Oh, those alpha males

My next release, Among Heroes (release date: 10/2/18), features two “alpha” males—not in the shapeshifter sense, just in that rough-and-tumble, I’m-the-leader sense. This book was super fun to write—I’d never written angry sex before—and I love both characters. One’s a bit more of an asshole than the other, but neither is all that bad because I couldn’t fall in love with an alphahole and I need to love my characters.

In real life, I’ve often found myself attracted to the king of the nerds—the alpha of his little pack—but there’s a real art to being a leader without being an asshole. Leaders bring out the best in their people. They’re the most helpful and caring, not the most entitled or intimidating.

So here’s a personal story that illustrates my take on the “alpha male.” When I first got into rock climbing, nearly twenty years ago, I joined on online climbing forum (twenty years ago, that meant Usenet) where there was a guy who lorded over all the group with his extensive knowledge and sharp wit. He was a bit of an ass, but because climbing is fatal when done wrong and because he was typically right, he got away with being an ass.

Anyway, I developed a crush on him. He was the king of that group of nerds. (You might think rock climbers are athletic, not nerdy, but trust me, Usenet was nerdy and climbing is kind of a cerebral sport.) And he decided he liked me right back. I probably stroked his ego pretty nicely, being brand new to climbing and willing to soak up all his wisdom.

Then it turned out he had a live-in girlfriend and wanted me to promise to move across the country to be with him in which case he would dump her for me. That was a whole lot of no, so it didn’t happen. I started dating another climber, one who also had a lot of experience and knowledge but who didn’t participate in flame wars online, and, weirdly enough, the three of us went on a climbing trip together—me, my boyfriend, and the King of Climbing.

One day, due to an equipment snafu, my boyfriend rigged something up in a less than ideal way. Mind you, it was one hundred percent safe but not what the King of Climbing proclaimed. And the thing was, my BF normally did do this according to the King of Climbing’s dictates. His deviation was situational. But the King of Climbing wouldn’t let it go. He lectured the BF on every reason why “his” way was better for the whole rest of the day. And my BF took it. He didn’t argue or respond angrily. He just agreed.

That was when I knew I was with the right guy. I didn’t want a didactic blowhard so caught up in his own ego that he had to berate a rival over a non-issue for hours. I wanted the guy who could shrug and say, “yep, you’re right,” because his self-worth wasn’t based on what someone else thought or said.

That’s the “alpha male” to me—that’s a true leader. It’s about confidence, not arrogance. And confidence doesn’t need to be imposed on other people. It comes from within, from knowing what’s right and doing it.

Now, Bryce and Rook in Among Heroes walk the line. They don’t give each other any leeway but they’re ultimately fair to the rest of their fellow castaways, admitting when they’re wrong or when someone else is better qualified to handle a task, prepared to help wherever they can, thoughtful and caring when it’s called for. They just need to push each other’s buttons in a bad way.

I’m hopeful that even readers who shudder at the words “alpha male” can enjoy this book, but if you don’t like jabs and gibes, maybe not.

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