Thursday, April 30, 2009

All About Alphas 14 - Michelle Styles

Today's author quote comes from another writer of Historical Romance - Michelle Styles. Michelle has written novels set in historical periods set as far apart as Ancient Rome and 1814, when her latest story is set. And her heroes reflect the times they lived in - but they also match up to the criteria that Michelle has in mind when she thinks of an alpha hero.

Michelle and I share similar opinions on the term alpha male - most importantly the belief that alpha must not mean domineering brute. One of the things that I envy the historical authors is that they are writing about a time when the idea of a man taking charge was often vital and not neccessarily something to be fought against and to see as being controlling or domineering. But whether in a Modern or a Historical - or any other romance - the point is that the heroine doesn't neccessarily see things that way. That is where the challenge/the conflict comes in - whatever date in history the book is set.

Here's what Michelle has to say - and once again that word 'code' comes in.

Alpha male means a leader. Just like you can have good leaders
and bad leaders, you can have good alpha males and bad ones. However, if you are
talking about alpha male heroes, you are automatically talking about the good
ones. The word hero gives it away. We are not talking anti-heroes here,
but full blown heroes. So good leaders and positive attributes. For me
this means: a leader who cares about his men, a leader who has
integrity, a leader who is strong and tough because he has to be. He has
strength of will. He is willing to make the hard decisions and does not shirk
from his responsibility. This is a man who understands there are lines which you
do not cross. He lives by a code. But he is also someone who does not
automatically give his respect. It has to be earned. And above, he requires a
strong mate.

One of the best exercises I ever did was to write down
the qualities I admired in my own personal heroes. I then try to incorporate
them into my fictional heroes. So for example, Simon Clare, the hero of
Impoverished Miss, Convenient Wife, demands as much of himself as he does of
others. Unfortunately he is also impatient and unforgiving of faults. This can
be a good thing when you are trying to solve problems in a mine. It is not so
good when you are trying to deal with your young son and Simon has to be taught
the difference by the very strong willed Phoebe Benedict.

Michelle's latest novel is Impoverished Miss, Convenient Wife which is out now.

His unexpected bride… Wealthy landowner Simon Clare shuns Northumbrian society. With his son gravely ill, the last thing Simon needs is an interfering woman assuming command of his household and nursing young Robert – no matter how sensuous her figure, or how tempting her luscious lips.

Phoebe Benedict knows what it is to struggle, and finds herself drawn to the badly scarred recluse. Despite his tough exterior, she knows that Simon is a father who yearns for his son to recover – and a man who misses the tender embrace of a woman…
Michelle has promised to drop by the blog - as have all the authors - if there are any questions but I think that she is busy today at the Hexham Festival so she may come in later.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

All About Alphas 13 - Louise Allen

I'm hearing from lots of you about how helpful you're finding this survey and discussion. I must admit that I'm enjoying it too. I'm loving reading everyone's contributions and delighted to see the way that there is no one strict and narrow definition of an alpha hero but a range of attributes and characteristics that fit into every line but are more emphasised more in certain ones than in others.

And I sincerely hope that we're erasing the image of an alpha only as a domineering bully as more layers are added to the image. This should help those writers who felt that they wanted to make sure their characters weren't too alpha, or too horrid. And that the discussion on the way that alpha traits come to the surface most when the circumstances demand it has already given Monique a moment of clarity and hopefully helped those of you who feel they don't how to write alphas because they don't know any guys like that.

I particularly like Donna Alward's comment on her own post yesterday that:

most heroes are alpha in one way or another. It is how they rise to the
challenge, and it is the balance of how beta or gamma qualities mix with the alpha qualities.

Today we move on to another line, another approach as we look at the way that some authors of Historical romances create their own particular alpha heroes. And perhaps at this stage, it's a good time to remind you that the editors' views on what makes an alpha for each line is in the checklist that I posted back on April 18th so that you can refresh your memory on those details.

Today's Historical author is Louise Allen whose series Those Scandalous Ravenhursts features a wonderful set of intense and absorbing alpha heroes. Here's what Louise has to say - and it goes without saying that a lot of this is important and relevant to the contemporary alpha hero too. Particularly that code of honour.

For me, the Historical Alpha hero is a man with a strong code of
personal honour, and I think that works across all periods and for the out and
out rake as much as for the most respectable nobleman. That sense of honour goes
with pride - and maybe arrogance - but then these men have a lot to be proud
about and they will fight to the death to defend it. Their attraction for the
heroine may often seem to threaten that honour - but the good news for the
heroine is that he'll fight to the death for her too.

I like heroes who have a sense of humour and who show grace under
pressure and my latest hero - Theo Ravenhurst - is an example of that type of
man. Intelligent, tough and resourceful, he is also strong enough to learn to
accept the heroine, Elinor, as an equal partner in some fairly hair-raising

The Disgraceful Mr Ravenhurst, the fourth in the Those Scandalous Ravenhursts series, is out now in the UK and in July in the US.

Those Scandalous Ravenhursts, Book 4

Stumbling upon his bluestocking cousin Elinor in France, Theo Ravenhurst can hardly believe his luck. His dangerous lifestyle has finally caught up with him and her family connexions could be put to excellent use.

Theo is convinced Elinor’s dowdy exterior disguises a fiery, passionate nature. He gives her the adventure she’s been yearning for - and along the way discovers his new-found accomplice has talents beyond his wildest dreams.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

All About Alphas 12 - Donna Alward

Today's post comes from the lovely Donna Alward.

I asked for a quote - she wrote me an essay. She said I could cut it if I wanted to.
But I didn't want to. I think she make a lot of great points - the sort of points I was hoping would come up. As Liz Fielding said yesterday, the Romance line can be misunderstood and its heroes seen as too 'soft' to be interesting.

Liz added: "Like Modern/Presents, we tend to be a much misunderstood series. Romance with "training wheels" is one description I particularly loath. I beg, very politely -- I'm a Romance author :) -- to differ. The Alpha male makes the perfect Romance hero. And the perfect Romance heroine will match him for courage, honour and passion every step of the way. "

And there are plenty of 'Romance' characteristics in the true alpha hero. But they are perhaps the ones that don't get so much publicity. And again perhaps the definitions of alpha that some readers/writers are working from are too narrow. These are some points that todays Romance writer deals with - over to you Donna

“My” Alphas….

When Kate asked me if I’d be interested in talking about alpha heroes on her blog I was momentarily stunned. Me? Alphas? But the moment passed quickly.

If you had asked me two years ago when I sold to Harlequin Romance if I could write an alpha hero, I would have laughed. I would have said, “I don’t do alphas.” You see, I was labouring under the common misapprehension that alpha = hard, brutish man. And my guys just aren’t that way.

Well thank goodness I’ve been educated. Or have a deeper understanding. Because it is not brutish, nasty behaviour that determines an alpha.

Of course there are shades of alphas, and different styles and tones of writing. My alphas will be nothing like Kate’s, and Kate’s will be different from Anne McAllister’s, and Anne’s will be different from Michelle Styles…you see where I’m going?

Kate said, in her e-mail, that my Jonas (The Soldier’s Homecoming) and Nate (Falling for Mr. Dark and Dangerous) were true alphas. After handing in 9 books for the Romance line and number 10 in the wings, I can see a few more coming your way as well. Dante Nicoletti, for example, and Noah Laramie for another.

What makes an alpha?

An alpha is a leader. He doesn’t wait for things to happen, he MAKES THINGS HAPPEN. Even if he makes a bad decision – he’ll be committed to it 100%. In Dark and Dangerous, Nate had to lie to the heroine. He hates dishonesty, but he does it because it is for her own protection….

Which brings us to another characteristic – an alpha is a protector. He can be as charming as the day is long, drive too fast, be the ultimate playboy – but when it comes to what is his, he will fight to the death to protect it. His heroine might fear the passion flaring between them, but she will never have to fear being hurt from the outside.

Alpha heroes are also aspirational. They are always looking forward to the next achievement or opportunity. They are successful because they are driven. It is not enough to rest on their laurels. And this doesn’t have to be financial gain either. It could be a cause they are dedicated to, or in the case of my Noah, he puts his energy into his recovery and rehabilitation. But they are forward thinkers. They are proactive.

Alphas might have that little bit of an edge that makes them seem sometimes hard or ruthless, but that is because they make decisions and stick to them. Alphas live life on their own terms. It makes them exciting, powerful personalities. One of the heroes I have thought a lot about lately is Darcy. When he says that his good opinion, once lost, is gone forever, that sounds cold and hard. But let’s face it – it’s also a challenge. Don’t we all love a man who’s a challenge – at least in our fiction? J And peeling back those layers to discover the heart of the man beneath is exciting. Alphas don’t like to show their vulnerabilities, which is why when they finally do reveal their “scars” to the heroine, it has such an impact. Those vulnerabilities might simply be their feelings for the heroine, or they can be something more entirely. In the last book I handed in, there is a scene where my hero is literally laid bare before the heroine. It is about as low as he can go. And her reaction changes everything.

My Romance heroes might be different from what many call “The Presents Hero”, but they’re incredibly fun to write…and those that have the greatest alpha characteristics are also the heroes I fall in love with the most!

My next book is Hired: The Italian’s Bride (June 09). Luca is definitely a playboy type – but he is also an achiever. Is he an alpha? Yes. Is he ruthless? Never. He is incredibly gentle, but he is the strong protector that Mari needs. It is that strength combined with his gentleness that makes it possible for Mari to start living again.

My next book is Hired: The Italian’s Bride (June 09).
Luca is definitely a playboy type – but he is also an achiever.
Is he an alpha? Yes.
Is he ruthless? Never. He is incredibly gentle, but he is the strong protector that Mari needs. It is that strength combined with his gentleness that makes it
possible for Mari to start living again.

Dream job - enter hot new Italian boss!

Mariella Ross has built a new life for herself at the Fiori Cascade hotel, and she isn't going to allow the new owner's devil-may-care attitude to disrupt her hard work! Even if secretly she finds Luca Fiori's laid-back charm infectious and his smile intoxicating...

Luca's showing Mari a side of life she's almost forgotten. Overcoming her dark past won't be easy, but with Luca by her side, Mari's beginning to feel like anything might be possible...

All About Alphas 11 - Liz Fielding

Hello from Dublin! Abby Green and I drove back from Connemara yesterday and at last I have  internet access again.  The connection at the Delphi Lodge went down halfway through the week (I think a sheep ate through the cable!)  and  I've been totally out of contact since then.

But now, catching up, I'm delighted to see that the posts I preloaded have all appeared in the order in which I planned the. There are still some more to come, but I want to pause at this stage and send my thanks to all the wonderful authors who have posted so far. I've been re-reading their posts myself with a great deal of interest. The range of scope and ideas that these posts have covered has been fascinating. And I think they show how narrow and restricted the over-used term 'alpha male' has become. This character has a lot more depth and variety than many have given him credit for. 

What's that they say about horses for courses?

And to continue in this theme, I have two authors coming up who write for the line in which I think very few people would consider that they would find an alpha male at all - and that's the Romance line.

Alpha heroes in traditional romance? Never! The Romance hero must be Beta through and through,  you'd think?

Well, think again.  Today's poster - the wonderful, award winning, brilliant writer Liz Fielding has created some  fabulous Romance Alphas -  think of  Max in The Valentine Bride or Jago in Wedded in A Whirlwind - or Josh in her latest book.

But I'll let Liz tell you about him.

The Liz Fielding Alpha hero is strong, resourceful, the man who others will turn
to in times of crisis. Arrogance may hide mental and physical scars but while he
may seem distant, apart from other men, he will, like Nick Jago, in Wedded in a
Whirlwind, risk his own life without hesitation to save another. Like Josh
Kingsley in Secret Baby, Surprise Parents, he will sacrifice his own happiness
for those he loves. He will demand honour and courage to match his own from the
woman he chooses to share his life, but he will be tender, loyal to death. For
me a man comes closest to being the perfect Alpha when he mirrors the attributes
of the leader of the wolf pack. He is the hunter, lover, father, protector.

Liz's latest fabulous hero appears in Secret Baby Surprise Parents which is published in
Grace McAllister thought being a surrogate for her sister would be a truly selfless act. But secretly Grace longed for the baby inside her to be her own, conceived in passion with the only man she had ever loved. But that could never be.
Josh Kingsley couldn't bear to watch the baby grow big in Grace's belly, unable to share in the magic. He wished she and the child were his to take care of. But when tragedy struck, Josh rushed to be there for Grace and baby Posie. Could they be his life, his family?

And talking of Liz - now that I'm catching up on my internet reading and have time to visit her blog - last week she wrote a wonderful articulate, passionate and important post on the vexed question of book piracy. If you don't know about this scourge of authors' lives and when it's wrong - out and out theft plain and simple then you should read Liz's post here. It explains everything with brilliant clarity and force. 

Thanks Liz!

Tomorrow I'll be back home and I'll be posting  another  a great contribution to this Alpha discussion from an author who never thought that she wrote alphas  heroes - until I asked her to tell me about hers!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A|ll About Alphas 10 - Anna Campbell

I have another single title author for you today - Anna Campbell who writes stunning historical novels with very very alpha heroes.

It's interesting to read what Anna has to say because coming up soon we have some wanderful category romance novelists who also write historical novels.

I write alphas. I always have, right from when I started my first
historical romance at the age of twelve. I find the breed endlessly fascinating.
Partly because there's an endless variety of alphas to play with. There's the
focused, driven, passionate, do anything to get the heroine type like many
Presents heroes and my own Duke of Kylemore in CLAIMING THE COURTESAN.

There's the wonderful protective knight in shining armour types like
Matthew in UNTOUCHED. There's the lone wolf, world-weary, cynical types like
Lord Erith in TEMPT THE DEVIL. There's the brave warrior alpha and the
protective alpha and the tortured alpha. There's numerous combinations and
permutations of the breed so no alpha is the same as another.

Two constants in the alpha male is that he's a leader (even if just of a
band of one, himself!) and he's an independent thinker. He's nobody's lackey,
even if his maverick mode of thinking places him outside the pale of accepted
mores. He's also remarkable in some way - always brave, smart, self-reliant.

Above all, he's always a hero even if it takes a story arc to get him
through his reluctance to the point where he's willing to make sacrifices or
take risks for the sake of the heroine or a larger cause.

Long live the alpha male. He's always been a staple of romance fiction and
I can't see that changing any time in the future.

Anna has Tempt The Devil our right now

For Olivia Raines, London's most notorious courtesan, and the infamous Julian Southwood, Earl of Erith falling in love will be the greatest risk of all in this wicked and wild romance from Anna Campbell.

Any man in London would worship her. Yet Olivia is, quite frankly, bored of them all. Despite her many dalliances, she's never felt true passion, never longed for any lover's touch . . . until Julian, London's most notoriously wanton rake, decides to make her his mistress.
From the moment he first sees her, Julian knows he must possess her. And when he discovers her greatest secret, a scandal that could ruin her reputation and end her career, he knows just the way to use this damaging information to his most delightful advantage. He offers Olivia a deal with the devil: he'll keep her secret . . . if she allows him the chance to show her true ecstasy.

But Olivia must be careful, for Julian has a secret of his own: he will not rest until she is completely, shamelessly his.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

All About Alphas 9 - Julie Cohen

It's the weekend so let's have a bit of a change of pace. Because knowledge of how to create and write a great Alpha hero is not confined just to category romance authors. This hero is a great character to have in a single title too.

Today's blogger is Julie Cohen who - in a nice segue from the Modern Heat authors of the past couple of days - started out writing Modern Extra (as the Modern Heat line was then called ) and now she writes for Little Black Dress.

Here's Julie's response when I asked her what her thoughts were on the Alpha hero:

An alpha male, to me, is a take-charge kind of guy. He's
powerful—maybe it's because he's wealthy or physically strong, but more often in
my books it's because he's very talented, very intelligent, very competent.
He's a natural leader, the centre of everything, fiercely protective of
his world. He often finds it difficult to trust, because that implies
losing control in some way. I love alpha male heroes, but when I write, I
find myself being attracted to the idea of an alpha in trouble—he's lost his
power for whatever reason, and because alphas identify themselves by their
power, my hero's sense of himself and the world is shaken. (Like Dominick
Steele, the failed alcoholic rock star in HONEY TRAP.) Or I'll put an
alpha in a situation that's completely new to him, and his usual straightforward
"my way or the highway" of dealing with things just doesn't work. My alpha
heroes' journey is always to understand what true power is—the cooperative power
of trust, and the authentic power of self-understanding.

In GIRL FROM MARS, I've got two alpha males, of different types: one,
the strong, gorgeous guy, is actually quite laid-back and alpha because of his
charm, wealth, and talent. The other is fiercely protective, brave,
willing to fight for everything he believes in—and is also a Trekkie computer
geek. Both of them are totally honourable, and they both have to learn the
value of compromise and trust.

I love Julie's comments about writing an alpha in trouble - there's that challenge again. The way that life jups up and bites this guy on the bose and forces him to find new ways of thinking, acting, new approaches that will deal with this situation because he finds that the old ones just won't do.

Julie's newest book out is Girl From Mars which is published in June.

I, Philomena Desdemona Brown, do solemnly swear to forsake all romantic relationships...

It's not like the vow, made by Fil and her three nerdy male best friends, seemed much of a big deal at the time. Frankly, Fil wouldn't know romance if it hit her in the face, and with her real love being her artist job at Girl from Mars, the comic whose heroine has never had a love interest, she doesn't exactly mind being relationship-free anyway.

Until her world is rocked to its core when one of her long-standing quartet and Girl from Mars herself both unexpectedly fall in love. Is it time to give in to temptation and finally fall in love?

Friday, April 24, 2009

All About Alphas 8 - Kate Hardy

More on the Modern Heat Alpha today. Today's blogger is the human dynamo Kate Hardy wearing the first of her hats as a Modern Heat author. She'll be back later wearing her Medicals author.

And you'll see that there are differences in Kate's approach to writing her Alpha heroes from the way that the other Modern Heat author approached it. That's because, as I keep saying there are no rules.

And as the editors keep saying 'It's all in the execution.'

Because there is a wide range of types and styles of Alpha heroes. It's not the money or the glamour that makes him and Alpha - those are just trappings. And it's not the powerful, proactive, forceful responses that make him Alpha - those are responses to the challenge he's up against. The alpha is the man at the core. And each author has their own way of creating that man.

Here's Kate's -

The Modern Heat Alpha
This one’s a bit of a movable feast because the line’s still very young and the heroes still have room to change. In general, the Modern Heat Alpha tends to be somewhere between 25 and 35 and hasn’t quite settled down – even if he appears to be the head of a corporation, he’ll be restless because he’s still looking for something. He’s confident and loves a challenge; he’s drop-dead gorgeous and he’ll turn heads whether he’s wearing a business suit or a scruffy pair of jeans and a T-shirt. Have I mentioned that he’s a complete and utter sex-god? (And he’s very, very good at sex.)

And in the case of my heroes, he’s likely to have a nerdy side and a weird job. However, last time I spoke about this, on I Heart Presents, the line editor asked me to point out that they prefer the hero to have a PROPER job. I got away with turning my sheikh in Surrender to the Playboy Sheikh into a volcanologist because… um… it’s how things work, in my books, and my ed knows that if she tells me my hero has to be a banker, it’ll go very badly wrong and she’ll end up with a sex-god archaeologist or a stormchaser . The editors are looking for fresh voices (i.e. they already have one author who does weird jobs and that’s quite enough, thank you), so please give your hero a sensible job. You can, however, give him an extreme hobby… something that gives him a challenge he doesn’t get in his day job.

He’s definitely on his way to success, if not already there; he can see the big picture rather than worrying about tiny details (though if you quiz him, you’ll discover he has a handle on absolutely everything). He works hard (mine have workaholic tendencies); he also plays hard (which is how come my current Modern Heat duet is called ‘To Tame a Playboy’). He’s charming and approachable, wants someone who’ll be his equal, and is quite likely to make an outrageous bet with the heroine. He cares about his family and will put them first (as Giovanni does, in my RNA-award-winning Breakfast at Giovanni’s, aka In Bed With Her Italian Boss). But getting him to admit to loving the heroine… that’s where the she’s going to have a hard time. He’s be completely up front right at the start and say he doesn’t believe in love, doesn’t do love, and he’ll offer her an affair with very defined limits. But when he falls, he falls hard. And my favourite bit is when a Modern Heat alpha finally admits he loves the heroine – because he’ll do it with style!

Kate's latest Modern Heat hero is Luke in PLayboy Boss, Pregnancy of Passion out in the UK in May.

To Do List:

1 – Hire new Personal Assistant

2 – Do not sleep with new Personal Assistant

3 – Re-evaluate point two…

Tycoon Luke Holloway lives on the wild side, but at work he is a professional. However, his new employee Sara Fleet is irresistible. Before long he has unbuttoned his prim and proper assistant and they’re breaking all his rules…over and over again! Super-efficient Sara has never felt so out of control – and now she has to tell her sexy boss she is pregnant with his child!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

All About Alphas 7 - Heidi Rice

I'll come back to the Presents /Modern Authors a bit later in this discussion - there are more of them who have sent me their thoughts on writing Alpha heroes - but today's blogger is someone who I hope can help you with that question that so many people seem to ask - just what is the difference betwewn a Modern/Presents Alpha and a Modern Heat Alpha?

So here is one of the stars of the Modern Heat line - Heidi Rice. I think that Heidi has made a very important point in the third paragraph here. Something that I think is vitally important when creating any sort of hero - but the more charged the conflcit, the more intense the response - and the stronger the motivation has to be shown to be.

First off, thanks Kate for inviting me to join in this Q&A. I love
talking about alpha heroes and as a Modern Heat author it's a particularly
intriguing topic because we do tend to get a lot of questions about how alpha
our heroes should be.

Personally I love to write my heroes with a lot of alpha traits, because
those are the traits I find sexy. He doesn't necessarily have to be super rich
(my first hero was a Harley-riding ex-con of no fixed abode), and he doesn't
have to be a corporate billionaire. I've had a best-selling novellist, a hotel
magnate and even a Hollywood actor. But all my heroes tend to be demanding (both
in bed and out!). They know what they want (or think they do). They'll do
whatever they have to do to get it (from seduction, to a bit of light-hearted
blackmail, to kidnapping) and they'll be totally focussed on their goal (which
is the heroine... what could be sexier than that, right). And like all great
alphas they're also protective, nurturing and honourable. To which you're
probably saying, 'hey, hang on a mo, how can a guy be honourable and then
blackmail someone?'

The answer is simple, they have to believe in their heart of hearts it's
the right thing to do. So here's a top tip, when writing an alpha hero (or any
hero) if he's going to do something outrageous give him a very good motivation
for doing it - so he can defend his behaviour to himself, and the heroine and
the reader. Of course, that doesn't mean the heroine's going to buy it (and in
my books they frequently don't), but that's all part of the delicious conflict
you want to get steaming between these two.

But the most important thing about all my heroes and all the great heroes
I've read in M&B, is that they have to be individuals. They have to be fully
rounded characters, not just a collection of alpha traits. You have to fall in
love with this guy - and the reader has to fall for him too. So don't let
yourself fall into the trap of thinking that because he's an alpha guy he can't
have a sense of humour, or be a fantastic cook, or be kind to children and
puppies. Don't let his alpha-ness limit you in creating your hero... Use it to
make him that extra bit more gorgeous and larger than life, because let's face
it these are romantic fantasies - and the more romantic the better.

Heidi's next book is due out in June in the UK and September in the US and is called Hot-Shot Tycoon, Indecent Proposal.
Daisy Dean, a lively, fun-loving and ever so slightly reckless Portobello Road stall holder has climbed into her mysterious new neighbour's back garden in search of her landlady's much-loved cat. She's already decided that said neighbour is an arrogant jerk even though she's never actually met him. After all the guy hasn't responded to any of her many messages about the cat, or even thanked her for the home-made brownies she dropped off with his cleaning lady a few days before to welcome him to the neighbourhood.
With men like that, trepassing is perfectly justified. And anyway, she's pretty sure he's not at home.
Unfortunately, what Daisy doesn't know is that Cormac Brody, the millionaire property developer next door, isn't only at home, he's nursing a bad case of the flu, and after his rough upbringing on the mean streets of Dublin, he doesn't take too kindly to people who sneak onto his private property.
Oh boy, is Daisy in for a nasty surprise....
PS If you're missing me - and you want to know where I am then I'm blogging on the Pink Heart Society Blog today about one of my favourite authors.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

All About Alphas 6 - Michelle Reid

Well you knew that I had to get Michelle Reid in here didn't you?

Apart from being one of my very special friends, she is also the author of some of my favourite romance novels - The Price of a Bride, Gold Ring of Betrayal . . . Michelle's books hit me before I ever met her in person. And of course there is one particular aspect of her writing that hits harder than any other - and that is the way that she writes her heroes.I've fallen in love with more Michelle Reid heroes than I can count and some of them have stayed with me so clearly that they come back to haunt me when I'm trying to create my own heroes who, although Alpha, are not 'Michelle Reid Alphas'.

Because here we are again, avoiding the narrowest definition of this term. Just as a Sandra Marton hero is not an Anne McAllister hero, a Michelle Reid hero isn't a Kate Walker hero . And that's a fact for which we should all be grateful. Each author has her own particular approach to this subject, each hero has his own particular traits and characteristics, and that's how it should be. And, as Donna Alward comments on the very first posting of this blog -
>> I definitely see how my heroes are alpha in many ways, but also have beta characteristics, and the balance changes depending on each hero.

Each individual hero should have an individual balance of all the characterisitics - and soem will come to the fore more than others depending on the challenge that he meets and has to contend with, the conflict in which he finds himself. So even within a particular author's range of writing there will be many vaiarions on the theme.

So here is Michelle Reid talking about how she creates her Alpha Hero.

Who is my Alpha Hero:

Well, who is he? Let’s take it as a given that he is tall dark and spectacularly handsome. Mediterranean too (for me at least) because they’re so gorgeously sexy and so arrogantly un-reconstructed! No political correctness lurking inside my Alpha hero. When he wants something/someone badly enough he just goes for it with all the passion in his nature and to hell with what other people might think. That does not mean he possesses no conscience, he would be no hero of mine if he didn’t have very good reasons for doing what he does.

Ruthless? You bet. He has to be. He’s the major player in a cut throat world of big business and without that essential streak of ruthlessness he would not last a day, which also means he must have the sharp mind and the intellect to keep him in the game. He’s also deadly honest with very high standards by which he lives his life and expects others to live by. Try to pull a fast one on my alpha hero and he takes it
deeply and very personally.

In his personal life? Here’s where his cynicism creeps in. A man who is so wealthy, powerful, good looking and single can take his pick from the countless beautiful women who throw themselves at him – which does not mean that he does. Discernment is the key to my alpha hero. To simply take a woman because she is there for the taking is, in his view, as bad as a woman selling herself for money. My Alpha Hero would have way too much pride and respect in himself to do that. He can possess every fabulous advantage we want to throw at him and still be a decent human being. And he certainly does not maintain his place so high on the success ladder by obsessing about women. He keeps that place by sheer grit and cleverness and a lot of focus and determination.

Which means he isn’t stupid. When it comes to his deeper emotions he keeps them securely locked away from all the mercenary vultures out there he knows are waiting to pounce on him. He understands that beautiful women believe they deserve a rich and successful man like him to pander to their expensive tastes. My Alpha Hero can see through their fine feathers into their darker inner self. She can be the most beautiful woman in the world on the outside but if that inner core is tainted then he won’t want her. Then again, he likes to play as hard as he works so of course he enjoys rich warm intimate relationships with women! He’s young, single and Alpha! And he will pander to their needs up to a point. He’s a warm, charming, generous lover – while it lasts.

A hardened cynic about women then? No. My Alpha hero has a
romantic streak which lives deep in the very core of his makeup. He wants to
love and be loved – for himself. Some might call it his fatal flaw, because when
that one particular woman does come along and breaks through the emotional
protection he wears around his deeper feelings, he becomes as vulnerable and as
unsure of himself as any man recognising that he’s falling deeply in love. He’s
wary, suspicious. He does not want to be caught out and made a fool of by some
feline vulture wearing an angel’s mask. So from the moment he meets her he’s
fighting both her and himself. Hence the conflicts he has with himself and the
heroine, hence the ups and downs in their relationship as they proceed towards
the inevitable outcome.

The bottom line? My Alpha hero does not choose his life’s mate with his eyes or his libido. He chooses with his carefully guarded heart. And when he mates, he seriously mates for life.

Which makes him special – Modern/Presents Alpha special. Unique, exciting, passionate, complicated, frustrating, and as sexy as hell!

Michelle's next Alpha hero appears in her novel Marchese's Forgotten Bride which will be out in the UK in September. Her February Title The Greek's Forced Bride is still available on Amazon and the Mills and Boon website - and on eHarlequin.

Greek billionaire Leo Christakis is convinced the drab, shapeless suits worn by Natasha are simply a cover for the gold-digging harlot who lies beneath. Mistakenly thinking Natasha's been stealing from his company, Leo commands her to be at his beck and call-in and out of the bedroom. Natasha is thrown into his world of unimaginable luxury. Then Leo discovers she's innocent-in every sense! Now she has no choice-she must become the Christakis bride!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

All about Alphas 5 - Anne McAllister

So, sticking with the Modern/Presents authors today as well - my next contributor will come as no surprise to anyone, not after I posted how much I enjoyed her latest release, Savas' Defiant Mistress.

Today's poster is of course Anne McAllister.

When so many people do seem to think that Alpha = brute, bully, domineering thug . . . that description just doesn't fit Anne's heroes at all. It shouldn't fit any hero either in my personal opinion - how can a bully be a hero? And what I personally love about Anne's heroes is that there's no way those accusations can be levelled at them.

Which is why I wanted her to take part in this discussion. Because Anne's heroes help prove how impossibly narrow, constrictive and just plain wrong those stereotypes are. They show that, with Alphas, as with any other form of good writing, you can't write 'by the rules' because there aren't any. Anyone who has read Savas' Defiant Mistress - and if you haven't, you should - can't be under the illusion that Sebastian is anything but an Alpha. But bullyig? Domineering? Thuggish? No way!

You'll find what I think about this book earlier on my blog here and here's what Anne has to say:

I often hate discussing the "Alpha hero" because the discussion so often leads
to either supporting or slapping down a cardboard character I find unpleasant at

The stereotypical cardboard Alpha seems often to be a wealthy,
arrogant know-it-all who throws his weight around and not only misunderstands
but bullies everyone in sight. Certainly these characteristics can be associated
with "powerful" men or rather, men who abuse power. But, to me, none of them
make a man an Alpha.

Are they really men you would want to follow? Men you would trust? Men you could fall in love with?

Not me. I can't be bothered.

For me an Alpha hero is a guy who gets the job done. It's as simple as that.
He's honorable and reliable and dependable. He's the one who -- despite what
he says or what anyone else says -- will never let you down. Even if he doesn't
want to do it, he will do what needs to be done. And because he's competent, he

He doesn't have to be brutal or arrogant or wealthy or a bully to
do any of that.

He is not, however, perfect. Usually he's anything but. I guess you could make a hero brutal, arrogant and a bully and reform him, but it doesn't particularly interest me. What interests me is seeing him find the courage to face his own flaws and overcome them -- getting that job done. That's what makes him truly and fully an Alpha hero in my book.

Seb, for example, in Savas' Defiant Mistress, will do anything for his sisters, for his family, for his work. He fits the Alpha bill at the start. But he's flawed. Inside
where it counts -- for himself -- he is a man who doesn't trust. If you know
where he comes from, you understand why. But knowing why, which Seb does -- and making up your mind to do something about it -- are not the same thing.

That's the journey he takes in the story. He has all the Alpha
characteristics -- with regard to others -- at the start. He does what everyone
else needs him to do. But he short changes himself. He's there for everyone in
the family, but when he faces doing what needs to be done for his own future
happiness, he's not quite so sanguine.

What makes Seb fully an Alpha -- the leader of the pack (or in this case a family) at the end of the book -- comes from his ability to finally confront that fear, to accept the love of a good woman, to trust it (and her). Then he's even better than before.

He's a real Alpha hero -- a complete fully integrated human being.

You probably don't need me to remind you that Anne's latest release is none other than the already mentioned Savas's Defiant Mistress which is out right now in Presents and coming in May in the UK's Modern Romance.

Inexperienced and out of her depth!

The friction between Sebastian Savas and his new employee is instant. But unfortunately the lusciously curvy Neely Robson is also the tenant in the property he has just added to his portfolio.

Neely cannot share her home with iceman Savas: the tension is palpable! On the surface she can take it, but underneath her lack of worldliness is making her quiver. Living and working with Neely, Seb realises he’s made an error. But the benefits of discovering Neely’s inexperience far outweigh the annoyance of being wrong!

Monday, April 20, 2009

All About Alphas 4 - Sandra Marton

This is the bit where I have to hope that my pre-posting works.

As I've mentioned, my plans changed dramatically about this coming week. I thought I would be tied to my desk catching up with everything, doing my accounts, sorting things out - and posting Alpha blogs everyday.

Instead of which I'm over the sea in Ireland, probably, as you read this, driving down to Connemara with the lovely Abby Green. I'm posting the blogs in the hope that one will appear every day but as I have also hit another snag - namely that Blogger has decided that I am a Spam Blog!! - I'm not sure what will happen. But I'll keep my fingers crossed and I'll try to check in when I can in the hope of setting any problems right if they appear.
Anyway, the plan is to leave you in the capable hands of some of the wonderful writers who know what writing Alpha heroes is all about.

So - starting where that Mills & Boon checklist started - with the M&B Modern/Presents hero - let's hear from one of the stars of the Presents line-up. Sandra Marton

Thank you so much Sandra for giving me your thoughts on this topic. If there's anyone who ought to know about writing the Presents Alpha then it's Sandra.

Here's what she has to say:
How to describe the Presents hero? It isn’t easy. Use the words “gorgeous,
assertive, powerful, rich” and it’s far too simple to make him sound
one-dimensional. He is anything but that. He is a complex man and his complexity
is what makes him so fascinating.

Does he seem hard-hearted? Maybe, but
there’s always a reason, a good reason, to explain it. Does he seem removed,
even cold? Again, if he is, there’s bound to be a cause. Does he have a
dangerous edge? A man like him would, don’t you think? After all, he hasn’t
gotten where he is in life by strolling through a field of daisies. He’s a man
with a history. A background. He is who he is because of a series of events and
even if those events aren’t delineated in his particular book, hints as to what
helped shape him surely are.

Some might call him arrogant. Not I. What I
see is a supremely self-confident man. He controls his world. Nothing can shake
it… but, of course, something will. A woman. One very special woman. And once he
meets her, his life will never again be the same.

He’ll do whatever it
takes to bed her because sex is vital to him. He’s a man who likes women, enjoys
being with them, knows how to be an out-of-this-world lover. But being in love,
admitting to it? That’s different. It’s probably the one thing that terrifies
him, though he’d never admit it. A man in love is not a man in control of his
feelings. That realization will shake him to the core.

Still, not even
he will be able to deny his feelings forever and when he finally admits he wants
that one special woman, not just now but for all time, watch out! He’ll move
heaven and earth to win her and keep her… and that will bring into play all
those sexy qualities that make him the man he is, a man women everywhere adore.

Sandra's latest novel is the lead title that opens the brand new Continuity - The Royal House of Karedes. Sandra's book is titled Billionaire Prince, Pregnant Mistress and it is out in May in the UK and in July in Presents in America.

Here's a blurb to tempt you:

Wanted for her body – and her baby!Aspiring New York jewellery designer Maria Santo, proud but poor, has come to Aristo to win a royal commission. Cold, calculating and ruthless, Prince Alexandros Karedes masterfully beds Maria, thinking she’s nothing but a gold-digger, sleeping with him to save her business. Then he has her thrown off the island, back to the slums where she belongs! So when Alexandros discovers Maria’s fallen pregnant he assumes it’s on purpose. She’ll never be a suitable wife, but she’s perfect mistress material. What will it take for this billionaire prince to realise he’s falling in love with his pregnant mistress…?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

All About Alphas 3 - the challenge

Several of you have written to say that you are concerned about writing an alpha who appears to be either too soft or too tough.

Jill is worried that the men she has as examples are ". . . more your laid back, take life as it comes sort of guys, which I love."
Rach would "really like your thoughts on getting the Alpha character somewhere between too 'ferocious' and just too damn 'nice'.
and Monique says just: "I don't want him to be horrid."
I'll come back to this but for now I want to say something that I feel is important. And that is that when you are writing a romance, you are writing a story with a short, intense focus on a particular time in your characters' lives.
A time of crisis.
A time of challenge
You are not writing a day to day, plod along, matter of fact time but a time when things come to a head, when crises develop, when questions have to be asked, problems faced, mistakes acknowledged, challenges faced and dealt with once and for all. And those are uncomfortable, difficult, complicated times. The times we would all try to avoid if we could.

But in a romance, if your hero and heroine are to be able to sort things out, resolve the conflicts between them - and conflict is a whole different Q&A - then they need to go through this difficult time, this crisis and then reach a final catharsis which has the reader believing that they can go forward into a happy ever after future together.

Let me try to illustrate this. And seeing as our archetypal hero is Hugh Jackman, who better to illustrate it?

Last night I watched an TV interview with Hugh Jackman. Lovely man. Tall dark, incredibly handsome, incredibly fit and toned, talented, successful . . . A perfect alpha hero. He has to have to alpha characteristics of drive, commitment, dedication, self assurance, determination . . . to get where he is. It's not just talent but the way he uses it.

He was also articulate, intelligent, charming, witty. So some would say there was the Gamma hero - and I'd have to agree. No reason why an Alpha can't have Beta characteristics.
Clearly a family man, caring about his children. He gave of himself to the interview and was a delight to watch. Beta characteristics there? Again no reason why not. no man - no person is soley and totally just one thing.
But he was in a relaxed and comfortable situation. And he was on public show.

Now imagine that after that interview this man went away from the TV studios, back to his home or hotel suite and met with someone who challenged him totally. Someone who - he believed - threatened his sense of right and wrong, his code of honour. Someone who maybe threatened his family, those children he cared about. Someone who threw him emotionally right off balance with feeling that he just didn't expect, didn't want, didn't like. Someone who emotionally put him with his back against the wall so that - whether right or wrong - he felt that he needed to sort things out, to take up the challenge that was thrown at him, and deal with it.

I can well believe that the person who set off those feelings in him would see a very different man from the one laughing on the sofa on the TV set.

And then later what if he discovered that his inital beliefs about that situation had been wrong all the way along - and he'd made some really bad mistakes?

Uncomfortable. Difficult. Possibly dangerous. You bet.

That's the sort of situation, the conflict, that your hero ends up in. That's the man whose story you are telling. The man who is reacting to a crises and to what he feels needs to be done to sort it out.

nd because you pitch him against a heroine who throws him totally off balance because he experiences feelings for her that he has never known before. And possibly because he feels that she is completely the wrong person to feel those emotions about, then his reactions - good or bad - are even more intense, even more heightened. He's in asituation that is out of his comfort zone, where the way he's lived up to know, the coping techniques he's used, the things that have worked in the past, no longer work. He's dealing with diferent sorts of dangers - emotional dangers - the ones that can break hearts.

It's like the old-fashioned knights who lived by a strong code of honour and didn't go round trampling people under their horses' hooves, or lopping heads off will-nilly - but when someone challenged them - literally 'throwing down the gauntlet' - then that was a different matter.

And the heroine is the one who throws down that - emotional - gauntlet. He's not like this with everyone else. Probably not with anyone else - just her.
(c) Kate Walker

To illustrate this, I'm going to use a quote that the wonderful Michelle Reid brought to my attention -(Thanks so much Michelle!) that sums it up beautifully
“His passions ran at gale-force turbulence with her. Everywhere else in his life
control and restraint ruled the roost. He was punctual, tidy, organised,
immaculate in appearance. He carried enormous responsibility. He was a rock for
his dependent and less able brothers and sisters to lean upon. He was in every
other field a strong, principled and honourable man, worthy of respect. She was
the fatal flaw that rocked him dangerously off balance.”
The Veranchetti Marriage Lynne Graham 1989

Saturday, April 18, 2009

All About Alphas 2 - Mills and Boon Checklists

Over on the Mills & Boon Community site editor Jenny Hutton has given this checklist of the way that the Alpha hero appears in all the different line.

So you'll see that he is not just the sort of man people immediately describe - usually based on their image of a Modern/Presents hero - as an Alpha hero being something of a domineering bully.

I'm giving you this as it appears from the editors though I'm just going to say a couple of things where the Modern Romance/Presents Alpha is concerned - and I'm going to be honest here.

One is that, for me, "believing in himself and the reach of his influence" isn't actually being arrogant. It can appear that way at times - particularly to the heroine when she and her situation conflict with and challenge that innate sense of self that the Presents hero has. But in my book he's probably entitled to that sense of self - he's built himself up to the position he's in, and he has earned it. So I'm not going to use the word arrogant - sure of himself, fine. For me, it's something like the comment on Honour for the Historical stories - the Modern/Presents hero can come across as arrogant in that challenged situation but he's not trampling other people underfoot arrogant.

And I would want to add that, just as with the Romance hero, that my Modern/Presents hero - darn it - any hero - needs to have that Code of Honour - that strong sense of right and wrong that is the foundation of the way he lives.It's when that core of honour is - I'm going to say that word again - challenged that he comes out fighting.

OK so here's the list:

Mills & Boon Modern Romance®
Commanding: he’s always in control and calling the shots – except when the heroine finally tames him…

Demanding: he’s come a long way since his emotionally or financially impoverished childhood; he wants it done, and he wants it done now!

Arrogant: he believes in himself and the reach of his influence, totally – until the battle with his feelings for the heroine begins…

Passionate: sensual and sexy, he uses his charm and power to get what he wants, though his need for the heroine may ultimately prove stronger

Status: impossibly wealthy, probably self-made; often has celebrity status in the media. The ruler of all he surveys, be it a company or a country

Mills & Boon Modern Heat®
Young: he’s aged between 25 and 35 and has yet to settle down

Confident: he knows what he wants and has a good idea of how he’ll get it; he knows he’s attractive and relishes challenges – he might have a extreme hobby

Easy-going: he plays as hard as he works, knowing how and when to have a good time. He doesn’t sweat the small stuff…

Accessible: he’s very approachable, but his physical presence and his confidence and charm make him stand out from the crowd

Status: he hails from all walks of life and can have any level of success and wealth

Mills & Boon Historical Romance®
Strong: he could appear unyielding, determined to claim the heroine but he would lay down his life for her

Charming: he can be a rake, a cad or a bounder – but ultimately he’s redeemed by the heroine who’s the love of his life

A Man of Action: he can lead armies into battle, or influence political or local events

Honourable: he may have killed on the battlefield, but is fair in his treatment of his men

Status: either financially, politically or militarily powerful; often a member of the first estate

Mills & Boon Romance®
Tower of Strength: he has a steely core, is not easily manipulated and uncompromising about the things that matter

Aspirational: the guy with whom women aspire to spend the rest of their lives; definitely Mr Right

Code of Honour: he has a strong sense of right and wrong, is reasonable and fair

Sense of Humour: he can laugh at himself and life; he’s often understated and modest in manner

Status: Definitely successful, can be wealthy or just comfortably off; perhaps a specialist in his field

Mills & Boon Medical Romance®
Dedicated: his primary objective is to save lives; he has high standards and expects the same of others

Strong but Caring: he’s approachable and has a great bedside manner – he shows compassion and passion to his patients and the heroine

A Mover of Mountains: he will do whatever it takes, and then some, to save a life or resolve a medical issue. A man of action

Respected: he’s well respected in his field and is committed, honourable and human

Status: a senior member of the medical profession, or has a connection with medical profession, e.g. senior firefighter

Friday, April 17, 2009

Heroes - the basics (Specially for Liz Fielding)

Ok, so in order to start off a discussion All About Alphas, I need to define why there is such a term as 'The Alpha Hero' so that we know the base from whiche we're starting. When I was at university, one lecturer was always drumming into us the phrase 'define your terms' and so I think we need this introduction.

We also need it because LIz Fielding has put in a special request for it! And as Liz has so kindly made a contribution to the upcoming discussion, then who am I to deny her?

Plus - well it gives me a chance to use one of my favourite 'inspirations' - namely one Hugh Jackman. And any excuse . . .

All right, when talking about heroes, some writers (and actually I'm not one of them for reasons that should become apparent as this discussion goes on) define different types of heroes with different letters of the Greek alphabet - which is where the word Alpha ( ie A - the first) comes from. They tend to define 3 types of hero - Alpha. Beta, Gamma.

And those heroes are defined - in general terms - this way:

Alpha = Tough, brooding, strong, powerful, proactive, larger than life

Beta = Sensitive, emotional, tender, romantic
Gamma = Sexy, playful, charming, irreverent, with a bit of toughness, and a tender side.

If you want to look at this the Kate Walker way (and the way Liz wanted me to repeat) you can take examples from three very different films - all starring one man -


Alpha Hugh - X-Men.

LOGAN aka Wolverine
OK, forget the silly hairdo and the fact that he needs a really good manicure. With Logan what you get is a kick-ass, tough, brawling, intense, brooding, gorgeous, sexy, seductive-as-heck good guy. Definitely Alpha. You wouldn’t catch Logan “sharing his feelings” or shedding a tear. You wouldn’t ask him to do anything girly. He's definitely pro-active, out to make things hapen, get them sorted. Yet he has a vulnerable spot, he has emotions though he tries to keep them buried. If you have a copy of the DVD with the extras, watch Hugh Jackman's screen test – see the change from nice guy to danger. It's in the eyes, in the way he holds his body - but he's not a danger to the woman he's with. Just dangerous in the pent-up power he has. Dangerous to the bad guys too.

Beta Hugh -Kate & Leopold.

LEOPOLD- a very proper, elegant, respectful and sexy aristocrat. A man who is reserved, yet emotionally accessible, who is exceedingly polite, keeping his passions below the surface. He can befriend a woman. His charm pushes him toward Gamma, but his reserve and gentleness speak of Beta. He's a man a woman would love to have in real life. He’ll never hurt her. She’ll be able to be 100% sure of him, as she never could with his brooding Alpha—or too-sexy Gamma—counterparts.

But don't be deceived into thinking that the Beta man is any sort of a wuss. Or that he can't stand up for himself or defend his own. Leopold comes to his heroine's rescuse when she needs him and he's more than prepared to stand up to Kate's boss with calm dignity but steely purpose. If the Beta is challenged there are Alpha traits just there below the surface. Because, be honest - every man has a touch of the Alpha in him, when he needs to use it. It comes out when he needs to meet a challenge. And the strength of the challenge defines the strength of his response.

Gamma Hugh - Someone Like You

EDDIE - an irreverent, sexy, playful cad. Wildly successful with women because of his self-confidence, charm, wit and looks. He didn’t need to be tough or larger than life to have boatloads of appeal. A flash of his wicked grin, the sparkle in his eyes, Not brooding, tough or aggressive like the Alphas often are. But not gentle, nurturing and emotional like the Betas can be.

And here again, the Gamma can have both the Alpha and the Beta in him - and being an Alpha or Beta doesn't deny the elements of charm and flirtatiousness of a Gamma hero.

Which is one of the reasons why I don't totally subscribe to these Alpha, Beta, Gamma descriptions. Every man has elements of all three in him and every hero does too.

OK - let's slightly reword that - every well-written hero does too.

Because that is one of the problems when it comes to writing Alphas - it's there in the question that Rachel asked in the comments section to my original All About Alphas post - the problem that means she is told that her hero:

'has a tendency to frighten the reader off with his ferocity and is also in danger of being negated for his 'alphaness'(the very quality that readers come to the books for)

What I want to show in this discussion - and thanks to some of the wonderful authors who've responded to my request for contributions, I have little doubt that I will be able to do that - is that 'Alpha' is a multi-faceted image, a creation with different tones and colours for each line - each style - each book. And to stick only to one particular, narrow image of this hero is to lose so much that can 'flesh out' a character, make him even more appealing while still preserving those potent Alpha qualities that make him such a challenge.

And that challenge is part of what creates the conflict in thebook.

Because, to quote two great but very different writers on this subject:

Given that conflict is a requirement of all good fiction, especially good genre fiction, and given that the conflict must arise out of the primary focus of the story, it is understandable that in a romance novel conflict must exist between the hero and heroine.
Jayne Ann Krentz

The strong, domineering hero of the romance novel has long been the subject of criticism. What critics don’t realize is that the hero’s task in the book is to present a suitable challenge to the heroine. His strength is a measure of her power for it is she who must conquer him.

Every good romance heroine must have a hero who is worthy of her

Robyn Donald

Tomorrow I'll show you how Mills & Boon define the way that the Alpha hero appears in every single one of their lines.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Harlequin on Nightline

I'm busy collecting up quotes and posts about the Alpha Hero - I've heard back from some really great authors from a lot of the different M&B lines - so I'll be putting the Q&A together very soon.

I've also had some good questions but there's always room for more if you can think of them - so don't hesitate. If there's something you've always wanted to know then ask now. Hopefully the other authors will be dropping by to give their take on things too.

But while I'm sorting this out, thanks to Michelle Styles who posted it on her blog, I can give you a link to a great report on Harlequin and the way sales of Romance are doing so well in spite of the recession. It's on the programme Nightime.

The clich├ęs are refereshingly few, Donna Hayes is very impressive - and there's even a glimpse of a Kate Walker cover though it's quite an old one. Anyone spot which book it is?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Announcing - All About Alphas

I've had a lot of messages recently about writing. When I ran the Writing Q&A I got a lot of responses telling me how much you enjoyed it and how useful people found it. So now I'm trying something a little different.

A Writing Q&A - but in more detail and on one topic.

And as I've been getting a lot of questions about this topic, plus the fact that I've seen it mentioned on several not yet published authors' blogs, I thought we'd start with a particular subject that always seems to get people involved - and where people who want to write romance often have a lot of questions.

So the topic for this first extended writing Q&A is All About Alphas.

A few days ago I mentioned that the Mills & Boon web site has set up a brand new community with discussion groups and forums etc. Over there, on the topic of How to Write For Modern Romance, editors have been talking about the Alpha Male. So obviously I'm on a wavelength with editorial as well as writers. There are some great points being made over there and a lot of useful advice. So I suggest that you go along and see what's on offer there as well.

One of the things you'll spot is something that I happen to think is very important - and that is that there is a list of how the Alpha Male appears in ALL the romance lines - Modern/Modern Heat/Romance/Historical/Medical - he is not just the sole and unique preserve of the Modern/Presents line. That's the mistake number one that a lot of people seem to make. The editors have details notes there on their descriptions of the Alpha in each of the lines. (I'll ask them if I can reproduce them here as well so we can discuss them if we need to)

But I'm also going to go to the horses' mouths so to speak - though I hate to think that I'm describing my fellow authors as horses! I'm so lucky in my writing friends that all I had to do was to say to several of them that I was planning this Q&A and would they consider giving me a quote for the blog and they all responded, all said yes - and within 24 hours most of them!

So as well as discussing, answering questions, I'm going to be able to give you help and advice and pointers as to what goes into writing a great alpha hero from many of the fabulous writers all across the lines.

Can I just pause here and say - a great big thank you to everyone who has agreed to join in and has sent their quote for me to use. You're all brilliant - thank you so much. And I know that everyone is going to love reading what they all have to say.

So that's the start - I'll post some topics, I'll also post the quotes and hopefully we'll have a great workshop on Writing the Alpha hero - but I'll also need your help and your contributions. It's a Q&A - so to make this really work, I'll need questions to answer

And that's where you all come in. If you have questions can you please post them now in the comments section so I have plenty to work from? I will hope to answer them as we go through the posts so that by the end you'll have the answers you need.

This is particularly important as things have changed slightly since I first planned this. Then I was not on a dreadline, with the book submitted, and I didn't have any immediate plans, other than - oh, cleaning my office, doing my accounts, catching up on emails . . . . But unexpectedly things changed today - blame Abby Green who has tempted me away to Ireland to spend a week with her. I hope that I'll be able to get some internet access and that I'll be able to come and reply to queries on the blog, but I can't guarantee exactly when. So I'll just say I'll do my best.

But even if I have to get round to answering things when I get back home then I will.

OK - over to you - what do you want to ask about the alpha hero?

Friday, April 10, 2009

'Dead' Books that come alive again

As I've often mentioned, I keep getting parcels of my books in translation. Sometimes these come in batches, dozens at once, and then at other times nothing arrives for ages. This week has been one of the times when a lot have arrived - Danish, Swedish, Spanish, Greek, Japanese, Polish . . .

And one of those Japanese editions has amazed me because it is the third reprint of a book that has come back again and again. Back in 1994, I had a book published that was called Shattered Mirror. A short time after that (1995), it was reprinted in Japan.

Then in 2000, it was reprinted in Japan in this edition.

Now it's back again in a special edition for Harlequin Japan's 30th birthday. And this time it looks like this:

It's intrigued me and made me wonder just why it has been so popular in Japan so that it's reprinted this number of time. I'm thinking of pulling the book off my shelves and rereading for myself to see if I can understand why.

But first I shall be listening to Radio London (94.9 FM) where the Babe Magnet has an interview at around 12.30. He has gone to London to talk about one of his latest books - a history of the City of London Police - Square Mile Bobbies which was just published last month so it's his turn to be a radio star.
Then he'll be able to hear it on the listen again facility.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

What do you mean it's Thursday?

I would swear it was only Monday yes- er, three days ago.

OK - I admit it - characters know best. At least Nikos did. Rememeber when he told me that he was going to tell her (her, being Sadie) right now? And he wasn't supposed to say anything until the end of the book? Well he was right!

Nikos has just given me a look that says of course he was right - he's a hero after all!

And yes he was right and yes the book did take off and that's where I've been - writing at x words per minute, occasionally eating, breathing when I remembered to and - sleep? What's sleep?

Well sleeping is what I've been doing since I finished and sent Nikos and Sadie off to meet my editor and I hope they all get on wonderfuly well together. I miss them. It felt wierd to go on my walk this morning and not have them talking and arguing and explaining why they did things inside my head. Wierd but nice.

Because now I have time for other people's books for a while and having promised myself that I would just as soon as I was free, I read Anne McAllister's latest Savas' Defiant Mistress.

And I fell in love.
I know it's Antonides' Forbidden Wife that got the RITA nomination but - sorry PJ - Sebastian Savas took the honours for me so he might well be up there in the lists too next year. It's no secret that I love Anne's books but Sebastian Iceman Savas is one of my favourite heroes of hers for quite some time. And I've been reading Anne's books for years. Yes. I have to agree. Not for nothing is Seb known as the Iceman - but when ice melts . . .

On the Pink Heart Reviews, Julie Bonello said that:

Refreshingly original, wonderfully moving and fabulously absorbing, Savas' Defiant Mistress is another Anne McAllister classic! Fall in love with feisty and independent Neely and gorgeous but guarded Seb in this amusing, enthralling and thoroughly captivating romance by this RITA award-winning author!

And it had nothing to do with the menageries of kittens and the bloodhound (though Harm was a star in himself) . Sid would be shocked that when Seb wasn't 'on stage' even the kittens couldn't appease me.

I've often pointed out how Anne's books widen the scope of the Presents line - as I believe it shod be widened to get away from nothing but revenge and blackmail. (Says she who's just completed a revenge book! Oh well.) And I know that several people who are aiming at writing for Presents are going to be looking at this book and going - huh? There's no thunder and lighting, no 'cute meet'. The hero and heroine aren't on the page together right from the start. There is a cast of a zillion characters . . .

But it's wonderful writing. And it just goes to show that you can't break 'the rules' because there aren't any rules. Except telling a great story. And above and beyond all, it is a great story - a real story about love. About a woman being brave enough to give love where she's not sure it's wanted and a man learning how to love when he's not even sure he wants to. And that results in one of the best, most believable, heart tugging lovemaking scenes (note I did not say sex scenes) I've ever read.

Lovely book! Thanks Anne.

And as an intriguing addition - this is the book that Anne wrote when I shared with her my hero inspiration for Santos. I think it's a fascinating insight into just how different two writers' approaches to romance can be and the very different books they produce even when they have the same man in mind for the hero. Just goes to show that it's that unique thing the 'author's voice' that has such an impact.

If you want to try it for yourself, then Savas' Defiant Mistress is out now in Presents and will be on the shelves in the UK in May.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Mills & Boon Community site launched

From the Guardian on Friday:

Mills & Boon falls for social networking

The publisher has announced plans to launch its own, romantic version of Facebook"Romance fans are getting their own version of Facebook thanks to the world's biggest romantic publisher, Mills & Boon. The publisher, which sells a book every 6.6 seconds in the UK, is launching a social networking site next week in an attempt to up its brand presence online."Just like Facebook and other online communities, users will be able to set up their own profiles, upload photos, make friends and post updates. "Obviously it's not going to be as big as Facebook," admitted digital director Tim Cooper, "but it will work in the same way".

Together with Penguin, Mills & Boon is the only widely recognised publishing brand name in the UK, and claims 180,000 visitors to its website a month. It plans to offer live chats with authors, advice for would-be writers from its editorial staff, forums and reviews on the new community site, which will go live on Monday, linking from Mills & Boon's main website. Members will also be set a "book challenge": if the entire community can read 5,000 books by the end of the year, Mills & Boon will donate 5,000 books to charity.

The new Mills & Boon community is a place for UK readers of M&B to come together and discuss all manner of topics. It is run pretty much along the lines of the eharlequin community which has been up and running - and growing and growing - for years. And it's now live - starting today.
Everyone is welcome, so if you love M&B and want to interact with like minded readers and authors why don't you come along? You can find the Community here

See you there!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Tote Bags 'N' Blogs Day

Today is the first Sunday of April so that makes it my day for blogging over at Tote Bags 'N' Blogs. So that's where you'll find me.

I'm blogging about being a 'messy genius' - thanks to Linda Conrad who told me that was so! And I really need some organisational hints or ideas on how to keep tidy (while still hanging on to that 'genius' bit!).

So why not come by - and maybe offer me some advice if you can. there are some signed copies of Cordero's Forced Bride on offer as prizes . Sending them off will help make my office just a l-i-t-t-l-e tidier.
See you there!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Prologue . . .

The prologue . . . I feel very Frankie Howerd, just writing that!

Well, Nikos was right. Telling Sadie the truth at this point really did change things and put the cat amongst the pigeons. So I'm very busy dealing with the fall-out and don't have time for a real post.

So for the writers amongst you, I'll just direct you to a good post on writing Prologues which you can find here.

Personal opinion on prologues?
I don't like them. Most of the time they are, as this blog says, the writer 'writing herself into the story.' I only ever wrote one prologue that I can remember and that was for Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Wife. My then editor wanted one for that book. I didn't. We discussed and - she was a very very good editor - I agreed to write it but only if I could write it the way I wanted. She agreed. The prologue went in. And I've never regretted it.

Finally, I have two cat-loving friends who this morning are having to suffer the great big hole where a beloved cat should be. Michelle and Shirley both lost their cats yesterday ( for poor Michelle it was the second cat in two days.) So I'm sending them huge hugs of sympathy. I've been there not too long ago and I know how awful it feels. I know the hole those lovely creatures will have left in their lives.

So I'm just happy that my own personal hole-filler decided to pose very beautifully so I can celebrate her - and Sid and Dylan of course - on a day when I feel the need to do so.

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