Friday, February 27, 2009

Ongoing Free Read

He gave me no time to reply or discuss the matter further. His arm clasped my elbow and he steered me out towards the car, almost pushing me into the passenger seat.


My plea fell onto deaf ears. He slid into the driver’s seat and started the engine, backing out of the driveway in a screech of tires.

I heard the click of the central locking activated and a small tremor of fear rushed through me. I wouldn’t have considered jumping out of a car that went at nearly ninety in suburbia – I wasn’t insane – but to know he blocked the way out made me uneasy.

We reached the police station all too soon and there he was again, opening my door and clasping my elbow. In we went into the big, stone-walled building.

From previous experience, I knew this statement business would take ages. How did I know? Because I was the one who had bailed my sister out of jail not so long ago. Sage had assaulted her husband and there was no way I would allow our parents to know she was a bully in her house. Sage Martin – she went by her husband’s name; easier to carry than Sage Tempest, especially when one knew how easily she blew a fuse or two – was the kind of person who could brew a typhoon in a teacup.

But, it seemed things went differently in West Haven where the rich and the rags were concerned. In the blink of an eye, the officers had taken Malcolm’s statement and mine as well, settled as we were in a comfy, well-heated room with warm mugs of coffee. A far cry from the full afternoon and night I had spent when Sage had been here.

It was dark however when we emerged. Malcolm took one look at the lit parking lot and he said, “I’ll take you home.”

It would be pointless to try to wheedle out and say I’d call a cab. So I acquiesced and we found ourselves in the Mercedes again, on the way to my apartment.

I gave Malcolm the address and he stopped the car in front of my brownstone building. I noticed his gaze scanning the area through the windshield.

For once, I was grateful I lived in the posh south-western section of town. Mind you, I didn’t own the place. I shared it with the owner, a wealthy heiress by the name of Stacey Walton. Like many young girls in her situation, she had come to the agency to look for an apartment in town as the gift for her eighteenth birthday. Nothing suited her, and throughout the weeks we worked together to find her a place, friendship developed between us. We weren’t bosom buddies, but we got along well. Now here comes this huge apartment on the market. It was actually two individual residences merged together. The owner wanted to get rid of it before his assets were valued for his divorced proceedings.

Stacey is the kind of girl who loses all reason the minute she hears the word ‘deal’. ‘Sales’ or ‘discount’ worked just as well too, getting her pen poised on her chequebook before she even realized what she was buying. So Stacey ends up with this huge place, and as if it were the most natural thing in the world, asks me if I’d like to be her roommate.

She also cited a paltry sum as rent, and I didn’t think twice before jumping on the offer. The money I saved every month could afford me one such place in five years.

“I’ll walk you to your door,” Malcolm said, bringing me back to the here and now.

“Oh, no need to. You must be exhausted. I wouldn’t want to keep you.”

“I insist,” he added and he exited the car to come open my door.

I wasn’t about to fight. Time spent with him was still what it was – time spent with him. I wasn’t going to spit on that.

We walked to the elevator and stepped into the carriage. The air was heavy and thick around us. I risked a glance at his profile and noted the tense set of his jaw. Fatigue was etched on his features, and my heart went out to him.

“Would you like a cup of coffee?” I found myself asking on the threshold of my door.

He rubbed his hand over the nape of his neck. “Wouldn’t say no.”

“Come in,” I said as I pushed the door open and he followed me inside. “The living room is this way,” I said with a sweep of my hand while I headed to the kitchen.

I blanked all thoughts from my mind as I made coffee. No way would I think about the hunk who was probably draped over my sofa right now.

With the two steaming cups in my hand, I walked into the living room and nearly stopped in my tracks.

Malcolm wasn’t sprawled on the sofa but he stood in front of the floor-to-ceiling window at the far end of the room. He had shed his jacket and tie, and the sleeves of his shirt were rolled to his elbows.

I had never seen a more breathtaking, masculine sight.

He turned and walked to me, taking one cup from my hand.

“Thanks,” he said in a husky whisper. “Come sit down,” he added. His green eyes held me captive and like a hypnotized creature, I went where his gaze indicated.

We sat there side by side, sipping our coffee in silence.

“We didn’t get any work done,” I ventured to say when the thought crossed my mind.

“Tomorrow,” he replied.

“Won’t we lag?”

“No.” He took a sip of his coffee before he looked at me. “What do you know about Waltner?”

“Not much,” I replied.

This got us talking about the project. Before we realized, a good deal of time had passed. Malcolm threw a glance at his watch at one point and suddenly said, “Aren’t you hungry?”

Come to think of it, my stomach was hurting.

“Let’s have dinner,” he suggested.

Dinner? With him? Alone? How had I gotten so lucky?

“How does pizza sound?” he asked.

I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Not many men would’ve suggested this so nonchalantly, and he impressed me with his quiet confidence. This wasn’t a man who felt he needed to dazzle and belittle people around him.

“Pizza sounds great,” I replied.

He took out his cell phone. “What would you like?”

He even asked me what I wanted? Who was this? The perfect man? “Pepperoni, with lots of cheese?”

He smiled, and it wreaked havoc in my heart. “A woman after my own heart,” he said, further sending me down the road to la-la-land.

I walked on air and breathed bliss in as we sat there talking about work. When the delivery came, we sat down on the floor with the boxes between us.

But bliss doesn’t last, does it? The doorbell rang, shattering the cocoon-like world we were ensconced in.

Who could it be? I stood and walked to the door. Throwing a quick glance at the peephole, I gasped.

What was he doing here?

“Prue, open the door,” Des said from the other side.

I swung the panel open. There he stood, looking at me with concern on his face.

He threw his arms around me. “Oh Prue, I was so worried.”

Worried? What on earth was going on?

“Are you okay?” he said as he released me.

“She’s fine, Chambers,” Malcolm’s cold voice said behind me.

Des froze, his gaze going from me to Malcolm and back again. He probably took in Malcolm’s casual attire, the kind a man wore in a house where he was completely at ease.

Anger flared on Des’s face.

“What’s he doing at your place at nine in the evening?” he spat out.

To be continued in a fortnight…

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A man of substance

A hero...

The word itself is enough to send our hearts aflutter.

He is a worthy man, a handsome man (though he needs not be picture perfect), he is an honorable man. He is someone we can easily fall in love with.

In short, he is a man of substance...

But what does this entail when you're writing your hero? How do you bring substance to this persona?

Throughout this month we have brought you tips and tricks about how to create a hero, how to shape him, how to mold him to your story's specifics.

Today I'll go over them again, and add a few little hints too.

First, know who he is - what is he supposed to do in this story?

What sort of story is it? Dimensions of the hero explained how you need a 'different' man for every genre.

Then you go into how he is - archetypes come in handy here, to keep you in line when shaping him.

Next, you start fleshing him - physical appearance, among others, comes here. You can work off a picture/movie star/celebrity/your own man, whatever, as long as you know he has sandy hair when the story starts and he doesn't end up with hair like a raven's wings by the end.

You also decide whether your hero is a caveman or a metrosexual, or where along those 2 extremes he fits in. Depending on this definition, you'll know how he dresses (from Gap or from the runway shows of Armani, with a little bit of Prada thrown in), how he carries himself (is he blissfully unaware that he's got a hip movement to die for, or is he elaborately conscious that everywhere he walks is akin to a runway ramp?), what sort of lifestyle he has (stale pizza and beer at his place or the latest order from the hippest sushi bar in town?)

While I admit the metrosexual doesn't win my vote of favor, he can have his redeeming traits - up to you to make him lovable if you are using him (think David Beckham in an underwear ad).

Attitudes and values will also play in. What has made him who he is? Get yourself a well-compiled file on his backstory, and be sure to find his impact moment, which will define him for a lifetime.

And, if you are writing a romance, figure out how this man loves. I'm not talking only bedroom theatrics (though you do need to know how he fares and acts in the bedroom - room for lots of writer fantasies here *wink*). What does this man do when he loves a woman? Bring her flowers? What sort of flowers? Roses? Are they all of the same color or does he choose one flower by every color in the bouquets he brings? Does he bring a bouquet or a single flower?

Always, always, ask yourself questions. The hero is a man YOU need to fall in love with first. Treat him as any man you meet in real life - if this bloke captured your attention, what would you do? How do you think of him? Imagine you are sixteen again and start imagining your life with him, what it will be like, what he will be like.

Do this for this imaginary man, and you will end up creating a 'real' man that jumps off the page and grasps your reader's heart.

That's your aim - to make him memorable.

You have the tools. You have the knowledge. Use it.

As always, I welcome your comments! How do you go about creating your hero?

Aasiyah Qamar - Cultural romantic fiction, with a twist
With stories set amidst the rainbow nation of Mauritius, a multicultural island in the Southern Indian Ocean, author Aasiyah Qamar brings you tales of today's young women battling life on all fronts and finding love where they least expect it. Indo-Mauritian culture wants to stifle them in traditions, customs and antiquated morals while the world is opening its arms of modernity and globalisation. Where do these women belong? And more importantly, with whom?Find out more about her first release, The Other Side, here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

With Love, From Ms. Blush

Hello to you all wonderful, beautiful people!

A world of heroes... A world without those special men... A world where fiction and reality hover close to each other, with a thin line separating them...

This has been our topic for the month of February. And for the last week of the month, we'll pretty much be rounding up our discussion and views on the elusive ideal hero.

Catch T.J. on Tuesday to get her full scope on this man.

On Thursday, Aasiyah/Nolwynn will bring you her overall take on heroes - who is he, and what is he made up of?

Little aspects such as naming your hero and where to parachute him (what sort of hero for what sort of story) - this is what you need to look forward to in the coming days.

And, on Friday, Prudence Tempest will be back again. Remember, in our last instalment, she came face to face with the hunky Malcolm's slightly loony future ex-wife. What will Malcolm do now in the aftermath of this disagreeable encounter?

Tune in on Friday for the latest instalment of our online free read.

Don't forget - This February, we at Royal Blush are sending the hormones flying high.

This February, we're taking you on a quest:

Searching for The Perfect Hero...

The best of us for the best of you, that's our promise as we deliver the full flush of romance.

From now till later, enjoy!

With love, from Ms. Blush

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dimensions of the hero

Last week I spoke about the cultural hero, and what makes him and breaks him too in many cases.
This made think of another issue pertinent to heroes - the many dimensions involved in this word.

What am I getting at? Well, look at it this way.

What makes a hero?

In a mystery, he's the hero if he solves the puzzle.
In romance, he's the hero because he is a worthy man the heroine needs to fall in love with.
In fantasy, he's the leader, the one going for the quest.
In sci-fi, he is the commander.

All these men are heroes, but they are heroes in their own right.

Why? Because of the many dimensions of the hero.

We won't argue that there is a basic thing that makes a character a hero. He is inherently good, he gets the job done, he is worthy. Yes to all these.

But you cannot take this 'lumping' of characteristics, drop it in your ms and expect to have a hero.

This is where the archetypes play in (T.J's posts - archetypes, Creating a hero using archetypes, Back to basics: What breaks a hero) and where personalizing comes into play (Diana's post).

So now you've created a distinguishable hero for your ms. Good. Are you done yet? No.

A hero is 'different' for every genre. He 'looks like' something, 'acts' like something, 'thinks' like something depending on the genre of your story.

Let's take, for example, a mystery hero. A bloke you would've found in a Sidney Sheldon novel, for instance.

Looks - he can be gorgeous, average, non-descript. Every way he is, there is not much detail about his looks. You have a general idea but not a very clear picture. The hero here can be 'the kind of handsome man who has every woman sighing when he enters a room." We gather that he is handsome, but we don't know if he looks like Clive Owen, Daniel Craig, or Patrick Dempsey.

Behaviour - a mystery hero in a Sheldon book is often a man who isn't in the spotlight. He doesn't need to spotlight. He exists on a side fringe where you would probably not notice him without a second glance, and that too when you know what you're looking for.

Thinking - he is rational, logical, able to make deductions and has a terrific gut instinct. He needs all this to unravel the mystery.

Now, let's look at a romance hero.

Looks - he is usually handsome, and the more detail you give about his appearance, the better. Reading a romance, we know if he is tall or not so tall; dark or blond; square-jawed or not; well-shaved or sports a stubble; wears suits or jeans and a flannel shirt; whether his nose looks like Pierce Brosnan's nose or whether his voice resembles that of a crooner.
The reasoning here is - women need to fall in love with him. You cannot exactly fall in love with a man who could easily be mistaken with a hundred others in a crowd.

Behaviour - he is always honorable. He can be logical, rational, impulsive, headstrong, stubborn. He can do whatever he wants, as long as he can be redeemed/excused. He can be a show-off with a big heart, or he can be the loner who lives like a recluse. He is also a man who stands out of the crowd through his actions.

Thinking - he has the heroine's interest at heart. He wants to do right and do good. His motives are always pure. He can be a little warped (say he smokes like a chimney), but it's his heart that matters.

Am I saying that mystery heroes cannot make good romance heroes? No, and no for vice versa as well.

The point is, the same man has to be portrayed differently depending on the genre you are writing.

It's just like for an actor. The same actor can play 2 very different parts, but he will not be alike in the two movies. Think of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction. Same man, right? I'll leave it up to you to decide.

As always, I'd love to get your comments.

Aasiyah Qamar - Cultural romantic fiction, with a twist
With stories set amidst the rainbow nation of Mauritius, a multicultural island in the Southern Indian Ocean, author Aasiyah Qamar brings you tales of today's young women battling life on all fronts and finding love where they least expect it. Indo-Mauritian culture wants to stifle them in traditions, customs and antiquated morals while the world is opening its arms of modernity and globalisation. Where do these women belong? And more importantly, with whom?Find out more about her first release, The Other Side, here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Stereotypes: Written and otherwise

"The dark alpha type..."

"The smarmy blonde villain..."

"Onyx eyes of passion and immortality..."

Stereotypes. In writing, they are everywhere. In our heroes, heroines and our villains. Even in the sub-characters.

But how do you know what kind of character to use? How do you decide how they look? How they act? Talk?

I might be a minority here, but I can't use real people as the inspiration for my characters. They usually come to me as their own people. Dark, light, short, tall. Rather than using (as an example) the expected norm such as all vampires are dark and brooding, I like to know a little bit about where they come from. Such as with Diego in The Eternal Kiss. He's a Spaniard. A warrior. A fighter. He's dark, fierce, commanding, but not because he's a vampire. Because of the man he was before he became a vampire. Those lessons piled on top of his condition make him doubly hard on the outside-or so it seems.

So how often do we use stererotypes? Considering the above, without knowing about the character, he sounds like several of the same vein (no pun intended) that we've all read. Alpha, dark, brooding, mysterious, a tad dominant.

Believe it or not, those traits belong as much to that character as to my own husband, although he's not quite so mysterious these days. Stereotypes are found in written fiction-but they are found just as much in real life. The mold of every character we write began as a kernal of some teeny bit of intriguing information and it was then layered like a delicate truffle dessert. Each layer bringing a new surprise, a new facet of that character.

Some authors know all those layers before they start to write. Some *cofmecof* don't. So while characters can and are often a shadow of a recognizable stereotype, they are just as likely a version of some person in real life. Which is where knowing real life habits, accents, quirks and interests (back to Z's post) can make a character come alive.  And no matter how that one character came to be, we all want him to be "alive" for the story.

So the next book you read, or write, think about the characters. Think about people you know that share the same traits. Personalize the character and they will always be alive, and memorable.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Add water, stir, voila - a hero

Continuing on with the 'back to basics' is the topic of this post.

There are certain aspects of the archetypes that cannot be denied, but what happens when you veer away from them.

The answer is it depends. When we look at the archetypes, we don't necessarily see a fully fleshed hero. That's not uncommon. The archetypes are extremely lineal. It's pretty hard to see a character who is always the Chief or always the Loner. First and foremost, some heroes can turn jerk-esque if we writer their archetype to an unnerving degree. Who wants to get with a Chief who is always a chief. Not many women.

This is where character blending comes in. Instead of having just one archetype, you have different aspects of archetypes.

Primary – The Chief
Secondary – The Swashbuckler
Tertiary – The Charmer

The mix is as follows --

Since the Hero is a Chief most of the time, he'll be a decisive alpha male. Going against the Eight Archetypes as discussed earlier, I find that most real life Chiefs are also extremely logical or logistical. (See how the blending is beginning).

The Swashbuckler always works well with a Chief Archetype. Blend him in and you have a faithful and logical captain who is always on the go. These are the main heroes found in Quests or Outer Space Adventures.

The Charmer. Captain Kirk was a Charmer. Except for the archetype says a charmer isn't reliable. Mix him with the above and he will be.

Always feed the main archetype with the secondary and tertiary traits. Find a moment to let the underlying traits shine, it makes the hero appear more real.

This doesn't mean the hero will be invincible. Every character has to have at least one flaw. Normally the archetypes can help you there. Don't go the cliché path. This has gotten old and tiresome. Instead think of how what we see as a benefit in an archetype can actually be a deterrent.

Don't go too far with Archetypes is always a good rule to follow. Get the character moving and working for you, but keep them on a short leash. In the end, know your hero. This always helps the process.

So tell me, do you think the archetypes are outdated, overused, or just plain stupid? Which do you prefer? A blended character or a firm archetypal hero?

Until next week – cheers and happy writing,


Monday, February 16, 2009

With Love From Ms. Blush

Hello to you all wonderful, beautiful people!

What's a world without heroes? A pretty dreary perspective, wouldn't you say?

Or would it be a blessing in disguise?

How do we reconcile to the idea that heroes are not exactly the men we meet day in, day out in our regular existence, and vice versa? Can reality meet the imaginary? Can we as writers build this bridge to connect these two perspectives?

Last week we shifted our focus to this aspect.

Angela Guillaume posted about the worthy hero, and what makes him 'real'.

Aasiyah/Nolwynn gave us more about the cultural hero, what makes and (mostly) breaks him in the world of fiction.

T.J. Killian gave us an insider peek into the basics of writing a hero.

This week, we continue in this same vein.

Catch T.J. again as she tells us more about the basics of the hero - but this time, what makes him as opposed to what breaks him.

Diana Castilleja will chime in about her view on this whole topic. Catch her on Wednesday.

Aasiyah/Nolwynn will go into the many dimensions of the hero - is there one 'template' for every story?

Don't forget - This February, we at Royal Blush are sending the hormones flying high.

This February, we're taking you on a quest:

Searching for The Perfect Hero...

The best of us for the best of you, that's our promise as we deliver the full flush of romance.

From now till later, enjoy!

With love, from Ms. Blush

Friday, February 13, 2009

Ongoing Free Read

I froze on the spot, my gaze never leaving Malcolm. He had stilled too, but a riot of emotion danced onto his features. Surprise made his eyes widen, before anger stormed in and his jaw tensed. Deep lines appeared on his forehead.

Time stood still for a moment before I made myself turn to look at the woman who had spoken. My eyes encountered a sight that left me quizzical. You see, she didn’t look like a real, live woman. No, she resembled one of those perfect, plastic models in bridal shops. Carved out of alabaster, with perfectly smooth cheeks, big blue eyes and a wide, very red mouth. Her hair was dark and severely pulled back from her face, accentuating her perfect forehead.

“I’m calling the police,” Malcolm said, as if through clenched teeth.

Those words startled me and my gaze darted to his to see him already bringing his cell phone to his ear.

“This is still my house,” the doll said. “And I asked you who that whore is!”

“I would control my tongue if I were you,” he replied with a warning glare.

I suppose the police picked up on the other end, because he started talking, mentioning a case of breaking and entering.

This was her house? Oh God. It was Malcolm’s wife.

Ex-wife actually. Or, more precisely, future ex-wife. Their divorce wasn’t final yet.

“I asked, who is this?” she spat as she took a step forward. Fire burned in her blue irises, and I could smell danger as she approached. She stopped a hair’s breadth from me, and before I could figure out what she wanted, her hand had viciously closed on my upper arm.

“Oww.” The pain was staggering, but then she started shaking me. Who knew a slim, bony woman like her could pack such strength in her grip?

Malcolm stormed over and grabbed her arm, jerking her none too softly. “Let go of her.”

“Why? So you can cheat on me?”

“Elise, it’s over between us. Has been for a long time.”

She released me and I stumbled back a few steps. I had never been the recipient of such violence before and the shock propelled me into a misty world where perception was a little warped.

“Prudence?” Malcolm asked. “You’re okay?”

I nodded, noticing he still held her arm in his firm grip. She tried to shrug away but he jerked her back.

“I’ve had it this time, Elise. I’m not gonna let you get away with this.”

The sirens of a police car broke through the quiet, the sound going in crescendo until the engine stopped right outside the house. Two uniformed officers entered the hall and Malcolm handed Elise over to them.

“Breaking and entering, violation of a restraining order and assault on the person of my colleague,” he said.

She started to scream and fight when the officers tried to handcuff her, but they restrained her easily and led her away to the patrol car.

“Sir, we’ll need your statement.”

Malcolm nodded. “I’ll be right there.” He watched them leave from the doorstep before he turned and stared right at me. In a few strides of his long legs, he was by my side where I had slumped on the first step of the stairs.

“You’re okay?”

I blinked, the sudden silence in the house registering on my mind and bringing me out of my stupor. “What was that about?”

Malcolm sat on the step next to me. “That was my ex-wife, Elise. She doesn’t get it that it’s over between us and she’s been hounding me for the past months. It’s the second time she’s broken into the house in my absence.”

A loon as ex. Not exactly a pretty situation.

“I’m sorry.”

He gave a small, sardonic smile. “Come on,” he said as he stood. “We need to go to the station.”

I stood too. “It’s okay. I’ll call a cab and head back to the office. The work day is nearly over.”

“No,” he replied. “You’re coming with me, because you’re pressing charges too.”

“I am?” What was he getting at? I wanted nothing to do in his conjugal disputes. God, why did I not know life close to a man like Malcolm Gainsborough had to be a roller coaster?

“She assaulted you, and I’m gonna see if you cannot even press charges for defamation.”

“Wait.” This was real. He meant what he said. “I don’t want to be involved in all that.”

“Too late. You already are.”

To be continued in a fortnight…

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Back to Basics - Those Darn Heroes

A few people know me as a writer, but they don't know I am also an editor and a publisher. After years of working in the industry, I've discovered a few things that can kill a story right from the start. Some of them actually deal with our subject of the month – lol.

Let's take a look at those mistakes with our beloved heroes.

1.Girly-men—Alphas are back in style. Those adorable, and well-stepped on doormats known as Beta Heroes are out. Look to the Warrior stereotype and the Chief. These are hard Alphas. The Loner can be, but watch he doesn't start crying on the heroine's shoulder. Examples from books – Julie Garwood almost always writes a Warrior. Judith McNaught is the queen of the Chief. Johanna Lindsay often, but not always, writes a Loner.
2.Get-your-head-out-of-your-pants Heroes—This type of hero is getting old. Three dimensional heroes with firm back story and true motivation will take you a lot further. The whole, wet dream hero is definitely out and ew.
3.Logical and logistical—This throws authors anymore. I blame the prerequisite coming out of some (note- I said some) e-publishers to rush everything to sex. This attitude of 'we don't care about their motivation, but about getting the story hot', is losing steam. The GMC is back in style for major players.
4.The Hero's Journey—A book I think every writer should read is The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Campbell. Not only is this story the template for Descension/Ascension plots, but it is a great tool for those who don't understand the Hero's Journey. Any time you are writing a Hero's Journey, use your Impact Moment to your advantage. They will start changing from that point on.

There are a few more but these are the predominant offenders. The strength of a hero can make or break a story. If you are writing a Warrior, he better be tough. A Chief, he'll control the situation. A Loner, keep their tough exterior in place unless you are working on a pivotal moment. Loner's are often prideful too. Keep this in mind.

What do you think? Is it time to get our heroes out of the stratosphere and back to making sense? Do you have any pet-peeves when it comes to heroes?

Until next time, cheers and happy writing,


Culture and its respective hero

Everyone who knows my stories under the name of Aasiyah Qamar knows I write culture-base fiction.

You would then expect me to write cultural heroes. Right?

True and False.

I'll start with False, because it is my heroines who are the ones who hail from a different culture, while my heroes are the regular, European/American/Australian guy.

True, because there's a distinction between the European, American and Australian hero.

Whatever origin you give your hero, his country's culture will shape who he is and how he should be portrayed.

Culture is something intricate and pertinent to a region, a country, an ethnic origin, a family environment. Each of these, as well as all of these together, give you a different canvas on which your hero is painted.

So, how does this affect your hero?

Imagine you are creating a hero.

Who is he? Say he is a modern guy.
Where does he come from? Say England.
Is he urban or not? Let's say urban.

Easy, right? You're done? No!

Depending on where in England he is from, he will be different. A region has its own accent. A region has its own manner of speech. Depending on his family origins (Irish, Welsh, Scots, Londoner, immigrants from India or the former eastern European block), he will operate in a certain way. Depending on these origins too, his values and definition of life, responsibility, love, all will vary.

And here you thought you were taking a Joe out of nowhere and planting him in the picture.

Another important aspect of culture is when writers pen foreign heroes. Oftentimes, someone from inside that culture knows the hero is not sketched properly, as many (and unfortunately, most) writers rely on stereotypes to pen a foreign man.

A foreign hero is probably what makes readers' hearts beat faster in the realm of romance. But painting him right is not as easy as it looks. You cannot simply read a few travel guides and check an online translator to find out what he'd say in his native tongue, to get this man down accurately.

I'll list some examples here.

French men are charming.

True. They are usually very gallant and almost always have a smile on their face when they deal with a woman.

But, French men are not sweet talkers. They don't add a 'sweet' word or name in every sentence. The ones who do that are the cads!

One thing that irks too is when writers do not get the speech pattern right, literally translating from what an English-speaking hero would say. British men say 'dear' as a love word. Translated to French, literally, it becomes 'chère'. Still sounds normal? Here's where it hurts. In French, you never say 'chère' by itself. It's always 'ma chère'. And where it hurts even more, is that it is a stuffy, 'old man' way of calling someone, especially as a endearment. No way will a man under sixty call his woman 'ma chère'.

Another one who is often represented in awry ways - the sheikh.

In fact, it can even be said the sheikh has evolved into a completely unique category in itself in romantic fiction. Why? Because an Arab man would never really act like that. Arab men are the ultimate Alpha, and monogamy, as it is interpreted by the Western world, is not something they really consider. An Arab man is allowed 4 wives simultaneously, and since he is little, he has been taught that as long as he isn't to cheat on his wife, he has a way out - he marries the other woman who catches his fancy. A single partner is almost inconceivable in this setup. Another aspect not touched upon is that the Arab society is mostly driven by women, namely the mothers/matriarchs in the household. An Arab mother will never allow her son to take a foreign bride. He may fantasize about the foreign girl, but he will rarely make her his wife, and also his only wife.

If you look at other emerging heroes, you will notice too how culture plays in.

The Indian hero, for example. Most Indian men are brought up to be male chauvinists. Extended families, with a grandfather, his wife, his three sons and their wives and each son's children, live in the same house. Each couple has its own bedroom, but that's the extent of privacy you have. Familial pressure also plays in a lot. A man will rarely go against his family for his wife. This culture is a collective one, and men and women still marry in arranged alliances without even knowing their partner before the wedding night.

You may say I'm reaching to the far corners of the world to illustrate my point, but consider this as well.

A Yankee is not a Southerner, and vice versa. A Briton is not a Scotsman. An Aussie is not like an American or a Briton.

Each is different. Each is unique.

Pay attention to your hero's culture. In the end, your readers will thank you for it.

I'm curious to know about your take on the cultural hero. Feel free to elave me your comments.

Aasiyah Qamar - Cultural romantic fiction, with a twist
With stories set amidst the rainbow nation of Mauritius, a multicultural island in the Southern Indian Ocean, author Aasiyah Qamar brings you tales of today's young women battling life on all fronts and finding love where they least expect it. Indo-Mauritian culture wants to stifle them in traditions, customs and antiquated morals while the world is opening its arms of modernity and globalisation. Where do these women belong? And more importantly, with whom?Find out more about her first release, The Other Side, here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Who Can Resist A Worthy Hero?

by Angela Guillaume

I firmly believe that in order to create a "perfect" hero in a fictional setting, we must first endeavor to create a "real" hero—one that could appear as comfortable in the pages of a book as he'd be crossing Main Street on a busy April afternoon.

According to Umberto Eco, the famed Italian literary author (among his works: The Name of the Rose, which was adapted into film), we should ask the question, "How can fiction help us to attain a severe and correct definition of the truth?" I heard the man ask this very question a few months ago at an Emory University lecture series in Atlanta, Ga. I think this is a valid question, and it does have some application to this month's RBA theme: Searching for the Perfect Hero.

From what I have garnered speaking to different authors, every hero is perfect—perfect for the book he was written into. Why? Because he is a creation of the mind of the author. Yet, to think of Eco's question, can a hero reflect that which is true? I believe he can—because a hero, for all intents and purposes, is a REAL man. A fictional hero is as real as a flesh and blood person in his own context—that is, in the novel.

Indeed, another of Eco's comments was, "While historians evoke real ghosts, novelists create real characters." Thus, a fictional hero can be as true and real as a historical one. For example, Sherlock Holmes, Conan Doyle's hero starring in many tales, was real, and he really lived in Baker Street and had a sidekick called Watson… in the novel! His identity is unmistakable, and he is recognized by many, still today. So essentially, the difference between reality and fiction could be seen as a very blurry one, and each is true in its own dimension.

Another hero we have all heard about is Superman—and another thing we also know to be "true" is that Clark Kent IS Superman. But, as Eco continues to say, true assertions such as this may not always be found in history. For example, to say that "Hitler lost his life in a Berlin bunker" may possibly be true, yet, it is not proven beyond the shadow of a doubt.

So, once we have created an "irrefutably real" hero, how do we make sure he's PERFECT? What, indeed, is perfection? I think that the moniker "perfect" is often misused—some say that nothing ever can be perfect. I disagree, and I think that perfection is not necessarily something that is completely great, precise, faultless and wonderful; rather, something that is where and how it should be. Something that is fated, that is truly meant to be in the world that surrounds it.

My view of this is when both the author and the reader can identify and understand the character, as well as the character’s fate and goals—when the reader empathizes and FEELS for this hero—then that same character becomes, essentially, both real and perfect. I have a different take on this—perfection to me does not essentially mean the complete absence of flaws; rather, it means the capacity to be and act "human", therefore, "real". Thus, reality and perfection are a sort of superimposition, one over the other, creating the amazing mélange that constitutes what we define a compelling character.

James Bond is the perfect hero. Why? Not because he is picture perfect, but because despite all his skills and savoir faire, he also gives us glimpses of humanity (See "Casino Royale"). He probably wouldn't make a great "Gandhi" type character and he would probably suck as Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights) but we cannot deny that he is perfect in the very role for which he was conceived. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice) is the perfect hero because, despite his pride, he also displays a kind and compassionate heart. Jason Bourne (The Bourne saga—Robert Ludlum) is a perfect hero because he is tortured and wonderfully flawed based on his past experience. He is an extraordinary man, a lethal killer, who refuses to be a machine and strives to find himself.

It may therefore be stated that perfection lies, peculiarly, amidst a universe of failings. The reader is thus allowed to sift through these human failings (therein lies the fun of discovery) and find that which lies beneath—the hidden gem that unveils this hero's innermost core: one that is worthy and honorable.

In essence, to break all of this down and apply it to the realm of the romantic novel, I think that a perfect hero is, above all else, a worthy one.

~ Angela Guillaume ~
Where love is more than history
Facebook: Angela Guillaume
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"Mile High to Heaven"--Xtra hot!!!--Contemporary short. Available March 2009 at Whiskey Creek Press Torrid.
"Mr. & Mrs. Foster"--A toasty warm holiday tale. More info at:

Monday, February 9, 2009

With Love From Ms. Blush

Hello to you all wonderful, beautiful people!

Heroes make our hearts beat faster. Heroes make us believe in love. Heroes make us rise above the drudgery of everyday life.

Do you agree? Or don't you?

Last week, we started our discussion on this theme. Sandra came up with a very pertinent post about the search for a perfect hero.

This week, we continue in that same vein.

What is the basis for a hero? What makes him heroic? Is there a way to take any man and make him a worthy hero? Or is it that taking a toad and changing him into a prince is easier?

Catch us this week as we ask and attempt to answer these questions.

On Tuesday, catch T.J. as she takes us further down the path of hero archetypes. Tune in here for explanations about what actually constitues those definitions.

On Wednesday, Angela Guillaume wonders whether reality and fiction meet where heroes are concerned. This promises to be a very dynamic thread.

On Thursday, Aasiyah/Nolwynn brings you a bit more about the specifics of a culture-based hero. (Yes, culture plays into how a man is).

And on Friday, catch Prudence Tempest again. Remember, last fortnight, the divine Malcolm took Prudence to his house for a work meeting. But once inside the dwelling, a woman questions the integrity of Prudence... Who is this mystery woman? Stay tuned, it will be revealed this week!

Don't forget - This February, we at Royal Blush are sending the hormones flying high.

This February, we're taking you on a quest:

Searching for The Perfect Hero...

The best of us for the best of you, that's our promise as we deliver the full flush of romance.

From now till later, enjoy!

With love, from Ms. Blush

Thursday, February 5, 2009

When cliches take a life of their own

I was supposed to blog about the cultural hero today, but Sandra's post got me thinking in a completely different direction, about how we perceive heroes. The cultural hero will come next week, promise!

So, when cliches take a life of their own...

He was tall, dark, and handsome...

No need to tell you who this refers to - the hero, of course!

But, have you noticed how all romance heroes seem to fall under this description?

Let's try something else.

The best friend whose shoulder you'll always cry on is all the time boyish, maybe with a mop of curly hair, who half the time, is red or blond.

Or, the guy's shoulders are a mile wide.

Or, his hair is luxuriant.

Are you seeing a common thread here? All this is expected. You close your eyes and you picture this kind of description all the time.

Why? Because it's a cliche!

All the men in romance tend to look alike, a carbon copy in a sort.

I ask, aren't you fed up with men who all look, sound, feel alike? Why do we read romance? For escapism, for the HEA, but a major part of it is - to fall in love with the hero!

How then do you fall in love with one same man all the time? Isn't there scope for a variety of men out there? Women in real life aren't all attracted to the same kind of men. There's got to be someone who rocks everyone's boat but who won't rock yours. Case in point, I can't for the life of me drool on Johnny Depp. Throw whatever you want at me, he does absolutely nothing to me. Yet, women the world over would sell their souls to be with a man like him.

This kind of thing doesn't happen just to me. It happens to you too. Think of that geek you found cute. Or that hulking man who peopled all your fantasies once you set your eyes on him. Think of this fellow who caught your eye and you have no idea why coz he's a regular looking guy, nothing striking about him.

Heroes are supposed to be a transposition of real men to the fictional world. Why then would all heroes look like clones if we took them and placed them in the same room in the real world?

Kill the cliche. Emerge with a man who's unique. Why is he unique? Because he's different, and that's why and how your heroine falls for him. At the same time, this novelty is what will make women who read your work fall in love with him too.

Don't think a man has to be tall to woo. Think of Brad Pitt. He isn't a beanpole, is he? Same goes for Andy Garcia.

He doesn't need to be dark to be drool-worthy. One of the men women would die for and men would kill to look like is blond. His name is Daniel Craig.

Don't think he needs a mop of luxuriant hair that would make every woman envy him his locks. He doesn't have to be Patrick Dempsey and he can also be balding like Jason Statham.

Imagine a new hero. The world will thank you for it, because you brought a real guy to life in your story. And, nothing beats the real guy where love is concerned! We don't want a fantasy, or a world like the soaps which is filled with guys one so hunkier than the next we throw the towel in at the level of high-maintenance expected of us to just be able to stand next to them proudly.

No. We want a real man. Someone we could bump in at the corner store.

I'd love your comments. Feel free to tell me what sort of un-cliche man rocks your boat.

P.S. If ever all the guys you bump in at the corner store look like they come out of a soap opera, let me know. I'll relocate ASAP.

Aasiyah Qamar - Cultural romantic fiction, with a twistWith stories set amidst the rainbow nation of Mauritius, a multicultural island in the Southern Indian Ocean, author Aasiyah Qamar brings you tales of today's young women battling life on all fronts and finding love where they least expect it. Indo-Mauritian culture wants to stifle them in traditions, customs and antiquated morals while the world is opening its arms of modernity and globalisation. Where do these women belong? And more importantly, with whom?Find out more about her first release, The Other Side, here.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Searching for the Perfect Hero

Searching For the Perfect Hero

Woo hoo! We’re searching for the perfect hero, and I had no idea there was such a specimen out there. Well, ladies, there really isn’t. We think we’ve found him, but when we take him home with us, he turns into a toad. Oh well, just some of the time. The rest of the time he’s our hero. Smile. Or, it could be us since we want to take a good man and make him better. Grin.

Enough of real life, I’m talking about finding the perfect hero for my stories. Does he have to be handsome? No. His appearance does have to stand out, but he doesn’t have to be a pretty boy. He can have a chiseled face with a cleft chin, strong cheek bones, high forehead or any number of things that make him more rugged looking, think Sean Connery versus Roger Moore.

For my story I want a flawed hero (aren’t they all) who can grow and become better (with the help of the heroine). For those men out there reading this the heroine has to grow, too, and learn to accept all those warts on her man knowing she’s not perfect either. The flaws in the hero can be numerous, it can be caused by something in his past, or something in the present. As a writer, I focus on the one flaw that will keep the hero and heroine apart. It’s usually something internal, inside the hero. The external happenings will keep them together, and this is where a man has a chance to be a real hero.

The hero could have gone through a divorce, and he’s cynical when it comes to women, or the L word. The hero may be a hero in real life because he saved his comrades in battle, but he doesn’t think he is. Maybe, he thinks he should have been the one to die, he could have nightmares, or he may have gotten a ‘Dear John’ while he was fighting a war. These are just examples because there are many other reasons why a hero can be flawed.

The hero has to face these demons and come out a stronger man with the help of the heroine. Usually, he becomes stronger because the heroine needs him, and although she’s a strong woman she can not always save herself.

For those of you who say this sounds like a villain, too, it can work either way, but there must be something more warped in the man for him to be the bad guy. I do not like to make my villain redeemable, or he could be the hero. There is real evil out there and my villain is going to be evil. Oops, I’m digressing again.

My hero is a take charge kind of guy, and he needs a very strong heroine or he’ll walk right over her. He can be tender at moments, but he doesn’t take kindly to tears because they make him uncomfortable, and then he thinks she’s using him. Heroes can come from all walks of life, and you put them in the right situation they will be brave.

I call my personal hero, His Ronness, a title he received from a neighbor and it stuck. My man may be stubborn and arrogant at times, but the softer side of him will always win me over.


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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

An Arche-What?

From "Heroes and Heroines: 16 Master Archetypes," by Caro LeFever, Tami Cowden, & Sue Viders.) Beyond Alpha: The Eight Male Archetypes (more info at Romance Central workshops)

The Chief - The quintessential "alpha" male: tough, decisive, and goal-oriented
The Bad Boy - Dangerous, but fascinating: charismatic and street smart, hates rules and regulations
The Best Friend - The "beta" hero: kind, decent, and responsible
The Charmer - The quintessential smooth operator: Fun, irresistible, and often unreliable
The Lost Soul - The "theta" hero: Tortured and secretive, he's got a vulnerable heart and discerning eyes
The Professor - Logical, introverted and inflexible, but also genuine in feelings, extremely faithful and honest
The Swashbuckler - The Man on the Go: Action and adventure is his motto; he's physical, daring, mercurial
The Warrior - The "delta" hero: The reluctant rescuer; dark and dangerous, driven and remote

The archetypes confuse writers. The truth is, just like there is no one man who falls solely into one archetype, written heroes who fall into the category of 'real' are a combination of several archetypes. They may have a primary that is 'The Chief' but aspects of the 'Best Friend' enter into their dynamic.

Always remember, the Archetypes are basic structures, they aren't the set-in-concrete way a character should act. Next week, I'll go into a few more details of these wonderful titles and how the impact a story.

Until next week—cheers and happy writing,


Monday, February 2, 2009

With Love From Ms. Blush

Hello to you all wonderful, beautiful people!

Jane Austen said that it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a fortune must be in need of a wife.

We tell you that she's right, and that it works the other way round too.

Every girl needs her hero. (The money doesn't hurt either.)

Heroes... Ah...

These are the men we love, the ones we hate on certain days, love to hate, admire, respect, want to smack on the head on many occasions, drool on, gaze at, fantasize about,

Fall in love with...

Heroes. They do all that to us.

So, is this intro tied in to what we're bringing you this month? You can bet your knickers it is! Our topic this month is Heroes. What better than love for a worthy man to fuel our drive in the month that features Valentine's Day?

Catch us throughout the next 28 days as we bring you heroes viewed by our perception. You'll also glean a tip or two about how to shape and mold your hero.

Catch T.J. tomorrow to learn a bit more about the archetypes behind the construction of every fictional hero.

On Wednesday, Sandra brings us her quirky and offbeat take on the quest for the perfect hero.

Thursday, Aasiyah/Nolwynn will tell you more about the cultural hero.

This February, we at Royal Blush are sending the hormones flying high.

This February, we're taking you on a quest:

Searching for The Perfect Hero...

The best of us for the best of you, that's our promise as we deliver the full flush of romance.

From now till later, enjoy!

With love, from Ms. Blush