Ways to Torment a Heroine Challenge

What happens when a fame whore of an ex drops a famous ballerina on a popular reality T.V. show, breaks her ankle, ruins her career, then blames her average-sized chest for it all?

I love reading stories where characters are put through the ringer, where a laced up heroine ends up face down in the mud, where characters learn about themselves through situations they least expected.

In my debut novel, KNOCK OUT, releasing on December 2nd, Logan Rettino is forced to make a 180 degree career change, hanging up her ballet slippers for an MMA ring card–which takes some getting used to, especially with six-feet-two of oh-so-sexy MMA fighter standing between her and her future plans.

I thought it would be fun to list ten “torment the heroine” challenges I think would be horrible for any character to face, and yet a hilarious to read.


Ten Horrible Circumstances a Heroine Should NEVER Encounter

1. Get Trashed by an Ex – “Oh, no, he didn’t!”  All the juicy details of their relationship abuzz on every social media outlet, where he looks like the injured party and she looks downright ridiculous.

2. Give Up a Career She Loves for One Less “Suitable” – Like poor Logan, who one minute is dancing at the Lincoln Center and is the most beloved contestant on America Gets Its Groove On, and the next minute–viola!—an MMA ring card girl. Really?


Alpha or Beta…How Do You Like Your Hero?

Years ago, when I first started reading romance, every hero was an alpha male, and nearly every heroine was a helpless ingénue. He was usually in his thirties. She was between the ages of 18 and 22. He was rich, successful, and being with him would solve all of her financial worries. She was an innocent, often orphaned or raised by a grandparent, and, if not poor, she worked for a living as a nurse, secretary or teacher. Her one dream in life was to marry a rich man and never have to worry about money again.

File:Young Romance No 54 1954a.JPG

You’d think that was in the 1950’s, but it was actually in the 1970’s. The era of The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family, when everything seemed just a little simplistic.

Making the Laughs LAST

Photo credit: jugbo / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: jugbo / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

My father passed away 8 years ago today, one day before his birthday.  Not so funny.  So why is this post about infusing humor into writing?  A few years later, I started writing the first book in my soon to be released BROTHERS OF AUDUBON SPRINGS series, RETURN TO AUDBUON SPRINGS.  This book was meant to be a sweeping epic family drama exploring grief, forgiveness and rebirth for a family at odds over one summer at their Jersey Shore home.  Before I knew it, the house had been bequeathed to the heroine and her hot carpentry-former lover, a ridiculously steamy battle for ownership between the two followed, enter a secret baby and…holy cow….I’m writing a romantic comedy.  I fought it for months.  NO! I’m writing an epic family drama, but instead, laughter, love and tears flowed onto the page.  Finally I took a step back and realized it all made sense.  Laughter lingers in our hearts and humor will always resonate across time and distance.  My father had a warped sense of humor, more signature catch phrases than you could imagine, along with a penchant for quoting Shakespeare.  Now, eight years later, I find myself using those same catch phrases (“You can’t ever be sure of what you’re going to get” – this was a favorite he used on my husband when it came to me!) and quoting those same lines from Shakespeare.  I do NOT, however, ask my daughter to pull my finger! 

What is a Hero?

I dedicate this post to all the men and women who died serving in the US Armed Forces and who we remember and honor on this Memorial Day, and for those currently in active duty.

Memorial Day flagWhat is a hero? When I was a child, the hero was the handsome prince on the white horse who rescued the princess and carried her off into the sunset. While that vision is great if you’re six, it’s not realistic of the heroes of the twenty-first century, or maybe for any reality outside a Disney movie.

Heroes come in all shapes, sizes, age, race, and sex. Despite their differences, all heroes have an element of honor and a commitment to serve and protect.

I attended my town’s Memorial Day parade yesterday. It was the first time I stood and watched the parade and wasn’t walking with my daughter’s Girl Scout troop. As the guns were fired to salute those who gave their lives to protect our country, I’m reminded of how selfless people can be and how many people lost loved ones in combat.

Ooh La La! … Loving like the French

File:Jean-Honoré Fragonard - La lettre d'amour.jpg

I recently read an article that suggested American women would be much happier in relationships if they learned to love like French women. The reason for this, according to the author, is that French women enter into relationships, and love, without expectation.

We American women, apparently, are so goal-oriented in everything we do, that a businesslike approach has flowed over into our relationships. When we meet, and date, a new guy, we cut right to the chase, laying it all out on the table:  our expectations, our wants, our desires, our relationship failures, basically our life plan. Heck, all that’s left to share is our tax returns! By the time the first date is over, our potential partner knows everything we expect to gain from the relationship. Love, in the U.S., is hard work!File:Maud-Muller-Brown.jpeg

French women, apparently, are much more circumspect. They are less inclined to wonder if their date is going to be a good husband/lover/provider/father. They go with the flow, entering into relationships wholeheartedly, leaping in feet first, reveling in the experience, the mystery, the possibility, the excitement of it all. I liken this to the way I approached relationships when I was younger, and the way I see my teenager entering relationships. There was no fear that the relationship would end badly, that I would be hurt, that this person was anything but the guy I would spend the rest of my life with. Young love is nothing if not optimistic.

On the other hand, American women don’t like to be hurt, so we avoid it any way we can. That means making measured choices in love as well as in our work. French women may cry, rant, and scream, before they shrug and say “C’est la vie!” For the French, the possibility of heartbreak is all a part of the journey. You can’t experience such tragic lows if you haven’t allowed yourself to reach tremendous highs.

While I don’t necessarily agree one hundred per cent with the description of how American women approach love, I do see an element of truth in it. So it makes me think…how will my heroine approach love? Will she throw herself into it whole-heartedly, throwing caution to the wind, or will she carefully consider whether the hero measures up to her expectations of a life partner? Is she from a family of optimists, or an optimist in a family of pessimists? How does this approach to love inform the storyline? Will the hero love her in spite of her approach to love, or because of it?

As a reader, to which do you relate — the cautious heroine, or the devil-may-care heroine? Would you rather read about a heroine who allows the hero to break through her protective walls, or the heroine whose love scales the highest peaks, with no fear that she will come crashing down to earth?



Reasons to be Thankful for the Characters in Your Life

The other day at Wegmans, a teenage cart chaser was tossing a coke bottle into the air while waiting for that one special customer to make his day and do the unthinkable–I’m talking about Wegman’s shoppers, who would never NOT return a cart. Almost out the door, I watched as the bottle spiraled around and knocked the poor kid in the face. Talk about “Coke Is It”.

A few things happened at once:  the bottle crashed to the walkway, I halted a few feet away from him, and he sheepishly glanced around with a look we’re all familiar with, one that said, “Oh, shit, I hope no one saw that.”

Then, he spotted me.

Understanding his predicament, I commented, straight-faced, “Don’t worry, I didn’t see anything.”

The kid burst out laughing and so did I.

Together, on that Wegmans sidewalk, we briefly bonded together in mirth. Who knows what the few passerbyers thought about a teenage boy and a middle-age woman laughing hilariously. And who cares.

Today’s blog is about being thankful for the characters in your life, both those in it for the long haul and those just a blink in time. (Of course, there are those that fall into the wish you were a blink in time category . . . but that’s another entire blog.)

I love people. I love finding out what makes them tick, what their stories are, and their views on life. I suppose as a writer, this comes in handy.

One of my favorite blink in time friends is a female toll collector. Why? Her long, and I mean long, nails. Nails that reached into the driver’s side window well ahead of her fingers. Superbowl size nails, skillfully painted to reflect every holiday, sports victory, or random mood.

I used to slow down well ahead of the toll booth and search for her blond head. It would make my day just to check out her glittery, shiny, sculpted pieces of artwork. I’d marvel at the way she managed the change with the pads of her fingers, as if the coins were inferior pieces of metal unworthy of those pointy masterpieces. How she’d adeptly maneuver with them was simply amazing. After all, the one and only time I attempted faux nails, it took thirty minutes to zip my pants in a restaurant bathroom.

A shame EasyPass came along and ruined our relationship.

One of my long haul friends is Kathy. She’s the type of person who fills a room with this creative yet intelligent energy. A powerhouse, even at 5ft.2in.—counting the heels. We became fast friends while teaching English in Fukuyama, Japan. Being from center city Philly, Kathy had no clue how to ride a bicycle, our only method of transportation. Driving was not an option as steep, open drainage ditches lined both sides of the streets, just asking for trouble. I remember laughing so hard at her first attempts. But true to form, Kathy mastered biking and navigating away from those suck-me-in ditches.

Yet, I suppose it isn’t the hilarious memories of our adventures abroad that made me think of Kathy for this blog, but what she’s accomplished afterward.

After a few years stateside, Kathy joined the Peace Corps and headed to Malawi, Africa. She described how her  meals consisted of ground wheat mixed with water, like bland pancake batter. She asked friends to send spices for variety. I, of course, sent her a can of Wolfgang Puck’s lobster bisque and received an enthusiastic thank you note.

As I’ve said, Kathy is a creative, intelligent powerhouse. Her given job was to teach Malawian women how to prevent the spread of AIDS through safe sex, i.e. using condoms.

Kathy recognized a cultural problem; most women had little choice in regards to using protection. Just as she learned to steer her bike, Kathy took matters into her own hands. She rewrote the entire training manual so Malawian men took responsibility for safe sex.

I have a wonderful image of her blowing air into a rubber like a carnival balloon with an expression that says, “See, guys, this is how it works!”

She’s accomplished much since our days together in Happy Mountain town—yes, that is the translation of Fukuyama.

I couldn’t possibly write a blog on characters and not mention Allie. She’s an eleven year old with a laugh that’s contagious and a joie de vivre that shines brighter than any moonlit night. Her favorite animals are rabbits, so it was no surprise when she decided to write a story about a fluffy, white bunny pictured in her calendar.

The premise of Allie’s story is that this bunny, named January, is so sad being trapped in her cage with no one to play with her. January watches other bunnies hopping about outside a bedroom window and dreams that one day, that would be her. January’s wish came true when her wonderful owner, a beautiful girl named . . . Allie, takes her out of her cage.

A cute, eleven year old story, right? But here’s the truth: Allie wrote this story while in a cast that ran up from her ankles to her midsection. And while undergoing chemotherapy, for Allie has a rare type of bone cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma.

Clever, insightful, and resilient Allie. Someone wise beyond her years. Someone courageous enough to embrace life in spite of her illness. Someone who always has a twinkle in her eye and a quick smile to share. A bright, joyful light that shines upon everyone and everything she touches.

When I think of the word character, I imagine someone with unique qualities like long nails. Or someone with the willpower to get things done like my friend Kathy. I imagine Allie, with such a positive, optimistic spirit that she makes you wonder how an eleven year old could be that excited about learning. And life.

Someone who will always be in my long haul category.

So this holiday season, think about the characters in your life. Family, friends, the cart pusher at the grocery store. Savor and enjoy their uniqueness, go-get-em attitudes (or not), and their spirit.

These characters, they shape who you are, too.

If you’d like more information or to donate to the Hope for Allie Foundation, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hope-for-Allie-Foundation/102748909786103

Happy Holidays!

Violet Femme,  Michele

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