Heaven Save Me from Men who Think They’re God’s Gift to Women
I’ve known a guy like that when I worked as a trainer in a gym in my twenties. Boy, was he pretty to look at: big smile, white teeth, six-pack abs, charisma. Women lined up to swoon after him. They were so excited when they received his phone number, or were asked out for drinks. They had no idea that he was like that with everyone—or that he was already living with someone.
All writers use their own life experiences in their books. When Joe Kessler, small-town football hero turned hot stuff police officer, strutted onto the scene in my bestselling novel Deathscape, I was sure he was just like that guy at my old gym. In fact, here is a gym scene with Joe at the police station. Jack, the hero of Deathscape, is sitting on the mat, having just ended an unpleasant phone call:
Jack hung up on the man as Joe, one of two rookies, pushed through the door and dropped his gym bag on the floor, heading straight for the treadmill with a grin. “Fallen and you can’t get it up?”
“Odd that should be on your mind at your age.” Jack rolled to his feet. “Trouble in that department? You’ll get better with experience. Try not to worry.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, old man. Hot stud is my middle name.” The twenty-something flashed another cocky grin as he began running.
He was so full of hot air it was a wonder he didn’t float to the ceiling. But he was well-meaning, and he would watch a man’s back if needed, so pretty much everybody liked him around the station and overlooked his strutting peacock tendencies.
I thought Joe made an interesting secondary character, but I had no intention what so ever to write him as the hero of a book. The hero of a book has to be someone I could fall in love with. Because if I can’t fall in love with the guy, I sure as anything can’t make my readers fall in love with him.
And then Joe popped up in more scenes, and, oh my, can the man be charming. And then he was in Deathtrap, using every scene he showed up in to draw my attention. He is a great cop, so I did respect him for that. But writing a whole book that focused on Cop Casanova? No thanks. I couldn’t see myself filling pages with him standing in front of a mirror and oiling his muscles. (Or whatever stud muffins do in private.)
But then Joe went after one of my other secondary characters Wendy, who was very special to me. I had plans for Wendy. She was going get her own book eventually.
Thank God, Wendy had the good sense to see Joe for what he was and brush him off. She’s a single mother. Officer Stud Muffin Kessler was the last thing she needed. Oh, how I love when smart women refuse to settle for anything less than they deserve!
Except, when I sat down to write Wendy’s story, Deathblow, my brain kept bringing up Joe for some sadistic reason, no matter how many valid arguments I listed why those two were horribly wrong for each other. All right, I told them, go at it. Flirt with disaster. And they did (flirt), and they also brought out the best in each other. So I had to admit that I’d been wrong, which, naturally, didn’t thrill me. As it turned out, Joe is a caring, steady, dependable guy, with a great sense of humor. Those six-pack abs are the least attractive thing about him. (Oh, fine, so I judged the book by the cover, so sue me.) He is exactly what Wendy and her toddler son needed to make them happy—not to mention keep them for getting killed.
I mean, why do I even bother to try to plot a book? My characters will just go ahead and do whatever they please, anyway.
How sweet can Joe be? Here is a scene with Wendy and her son Justin at Joe’s house for protection after Wendy had been attacked earlier in the day.
Joe cleaned the kid up, dragged some pajamas on him, and reread the book they’d read before naptime—apparently, Justin’s favorite.
About dancing sheep.
When he finished, the kid read the book back to him, nearly word for word—impressive. Joe tucked the boy in, then walked over to the master bathroom and turned on the water in the tub.
“Okay, the dancing sheep are so wrong on so many levels,” he told Wendy as he
plodded down the stairs.
“It’s a very wholesome series. Teaches creativity.”
“Three guy sheep, living together. They like dancing, painting, and cooking.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Do you have a problem with that?”
“How about sports? And they could fix a car now and then. Where are the girl sheep?”
“You think men need women to feel complete?” she teased him.
“Are you mocking me?”
“Is that a trick question?” She smiled. The afternoon rest had definitely done her good.
He liked seeing her joke around. “Dancing sheep is a book a mother would buy. I’m going to set Justin up with some studly books.” He walked over to her.
“Hey, maybe America’s Most Wanted has a bedtime storybook edition.”
“I’m going to check on that. Or something like Tool Time for Bedtime. If that picture book doesn’t exist, somebody needs to start writing it.”
“Good night, hammer, good night, saw?” She shook her head, still smiling.
Joe walked over, tucked a few stray strands of hair behind her ear. “I’m drawing you a nice warm bath.”
“A bath sounds really, really great.”
“Hold on.” He bent, and, before she could protest, he gathered her up into his arms.
Embarrassment flushed across her cheeks. “I’m not a total invalid. My legs are fine. You took a bullet.”
“Barely a scratch.” He carried her up the stairs, liking the feel of her in his arms. She was here; she was safe. “I feel guilty as hell because I wasn’t here to protect you today,
all right? You have to let me do something.”