Tag Archives: unlikely hero

My Hero is a 12-Year Old Boy

Aug 28, 2014
Image courtesy of Christopher Stadler via Flickr

Image courtesy of Christopher Stadler via Flickr

People talk a lot about role models. “Who is your role model?” is one of the most common questions I’m asked in interviews. I love the question because I believe it’s important for everyone to have someone to look up to, to model your behavior after, and to aspire to be like. So who is my role model? He’s a 12 year-old kid from my church. For the purposes of this post, I’m calling him “Max”, which isn’t anywhere close to his real name, but it happens to be one of my favorite boys names and he’s one of my favorite boys, sooo….

Max is my role model. He doesn’t have any special handicap that makes his life a struggle. He hasn’t exactly overcome long odds, no more than the next person trying to get by in the modern world. Outside observers wouldn’t necessarily consider him special at all, although they would notice right away that there’s something different about him. Max is ridiculously intelligent. No, I mean he’s gifted like great minds of science have been gifted. He was recently telling me all about a book he read recently on paradoxes, and then went on to explain Schrodinger’s Cat…and it made sense. This boy is going to cure cancer and stop global warming and bring world peace, yo.

But that’s not why he’s my role model. Sure, I admire intelligence, but Max has something that goes beyond intelligence. I am always tempted to be worried for him because his social skills are completely different from kids his own age. He talks to adults with perfect ease…blended with childlike enthusiasm. A lot of adults have made the mistake of talking to him like a kid at first, but he always surprises them in a hurry with the scope of his comprehension. He clearly doesn’t fit in perfectly with his peers. Sometimes they look at him a little funny. But when I see him interact with the other kids there isn’t the same sort of dynamic of bullying and ostracism that you would expect to see.

I’m friends with Max’s mom, and I recently expressed my worry that such a unique, old soul would be picked on or made miserable by his peers, especially as teenagerdom looms. You know what she said? Kids don’t bother bullying him. You know why? Because they can’t get a rise out of him. She told me a story about how he accidentally went to school with two entirely different socks last year. One kid tried to tease him by pointing out that he was wearing two different socks. Max’s response? A calm shrug and “And your point is?”

Max is my hero because, at age 12, he is comfortable with who he is and doesn’t let the opinions of others get under his skin. He is fascinated with the world and eager to reach beyond what he’s taught in school to discover things for himself. He engages with everyone as if he is their equal and isn’t afraid to meet you on your own turf or to explain his turf to you.

Wow.

Girl-writing-brightThere are a lot of things I think we can all learn from Max, especially writers. I was a total basket case at that age and I cared from the tips of my toes to the highest hair on my head what people thought about me. I imagined a thousand horrors that would (and frankly did) happen if my peers didn’t like me. I ate my heart out trying to fit in by pushing aside who I knew I was. I think we all do. But Max, for me, is living, breathing, punning, weird sock-wearing proof that even in middle school, if you are who you are and if you wear that person with pride and focus your energies on the things you love, you’re un-bully-able.

Every time we write a book, I can guarantee that somewhere in the backs of our minds is the worry about what people will think of us. We tie ourselves up in knots obsessing over whether we’re writing the right genre, if our characters are engaging, if our prose will appeal to readers. When the reviews come in, we tear our hair if someone didn’t like our writing and get super overexcited when they did. We care what people think. And not in the useful, constructive way.

These days, I’m all about approaching my writing career the way Max approaches life. I know what I write. I’m confident in my abilities, but I’m also always searching for new and better ways to do things. I try to talk as confidently with people who write my genre as I do with those who write other genres. And when those reviews come in, if someone didn’t like the choices my hero or heroine made, well, your point is? Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but I don’t have to let them get under my skin. All I have to do is write.

So kudos to you, Max! I look forward to watching you grow into a teenager. I have a feeling you’re going to be just fine. And I’ll continue to look to you for the way I should be behaving in my career and my life.

.

Like what you’ve read? I love the fact that you read it! I’ve got more for you too. Sign up for my quarterly newsletter to receive special content, sneak-peeks, and treats that only subscribers are privy to. And thank you!

2104 Book #20 – Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends, by William Guarnere and Edward Heffron

Apr 22, 2014

In case you couldn’t tell, I’ve been on a bit of a Band of Brothers kick lately. I finally read the book that the series was based on, and that led me to start reading the memoirs of the guys from Easy Company. I almost wasn’t going to do a book report on Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends, the combined memoirs of Bill Guarnere and “Babe” Heffron because I didn’t want to bore people with my obsession, but as I finished it I realized I had a lot more to talk about than just the experiences of Easy Company.

brothers in battle

Now, I’ve read biographies before. I’ve read a few books by living celebrities about their lives and early years. But I don’t think I’ve ever read a straight-up memoir before. Bill and Babe’s book is definitely a memoir, and it was a whole new experience to me. I believe this is the first time I’ve read a book penned by a pair of old men (or at least narrated by them and recorded by a writer). Let me tell you, it was awesome!

As a fiction writer, I really appreciate the way these two characters were developed, from their childhoods growing up poor in South Philly to their experiences of war to the way they lived the rest of their lives after the war. It was a fine example of how even the lives of ordinary people (not that these two are ordinary) provide a gripping narrative.

What I absolutely adored as a reader was the voice of these two men. Each section, be it Bill’s or Babe’s, felt as though I was sitting in the living room listening to my Granddad’s friends talk. You could practically see the guys as they talked. Their tone was conversational and no-nonsense. The grammar was what they would have used and the words were the ones you just knew they would have bandied about on the street corners or in the bars of South Philly. It was like being with them.

I was completely sucked in! And let me tell you, I was particularly taken with Bill Guarnere. I’ve always sort of identified with him in the series because he was from Philly, my hometown, but man! He was awesome! His mindset and attitude toward the war and toward life was remarkable. He really got in there and did what he had to do, diligently and effectively, to win that war. He was a leader in so many ways, even more than the series portrays.

He was also a total character! He pulls no punches as he relates the pranks he pulled, the vast quantity of women he entertained during the war, and the single-minded love that he had for his girl back home (even as he was “entertaining” all those women). His reflections on the battles he fought are sharp and moving, and the way he talks about losing his leg and everything that happened after that is awe-inspiring. The man was a crackerjack. Judging by the photos from his personal collection that he included in the book, he was pretty darn hot as a young guy too! I think I have a total crush on him now.

I have a whole new respect for Babe too. I felt like I didn’t know him as well just by watching the series, but Babe was a man with heart. And it’s heartbreaking to read the way he talks about some of the things he experienced in the war: losing friends, nearly killing (but not) a young German family, the girl he fell in love with in Austria. It’s all so moving!

Reading Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends has given me a whole new appreciation for memoir as a genre. It’s also given me a much deeper understanding of the generation that fought WWII. I’m really beginning to see why they’re called The Greatest Generation. They’re certainly tougher than my generation and the current young generation because they had it much harder. I look forward to reading more memoirs now, about these guys and beyond.

What I Learned About Love From Bill Cosby

Aug 30, 2013

BillWhen you think of Bill Cosby, you might very well think of Jell-O Pudding Pops or Fat Albert or Temple University (if you’re from Philly) or even some of the most hysterical comedy routines of the last quarter of the 20th century. I’m sure you think about The Cosby Show. That’s certainly what comes to my mind. But along with that, indeed, because of The Cosby Show, when I think of Bill Cosby, I think of love.

About a month ago, I was out to dinner with my brother and sister-in-law. Kristine mentioned that she had never watched The Cosby Show. Stewart and I immediately launched into “Oh, you HAVE to watch it” and “It’s so good!” and “It’s the best tv show that has ever been produced”. We went on to relate our favorite Cosby moments to each other across the table: the time that Denise tried to make the shirt for Theo, Bill Cosby’s explanation to Theo, using Monopoly money, of how much life costs when you’re a young person living on your own, Sondra singing mopey songs when she broke up with Elvin, the episode guest-starring Danny Kaye. We remembered so much, even though we hadn’t watched the show in more than a decade.

Well, thanks to Amazon, that has changed. I’ve been watching The Cosby Show again from the beginning, and I tell you, my heart has grown about five sizes.

Bill Cosby was not only funny, he had (has) a unique kind of integrity that I don’t see on tv so much these days. The Cosby Show was firmly about family and for families. Lots of shows on the air today are about families, but Cosby was different. The kids could have attitude, yes, but they were not consistently rotten, nor were they smarter than the parents. Cliff and Clair Huxtable were not always right, but they were always the Mom and Dad, with capital letters. The show taught values in a way that I don’t see on tv now. It wasn’t preachy, it was so, so funny. But the humor didn’t come from wild or wacky situations, it came from the little things that we have all experienced in our own families and therefore identify with.

The Cosby Show was a great show, but for me the lesson of love goes much deeper than that. Continue reading

Characters from Life

Apr 03, 2013

One of my favorite pieces of advice that I see given to budding authors all the time (and that I’ve given myself on occasion) is to model your characters after real people. It’s the best way to get a fully-rounded, dimensional character.

I happen to like to use celebrities as models for characters. Many are the times I’ve “cast” some of my favorite Hollywood hunks as the heroes in my novels, particularly when it comes to envisioning them acting out the love scenes. Mmmm…. Hunky celebrities with their shirts off!

But I digress.

Basing characters off of real people doesn’t stop with celebrities. Sooner or later any good writer is going to look at someone they know and feel that burning urge to make a character out of them. Why? Because there are just so many people who fill our everyday lives and who stand out, for good or for ill. And what better way to deal with the emotions they provoke than by immortalizing them in fiction?

Someday, my friends ... someday!

Someday, my friends … someday!

For example, I have a story idea that’s been kicking around my head for a while now – one that I’ll probably get to in early 2014 if everything stays on the track it’s on now – that involves a, shall we say, freelance naval adventurer and his frigate sailing the ocean blue in around 1800. I will confess right now that I intend to man this fictional sailing vessel with all of the real-life members of my cricket club. Yes, Mike and Klaus, Tahir and Shariq, Krish and Satish and Jon and Ernie may someday find themselves reading about sailors who seem a little on the familiar side. It’s going to be a challenge to find a way to fit them all in, but I’m up for it.

Okay, I have to confess something. An alarming number of the characters in my Montana Romance series, in Our Little Secrets and the soon-to-be-released Fool for Love, are people I know or know of in my real life.

Scandal! Intrigue! Mystery!

So which characters are based on people from my life and, more importantly, would they be able to recognize themselves?

Here’s the scoop. For starters, the character of Christian Avery, Justice of the Peace, is a relatively minor character in Our Little Secrets and Fool for Love. But he’s set to be the hero of the third book in the series, In Your Arms. He also happens to be based off of a former coworker. I haven’t seen this former coworker in, oh, eight years? He’s probably forgotten my existence. But to me he was so physically striking and had such a beautiful voice – but was so reserved – that he’s always stuck with me. Mind you, Christian Avery is far more of a stick-in-the-mud than my former coworker, but underneath Christian’s brusk and glowering surface beats the heart of …. No, I’m not going to mention his real name.

Phineas Bell is also loosely based on an old friend of mine. But in this case, as the character developed and began to interact with his world, he migrated away from my old friend and into a personality all his own. It’s funny how characters do that. You can start with a real person as a template, but they’re going to become who they are in the long-run, whether you like it or not. Fortunately in this case, I like it. Phin is a fantastic guy – and the hero of the fourth and final novel in the series, Someone to Love. (Not decided on that title yet, by the way, so don’t get too attached to it).

But guess what? Guess who else in the Montana Romance series is based on someone I know in real life. Yes, Jacinta Archer. And if you’ve read any of these books yet, you’ve probably just smacked your hand over your mouth and said, “Oh my gosh, does she know that’s her?” My answer? Gosh, I hope not! Because my real life friend on whom Jacinta is based is actually one of the nicest, funniest, cutest people I know. But I think she’d have a sense of humor about how badly her character behaves.

Along with those three, there’s a small character in Fool for Love named Sarah who is directly based off of someone I know. I was just going to pop her in there and give her one line, but as I revised and edited the novel the character got bigger and bigger, and now I have plans to write a novella in which she is the heroine. Funny how characters stand out and wave their arms at you that way. Delilah is also based on someone I had a few interactions with a while back. She’s another character who has taken on a life of her own as I’ve written her. I rather like her and wish I had her around to give me advice sometimes!

So are any of these characters, present or planned, so similar to the people they were based off of that I could be sued for libel? Not at this point. Real people are great starting-points for fictional people, but once the writing starts, it’s amazing how the characters grow. That’s what good characters do. I don’t know about you, but I kind of like it that way!

Our Little SecretsAs a special treat for today and leading up to the release of Fool for Love on April 20th, one lucky commenter will win a free eBook of Our Little Secrets. The winner will be picked on Friday.  So go ahead, if you’re a writer, tell us about a character you’ve written based off of a real life person. And if you’re a reader, have you ever come across a character in a book that reminds you of someone you know?

Heartbreaker Blog Hop – Everyday Heartbreaker

Feb 08, 2013
Ready for some Heartbreak?

Ready for some Heartbreak?

Girl meets boy.  Boy adores girl.  They fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after.  Boy never disappoints girl or lets her down and always stands up for her when she needs it.

Ah!  If only real life worked that way!  But it doesn’t.  Men, as wonderful as they are, are only human and can break our hearts.  I know I’ve experienced more than enough heartbreak for a lifetime, thank you very much!  So when it came to writing the character of Michael West, hero of Our Little Secrets, I couldn’t resist the urge to throw a hefty dose of reality into a tale of accidental love.

When most people think of heartbreakers they probably think of the classic bad boy.  Romance is full of them.  Gorgeous alpha males who sweep in, save the day, and leave the ladies swooning.  Or maybe the heartbreaker is a man with a past, with wounds half-healed who keeps the heroine at a distance until she can break through and help him overcome his past.  Mmm… they’re delicious!

Michael West isn’t one of those heroes.  Michael is a shopkeeper, wears glasses, and isn’t arrestingly handsome (like his friend Eric Quinlan).  For every citizen of Cold Springs who respects and admires him, there is another who would happily trip him in the street as he walks past.  He lives his life as a constant balancing act, respectability versus mystery, authority versus teasing.  Nope, not your average romance novel alpha hero at all.

So what makes Michael a heartbreaker?

Well, for one thing, as our heroine, Charlie, discovers right off the bat, Michael might just be the most intelligent man you’ll ever meet.  Nerd hero?  Quite possibly!  Of course the next thing that Charlie discovers is that appearances can be deceiving.  Michael might not look like much, but when the lights go out and things slip between the sheets he knows exactly how to set the fireworks off and leave a girl panting for more.

Ah, but therein lies the problem.  Michael is only human and humans have their faults and their secrets.  In a perfect world, when someone’s secrets catch up with them we’d like them to stand and face them like a man, to deny the worst of it and prove that they are the hero we want them to be.  But what do you do when they fail?  How do you get your happy ending when your hero proves that he has feet of clay?

Better still, how does a savvy heroine unbreak her heart and fight for the life she wants?  Sometimes the journey back from heartbreak is even better than the first flush of love.  And just because a man is a heartbreaker doesn’t mean that he wants to be.  All it takes is something worth standing up for.

Tempted yet?  Have I given too much away?  You’ll have to read Our Little Secrets to find out!

Thanks for stopping by on the Heartbreakers Blog Hop!  To show my appreciation, one lucky commenter will win a $15 Starbucks gift card from me.  Because what’s better than coffee and a scone to go with a good book?  I’ll be choosing a winner on Monday morning.

But wait!  There’s more.  When you comment on this blog post you will be entered to win one of the fabulous GRAND PRIZES below!  Be sure to include your email address in your comment.

Please keep on hopping and visit the other fabulous writers and bloggers on the tour.  Follow the link below and comment on more blogs to be entered to win one of the following fabulous prizes!

Click here to go to Heartbreaker Blog Hop central!

1st Grand Prize: A Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet
2nd Grand Prize: A $100 Amazon or B&N Gift Card
3rd Grand Prize: A Swag Pack that contains paperbacks, ebooks, 50+ bookmarks, cover flats, magnets, pens, coffee cozies, and more!

Mmmm....  Prizes!

Mmmm…. Prizes!

And of course feel free to click on any of the book covers in the margins to learn more about the saucy, sizzling tales I write.