Friday, May 29, 2009

Friends and Books

I had a wonderful evening yesterday. Meeting up with lovely Susan Stephens and her personal handsome Alpha Male, enjoying a meal and sharing a bottle of wine - and talking books,editors, writing, markets, books . . . It was great. Thank you Susan - we must do it again soon.

And then on to the poetry event in Borders where the Magnet had a great time too. He was so involved in chatting to everyone, talking about poetry and enjoying himself that they had to be asked to leave as the shop was closing! He was also delighted to see how many of his books the shop had on display.


And while I was there I spotted that the newest Mills & Boon titles had been delivered and were on display so of course I had to go and make my selection. And for the very first time I saw the 3 in 1 collection Sold to The Sheikh where my 2006 book At The Sheikh's Command is reprinted together with other novels by Miranda Lee and Emma Darcy.


I thought that the original cover of this book was great when it came out 3 years ago, but this new collection cover is just fabulous when see in print for the first time.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Last Chance and Coming Up . . .

I'm not quite sure how it got to be the end of May but here it is heading for June - so I need to let everyone know about things that are coming to an end and coming up


First of all, there are just a couple of days left to bid on my lot in Brenda Novak's Auction to benefit Diabetes Research. The Writers' and readers' Basket can be found here.


Then coming up in June I have two appearences (in the UK) that you might want to look out for.


THE BRONTE SOCIETY

The Brontes and Romance: The Brontes' novels are often described as being amongst the greatest love stories in English literature. This discussion, chaired by Justine Picardie, brings together a panel of writers to discuss the influence of the Brontes on the romance genre.
Panelists include Joanne Harris, Amanda Craig, Jude Morgan and Mills & Boon author Kate Walker - 8pm


Date: Saturday 6 June 2009, 8pmVenue: West Lane Baptist Centre, HaworthTickets: £10 in advance, bookings 01535 640188 / peter.morrison@bronte.org.uk

You can read more about it here on the Bronte Society Blog


Then on June 17th I will be at Derby Central Library for an evening event with a talk and Q& A.
Refreshments will be provided.


Meet romance writer Kate Walker 17 June, 7-9pm, Central Library Kate Walker
has been writing for Harlequin Mills & Boon Modern romance since 1984 and
has sold over 12 million copies of her books worldwide. She is also the author
of the 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance. This is sure to be a fascinating
evening for both readers and writers alike.

Cost: Free, complimentary refreshments
Booking is essential due to limited places. Please call Central Library on 01332
641702 for more information



Looking a little further ahead, I will be running a 2 hour workshop on Writing Romance in Hebden Bride on July 5th as part of the
CALDERDALE WRITING DAYS

In the morning, I will be holding one-to-one sessions in the morning to discuss writers’ work

Date: Sunday 5 July

Workshop: Romantic Fiction Writing Workshop 1-3pm

Venue:Hebden Bridge Library Cheetham Street Hebden Bridge HX7 8EP

Telephone: 01422 288040

But this evening it's the Babe Magnet's turn to do a public appearence when he's reading some of his poetry at Borders Birstall. I'm going along as back-up - and this great because it means that I get a chance to meet up with my special friend fellow Presents author Susan Stephens and chat with her over a meal. Can't wait.


Talking of Susan reminds me of another thing that's coming up - and that's the return of the great Tote Bag Full of Books Contest for the summer.


This year is a very special year for Harlequin and becaue of that I'm planning an extra special Tote Bag Contest - so watch out for that around July.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cat Tales 2



Everyone seems to have enjoyed the Bed Wars saga as much as I enjoyed watching it - and it has led to some questions about just how big Miss Flora the Floozie actually is. (And, by default, just how small Dylan might be) So I thought I'd demonstrate the reality here.




Flora, being a Maine Coon, is of course a big cat - and and at 18 months, she's still growing. So she is a big cat. Most of her size is in her back, which is very long, though her legs are quite short in comparison.

So here are some recent pictures of her to demonstrate - using household objects like radiators and TV for reference.



But her real size is best shown when she stands on her hind legs so you can see how l-o-n-g she is.




Dylan came to us as a rescue cat. He was small then - and then he had a very bad dose of cat flu when he was desperately ill and he lost the sight of one eye and stopped growing. So he is small - but he's a real little alpha cat, very macho (except when being squished by Flora.) I think the whole point about letting her squash him was that in his mind, he won - he still had the inside of the bed and when she gave up and went away again, he was still in possession!
Besides, he's really king of the garden. That's his territory and he rules things outside


But if we're talking b-i-g cats, then we need to mention Barney, Flora's father , who was the size of a small dog!
Even with the extra growing she will still do, I don't think Flora will reach quite his size - though her brothers may well do.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Cat Tales


It's been a while since I mentioned the three cats who share my life. (Well they think they run it but I'm not going to disillusion them) and people have been asking about them.


So as today is a Bank Holiday here in the UK I thought I'd post in the relaxed tone of the day and let you see the Bed Wars that erupted over the weekend.



We bought a new cat bed as one was well worn - the new one was one of those domed ones with a roof. At first Flora the Floozie appropriated it. It was a very snug fit for her as she has been growing and growing and is new very definitely the biggest of the cats.





But then one time she came back in from the garden and Dylan had taken it over. She was so miffed - glared and him and tried to force him out by mind control but he wouldn't budge.
So then she decided she was going to sleep there, Dylan or no Dylan and she got on top, squishing the roof down on top of Dylan



And he just kept on sleeping with Flora on top of him. He won out in the end because he just stayed there once she'd got bored!
The only problem now is that the Floozie still sleeps in the new bed - but always on top of it.


And Sid? Sid just kept his dignity and stayed out of it. He settled himself on my desk to help me with my accounts.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Corrections and Soaps!

I must thank the lovely Donna Alward for pointing out that the Randall Toye post I linked to yesterday was in fact originally written in 2006 - that, as she says, explains some things:

Kate - I mentioned this on Liz's blogs...the line launch dates are confusing and out of date, but that's only because the blog is actually from 2006. For example, everlasting is no more.But the important part is that every word written about what makes a great series book is still true. :-)


Thank you Donna - and yes, the important part about what makes a great series book still very true.


And talking of 'series' stories - I'm blogging over at The Pink Heart Society today talking about my addiction to 'soaps' and what they have to teach the category romance writer.

See you there!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What Makes a Great Series Romance?

Those of you who want to write will be interested in this .

Randall Toye is asking - and answering - the question over on Isabel Swift's blog -

And if you don;t know who Randall Toye is - he's Director Global Series at Harlequin, so he should know!

For him "it's all about engaging the reader. Connecting with her—whether it is with her fantasies or her realities, it's all about touching her, telling stories that make her laugh, make her cry, sweep her away. Stories that have her closing her book feeling good, refreshed, revitalized, reaffirmed.

The key focus is a good story, well told. The basic building blocks? Character, Structure, Pacing, Payoff. Easy to list. Not so easy to deliver. As one author beautifully articulated: "Just because they're easy to read doesn't mean they're easy to write!" Quite the opposite. The series romance, like a sonnet, is a beautiful, disciplined, elegant, and demanding creative form."

You can find the rest of the article on the blog here

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Pink Problem - more on covers

Seeing as I managed to confuzzle Joanne yesterday -

I love the cover, Kate, she writes, but why is it pink? I thought 'romance' was pink and 'modern' blue.Hopelessly confused :-)
I'll explain for anyone else who doesn't know how the M&B romances are published in the UK.

Once a book is accepted, the first form it's published in is the hardback/library edition, which comes out a couple of months before the paperback edition. These are known amongst the authors as the 'pinks' because they are all - Modern or Romance - the 'contemporary' romance lines, that is - published in this pink binding. And it is, as you can see - a very pink binding . (This is a great excuse to post that fabulous cover again.)


Then, two months later (usually) the main edition - the paperback edition - appears on the bookshop shelves and at that point the lines are divided into Romance, Modern and Modern Heat, each with their distinctive bindings.




Finally, if the book is then put into another library edition- the Large Print edition - this then is a hardback again and it is once again very pink.


Way back when, when I first started writing, some of the books only went into the library hardback edition -not every title was published in the paperback and sold in the shops. My very first book for example - The Chalk Line - was only in a library edition first and then didn't appear as a paperback until 1991! My second book, Game of Hazard, did appear in paperback - and guess what - it was very pink! But then all the paperbacks were different colours.



So I hope that explains things for you Joanne.
A lot of people don't realise that there are any special library editions.
It seems a lot of you didn't know about the new way the books will be scheduled and distributed in the future too - so I'll try to keep you up to date on this as things develop. I'll hope to have some new covers to show you too. As to the designs, I tend to agree with you Caroline - I prefer the artwork covers rather than the ones that show photographs - those are somehow too 'real' for me. And some of them look too much like models -too thin, too perfect etc.



Interestingly, I was looking at my new cover and wondering why it seemed so familiar - then I remembered the cover of a book I had out in 1998/2000 - The Temptation Game - and that's what it was reminding me of.

Though the hero has rather more clothes on - and he's not getting quite so close . . . It was always one of my favourite covers of the time.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Cover delight

Thank you to everyone who wrote and said how much you've enjoyed the All About Alphas discussion. I'm delighted to know that it has been so stimulating and helpful to you all. And I've noted the suggestions for further discussions and on-line 'classes' so I may do this again - but first I need to cacth up with all the in-between books things that need doing - like accounts, cleaning my office, reading, coming up with a new story . . .

But the All About Alphas topic certainly has sparked off my own interest in heroes again - not that that ever dies, but it's always fascinating to learn how other people go about creating the characters that people their books and the important elements they need to put into them to make them into real heroes.




And talking of heroes, I've just received a parcel of the hardback editions - the 'pinks' - of my next book out. This is the late August/September release Kept For Her Baby. I say August/September because as some of you will already be aware the M&B Modern books are going to be released on a rather different schedule from August. As the note in the back of the current books says, there will be :





More Passion, More Seduction, More Often





Modern and Modern Heat available twice a month from August 2009





6 glamorous new books 1st Friday of every month





6 more glamorous new books 3rd Friday of every month


Find all the details at:www.millsandboon.co.uk/makeover





In other words there will be new Modern titles on the bookshop shelves every two weeks from August onwards - so if you're looking for a particular author, you'll need to know whether her book is out in the first or second batch that month.





Anyway, if you're looking for my book then I'll make it easy for you - what you're looking for is this fabulous new cover




Great isn't it?

Of course with the new distribution schedule, the plans are also for new style covers to start appearing from June - so I have no idea what this book will look like when it reaches the paperback stage - but just as soon as I do know I'll pass the information on to you.

Friday, May 15, 2009

All About Alphas 22 - Questions and Answers

Sorry to have been MIA for a few days - I was flattened by a vicious migraine that was worse than usual so that I couldn't bear to look at the screen, never mind work on it. So Ive had to wait until now to get to the final question and round off this All About Alphas discussion.


Today's question comes from Johanna


Just a quick note to say how useful this has been, and a suggestion. Could you
perhaps give us an example(s) of alpha heroes and the journeys they have to make
in order to find love? Perhaps using your own books, or recent books by other
authors. This way we might see how the characters develop, how the hero "finds
the courage to face his own flaws and overcome them". And doing this might also
clarify for us where the misperceptions of alpha (as arrogant etc) come
from.




This is an interesting exercise for me as I don’t often sit down and look at my own books to see how I create the ‘journey’ that a hero makes. I weave information in instinctively and because I know from them outset just why he’s behaving as he is, what I know is his motivation – and so why I believe in writing him at all, I find that it comes into the story as I go along and I don’t stop to think of it specifically. I couldn’t write a man as a hero unless I believed I had given him justification for his thoughts action and behaviour – even if those are mistaken beliefs – so I’m always writing from that perspective rather than feeling the need to make sure I detail these elements. And of course I stick by the things I’ve said about the more outrageous the behaviour - on the part of either the hero or the heroine – the stronger motivations I have to make sure they have. Often this is the most important bit of planning, the piece of the jigsaw that needs to fall into place – exactly WHY he is doing this – or, no matter how great the plot I think I have, I can’t go forward with it.

So – to do a brief run through of a ‘journey’ of one of my heroes means I have to look at the book in a way I don’t normally do . But seeing as Santos Cordero from Cordero’s Forced Bride has already been mentioned in the comments of the last post (take a look at what Michelle has to say about that) I thought I’d take him as an example.

So we have Santos Cordero and Alexa Montague. All Alexa knows about Santos is that he is the man her younger half -sister is supposed to be marrying, plus the fact that he is involved in business deals with her father – deals that seem to be making her father ill and tense. She meets him for the first time when she comes to the pre-wedding dinner and thinks he has the coldest eyes she has ever seen. He is also known as El Brigante – the Brigand.

All this information comes through Alexa who doesn’t really know Santos at all. She doesn’t even know the truth behind the wedding. But when she sees that her sister is afraid if the marriage she insists that Natalie doesn’t go through with the wedding. She arrives at the church to tell Santos and is stunned by his reaction which is to laugh and ask why he should care. He is very cold, very angry, determined that someone should pay for the humiliation of the marriage that isn’t going to take place.

As Michelle says, the reader needs to know that there are reasons, justifiable reasons, behind Santos’s behaviour. Seeing the scene from his POV the reader sees that there is more to this marriage than Alexa realises. And that Santos believes Alexa knew this all along. Circumstances, plus Alexa’s attitude which he sees in a different way – the way that his past has led him to expect build to create this idea is his head. So fears/scars that he isn’t prepared to admit even to himself – that he doesn’t acknowledge are affecting his thinking – influence his reaction.

And the most important thing – the one he’s only just beginning to admit to himself is the fact that in Alexa he sees the woman he wants most in all the world. It’s a raw, compelling, overwhelming powerful hunger that right now he doesn’t know how to handle. So he attributes it to anger and a determination for revenge because he doesn’t have the emotional vocabulary – or understand to see it as anything else.

Anger, revenge etc are the feelings he vocalises - so that’s what Alexa believes drives him. He singles her out at the wedding reception - a reception his pride makes him hold even though there’s no wedding – but also because it keeps Alexa with him. He isolates her from her family so that he can focus on her. He tells her that he has no belief in love but at this stage doesn’t explain why. Just says that he is a very cynical man. He alos declares she can take her sister’s place. What he means is he wants her to take her sister’s place. He wants her as he has never wanted Natalie. – he never slept with the younger sister; it was purely a marriage of convenience.

But when he sees that Alexa’s feet are torn to ribbons by the shoes she’s been wearing he shows concern and gentleness as he cares for them,. This new closeness spills over in to passion.

But Alexa runs away – so when Santos comes to find her again in her small house in England, he has his armour back up. He is not prepared to risk saying that he can’t get her out of his mind so he has excuses like the shoes she left behind – and protective armour like the declaration that her family opwes him a bride – to shield himself from revealing to her (and admitting to himself ) the feelings that are growing inside him – feelings he doesn’t understand for reasons that Alexa will soon discover.

Santos starts to let out some facts about his past – the past that has made him what he is – and at the same time Alexa’s behaviour makes him start to wonder if in fact she really knows what has been going on and the way that the rest of her family have behaved. He also knows that what matters is not that a second Montague sister has run out on him but that this one – Alexa – is the one whose desertion has actually affected him. He can’t laugh off this one with ‘why do you think I would care?’

When he crashes his car and Alexa shows that she is upset at the thought he might have been hurt, more of the emotional, internal barriers between them start to come down and they make love again in a very different mood and atmosphere from the first heated passion of the non-wedding day. Waking, Alexa sees evidence of the physical damage that mirrors the emotional damage done to Santos in the past and explains why he doesn’t believe in love. For Santos this is an important discovery – that he is prepared to trust Alexa with the story he hasn’t told anyone else.

Alexa’s father phones which makes her find out the truth about the way her family have behaved, the money they owe Santos, the reasons behind the planned wedding between him and Natalie. She now believes he is only after the respectability that having a Montague as a wife would bring him – just as he had planned it with her sister. Santos takes another step towards recognising what he feels by saying that he will forget all about the past, what her father owes him, but he still cannot say the words Alexa needs to hear – the words he has never known or believed in. He can only say that he wants her and that is not enough. He has to recognise that his own behaviour has brought them to this point and she pushes him even harder when she says she can’t accept his proposal – marriage or nothing, he says – so(without love) for her it has to be nothing. But when it comes down to it he can’t walk away, can’t leave this woman who has come to mean so much to him. So he has to face his own part in what has happened, the way that his own cynical approach to life, his denial of love, has led him to almost lose the woman he now recognises he love.


That is how I saw the story developing – the journey that I thought Santos was on. The problem at the beginning is that, because he is not yet ready to accept or believe in love, he doesn’t know what it feels. He knows what sexual desire – what wanting a woman is – but he wants this one more than any other. And so he si determined to hold on to her, keep her, by whatever means possible. Deep down inside there is still a trace of the scared little boy who was abandoned and abused – so he daren’t let that little boy surface again or he will feel the hurt and loss all over again. But if he doesn’t then he will experience another, more devastating loss.

Butu – and here is the most important thing for a writer and perhaps the hardest ting to do when writing Santos’s story. He doesn’t yet know this – so even in his own POV he can’t acknowledge it until he has been through some of the journey towards loving and so can let his attitudes and thought processes start to change. If the reader doesn’t sense some of that vulnerability, the self-deception, self-protection inside his mind, then she will think that he is as cold and hard as he is acting – as cold and hard as he is telling himself that he really is. And so as cold and hard as he comes across to Alexa in the beginning. The author needs to show those touches of vulnerability – those chinks in his armour – the way he adjusts and changes his opinion so that really the reader needs to know him better than himself. And this is one of the reasons why the alpha male in these sort of circumstances is often misread and misrepresented – because some readers can read those clues easily and some can’t. Some readers are totally convinced that the ‘your family owe me a bride’ declaration is a cold-blooded brutal demand while others will see the defensive shield that is put up to protect that little boy inside from yet more hurt by a woman that the grown man desperately wants but can’t fully trust.

Because sometimes you can put in all the clues, all the motivation that you think works – the things that would convince you as a reader and they just don’t work for other people. The problem then is what they bring to the story and not what you put into it. But you have to do your very best to make that motivation and that ‘journey’ work so the aware and sensitive reader can see how your hero has grown and developed through the story.

I hope that this makes sense and that it helps - as I said, I'm not used to analysing and dissecting my books in quite this way.



And that's the end of the All About Alphas special. I hope you've taken away ideas and thoughts and perhaps had your vision of an alpha male expanded and deepened as a result. I'd like to thank all the wonderful authors who have joined in and helped me by giving their take on the alpha hero - every post has added to the knowledge and they have all been fantastic.


And as I firmly believe that the theory is best understood and brought home by actual examples don't forget that reading the books by these authors will add to your knowledge and understanding too. Because it's one thing discussing the theory - another thing entirely to put it into practise and creat a believable, sexy, powerful and yet sympathetic hero for your heroine to come up against. And then to put him into a story that shows his development - and hers. So read these authors, with their blofg comments in mind.



I hope you've enjoyed this special - please let me know if you have. And if there's enough interest maybe at some point later we'll do another one on another topic - if you'd like that then please leave your suggestions for thr writing topics you'd like to see covered in the comments section .


And on a final, personally celebratory note, I heard from my editor this week that my own latest Alpha has stolen her heart away ( 'delicious' was the word she used to describe him) and so Nikos and Sadie's story has been accepted and bought and will appear under the title of The Konstantos Marriage Demand in February 2010. So on to the next alpha in my life . . .

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

All About Alphas 21 - Questions and Answers

A question from Rachel today -
The Alpha Male...my downfall in more ways than one! My question is about getting
the balance right with Mr Alpha. My most recent MS was (very nicely) rejected,
one of the reasons being the hero, he:

'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)'.

I'd really like your thoughts on getting the Alpha character somewhere between too
'ferocious' and just too damn 'nice'. He has to be pretty ruthless if he is to
(for example) coerce the heroine into a marriage of convenience doesn't he? The
intial conflict between the characters also blazes in the first three chapters,
so you can't have him grinning happily too much either.

On the submission front, I'm wondering if my synopsis let me down. Surely it's possible for the hero to be 'ferocious' in the first three chapters and then gradually
redeem himself layer by layer over the rest of the book?

The 'execution' clearly needs some work in my case!


Rachel I’m almost tempted to say ‘go and look at the answer to Caroline’s question and then reverse it’ – because you too need to have a deeper understanding of what an alpha hero is like and to see that there are far more shades of grey than black and white in portraying such a hero successfully.

In her comment on Annie West’s blog, Anna Campbell said that she used Annie’s books 'as examples when people start talking about 'alpha pigs'. And if there’s a phrase that’s going to set my teeth on edge then it’s that ‘alpha pigs’. Along with brute/bully/domineering/cruel etc etc etc. If a ‘protagonist’ in a book – I can’t possibly call him a hero - is a pig then he isn’t a pig because he’s an alpha – he’s a pig because he’s a pig, plain and simple. And very probably an unredeemable pig because I have no faith at all in instant conversions, pigs who suddenly turn into princes with one hasty ‘but I love you’ and suddenly all is well.

Let’s go over this again – the alpha doesn’t get to his position if life by trampling weaker people under foot, he isn’t totally lacking in charm or generosity or a sense of humour. He doesn’t act brutally, ruthlessly, relentlessly except when the circumstances demand it of him, when he can see no other possible choice, when the only strategy is one that he feels he has no alternative but to follow because of the way that the challenge is presented to him. This is how he feels he, with his personal code of honour, must act - and that personal code may give him the conviction that he’s on the right path – at first - but as he goes through the story that conviction is challenged and has to adjust, adapt and finally be thrown overboard as he realises that he is working from the wrong page.

He is not anti-women, or cruel for the sake of it. He is in a situation where he may have to act that way in the circumstances. The information he has been given about the woman he is dealing with – his heroine – may be flawed, inaccurate – but he believes it is right and that he is justified in acting on it.

One of the problems here can be the use of the hero’s POV. In the past, the reader only had the heroine’s point of view through which to see and judge the hero. And because of the intensity and emotion of the circumstances in which she found herself – the conflict – the challenge – she couldn’t into his head, she didn’t know why he was behaving in the way he was, the faulty information he’d been fed. So she would see him as being cruel, ruthless, cold etc etc - and that was the view the reader got. Now, with the use of the hero’s POV, we get to look inside his head – and this can work for or against the character of the hero. It’s a fine line between thinking that this particular woman is a scheming, manipulative gold-digger on this evidence and that information – and thinking that women are just nasty scheming gold-diggers in general. The same with a defensive shield that goes up before a man who is realising that in this particular instance he’s been badly wrong-footed, his back is against the wall, and he comes out with something deliberately provocative and challenging or declares ‘you do as I say or else’ and a man who really believes that he has the right in general to tell a heroine how to behave ‘or else’.

A man who is fighting with himself as well as the situation he finds himself in may act in a way that seems outrageous to the heroine in the situation she’s in with him – but if in his own thoughts he shows that that outrageous behaviour is totally justified and that treating anyone cruelly, behaving arrogantly to any and everyone is not a hero. And again that’s not because he’s an alpha it’s because he’s an arrogant bullying pig.

So no your hero won’t be ‘grinning happily’ but he will be changing, adapting, showing his heroine a different face slowly and gradually through the book. And if you show his POV then you need to show him questioning what he believed at the outset, adapting that, adjusting to that.

Finally, and perhaps for me the most important part of this is to come back to my own personal obsession with the question WHY. Why is the hero doing what he’s doing? Why is he behaving as he does? Why does he believe his actions are justified ? If he is simply behaving that way because it’s ‘alpha’ – then it’s not. An alpha is a man who has the intelligence and ability to get where he is in life and stay there. A man with friends, family, employees who care for him and he cares for them too. And above all he is the man that the heroine is going to fall in love with. Along with the alpha pig accusation – the other problem I have is the description of a Presents heroine as TSTL (too stupid to live) and that’s what you risk if you have her putting up with the most appalling behaviour and insults and then falls into his arms when he simply says ‘I love you.’
So two important points – the more outrageous behaviour you give your hero the stronger you have to make his motivations, his belief that such behaviour is justified because of the conflict - the challenge that is presented to him. Yes, it’s possible for him to be ‘ferocious’ at first and then gradually change - but from the very start you need to show that that ‘ferocity’ is justified.
And in order to make your heroine convincing as a modern woman, one with a brain in her head, the more you need to give her something to fall in love with. (And if you take the paragraph above with that then the more outrageously he behaves the more you have to counterbalance that with something she can see and believe justifies what he has done.)

I always find it helps to look at your own DH/partner/the person you love. Look at the way you want your hero to behave, the reasons behind his actions, the motivations you’ve given him – if you were the heroine and your DH or whoever was the hero could you forgive them, could you accept this behaviour on those justifications? And never forget what used to be called ‘getting to know you ‘ time – a love story isn’t just ‘wham, bang, wham bang . . .’ – there are lulls and moments of adjustment. Moments when your hero and heroine learn more about each other.
That much needed emotional intensity comes in waves up and down and with each peak and trough there is an adjustment so that when they move on again things have changed and they have to behave in subtly different ways because of that. Sometimes the problem can be that when you are reading an exciting, pacy novel, those are the moments that stick in your head – you need to look at the softer notes too, the shading that makes the hero a fully developed character not a posturing pantomime villain.

© Kate Walker 2009

Monday, May 11, 2009

All ABout Alphas 20 - Questions & Answers

Today's question comes from Caroline -

Hi Kate - love the blog and concept!
Unlike Jill my dh is what I would call an Alpha - as a retired detective in the Met police I suppose he had to be! It seems to me that the Alphas I read about (in the Moderns) are always hot shot corporate types / multi billionaires etc. etc. Sometimes I get a bit bored (GASP!) reading about these types. So my question is - Do you think an Alpha male can exist in a Modern who isn't a multi-billionaire / corporate hot shot? Or have I just crossed the line here and it's an absolute no-no for Modern's?
Caroline x


Caroline – the Modern/Presents Romance is a special case in the romance writing world – and now I think that the Modern Heat books are largely coming up close behind. (Please note I said largely – as the editors are always saying It’s all in the execution’ and with any writing one should never say there are hard and fast rules that must never ever be broken).

When I stared writing, way back in 1984, the hero simply had to be successful. This was important because romance is after all a fantasy. The reader wants to be taken away from their real world where bills have to be paid, nappies washed, floors cleaned, houses repaired . . . and into a world where these things matter so much less. They want to feel at the end of a book that the heroine will live happily ever after and part of that ‘happily’ in most people’s dreams is to have enough money not to worry about the cost of anything or their financial security.

My first hero was a very successful photographer – no billions, not even millions in his bank account. Those have come into the romance world as society has changed and probably as we can see that even doctors, lawyers, even managing directors etc can struggle to keep their heads above water. And then there’s the success element – the reader of the Modern/Presents novel wants to see evidence of the hero’s alpha status – and to most people (again I’m not say to everyone) financial success and status is what they see as demonstrating worldly success. In fact it’s ended up that really ‘billionaire’ has simply become shorthand for ‘a very successful man in his own chosen field in the world.’ And that goes into the title as a ‘buzz word’ and perhaps the readers don’t spot any real differences between one billionaire and another.

For me the important thing is that the hero has made his own way in the world. I don’t write about someone who has simply inherited the fortune/company/estate/bank that his father and grandfather and great-grandfather built up, enjoying the success and not putting in the work. Similarly with someone whose family perhaps has an aristocratic history – and he inherits the lot. I need to see someone who is putting in and has put in his own effort, earned his own fortune. So, for example, he has ‘pulled himself up by his bootstraps’ from an inauspicious and impoverished beginning or, in the book I just submitted, the hero’s father lost everything, and he has had to build it all up again.

I have bucked the trend once or twice - The Hired Husband had a hero who entered into a marriage of convenience with the heroine because his company was temporarily in difficulties after his father had died and his stepmother wanted her half of the business. And other authors have done the same – Anne McAllister’s recent One Night Love-Child has the hero, Flynn, working to make his Irish estate pay after death duties etc. It can be done – but, like having a hero who is not ‘tall dark and handsome’ you can get yourself into a situation where your book is a ‘hard sell’ – where it doesn’t have the glamour and fantasy that the reader of this particular line is looking for. And that is part of the huge success of this line. And of course one of the vital elements of the Modern/Presents story is that the hero who has had everything go his way and proved his success suddenly comes up against a situation in which he can throw all the money in the world at the problem and it won’t change a thing. He has to find a very different ‘currency’, and very different way of going about things in order to solve the problem – resolve the conflict he’s caught up in.

The other thing is that money does raise the stakes. Where a heroine has a problem, the bigger the problem the more the emotional intensity , and a problem where, say she has to find a few thousand pounds could very possibly be solved by a visit to a bank – but a few million pounds. . .? Also, if the hero is wealthy there are the problems involved in the way that people react to him – are they attracted by the money/position - or by the real man?

So again it’s a sort of shorthand – it gets the success/position/fantasy part of the story out of the way so that the reader can concentrate on the emotional part of it. Which is what they want to read.

Again when I started out, film stars, singers, authors could all be heroes – I’ve used all of them – but today’s reader knows that sometimes those worlds can be so tawdry, or relationships rarely last that they don’t find them as satisfying at feeding that happy ever after part of the fantasy at the end of the story. I’ve also created heroes who, when the heroines meet them, don’t appear to be hot-shot corporate billionaires – in The Sicilian Brothers duo both Guido and Vito were taking a year out to do something they’d most wanted to do when they’d had to concentrate on building up the company – so Guido was working as a photographer and Vito was a sculptor. This was one of my ways of showing that these guys had more to them than just money-making skills.

So now I need to turn the question back on you – do you think that you can come up with a hero who isn’t “a multi-billionaire / corporate hot shot” and give him the success/status/glamour that the readers want? If you can then go for it – and I hope you succeed. Once again to go back over those often quoted but so important comments – there aren’t any rules and (all together now!) It’s all in the execution.
© Kate Walker 2009

Sunday, May 10, 2009

All About Alphas 19 - Questions and Answers


So - to round up the All About Alphas discussion, I want to go back to the questions that have been asked and look at them again in the light of all that has been talked about - and hopefully the answers now mean more and help more.

Jill said:

Oh boy, this is one I need help with I think. What do you do if it is
hard for you to "think" alpha male? It doesn't help that the two men I've
known best in my life (my father and my wonderful husband) are not
traditional alphas. They are more your laid back, take life as it comes sort
of guys, which I love. Great cooks, comfortable around women, pets, and
children, paragons really. At least according to them! ;-)

I just draw a blank when I try and write a guy with an
"alpha" edge.


I would hope that by now we’ve answered this question for you, Jill - but just in case . . .

The point is that the I suspect your image of an ‘alpha male’ needs a bit of rounding out. There is nothing wrong at all with an alpha – any alpha – being “more your laid back, take life as it comes sort of guys, which I love. Great cooks, comfortable around women, pets, and children, paragons really”.

Because I would expect that if you take most of the alpha heroes (and let’s face it, we’ve just about established that all M&B heroes are alphas in one way or another) and put them in the company of their mothers, brothers, sisters, friends – and eventually their wives, everyone would say they were that sort of guy. An alpha doesn’t get where he is by trampling people underfoot, by being tough or even ruthless – though some of them do,. But they also use skill, charm, intelligence. . . Being an alpha doesn’t negate being great cooks – for me that would be an alpha plus attribute – and it’s definitely NOT an alpha characteristic to be uncomfortable around women and children. What about all those ‘secret baby’ books where the hero knows nothing about the child he has fathered but when he finds out, you can be damn sure he’ll be a wonderful father. Sometimes a single dad.

So we’re back to that moment again when the challenge comes into the situation – the conflict. We’re looking at this self same man when the standards, ‘rules’ morals by which he lives his life are challenged. When he believes that something is wrong and he must do something about it. And when he believes that the heroine is somehow involved – which makes her the one woman he feels he should never have anything to do with but at the same time she’s becoming the woman he wants most in all the world.

So he’s having to fight his attraction to her as well as himself together with all the things that go to make up the ‘challenge.’
And of course then there's the love part of the story - because a romance is telling a love story. And love is a great one for knocking people off balance. Not everyone falls in love easily and quickly or recognises it for what is is when it hits them. As I'm writing this, the song Love Changes Everything is on the CD player - with the words:


Off into the world we go,
Planning futures, shaping years.
Love, bursts in, and suddenly
All our wisdom disappears.


Love
Makes fools of everyone:
All the rules we make are broken

And that’s what puts the edge in there. It’s this situation, this woman, this conflict that sharpens that edge. I’m totally convinced that your father and your husband would soon show a less laid back approach if they felt that you/their children/something they believed in totally/their moral standards etc were challenged. Of course there is nothing wrong at all with an alpha hero who meets this challenge with charm and intelligence etc too - but personally I find that when I knock my heroes off balance they tend to react with intensity and steel.

So it seems to me that perhaps it’s the conflict that you have a problem with. Finding a conflict that really matters, that makes a hero stiffen his spine and tighten his jaw is a challenge to the writer too. You need to put yourself in the places of those guys in your life and see what would make them fight to the death emotionally, what would throw them off balance, what would challenge them.

Because it’s in the conflict between the hero and heroine that the story lies. If they meet, all is well, or the hero says ‘Oh, that’s OK, that doesn’t matter . . .’ then there’s going to be no book. You need something that comes between them something that makes the reader worry if this is going to come out right – that’s what keeps them turning the pages.
© Kate Walker 2009

I hope this helps.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

A Big Thank You and An Apology

First of all thank you to everyone who posted a birthday message on my last post - they all made me smile. (Yes, Sid - even yours!) What a lovely way to add to my birthday celebrations. And it was great to 'see' so many of the visitors to the blog this way. Now I can put more names to some of the visitor count.

I had a lovely birthday -quiet and relaxing. Just visiting Beverley with the BM and having lunch there then coming home for tea and cake (choice of chocolate or lemon if enquiring minds want to know) with The Offspring and his girlfriend. The sun shone, the cats purred, I had loads of cards . . .just right And at sometime I have Australia to watch and do some more heavy duty research. I need some inspiration with a new plot to think up and to help me decide which of a couple of stories that are brewing in my head I want to go with next.

As an extra birthday present I also came home to another 'classic' reprint of one of my books brought out in Japan to celebrate their 30th anniversary this year. This time it was Constantine's Revenge. So that's 2 reprints and one translation of my recent books already this year in Japan - and it's only just May. (Joanne wondered what happened to the translations of my bokos that I receive - well I am always looking for useful ways of using these, ways that can help people. I have donated some to the international collections in libraries - some specialise in particular languages, some colleges use them for teaching foreign languages - the Japanese translations have been populer there! I've given some to an International Women's Group. Some to the Prison Service where they often have non-English people who need something in their own languages to read . . . but I'm always looking for other worthwhile ways of donating them so if anyone knows of any other places do let me know.)

The apology - I was supposed to be at the Lincoln Book Festival on Sunday 17th with Milly Johnson and Jane Johnson at a talk about romantic fiction at 4pm but sadly the event has been cancelled by the organisers as there was very little interest and only a couple of tickets sold - so if you were planning on heading for Lincoln without having booked, please don't as I won't be there!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Happy Birthday to me


I was going to keep quiet and just have a day off but it seems I've been outed on Anne McAllister's blog (or rather by Sid the Cat on Anne McAllister's blog)- and on Kate Hardy's too (Thank you both of you!) so yes I'll admit it - I'm having a birthday!
And as I have a Babe Magnet who knows what's right and proper, I already have flowers and a DVD of Australia so all's right with the world.
I also have the tweaked version of Nikos and Sadie's story back on my editor's desk so I'm also free from dreadlines which is a wonderful feeling.

And the sun is shining - what more could I ask for.

So I'm going out for the day.

And if there are final alpha questions I'll deal with them tomorrow!
PS to Jan - here's the cake!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

All About Alphas 18 India Grey

I think today is the last of my alpha posts by other authors - that is, unless I go hunting through my files and find that there's someone I've missed (if you're reading this and it's you - please email me!)

I've found all the posts by my fellow authors fascinating. Each of them seems to have added another layer to the complex patchwork that makes up an alpha male - and some people think he's simply, rich, powerful and arrogant! Hmmm . . .


Over the next couple of days I'll be winding this up - as I said, there are a couple of questions yet to deal with - and if you have anything you need to ask, something you're still not clear about, please post your queries now. After this comprehensive survey, I don't plan on coming back to the alpha hero at any point in the not too distant future - except to create them in my books of course!


So for our last look comment from another author, we'll go out on a high - with talented India Grey who of course won the RNA Romance Prize this year with her book Mistress Hired for the Billionaire's Pleasure. And she's just heard that she won the Romantic Times Best Presents Extra for another book, Angelo's Captive Virgin.



To me the appeal of the alpha is that on a practical level, no matter where
you are or what's happening all around you he's a man who can take charge. Not
in a bossy, controlling way, but with quiet, reassuring capability that lets you
know you're in safe hands.



In a society where the major equality battles have been fought and won, and
where women not only 'have it all' but often 'do it all' too, I think there's
something incredibly appealing about the idea of being looked after. It's a
biological need that must have been programmed into us from the time of our
earliest, cave-dwelling ancestors: they needed a man who could protect them from
sabre-toothed tigers, and keep them well supplied with furs and good meat when
they were pregnant and breast-feeding.



Nowadays we have zoos and Marks and Spencers, so the survival element isn't
so imperative, but I still believe women respond instinctively to men who embody
those qualities of strength, capability and assurance; particularly when they
are combined with slightly more post-Neanderthal things like integrity, honour,
loyalty and fierce, incisive intelligence.


India's next book in Presents is Taken for Revenge, Bedded For Pleasure - and look out for the M&B Modern release, Spanish Aristocrat, Forced Bride in September in the UK

The ruthless tycoon and the virgin heiress

Dangerously handsome Olivier Moreau has everything: power, money, and endless women warming his bed. But there is one thing Olivier is still hungry for: revenge on the Lawrence family! What better vengeance than to seduce innocent Bella Lawrence…and cast her aside when he’s had his fill?
An eye for an eye, a heart for a heart. But when cold, calculating revenge turns to red-hot passion, Olivier has no intention of letting her go… She’ll stay right where he wants her – in his bed!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

All About Alphas 17 - Abby Green

Well, how about that - this discussion is being talked about all over the web. I found people mentioning it in the new Mills & Boon Community and then this morning I've discovered that it's also got a mention on the I Heart Presents Blog! If you want to add your comments on what you love about t he Alpha male - or what you've learned about him here - or anything - then you can find the post here.


But don't go before you've read todays post - because we still have a couple of comments to put up before this whole subject is done with.


Today's post makes me think in amazement of just how quickly time has gone by - alpha males discussions, tweaking revisions, Bank Holidays can do that to you.


Just this time last week I was settling back at home after an amazing week in the west of Ireland - in Connemara to be precise. We stayed at Delphi Lodge, a beautiful place where it was so peaceful and quiet you couldn't help but relax, where 'rush hour' meant that there were four or more sheep on the roads, and where I learned more about fly fishing than I ever wanted to. (To be honest I wasn't interested in much of it but as that made up the majority of the conversations over breakfast and dinner, I was sort of obliged to absorb some.)

(If Caroline from Galway is reading this then Hi - and thanks to y0u and Tom for some conversation that wasn't about fish! And Hi too to Sandra and her partner from Paris - it was great to meet you all)
My companion there and the person who found the place, invited me along, generously did all the driving and introduced me to seaweed baths at a nearby spa, was today's author - up and coming Presents star Abby Green. Thanks to Abby I woke to this view every morning from my bedroom window and took my daily walks along lakeside roads edged with yellow gorse while the birds called from every tree. I even heard my very first cuckoo, declaring that it was very definitely spring.


Thank you Abby! Delphi was a glorious place and the memories will stay in my mind for ever.


And thank you too for today's contribution to the alpha discussion.


Here's what Abby has to say:


My Alpha hero is the ultimate man. He is at the top of his game and knows
who he is and what he wants. And invariably what he doesn't want is the
distraction of a female he can't control. He has everything he wants and needs
at his fingertips and has become perhaps a little arrogant (!) along the way
because he is so used to dealing with sycophants and success. However much he
thinks he's not ready for commitment and love, somewhere deep down, he is. And
when our heroine comes along, she effortlessly taps into this need within him.
Even though at the start she might not want commitment either!




The Alpha male is the boy who everyone fell in love with at school,
he's the twenty-something you wanted at college, and now he's the uber-male.
Totally unattainable, unfathomable. Cloaked in an air of mystery, he proves
lethally seductive to anyone with a pulse, and yet the only person fighting that
attraction turns out to be the only person he wants.




Did I mention that he's also, absolutely gorgeous?!


For Abby's next novel, USA readers should look for The Spaniard's Marriage Bargain which is coming in June. Her next UK book will be Ruthlessly Bedded, Forcibly Wedded, which is out in July.
Back in her husband's bed...

Rowan had discovered two things that would change her life forever. The first filled her with joy - she was pregnant! The second was something that she felt compelled to keep to herself - even from her husband...

Rowan had been Isandro Salazar's bride of convenience. But, knowing that he would never love her as she loved him, her choice was to make her unborn child her priority and then, once he was born, make her dark journey by herself...

But in Isandro's eyes Rowan's decision rendered her a gold-digger who had committed the worst possible crime. However, he couldn't stop her seeing her baby son - or deny that the passion between them was as raw and intense as ever...

Monday, May 04, 2009

All About Alphas 16 - Annie West

So, we've looked at a range of authors who write for different lines, and covered the different 'shades' of writing an alpha male in those. But I have three more authors' comments to share with you before we finally round off the All About Alphas discussion. I also still have a couple of questions to deal with specifically - if the answers haven't already been provided by the other posts.


I started this series with some of the long established authors in the Modern/Presents line - the line best known for its alpha heroes. And now I'm goping to round the discussion off by posting the comments from three of the newer authors, writers who have come to the lin e in the last couple of years and who are building a following for themselves.



The first of these is Annie West. Llike me, Annie loves a strong alpha hero - and like me she also emphasises the need for integrity and that vital code of honour that makes a man a hero. Without that essential element, for me, he could be richer and more powerful than any other man in the world, gorgeous and sexy as sin - but would never be a hero. Annie, clearly thinks the same.

Kate, as you know, I adore writing alpha heroes, and reading them too.
What's not to like? The alpha stands out from other men. He'smore capable, more
successful than his peers, whether it be in making money, saving the planet or
the people he cares for. He's resourceful, commanding, capable, respected or
possibly feared by rivals, a leader, a courageous man who shines in a crisis. He
will be intelligent, able to perceive threats and to counter them, whether in a
boardroom manoeuvre or while facing down an aggressor. He knows what he wants
and goes after it, which can be so exciting when what he wants is a woman who's
determined to resist him! He's charismatic, virile and sexy.

But, for me none of that alone would work. I love exploring the heart of the alpha male. He has integrity and stands by what he believes in - he's a hero after all!
Sometimes his code of honour doesn't fit with those around him and he dares to
do things others might not, but he holds to his beliefs. He's passionately
protective of those he cares for or even those for whom he feels unwilling
responsibility. When the alpha hero meets the one right woman he's capable of
falling deeply, devastatingly, completely in love, even if he doesn't want to.
And when he does it's for life, with every fibre of his being.

I love reading and writing about these strong men who who can sweep a
woman off her feet but who can themselves be swept away by love.

Annie has a brand new alpha hero in her latest book out this month - Blackmailed Bride, Innocent Wife.


Forced to wed… Hard-hearted magnate Dario Parisi will reclaim his stolen birthright – even if it means forcing the granddaughter of his family’s sworn enemy to marry him. …and share his bed! Alissa Scott is certainly not the biddable wife Dario wanted – yet he’s consumed by red-hot desire for his unwilling bride. So when she tries to change the rules, he demands she honour all her vows. Finally he undresses exactly the kind of wife he wanted: a virgin bride!
But American readers should look out for her other title - The Desert King's Pregnant Bride in Presents Extra for April.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The First Sunday of the Month . . .

So today my blog is over on Tote Bags 'N' Blogs where I'm still talking about heroes - I'm wondering what age you prefer your heroes- and heroines - to be.


And as it's May 3rd, I want to take the time to wish my very special friend - and one of my favourite authors - Michelle Reid a truly happy birthday! (I have my own birthday coming up later this week so I will have small celebration to share with you then)


Talking about celebrations - this article in - believe it or not - Management Today - gives all romance writers plenty to cheer about - once you've got past the cringe-making headline and the inevitable couple of sarcastic comments.


As a small but important contribution to the All About Alphas series - thanks to Michelle Styles who yesterday quoted Senior Editor Sheila Hodgson at the Hexham Book Festival yesterday as saying that: " Mills & Boon only publishes alphas" . Which you'll already have gathered from the range of comments in this discussion.

Finally, thanks to wonderful Heather Reed at We Write Romance, I have recently updated my web site so you might want to check that out. For readers and writers in the UK there is a long list of new appearences and writing workshops coming up - I'm going to be s-o-o busy!


Michelle has a report of the Book Festival event and a lovely photo on her blog today.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

All About Alphas 15 - Kate Hardy Again but this time as a Medical writer

The final Mills & Boon romance line we need to look at is the Medical romance. Here again, the alpha male appears - and if you've forgotten what the editors said about the Medical hero then go back and take a look at that checklist. In a Medical there is plenty of scope for the powerful, proactive hero who is shwn at his very best in an emergency situation (there's that rising to the challenge again), a strong code of ethics, and of course he can - and should - show the softer side of an alpha personality when it's needed in his bedside manner etc.


So today we welcome back Kate Hardy, but this time she's wearing her Medical author hat and she's here to talk about the alpha male in Medicals and how she writes them.


The Medical Alpha
First off, the Alpha Male in Medicals is usually
senior (I have broken this rule and written one or two who are junior to the
heroine – but there has to be a very good reason for it, which usually underpins
one of his emotional conflicts). He doesn’t actually have to be a doctor – he
could be a nurse (hmm… I haven’t done a male nurse yet), or a firefighter, or a
police officer, or a vet; but he’ll be senior in his profession and, if he’s not
a medic, he’ll need to work closely with a medic. (I had great fun turning that
idea round and making my heroine the firefighter and the hero the medic, in The
Firefighter’s FiancĂ© …)

For years, I argued that I don’t write alphas
because my Medical heroes have softer edges than say a businessman alpha. Then
my editor pointed out that a Medical alpha needs to have a great bedside manner
and be compassionate AS WELL AS being in control of the situation, because what
he does makes the difference between life and death; he’s a man of action, and
he goes the extra mile to save a life. In a situation where a patient only has a
slim chance, he might be the only one capable of performing the high-risk
operation that can save the patient. And he’ll do it, even if it’s at a personal
cost. (I made my editor and my agent cry when Jake operates on Vicky in His
Honourable Surgeon.)

He’s dedicated to his work, and quite often my hero
chooses his specialty because of his conflict – maybe he’s lost someone, such as
Rhys in The Children’s Doctor’s Special Proposal becoming a paediatrician
because his baby sister died, and Theo in The Greek Doctor’s New Year Baby is an
obstetrician because his mother died as a result of childbirth. He has high
standards and he expects everyone else to be the same, putting the patient first
– and if they don’t, he’ll push to see if it’s inexperience or incompetence.
He’ll be kind and teach the inexperienced, but he’ll expect them to pay
attention; the incompetent however will go straight away because he will NOT put
his patients at risk. Everyone respects him in his field… though sometimes (as
with Charlie in The Millionaire Boss’s Reluctant Mistress, aka Her Celebrity
Surgeon) he has to fight against other people’s prejudices to prove himself,
because of his background. In Charlie’s case, he’s a baron – and the heroine’s
had a rough time from ‘posh’ docs during medical school. She thinks he got his
job because of his name, not his ability… and then she has to rely on him and
discovers the truth.

In short, he’s the fantasy doctor. Kind,
compassionate, highly skilled and with a bedside manner that makes everyone in
the hospital fall in love with him. Plus he has a deep, deep conflict that only
the heroine can help him resolve

Kate's latest Medical is The Children's Doctor's Special Proposal - published in March UK/April Australia


A special bride for a special doctor
New consultant paediatrician Rhys Morgan is everything the hospital grapevine promised: piercing blue eyes, perfect physique and a mysteriously guarded manner. He is also Katrina's boss but after a previous relationship with a colleague truly dented her confidence, she thinks she's safe from Rhys's charms. Until they discover a shared commitment to their little patients - and a heartfelt passion for each other.


For Rhys, Katrina is nothing short of a miracle. He has never believed in happy families, yet Katrina opens his eyes to what love and family really means - and her courage and vulnerability create a fierce desire to protect her. Enough, perhaps, to make Rhys risk his heart with the most special proposal of all...

Now we've covered all the Mills & Boon Romance lines - and some single titles - but I still have a few more authors who will givce you their slant on writing alpha heroes. And as the alpha is most often talked about in terns of theModern Romance/Presents line, then I have three of the newer Modern/Presents authors posting in the next couple of days.

 

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