Thursday, March 31, 2011

Please Welcome Author Leslie Soule to the Island

Brian Jacques: In Memoriam

I was saddened to hear of the death of author Brian Jacques in February of this year. I’d read and loved his books as a child. When he passed away, I wondered if there would be a grand procession of sword-carrying mice, otters, squirrels, and hares. I pictured them carrying long, wavering banners on stout wooden poles, speaking in loveable British accents and offering scones to the people who’d gathered to mourn. Poems would be recited and songs would be sung of the creator of the Redwall series.

I felt the need to write a remembrance poem to the author I so loved but never met, and I styled it after the poems that filled Jacques’s work. Without futher adieu, here is the poem I came up with.

The Summer of the Changing Winds

"You came and went like a summer breeze,
Master of the Abbey with the sandstone walls.
Whose words echo, immortal, from the leaves
of books and down through the Great Hall.
Through time immemorial,
battles of Good and Evil rage,
but I retreat to peaceful Redwall Abbey,
with only the turning of a page."

I first got a hold of a Redwall book when I was in the sixth grade. There were books laid out on a table and we could pick one out to take with us and keep. I chose Mattimeo, by Brian Jacques. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. I still have that old paperback, and I read it so many times growing up, that it’s now in fairly bad shape. I’ve had to put packing tape all over the front cover just to keep it together.

Then, when I was a young teenager, I saw on the website that kids were creating Redwall-style websites and I decided to create my own. It was a site where people could submit poetry, poems, recipes, and play games, and everything was based on the Redwall series. That site was called Lunar Isle. So if any of you Lunar Islanders are still out there, it is my pleasure to unmask myself as the one and only Kaliah Wolfsbane.

Wow, that was a long time ago. But suffice to say that the Redwall series brought a lot of joy into my life as I grew up. I smiled as I looked at a website called the Redwall Compendium, and to my shock and delight, saw an old Lunar Isle award that I’d given it! Ha! Oh, how I loved Microsoft Paint.
 Suffice to say, Brian Jacques will be dearly missed and his novels have brought joy to many, many people.

You can check out Leslie's site here as well as info on her new YA Steampunk release Birds of a Feather

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Wide Appeal of Contemporary and Category Romance

My mother is turning 81 this year. She is an educated woman who worked in various business arenas well past 'retirement age'. And, she has always been a voracious reader of romance. In my earliest memory Mom always had a Harlequin on her bedside table or in her hands while curled up on the couch relaxing during off time.

She still steers toward Harlequins today and I've been surprised to see a couple of Blazes on her table when I go to visit. lol She looks at me and winks, "" she says! lol I realized after pondering for a while I was being quite ageist regarding my mother's romance reading preferences and introduced her to Julie James. She has read Just The Sexiest Man Alive, and Practice Makes Perfect, (published by Berkley Sensation), loved the novels, AND she is very keen to read Julie's more recent novels even with the warning, "the sex scenes are more graphic in the next two books Mom". To which she responded, "oh that's okay, the Blazes are bad!" LOLOL (If she only knew about the naughty reading her daughter likes. - yikes!)

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think my mother is ready for some of the more sexually explicit erotics out there, but I'm certainly surprised at her open mindedness. :) Which brings me to the overall appeal of contemps and category romance---including the various genres housed under that umbrella. I think Harlequin is especially good at addressing the preferences of a wide range and cross section of readers.

I was astounded to discover that Harlequin was founded in 1949 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and remains a Toronto, Ontario based company. Today, Harlequin publishes approximately 120 new titles each month in 29 different languages in 107 international markets on six continents. The novels are written by over 1,300 authors worldwide, offering readers a broad range of fiction from romance to psychological thrillers to relationship novels. I'm not surprised about this statistical data at all. You don't have to walk into a bookstore here in Toronto to find a Harlequin, their publications are everywhere, drug stores, WalMart, variety stores, grocery stores etc. And, most recently there is Carina Press for those of us who like eBooks and I have to say I'm so impressed with the publications that are offered by that Harlequin imprint.

I have to admit to being somewhat prejudiced with respect to Harlequin category romances for a time. I read so many years ago (I stole them from my mother's room from the time I was a pre-adolescent) and in later years felt they were "formula" and "boring", and spurned Harlequins to move on to more "sophisticated" romances. Well, in recent years I picked up a novel published under their Spice imprint and it was like nirvana! lol I visited the Harlequin site and it truly is like opening a cookie jar full of tasty treats for readers. No matter what genre or type of romance suits your fancy you most likely can find it.

What about you? Do you enjoy any of the category romances or any of the other publications from Harlequin? Given their longevity and influence on romance, do you remember any extra special ones you have read over the years?

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Meaning of the "Alpha Male" In Today's Romance

It's been a while, but as always it's great to be back on the Island, especially after such a long winter.

During the trip over on the DIK jet I was pondering about a topic near and dear to many a red blooded female's heart. Men. Specifically the "Alpha" male and how we identify him in today's romance?

But first I'll define him according to a reference source:

Definition from

A domineering man; the dominant member in a group of males, esp. animals

Etymology: from first letter of the Greek alphabet, often used as an adjective to describe males and females of species who rank first in a group

I have to comment that what initially got me thinking about Alpha's in today's romance was reading a post at EH On Books And More, where she quoted Author Sondrae Bennett's thought regarding "A Gentler Alpha".

"I’ve been reading romance novels practically my whole life. I got sucked into the world of charming heroes and heroines from the very beginning. Every time I picked up a book, I fell in love. I still today remember some of my favorite heroes I read about years and years ago.

It wasn’t until much later that I started hearing terms like “Alpha Male” and “Beta Male”. It took me awhile to spot the difference as I never felt the need to categorize the heroes I read about. I certainly fell in love with heroes from both sides of the coin. But I didn’t always like what I saw. Heroes were classified as alpha for being (pardon my language) complete dicks. I didn’t understand it. That wasn’t my idea of a perfect guy. I like to think I would never fall for that guy in life, so why would I fall for him in fiction? But the idea of the “alpha male” was something that appealed to me. Someone who could protect unequivocally. So when I started writing Arctic Winds, I thought about all the things I liked and wanted in a man and created Jason, my version of the alpha male."

© Sondrae Bennett

I agree with Sondrae, the Alpha males that appeal to me are written as "gentler" in that he (they) are:
  • dominant - not not a controlling jerk
  • have good manners
  • are respectful
  • are redeemable
  • they will protect and defend their female/male love interest, but not smother him/her

When I think of an Alpha in movies, Daniel Day Lewis', 'Hawkeye' in "Last of the Mohicans", comes to mind. He was the uber strong, dominant, love interest of Madeline Stowe's, 'Cora'. The rescue scene during the massacre, and certainly the kissing scene were examples of his determination to protect her, and his powerful sensual aura - his possession of her. Make no mistake, Cora was no weak minded prissy female. She was strong of mind and spirit, and made her presence and opinions known.

Author (and previous DIK contributor) Katie Reus was kind enough to share some time with me recently over at Book Lovers Inc. to talk about her recent publication "Dangerous Secrets". IMHO Katie characterizes extremely appealing Alpha heroes for her novels and Adam from Dangerous Secrets is certainly a prime example of a hot Alpha. This is what Katie said about her Alpha heroes:

I love alpha heroes and I hate that stereotype that alphas have to be jerks so my guys might be domineering and stubborn, but they always put their lady first.

Book Lovers Inc. © Katie Reus

So, there is a common thread here, basically these guys are decent and I as mentioned above redeemable, because I don't think Alpha's always start out being likable, especially when there is a history of conflict between him and his love interest. Or he is "tortured, angry guy". However, over the course of the narrative, his true nature is revealed, he remains potent and powerful, but gradually shows compassion and caring for his lover making him redeemable in her/his eyes as well as ours.

There are so many excellent authors who write appealing Alpha males in romance, and IMHO Beth Kery is certainly one of them. Marc Kavanaugh, the hero of Beth's most recent contemporary romance publication, "The Hometown Hero Returns", demonstrates strong Alpha qualities, and certainly IMHO you can find prime examples of Alpha males in the heroes characterized in any of her novels. I asked Beth to describe an Alpha male in her own words, and here is what she said:

"The alpha male is the leader of the pack. He's smart, decisive and forceful. He's maleness distilled. Everything about him makes a woman feel gloriously feminine by sheer contrast."

© Beth Kery

Right on! "The leader of the pack." And while he certainly is a must in say a shapeshifter story when we are talking paranormal romance, I think that we see and expect Alphas across the romantic spectrum. "Makes a woman feel gloriously feminine by sheer contrast," a feeling I certainly enjoy when reading a well written Alpha characterized in a book. How about you?

Other traits or colloquialisms that I often associate with Alphas for whatever reason are:
  • a deep voice
  • an accent or drawl
  • a manly man
  • confident but not arrogant
  • a sensual 'aura'
In the m/m genre, I'm always fascinated by the dynamic because, while I've not read as many as others I have found there is often two strong Alpha males in the relationship. Am I wrong?

Then of course there is the Alpha female competing with the Alpha male for dominance, however that is a whole other post. lol I think it is important to mention that whatever the dynamic a strong minded intelligent partner is the key to making the relationship work in a good romance.

So, can it be argued that the term "Alpha" is a misnomer in today's romance? It would be nice to think the more sophisticated reader of today's literature has lost appreciation for the neanderthal, "Alpha male" of yesteryear who dragged the screaming virgin by the hair off into his cave and proceeded to initiate her to the pleasures of the flesh without so much as a, by your leave (or something like that). LOL

Thoughts? Opinions?

Tori and I will be back tomorrow chatting about the wide appeal of contemporary and category romances, but for now, one of my cool Alpha males here on the Island has just brought me a nice cold drink with one of those little umbrellas in it. ;)  

"It's fun to be here on the Island isn't it Tori?"


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Say Hellooo to the Hunks!

It isn't every day a girl gets to meet real-life heroes as good-looking as that. You heard me right. We've got five very special guests visiting the Island today. These guys aren't just eye candy; they're all remarkably friendly, insanely charming, and almost too good to be true. Best of all, they're bachelors -- sexy AND single. Selected out of thousands by Cosmopolitan's Annual Sexiest Man Alive team, these five hunks were kind enough to let me interview them (with questions YOU asked) as well as provided pictures for today's post. What I find so special about them, is that they, like I said, are more than pretty faces. They have the qualities that make the ladies swoon over them, just as we adore our book heroes. But unlike fictional characters, these guys are unbelievably, heartbreakingly, honestly real. So let's get this interview started.

What's the first thing you thought when you woke up this morning?
(Girls, this is Mark. A biology student and wildlife environmentalist representing the state of Kansas for Cosmo, Mark is our classic blue-eyed love. Being a gentleman is the most important thing to him when it comes to a relationship -- aww! You can find out more about Mark here.)
Mark: Definitely coffee.
(Ladies, Tripp. Tripp, ladies. Tripp is from Ridgeland, Mississippi (can I move there?). In his free time, he participates in triathlons (look at that body...) and just loves to be his funny, goofy self. The biggest compliment a girl could give him is "I love you" -- aww!)
Tripp: Why is my alarm going off?

What is the best way to get you in the mood? We know candles and music work for a majority of us ladies, but what is the secret for men?
(Say helloooo to James, everyone. Aside from being North Carolina's Sexiest Man Alive, James is a youth baseball coach -- because it involves two things he likes: sports and kids -- and a model/actor. Try hard not to get too lost in his eyes. He says he knows he's seriously into a girl the moment he realizes he isn't interested in anyone else -- aww!)
James: A thoughtful act.  I'm easy lol - simply do something (can be something small) that makes me feel like I was on your mind, and  I'm important to you - that works every time! 
(This is the brooding Shane Meaney. Shane is a certified personal trainer (OMG) from Vermont. We've been told he's an amazing kisser -- someone else's words, not his! He considers himself a compassionate, easygoing guy; all he wants to do is make people happy -- aww! You can learn more about Shane by checking out his website.)
Shane: Touch us in the right place. For me, it’s my collar bone or hip bone right below my underwear line.
(Last, but obviously not least, I welcome Luke to the blog. Luke is a law student (!!!) from Idaho who is outgoing and spontaneous; he says he tries to make every day the most fun day of his life. When he's really into a woman, he finds himself making up excuses to keep touching her -- aww!)
Luke: Any time a woman shows that she's very confident. Whether she's flaunting herself physically (in private, of course) or commanding the attention of everyone in public (in a classy way, of course). There's just something about a confident woman...
Tripp: Tequila and boy shorts.
Mark: Kiss my ear.  That's my "spot" if you will.

Have you ever had the opportunity to live out one of your bedroom fantasies? 'Fess up the deets if you're not the shy type too ;)
James: I guess so - meaning there isn't really anything that I've wanted to do that I haven't in the bedroom.  Also, many of my fantasies are impulsive, and don't take place in the bedroom.  For example, I am very attracted to women when they are in their element - meaning some place/job/etc where they are very confident in their place and role in that environment - anywhere where others are looking up to them, and they know it!  I guess I'm either really lucky, or I need to upgrade my fantasies!
Shane: I have not experienced my full fantasy yet, however, I have encountered bits and pieces of it. Anyone wanna help me fill in some of the blanks?
Luke: Halloween seems to be the best time for this... Just the last 3 years: police officer (and I was a Mormom missionary), Little Red Riding Hood (I was the Big Bad Wolf), and a fighter pilot (I was the same thing). Doesn't get much better than playing some sort of a role.
Tripp: No, but hoping to one day.
Mark: Bedroom fantasies...wouldn't you like to know.

What's your idea of a perfect Saturday?
James: Spending and ENTIRE day with someone I care about.  It's give and take, so wherever we were at I think it would be great to spend half the day doing something I want to do there, and then the other half of the day doing something that's all her.  I really enjoy seeing someone I care about enjoying themselves (their body language, expressiveness when they are having fun), so I would love doing "her" thing just as much as when we were doing my thing.
Shane: Waking up to breakfast in bed, going for a run/gym, staying outside for a round of golf, water tubing, dinner with family, drinks with friends, come home and cuddle up to a movie and hot chocolate with someone special.
Luke: I'm a morning person, but I like to sleep in 'til about 9 or 10 on Saturdays. It's always great if it's college football season, but if not, I'd love to be out on the golf course... all... day... long. 
Tripp: Wake up, go running with my girlfriend, come home make breakfast together. Then spend the entire day together doing something adventurous and new. Nice dinner outside with a bottle (or two) of wine, good conversation and then dancing the night away.
Mark: My perfect Saturday would be spent outside, most likely collecting rattlesnakes or fishing, with the people I care about.

If you were a bartender at an island resort, what would your signature drink be called?
James: Probably a "Happy."  I love that 2 drink "look" that people get when they are relaxing (which they would be at an island resort), and are just really comfortable and happy in a moment.  Therefore, my drink would contain enough alcohol to get that 2 drink look in only 1 "happy!"
Shane: "Mistletoe".
Luke: Snuke's Love Potion. It's a nickname of mine, and everybody is lookin' for a little romance on an island resort!
Tripp: "Tripp Like I Do".
Mark: The Rattlesnake Round-up".

What is the most romantic thing about you, or the most romantic thing you've ever done?
James: I don't have a most romantic thing, because I think romance is all about the other person, and what's important to them.  I do think I am a very romantic person, although I don't show it that often.  I have to really care about someone to a) put the effort in to be romantic, and b) want to send them that message (meaning I don't want to do something that someone would perceive as romantic if I didn't have romantic feelings for them - think it's unfair to lead someone on).  However, if I do care about someone, I am all about making them feel important on a daily basis, and that's all about them.  I simply listen to them when they talk (hard to believe coming from a man).  Then, for me the romance is seeing what gets them, and doing it for them.  It could the usual flowers, cards, stuff like that, or it could be a chore/job they have to do that's been on their mind lately (and then they just show up one day and it's magically been done for them)!  Romance is making someone feel special, and attractive, and to do that you have to pay attention to who they are, so you can make the effort to meet their needs, and not just your own.
Shane: I like to surprise my woman by doing things she doesn't expect . I once had to steal my girlfriends car for a day to install a brand new stereo system she had been wanting. I returned the car to her after she reported it missing and when she turned on the car a special CD with all the songs we listened to began to play and I walked in front of the car with flowers.
Luke: I'm a gentleman. I love to treat a lady like a lady, and I've never gotten any complaints about opening doors, buying flowers, or giving countless compliments.

Tripp: I value my partner's pleasure more than mine.
Mark: I'm a sucker for the little things.  I love to surprise a woman with flowers and chocolate, small reminders to that special someone letting them know you are thinking of them.  I once called the restaurant my girlfriend (now ex-girlfriend) was working at and told them that her car lights were on.  She came outside to a dozen roses on her windshield.  I enjoy doing things like that.

Name five things you couldn't do without.
James: Family, friends, self-worth, baseball, and toothpaste/floss/chapstick (I'm big into oral hygiene)!
Shane: Cell Phone. Family. Friends. My puppy. iPod.
Luke: 1) Family 2) Friends 3) Physical Activity 4) Laughing 5) Water (either to drink, swim in, fish, boat, whatever).
Tripp: iPhone, Music, Running, Swimming, and Gum.
Mark: My snake stick, fishing pole, Mike and Ike's, football, and Blue Bell Ice Cream.

Now on impulse -- house fire! First five things you'd grab?
James: 1) cat 2) my dad's letters (he passed suddenly when I was 19, and he used to travel a lot when I was very young - I've saved those letters and read them from time to time), 3) photos 4) titles/deeds/drivers license 5) computer - my life is on it!
Shane: Photos of friends, Lucky pair of underwear, Favorite pair of jeans,  Blanket from when I was a kid, my puppy.
Luke: 1) Family 2) Rufus (dog) 3) Hop Syng (cat) 4) Laptop 5) Photo albums.
Tripp: Computer, cellphone, my blankie, xBox, and my photography portfolio. 
Mark: Picture album, old home videos, my pet tortoise Teddy, my father's Hall of Fame plaque, and my 5 inch fossilized shark's tooth I found.

What's the first thing people usually notice about you?
James: My eyes - they are bright blue.
Shane: My smile; I always smile because I am a goofy funny person with a positive outlook on life no matter what the situation.
Luke: I think it's my smile. I'm always smiling and laughing.
Tripp: They usually hear me coming because I'm loud and obnoxious, but I would say my height or eyes.
Mark: My eyes.  I have very piercing and intense blue eyes.  Or so I've been told.

What do you spend a lot of time thinking about?
James: One of my jobs - I coach about 80 kids, and I'm constantly thinking about how I can be a better coach, and mentor for them.
Luke: My future. I want to be able to provide a wonderful life for my future wife and even a better life for my future children. Whenever I feel like I'm getting tired of working hard, I use these things as motivation to keep me going.
Tripp: How I can get the most out of today.
Mark: Thinking of ways to improve as a person athletically, intellectually, and morally.

What are you doing on a typical Friday night?
James: Coach! Boring I know, but Friday night is usually a coaching night for me.  Plus, I'm usually up at 5 am to coach on the weekends, so I don't really go out on Friday nights after I'm done coaching.
Luke: Get together with friends, have a few beers, get into whatever kind of trouble we can find.
Tripp: I usually don't go out b/c I run on Saturday mornings; Saturdays are my party nights.
Mark: Typical Friday night at school I'd going to a house party to spend some time with friends.  A typical Friday night at home, on the other hand, I'm spending time with my family.  Family is very important to me.

Tell us the most private thing you're willing to admit.
James: I wish I was a better person. Don't get me wrong, I like who I am most of the time, but like everyone else I have my demons, and things I struggle with at times.  I just wish I was able to be the person I want to be 100% of the time.
Luke: I'm usually pretty open about everything, but if I'm not good at something I will practice my ass off while no one else is looking. I guess that makes it private, but I don't think it's really any secret that I want to be the best at everything that I do.
Shane: I sometimes hyperventilate when I laugh too hard : (
Tripp: I'm scared of failure.

What do you find particularly confusing about women?
James: Why they play games.  Honestly ladies!!!  If a guy likes you, he likes you - period (he's already made up his mind).  If he doesn't like you, he will never like you.  Therefore, the whole "don't want to act too interested - need to play hard to get" thing is completely pointless.  If I like you, I want nothing more than to hear from you - as often as you are thinking of me - it won't turn me off (remember I've already made up my mind that I like you).  If I don't like you, you can wait 6 years to call me and guess what - I'm still not going to be interested lol!  Therefore, just be yourself, and you'll find out a whole lot sooner whether we're into you!
Luke: I cannot, for the life of me, understand why women say something when they don't mean it. It's even worse when they actually mean the exact opposite! How are we supposed to communicate well if you give me no indication of what's really going on in your mind?!
Shane: When they don’t voice their opinion or tell us one thing when they mean something completely opposite.
Tripp: How they can be hot one minute and cold the one second later. I wish I had Mel Gibson's ability in that movie where he could read women's minds, that'd make life easier.

Describe your ideal woman, personality-wise.
James: Someone who is everyday thoughtful.  I think deep down everyone is thoughtful to some degree (you see it during tragedies - how communities come together for each other).  However, I think everyday thoughtfulness is rare these days.  I am attracted to someone who thinks about others on a daily basis - just a genuinely caring person - something bad doesn't have to happen for them to show they care about people.
Luke: Smart, funny, fun, confident, nerdy, witty, loving, unselfish.
Shane: Makes me laugh, Sincere, Respectful, Kind, Trustworthy, Likes to go out and have fun, Compassionate, Caring, Not materialistic.
Tripp: Fun, passionate about life or something (has to give a damn basically), has to have sense of humor (sarcasm is a must), she has to enjoy my goofiness and be able to put up with it.
Mark: She needs to love the outdoors, be spontaneous yet responsible, genuinely caring, and appreciative. Many girls will take you for granted.

What is your #1 no-no in a relationship?
James: I have 2 I think - a lack of thoughtfulness, and narcissism. I will bend over backwards for someone I care about, including always trying to make sure their needs are a priority of mine.  In return, however, I want the same thing.  No matter how much of a connection I think I might have with someone, I have to feel that I am important to them to continue the relationship.  If they are constantly on their blackberry when they're around me, or always updating their facebook status with every little thing they think, or do throughout a day those are complete turn-offs!
Luke: Definitely jealousy. It's so unattractive--on anyone! If you're in a relationship you need to be confident that you're in it for a reason. I will not date someone that I can't see myself with for a long time, so it's weird to me that a girl I'm dating would be bothered by other girls looking at or talking to me.
Shane: Lunch and or phone conversations with exes.
Tripp: A lack of trust, you have to be able to be honest and open with your partner or it will never work.
Mark: Lying, even about the smallest things, is definitely a deal-breaker.  Trust is the most important thing in a relationship.

What will you be doing as soon as you're done filling out this questionnaire?
James: Running errands - life never stops, or slows down!!!
Luke: I'll be heading to class. That's about all my life is right now. School, school, school.
Shane: Grabbin' some H2O and relaxing on the couch....MMMM good.
Tripp: Running spellcheck, because I know I've misspelled a few words.
Mark: Watching the NFL playoffs with my father.

A great big xoxo and heartfelt thank you to the Cosmo bachelors for coming over to DIK Ladies and sharing with us, valuable insight and plenty of laughs. It was a pleasure getting to know each and every one of you :)

Photo credits: Individual bachelors, Cosmopolitan, and Josh Camero Photography (for Shane Meaney and Mark Margres).

For those of you who still want to enter my giveaway for a set of Harlequin oldies, you can still enter by following my blog via GFC and commenting on this post. Good luck!
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