Press (Harlequin). These books have found an audience.

It bears repeating. These books found an audience even without strong antagonists. Shannon Stacey hit best seller lists with her books and Harlequin decided to publish print editions.

In addition to these authors, many self-published authors are also finding success. Both Marie Force and Bella Andre have published with New York houses and are currently self-publishing their books. While I haven’t read everything they’ve put out, I have read at least a couple of books from each their contemporary romance series. The stories have been enjoyable, but from a craft standpoint, light on the conflict because of a lack of antagonist. I say this not as a criticism, but as an observation.

These authors are enjoying great success. Readers are gobbling up their books. If they don’t have strong external conflict and no antagonist, shouldn’t their stories be lacking? Experts might say yes, but I don’t think the readers agree. The emotional pull of the characters keeps us glued to the page.

As a reader, do you notice if the book has an antagonist? Is the emotional journey of the characters enough to sustain the novel for you?