The alpha male—who wants him?

A chimp fixes the photographer with an arrogant expression.I follow lots of fellow romance readers on Twitter. Many rhapsodize about “alpha males,” while the very idea of an all-powerful hero sets my teeth on edge.

And then I realized we might not be talking about the same thing.

The alpha hero you can keep, thank you

My old idea of “alpha male”:

  • Is accustomed to being obeyed
  • Interrupts his lessers when they speak (and we’re all his lessers)
  • Considers apologies a sign of weakness
  • Takes control because he “knows what’s best for you”

In other words, a self-righteous jerk. In real life, I prefer to walk away from these types. If they appear in my writing, they’re secondary characters or antagonists, not the hero.

I like a hero who respects other people, even when he disagrees with them. I want him to make an attempt at seeing things from his adversary’s perspective, even if compromise proves impossible.

Do we need alphabetical labels?

Is respect an “alpha” or a “beta” characteristic? What about kindness? Are all nice guys “beta?” If I don’t know the difference, how do I choose romances I’m likely to enjoy reading? How do I tell readers what to expect from my books?

Before my brain explodes with questions, how ‘bout we accept “alpha” as a synonym for “prime,” as in first choice, or ideal. That way, there’s room for every preference.

The alpha hero I love

Here then, is my new idea of “alpha”:

  • Lives his values, leads by example
  • A knowledge seeker
  • Doesn’t give up in the face of setbacks
  • Admits his faults and overcomes his failures
  • Fights to defend, not destroy
  • Courageous
  • Willing to grow and change

I have men like this in my life. I admire and adore them. Small wonder I seek similarly wonderful book boyfriends.

Your list may be different. I respect that. A wonderful thing about the romance genre is its diversity. And if you’re inclined to share, I’d love to hear about the type of hero that wins your heart.

Photo: Tambako the Jaguar

The pleasure of summer showers

Photo of Sally's tiny, candlelit bathroom.
My bathroom (only just slightly smaller than actual size)
Bathing by candlelight. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed it. It’s taken the heat of another Texas summer to bring me back to this simple, sensual pleasure.

Exchanging “get up & go…”

In the winter, I love basking in the morning sunlight that beams through the little window in my shower. It energizes me. When days are shortest, I want as much sun as I can get.

Right now, though, days stretch out in lazy splendor. They bring chlorine-dipped days at the pool, dirt-dusted arms and legs from working in the yard, and skin coated with SPF, insect repellent and plenty of sweat. It’s nice to rinse off in cool water before bed.

…for “get on my glow”

So I venture into my tiny bathroom and forgo the bright bathroom lights in favor of a few candles. Their glow filters through the translucent shower curtain. It’s moody and relaxing and eases me into sweet, summery dreams. Ahhhh. I love this time of year.

Do your habits change to reflect the season? What sensual pleasures are you celebrating?

Dancing for kibble (aka play pays)

sgh-061_1zYou’ve got a list of errands as long as your arm and a limited amount of time to get through it. Sound familiar?

Tempting as it is to become an efficiency drone, there are big benefits to taking a more playful approach. Let me share my most recent proof that it’s true.

Dance party at the Petco

Me and my to-do list entered the Big Box pet store and hauled a bag of premium cat food to the checkout stand. There I surrendered a coupon to the very young sales clerk, a skinny guy with glasses, braces and the slouch so common among teens of low self-esteem. While he did his thing, I said, “This brand always makes me feel like I’m buying Disco’s Greatest Hits, you know?”

At his curious glance, I used my best radio DJ voice. “Solid Gold Katz-N-Flocken!” I cried before executing a brief reprise of one of John Travolta’s classic dance routines.

2956392064_62def7db12The kid cracked up and complimented me before turning back to the register. He announced my total, assuring me it reflected my coupon discount.

My inner pixie asks for more

“Does it include the dancing discount as well?” I asked.

He glanced around, and seeing no sign of his manager, punched in his employee discount. “Now it does,” he said, grinning. And when I left, he stood a little straighter.

The whole exchange took maybe 15 seconds and brightened the day for both of us. Plus, I saved an additional $3.80.

How are you enriching your life with play today?

P.S. Disco lives! (At least at the Petco.)

Photo credit, disco ball: Sarah

Do you look for messages in dreams?

Two crows perch in a tree
Freud is famous for (possibly) saying, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” Dreams don’t always mean something.

But my favorite game is to ask, “If there were a message for me here, what would it be?” With dreams, you have to play right away, or the details will be lost. I’ll often narrate the dream to my cat upon waking, because speaking it helps me remember.

Why I don’t rely on dream books for interpretations

Dream dictionaries seldom help with this game because symbols in dreams are personal. For example, a dream featuring a baby. To an artist, it could represent a new creative project that needs nurturing. To an overworked manager, could represent a time-consuming responsibility. To a hopeful mother, it could represent a promise of pregnancy, and to a grieving mother, regret and loss. Etc.

My murder of crows

Last night, I dreamt of a tree full of crows. The tree stood between me and a place I visited often. As I approached the tree, crows flew toward me. I dropped to the ground and covered my head to protect my face. But the crows flew right on by.

Seems the crows were saying, It’s not about you.

Turning big symbols into personal tools

I should have known the crows weren’t a threat to me. Earlier in the dream, I’d shared coffee and conversation with someone at a table beneath that tree. So why the paranoia? And perhaps the more interesting question, why was “saving face” my primary concern?

(You can see why I’m a fan of narrating dreams and listening to the details I choose. That’s how things like saving face show up, along with other personal symbols unlikely to be in a dream dictionary.)

And connecting the dots

I’m reminded of my real-life crow visitation, about a year and a half ago. I saw that as a call to find magic in everyday things. But I used a book for that interpretation. If it happened today, I might see my food-carrying crow as a prompt to pay attention to juicy opportunities.

Could having dream crows fly past me indicate great opportunities I’ve failed to notice? Perhaps I tend to miss seeing opportunities that don’t mesh with my precious self-image (to bring saving face back into it).

Lots to think about.

You say you don’t remember your dreams?

A couple of things you can do to get better at it:

  • Before you turn out the light, set an intention to remember
  • Before you get up, spend your muzzy-headed minutes fishing for dream memories
  • Anything you get, speak it out loud. Write notes ASAP
  • Keep a notepad, pen and small flashlight handy for mid-night captures
  • Practice

Once you’ve nailed one, play the game. Bring friends.

A couple of my friends make great dream sounding boards. They catch things like saving face if I miss them. Maybe you’ve got similarly perceptive friends who can listen to you describe your dream and help you play the “if-it-had-a-message-for-me” game.

Have fun. Dream big.

Photo credit: SqueakyMarmot

What do you feel naked without?

Tiny notebooks like this one saved my trip to the Amazon
Tiny notebooks like this one saved my trip to the Amazon
Some women are never without lipstick. For me, it’s travel-sized notebooks.

When size matters

I had a teeny tiny notebook with me in the Amazon the day my camera died. Instead of photos, I scribbled about everything from the local uses of manioc tubers (bread starch and also a topical anti-aging treatment for women) to the expected lifespan of a dugout canoe (2-3 years). I listed the types of birds, recorded conversations I had with locals and recipes for Peruvian specialties.

(When my traveling companion read the trip diary I compiled after returning home, she was stunned by how much she’d already forgotten.)

A few of my trusty Moleskine notebooks.
A few of my trusty Moleskine notebooks.
True companions for when I’m really in the mood

Teeny notebooks that fit in back pockets get me by. But for big writerly love, it’s Moleskine notebooks every time—sturdy cover, ribbon to mark my place, elastic strap to keep it closed, accordion pocket in back to stash smaller scraps of things.

I won’t buy one unless I can get squared rule pages. Somehow, it frees me to write as big or small as I want. The Moleskine goes with me to coffeeshops, conferences, Meetups and writers meetings.

My bookshelf holds a row of these trusty companions, some more flagged and battle scarred than others. Flip through one and you’ll find pages of stories, ideas for Tarot spreads, notes from lectures and drafts of blog posts.

Why messy works for me

With handwriting like mine, you’d think I’d use a computer for everything, but I get deep satisfaction from my pile of Moleskines, They are snapshots in time—as fragmented and messy as life. Paging through them, I can trace back to the roots of an idea. I can mark progress on projects I’m working on. And unlike time I spend at the computer, I can see tangible proof of what I’m doing.

No wonder I feel incomplete without some kind of notebook to hand.

What about you? Are there must-have tools in your life? A thing (or practice or app) that brings you satisfaction and a sense of security? I’d love to hear about it.

What does “personal brand” really mean?

Flip side Sally Felt biz card example designed by Kelly Mills
My business card

I carry two business cards. My main card describes me as WriterSpeakerAdventurer, same as this site. and you can see the art for yourself. What the description lacks in specificity, it seems to make up in memorability. Folks see it and smile. Some exclaim in delight, needing to repeat it out loud.

When I chose these three words, they represented my personal aspirations. True, I’d been a writer for decades. But I’d not yet had a real speaking gig, and with a few exceptions, my adventures were mostly spiritual.

It worked. I’ve grown into the description. It fits me. When I give someone this business card and get a reaction, I’m not just connecting—I’m paying it forward. Inspiring someone else to take a risk, be playful, stretch a bit. That’s a brand I happily inhabit.

Sally Felt biz card example designed by Kelly Mills
My card’s flip side.

So why carry more than one card? Let me start with a question (and a rant about my personal preferences in business card design).

What do your business cards say about you?

Do you carry cards? Perhaps, like me, several different ones? Trying to find a meaningful, memorable way to represent yourself on a 2 x 3.5” bit of card stock is confusing, isn’t it?

When working for someone else’s company, you take whatever is offered, even if the logo is ugly or your job title doesn’t reflect what you do.

When working a side hustle or are self employed (like me), you face delicious, agonizing freedom of choice all the way down the line.

Job title, yes or no?

If yes, what? I’ve seen quite a few that say President, or Owner. That doesn’t suit me, especially since I don’t operate under a business name. (“Owner of Sally Felt,” makes me giggle.)

I’m more drawn to cards that suggest what’s being offered, such as Illustrator, or Programmer, or Handyman, or Author. As time passes, cards like this help me remember who you are and why I kept your information.

Include Twitter, FB, LinkedIn, 2 phones, 2 webs, email etc.?

In the interest of helping clients, fans, colleagues and prospects reach us, it’s tempting to load up the business card with all our addresses, from email to website, social media, and maybe even snail mail address. Plus at least one phone number. Some authors I know include a list of book titles.

I prefer something sleeker. Simpler. Give me a card that doesn’t try to be all things to all people and I see you as a confident professional. I start to trust you before we’ve done more than exchange cards.

Paring down to essentials

The process of creating ideal business cards proved so tough that I’m currently carrying two cards while pondering how to get down to one.

Things I’ve solved: what to include

  • My name
  • A 2-3 word description of what I offer
  • My mobile number
  • One email address
  • This website

It makes for a clean, simple card that gives essential contact information. And I chose uncoated card stock so it’s easy to write on with an ordinary pen. (Do you like to make notes on people’s cards, like where and when you met them? I do.)

And at last, my answer to why two cards?

All that differs between my two business cards is the artwork and the self-description.

My second business card says Intuitive Tarot and uses striking close-up photos of dragonflies, suggesting the transformative potential of receiving a card reading. A Tarot reading is an intimate experience, and though my playful approach to life spills over into my Tarot business, I want a business card that reflects my client’s potential more than it reflects me.

Perhaps I’ll find a pare it down to just one card. Until then, I carry two. What’s a WriterSpeakerTarotAdventurer to do?

Business card design by Kelly Mills

Two more March events: Keeping company with amazing authors

Book cover of the sweet, sexy erotic romance, Going Native, by Sally FeltThe final two weekends in March see me taking part in big public events for readers.

Saturday March 23, 10am–5pm

Romancing the Books, free to the public
Bedford Public Library, Bedford TX

Join me and more than 30 authors and poets for a day of workshops, public readings, book signings and drawings for free goodies. At noon, I’ll be reading from Going Native.

Friday March 29, 6:30pm–8:30pm

Dreamin’ in Dallas book signing, free to the public
Doubletree Hotel, Richardson, TX

If you love romance, mark your calendar! I’m privileged to signing alongside such luminaries as Cherry Adair, Christy Craig, Meijean Brook, Lori Wilde, Shayla Black, Liliana Hart, Lorraine Heath and dozens of other incredibly talented authors. Sixty authors altogether! A portion of the evening’s proceeds will go to support local literacy programs. Great books for a good cause. Bing the clowning dachshund adds fun to Going Native, a romance by Sally Felt

SWAG: One more reason to see me at the Dreamin’ in Dallas event

If you’ve read Going Native, you know one of the key characters is a dachshund named Bing… and he inspired my giveaways for this huge Friday night event. Stop by to say hi, and I promise you won’t go away empty handed.