Monday, March 06, 2006

MEGA LONG POST Do not read if only zipping through

This hit me as wonderful point to make about those "bodice ripper" covers with the handsome half dressed hunk with man boobies so defined they hurt the eye.

On my MySpace site, I've been playing with words. I started doing this on my other blog, but it quickly spiraled into a dedication to Man Candy - I find it hard to stop. The purpose was to find a picture and prove the ol' cliche - A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS. Up until two days ago, I hadn't been able to do it. I finally hit my stride. Eureka! This is a full 2200+ word extravaganza based on one - ONE picture.

I had already sent this to my sister. This was her response:

"When I read a story, I want to fall in love with the guy too....I was reading the story and crying for Ursuline to run for her life. That's just nasty. But the story was really good. I think you do really have a talent.".

Interesting, yes? Not so much the compliment, (*grin*, she's my sister, of course she'd be supportive, LOL) but the fact that the picture DID influence how she saw the male focus of the story. I found that fascinating!! I've been hearing an incredible amount of buzz in the blogosphere that the covers are passe`, tacky or unwanted. There is a push for drawings or caricatures of people. But hunky models being old hat? I don't think so!

Bear in mind that this is not written for any kind of accuracy. Fun doesn't have to be. However, the females name is actually "a member of a teaching order of nuns founded in Italy in 1535." I just liked the way it sounded as a female name.

That being said, here is my little story. You be the judge.

Addison Gauss was disgusted; with himself, with his life and his so-called friends. Trying to blend in was not going the way he'd hoped. Joining the little known PBCC was his friends' exercise in humor, at Addison's expense. Looking at all the people and media crowding the beach he now realized what a joke it all was but he wasn't laughing.

He scowled while he reached up to tug at the grotesquely heavy chain supporting the over sized cross he had been assured was neccesary to wear. Sure, Addison was a big guy. All the males in his family were. It was a source of pride to his pater and matri. Out here, on the outside, his size was not revered but reviled. He wished he'd remembered that before Jeremy and Carl had conviced him that the Polar Bear Christian Coalition was a great opportunity to mingle incognito with other like minded people. Damn outside politics.

Addison felt a tap on his shoulder. It was the hairless man he'd seen with the blue tinted sunglasses also wearing a cross and chain, although his was thinner. Point taken.

"Hey, man! Isn't this awesome? Are you with the first group into the water?"

"Why do you think I'm going first?" Addison was only vaguely curious. His mind was preoccupied with the uncomfortable fact that his black speedo was speeding the blood away from vital parts.

"Well, you're perfect, man. I mean, look at all that extra covering, not to mention the size of your chain."

Addison's eye's narrowed, his back stiffened and his gut tightened in a familiar preparatory motion. Speaking slowly, he said in graveled voice, "Extra covering?".

The man laughed. "Oh yea, I bet all that hair is like an extra coat. You ain't going get the brunt of that water. I heard it was bitchin' cold, man. I don't know if I wanna to turn into a giant goose bump." The guy chuckled. " By the way, the name's Hart Carson. Actually, I'm really Hartly, but I hate it. Hardly Hartly is what my jerk cousins call me, but what do they know, eh?"

Addison's mind spun. The man called Hart was the most verbose male he'd ever had the misfortune to meet. However, all that prattle had done one thing. It had calmed Addison down considerably and he found he could view his situation with more humor that he'd thought possible.

"Good to meet you, Hart. I'm named Addison Gauss."

A commotion on the beach grabbed both men's attention. It was the PBCC's spokesperson announcing that the first wave of Polar Bear contestants identified by the wearing of crosses should approach the water line. They were being instructed to remove their borrowed decor and return them to his assistant.
"Ah!" thought Addison, "that's why Carl had insisted on my wearing this." His thoughts were interrupted by Hart's explosive, "Why that little minx! I'm gonna dunk her first, see if I don't." Hart started scanning the crowd around them, searching in amused frustration.

"Hey, Hart. Who or what are you talking about? " His own eyes searching the ambling crowd as it neared the waterline.

"Ursuline, my pain-in-the-ass older sister. She told me the thinner chain meant I was to be in the second wave. You know, the one's with the opportunity to back out? She lied to me!"

Addison snorted," Isn't that what sisters do?"

Hart grinned, " Spoken like a true tormented sibling." At that moment Addison noticed a movement going against the crowd's push towards the water. He pointed Hart's attention in that direction. He nodded."There she blows! Come on, Addison. I'll introduce you to the beast."

Addison took a handful of steps and stopped. Rushing towards him and Hart was the most fetching sight his jaded eyes had seen in a decade of moons. Hart had called her "a beast"? By goddess, she was exquisite!

"Hart! Hart! Hey there, Bro! Are you ready? You're up!" Ursuline laughingly jogged up to Hart and gave him a quick hug. "Come on! Don't be a slacker."
"Ursa, you little shit. You tricked me!" She gave him a cheeky grin.

"Yeah, well, you know how paybacks work." She gave him a coy smirk and shrugged. Her eyes strayed over to Addison and found his gaze fixed on her. His brown eyes reflected the sunlight in sparkling splendor. It was as if they glowed and shimmered from within. Ursuline was captivated without understanding why. She felt touched physically, caught. How curious.

"Addison, this is my sister, Ursa." Hart looked over and started reaching for his chain. " More later, heads-up folks, we're next!"

The PBCC assistant was suddenly in front of them with a collection basket for the discarded chains. Addison and Hart hurriedly tossed theirs in. As Ursuline reached for her chain, Addison's gaze slid from her eyes to the bodice of her swimsuit. Her grey eyes shifted into a knowing gaze as she slowly lifted the chain over her head, the movement upthrusting her generous breasts into prominence. She slowly smiled as she noticed Addison's throat swallowing convulsivly with excited anticipation.

"Damn, I hate speedos", Addison thought to himself as he found himself helpless in stopping his body's reaction to her. It seemed the more he gazed, the greedier he became. Realizing that his view of her bounty would be his undoing he turned and became the vanguard of the Polar Bears. With a primal roar, he swiftly charged with surprising agility and speed into the chilled surf of the Atlantic. Addison dove into an oncoming wave then popped up again with a exclaimed "Whoop!" and laughed a deep belly laugh of pure male satisfaction.

He wasn't alone for long. Inspired by his fearless entry, hordes of Polar Bear wannabes joined in the goosebump inducing antics. Screams and laughter surrounded him as people reacted to the icy ocean waters. Hart and Ursuline joined him in splashing glee.

Addison was in his element. Truly, the cold didn't bother him. It was almost normal and reminded him of home in the mountains; fishing the salmon runs with his Pater and Matri, his brothers and sisters; crossing the rivers filled with the runoff from the mountain's melting snow. He glanced over to the sqealing Ursuline. Hart was doing his best to dunk her for tricking him. Addison grinned. "Hey, you guys! Race you back ashore!" Ursa rose to the challenge, " You're on!" She immediately turned and started a strong breast stroke.

Addison suddenly felt his hair raising on the back of his nape. A chill raced up his spine that had nothing to do with the temperature of the water. He cocked his head, listening. His eyes darted and skimmed over the other participants in the PBCC swim. The screaming from some of the swimmers had changed in nature and pitch. Addison's reaction was instantaneous. "Hart", get ashore. Now!"

"What?" Hart looked around him and realized the danger. "Oh my God! Ursa!" He started wildly chopping at the water, heading for his sister who at that moment, was on an intercept course with a streamlined shadow cruising just under the surface of the ocean. Addison caught up and grabbed him on the shoulder. Steering him towards a different angle and direction towards the shore he growled close to his ear," I'll get her, Hart. Trust me. I'm more than just a big guy. I don't carry this weight around for nothing."

Hart took precious time to stare into the brown eyes of the man, who until an hour ago, was a stranger. In whose depths was the courage of a protector. A man with the heart of a bear who believed in and lived to defend those he called friends. Hart chose the path of ultimate trust and nodded, "Get her, Addison." and turned toward shore.

Ursuline sensed something was off. Water was in her ears, in her eyes and made it difficult to assess what was different. Whatever it was, it was chilling her to the bone. The noise, the splashing; it wasn't what she and Hart were doing earlier. She sensed a panic behind it. With this realization came the sobering fact that she was right in the middle. There was danger and she couldn't see it coming. Striking out again towards shore, she felt the sandy bottom of the ocean floor with her toes. The knowledge gave her a sense of relief. Surely she'd be safe in the shallow waters.

No such luck. Ten feet away a woman screamed in hysterics. Ursa was able to stand now and couldn't see or understand what the commotion was all about. Turning to face the shrieking woman, she debated going to help when a dark, glistening triangle started slicing the gentle swells, heading in her direction. Ursa stilled. "Oh, no way!" She couldn't move. Helplessly paralyzed by her fear, breathe caught in her throat, she couldn't even scream. She was going to die! Only one word reverberated in her shocked brain, "shark." As impossible as it should have been, there was no denying the shape and form of the predator bearing down on her.

From behind Ursuline a roar and a splash of immense proportions startled her out of her paralysis. In that moment she came face to face with the reality that predators come in all forms. Some prey on the weak and small and others hunt the predator themselves, protectors of the weak and mortal. . A large seven foot length of claw and fur covered muscle torpedoed towards the shark and slammed into it's side. When the shark made to arch and slash with it's razor filled mouth, a large paw smashed into its snout. With obsidian claws, the creature dug it's daggers into the shark's body ,hoisted it over head and flung it out towards the ocean depths, away from the now almost empty shallows. Empty except for Ursuline who still stood in the shallows with a stunned and fascinated gaze.

When the seven foot mammoth turned towards her and started taking graceful steps with a well practiced macho hip swagger in her direction, she allowed her eyes to travel from the water dappled furred waist, up towards the well defined chest of what only could be described as ...a bear. A bear with a face that had simularities to being human. A bear with brown eyes, glowing with the sun inside them, sparkling but cautious. A bear with eyes very similar to Addison Gauss.
"Addison? You saved me." Ursa said softly. "It is you, isn't it? How is this possible?"

He gave her a lopsided bear smile. He answered her in a deep bass voice of growling rumbles, "I'm a werebear. Like I told your brother, I don't carry my weight around for nothing."

Ursuline took a tentative watery step towards him. "Are you sure the shark is gone?" He nodded. She took another step closer, still staring into his dark eyes. "I've heard that werebear existed in the mountains." Again Addison nodded. His heart was tripping double time , but he remained where he was. She took another step closer, the gentle waves pushing her slightly forward. "Why are you here on the coast?"

One thing about the werebear, they prided themselves on honesty. Addison wasn't going to change now. " To find a den mate." He heard her breath make an excited hitch. "Did you find one?" He made that little lopsided bear smile again, showing a little canine and nodded. She took a final step that brought her skin to fur, her head tilting back enough to still see his chocolate brown eyes. She reached out and touched the damp fur of his chest.
"And?" she prompted.
"And she's you."
"How do you know I am? How do you know I'll be happy with you and you with me?"
"Because I joined with you when I caught your gaze. We don't choose mates with the outside of a potential partner because the surface can be camouflaged. We unite with what's inside. What's within you is mine and what is inside of me is yours. You felt it when we connected." She nodded. Addison took her hand in his paw, which wasn't truly a paw.

"Ultimately you have the final choice, Ursuline."

She cocked her head to the side " And what can you offer me that I can't find anywhere else?"

"Love, honor, fidelity and trust." Addison replied confidently.

"Nope, don't think that covers it all."

A shocked look on a werebear is not something many people see, but there it was. Sudden laughter came from the shore. Both Addison and Ursuline jumped slightly and turned toward the sound. Hart stood there on the beach sand with the PBCC rep and many Polar Bears in attendence. "Are you guys done turning into prunes and wereprunes? As much as this is entertaining guys, frigid Atlantic waters can not be good for my sister. Come on, Addison, get a grip! Get her out of the water!"

Addison looked down on his future den mate, scooped her up like she weighed as much as a zephyr and marched her out of the ocean and onto the shore to her waiting brother. Before he put her down he demanded in that wonderful bass grumble, "So den mate, what would you have of me to get you to say 'yes'?"

She glanced up at him through her lashes, and smiled a very wicked smile. Crooking her finger to beckon him closer, " She whispered, "Life's a bear, and then you become one.

Do you agree with my sister's opinion? Was your perception of the "hero" colored by the picture or did the story take you somewhere else?

If you had seen THIS picture...would it have made a difference?

Or This one???

At least, for the truly squeamish, I didn't use This one, LOL !!!!!

So , what do you think? Do Male Models on the covers of your favorite romance novels truly still have a place? Do they make a difference to the reader? Can they influence how you view the hero?

I'd really like to know.....


Betty S said...

That was a very interesting exercise. I had a definite reaction to the picture before I read the story. I felt a somewhat different reaction afterwards. Or, maybe it was that final model picture that did it. (LOL) I think it did set something of an image in my mind, which surprised me because I usually ignore covers. Perhaps it is because it was next to the text as I began reading.

Brandy said...

Michele, your story is FANTASTIC! You have a wonderful talent. (did you know you e-mailed this to me?) Anyway, I always take the cover models w/ a grain of salt. I don't use them to form an opinion. They rarely match the description of the characters anyway!

Michele said...

Hi Betty! Your comment is SUCH a compliment. Thank you!
I really appreciate your taking the time to read the whole thing. I know it was a lot. :-)

You're going to make my head swell, Brandy :-)
Thank you! Yes,I DO know I sent it to you. Since my sister's comments came after and it sparked a wonderful question, I decided to share,(up to that point only a few people had gotten a peek) it was a great idea all around. PLUS I had the other cool pictures to add.*wink*
I just couldn't resist!
Thanks for the compliment, Brandy!

Shesawriter said...


You have scarred me for life with THOSE pictures (you know which ones). You're BAD! LOL!


Anonymous said...

I agree with Betty. That was an interesting exercise, Michele.

Robin Caroll said...

Dang, girl....did ya want to write a novel here???? lol

Michele said...

LOL! Tanya....I seem to be doing that to you alot! Hmmm, I think I may have to do something about that...Bwwahahaha!!!

Thanks, Bonnie. Sure exercised the ol' brain. I was SO wiped by the end.

Robin! Long time, yes?
As for writing a novel..nope. Just a short. Really REALLY short short. To see if I could. One of my New Year's Resolution completed!
One more to do. Yeah!

Kara Alison said...

So in the last picture, the man has managed to touch his belly button to his nipple and appears to have no genetalia. I find this very disturbing.

Trista Bane said...

I hate to say it, but I guess I often DO judge a book by its cover. If the guy on the front is hot, well, I kind of have certain... expectations in the book!

Trista *who is still trying to get that last image out of her head*

Michele said...

Kara! LOL, I never looked THAT closely..**giggle** I like his buzz cut though.

Trista, don't tell me I've scarred your psyche too??!!