Dear Sharon Ashwood,
It has come our attention that you are in violation of Sec. 45, sSec. 12, para. 1(d) of the agreement between the International Union of Fictional Characters (Paranormal Romance Division) and the Fellowship of Twisted Authors, Inc.
In particular, we find you in breach of the Brooding Hero Articles. The agreement clearly lays out the requirements as follows:
1. Hero will furrow brow once every third page, increasing frequency per the Standard Frown Guidelines
2. Hero will begin the book with a minimum 4.5 on the General Regurgitative Unresolved Negative Trauma (GRUNT) Scale
3. Hero will increase GRUNT scale scores using the Mean-Over-Agony Norm (MOAN) calculation to a reading of 7.5 or better.
4. Pursuant to items two and three above, hero will experience frequent thoughts of unworthiness alternating with overcompensatory alpha male behaviour, resulting in yodelling, chest-beating, and the reckless operation of high-powered motor vehicles.
You have deviated from this process. Your demon hero, Conall Macmillan, persists in joking throughout the novel. Such levity, while not entirely negating the four-step Brooding Hero requirements, severely disrupts the dark tone expected of doomed souls. We are putting you on notice. The fellowship stands behind their Tortured Hero Guarantee. This remorseless fun must stop at once!
With sincerest admonitions,
President and Board, International Union of Fictional Characters
Now, what’s an author to do? My hero is a card-carrying alpha, tortured, doomed, thrown into a prison for supernatural castaways and is doing his best to save everyone from certain death—not to mention all the other nasty things that happen to him. And that’s not good enough? So he drops the odd one-liner. What’s wrong with that? Yes, we all like the tall, dark and tortured type--but I also like a guy who makes me laugh.
Before I respond to the International Union of Fictional Characters, I put it to you, the readers. Can a hero brood and be funny at the same time? How much humour is allowed before an author breaks the Tortured Hero Guarantee—and does it matter?
Leave Sharon a response to her question along with your email addy as one lucky person will be chosen to receive a copy of SCORCHED, along with some bookmarks.
Back in the Castle five friggin' minutes and I'm in the middle of an ass-kicking. Mac wiped a sudden sweat from his face. Same old Club Dread.
Mac circled his opponent, who mirrored his low, watchful crouch. Bran was a huge, bare-armed hulk covered with spiraling blue tattoos. He stank like old leather shut up in an attic trunk for far too long. A black braid swung past the man's hips as he moved, a dark slash against the scarlet and gold silk of his tunic.
Guardsman Bran was one scary, ugly mother.
Shadows ate at the ceiling and surrounding passageways, giving the illusion there was no reality beyond the circle of their combat. The solitary sound in the corridor was the shuffling of their feet on the stone floor. Torchlight played along Bran's short sword, reminding Mac the guardsman was armed and he wasn't.
Sharp objects mattered, but Mac's pulse roared in his head, drowning out fear with every heartbeat. He felt drunk, high, complete, even relieved. He was ready to pound this grunt and love every minute of it. Kill or die. The shredded remainder of his demon side had finally slipped its leash.
Mac lunged. Bran was quick, blocking him, slashing at Mac's ribs—but Mac was supernaturally fast, dancing aside before the blade could land.
They sprang apart, circling again.
"Nice to see you, too," Mac said with a taunting grin. Without warning, he changed direction, but Bran followed the sudden shift with the poise of a gymnast. Mac licked his lips, his mouth dry from breathing hard. "Interesting tatts. Still working the Bronze Age look?"
"Be silent." Bran curled his lip, his white teeth and pale skin making him look more like a vampire than a guardsman. "I found you, fugitive. No one escapes twice."
"C'mon, saying that's just tempting fate."
They closed again, grappling and snarling. Bran swept Mac's feet from under him, but they both fell, Mac on top. Mac's vision turned white, then red with bloodlust and rage. With his knee on Bran's throat, Mac smashed the guardsman's sword hand into the stone floor, pounding until Bran's fingers let go of the hilt.
Bran surged, tossing Mac off. Rolling to his back, Mac brought his feet up just in time to catch Bran in the chest with a satisfying thump. The guardsman stumbled, air whooshing from his lungs. Mac flipped to his feet, running two steps to sink a hard, knuckle-bruising shot to Bran's midriff. The man was solid as granite, but no match. Bran doubled over. Mac grabbed the sword and brought the hilt down with a smack, catching the guardsman behind his left ear. Bran dropped like a stone in a face-flat sprawl at Mac's feet.
The thump of his fall, like so much dirty laundry, echoed in the cavernous dark. Mac bent, feeling for a pulse. The guardsman was still alive but would be out for a good long time.
As he rose, Mac felt the surge of his own blood, the tingle and rush of human life in every limb. Behind it pulsed the demon, gleeful—lustful—at the prospect of even more violence. Hunger. The weight of the sword was a suggestion, the hilt hard and perfect in his greedy palm. There were so many ways to kill. A quick blade in the spine. The slow agony of a gut wound.
Gritting his teeth, Mac backed away. I'm still too much a cop to kill a man when he's down. Even this one. He clutched at that thought, holding it like a talisman that would preserve his slipping humanity.
But in the Castle, every moment was fight or die. Here, he needed his demon side to survive. Staying human would be a losing battle. I have to get out of here, or lose my soul again.
A flicker at the edge of his vision made him look up, reflexes poised.
Mac glimpsed a face, all wide eyes and pointed chin. It was a woman, barely more than a girl, with a thick fall of midnight hair long past her waist. Every line of her thin body looked startled.
All was silent but for the sound of Bran's faint, slow breathing. The woman just stared, her mouth pulled down at the corners.