Top Ten Iconic Male Romance Interests

Doesn’t everybody have movie characters (or at least portrayals) that have stayed with you since childhood? I’ve been working on developing my own characters for a new story, and it got me thinking. What makes a great leading man? I am beginning to compile a few lists like these for all different types of characters, but I thought I’d start off with my top ten BIG SCREEN hunks, accompanied with a small description of why I chose them. I realize this is quite the eclectic list…which should come as no surprise if you know me.

Here goes…

10. Bill Pullman as JACK in While You Were Sleeping

Jack_exasperated

Could there ever be a more likeable actor than Bill Pullman? I just trust this guy. This character of Jack is so real, humorous, self-deprecating, and delightfully jeaned-up (it seems like every scene he wears medium wash jeans and a matching jean jacket). I think the sincerity of his character is another factor in adding him to this list. It’s like we all knew someone like Jack. We might have fallen for the flashy friend (or in this case, the brother), but then we realize the right one was standing beside us all along (not for Lucy, but you get the drift). I love that Jack can laugh at himself when ripping his jeans, or the fact that he would even be suspicious of Lucy’s relationship with Joe Jr. Seriously, that’s brotherly devotion and pure awesomeness.

9. Anthony Andrews as SIR PERCY BLAKENEY/THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL in The Scarlet Pimpernel

137754548_01_455715c

Okay, this is a goofy character, but not for reals. The true Sir Percy Blakeney, or Scarlet Pimpernel, is the essence of manhood during the French Revolution. He could sword fight, smuggle out people sent to the guillotine, and woo the most beautiful actress, all the while playing the part of a fool. Is there anything more attractive than a man of morals that doesn’t care what the rest of society thinks of him? I think not.

8. FLYNN RIDER in Tangled

flynn-rider

I know what you are thinking… really, an animated character? YES. Flynn Rider is the best. Besides being super handsome (for a cartoon, ok), he is actually a pretty complex character, and he proves he has a heart of gold. He DIES saving Rapunzel from Mother Gothel. Now that’s romantic! And his voice is so perfect, if I do say so. Audible chocolate.

7. Allen Leech as TOM BRANSON in Downton Abbey

090d3700883343524f0e9264e2d9b497

Downton people are my kind of people, and by far, Tom was my favorite character! Besides having an incredible accent, I love his character! He was so principled, stubborn, at times even reckless, and yet, he still had a softness about him that seems lost in today’s men (that’s the worst stereotype… I am sorry, but I can’t help but say it). He was a forward thinker. Intelligence is always attractive. And by the end of the show, everyone (including the dowager) had fallen in love with him.

6. Richard Madden as KIT in Cinderella

cinderella-image01

Kit was a major improvement than the 1950’s Prince Charming. He was actually human (and his voice wasn’t like a radio announcer from back then), and he was such a gentleman. He was kind, easy to talk to, persuadable (but only by conscious reasons), and loyal. He had conviction, AND those eyes are pretty dreamy. The first time we saw it in the theater, my 7-year-old turned to me and blushed. “He’s handsome, Mommy.” Yes, but wasn’t he so much more?!

5. George Clooney as JACK TAYLOR in One Fine Day

georgeOkay, let’s talk about this character. He maybe came off as irresponsible in the beginning, but he turns out to be a super loveable guy that is willing to replenish the class fish by driving all over New York City at midnight…and really, his voice and handsome features? Who else picks up a kitten for his daughter randomly? Not my husband (he knows there would be death involved if that happened). Definitely iconic.

4. Richard Armitage as JOHN THORNTON in North and South

cca77ab82d46c2b07be27635eadd6716

I don’t know how I missed this miniseries until a few years ago, but it’s amazing and partly because of Mr. Thornton’s character. Most of us like the mysterious man. John Thornton was that. He came off so harsh and relentless in the beginning. But once again, we find a kind, constant, and principled character. He was stubborn and strong, but he also was smart enough to realize his mistakes and progress to a become a better person. I loved it. I also love this accent. Again. I am a sucker for accents.

3. Matthias Shoenaerts as GABRIEL OAK in Far from the Madding Crowd

MV5BMTQ4MDAxNTQ3MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODY0MjM0NTE@._V1_SX640_SY720_This is another new one for me, but Gabriel Oak is iconic. Viewers fall in love with Matthias’s portrayal from the moment we meet him. He is so earnest. He is a hard worker, CONSTANT, serving, considerate, patient, and a true friend. It probably also helps that he has some of that rugged charm the ladies find so attractive (unless that’s just me???). At the end of this movie, I was so glad the heroine finally got it right. I wanted to throw a shoe at her.

2. Jonathan Crombie as GILBERT BLYTHE in Anne of Green Gables

Gilbert-BlytheI’ve never been able to figure out why Gilbert Blythe is so endearing, but I don’t know if I’ve ever rooted more for a character to win the heroine’s heart than Gilbert. Maybe it’s because he always cared for her (even if a little immaturely at the beginning, but really- what better way to foreshadow greatness than to start with hair pulling in school?), or perhaps it was his genuine goodness or boat-rescuing-skills. I sometimes wished I could knock Anne on the head and say, “CHOOSE HIM, CRAZY GIRL!” My husband would say it’s his feathered hair that gets all the ladies, but we all know it’s so much more.

1. Colin Firth as MR. DARCY in Pride and Prejudice

colin-firth-mr-darcy-e1422402563571

You guys, I tried so hard NOT to do it. It’s so cliché, BUT… he was perfect. Also, I love his hair. I know that’s superficial, but I thought it’s worth noting. This version of Mr. Darcy is the only one, as far as I am concerned. He comes across as so far from perfect at the beginning, but throughout the story (and through Colin’s amazing acting), viewers can’t help but feel themselves softening toward him, eventually falling down the slippery slope. We end up loving him enough to sit through hours of this movie. Seriously, he’s just a reserved guy that got a bad rap. He ends up being the best brother, employer, and friend. He also proves that constancy once again trumps every other flashy quality. Darcy puts off every expectation to marry Elizabeth. And also, isn’t it so attractive how humbled he becomes when she first turns him down? Instead of making him bitter, it just makes him better.

 

MY HONORABLE MENTIONS: Tom Cruise as JOSEPH in Far and Away, Jeremy Northam as MR. KNIGHTLEY in Emma, Josh Lucas as JAKE PERRY in Sweet Home Alabama, and Anthony Howell as ROGER HAMLEY in Wives and Daughters.

Did anyone else catch most of mine were from period pieces? Why is it that contemporary movies and stories often lack men worth labeling as iconic? Who did I miss? I know some of you out there are titanic fans, notebook die-hards, etc. I want to hear who you would have put on the list!

 

It’s Here.

Today was such an exciting day. My books came.
As I held one in my hand, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I have spent so much time and energy on this project. For so long, it has been a goal of mine to get this book published so that I could share it with others. It was a lot of time spent for something I was not even sure of. There were moments of tears, my head against the keyboard, when I’d ask myself, “What am I doing? Am I wasting my time?”

There is a vulnerability about writing that is hard to explain. It’s a large sacrifice, and I worried sometimes that I was taking time away from my family all for nothing.
A few people have said to me, “But it’s art, right? It doesn’t matter if you really get published or paid. It’s all about the art.”
To this, I just have to smile and remember that people just don’t understand it. If I said to an accountant, “You like math, right? It doesn’t matter if you have a real job and get paid! It’s all about the math.” I could change math to anything– acting, music, nursing, law enforcement, teaching, etc– and it’s pretty easy to see how ridiculous this kind of comment is to a writer. Everybody needs a little validation, and everyone wants to make money doing what they love. But that’s not the point (writers don’t make much money anyways). The point is that, for whatever reason, I wanted to share my stories, not just with my family and friends, but with anyone that cared to read them.
The moment I received the email offering me a contract, I burst into tears. It was a moment I will never forget. Then came the hours and hours of revisions and self doubt, until today when a little brown box arrived at my door with the most beautiful book I’ve ever seen.
It’s lovely, and not just because it’s mine, but because the designers did an amazing job.
…and maybe because it represents something I have wanted for so long.

It’s here, it’s here! So grab a copy and read it! I hope you enjoy it!

The Trouble is, You Think You Have Time.

“The trouble is, you think you have time.” -Buddha

Time.

Ever since people heard about my book being published, I’ve gotten the same question. Though the phrasing has been varied, the basic thought on everyone’s mind seems to be, “How do you find the time to write?”

I never know quite how to answer this. First off, writing is super time consuming, and I am already super busy. As a stay-at-home-mother to four kids, I do not feel like I have “time” for much of anything but cooking, cleaning, laundry, mediating, driving, shopping, errands, etc.! But creativity is such a part of me. I see everything through artistic lenses—speech, dress, body language, music, tones, design, humor, or even organization. It’s seemingly impossible for me to see anything as not artistic.  I remember in smells, images, and feelings. I like to think that I take mental snapshots of moments I want to remember or ideas I want to execute.

When I am not physically writing, the little voice in the back of my head is constantly spouting off creative characters or ways to link different plot lines. I might be changing the laundry or a dirty diaper, but I am often thinking of my stories. I ponder characters’ movements, motives, expressions. And then, when I do get a moment to sit and quietly contemplate, I write down all the images that have sprung to my mind throughout the day or past days.

I often explain it as a movie being played inside my head; I write what I see. This stage of writing is somewhat like textual vomit—it’s not pretty. But I get it out, and my mind can finally be at ease until the next creative burst comes. Usually the initial writing happens quickly. I might write twenty pages in an hour if I have had enough time to envision and create the ideas in my head. Other times, not so much…

The difficult writing, the rephrasing or connecting of characters and plots is much harder. These are the writing sessions that usually last into the early morning and, after all the writing, deleting, and rewriting, produce about five paragraphs. My brain hurts after these sessions.

As far as “finding time”, I laugh at this. There is not enough time to accomplish anything I want to get done, let alone writing. However, I am a firm believer that small steps get you to where you want to be. In the crazy days of summer, with kids fighting and begging for snow cones every single hour (curse you, Ice Shack), sometimes I don’t get a single sentence written. On other days, I might only get a page or two. I try to write at least five minutes every day. I think it makes a difference.

However, on occasion, I get creatively overwhelmed. This is exciting because it’s an enjoyable experience for me to imagine and see so many things at once. The images are flashes of ideas, people, plots. I have to write the ideas down as soon as the kids are asleep (or when my husband gets home from work) because the images are almost always fleeting. These occasions, though exciting, also bring a small amount of dread in the pit of my stomach, accompanied by the feeling that “It’s going to be a long night” and/or “I’ll be fried by morning”. I wake up a zombie, and usually have to stumble through the day in a half-awake, miserable, fake-smile kind of way. Unfortunately, the late nights have proven even more difficult with a baby and my already sleep-deprived state.

Of course, writing takes sacrifice. If I am working on a new story or editing, a lot has to go. I usually avoid TV, Netflix, social media, friends, my kitchen… anything that will distract me.

Often, the family goes to bed, and I write. Once in a while, my kids let me write during the day, but I can never count on that. Maybe in the school year? *Fingers crossed*. My husband also will give me time each weekend and on days when I feel especially like I need to hash it out. He takes over the house and kids and plays Barbies with the girls. I’m thankful that he supports me, even if he doesn’t understand my strange “idea flashes”.

So, there is no writing super power. Just strange creative bursts, lots of mental work, many late nights, zombie days, and a handsome, supportive husband.

 

 

 

 

Book Trailer

Book trailers. Let’s talk about them. Some people believe a book trailer violates everything a novel pushes reader to do: imagine. Others say that unless you have a large budget, you should never attempt them in fear the book trailer will seem amateur, or even worse, cheesy.

But getting the word out about my first book is difficult. Even relying on eventual reviews and word of mouth isn’t reliable. How do I help people to see what my book offers? The synopsis on the back cover certainly isn’t going to convey the feeling of my book, at least not fully. This realization was what first attracted me to the idea of a book trailer.

Then came the hard part, trying to think of a creative way to make an artistic trailer that is also affordable (meaning basically a $0 budget since a book trailer come second to my family of six’s meals and clothing needs). This is when I started brainstorming every idea I could think of. I wrote down the names of any of my artistic friends that might be willing to help me. I contemplated contacting a university’s drama department. I considered a slideshow. I even tried to brush up on my English accent (if you have read my previous post, you know all about that). I asked anybody that could do good voices/accents if they would be willing to help out in some way. I wrote a few different scripts. To be honest, I didn’t have a clear view of what I wanted during the brainstorming phase, but I needed a starting point. Then, piece by piece, things began to come together.

My friend Kevin, who lives in L.A., agreed to help the moment I approached him. He even said the awesome phrase, “This is why you have a friend in Hollywood.” He set up a day for some of his acting friends to record voiceovers. The results were incredible, and I am thankful for these actors that were so kind to help Kevin’s high school friend.

Next, I knew I could count on my brother Matt for the music. He is a musical genius (if he wasn’t a busy husband and father of four, eye doctor, and Major in the Air Force, I am pretty sure he would be a famous composer by now). I gave Matt very specific ideas on how I wanted the music, and he recorded a song (with sound effects) that far surpassed my expectations.  It was about this time, that I started to feel really excited.

All that was left was the visual. My friend Amanda (who is one of the most artistic people I know) agreed to do the videography. She took my vague descriptions (like “light through the trees” or “English countryside”), and captured some beautiful scenes. Once again, the talent surpassed my expectations!

The end result? A book trailer that I feel adequately captures the feel of my book.

I am so grateful for talented friends, but I am even more grateful for kind friends, willing to help at a moment’s notice.

 

 

Finding Inspiration

When I started writing The Second Season a couple years ago, I had never attempted to write historical fiction. Everything in my first draft came from my Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, and BBC historical drama mental files.  To be sure, there are a lot in those files. Thanks to Netflix, my sister Melissa’s never ending selection of clean regency romance novels, and Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy, I felt somewhat ready to take on regency England.

But then I started writing, and we all know that is a different story. There were things even my BFF Google couldn’t help me imagine. How do you write about places you have only seen in movies?

If only all writers could afford a quick trip to the land they are writing about. It would make things much easier, not to mention more fun. I am sure I could find some inspiration visiting some historic estates and traveling the green countryside. Honestly, hearing the English accent alone would inspire me. But alas, a trip to England was not in my cards this time.

During a particular period of writer’s block, I took a quick trip to Tennessee to visit my parents and siblings while my brother was on leave from Germany. While there, we took a day to visit the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. This wasn’t my first time seeing the Biltmore, but it was the first time I had visited while writing this novel.

1004853_10101328181864869_1166092778_n

This is the closest I’ve ever been to a historic English estate, and while it certainly was not regency England, I felt transported to that place and time.

My poor siblings. I spent half the day trying to speak in an English accent to my sisters and brother. I’m sure they were embarrassed, and I admit that I enjoyed embarrassing my oldest sister way too much. It probably didn’t help that my accent seemed to change with every sentence.

As I toured the immense house and pretty gardens, I couldn’t help but think of my story. For most of the tour, I silently imagined what it would have been like to live in such a house. I imagined myself enjoying the parties in the music room, exploring the library, and riding a horse on the expansive grounds. Many of my characters came to life while there. It was as if I physically saw Mr. Jasper in all his disgusting glory, alongside the feminine and gentle Lady Lucy. I could picture so vividly Lord Searly parading across the music room, his title and wealth evident in his every stride. I saw my characters’ manners and looks, their personalities and motivations.

Though it sounds so juvenile, it was so much fun to use my imagination again. I could have gotten lost in it, if it wasn’t for my mom’s incessant modern talk. It was as if her one goal was to remind me that I was not in fact a character of one of Jane Austen’s novel, but instead a mother of three, living in the twenty first century. It’s not like it was really her fault. She had no idea I was so involved in my imagination. It went something like this…

Me: Wandering a hallway with old photographs and guest chambers, I imagined that I had just been invited to stay with a wealthy family in 1815.

Mom: “Did you hear that Obama…(insert political action)..?”

Me: Looking clearly annoyed, I just shook my head.

Mom: Confused at my irritation and silence.

I probably should have told her I was busy living out my pretend life as a young lady in my first season, just having been invited to stay with a wealthy family, who happened to have a very handsome, kind, and eligible heir…

 

 

Where Stories Begin

It all started when I was about five or six years old and I got my first diary. Since then, I have always written in a journal. I remember as a teenager writing down all the dramatic sagas and accompanying emotions, tears streaming down my face as I scribbled the words. Then, inevitably, I would throw the pages away, embarrassed by it all. I smile thinking about that now, and I wish I would have saved some of the high school soap/friend operas. I think I would have a better perspective now, and the stories would probably provide some much needed comic relief to my busy life.

Somehow, I kept all my writing so private. Not even my husband knew I liked to write until our third year of marriage. One day someone asked me, “What’s one of your life goals that you have never told anyone?” When I answered that I wanted to write and publish books, my husband looked at me confused. It was then that I realized I had never told him how much I liked to write.

I’ve asked myself, “When did it all start- this love of writing?”

Over time, it’s come down to the fact that I just love stories.

I spent my childhood in the country. We lived on about three acres. My older sister and I spent all day outdoors (rain, snow, or sunshine). We  had some pretty intense pretend play. Whether we were the royal orphaned runaways (doesn’t every girl pretend that at some point?), animal whisperers, or the greatest cowgirls in all the west, we made up many complicated storylines that usually involved some melodramatic love story.  There was a broken fence by our barn, and my sister and I would hop on that bouncy log, pretending it was our trusty horse Lightening or Buttercup. Somehow we never died from the tetanus-infested nails poking out of the logs. We also survived many tightroping trips across an irrigation canal.

My parents couldn’t give us much when I was young, but they gave us more than most by moving our family to that country house for five years. My sister and I are the youngest, and we learned to be creative since we were much too young to be wrapped up in the latest music, fashions, or boys. No, no, no (well maybe I had a few crushes). Instead, we looked forward to our nature club meetings (which I was vice president of by the way) that met in the attic of our rodent-filled barn. We invited the neighbor kids, a lose country term considering their parents had to drop them off. We did super exciting things, like go on nature walks, where we would encounter pretty much nothing (except for that disturbing time we found and watched a snake eat a mouse). We swung from willow branches, imagining hot lava in place of the grass, and played Robin Hood, shooting real arrows at our hay targets. My sister was the best person to play with. Together, we made up stories and characters that could keep us occupied for hours.

During my time at that country house, I wrote stories a lot. Then, somehow things began to change. I think it must have had something to do with the fact that we moved to desert mountains in New Mexico and left our happy farm fantasy. Or, it could be that my sister started to enter adolescence, and she started to be more involved in sports than make believe. I’m not sure, but it wasn’t until years later that I started to really write again.

So where did the stories start? I’m guessing my childhood of make believe had a lot to do with it. I’m sure the fact that we had no Nintendo also played a factor. I played. I imagined. And in the middle of doing all that, I fell in love with stories.

 

 

 

The Second Season Cover Design

Second-Season-The_9781462118847

Cue the music…

I am so excited about my cover design! My designer Michelle at Cedar Fort did such an amazing job at capturing the feel of my book, while also paying attention to the details that mattered most to me (exact eye color, amount of green in the background, tagline). It was really wonderful that Michelle allowed me input. In fact, I know it’s rare for publishers to give authors any sort of say into the cover design.

I have really enjoyed the publishing process. It has been so exciting to work with such experienced and talented people. Even with just my subedit completed, I have learned so much and grown as a writer. I know a lot of writers. I have many friends that are champions of grammar and storytelling. But, I have never worked with an experienced editor prior to this year. The experience has been so enjoyable and satisfying! And then to work with Michelle on the design… Wow. To clarify, when I say work with Michelle, I mean that she did basically everything. I only gave my opinion about her designs, and then I would magically see a new version in my inbox a day or two later waiting for my approval.

September seems so far away, but it’s just around the corner!

Stay tuned for more details, possibly even a sample chapter or two.

Heather