Why Strong Women Need Alpha Males

Alpha you bet!

One of the basic tenets of romance concerns the hero and heroine overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles to fall in love. It doesn’t matter if he is a detective, a duke or a ditchdigger—or if she’s a countess or a country bumpkin or a feminist attorney. Their problems can be of class differences or underlying neuroses or even as simple as she hates men who wear Panama hats. Whatever the bone of contention, it has to forceful enough to cause night sweats and rashes, yet still won’t stop them from crossing mighty rivers or hacking through buffalo grass to get to each other. And nine times out of ten, it’ll be the hero doing the hacking because as sexist as that sounds, most romance readers still like their men physically stronger than they are.

All right…don’t get your knickers in a twist. There are reasons for that, and if you’ll just calm down a second I’ll tell you what they are. First off, romance heroines are strong women. That’s right–tough, inside and out. They’re also smart enough to spot a sniveler a hundred yards off. So of course – and here’s the logic – a strong and smart woman is not going to be looking for a man weaker than her. It just wouldn’t make sense, because if he was, she’d barely give him the time of day. She’d be looking for her equal at least, but more often than not, she’d be looking for someone to knock her off her feet. He can’t be anything less than an Alpha Male, someone powerful, smoldering, unrepentant. And looks alone aren’t enough, because our savvy heroine can get anyone she wants with a crook of her little finger. Her man, in any form he takes, has to be everything she’s looking for plus. Plus equaling that inimitable quality only she can define, and recognizable the moment she meets him.  Because when she collides with someone who can actually best her, it’s such mind-blower she’s instantly intrigued, whether for good or for bad, for love or for hate. And from there, the chase begins.

I can hear you saying, but that’s not realistic. Most men have foibles, shortcomings, are far from perfect. But this isn’t the real world, my dears–this is fantasy. Yet in so many ways, it isn’t. Fact or fiction, real life or not, don’t we all realize something in our object of affection that no one else can? Aren’t we privy to insider info maintained for our eyes only? Of course we are. Because only when we’re in love do we open up our hearts, to share the things no one else can see, to an enraptured audience of one. Who would want it any other way?

Why we love those bad, bad boys

marlon7We’ve all read about them. Those incorrigible, gorgeous rakes who don’t give a damn about stealing your company, raiding your trust fund, double-crossing the best friend or breaking your heart. He’s the one with the best lines even though they slice to the quick, telegraphed from a mouth crooking sardonic and eyes that flash and burn. He’s always the snappiest dresser with the shiniest shoes and the most expensive jewelry, more often bought with your line of credit. If he gets in a fight he wins without mussing a hair, and that slight nick high on his cheekbone only makes him more dashing. His voice is smooth as silk and it rumbles through you like an electric charge, as he’s talking you out of your clothes and everything in your wallet. He’s on everyone’s A List, is invited to all the best parties, frequents the finest restaurants and clubs, and is only seen with the most beautiful woman. He has the tightest abs and the broadest shoulders, is tall and lean and impossibly gorgeous. He’s the consummate lover but he’ll never fall in love, yet he’s what every woman wants and what every man wants to be. In film he’s Gordon Gekko the ruthless arbitrageur of Wall Street, in romance, he’s the pitiless rake, Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent, in Lisa Kleypas’ wonderful novel, The Devil In Winter. And for all their cunningly manipulative ways, we are unabashedly drawn to them like magnets to metal filings. We worship them, adore them, envy them, lust after them. Only to be cut down and debased and betrayed over and over again. So why in the world are we continually drawn to this bad, bad boys?

Because oh…how we love to see them fall!

And when they do, it’s usually spectacular, a crash and burn of epic proportions. But then we get to witness the most marvelous thing– their redemption–and what a fascinating thing that is, watching these fascinating creatures evolve, scrabbling their way back to the top–and to us. It’s a precipitous climb, full of switchbacks and reversals, but when they finally learn their lesson, we get to wallow in their devotion, their bad, bad ways making them oh-so-good exactly where we need them.

Romance writing is all about the resolution of conflict between two protagonists so love can bloom, and there’s nothing like a rake whose odds are so out of favor, it almost seems impossible he’ll ever end up redeemed. But it also  makes the most compelling reading. Give me a good old bad boy any day, as they’re the most challenging and certainly the most fun. Because as everyone knows, that’s all we girls really wanna have anyway.

Happy New Year (fingers firmly crossed)

2012-9gag-ecard-funny-happy-new-year-Favim.com-361850I’m seriously in need of a Happy New Year, folks. I’m not even joking. Last year, although it had a few highlights, was so full of sturm und drang that my head’s still reeling, and if I have to face another one like that in the next, I may as well hit the bottle now. (Which is never a bad idea, to tell the truth.) Even so, I choose to remain an optimist, and it shouldn’t be as hard as some people believe. Think about it: why is it we so readily accept the bad stuff, but when something really good happens, it’s a miracle! Maybe because we’re just too conditioned to think we deserve less, that wanting more is unrealistic. If that’s true, then maybe it’s time to get greedy–not for more materialistic things, but greedy for more happiness in our lives. For more appreciation of the simple things, for more living in the moment, for more doing all those things now you told yourself you’d do later, you know, in that perfect nether-time that never comes. Maybe we should listen to Eleanor Roosevelt who once advised: You must do the thing you think you cannot do. They say the secret to a happy relationship is to continually surprise each other. Maybe in the New Year we should apply that to the most important relationship in our lives, and do the things that will surprise ourselves.

All the best in 2015!

Gwen

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and all that

Vintage-Santa-Claus-Cigarette-Ads-4Okay, maybe there’s something slightly creepy about seeing the old elf with a cigarette in his hand, but  back in the day, a Lucky would be just the thing for Santa baby after a long, arduous night of breaking and entering. But it’s 2014 and that Santa’s gone like the smokes, as well as all that cholesterol-laden milk and Oreos. For this gen’s kiddies we have a cool Kris Kringle, Urban Hipster Santanon-fat and gluten-free, with no more Barbies or Play-Doh or plastic trucks. For the hipsters kids we have organic plush animals and our First Banjo, or my personal fave, the Candy Pink Marabou hat. But hey, the important thing is the feeling about this time of year hasn’t changed, and it’s still all about good will toward men, women, and anyone else in between. And of course, the belief that things will always get better in the New Year, because if can’t believe that, if you don’t have that hope, what else really matters?

The Merriest of Christmases, the Happiest of New Year’s, and the best of everything to everyone in 2015.

Gwen

Writing isn’t all glam and cocktails, you know…

romancing-the-stone-special-edition-20061016035744678-000Have you ever seen the movies Misery or Romancing the Stone? Both feature writers banging out the final paragraph of their books before they triumphantly type THE END, culminating with either an elaborate ritual or an all-encompassing snif of enormous satisfaction. Now although it’s true that most writers look more like Kathleen Turner sporting a red nose and a dirty bathrobe than James Caan with his Dom Perignon, it’s also true that if there’s a writer out there who is really and truly done when she types THE END, then I’ve yet to meet her. The fact is it’s the rare person who emits perfection the first time.  My best writing usually comes through in the rewrite, which I’m sure is true with most: it’s all in the editing.

But there are a couple of schools of thought when it comes to the nip/tuck of the edit (perhaps more, but I’ll just focus on two, or we could be here all day.) The first is the “just write it!”, the second is to edit on the fly. Both have their merits, and neither method is wrong.

The average novel is anywhere from 75,000 to 125,000 words, or 300-500 double-spaced pages, most falling somewhere in between. For a work of this length, I’ve known “just write it!” writers to pump out 200,000 to 300,000 words before they finally take a breath and fan the smoke off their laptops. Many take their inspiration from such methods as Book In a Week or NaNoWriMo which instructs participants to just get it out–no editing, no going back over what’s been written. The point is to get the words down and create a first draft, and worry about the revising later. The main thrust is to get the ideas out. I believe this method works well for people who plot their story out beforehand, who work from outlines, or, to take the opposite tack, who write best in stream-of-consciousness. Like a virulent case of verbal vomit, “just write it!” writers throw it all against the wall, deciding to see what’ll stick after it dries.

I prefer to fix on the fly and edit whiile I write. Unlike my plotting, I’m deliberate in my revising. Usually I go back to edit before starting another writing session, whether that session is a couple of hours worth or from the day before. Most of the time I do both, and always if I set it aside for a while, as I’ve done now by revisiting the novel I put aside last year. The advantages to this is it keeps the story fresh in your head, lets you and fix plot or continuity problems, and you’re certainly writing more concisely and compactly, as you’re choosing your words more carefully, not just pumping out the first thing that flies into your head. Of course, there’s always the chance, with constant revisiting, that you’ll drain the life out of your prose. The last thing you want to do is beat it into an over-processed, mechanical bore. But this method does help if you tend to lose track of your story, working even better if you’re actively writing every day and on a deadline.

Neither method is right for everyone, and you may work best under a combination of the two. The important thing is you’re writing, and if it takes a bit of the nip and tuck, or more than a few Joycean interior monologues to get you going, then damn the Spell Check–full speed ahead!

 

Five Sure Signs the Holidays are Coming

vintage-christmas-shopping-pinterestHere’s a post making the rounds of my recent Blog Tour. You know, in case you missed it. Doubtful, right?

It’s December and the Holidays are coming, a time for parties and family and my favorite part—lots and lots of cookies. Rather than get caught up in the chaos that befalls so many this time of year, and I simply let it all rumble past like a runaway train, and if something happens to fall out of the caboose for me, so be it.  But if you believe the concept driving the season is peace and not what-piece-is-for-you, then here’s a few hints to let you know just how far behind you are:

  1. The Great Work Stoppage -As soon as the Thanksgiving turkey comes out of the oven, it’s as if everyone forgets they have a job. Suddenly all meetings become holiday parties, and if you’re expecting that report to get finished, you might as well call back next year. In my day job I’m a college professor, and I nearly have to hit my students over the head with their final exam to get them to even remember my name.
  2. Vanishing Editors -If you were hoping to get your manuscript sold before the end of the year, you can forget it if you didn’t hear by Turkey Day. From then until after New Year’s, editors, as well as a goodly amount of agents, take a breather and make the rounds of Gotham’s holiday celebrations, where I imagine a fair amount of dealmaking takes place over the babaganoush. If you’re the writer, think of it as a temporary reprieve from submission angst.
  3. Everything’s on Sale - Back in the day, you used to have to wait until after Christmas to get a price cut, but thanks to retail giants like Wal-Mart and Macy’s, the discounts only get deeper the closer you get to the big day. Which is fine, because if you’re like me, the shopping starts the day before, and I’m all about half-off.
  4. The Dread Christmas Sweater -Think about it: if it wasn’t the holidays, would you ever wear that sweater in public? Do you actually like rick-rack, glitter, Rudolph’s battery-operated flashing nose, or cable-knitted Thomas Kinkade reproductions on your chest? So much better to wear the DCS’s less offensive cousins, The Christmas Socks. At least we only have to endure them when you cross your legs.
  5. “Oh go ahead – it’s the Holidays.” – Which means, go ahead and eat that brandy cheesecake as big as your head. What the hell – you’re on Lipitor anyway, and your blood test isn’t until January. Which also means you can eat half that Hickory Farm’s beef stick, which is my personal holiday no-denial favorite. No fooling, I’m stocking up!

Happy Holidays!