Long Live the Beta Male!

I recently posted a Tweet that went ‘My heroes are not muscular, ripped, Alpha Men. They’re just blokes who fall in love’, and it was suggested that I write this blog post to talk about why I write this kind of hero.  So I shall try my best to explain, without recourse to my not-so-secret crush on Tony Robinson…

I’ve never really been a woman for the thews and biceps, or for the kind of man who wants to ‘save’ a woman, and, for some reason, in Romance Hero Land, these two attributes tend to go together like hot porridge and treacle. In fact, dare I say it, if a big, burly man rode into my life and wanted to rescue me from ‘all this’, he’d find himself limping away solo, with his Stairmaster jammed somewhere uncomfortable.  I much prefer the kind of man who says ‘I can see you need a bit of saving.  Me too.  Shall we help each other along the way?’

Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp

While I can suspend disbelief with the best of them (see above comment about Tony Robinson…) I can never quite manage to put myself in the place of the heroine being wooed by the Alpha Male.  Too many of them seem helpless, waiting for the obligatory Big Strong Man to solve their problems and ‘know best’.  And where does that leave the man who really hasn’t got a clue?  Who is floundering around in his life, just as the heroine is floundering in hers?  Men who admit to their vulnerability can be every bit as sexy as the man who has none, in fact their very sincerity and approachability is often what attracts the heroine in the first place.  So Long Live the Beta Male and his sensitivity, and you can keep your abs and pecs – I’ll settle for a relationship of equals every time!

Jane was born in Devon and now lives in Yorkshire. She has five children, four cats and two dogs! She works in a local school and also teaches creative writing. Jane is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and has a first class honours degree in creative writing.

Jane writes romantic comedies which are often described  as ‘quirky’.

Her debut Please Don’t Stop the Music won the 2012 Romantic Novel of the Year and the Best Romantic Comedy Novel award from the Romantic Novelists’ Association.  

Jane with award copy

First Fictional Crushes

Sue Moorcroft 

Who was your first fictional crush?

Who was your first fictional crush?

 

My first fictional crush was Superman.

My brother and I used to buy a lot of the shiny, brightly coloured Adventure Comics coming out of America when we were kids living in Malta, and Superman stole my heart, even when he was in the guise of Clark Kent. I used to think that Lois Lane was remarkably stupid not to notice it was just the same guy in a suit and glasses but, hey, if she didn’t want him …? I was ready and waiting. In tights or in a suit, Superman or Clark, he was hot, he was clever, he was kind. Bring him on.

I can remember crying over an episode where Superman lost all his powers and was wandering dejectedly around Gotham City with the citizens jeering at him. (I’m not sure why he didn’t just go back into Clark Kent mode so nobody knew he was Superman sans superpowers. Probably it didn’t suit the plot.) Happily, the source of the kryptonite that was disabling him was found and he was soon soaring across the page once more, fist raised in flight, just in time to smash the baddies’ plans to conquer the world and snatch Lois from the jaws of death (not that she deserved it).

I have retained a liking for a tall man with a strong, clean-shaven jaw and I even put Dominic Christy in tights in Dream a Little Dream, when he dressed up for halloween. First love is stronger than kryptonite.

Is This Love? is now available on all e-book platforms and is out in paperback 7th November.

Jane Lovering

As a young teenager, I was as impressionable as an undercooked sponge cake, and regularly fell in love with literary luminaries, but the first who really made a huge impression, growing up as I did in a town with Roman history so deep that we even had Roman sewers, was Marcus Aquila, hero of Rosemary Sutcliffe’s ‘Eagle of the Ninth’.

I had a full mental image of Marcus, although I cannot remember whether or not he is described in the book, although I have to admit that I probably overlaid him with all my real-life ‘crushes du jour’; he was tall, dark and handsome, and he could ride a horse really well too, which was important to me back then, in the days when I was still going to marry Tony Newbery.  He was courageous (Marcus, I mean, not Tony Newbery, although he was pretty brave, being a showjumper of some ability and very lovely horses. I think I was probably leaning more towards the ‘horses’ than the man, even at fifteen). Marcus was travelling in distant lands (well, Scotland), to find the secret that lay behind his father’s disappearance so he was not just brave, he was noble as well, and probably troubled too (I do like a troubled man). The BBC made a TV mini-series of the book and the actor they cast as Marcus definitely didn’t disappoint…Sigh. I wonder if it’s available on DVD…

Hubble Bubble is available on all e-book platforms and is also available in paperback.

Kathryn Freeman

Julian, of Famous Five fame, was everything a boy should be.  At least to a twelve year old girl.  He was brave, tall and strong.  Fearless, as he herded the younger members of the group through dark, secret tunnels.  Gutsy, as he stood up to the bad guys – men older and heavier than he.  Daring, as he led from the front in adventure after adventure.

But it wasn’t just his courage that had me reaching for the books time and time again, desperate to read more about him.  Julian was the responsible one.  The gallant hero who looked after all the others, especially his young sister Anne.  Who couldn’t fall in love with a boy who took such care of his sister?

And don’t forget Julian also had this clever and sensible side.  I suppose it could have made him stray into the nerdy category, but the swots I knew would never have dashed so boldly into danger to protect their friends.  Maybe there was a smidgen of bossiness about him, but Dick, George and Anne needed someone to tell them what to do or they’d never have escaped through those secret passageways.  Perhaps he also took himself a teeny bit seriously, but funny = sexy was a conclusion I came to a little later in life…

So there you have it.  My first fictional hero was Enid Blyton’s Julian.  I spent many years of my childhood wishing he’d ask me out for a ginger beer.  Until I dropped him for David Soul (from Starsky and Hutch).

Too Charming is available on Kindle UK and Kindle US.

Sarah Tranter

I’m going to have to own up and say that my first fictional crush was Lassie. Yep, the dog.

I’m afraid I can’t even say it was as a result of the books, because it was all down to the TV show. I don’t think I ever read about Lassie. At that time it was all Enid Blyton for me and there was zero crushing involved.

Lassie on the other hand was a different matter. It was a case of what you can’t have. I so wanted a dog as a kid but we were never allowed one. At different times we had fish, a hamster (that kept escaping into the loft and eating things) and a biting rabbit ― that had pink eyes and scared me stupid. But never a dog. And it was a dog I so desperately wanted. So I used to watch Lassie and dream of one day having a dog of my own. It didn’t even need to be a Collie. Just something with four legs (actually it didn’t even need to have those) and a wagging tail. You get the gist. Of course now with my own family I understand first hand the reasoning behind my parents’ decision. Hair, mud, walks, more hair. But it’s no good. I still couldn’t be without one. Or two ― should me and the boys get our way!

No Such Thing as Immortality is available on all e-book platforms and is also available in paperback.

The Ideas-Market, by Jane Lovering

Well, here I am again! And, as I promised, I’m here to answer another question – this one has been asked probably to every writer, ever, and also to me…
‘Where do you get your ideas from?’

Sometimes I say ‘a little shop in York, 50p a dozen, bargain’. Sometimes I say ‘the same place you get your ideas from’. Sometimes, if I’m caught in the depths of whimsy, I might explain all about the street-market that can only be found at certain times, by certain people; a place where they sell ideas – ships in bottles, mourning hats, tears ranked by size and cause…

But really, where do I get my ideas from? Honestly, I don’t know. I think it starts with a vague thought, which wafts around for a bit and then kicks off a whole host of ‘what ifs’, which have to be followed up. Hubble Bubble was inspired by me wondering about witchcraft and general psychology (having managed to convince some people that they’d just seen me walk through a solid wall, I was interested to see just how much you can make someone believe something that they REALLY WANT to believe). And then I wondered about the human need to control their environment, the desire to ascribe things to ‘magic’ that are simply poorly-understood phenomina, all woven in with discussions about feelings of abandonment and the sheer claustrophobic nature of winter in North Yorkshire. We’d also been talking about granting of wishes – if you made a wish, what would you wish for, if you thought your life was already pretty good? Money? But that can ruin things… good health? But if you’re already healthy it’s hard to imagine ever being any other way…

Somehow, all this shook down into a story about amateur witchcraft, and wishes either coming true in various, unforeseeable ways, or human wish-fulfillment fantasies making people think that wishes can come true.

Can they? Is there really magic out there in the world? I think Hubble Bubble lets you decide that for yourself…

And, just in case you think that the weather description is overdone in Hubble Bubble…here’s a picture of the view from my bathroom window, one day last winter. And this was a LIGHT snowfall!

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Jane Lovering on Location Location Location

As should be wildly apparent to anyone who knows me, I don’t get out much. Because of this, all my books are based close to home – far enough away that nobody could point to any one place and say that they could tell it was in one of my books, but near enough that I can do research without having to go too far (there are probably injunctions that actually prevent me from going too far, but since I’ve never tried, I don’t know). But location is very important to me, ever since a far more experienced writer than I told me that ‘place should be as much a character as anyone who speaks’. And it’s true, the right location adds so much to a story; just imagine an old, dark house at the edge of a wood versus a brightly-lit shoeshop, full of comings and goings. They are both good settings, but the stories that they would set would be very different, because the atmospheres that they conjure up are very different.

And so, when it came to Hubble Bubble, as ever, I set it close to home. ‘Barndale Woods’ is actually based on woodland in a village called Sinnington, where I often walk my dogs, and Holly and her brother live in Malton. I could even, if given enough prompting and egg-nog, point to the exact house that Holly lives in, show you where Eve’s little cottage is, and give you general directions to find Kai’s Gothic monstrosity deep in the woods. You wouldn’t find it, of course, like all the locations used in my books, I take a real place and give it a twist, so it’s like, and yet unalike. I don’t know how others do it, maybe they’d like to share their own location-tips?

The picture is of the woods near Sinnington. If you look very closely, you might see Kai, lurking behind a tree. But not too closely, you’ll go blind…

Woods near Sinnington

Bubbling ideas by Jane Lovering

I’m going to continue my Q&A in my next post, because I’ve been struck with a meme recently… You must know it, it’s the ’25 things you never knew about me’ one, and it occurred to me that I could use this to tell you a bit more about Hubble Bubble. So I’m going to, and you can’t stop me! Mwhahahahaha!
Ahem
So. Here we have ’25 Things you didn’t know about Hubble Bubble’, although, given my attention span, you’ll be lucky to get ten and a button.

It is set around the market town of Malton, which is 15 miles south of where I live.
‘Barndale Woods’ don’t really exist, although they are based on woods near Sinnington, which aren’t nearly so menacing.
‘Rufus’ is a scaled-up version of my terrier, Tiggy, who is slightly sticky, like dog-velcro.
I absolutely HATE driving in snow, and wouldn’t have even stuck my nose outside in the conditions Holly drives in.
I’ve never delivered a baby, although I’ve assisted at the births of kittens, calves and foals. Well, I say ‘assisted’, I mostly just cried and went ‘awwwwww’.
The spell that is cast in the book, and the ingredients necessary, came to me in a blinding flash, while I was writing something else.
The first draft of Hubble Bubble was written, beginning to end, in six weeks.
I try to work a ‘Doctor Who’ reference into every book I write. Hubble Bubble is no exception.
Likewise, there is either a dog or a cat mentioned in every book somewhere, except, for some reason, Please Don’t Stop the Music. That one has cows.
While I was writing Hubble Bubble, when I got to the bit where the weather closes in and there are terrific snowstorms, we actually had a terrific snowstorm. I’m going to write about someone who finds Johnny Depp on her doorstep next, you know, just in case…
Cerys’ obsession with toast is based on one of my daughters, who appears to eat little else.

And I’m afraid that will have to do, because I’ve run out of things to say that aren’t blindingly obvious. I consider the meme to be discharged!
The 'original' for Rufus

Did we tell you that Hubble Bubble is currently one of the Best Books of the Month at Apple iTunes here?:-)

Hubble Bubble by Jane Lovering causing a stir!

iBookstoreThis fabulous novel which we’ve all been waiting to release, has magically been selected as one of the Best Books of the Month by those amazing people at the UK Apple iBookstore! HURRAH!

Just take a look at this cool screen shot of the iBookstore Features page. Okay, the banner rotates but can you see our fabulous Hubble Bubble is there! We know, our lovely Tasting panel and our book reviewers know, this is another winner for Jane!  BUT now the iBookstore have chosen it.

Spread the news and let folks know about this gorgeous read and purchase today from the iBookstore here . Available internationally but you’ll need to search as the link will only work for the UK store – sorry!  Only £1.99 or $2.99 – a bargain! Can be read using iBooks (free from the App store) on iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch (2nd gen).

There’s even a competition on our Facebook page so wander over and share with your Facebook friends. You could win Choc Lit and chocolate!:-)

Happy reading and sharing!!

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THE GENERATION GAME – A GUEST POST FROM MY DAUGHTER, BY JANE LOVERING AND VIENNA JOHNSON.

vienna-and-me2I thought it might be nice for a change to get the other side of writing – what is it like to live with someone who writes?  And who better to ask than another writer?  So, without further ado (well, all right, maybe just a little bit of ado..) here is a guest post from the perspective of my daughter, Vienna.

A little context – Vienna is studying Creative Writing and Critical Practice at Ruskin College, Oxford. She is my eldest daughter and second of the five, and I cannot get into her room for the amount of books stacked all over the place.  Right, over to you, Vienna…

‘Being the writing daughter of a writer is a sort of balancing act between inspiration and pressure. I can’t count the number of times when someone’s asked me if I write in the same genre, or if my interests lie somewhere in the romantic comedy section of Waterstones. They ask if I write ‘what mum writes’, and when I say no, the inevitable “then what?”. Cue shuffling, no eye contact, and a rather inarticulate “um, fantasy, sci-fi, stuff like that”. Sometimes I think of what it would be like if I told them the truth, how my interests are directed more in the category of ‘gay romance in a world infested with zombies’.
The inspiration aspect comes less from the awards won, or drunken speeches given, and more from the fact that despite having five kids (and a diversity of animals that would make a zookeeper wet their pants in excitement), my mum still manages to find the time to write, and write well. I’m not given an inch when it comes to her critiques – something I’m grateful for. Honesty is important when it comes to writing, even more so when it comes from someone you respect.
While growing up, there wasn’t really a sense of wanting to write, of wanting to take after mum. It was just something Mum Did, along with the laundry and dinner. I was fourteen when I decided I wanted to write, a time of self-imprisonment in my bedroom, shunning the sun’s attempt at forcing some vitamin D into me and shooting mutated creatures in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. These video games (and Stephen King, bless his cotton socks) are to blame for my little apocalypse obsession. There’s a perverse curiosity in wanting to see how a lawless society would operate, how individuals react and how far they go to survive.
This is why I should never be allowed to design reality TV programmes. If you see me trying… just alert the proper authorities, okay?
The biggest advantage of having a mother as a writer, I’ve found, is simply the talking. Long road trips to the orthodontist, to town, even while out walking the dogs – all opportunities to learn more about character design, or dialogue. Many a time, I’ve watched a ratty terrier waddle along a country lane while discussing my shocking inability to write endings. I think I’ve learnt more from these casual conversations about writing than any book can teach me. It helps, of course, when your teacher is just down the hall and won’t hesitate to shout advice in your general direction if you need it.
So, what is it like being the writing daughter of a writer? Well, it definitely comes with a certain amount of pressure, but the advantages far outweigh that. And who doesn’t need a little bit of pressure now and again?’

Jane Lovering – Wednesday Witchcraft

hubble-bubble_front

It may have managed to slip past your fiercely concentrating selves, but I have an upcoming release with Choc Lit, tabled for next year. It’s called Hubble Bubble, it’s about amateur witchcraft, and it looks like this..

You know, just in case you hadn’t seen it.

Anyway.  Witchcraft and I have always had a passing fascination for one another.  I come from a line of hedge-witches, on, oddly enough, my father’s side.  My mother comes from London and wouldn’t know comfrey from a poke in the eye, but my father was born and grew up, as did his father before him, in very rural South Devon.  And this was in an age when rural meant properly isolated, not only having the one pub and being two miles at least from the nearest Waitrose.  I remember my Grandad teaching me dowsing and corn-dolly making, and my dad could always tell the weather from the feel of the air and the look of the sky.  I learned the proper uses of plants, how to tell if a cow was about to calve and how to hypnotise a chicken at an early age and all this probably accounts for my extreme ‘Nanny Oggness’ at times.

And while I remain unable to cast love spells, or perform any damage to enemies at a distance, I can still brew up a cough syrup and a poultice, if called upon to do so.  So a book which deals with the repercussions of attempting magic whilst not quite in possession of the necessary skills, seemed only natural; and no, before you ask, I didn’t run around naked in the woods waving a wand and trying to claim it was ‘research’…

W is for (what else) WYOMING! By Liz Harris

Having very recently unpacked my suitcase on my return from the States, there is only one W that is on my mind, and that is  …… WYOMING.

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The Capitol Building in Cheyenne, a lovely town

The Capitol Building in Cheyenne, a lovely town

So, welcome to a few glimpses of Wyoming, known as the Equality State because it gave rights to women way ahead of the other states, and ahead of most places in the world (1st woman governor, 1st women jurors, 1st State Senator, and so on). Wyoming is the second least densely populated state in the USA (Alaska is the least densely populated), and it is, of course, at the heart of The Wild West.

It was a fantastic research trip/holiday.  I shall always remember the dramatic scenery I saw, the delightful people I met and the great excitement of discovering the elusive answers to questions that had been plaguing me about the life of homesteaders in Wyoming, 1887.

I took my camera with me (naturally), and although I recognise that I’m not a good photographer and that this was not a photographic outing, I thought I would share some moments of the trip with you. There were some lovely buildings.  There were some not so lovely buildings.

An outhouse

An outhouse

Fair enough. The outhouse, which dates from the late 1880s.  It would be used, then eventually filled in and moved to another location.  I’d always wondered how they dealt with such matters.

There is some really beautiful scenery

Driving from Baggs towards the small town of Savery, population 27, set in a lovely area that led up to the Sierra Madre.

Driving from Baggs towards the small town of Savery, population 27, set in a lovely area that led up to the Sierra Madre.

The State abounds with rivers edged with shining white pebbles of various sizes, a scene that I find really attractive.

The State abounds with rivers edged with shining white pebbles of various sizes, a scene that I find really attractive.

We saw row after row of glorious aspen trees as we left Savery and went towards the Sierra Madre.

We saw row after row of glorious aspen trees as we left Savery and went towards the Sierra Madre.

Yellowstone, most of which is in Wyoming, deserves a special space to itself. It isn’t an area to walk through unescorted, though, because of the prevalence of brears – grizzly, brown and black. There are Be Bear Aware signs everywhere.

A view of the Grand Teton Mountains from Jackson Lake, Yellowstone

A view of the Grand Teton Mountains from Jackson Lake, Yellowstone

Yes, Yellowstone again.

Yes, Yellowstone again.

The Grand Teton Mountains almost obscured by haze

The Grand Teton Mountains almost obscured by haze.

among the scenic views, there were different varieties of geysers.

I thought Castle Geyser, next to Old Faithful, more scenic than the better known Old Faithful

I thought Castle Geyser, next to Old Faithful, more scenic than the better known Old Faithful

And there is some not obviously beautiful scenery. Below is a typical vista of Wyoming. I find the aridity very attractive, but I recognise that it’s not to everyone’s taste.

The wide open spaces of Wyoming, and its big skies, were too much for my camera to capture.

The wide open spaces of Wyoming, and its big skies, were too much for my camera to capture.

And this is my husband, Richard

And this is my husband, Richard

All over the State, there were references to its Wild West heritage – in every street of every town, and in the markers and tracks across the State.

Old Trail Town, Cody, comprises houses & shops dating from the 1880s

Old Trail Town, Cody, comprises houses & shops dating from the 1880s

100 miles south of the railroad town, Rawlins, is Baggs, formerly a stage coach stop. My heroine did the Rawlins-Baggs trip by stagecoach; we did it by car.

100 miles south of the railroad town, Rawlins, is Baggs, formerly a stage coach stop. My heroine did the Rawlins-Baggs trip by stagecoach; we did it by car.

Not surprisingly, there were plenty of opportunities for exercise, most of which involved horses.

Getting on to the horse was the best thing of all, though.

Getting on to the horse was the best thing of all, though. We stayed on a working ranch at the foot of The Rockiesand had unlimited riding.

A typical sight

A typical sight

A ride on The Surrey with the Fringe on Top was a must

A ride on The Surrey with the Fringe on Top was a must

It was an amazing way to research a novel, and I feel very lucky to have been able to go and see where the characters in my novel lived their lives.  If anyone else is thinking of going to Wyoming, I’d say Go For It! You won’t rgret it.

Goodbye, Wyoming!

Goodbye, Wyoming!

Jane Lovering on Vampire State of Mind’s Release Day

So today my vampires are unleashed upon the world – go forth, my pretties! And I know I should stand back and let them take those first, faltering steps alone but there is still a part of me that hovers alongside, not quite wanting to let go…which is odd really, because, as a parent, I am more than willing to let my children go, in fact I encourage it to the extent of helping them pack.

But there’s still that momentary sadness as they wave me farewell – what if no-one likes them?  Am I going to have to do the authorly equivalent of ‘going up the school’?  Is there an author’s equivalent?  Because, if there is, I might have to avoid it – no-one needs the sight of me in my mismatched slippers, crazed hair and Wellingtons marching along the High Street to Waterstones…

So, vampires.  Get out there and knock ‘em dead!  Er.  Figuratively, of course.

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