Posts tagged with: heroes

Let’s Talk – Disabilities in Romance

I’m writing this post today from Duke Cancer Center where I will be talking to third-year medical residents as a survivor of ovarian cancer (Survivors Teaching Students is a nationwide program – ).  

As I watch the people move before me, I am awed at some of the conflicts, determination, and love that I see. These people (and I can proudly say that I was one of them) are heroes and heroines, battling against foes plaguing their bodies. They often have husbands, wives, and partners with them.

When we, as authors and readers, talk about increased diversity in romance, we often jump to race and sexual orientation diversity. We’ve made great strides in offering readers wonderful stories in these areas, however, I still do not see many disabled heroes and heroines in romance.

Decades ago I met a young writer at a conference who had just pitched a story idea with a blind heroine. She was told by the agent that she would not be able to sell a blind heroine to a publishing house. Do you think this is still true?

Some say that readers want fantasy when they read romance. That bringing the challenging conflicts that come with a disability to a romantic story could turn readers off. But with television shows like ABC’s Speechless, with a main character with cerebral palsy, I believe the tides have begun to turn.


My Highland Hero shaving my head when my hair started falling out. He shaved his too.

As an ovarian cancer survivor, I’ve thought about writing a heroine with cancer. Of course, she will live as I only write happy endings and that is what readers of romance expect. But as I toss and twist the plot in my mind, I realize that the story actually falls more into the category of realistic fiction than romance because the fight for the woman’s life becomes the focus and not the building relationship. Can such conflicts overshadow the romance, thus shunting the book out of the romance genre?

There are all types of disabilities, some much easier to deal with than others. I could easily see a dyslexic heroine or an amputee. I’d like to read a romance between a cancer warrior heroine and a doctor. The whole taboo thing about patient/doctor boundaries would be so interesting to explore. The military book I read while judging last year’s Ritas had a very strong hero dealing with the loss of his leg and phantom pain. The core story still remained about the growing relationship.

But what about someone with bipolar depression or complete paralysis from a spinal injury? Would these types of disabilities be too much for the casual reader? Or would these books open a view into the struggles that come with these conflicts, pulling readers into the richness of the characters? However, again, would the focus in these books end up being on the physical/mental conflicts rather than the romance, making these books realistic fiction with romantic elements?

What do you think? I think we’ve come a long way in areas of diversity over the last decade, but I still don’t think all people are represented in romance. Do you have examples of diverse heroes and heroines with disabilities? Do you think there is a market for such romance? What type of diverse heroes and heroines would you like to see in romantic literature?


And before you leave, since it is still September, which is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month (and I’ve got my teal on!), please remind yourself of the symptoms of this sneaky, vicious disease.


Bloating that is persistent

Eating less and feeling fuller

Abdominal pain

Trouble with your bladder

Other symptoms may include: fatigue, indigestion, back pain, pain with intercourse, constipation, and menstrual irregularities.


Hi! When I’m not writing Scottish Historical romance and driving my kids around, I’m an educator and advocate for Ovarian Cancer Awareness. When I was diagnosed six years ago, I barely knew even one symptom of this very quiet disease, which is the most deadly of the GYN cancers. If you are a warrior, survivor, or just want to chat, please feel free to contact me at . I’m an “open book” when it comes to talking about my OC experiences. Heather




Veteran’s Day

This is a Ruby post from five years ago. Nothing has changed except we’re all a bit older. Please take the time today to give your special veteran a hug.  

Talking Romantic Suspense: Heroes for Kick-Butt Heroines

The first romantic suspense book I wrote (which will never be published), the heroine needed rescuing. A stalker was after her. The hero was a martial arts teacher and ultimately taught her enough tactics to defend herself, but she was a long way from the kick-butt heroines I wrote in The Good Daughter or Trust No One.

While there are still ‘ordinary’ women in extraordinary circumstances in romantic suspense stories–those every day moms and working women who find themselves on the run from or caught in the crosshairs of villains–many of today’s heroines are FBI or CIA agents, they’re military officers, sheriffs or spies, or in the case of Trust No One, both the women had been trained as assassins.

Which brings me to the point of this blog-what sort of heroes do these strong, well-trained, take-charge women need?

Meet 2012 Golden Heart Finalist Marni Folsom

Today we’re welcoming Marni Folsom, 2012 Golden Heart Finalist in Paranormal Romance.

Marni writes in a tiny corner of the Pacific Northwest, strategically located at the base of her laundry pile and in the fine company of a baby boy, a toddler girl, three black dogs and a burly, artistic husband. Her Golden Heart manuscript, FLANNIGAN’S GRACE, is the first in a series about the magic-wielding descendants of pre-Celtic demigods. She blogs joyfully yet irregularly at

Take it away, Marni!


 Go-To girls, both fictional and real

Hello, Rubies, and thank you for developing this blog! I confess that I’ve silently garnered writerly tips and Golden Heart inspiration from you all for the last couple years. It’s a thrill to be invited to post.

The ruby-slippered theme hits home today; I’ve been thinking about resourceful literary heroines, and Baum’s Dorothy Gale definitely falls into that category. Maya Angelou said we must honor our heroes and our “she-roes”. She likely meant historical figures that helped shape our culture, but I’ve always found comfort and inspiration in literature, so my favorite she-roes are of the fictional persuasion.

My first literary she-roe was Encyclopedia Brown’s friend, Sally, because she stood up to the class bully on Encyclopedia’s behalf (Save the Cat, anyone?). Lucy Maude Montgomery’s Anne Shirley proved another popular heroine in my early reading life. Anne defined “resilient” for me at a time when my hormone-laden blush preceded me into every room, and other than her idiotic tendency to overlook the wonderfulness of Gilbert Blythe, I thought Anne-with-an-E hung the moon.

My literary she-roe list goes on:  Jo March; Lizzie Bennett; Nancy Drew; Adah Price in Barbara Kinsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible; Bridget Jones; young Arya Stark in George RR Martin’s Ice and Fire series; Hermione Granger; Lily Owens in The Secret Life of Bees; Janie Crawford in Their Eyes Were Watching God; and many, many more….

In the romance genre, Joanna Bourne blew me away with Annique Villiers’ cunning in The Spymaster’s Lady, and she did it again with young Jess Whitbey’s determination and loyalty in My Lord and Spymaster. I loved Meljean Brooks’ Yasmeen in Heart of Steel (nothing like a fierce airship captain who dumps the hero into a zombie-teeming swamp because he challenges her command!) and Kitala Bell in Marjorie M. Liu’s Soul Song.

Then there’s Deanna Raybourn’s stalwart Lady Julia Grey and Julia Quinn’s Miranda Cheever. Right now, I’m enjoying tough-girl Rowan Tripp in Nora Roberts’ Chasing Fire and whip-smart Nora Towe in Meredith Duran’s At Your Pleasure. So many captivating heroines populate our genre!

Some of these she-roes overcome incredible odds in order to kick bad-guy ass, or to solve a big mystery, or to save the world. That’s all fine and good, but sometimes the most compelling heroines simply aim to bridge the gap between who they are and who they want to be. Me, too, girls. Me, too….

Each of these heroines is very different from the next, but they all inspire me with their ability to bounce back from adversity and internalize difficult lessons for future growth. Such is the way of women, and a message I’ve needed to hear lately.

A few weeks ago, I felt a bit defeated by some hardship in my world, and I rattled off a Yahoo post to my fellow GH finalists about the general rotten-ness of life as I knew it. Immediately afterward, I was embarrassed. I, a card-carrying Do It Yourselfer to Ridiculous Degree, had aired the dirty laundry in a public forum. I had, in essence, asked for help. *gasp*

But you know what? I’m now very glad I did! The responses to my post were filled with empathy, encouragement, and poignant personal stories from others who’ve traversed the murky waters I’m currently swimming. And those stories, like our GH-finalist manuscripts, brimmed with love and loss and the quiet-yet-indomitable strength of women.

These fabulous people who make up the list of 2012 GH finalists shared their collective experience and spurred me to open myself to greater possibility. Their stories reminded me of the power inherent in building something strong and good, even if it occurs via inch-high accomplishments. Ultimately, they reminded me that we are all she-roes in our own right.

I’d love to hear who your literary she-roes are. Do you have a favorite author who motivates you or character that inspires your writing? What traits denoting strength do you like to build into your romantic heroines?



If we were to take a poll of everyone’s idea of the perfect hero, the words alpha male would echo around the world, gaining momentum like a wave at the World Series. Me, my heroes have always been—nerds. Yes, I said it.

2011 Golden Heart Finalist Arlene Hittle

Today, the Ruby-Slippered Sisters welcome guest blogger Arlene Hittle, 2011 Golden Heart® finalist.  Her manuscript,”Beauty and the Ballplayer,” is a contender in the Contemporary Series Romance category.  Her heart-warming and funny stories feature down-to-earth heroes, or average Joes.

Power of the Average Joe

A certain type of man populates the pages of our favorite romances. You know the guy I’m talking about; The rich, powerful CEO. The dashing nobleman. The stunningly handsome enforcer (cop, FBI agent, Navy SEAL). The charming doctor. The studly cowboy.

All these heroes are thrilling to read — and fantasize — about. But they leave me wondering one little thing: Where are the average Joes? Surely not every hero needs to have muscles of steel, a fat wallet, an ego the size of Alaska, and an insistence on getting his own way.

Okay, maybe he does need to be used to getting his own way. That way he can butt heads with an equally stubborn heroine — even when he’d rather be making other forms of full-body contact.

I still maintain that he can — perhaps even should — be at least a little ordinary.

Maybe that’s just me. I write about heroes — and heroines — with whom I can imagine sitting down to drinks and dinner. They’re journalists, teachers, artists, counselors and ballplayers. I admit that last one’s a cut above the ordinary, but even then they don’t pull in multimillion-dollar salaries with a big league club. They play ball for the fictional minor-league Arizona Condors.

Of course, just because characters are average doesn’t mean they’re average-looking. My witty, affable heroes still manage to possess abs you could bounce quarters off. Some of them — Mike James, I’m looking at you — would even be able to hold their own in the WWE ring, against the likes of John Cena and Randy Orton. (Mike’s a sportswriter who moonlights as a male stripper.)

Strippers and wrestling superstars provide a bit of eye candy, but when it comes to heroes, it’s not big muscles I’m attracted to — much, anyway. Well-oiled pecs and six-pack abs help, sure — but what really makes me fall for a hero is what goes on in his brain.

And, since it’s fitting to borrow from Shakespeare on the day Wills and Kate tie the knot, there’s the rub: How do we create characters that readers can fall in love with?

How do we make sure they’ll cheer when our hero and heroine kiss for the first time — or when she tells off her creep of a boss? How do we get them to understand why he accepts that job halfway across the country — or at least ask “what the hell are you thinking?”

I’m sure there are as many tips for character development as there are writers creating characters. I’ve listened to talks about categorizing characters by personality type. I’ve filled out worksheets listing everything from the type of car they drive and favorite foods to their hospital stays and political beliefs.

Whoever gave me that questionnaire must subscribe to the Noah Lukeman school of thought. In “The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life,” he writes, “ To even begin to accurately bring a character to life on the page … you must quiz yourself fastidiously about every last detail of your character’s inner and outer life.” To that end, his book begins with 50 pages of questions covering every aspect imaginable.

Along that same vein, after reading a post here on the Ruby blog by Autumn Jordon, in which she writes about a visit from her villain, I was inspired to sit down at Starbucks and have a chat with a couple of my characters, the hero and heroine from the WIP I’d intended to finish sometime this year — before I got the GH call. It was great fun and I learned, among other things, that they both were pretty mouthy. (That always makes things more interesting, if you ask me.) If you’re interested, you can find an excerpt from that interview here.

I’m not completely convinced that knowing the name of your hero’s kindergarten teacher contributes anything to a MS — besides creating the potential for a giant, unwanted info dump. However, details like the fact that he crossed the street to save a puppy from some bullies at age 6 — and got his butt kicked in the process — might come in handy at some point. Of course, that’s something I didn’t quiz myself to find out; it emerged while I was writing.

Guess that means I’m still trying to find the best way to breathe life into my characters. Even Average Joes need to leap off the page and into readers’ hearts.

What makes your favorite hero so lovable? How do you make sure readers will remember him long after they finish reading the story?

Free-for-All Friday: Hero(ine) Edition

It’s that day again.  The day where you get to ask the Ruby Sisters any random writing question that pops into your head.  I’ll throw a question out to get things started. I’m in the middle of plotting my next book, so I’ve been thinking about what makes a good hero or heroine.  I have two favorite fictional heroines.

The Latest Comments

  • Autumn Jordon: Everyone of these cover designers is so talented. I wish I had their eye for detail.
  • Autumn Jordon: I totally agree, Kate. I think it takes a certain eye to make an awesome cover.
  • Autumn Jordon: They did a amazing job answering my questions, didn’t they. I also learned a lot.
  • Darynda Jones: What a great interview! Thanks for taking the time, guys. This is so informative and timely. I love...
  • Kate Parker: Thank you so much for this timely interview. I’m indie and getting ready to recover the first in...