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I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.

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Seductive Musings

Sunday, March 18, 2007

My naughty heroine (with excerpt & possible spoilers)

In a reply to my last post, Chez said that romantic fiction for her isn't about being politically correct, it's about fantasy. And I so agree. I would add that romance is about fantasy, but it needs to be believable fantasy. That's why characters need to have flaws. Books about perfect people doing perfect things aren't fantasy, they're boring.

So I thought I'd give a few hints about the choice my heroine, Sophie, just made that's going to get me slammed. How do I know it's going to get me slammed? My experience with Tessa from Hard Evidence.

Tessa Novak is one of my favorite heroines because she's smart and courageous, and she's also very girly, but not stupid girly, not "Oh, I chipped a nail!" during a shoot-out girly. And her girliness, together with one decision she makes that endangers her life resulted in some readers hating her and posting all over the 'Net about it. Yep, poor Tess — she got herself some playa-hatuhs out there. And yet the stupid decision she makes is not only essential for bridging the gap between her and Julian, the hero, it's also provides an essential piece in resolving the mystery of the shooting she witnessed.

Now, every reader needs to decide for herself what the thinks about a story. It's not the author's job to tell readers which parts of the story are significant or how it fits together or how an action fits a character. The reader has the privilege of making those decisions based on the words the author gives her to read. So if people decided that smart Tessa is TSTL, then for those readers Tessa was TSTL. So I'm not criticizing those readers who disliked her. I'm just using that experience to predict how some readers will respond to Sophie.

Sophie isn't quite as girly, but she's still very feminine—something I think some readers don't like much. (I say this as a card-carrying feminist, okay?) And she also makes a choice, this one very personal. The man she will eventually admit she loves (see photo two posts below) is LWOP — that is to say, he's been sentenced to life in prison without parole. Although he broke out of prison (see excerpt below), they both know he'll eventually be caught and will wind up in the Big House doing the Long Ride. When he dies nothing of him will be left in this world. So what does Sophie do?

After their first sexual encounter, which is unprotected, she opts not to take Plan B, the morning-after pill. In fact, she spits the pill into the sink. But why tell you about it? I'll show you. (Helpful hint: Sophie calls Marc Hunter by his high-school nickname — Hunt.)

From Unlawful Contact

Making a to-do list in her head, she finished combing her hair, put on her makeup and slipped into the blue cotton T-shirt and gray boxer briefs Hunt had given her to wear until her clothes made it through the washer and dryer. Then she took the packet of Plan B out of the bag and opened it, reading quickly through the directions.

She’d never had to use it before because she’d always been ultra careful — no mistakes, no lapses, no slip-ups. But last night had taken her completely by surprise in so many ways — how badly she’d needed him, how intense the sex had been, how connected she’d felt to him from the first kiss until she’d fallen asleep with his arms wrapped around her. She hadn’t thought about protection until this morning.

Which is probably why they call it the morning-after pill.

She read the directions, then walked out to the kitchen to get a glass of water, pill pack in hand, the grinding beat of Nine Inch Nails drifting up from the basement where Hunt was lifting weights. She searched the cupboards till she found a drinking glass, filled it with water, and popped the first pill from the packet into her hand. The drug wasn’t foolproof, but it her only option now that…

I always wanted… to be a father… to have a family.

She brought the pill to her lips, then hesitated, Hunt’s words coming back to her. Once the police caught him — and it could happen at any moment — it would be over. He would never have another chance to do what they’d done last night. He would never again have the chance to make love, to lose himself inside a woman, to make her pregnant. He would never have another chance to be father, and she would never have another chance to…

Have Hunt’s baby?

God, she could not be thinking what she was thinking!

The pounding of her pulse, the little wave of dizziness, told her that she was.

But she couldn’t have a baby now. Her entire life was a mess. Bad guys, good guys, heroin, prison, guns — all that stuff. If she lost her job, if she lost her career, she wouldn’t even have a way to support it. And if she was exonerated and got her job back, how would she handle working at the paper with a newborn? If she went to prison…

She stared at the pill where it lay, bright white, in her palm.

What if right now egg and little spermy were on a collision course? What if they were about to merge? What if she was only hours away from becoming pregnant?

This pill could stop it all.

That’s what she wanted, wasn’t it? Of course, it was!

No way had she gone to college to wind up being some man’s babymama, even if that man were Hunt. Hadn’t she thought through this the other night at the grocery store? Yes, she had — although pregnancy had been part of a little fantasy then, not a real possibility.

Sophie put her hand on her belly, imagined it getting big and round like Tessa’s, Hunt’s baby growing inside her. Her womb clenched, signaling its approval, a shiver of something like desire pulsing through her pelvis. Obviously, her biological self was into the idea.

But what about the baby? He or she would grow up without a father, either because daddy was living in Mexico or rotting in prison… or worse. Sophie had witnessed first-hand the shame that children of inmates carried with them — the stigma, the anger, the deprivation. It wouldn’t be fair to bring a baby into this mess.

There’s no "happily ever after" for us, Sophie. There’s now. Only now.

She raised her hand to her mouth, dropped the pill onto her tongue, took a mouthful of water to wash it down… and spat it in the sink.

It slid into the garbage disposal and was irretrievably gone.

Quickly, as if afraid she might change her mind, Sophie popped the second pill from the packet and dropped it into the sink, too. Then she turned on the faucet.

Heart pounding, she shut off the water, turned away from the sink and leaned back against the counter, trying to catch her breath and wondering if she was crazy.

God, what had she done?

-------

My son said this makes him lose respect for Sophie and ruins the story for him. But he's a 17-year-old male who's not one bit interested in babies and who might not understand the way that a child can enable you to hold on to someone you loved. I see what Sophie does as a symptom of the love she feels for Marc and of her willingness to sacrifice for him to give him something he otherwise would never have a chance of having — a child. Even if he doesn't get to be a part of the kid's life, he would at least know he had a son/daughter. Put yourself in a lifer's shoes and see how that fits. (BTW, this novel draws heavily on my years of covering prison issues, including my own 24-hour stay behind bars as a bogus felony arrest complete with strip search. More on that in another post.)

So that's the controversy. Maybe it won't be so controversial. Who knows? But I knew when I wrote that scene with Tessa, someone would say, "TSTL!" And I was right.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful day!

And just to make sure it's wonderful, how about another photo of Daniel Bueno, aka Marc Hunter?

20 comments:

Debbie H said...

I am having a sad day. I have a sore throat so I can't go see my little one. :(

I am a sap when it comes to this. I know Sophie is an educated, smart woman, but she is also female. There is that biological urge to have our true love's baby, to have a part of him with us all the time,especially if he might die or never be set free. She would never be sent to prison, he would take all the blame and show proof it was all his doing. (ok, my romantic fantasy).

Benj may be too young and male to understand our emotions. I know he is probably more aware of female feelings than most males, but still too young to get it. He'll get it in a few years.

So sorry to hear about your sore throat, Debbie! Feel better quickly so you can go back to kissing your baby granddaughter!

I'm with you when it comes to being a sap — obviously. I think I would do what Sophie does. And I think you're right about Marc being willing to sacrifice himself for her. Heck, he's already LWOP. He'd got nothing to lose.

Glad it didn't turn you off to the story. :-)

Debbie H said...

Are you kidding? I'm one of those readers that cries, screams at the hero and heroine and gets despondent even though I know it will all work itself out in the end.

I am more antsy than ever to get my hands on that book. Now if we can just convince the cover art people to use Daniel on the cover. BTW,I love your idea for the cover, more skin showing!

Bo said...

I think you are taking torture lessons from Karen Marie & Sherri-a snippet here,an excerpt there...*G* Sadistic people.*G*

I LOVE IT!!!

I honestly do,and I am one of those readers that LOVES kick-ass heroines.But that scene is perfect.I understand why she made the decision-you showed her thinking about it from all angles,considering Hunt's side,too,instead of a rash "Aw,the hell with it" and tossing the pill down the sink or something.

Your heroines are perfect for YOUR books,they always have been.I've read stories where the heroine is so kick-ass that she just overwhelms,even emasculates,the hero,and those just aren't fun.

Every one of your heroines has a strong presence & will,and it doesn't have to be loud as Metallica for us to see it-remember how we all felt about Bethie during the RTF discussion?-'Quiet strength.'

And Annie,my fave of your girls-

'You dinnae have me yet!'
I loved her from that moment on.

They ALL have steel,even if it is through words and feelings sometimes rather than bravado and "Kill 'em all" attitudes.

I am itching to read this now more than ever!

Ronlyn said...

Ditto ditto ditto.
IMO Sophie shows a strength of character by making the decision she did instead of simply doing the "right" thing or feeling guilted into making a decision. Life is about choices, hard ones and easy ones...and if we all made the same choices and all thought of the same things as "right & wrong" then what a boring world we would live in. Of course, my current view is much diffrent than it was when I was 17. ;) (As it should be.) In all honesty, I would lose more respect for her if she did something that she didn't want to do just because it was the easy or "right" thing to do.
I felt/feel the same way about Tessa, who I love to pieces. I told you before that I find her to be truly beautiful both inside and out.
I think this type of dynamic is what makes your stories so powerful and gripping. The characters are real enough that they can get at our emotions and cause us to toss the book across the room yelling, "NO!!! Don't do that!!!" (scared the crap out of my cat when I did that.) :)
And, hey, what's life without a little controversy? *G*

I'm so glad you feel that way, Bo and Ronlyn (the two pregnant posters, LOL!)

I felt it was romantic, particularly when he finds out...

Now that I have a way to interact with everyone, something I couldn't do on my website, where I can't manage the HTML, my sadistic side will be emerging. Snippets, excerpts, photos. Oh, yeah.

And you know you like it, baby, 'cuz anticipation hurts sooo good. ;-)

I'm glad you loved Tessa. Did you actually throw the book across the room, Ronlyn? LOL!

I agree it would be a dull world if we all agreed on everything.

Bo, that's one of my favorite Annie moments, too. I felt I knew her from that instant on. When I was writing the story I sometimes went back to that section and read it when I needed to get into her mind.

I really try to let the characters be themselves and do their thing through me rather than have me tell them what to do. Channeling, if you want to call it that, though I don' t know that I believe in such things.

OK, back to writing... I love hearing from you all! Wish I'd had a blog earlier!

Debbie, get rest. Bo & Ronlyn, you get rest too! Hope all is well with you and your wee body buddies.

Ok, my two cents. I'm sure you are right about stirring up a little controversy. Pro-choicers are going to say you are encouraging women to forego their right to prevent a pregnancy when they could have. Pro-lifers are going to stand up and say Way to GO the the morning after pill is evil. You are so good at stirring things up and I hope you don't change a thing. Let them all shout. ;)

My opinion? I'm pro-choice (hopefully I'm not offending anyone with that) but that's exactly what it is. A choice. A choice a woman has the right to make, for herself. Nobody has the right to tell her what that choice should be. And just because she can, doesn't mean she won't have it. Doesn't mean she will.

Ok... off my soapbox. This is just a topic I feel very strongly about. Especially with two daughters. See, Pamela, your stirring it up already! LOL

Ronlyn said...

Oh yes, the book sailed across the room in a beautiful arc. The cat darted out of the room, my DH looked up from whatever he was doing and said, "Good throw Baby. Do you want me to go get that for you so you can finish?" LOL I get a bit emotionally involved at times. :)

Resting, while it sounds wonderful, is out of the picture at the moment. My 3 year old is running around the house singing the Wiggles, my body buddy seems to be dancing along. LOL. (Trying to keep up with his big brother already. *G*)

Maybe I should have just said 'ditto' to ronlyn's comment. lol I spent the past few minutes trying to get this to post and she must have slipped in when I was at it. Hope you guys can bare with me.. I'm new to this blogging thing and proving to be quite the boob catching onto it. :)

Hope everyone feeling lousy feels better soon.

ronlyn said...

LOL...no worrie Sue, I'm relatively new to blogging myself. You'll feel right at home in no time. ;)

Ronlyn, which scene made you throw it? The one where Goldilocks snuck off to talk with Syko? That's the event that so many people thought made her TSTL. LOL on your DH's response. Poor kitty!

I'm pro-choice, too, Sue — in the true meaning of the word. I wouldn't choose abortion for myself, but I'm not making that decision for anyone else. Plan B is such a great option for women, and I know some people think it's an abortifacient, but, um, no, it isn't. You have to be pregnant first to have an abortion, and if you're pregnant Plan B won't work. I'm hoping that mentioning it in the story will teach some women that they have an emergency option for contraception. More Plan B means fewer abortions, right? It's a good thing!

Being pro-choice, I look at what Sophie does and say, "I support her because that's her decision." And I can understand why she would do it. I do hope that her decision doesn't seem like an anti-Plan B thing, because it isn't. But then I suppose I can answer all those angry emails when the time comes. LOL!

Thanks, Ronlyn! I think I've got it now... as long as I don't lose this little card I've written step by step instructions on. LOL

No prob, Sue. Ronlyn's right. Most of us are new to blogging, too. I certainly am. There are no mistakes on this blog and no forbidden topics.

See, that journalist in me keeps creeping out!

Ronlyn said...

No actually, when Goldilocks went to see Syko I was right there cheering her on. I would have the same desire she was having, so that was a somewhat logical move IMO. I tossed the book when douchebag (ah...sorry) was at the window waving the CD around and Tessa made the decision she did in that split second. (Is that vague enough without giving out too many spoilers? LOL) Gotta say, I really didn't like that redhead. :P

Ronlyn said...

Wait, that was the jacket color. I just always picture her with Angie Everhart hair. *shrug*

I think she did have red hair, Ronlyn. And that's a great place to throw the book. That douchebag was a total B to the I-T-C-H.

Perhaps she was also a bit too transparent, though? I was never a mystery reader, and I'm afraid my suspense plots are a bit predictable....

Oh, well.

Ronlyn said...

I don't know that it was too transparent. I mean, I hated her...but I was still wondering how it was all going to get figured out. That part was a suprise to me. And the whole jilted lover slant, etc...nah, I don't think it was too transparent.

Well, I'm glad at least one person didn't know who the bad guy was. :-)

I wanted the scene where Tessa gets slammed in the stomach to come as a total shock.

If I'd had time to rework it a bit, I might have made the bad person's motivation a bit clearer, but, hey, hindsight is 20/20...

I gotta worry about this book now -- Sophie and Marc. Tess and Julian are doing pretty well without me. (Actually, there's a LOT of Julian in this book... Julian fans are going to be very, very happy.)

Ronlyn said...

YEs, Marc & Sophie....Sophie and Marc. BIG Sophie and Marc vibes being sent your way.
(and, hey, the more Julian the merrier! LOL)

Ok, the kiddo just got too quiet, so I better quit distracting you and go see what he's up to.

kisses!

Ronlyn said...

Just an FYI to let you know what I found Sammy doing (because I know you're all dying to know.)
He found the 4 remaining boxes of girl scout cookie, had them stacked up very nicely in front of his bookshelf and was doing a puzzle while mowing his way through a box of thin mints.
LOL.
Chocolate & books/puzzles: there is no doubt he's my kid. ;)

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