Tag Archives: HEA

The Big U-Turn

Yes, I admit it openly! I’m an HEA sort of girl. I feel like I’ve been cheated if I don’t get that happy ever afteror at least a happy for nowat the end of a novel or a series. Yes, I expect losses, and yes I expect a journey that is fraught with chaos and nail-biting setbacks, but I do expect a pay-off for sticking with the author to the end.


If there isn’t an HEA, well I can live with that as long as the tale is redemptive. But take away the characters’ hard-earned HEA and their redemption arc and I will throw the book in the trash, or delete it from my kindle and never read that author again. Totally not acceptable in my sight!


While I get that sometimes the cost of the tale being told is way too high for a proper HEA, while I get that people suffer and die and things go tits up and pear shaped, I cannot, CANNOT except a tale that ends with no intimation of redemption. Perhaps it makes me a sappy git, but I believe redemption is essential to the human condition. If that were not the case, I figure the human race would have died out a long time ago from the total lack of hope.


I often find myself thinking about the redemptive arcs in my own stories. Not only are they there in every single tale, but they are absolutely essential for the HEA to happen. While a redemption story does not necessarily involve an HEA, in my opinion for an HEA to be worth the read, a redemptive arc leading up to it is crucial. Without it, the story is flat and, worst of all, it becomes something with which people in the real world cannot identify.


The sharing of stories is quite possibly the best form of escapism ever created, with reading fiction the ultimate refinement of that great escape. We read, and write stories to experience vicariously the journeys we can never make on our own, nor would we even want to if we could. And while that is true, the one thing that we do want to believe in, need to believe in, the one thing that we want to take for ourselves from each story is a sense of hope, without which there’s very little reason to journey farther.


Through the stories I’ve written, my characters have taught me several valuable lessons about redemption.


First of all, redemption doesn’t mean forgiveness. Some things cannot be forgiven, nor can they be undone. That means one of the very fist steps to redemption is letting go of the past those characters can’t change and moving forward to the future they can.


Secondly that moving forward instead of being stuck in the past and its hopelessness is often the opening of ones eyes to see things differently, a different view of what has been and how it affects the present makes for a much different view of the future and the possibilities awaiting the character.


Thirdly while the literal definition of redemption is the buying back of a thing, in fiction the currency is character struggle. What is purchased at a very high price is hope bought back from hopelessness. It’s not so much the hope that one might be made new again nor is it the pipe dream that what has happened can be undone, because certainly it can’t. But redemption is the moving forward on a different path that leads away from despair and toward hope, no matter how distant that hope may seem. It’s the understanding that while one can’t undo what has been done, one can move forward in hope and impact the world in a positive way, or at least not a negative one.


Fourthly, once the U-turn into hope is made, the journey is only just beginning. The characters’ flaws don’t magically vanish, the brokenness is not suddenly mended and the journey is more than likely going to be one helluva a ride. But it’s a ride worth the effort. It’s a ride worth waking up for every morning. That sense of value, or at least that sense of not being worthless, that sense of moving toward something that matters is a key ingredient in the redemption of a character.


Finally, sex in a story can play a major role in that redemptive arc. Sex can work as the drug that keeps hopelessness at bay and keeps a character numb or in denial. It may be nothing more than a distraction from the pain of that hopelessness, but in story it’s a powerful distraction and one that can convey to the reader the depth of the character’s hopelessness in a way that’s raw and honest, even in its dishonesty.


But sex in the redemptive arc can also lay a character bare, render a character open and vulnerable to that U-turning, to that possibility that hope might not just be something for other people. That sense of union and oneness that can happen with sex can be a part of the guiding force that brings a character back to himself, that reconnects him with all that matters, all that has been lost.


While we might all seek an escape from our own ordinary lives through the stories we read, while we might all live vicariously through the trials and tribulations of the characters, the need for redemption, for hope, is something not so vicarious, something we all need and long to share.



Writing Gives Me Hope

I’m an HEA sort of girl – have been most of my life except for a few years when I was a surly teenager. Being a novelist and loving a good HEA tale means that every time I put fingers to the keyboard to write a story, I deal in hope. Every time I read a good novel, I do it for hope. I understand that we too often don’t get an HEA in real life, and I realize that hopelessness is a constant battle everywhere. I suppose that’s part of the reason I write HEAs. I deal in hope in a world that’s sorely lacking it at times.


Yes, I’m well aware that there’s nothing more escapist than an HEA romance … unless it’s a paranormal HEA romance, one with plenty of steamy sex. I get it, and I don’t apologize for it. I’ll let you in on a little secret, I DO write my stories to escape. I’m not getting any younger, I don’t have any super power (you guessed it, I’ve seen Wonder Woman recently) and I’m never going to be an astrophysicist or a prima ballerina. But I have grown up to be a damn decent storyteller, and that, in itself gives me hope. Maybe that is my super power … Sometimes it feels that way when I’m in the zone and my characters and I are in close communion, when I create a world and a situation that broadsides me with possibilities I didn’t expect. Oh yes! Those are the times I definitely feel larger than myself, timeless, living beyond the flesh and bone of physicality.


Strange, as I started to write this post, I was going to share a list of the things that give me hope. As is often the case when I write – whether it’s a blog post, a journal entry or a story – I end up in a difference place than I thought I would. My list grows and changes, but at the core of it all, it’s writing that gives me hope. It’s knowing that I write tales of hope, it’s knowing that I do it for love. I do it for myself first and foremost because it’s at the very heart of who I am.


The truth of why I do it, why I write, when writers are struggling in the market, when worthiness of a work has less to do with success than luck, when I know the cynical side of the business, when I no longer have stars in my eyes, is that I can’t NOT write. The truth is that writing is as essential to me as breathing, and I’m never happier than when I’m penning a story. That gives me hope. That gives me great hope. My purpose is to write. In that hope I can safely explore my mortality as well as imagine my immorality. In that hope I can examine all the facets of me that can’t be lived out in one lifetime, all the secret depths of me that I keep hidden from the world – both the light and the darkness. In that hope I can face the dark fearlessly. All of the other worlds I create, all of the other people who live and breathe and are flawed and neurotic and sometimes frightening and wicked; who make mistakes and act impulsively and do impossibly heroic things are the hope inside of me, and that hope is steadfast. That hope doesn’t change with the flux of the world around me, and I rediscover it daily in the telling of the tale. That gives me courage to move forward, confidence to share what I write with anyone else who reads stories for an HEA and for a little bit of hope.

Fifty Shades of Baggage

As a writer, I can’t read a book without analysing why it worked for me or why it didn’t. A lot of times I’m lucky to get through the first chapter before I’m too bored to go on. While it’s quite likely that I have a short attention span, it’s more likely that I’m jaded from a lot of years of experiencing the craft side of writing fiction, which has made me a harsh critic of my own work, as well as everyone else’s. I’m still analysing what it was about E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey that not only kept me reading to the end, but had me gripped. In the light of the volatile responses to the book, I say that with all shields raised.

There has already been lots written about the writing, so I won’t revisit that. But after careful analysis of  Fifty Shades of Grey, it was the baggage that kept me reading. The story is about a late-blooming virgin, whose mother is a serial marry-er, and a multi-billionaire, whose early childhood was the stuff nightmares are made of, who attempts to introduce said virgin to the BDSM lifestyle as his sub, and the battle of wills that ensues. The story is not about the BDSM lifestyle, but rather about two people trying to rearrange their baggage so they can actually attempt a life together. It’s that baggage rearranging that drives the story. Once I figured out that the baggage actually got me there, I found myself wondering just what it is about baggage that will keep me reading against all odds.

We all have baggage, no matter how perfect our upbringing, no matter how idyllic our childhood. Baggage is just a part of the human condition – you’re born, you get baggage while growing up, then you take your baggage into a relationship with someone who has his own baggage. Voila! Twice the baggage, twice the fun – at least from a story-telling point of view. Story is conflict. No conflict, no story. There’s a reason why the happy ending only happens at the end. Most readers love a happy ending, and though they may fantasise about what happens AFTER the happy ending, no one wants to read about the endless tedium of happiness (though lovely to live, boring to read.)

When there are sparks between two people and the chemistry for a little romance is there, the friction needed to create a fire comes in part from the baggage. Every one of us carries all the baggage of Western culture, religion and pop culture, along with the baggage our parents unwittingly saddle us with, into our relationships, into our bedrooms. There’s bound to be an explosion waiting to happen, or a seething cauldron of repression, or a nasty combination of the two.

While the bedroom is the biggest baggage dump in a couple’s relationship, it’s also the very best place for healing. Sex as healing is very much underrated, in my opinion, and in that respect, E.L. James seemed to know just what the doctor ordered.

Anyone who follows my blog or reads one of my novels knows that I’m a firm believer in sex as a way to heal what ails us. With the release of my first Lakeland Heatwave novel, Body Temperature and Rising, I’ve created a world in which sex is not only healing, but it’s the driving force behind the magic practiced by my witches. I was asked in a recent interview by someone who had read BTR if I really believed in sex magic, and my reply was that it’s the only kind of magic I really do believe in. So here is the magic formula that works for me, the formula that will keep me reading: Two (or more) characters attracted to each other + baggage +complications of everyday life = explosions and seething cauldrons. Add sex liberally at all the right places and the result is Happy ending.

Bring on the baggage!