Thursday, March 31, 2011

Championship Round

I am totally blown away.

MALCOLM REYNOLDS LOST!!!!!!!!!??????????

Never saw that one coming.


Wait for it...

You sitting down?

Dean and Raylan TIED! And they beat Harry Potter!

So we have three entries in the final round. And since this is my blog and I'm doing all this work, I have a case to make. *VBG* Sure, Booth is appealing. And I get that Raylan is the flavor of the month. He's all new and stuff, and that blush of first love is upon us.

But think about this. Which hero has taken on the biggest burden? Which has made the greatest personal sacrifices? Who is determined to save the world, and has died trying? More than once?

Now, have at it. Poll closes at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, and I'll post the winner sometime Saturday, depending on my family schedule. Have fun! :)

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

NOW it Gets Difficult

Raylan pulled through by only ONE vote!

Harry only won by three!

Mal kicked ass, of course.

But Dean and Seeley TIED.


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Creepiest Supernatural Monsters Evah

Supernatural Sisters has Lisa Paitz Spindler as a guest today, and she's talking about the creepiest SPN monsters ever. Go check it out! (And don't forget to vote in round three below!)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hero Showdown Round 3, and Oh Noes!

Ohhhhhh, yes. It's Nathan Fillion against himself. Mal against Rick. New hotness against old...hotness. (You can decide which is which!).

Same deets as before, but I'm going an hour later tomorrow night for voting. Spread the word!

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Hero Showdown Round 2!

This was TRICKY, y'all! Some very surprising results (at least to me). I'm so sad about the guys I lost, but it's very interesting how 5 of MJ's heroes and 5 of mine both fell off.

So here we go with round two! It gets way more difficult, let me tell you! But I did some finagling so Nathan doesn't have to run against himself. Yet. :) David no longer has to worry about that, alas.

Same deal as yesterday. Vote in each pair, scroll down to get all 7 questions, click "done." Some of you already discovered you're allowed to skip a choice, and you can vote more than once. Astute voters will notice we're missing someone. There was an odd number this round, so I held back Harry Potter, since he's such a juggernaut. :)

Don't forget, you can use the "share" buttons at the bottom of the post to spread the word. Voting closes at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time tomorrow (Tuesday). Thanks!

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It's Release Day!

First, before you do anything, please read Monica's post at The Gab Wagon about Fatin's tragedy and how you can help her family. It's easy and there's something in it for you!

Now, on to superficialities. Like the fact that Fight or Flight is finally here!

You can get it from Carina Press, via Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and wherever e-books are sold. It's also available in audiobook! You can find other links on my book page here.

I've been interviewed by Ava Quinn at her blog, Tongue in Cheek, and that should be up today. Ava asks fun questions that inspire crazy answers. :) Check it out!

AND, don't forget, you should vote in The Month of the Hero poll, below. All the heroes pictured below are up against each other. At 7:00 p.m. Eastern, half will fall. Make sure it's not one of your favorites!

Note: As of this writing, Raylan of Justified and Michael of Nikita were tied! NO idea what I'll do if it ends that way, so please vote! :)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Month of the Hero Showdown, Day 1!

Okay, here we go!

The first 10 questions (first survey) are the heroes MJ and I talked about in our postings all month. The last five questions (second survey) are the heroes YOU mentioned in the comments.

Your job is simple. Pick one guy from each pairing and click "Done" at the end. Please note that both polls scroll separately, and you have to click "Done" twice.

The polls will remain open until 7:00 p.m. Eastern time tomorrow (Monday, 3/28). Then I'll post round 2, pitting the survivors of round 1 against each other!

Have fun, and spread the word! You can click the Twitter, Facebook, and blog buttons at the bottom of the post to share. Thanks!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hero Showdown!

The showdown will begin Monday! Though I'll probably post the first poll tomorrow. We start with 30 heroes (including Ted Beaudine, not pictured), and will ruthlessly cull them until we get to one...THE ULTIMATE HERO*!

And don't worry, I'm doing a simple poll, no fussing with brackets. Between the NCAA and DABWAHA, I'm so traumatized I shall run screaming from the very image.

Stay tuned!

*Out of these 30, not to imply that he would be ultimate of all possible fictional heroes ever.

Week 4 Winner!

MJ drew the winner today, and it's Ava Quinn, who commented on my Auggie post! Yay, finally a winner who commented over here! LOL

Tomorrow I'll get the first poll up for our hero showdown. Stay tuned!


Friday, March 25, 2011

Real-Life Heroes

I originally said I was going to write this post, but I wasn't sure I could do it justice. I wrote all my other posts a month ahead of time, but couldn't quite wrap my head around this one. I almost considered writing about another fictional hero, instead. Then two things happened.

Last week, a house very close to mine caught fire. It was the first time I've ever seen real-life firefighters and EMTs at work, the first time a tragedy like this has happened in front of me. The house was fully engulfed before they arrived, and I don't think the person who made it out ever had a chance. So there was no dashing-through-the-flames and triumphant rescue.

But that didn't change the fact that those 30+ firefighters are heroes. They were mostly volunteer, and came with the expectation of putting their lives on the line. All our traits—responsibility, dedication to doing the right thing, leadership, and courage, were on display at that site.

The other event, of course, was the disaster in Japan. Hundreds of stories of heroes come out of a situation like that, but the biggest one is the nuclear reactor. What a horrifying situation. My heart aches for those employees who are willing to give up their lives to make the world a safer place for their families and loved ones, and for all of THEIR families and loved ones, and so on. Their courage is boundless, and I have no doubt that somewhere in there is an incredible leader.

We like to talk about fictional heroes because we can get "close" to them. The medium (film or page) gives us insight into their personalities, their goals and motivations, and gives us room to fantasize about living in their worlds. Real-life heroes are different. Some of them aren't the kinds of people we'd want to spend any time with, while others become heroes with such quiet strength most of us aren't even aware of them. But in The Month of the Hero, they deserve the spot at the top.

MJ and I thank everyone who read our posts this month, and extra thanks go to those who commented. Come back next week to vote in the showdown, pitting all our heroes against each other! We'll have daily polls until we get to a winner.

We'll announce our fourth and final $25 gift card winner this weekend, so be sure to check back.

And don't forget to purchase Fight or Flight on Monday, from Carina Press, Amazon orBarnes & Noble, or wherever e-books are sold. It's also available in audiobook!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Jake from Avatar

For our final post on fictional heroes, MJ talks about hunky Jake Sully from the movie Avatar. It's almost your last chance to win a $25 gift certificate!

I want to talk a little bit about Road Signs, MJ's newest release from Carina Press. I had a chance to read it and planned to talk about it during The Month of the Hero, but all the posts were so structured, I didn't really get a chance to fit it in. Which would have been convenient if I hadn't liked it. :) But I did! So here's a quick review:

Cam and Willow have been friends for a long time, so when she calls him for help, he risks losing a personal dream to be by her side. I love friends-to-lovers stories, but it can be really tricky to avoid having one of the characters appear selfish or clueless, or have one subvert their own needs in a way that makes them look weak instead of heroic. MJ strikes that balance perfectly. I loved watching Willow slowly realize what's between them, and overcome her fears to embrace what they can have. The conflict of Cam's job situation created high tension long past the point where you'd expect it to be resolved.

And, of course, Supernatural fans will have fun picking out all the very subtle homages to the show. :) Go get it now! :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Blind Hero: Auggie from Covert Affairs

I’m a fan of several of the shows on the USA Network. At the top is Covert Affairs. I like Annie, and her romantic entanglement and family complications, and her bosses and their romantic entanglement and family complications. But the character who makes me love the show is Auggie.

Auggie embodies both physical and emotional courage. (Most of the time—more on that later). He was blinded on the job, and now serves as the technical expert in Annie’s division. He’s a former soldier, whip smart, sweet and welcoming—a good friend to Annie in a world where friends are hard to identify. But he’s also much more.

It takes a lot of courage to keep working in a world that incapacitated you, sitting a desk when you want to be in the field, being reminded every day of what was done to you. What you’ve lost.

It takes courage to put yourself out in the field despite both your handicap and the rules you’re required to work under. More courage to be responsible for the safety of your old team when you can’t see, and can’t be there to help them directly.

Auggie has the typical courage of an agent, going undercover as a reporter’s lover to try to determine who her informant is. But that’s where his courage ends. He uses his charm and his talents and his blindness to live a playboy’s life, one-night stands and superficial relationships a shield against true emotional connection. Or so it seems.

We learned late in the season that he guards himself because he still loves a woman from his past. He’s willing to throw away everything to protect her. That kind of courage is catnip for women who go for guys like Auggie. (Except I’d like him to wind up with Annie eventually, though there’s no hint of that possibility so far.)

Auggie’s a pretty rare character, an adventure-hound super-spy with a severe handicap. Who else is out there like Auggie? (I may have to comment on this post myself, as I can think of another one with an even less common handicap. I think MJ might jump in and name him, though… :) ) Remember, commenters can win a $25 gift certificate to the bookstore of their choice.

Check out Fight or Flight, my March release from Carina Press. Also available as an audiobook!
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Courage of Harry Potter

Today, MJ gets to talk about one of MY favorite heroes, Harry Potter! Go over to help us dissect all the ways he showed why he belongs in Gryffindor. I say "help us" because I don't think I'll stop myself from filling up the comments with my own thoughts. LOL

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Monday, March 21, 2011

The Courage of Kurt on Glee

Everyone knows courage is not the absence of fear, but acting despite fear. It can manifest in physical or emotional ways. Physical courage inspires swooning, but what we really long to witness is emotional courage.

One of the most courageous characters being portrayed today is Kurt on Glee. When the show first started, he was a point of amusement. Resigned to being bullied and tossed in a dumpster every morning, but asking his tormentors to wait while he takes off his designer sweater.

By itself, Kurt’s unconcealed homosexuality is brave. Kurt knows who he is and refuses to hide it, though it would make his life a lot easier. As season one went on, we got to see a little better how hard it really was. Slushies, crushes, and, yes, a desire to belong that led him to the football team.

Kurt came out to his father at a younger age than many kids do. His father is fantastic, but far from perfect, and his inability to understand his son made the decision terrifying. Kurt also let his feelings for Finn show, which was completely disastrous, but still courageous. Like anyone, he wants to be loved.

Dad. I have something that I want to say. I'm glad that you're proud of me. But I don't want to lie anymore. Being a part of the Glee Club and football has really shown me that I can be anything, and what I am, is, I'm gay.

In season 2, the bullying reached terrifying levels. Kurt’s first kiss was abusive, his attempts to reach out to his abuser, to help him, running into a stone wall. Some might say Kurt’s decision to change schools was not courageous, but I think it was. Despite the fear he lived with, Kurt had friends, a group he fit in with. He had to start all over at the new school, and their zero tolerance policy and apparent acceptance of homosexuality among the non-homosexual students doesn’t make him automatically a part of things. This was apparent when he wasn’t immediately embraced by the glee club.

I originally wrote this post several weeks ago, and said, “Romantic heroes don’t have to be big burly men. Love is love, and I hope Glee lasts long enough for Kurt to find someone who truly appreciates who he is and what he has to offer.” In an awesome coincidence, last week’s episode gave us just that! Raise your hand if you absolutely loved Kurt and Blaine’s kiss. And the other kiss!

Glee is the only show of its kind that I watch. So tell me: what other characters out there display the kind of emotional courage Kurt does? Do you consider them heroic?

We’re giving away another $25 gift certificate this week, to the bookstore of YOUR choice! So comment anywhere this full post appears to be entered in the drawing.

Check out Fight or Flight, my March release from Carina Press. Also available as an audiobook!
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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Winner #3!

The winner of the $25 in Omni Bucks for All Romance eBooks/OmniLit (or an alternate gift certificate if she so desires), is Jen B.! Jen, please contact me at natalie AT nataliedamschroder DOT com to claim your prize.

Tomorrow starts the final week of our regular posts. We've got four heroes who we feel embody Courage, and I wrap things up at the end with a discussion of these traits in real-life heroes. We'll have another $25 gift certificate prize, too, so please spread the word!

And congratulations, Jen!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Michael Westin from Burn Notice

I'm intrigued to see what MJ has to say about Michael Westin's leadership ability. I only saw half of the first season of Burn Notice, so I have no idea what she's going to say. :)

Comment anywhere her full post appears for a chance to win this week's prize, $25 in Omni Bucks from All Romance eBooks/OmniLit!

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Ultimate Leader: Doctor Who

On the opposite end of the spectrum from reluctant leader Jack Shephard from LOST is the Doctor from Doctor Who.

The Doctor is perhaps the most powerful being in the universe. His intelligence and knowledge are unfathomable. He can travel through time and space, and change both. He and his living spaceship, the TARDIS, are drawn to times and places of need—of disaster and suffering. And always, the Doctor saves (most of) the people.

The great thing about the Doctor is that he embraces his role with delight. He doesn’t resent the burdens placed on him by his heritage and his circumstances. He’s excited by every adventure, every challenge.

Amazingly, he has no superiority complex about his superiority. He makes no bones about being the smartest being in the room, but he’s so matter of fact and fun about it, no one takes offense. He also doesn’t consider himself infallible. He delights as much in an idea from a regular human as he does in his own brilliance. He involves everyone around him—the ones who are capable, anyway, because he doesn’t suffer fools, either—and solves the problem.

There are times, though, that he can’t save everyone. He recognizes it, and laments it, and most of the time accepts it. His is a lonely existence, though, and the burden wears on him. That’s why he seeks companions—to ground him, and help him stay connected to those who need him. To keep him from becoming so jaded and cynical that he stops caring, stops helping.

His never-ending quest to keep the human race from destruction makes us love him. He’s not a romantic hero in the sense that the show contains romance (though that might be changing in the upcoming season). But how can we not want to show him how worthy he is of love? How can we not want to be one of the few humans he connects with personally, part of his very small circle of loved ones?

The Doctor doesn’t seek to lead the universe, but he easily could. He’s a complex, very appealing man, and the series makes sure we never outgrow him—or vice versa—by regenerating him every few years. It remains to be seen how much longer they can come up with fantastical situations (I’m really tired of the Daleks, myself) in which he can save people, but the character himself will live—and lead—forever.

Give me your thoughts on The Doctor! Commenters anywhere this full post appears have a chance to win this week's prize, $25 in Omni Bucks from All Romance eBooks/OmniLit!

Check out Fight or Flight, my March release from Carina Press. Also available as an audiobook!
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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights

I've had this series in my Netflix queue forever. I really need to get to watching it! Especially because MJ talks about Coach Taylor in today's The Month of the Hero blog post.

Comment anywhere her full post appears for a chance to win this week's prize, $25 in Omni Bucks from All Romance eBooks/OmniLit!

And don't forget to read the below guest post about writing books in a series, by contemporary romance author Keri Ford!

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Series! with Keri Ford

I love them. I really do. Family sagas, BFFs finding their way, military groups, different heroes and heroines per book, or a series of books featuring the same hero and heroine.

Some of my favorite series are Gaelen Foley’s Knights, Johanna Lindsey’s Malorys, Cindy Gerard’s…well ALL of those hot hunky military and special ops guys, and Nora Robert’s Bride Quartets, just to name a few.

So it was no surprise that when I start write writing ANY book, I think in terms of series. Always in the back of my mind I start partnering up secondary characters, deciding what to reveal about their personalities and so forth.

A LOST Hero: Jack Shephard

This week’s heroic trait is leadership. There is something very powerful about a take-charge man, someone who has the ability to step up and direct people, especially in a stressful situation.

There are people who strive to be leaders, and they do well running businesses and, taken to an extreme, lording their superiority over the world. But those kind are not always the right kind of leader in a crisis.

Jack Shephard from LOST is the epitome of the reluctant leader. The guy people naturally look to, who sees solutions where there are problems, but who fears the responsibility for potential failure. It’s no surprise this trauma surgeon (spinal surgeon, but often called upon in trauma) starts yelling for what to do when people are injured in the immediate aftermath of the plane crash. He knows how to triage, and has more experience in the basics of medicine than the others (the other survivors, not The Others). He’s had a cool head in intense situations before, so he doesn’t freeze when panic hits.

Every man for himself is not gonna work. It's time to start organizing. We need to figure out how we're gonna *survive* here. Now I found water... fresh water up in the valley. I'll take a group in at first light. If you don't wanna come, then find another way to contribute! Last week most of us were strangers. But we're all here now, and God knows how long we're gonna be here. But if we can't live together... we're gonna die alone.

It makes sense, then, that people would look to him for leadership. He doesn’t want it. He’s failed before, and he doesn’t want to let people down now. But the survivors push him into that role, and once he accepts it—however temporarily, however reluctantly—it ignites another trait: Jack is a fixer. His past failures have driven him to save everyone he can, and when he can’t, it kills him.

I told her... I made her a promise I couldn't keep... I told her I'd fix her and I couldn't. I failed.

For many of us, the combination is irresistible. A fixer needs a fixer. Someone who can soothe his torment, assure him he did the best he could. Who can support him in action as well as when he’s trying to convince people that his way is the best way.

Kate is drawn to Jack because of that core of goodness, the desire to help people and to choose what’s best. She obviously can’t. Most of the choices she makes are selfish and end in disaster. She wants Jack because if he can want her back, maybe she isn’t as bad as she knows she is.

On the other side is Juliet, a fellow doctor and quieter, but also natural leader. She’s capable of being an equal partner with Jack, using logic and planning to get them out of whatever they’re in. She’s also a calming force, a balm to Jack’s agitated worry.

A character like Jack can become tiresome after six seasons, but he was incredibly appealing as a leader at various points during the show’s run.

Agree? Disagree? What other reluctant leaders float your boat? Commenters anywhere this full post appears have a chance to win this week's prize, $25 in Omni Bucks from All Romance eBooks/OmniLit!
I have a guest blogger tomorrow! Keri Ford will be here to talk about writing series. Stop by!

Check out Fight or Flight, my March release from Carina Press.
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Monday, March 14, 2011

Road Signs Release Day!

Today is the day that MJ Fredrick's fantastic Road Signs is available!

My favorite contemporary romances are friends-to-lovers stories, and this one incorporates some details that made me gleeful. Classic cars. Skeevy hotels. (My fellow Supernatural nuts are nodding and grinning. Am I right? :) ) It also has tons of chest-tightening emotion, and the kind of hero that actually exists in real life. Go check it out!

Also, head over to MJ's blog today. She's launching this week's theme of leadership with a post about Sheriff Rick from AMC's zombie series, The Walking Dead. Comment anywhere her full post appears for a chance to win this week's prize, $25 in Omni Bucks from All Romance eBooks/OmniLit!

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bonus Hero: Teddy Beaudine

After we’d planned out all the posts for this month, I read Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t slide Ted Beaudine into the competition. Doing The Right Thing is what makes Ted heroic, and it’s also his biggest flaw.

I won’t talk about this too much because the book is still newish and I don’t want to spoil anything. But Ted’s a case of taking a positive trait to extremes. He’s so perfect, he admits to imperfection just to make people feel better about their own value. He became mayor because that’s what the townspeople want—even though he didn’t run for the office. Watching him always make the right choice is very annoying for someone like Meg Koranda, who never seems to.

Like I said, I won’t go into more details because I don’t want to ruin the story, but I had to add Teddy to the competition. :) We can discuss his almost knee-jerk do-the-right-thing response to any situation in the comments, so beware of spoilers! And commenters today DO still get entered into the competition (for $25 in Omni Bucks from All Romance eBooks/OmniFic), so post away!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Week 2 Winner

MJ just drew the winner of the Barnes & Noble gift certificate, our prize for this week, and the winner is...

Virginia C! She posted a comment on MJ's eHarlequin blog, about Raylan Jennings. Congratulations, Virginia!

Everyone, come back next week for MORE heroes (the trait of the week is Leadership) and another chance to win!

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Heartbreak of Dean

This week’s trait is really several similar or related traits: loyalty/patriotism/dedication to “doing the right thing.” There’s a subtle difference between these and responsibility. Responsibility is a personal obligation, a sense of duty. Loyalty and patriotism run deeper and fiercer, I think.

Take Dean Winchester of Supernatural. This is a guy raised from the age of 4 on the idea that family is everything. Every choice he makes is based on that core value. He doggedly follows his father’s every order, dedicates himself to his father’s predication that the world needs them to hunt evil and protect everyone from monsters like the one that killed Dean’s mother.

Dean takes this belief to extremes. When his brother dies, and Dean failed to protect him like he promised his father he would, when his life’s meaning has been taken away, he trades his life for Sam’s. When the apocalypse starts, he takes the fate of the entire human race onto his shoulders. Not just because he’s told it rests there, but because that’s who he is.

I guess that's what I do, I let down the people I love. I let dad down. And now, I guess I'm supposed to let you down, too. How can I? How am I supposed to live with that? What am I supposed to do, Sammy? ... What am I supposed to do?

One of the most poignant moments in the show is in the episode “Sam, Interrupted,” when Dean’s doctor in the psych ward asks how he can get up in the morning with that weight on him. He just does. And that’s why we love him so much.

Dean’s sense of self-worth has been twisted by this extreme loyalty. Family and all the people who will die if they don’t save them have become so important, Dean’s own worth has been diminished. He’s become secondary to everyone else, in his own eyes. This makes us want to show him how loved he is, how lovable. A hero who doesn’t take anything for himself? Who eschews relationships that could enrich his life because he doesn’t want to hurt the other person, something he considers inevitable? That loneliness is emotional crack to us. We love him, unconditionally and undemandingly. That’s the kind of love that heals, right?

I’m sure I’m not the only woman who has fantasized about being Dean’s support, the one who holds him up when his weight gets too heavy, who soothes and comforts. Who’s with me? :)

Can you think of other heroes, fictional or not, who are driven by loyalty? Every commenter goes into a random drawing for a $25 gift card to B&N. Even better (or more fun, anyway), all of the heroes you mention will be added to the showdown at the end of the month. (I confess, I’m rooting for Dean to win!)
Check out Fight or Flight, my March release from Carina Press.
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Thursday, March 10, 2011

He's Always Justified

Today MJ's post focuses on a hero who's been buzzing through Twitter and Facebook and burning up the message boards. Raylan from Justified!

Don't forget, if you comment, you'll be entered in this week's drawing for a $25 Barnes & Noble gift certificate! Comments will be accepted anywhere the full blog post appears.

Check out Road Signs MJ's March release from Carina Press.
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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

When Wrong Can be Right

Doing the right thing is never as difficult as it is for Michael in Nikita. Maybe doing it isn’t so much the issue as figuring out what “right” is.

Division is a complex organization that takes young men and women who are facing the end, and molds them into agents. “The end” usually means jail, or death row, or the loss of everything that means anything to them—usually a combination of career and family. Division gives them a second chance. They’ll train to go into covert service for their country. Except that service includes assassination and other dark deeds. They’re told those deeds protect America, save lives, and get rid of bad people. But that’s not always true.

Michael is second-in-command at Division. He has a loyalty to his boss, Percy, and to the organization that saved him. He has had a deep-seated belief in the work they do, one that was shaken when Nikita went rogue and started exposing Percy’s personal agenda and all the collateral damage and innocent victims of that agenda.

Michael’s stuck, because he cares. Not just about Percy and Division, but about the agents and recruits. He tries to protect them from the Machiavellian techniques of Percy and Amanda, the “wardrobe” lady who has some pretty scary psychological applications.

Some agents spark his protective emotions more than others. He fell for Nikita long ago, and his feelings have kept him from killing her or bringing her in to Division, though her interference in his revenge for his family’s deaths complicates things. He also seems a little more protective of Alex than of the typical recruit, and is almost big-brotherly toward her.

Michael is tied to Division because he is a somewhat mitigating force. Nothing can keep Percy in check, but Michael can decrease the collateral damage. He can help Nikita, keep her alive as long as he’s inside. Which means he must constantly choose between doing what is partly right and partly wrong.

It makes for a very appealing hero, at least to me. :) What do you think? Nikita doesn’t have a huge following, so you might not watch. But what other heroes are in similar situations? Every commenter goes into a random drawing for a $25 gift card to B&N, and all of the heroes you mention will be added to the showdown at the end of the month.

Check out Fight or Flight, my March release from Carina Press.
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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Men Who Stick

MJ's post today talks about how Stan stuck it out despite two pretty major obstacles in The Back-Up Plan. Last week we had Scott Caan, this week Alex O'Loughlin! :)

Don't forget, if you comment, you'll be entered in this week's drawing for a $25 Barnes & Noble gift certificate! Comments will be accepted anywhere the full blog post appears (eHarlequin, Facebook, or Goodreads).

Check out Road Signs MJ's March release from Carina Press.
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Monday, March 07, 2011

Harry's Best Mate

This week’s trait is loyalty, and to me, one of the most loyal characters in literature is Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter series.

Of course, Ron isn’t a “romance” hero in the classic sense. It’s not until Deathly Hallows that he gets enough of a clue (read: emotional maturity) to be worthy of Hermione. But the trait that tells us from the beginning that he’s heroic is his loyalty.

You could say I've got a lot to live up to. Bill and Charlie have already left—Bill was head boy and Charlie was captain of Quidditch. Now Percy's a prefect. Fred and George mess around a lot, but they still get really good marks and everyone thinks they're really funny. Everyone expects me to do as well as the others, but if I do, it's no big deal, because they did it first.

First, is loyalty to his family. As the youngest son and second-youngest child of seven, he’s got a lot to gripe about. But let anyone else ever say a negative thing against any of his siblings or his parents, and Ron’s ready to make them eat slugs. Literally! :)

In Sorceror’s Stone, during the final series of obstacles, Ron takes over a living chess match and sacrifices himself so Harry can go on and Hermione will be safe. He’s injured in the doing, but never wavers from the course he knows he has to take.

In Chamber of Secrets, he doesn’t hesitate to descend deep below the school to save his sister, even knowing how deadly a creature awaits them. For countless adventures, he’s along for the ride with Harry, even when he thinks Harry’s opinions are daft.

Ron’s loyalty gets tested twice in the series. First in Goblet of Fire, when he thinks Harry lied to him about entering the Tri-Wizard Tournament. It’s not a simple cause-and-effect, though. Hermione points out to Harry that he’s always the center of attention, and Ron gets very little, especially in combination with his brothers, who always overshadow Ron in one way or another. Ron’s feelings of resentment and low self-worth come to a head when it looks like Harry just left him behind. He holds on to his anger until Harry undergoes the first task, and by that point, it can’t hold up under reality. Plus, he misses Harry, and just needs something to trigger an acceptable change in his attitude.

Ron never doubts when Harry says Voldemort is back. In Order of the Phoenix, when Harry’s pain and frustration and fear manifest in anger, making him lash out even at his closest friends, Ron stands by his side. He believes Voldemort’s “kidnapping” of Sirius is a trick, but still follows Harry into battle.

The second, much bigger test comes in Deathly Hallows, when the horcrux feeds Ron’s doubts and fears enough to make him leave. Once outside of its influence, he immediately changes his mind, but it’s too late. He can’t come back until Hermione is ready for him to, and the deluminator leads him to the right place. He doesn’t hesitate to dive into freezing water to save Harry and the sword of Gryffindor, and manages to overcome his weaknesses to destroy the horcrux.

"We wouldn't last two days without her. ... Don't tell her I said that."

That moment is when Ron becomes worthy of Hermione, though she’s pretty tough and makes him suffer a little longer. His loyalty to her is almost as strong as his loyalty to Harry. You could argue that it’s stronger because he’s in love with her. When Bellatrix tortures Hermione about the sword, her screams incite Ron to madness, well beyond what he’d feel if it was Harry in pain. When Ron leaves, it’s Hermione who ignites the light that will bring him back.

Alfonso Cuarón, who directed Prisoner of Azkaban, said in an interview that, narratively speaking, he thought it would fantastic if Ron betrayed Harry. He would have loved to explore the relationships if that happened. As an author, I can understand that interest. But as a reader, I’m really glad Rowling never took it that far, and I never thought it fit Ron’s character. I think Ron epitomizes the trait of loyalty.

What do you think? Is Ron the Loyalty Poster Child? Or are you like Cuarón, interested in a storyline where Ron Goes Bad? Every commenter goes into a random drawing for a $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble. And don’t forget, all of the heroes you mention will be added to the showdown at the end of the month.
Check out Fight or Flight, my March release from Carina Press.
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Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Month of the Hero Winner #1

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in the first week of The Month of the Hero!

Using a completely randomized process, we've selected our first winner. The commenter who gets the $25 Amazon gift certificate is...

Saturday, March 05, 2011


Thanks to everyone who joined us (to read or to comment!) on the first week of The Month of the Hero! I'll be doing the drawing for the $25 Amazon gift certificate tomorrow. Next week we'll be talking about heroes driven by loyalty, patriotism, and the inescapable need to do the right thing.

In the meantime, I've kind of lost track of some recent awesome book releases. I might have tweeted or shared on Facebook, but not here. So let me unremiss my remissness!

First up is Prime Time by Vicky Burkholder. Several years ago, I judged a really taut, awesome opening chapter in a contest. I gave it a high score, and I think it finaled. I signed my name to the judging sheet, so the author contacted me, and lo and behold, I knew her! I was proud when this excellent book sold the first time, and now that Vicky got the rights back, an updated version has been published with Captiva Press.

Next up is another republished book, Passion Model by Megan Hart. An intense, erotic futuristic released this month by Samhain Publishing.

While you're at Samhain, pick up One Thousand Kisses by Jody Wallace. Though this is the second Fey Realm book, it stands alone. I haven't read it yet (it's in my TBR pile!), but I can't stop staring at the cover. Most gorgeous one I've seen in a while! Plus, it has a redeemed "villain," and I love those.

Another "book 2" that just came out is Beyond the Gate, the second book in Sue Gourley's Futhark Chronicles. Demons and sorcerers and a fight to save the world...lots of heart-pounding action in this fantasy.

Friday, March 04, 2011

A Hero After the Romance "Ends"

MJ closes the week talking about a hero who embodies responsibility in a way we can probably identify with a lot more than usual. Go read her post about Adam Braverman from the TV show Parenthood.

Don't forget, if you comment, you'll be entered in this week's drawing for a $25 Amazon gift certificate! Comments will be accepted anywhere the full blog post appears (such as eHarlequin or Facebook, etc.).

Check out MJ's March release from Carina Press.
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Thursday, March 03, 2011

McClane of the Die Hard franchise

There is one character who could be the poster child for heroic responsibility in modern fiction: John McClane from the Die Hard franchise.

We first see McClane as a strong, well-built tough guy who hates flying. We’re instantly drawn to him during his moment of vulnerability, when he curls his bare toes into the rug. Immediately after, all hell breaks loose and the hero comes out.

John’s a cop, and his wife is one of the hostages, and both of those things feed a person’s sense of responsibility. He has the skills, the training, the ability to do something about the situation. But what he does goes well beyond what most cops and spouses would do. His willingness to sacrifice to save everyone gets him back in his wife’s arms.

"Come out to the coast, we'll get together, have a few laughs..." 

Fast forward to Live Free or Die Hard, the most recent DH film. John’s sense of responsibility has become…yes, a flaw. He’s lost his family again. His daughter hates him so much she doesn’t even want his name. This time, she’s the one directly in danger when the bad guys take control. And if there’s anything more dangerous than a man whose wife is threatened, it’s one whose daughter is.

John’s sense of responsibility is embodied in his answer to Matt (Justin Long) when asked why he does what he does. “Because there's nobody else to do it right now, that's why. Believe me, if there were somebody else to do it, I'd let them do it, but there's not. So we're doing it.” That’s what makes him such an appealing hero. He takes responsibility not just for his family, but for the whole country. Never mind that half the government and law enforcement are on the case. McClane doesn’t show disdain for them, or act like he’s superior to them. But he knows they have their hands full, and he doesn’t. Something needs to be done, so he’ll do it. No big deal.

It becomes a really big deal when he blasts a hole through his shoulder to keep the bad guy from killing his daughter, but hey. A guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do.

"Yippee-ki-yay, motherf*****."

The first Die Hard had a romantic component, and his wife is prominent in the first two movies (Bonnie Bedelia wisely stayed away from the third). In the fourth, the writers introduce a fictional anomaly in action movies: realism. The guy who charges in without thought to himself, who makes the world a safer place for his family, loses that family because that’s not what they want from him. He’s not there for his wife on a daily basis, maybe not emotionally accessible. So at the end, he has his daughter back, but not his wife, nor any other love interest.

Clever approach, because it makes John McClane a hero for all of us.

So how many of you love John McClane? Does responsibility drive him, or something else? Don't forget to name some similar heroes for our end-of-the-month showdown, and all comments anywhere this full blog post appears will be entered into a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift certificate!

Check out my March release from Carina Press.
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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Shouldering the World

MJ's post today features Chief Brody from Jaws.

Don't forget, if you comment, you'll be entered in this week's drawing for a $25 Amazon gift certificate! Comments will be accepted anywhere the full blog post appears (such as eHarlequin or Facebook, etc.).

Check out MJ's March release from Carina Press.
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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Book 'Em, Danno

The best heroes in fiction embody more than one heroic trait, but there’s usually one that’s stronger than all the others, that runs core deep in the character. It’s always a strength, but it’s often also a flaw.

I love Danny Williams, aka Danno, on Hawaii Five-0. I love all the characters, but he’s what keeps me coming back each week, and it’s because of his sense of responsibility.

Yeah, okay, all of the members of Five-0 have that trait. Chin’s led him to leave the woman he loved to protect her, and to fight for his work even when those around him betrayed him. Steve’s a Navy SEAL—how much more driven by responsibility can you get? And even Kono takes it very hard when she believes she made a mistake, feeling responsible for letting the kidnapper/beheader go in an episode back in January.

But Danno really embodies the trait. There are millions of single dads out there, far too many of whom fail their kids in one way or another. Not Danny. He left his home in New Jersey for what might as well be another planet for how well he fits in on the island, just to be near his daughter.

And boy, does he love Grace. He didn’t become a cop because of her, but she’s why he’s one now. He wants the world to be safe for her, and he’ll personally ensure that it is. His dedication to doing things by the book (well, at least close to the book) is to provide a framework for order and security.

”His idea of communication is dropping a witty one-liner and shooting you in the face.”

That dedication is the cause of most of the friction between Danny and his partner, Steve. Steve is hot-headed and impulsive. He’ll jump into any situation without regard for his own safety or many regulations—and without regret, too. Danny’s steady and assessing. He’s never afraid to leap into the fray, but he’ll make sure to catalog all the variables first. What I love is that despite all the bickering between them, they have a core of respect and trust that makes them function as a perfect team.

Danny’s responsibility feeds that as much as Steve’s fierce loyalty, and it’s embodied in the shirt and tie he insists on wearing to work, and the Santa suit he insists on wearing for his daughter every Christmas.

And to me, he’s just as hot hugging Grace and bickering with Steve as he is rolling out of a moving vehicle, weapon at the ready.

Danno: Oh! Whoa! Whoa! What the hell are you doing?
McGarrett: Probable cause. We were just doing a thing. I thought...
Danno: I meant we could get a key from the manager, you Neanderthal animal.

So what do you think? Agree about Danno? Disagree? What other heroes embody the trait of responsibility? Anyone you name will be added to the showdown at the end of the month, AND, every commenter (anywhere this full blog post appears) will be entered into a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift certificate!

Check out my March release from Carina Press.
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