Why it’s important to have Heroes, and not just the Alpha, ‘I’m a Cowboy Sheikh Tycoon With a Tortured Past’ Hero. The other ones. But you know, the Alpha ones are great too.

Last night I realised my husband doesn’t have a hero. As I presented this new found realisation to him and he made appropriate noises to my revelations, I realised more and more how my heroes affect my daily life. They represent my goals and life standards. They’re in my head talking to me and influencing every step I take. They’re fluid and changeable with age and influence, but they are there. I consult them daily, they just don’t know it.

This wouldn’t be a blog primarily focussing on my passion for reading and writing if I didn’t mention here that my current hero is Maisey Yates. Those of you who devour Harlequin Presents know who I’m talking about.

My natural inclination is to insert an essay on Maisey’s contribution to the romance genre but I’ll contain myself. Just. Instead I’ll keep that essay for my next post. But yeah, she’s pretty awesome.

I digress. I asked my husband if he’d ever had a hero. He ummmed and ahhhhed and vaguely cited a couple of people he’d felt an affinity with over the years. But no one who truly inspired him. This made me sad. It made me wonder how important it really is to have a hero.

My hero helps me focus on my goals. She is the standard to which I base my own work. How do you stay focused when you don’t have a hero? How do you define standards in your life if you never aim for higher or more skilled practices?

It was at this point in my ramblings from the couch that my husband started to really become part of the conversation. By that I mean he looked at me occasionally and smiled as well as ummming and ahhhhing. But I knew I’d piqued his interest. We are subtle people.

So I leave you with this:

Do you believe in heroes? How does your hero keep you focused on your goals?

*cue ‘I need a hero! I’m holding out for a hero ‘til the end of the night…’*

X Angelina.

It’s not you, it’s me.

I’m certain there’s something wrong with me. I haven’t read a romance in an incredibly long time. So long I’m embarrassed to cite the exact time frame. I can’t seem to stay focused. Is this representative of my current life circumstances, or something else entirely? No really, I’m asking because I have no idea and I don’t want to have to book in to see my psychologist again.

I could bandy around words like mojo and drive and impotence, but let’s not be hasty. Just cool your jets. And your metaphors. I’m choosing for the moment to believe this is fixable. I’m imagining a pill or an online 3 step self help course. I’m hoping there are only 3 steps because quite honestly, any number higher than that just won’t hold my attention. Thank goodness I teach kindergarten and not high school mathematics.

Am I turning into a social media, smart phone, no more than 140 characters drone? Or, as previously mentioned can this be brought on by stressful circumstances? Unfortunate really as reading used to be my bliss, my rest and relaxation, the Sam to my Frodo, and the wind beneath my wings.

Could it be them? It’s not me, it’s you? How do I break that news to my pile of novels to be read? It’s currently heaving under its own lackluster weight. More confounding, is that also includes many ebooks.

Is this a common affliction? Or am I the only one? Do I need to have ‘the talk’ with my books? Do we need to break up? Or, alternatively, and my preferred action – do I need to quit my full time job, flee to the hills, and spend some quality time between the covers?

X Angelina.

Back Story And How It Writes Our Future.

We all have a back story. For some, it’s a little more linear than others. Events are preceded by the required set up and the narrative flows beautifully. For others, it’s a little more fleshed out. It’s character driven with little regard for the proposed and expected plot.

I’ve lived the latter. The details aren’t important. I’ve also experienced an interesting and varied childhood; met new and wonderful people throughout my life; went to university to become a teacher; met my husband and married him in an incredibly fun Vegas wedding with close family and friends looking on; honeymooned on an Alaskan cruise; toured through Canada; and gave birth to a beautiful, hilarious, cheeky, and charming son.

So I suppose I have a choice of letting the negative events define the arc of my life, or whether I just let them be my back story. I could base all future decisions on those negative events or I can take the positive life lessons and forge ahead accordingly.

I’ve chosen to forge ahead.

I’m getting to a point here. Bear with me. It’s something about teaching and writing. I assure you it’s brilliant. Wait for it…here it is:

So when I teach I have to recognise my children have a back story. For some 5 year olds it’s a short back story. For some, like mine, it’s quite extensive. It’s my job to recognise and acknowledge that my Kinder children come into Kindergarten with that back story. A new character or plot device could have been added to their life just that morning. It affects their interactions and ability to engage in learning and social constructs. Imagine the children who have special needs. They are already struggling with these concepts.

I’m learning that this is the same with writing. Every reader comes to the page with a back story. Every character has a back story. One would hope. If they don’t, put that book down! No really, put it down. It’s what we do to engage both character on the page, and reader holding the book. Like anyone, if we feel respected for who we are, we will stay engaged and responsive to the world around us. So how do we achieve this? I know how to help my Kinder children achieve this, but how do we do this with writing? I haven’t quite got an answer for that question yet. I’m getting there.

Sometimes I feel silly talking about writing and editing. I have no formal experience of either and I’m not published. It’s just something I love, and along with teaching, am very passionate about. I’ve gained insight into people through my own back story and from my years of teaching. I’ve gained insight into writing through those same experiences, as well as through reading A LOT. I’ve also gained wonderful insights into writing through conversations with some amazing authors and editors on social media.

I suppose this blog is a little ‘hats off to you’ – to the authors and editors who inspire me and help me learn and stay engaged and passionate about reading and writing. I’ll never stop saying ‘Thank You’.

So in conclusion, (I really need to learn how to write short posts), our back stories don’t have to be the same. We just need to acknowledge and respect the back story of others.

X Angelina.

Dreams Aren’t Always Shiny. That’s What Makes Them So Beautiful.

When I wrote my obituary I wrote it with excitement and wonder for the future. I suppose it was more of a life plan than I death knell. I’m pretty sure that’s what my Year 11 English teacher had planned. Maybe. Or maybe he was flicking through the pages of ‘Creative Writing 101’ while knocking back schnapps.

Whatever the purpose, I still remember my life plan. A life plan written by a 17 year old with limitless possibilities and a passion for romance. More specifically, romance found between the covers. More specifically, romance found between the covers of Harlequin Mills & Boon novels.

When looking back on my imaginary life – or as I prefer to see it, looking forward to the possibilities – I wanted to be a best selling romance author by age 23, married at 27, have a son with a J name by 28, and wait for it, be an editor for Harlequin Mills and Boon by age 31.

By pure coincidence I married at 27. Thank goodness I didn’t give my son a J name. As any teacher can attest, that would have been madness. I did however marry a man named Jason. Madness. But never boring.

As to being a best selling author at 23? I was in my first year of teaching. I thought I knew everything. I really knew nothing. My dream of being an Editor by age 31? Well, it’s getting close to my birthday so the probability of that happening is low. Also, I must have been absent when my schnapps sipping English teacher taught the class the difference between editors and authors.

This blog is a dedication to the amazing authors who have entertained me, inspired me, guided me, nurtured me, and especially for the authors who made me laugh and who made me cry.

You are the people who are living my dream every day while also living your life with spouses, children, extended family, friends, and all those combined. Hopefully not in the same room. Or maybe in the same room. Because all those people have a lot of fascinating stories.

When I say ‘dream’, I don’t mean that pretty, perfect idea of a life where nothing goes wrong and everything is shiny. I mean a life where I feel complete, happy, and completely in love with me, my family, my friends, and my life. It even involves Vegemite toast in the morning and possibly pretzels and ice-cream. You haven’t tried that? Really? Go. Go now. You’ll wonder why you haven’t tried it sooner.

So where to from here? I ask that every day. However it’s always in relation to how I can extend an interest or ability of one of my students. It’s about time I put that time, thought, and energy into my own loves, interests, and passions.

Today, I write. Not in spite of my life, but in complete harmony with my family, work, and social being. Because after a whole lot of living I know it’s those life experiences that inspire us, guide us, and shape us.

X Angelina.

My Daily Inspiration.

A short review titled: The Importance Of Reviews; Why We Should Always Trust Annie West; A Heated Discussion With My Husband About The History Of Harlequin Mills & Boon; And Why Nobody Does ‘Sheikhs’ Like Annie West Does ‘Sheikhs’. Also, the review of ‘Scandal: His Majesty’s Love-Child’ by Annie West. An alternate title: Annie West Is Wonderful.

So I recently discovered e-books. Whether you are for or against them I doubt you can dispute what they have done for the romance genre. Particularly Harlequin Mills & Boon. Titles that were long forgotten in sad piles going for twenty cents each at garage sales or local markets are now back, beautiful, and ready to be loved forever. Books I would never have managed to buy and read in time before they were whisked off the shelves are now at my fingertips. Excitingly so.

That’s where I found Annie West. I had come across one of her books years ago. It was part of a series I refused to finish because the blurb on her book just didn’t do it for me. I came across the book again recently and was excited to see it was part of that same series. Thinking it was a different book I read the blurb again. I realised it was the same book but thought I’d give it a chance by reading its reviews. There were none, not even a star rating. So I left it.

Yeah, I’m that person. I will refuse to read a book upon reading its blurb. I will very rarely read a book with a prologue (most of the time they should just be titled ‘Chapter One’ – particularly in Presents/Sexy etc.), and I rarely read an e-book that has less than a 4 star rating. I’m a mum and I’m a teacher and I’m all things in between. So when I want to read a book I need it to be wonderful from the get go. I’ve been reading Harlequin Mills & Boon for 18 years. I know exactly what I want.

Well, I thought I did. Until Annie West taught me a lesson. Always trust Annie West.

A week ago I was going through one of my usual, “Oh no, I can’t find a good book to read. Is it me? Is it the books? Woe is me,” moments. I’d re-read a few old titles on my bookshelf. I was about to turn to my idols Patricia Wilson and Jennie Lucas. Then, in a moment of “There HAS to more,” I typed ‘Sheikh’ into the e-book search and found ‘The Sheikh’s Ransomed Bride’ by Annie West. The rest is history.

I could end it there but I won’t.

After reading one after the other of Annie West’s books I began to see and understand what Annie West has done to and for Harlequin Mills & Boon. Not only has she delivered gem after gem but she’s managed to do it with original story lines and with original characters.

On the way home from visiting the doctor this morning with an incredibly sick toddler and my husband sitting next to him on the back seat of the car I had to let it all out. So when I said in the title I had a discussion with my husband, it was more like me gushing wonderment and my husband nodding a smiling. Also, him telling me to keep my hands on the wheel. When I’m passionate about something I flail a little bit. You’ve been warned.

If you’ve read a few romance novels you know about Sheikhs. If you’ve been reading Harlequin Mills & Boon for a few years you might know about the evolution of the different series from their beginnings until now. That essay is for another day. I suppose what we need to know here is how Sheikhs have been portrayed in romance novels over time and how Annie West has turned the tables.

I feel like I’ve read them all, and in the majority of them the Sheikh is tall dark and handsome and completely arrogant. Some have created Sheikhs so arrogant and mean I’ve struggled to finish the book. Some Sheikhs have gone the other way and have somehow found their way into metrosexual territory with not a grain of sand in sight. I suppose all I wanted was the tall dark and handsome with traditional values but with modern ties. Someone who is strong and capable but can show vulnerability and need. I first had a glimpse of that when I read ‘Tamed: The Barbarian King’ by Jennie Lucas. Perfect.

Annie West manages to do all this. All of it. With all of her Sheikhs. All of them. While still creating completely different characters with completely different motivations. She also writes a great sex scene but that’s also for another essay. I was going to try to slip it in here but that might just tip me over from ‘short’ to ‘long’ review.

So after devouring the majority of Annie West’s catalogue in a week I came back across that book with the uninspiring blurb and non-existent reviews. Why was I still cautious? Somebody go back in time and slap me.

Trust Annie West.

‘Scandal: His Majesty’s Love Child’ is brilliant. The end.

Tahir is a man desperate to feel. Living on the peripheries of life. Never connecting. His feet never touch the ground. He welcomes the opportunity of death and finds relief in the blackness. Annalisa is a woman stuck between two cultures. Never belonging. Never knowing her true self. Her true potential. Less so now that her father – her one guiding light – has passed away. They meet in a situation that leaves Tahir completely vulnerable. A situation in which Annalisa is saying goodbye to the world she knows and Tahir must choose between death and a life filled with new opportunity.

And that’s just in the first few pages people.

Our hero and heroine each answer a need in the other. With a complete role reversal Annalise is the protector. She is the rock. She pushes Tahir to feel. To live in the light. To take chances. It’s Tahir’s journey more than it is Annalisa’s journey, and that’s okay by me. It’s wonderful to read stories about women who are not only virgins but strong and capable – not shrinking violets who need protection and cosseting.

Not only is this book a wonderful part to a series, but it is able to stand alone. Not many achieve this. If you would like to read the other books in this series look up ‘Dark Hearted Desert Men’. It is the follow on series from ‘The Royal House of Karedes’.

‘Scandal: His Majesty’s Love-Child’ was a 2010 ARRA Awards Finalist, a USA Today Bestseller, and a Borders Best Seller.

5/5 stars.

So why is it important to review this book? A book that was released in 2010? Because Annie West is wonderful and her creations need to be read. If that takes reviewing all of her titles so people like me who choose reading material on reviews will read her work, then so be it. Did that sentence make sense? Thought not.

Annie West not only writes about wonderful Sheikhs.  Her current title, ‘Undone By His Touch’ was a May 2012 release in Australia/NZ (Mills & Boon Sexy); an April 2012 release in the UK (Mills & Boon Modern Romance); and a June 2012 release in the USA (Presents).  For more information, you can find Annie West here: http://www.annie-west.com/.

X Angelina.

Scandal: His Majesty’s Love-Child (US Cover)