The Men We Love

You’d be forgiven for thinking this post might be about our husbands, our brothers, or our sons, but my fellow Lady Writers and I want to share a little something about the other men in our lives: the characters we write. Each of us picked a favorite, and it was no easy task. We’ve all written multiple novels and have been a part of many characters’ lives. But there are always standouts, those characters you come to love above all others. Here are ours.

SaharThe Two Men in My Make-Believe Life
Sahar Abdulaziz

I’ve written quite a few male characters to date. Some have been devious, sneaky… sociopathic… evil, and, well, frankly, off-the-wall-nuts. On the other hand, I have also written brave, loving, considerate, loyal, charming male characters that can make one’s heart throb and soul ache. However, if I’m being totally honest, my most favorite male characters of all time have got to be Melvin Vine, from my book, The Gatekeeper’s Notebook [2019 release] and Irwin Abernathy from my novel, Unlikely Friends, [Feb/2019 release]. In-love doesn’t nearly come close to describing how I feel about these two.

Melvin is a man on the spectrum whose artistic talent is beyond genius. He is awe-inspiring, kind, a steadfast and loyal friend with a heart that knows no evil. Despite the curveball’s life has thrown him and the cruel people he’s had to endure, he’s never stopped being the compassionate and insightful man more people need to become.

And then there’s Irwin Abernathy, my grouchy, cranky librarian who would rather be knee-deep in a good book than surrounded by people… any people. No peopling. Irwin is what I would describe as a social introvert. A curmudgeon. He finds humans an unnecessary distraction. However, here’s the thing about Irwin than I find so appealing. He’s authentic. A man of his word. What you see is what you get. He doesn’t superimpose judgment, but when faced with hardship, he stands true and loyal, refusing to back down. He’s the guy who will move mountains to do the right thing [albeit grumbling under his breath the entire time].

Despite Irwin’s grumpy demeanor, and Melvin’s over-trusting persona, they are the kind of friends that everyone needs, but not many deserve.

About Sahar

Author of The Broken Half, As One Door Closes, Secrets That Find Us, But You LOOK Just Fine, Tight Rope, Expendable, as well as the upcoming novel, Unlikely Friends, Abdulaziz again demonstrates that those who have suffered abuse are not victims, but survivors.

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BelindaThe Leading Man in The King’s Jewel Series
Belinda M Gordon

The King’s Jewel Series is full of interesting male characters, both human and fae. But to select one to tell his story makes for an obvious choice. Of course, I’m talking about the saga’s leading man, Alexander Mannus.

Alexander (Xander) has been through a lot in his life.

His mother disappeared when he was 7 years old leaving him and his brokenhearted father with nothing but unanswered questions. In her absence, Alexander obsessed over the unusual gemstone she had left behind. Studying geology became his passion.

Alexander became an officer in the US Marines, respected by his men for his fierce might-for-right attitude and his odd sixth sense. An IED abruptly put an end to his military career and left his right arm and hand nearly useless.

While recuperating at Walter Reed Medical Center, Alexander married. A year later his young wife died in a car accident, leaving him to raise his infant daughter, Sophia, alone. He became slow to trust and protective of his loved ones—ever fearful of losing them.

He spent years wandering the globe with his daughter and his best friend mining gemstones, yet he never found any that matched his mother’s. Until one day he received a letter from an elderly woman in the Pocono Mountains….

And here Tressa’s Treasures begins.

About Belinda

Belinda M Gordon was born and raised in Pennsylvania and currently lives in the Pocono Mountains wonderfully supportive husband and a crazy dog named Max. She is of Irish heritage, which is how she became interested in Celtic Mythology. She used the Celtic Mythology, specifically of Ireland, as the starting point of her Romance/Fantasy series, The King’s Jewel.

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KellyBecoming
Kelly Jensen

Most of my leads are male, so choosing just one to highlight has been a challenge. I’ve enjoyed writing all of my guys, from creating their backstory to watching them grow on the page. Learning from them as they face challenges, crying as their hearts break, sighing with deep contentment as they find a happy ever after—with a partner, but also with themselves.

In the end, I decided to write about Max from Block and Strike. Max is one of my youngest leads at only twenty-two, but his growth on the page far outstrips anyone else I’ve written. I think I fell in love with Max when, during a critical scene in the book, he didn’t react the way I’d expected him to. Instead of running from a certain conflict (as outlined), he turned around and stood his ground.

As a writer, this was a pretty pivotal moment. I hadn’t had a character do this before. Max’s love interest, Jake, had proved a little ornery, but was mostly following my outline (except for nixing my entire first chapter and telling me where I should start the book). But Max had been following the program, and it was about then that it clicked for me that I was writing something more than a simple romance—I was writing the story of Max’s becoming. Over the course of the novel, he would grow and change into the man he wanted to be and it was kind of beautiful. So I let him stand his ground in that scene. I watched with pride as he conquered the rest of the story, not only allowing himself to trust and fall in love, but to become strong and self-reliant.

From Max I learned that all of my characters have lives of their own and that if I listen to them, they’ll tell me their stories. All I have to do is write them. Since then, I’ve fallen in love with every character I write, because I always remember how Max taught me to craft a better novel.

About Kelly

Kelly is the author of eleven novels–including the Chaos Station series, co-written with Jenn Burke–and several novellas and short stories. Some of what she writes is speculative in nature, but mostly it’s just about a guy losing his socks and/or burning dinner. Because life isn’t all conquering aliens and mountain peaks. Sometimes finding a happy ever after is all the adventure we need.

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SusanMy Favorite Male Characters
Susan Moore Jordan

This was really a no-brainer: my favorite male characters are Andrew and Jacob Cameron, brothers I followed through two books, Memories of Jake and Man with No Yesterdays. The books cover a period of many years, from 1954 to 1992. From a traumatic childhood experience to high school and college, and then into the Vietnam War and its aftermath. One or both of them experienced every phase of the Vietnam War, from the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution to the fall of Saigon. And beyond the war, Andrew visited the Wall. Jake spent time with Vietnam vets who couldn’t get their minds back into being home.

Yet throughout all this, they strove to find a way to lead happy and productive lives. The love between them was stronger than time and space, and until they were together, the walls between them obliterated, that happiness couldn’t be complete. Andrew and Jake took me on a difficult, sometimes painful, often uplifting journey. The art and music in their lives became a lifeline for each of them in different ways. Jake, the adventurer, followed a path that became a physical odyssey as well as an emotional one, and his new-found love of music eventually brought him happiness. Andrew, the homebody, used his talent as a gifted painter to conquer the trauma of his war experience and to connect more completely with the people he loved most.

Andrew and Jake Cameron. Each of them walked through fire and emerged renewed.

About Susan

Jordan attended the College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati and moved to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania in 1971 with her late husband and three young children, where she established a private voice studio and directed local community and high school musical theater productions. Since 2013 she has been writing novels combing her experiences of tragedy to triumph and her love of music, including “companion” novels, Memories of Jake and Man with No Yesterdays, released in March and November of 2017.

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Flash Fiction: The Lost Ones

I really enjoy writing short fiction. It’s a great way to slip into another gear, which can help with plotting elsewhere, or sometimes it’s just fun to write something completely new. I also enjoy the challenge of fitting enough story into a short piece to either make sense or cause someone to think beyond and maybe finish the tale in their own minds.

Writing for Lex Chase’s blog is extra fun because she chooses the prompts. Participants get sent three and this round—as with last round—I ended up picking the prompt I initially had little reaction to. Last time, I wrote about Anton, a farmer on a distant planet who finds the body of an old…friend…buried in the fields behind his farm. I stuck fairly close to the prompt, which was a farmer finding a mass grave in his fields. Seriously, Lex, where do you get these ideas?

This time, I chose the following prompt:

A vagrant approaches a well-heeled man exiting a trendy coffee shop with a five-dollar latte and a fat-free muffin.

My vagrant is a breeze and I’m pretty sure the muffin wasn’t fat-free. But as with all short shorts, the story I wrote could be part of a larger tale. Maybe one day I’ll pick it up again and write the next chapter.

You can read “The Lost Ones” here, on Lex Chase’s blog. While you’re there, check out the other stories she has posted. There are a lot of good ones!

You can read my previous effort, “Love and Other Constructs” here.

I have a collection of shorter shorts, some weird, some sexy, on a tumblr. Link is at the bottom of my Free Reads page. Finally, if you like reading and writing Flash Fiction, check out the Monday Flash Fics Group on Facebook. Sadly, I’ve written nothing for them yet. I’ve copied several of the pictures and started one story, but Sunday is NOT a writing day for me. I really need to start one earlier in the week. 😀

 

Review: Stormbringer by Alis Franklin

Stormbringer: Book 2 of the WyrdThe good news is that the first chapter of Stormbringer: Book 2 of the Wyrd confirms all my suspicions regarding the last chapter or so of Liesmith: Book 1 of The Wyrd, the first book of Alis Franklin’s Urban Fantasy series ‘The Wyrd’. I can’t spill any further details here, though, as that would spoil the fun.

When you read a lot of fantasy or speculative fiction in general, you quickly come to the conclusion that dead doesn’t really mean dead. Even when there’s a body. Even when limbs have been flung to far corners of the word and the head has been squashed like a grape. There is always a Horcrux or some idiot on a mad quest to collect the limbs. That’s the beauty of stories.

The Wyrd is ruled by ‘the story’. Therefore Ragnarok can’t really mean the end of the world because stories don’t end, they simply reach conclusions which can be altered by whatever happens next. But every story has recurring themes and Ragnarok is a beauty. I mean, what’s more compelling than an apocalypse? So when Lain (aka Loki, etc.) returns to Asgard to say ‘Hey’, it’s hardly surprising that his presence is just the kick off the end of times game needs to start rolling all over again. This is the bad news.

In Asgard, Lain’s welcoming committee is made up of Thor’s kids, humorously referred to throughout the book as the Thunderbrats and the Brat Pack. Despite the fact Thor was apparently an amazing husband and father, his kids are jerks. Except for his daughter. She’s actually pretty sweet, which is why she’s being married off to the dwarves in exchange for a set of magic gloves and belt which are needed to wield Thor’s hammer. Only Lain knows where the hammer is hidden. Consequently, he is captured, chained and tortured by Thor’s brats until he agrees to help them gather up their birthright.

Meanwhile, Sigmund is back in Australia settling into his new home, the apartment he’s sharing with Lain. His first visitor is Hel, who is sort of Lain’s daughter. I say ‘sort of’, because Lain is a lot of people and he’s related to a lot of people. She has a favour to ask and in doing so reveals the fact Lain has yet another wife and son causing trouble in Asgard. Hence, Sigmund finds himself inducted into his own quest, best friends and former Valkyries, Em and Wayne at his side.

While I really enjoyed Liesmith, I loved Stormbringer. I was already prepared for Franklin’s quirky style – which really suits the characters she writes – but also felt she’d toned it down a little. This book is easier to read and the story is much more linear. If Liesmith represents a bit of a learning curve, Stormbringer works with what you know.

What doesn’t change is the inventive blend of myth and reality, Lain’s awesome Loki-ness and Sigmund’s adorable cluelessness. He’s no warrior, but he loves Lain with a ferocity that gives him courage. Also, he’s a gamer, so he’s got the strategy part of every fight down and he has great friends he can rely on. The novel is peppered with extra stories that are relevant to Loki’s past and they’re fascinating. Cultural references abound, some of which will resonate more strongly with an Australian audience. There is also plenty of action and more than a few sweet moments, with one in particular having me all sniffly. I really do love books that touch all points of the emotional spectrum. Finally, the story has a great conclusion that wraps up this episode nicely without precluding further adventures. After all, dead isn’t really dead and even Ragnarok isn’t really the end of the world.

I’m looking forward to whatever is next, whenever Alis Franklin gets around to writing it.

Written for SFCrowsnest.

Reading Challenge Update (January)

I’ve started out strongly, reading two of the books from my 2015 TBR Pile Challenge list. I also linked several reviews to the 2015 Sci-Fi Experience. In fact, I read twenty-six books over all. Most of them fell into some sort of romance category, but I also read a lot of historicals.

Generally, I follow my whims when it comes to picking up the next book and I rarely read the same genre one right after the other. I often don’t pick up a sequel for months. In January I made three exceptions. I read Riptide’s Bluewater Bay series back to back, Joanna Chambers’ Enlightenment series one after the other, and six historical titles. Blame Bernard Cornwell. The Archer’s Tale put me in the mood!

On to the reviews. For the 2015 TBR Pile Challenge, I read:

The Archer's Tale (The Grail Quest, #1)The Archer’s Tale by Bernard Cornwell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Honestly, I can’t imagine giving a Bernard Cornwell novel any less than five stars. I always get so caught up in his stories and characters. The way he writes the battlefield is mesmerising. Add to that the thread of his own story, the characters who live and breath as if they’re a part of history, itself, and these are the sort of books I cannot put down. This is how we should teach kids history.

Previously, I’ve read Agincourt, which I could not put down. The book consumed my weekend, much as The Archer’s Tale did. Both feature an unassuming hero who is so far from perfect, it’s a wonder they survive until the end. Both detail real battles–and when I say detail, I mean every, gory and gruesome shred. That’s what makes such good reading, though. You feel as if you’re witnessing history as it happens, that you are truly a part of the story. It’s amazing. And even if you know the outcome of a particular battle, the retelling is just as thrilling. Bernard Cornwell makes it so.

Hounded (The Iron Druid Chronicles, #1)Hounded by Kevin Hearne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was a lot of fun. I giggled several times. The plot isn’t complicated, which is just as well as there is so much else going on. A lot of lore to catch up on and many connections to keep straight. But Atticus is an endearing and patient guide to his world. Loved Oberon and his (present) obsession with Genghis Khan.

I’m not sure I’d read on right away as Urban Fantasy is not one of my favoured genres. I tend to get lost in the mythology of such endeavours, particularly when the author cross pollinates. But I’d heard good things about this one and had decided it needed to be read.

 

What’s up next? Currently, I’m reading Spherical Harmonic by Catherine Asaro. So far, it’s as good as I expected it to be. At some point, I’m going to catch up to the second half of the Saga of the Skolian Empire and bump into the books I’ve already read. Then I will be sad. Then I might write a fan letter to Ms. Asaro asking for more.

A note on Spherical Harmonic for fellow blogger, Carl V. Anderson, the cover art looked familiar, stylistically. I checked inside and discovered that it was, indeed, painted by John Harris. It’s a fantastic image, and I might not have recognized the artist if not for his repeated praise of Harris’ work.

For the 2015 Sci-Fi Experience, I logged five reviews:

Undercity by Catherine Asaro

The Fortress in Orion by Mike Resnick

The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord

Golden Son by Pierce Brown

Gemini Cell by Myke Cole

It’s been a busy month!

Next up for my science fiction reading, I plan to participate in The Definitive 1950s SF Reading Challenge hosted by Worlds Without End. I haven’t picked my books yet. I’ll save that for another post.

Until then, happy reading!

 

Review: This Is Your Destiny

This Is Your Destiny (A Curse Keepers Secret, #3)

The Curse Keepers series explores legends surrounding the disappearance of the lost colony of Roanoke. The original Virginian colony disappeared in the late sixteenth century with no trace. There is still no conclusive evidence as to what happened to the colonists.

Author Denise Grover Swank proposes the colony was caught in a battle between this world and the spirit world, ending up trapped behind a curse used to banish the spirits of a vengeful Native American tribe. Descendants of the two men who raised the wall are charged with the duty to protect the curse. They are its guardians, and they are taught that if they ever meet, the curse will break, unleashing the Native American spirits to seek their revenge. This duty is passed from father to eldest son at death. It can pass to a second son upon the death of the first. Death is the only way to discharge the duty. Very occasionally it passes to a daughter.

Fast forward to the present day setting of Dare County, North Carolina. Collin Dailey has been raised to believe that the curse will be broken in his lifetime. His grandmother says so and until he disappears, Collin’s father believes he will be the one to do it. The lessons handed down through the generations have suffered the warp and weft of retelling, however, and Collin has doubts regarding the origins of the curse and his role as guardian. Despite being raised to regard her duty with solemnity, Ellie Lancaster has always believed the legend is nothing but a fairy tale. The circumstances of her first meeting with Collin might prove that some or all of it is true, however.

Ms. Swank has written three prequels to her ‘Curse Keepers’ series, subtitled ‘A Curse Keeper’s Secret’. This Is Your Destiny is Collin’s story and what happened before he meets Ellie for the first time. Though I have not read any of the series, I was immediately enticed by the first two sentences of the blurb for this novella:

Collin Dailey is a trapped man: struggling to make a living as a fisherman, deep in debt to the gangster he does business with…and shackled to his destiny as a Curse Keeper. Sworn to guard the sealed portal to hell, Collin yearns to escape the dark duty that binds him.

A fisherman in debt to a gangster and shackled with the duty to protect the portal to hell? Sign me up.

This Is Your Destiny is a short, face paced read, about seventy pages or so. By the time I turned the last page, I had a clear understanding of the origin of the curse, Collin’s duty and his ambivalence toward it. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of his connection to the water and the curse that keeps him bound to the land. His relationship with his father is briefly explored, as is the one with his brother. By the time Collin caught up with Ellie, I was invested in the series and already looking for the first actual novel. That Collin found Ellie attractive in a sparks fly kinda way only had me searching a little faster. Recommended for fans of Urban Fantasy and romance with a paranormal twist.

Written for SFCrowsnest.