Friday, December 20, 2013

Renunion Romances

The Reunion Romance is one of my favorite tropes in the genre. The thrill of a new relationship is unbeatable, but I love the simmering chemistry that comes with people finding each other again. Maybe that's why my own upcoming release is a reunion romance, and so are some of my all-time favorite books. Today on The Firebirds, Kat Cantrell and I discuss what makes reunion romances so powerful. Drop by and share your own favorites!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Damsel in Distress: The Guy Reading a Thriller on the Train is Clearly Going to Murder Me

(Note: I recently read *another* opinion piece on romance novels that was poorly informed. The author has since apologized, for which I truly think he deserves a great deal of credit, but in his apology, he claims that he finds modern women reading romance novels to be counterintuitive. This statement, along with his blanket assessment of the quality of romance novels, reveals more about his ignorance of the genre than anything else. Fortunately, ignorance is a solvable problem. Here’s my response. It won’t make much sense if you haven’t read the original piece.)

The other day, I was riding the train to work, and I saw a young man sitting in the seat in front of me. He was well-dressed and carrying a leather briefcase, and he had neatly combed brown hair and a close shave, so I naturally assumed he must have a well-paying job and a higher-than-average intellect. He was also very attractive—the kind of man I might have wanted to marry someday. He was reading something on an electronic device, and I decided it wouldn’t be an egregious invasion of his privacy if I craned over his shoulder to see what it was. I expected him to be perusing the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, or perhaps The Economist. Imagine my shock when I found he was reading a thriller!

I could tell it was a thriller by the staccato prose and the vivid descriptions of torture and gruesome killings. Clearly this man must be dissatisfied with the mundanity of his white-collar life. Clearly he must yearn for simpler, more violent solutions to the complex problems he must face every day. I suspected he wished he could pack a Glock in his suit coat and brutally murder everyone with whom he engaged in unfavorable contract negotiations. 

With a shock of dismay, I realized I knew many men just like him: good-looking, wealthy men with big stock portfolios and upwardly mobile careers that nonetheless liked to read about the hyper-sexualized spy-slash-good-cop heroes and casual violence one so often finds in thrillers. This man must long for a relationship with one of the beautiful-yet-needy damsels in distress those heroes were perpetually rescuing.

Any hope I had of starting a relationship with the stranger perished. How could he ever appreciate someone like me—someone with a job and the ability to think for myself? It was like my mother always said. No man was ever going to fall in love with me while I insisted on wearing pantsuits to work. As I sat back in my seat, consumed with hopelessness, another, more disturbing thought occurred to me. What if he had noticed me looking over his shoulder—would he be angry? Would he respond with the kind of violence he so clearly valued reading? He no longer seemed like the placid sort of man I might have a relationship with—he seemed dangerous.

My own destination was many stops away, but I decided to get off at the next one, just to be safe. The train came to a stop, the brakes squealing, and I pulled myself out of my seat, resolutely looking away from the man’s e-reader. To my terror, he stood up, too. Should I leave? Stay? As I vacillated, the man turned. He saw me. He smiled, and I could only manage a weak nod in return. This was it. He was going to bash my head in on the back of the hideous red plastic seat—

—but no. He was only offering his seat to an elderly gentleman who’d just boarded the train. I sat back down and returned to my romance novel, which featured a vampire huntress staking blood-sucking villains in Victorian England—and falling in love with one of her prey. Sexy stuff, and the vampire hero seemed to appreciate strong women. Too bad it was only a novel.

(For the record, I think romance novels serve as far more than “escapism,” but I’ve already written about that here. And in case you missed my point, I think the way people are portrayed in works of fiction—any fiction—is important. Also, thrillers are awesome. But making blanket assumptions about whole groups of people based on their reading habits, especially while also making highly generalized judgements about the books in question? That's just plain silly.)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Lovely News: I'm a nominee in the GraveTells Readers Choice Awards!

Anchored and I are up for awards!!

You’ll have to forgive me while I freak out a little. This is the first time I’ve been nominated for something like this.

Back in March, I self-published Anchored as a kind of experiment. It’s set in the same world as my full-length novels, and I wanted to see how folks liked it. I didn’t do a whole lot of promotion, but DaVinicKittie over at GraveTells News & Reviews happened to pick it up.

Now, I’m up for Most Promising New Author in the GraveTells Readers Choice Awards, and Anchored was nominated for Favorite Novella. Plus, Carina Press, which will be publishing Twisted Miracles (the first book in my new urban fantasy series), is up for Favorite Publisher!

Y’all, saying I’m the underdog in this fight is a little like saying a sparrow is the underdog against a hurricane. You should see the amazingly talented folks in my categories. I’m bowled over with astonishment to even be on these lists. It’s very humbling.

If you have read my little book and liked it, and want to drop by the voting and give me a little nudge, I would be proud to have your vote.

You can read my GraveTells spotlight here, and you can vote for me and Anchored here. The Favorite Novella category is near the top, and the New Author category is near the bottom, but don't scroll too fast! I’ve found a lot of new authors through GraveTells, and many of them are on these lists. For example, Lindsay J. Pryor is up for Most Original Story Universe and Most Sensual Vampire, and I can assure you those are well-deserved nominations. I adore her Blackthorn series (very very sexy paranormal romance). So, even if you don’t want to vote, drop by and check out the nominees, because there are some great new books to discover.

Happy Holidays, all. :)

The Power of Stories

Lately, I've been thinking quite a lot about how we use stories to communicate. There's a reason politicians like to trot out everyday folks on the campaign trail and talk about Mrs. Smith's personal story of loss or success. There's a reason so much of the Bible consists of parables. Stories are the most powerful way we can use language. 

I'm talking about a pretty mundane example of this today on Here Be Magic--one where my toddler stops screaming so much once he hears a story about a kid with similar problems. But if you're only going to read one post this week about the power of story, you should read my friend and fellow writer Amber Belldene's. She published this amazing Sermon on Romance yesterday, and it's a beautiful and articulate statement of what it means to be a storyteller. 

Have a great week, everyone, and I hope whatever stories you're reading, they speak to you in whatever way you need them to.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Interview with fantasy romance author Jeffe Kennedy

I interviewed the very talented Jeffe Kennedy today for Paranormal Unbound, and we could not stop talking. I had to trim whole pages of the interview to make it an acceptable blog post length. Stop by and check it out--we nerd out about everything from mythology to biology to the elements of an awesome villain. And, if you haven't read her Covenant of Thorns fantasy romance series, I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Putting the Urban in Urban Fantasy: Kate Griffin's a Madness of Angels

I'm on Paranormal Unbound today, discussing how I fell in love with Kate Griffin's A Madness of Angels. This book was not my type in so many ways, but I fell hard, and now there's no going back. Stop by and tell about the last book that surprised you.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Hunting for Book Buddies among Biologists

I'm over at Paranormal Unbound today, talking about how hard it is to find fellow paranormal genre fiction fans in my offline life. Stop by and share your book buddy discovery stories!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Adventures in Freelance Cover Design, or How Confident Sports Woman became a Fierce Winged Warrior

I'm a detail-oriented control freak. So, one of the nice (or maybe unfortunate?) things about self-publishing Anchored was that I got be a detail-oriented control freak about my book cover. I knew I wanted something that conveyed the tone of the story and the nature of my heorine: strong, sexy, and confident.

I'm not half-bad with Adobe Illustrator. Part of my day job involves making complex graphics describing scientific concepts, so I know my way around the buttons, and I know how to do things like apply blurs and change font kerning. When it came to cover design, though, I knew I needed a professional. I asked friends, did some research, and settled on Kim Killion at Hot Damn Designs. The first thing I found out was that I needed to pick a cover model from Stock Photography Land.

Have you ever visited Stock Photography Land? It's an immense and fascinating place, and I spent about twelve hours over two days immersed in it. I wasn’t very good at navigating. (Side note: Stock Photography Land has a lot of expectant mothers in it. My search for “woman standing profile” turned up a lot of pregnant ladies in meadows looking peacefully into the distance.) Anyway, after many hours and many open tabs in my browser, I settled on Confident Sports Woman:

photo by ammentorp photography

She was almost perfect. Her hair was in an unfortunate ponytail, and she was wearing sneakers, but I loved her expression. To me, it said, “Bring it, asshole. I ain’t even scared.” She just needed wings. 

Kim also asked me to hunt down some covers I liked and thought captured the same feel I was going for. First I found this one:

Don’t you love this cover? All that wind and lightning! There's a hurricane in Anchored, so I was hoping for a similarly threatening sky. Plus, the cover model looks tough without looking contorted.

Then there was this one:

I love how forbidding that cityscape looks, and how the angel on the cover looks strong but weary. 

I gave Kim Confident Sports Woman along with my comparison covers and a bunch of writerly nonsense about “fierce” and “elemental” and “maybe there should be a knife.” Just four days later, she came back with this:

Amazing, right? I asked for a handful of tweaks, and: Boom! The final cover for Anchored!

I love that she looks sexy without resorting to a leather corset. (Not that there’s anything at all wrong with leather corsets, but Susannah would kill me if I even suggested one.) And this woman doesn't need a knife to look scary. She looks like she could kill a vampire with her bare hands. (And she can.) The stormy sky is a perfect backdrop, and I love the nifty title font. I sort of want to email Confident Sports Woman and say, “Hey, did you know you are an Angel? And you have Superpowers? And there’s this really hot guy who is totally in love with you and--bonus!--incredible in bed? You are actually Fierce Winged Warrior!”

But that would probably be weird.

Friday, April 5, 2013

New blogging adventure: Breaking Rules with Paranormal Unbound

I'm sort of a nerd. Actually, I'm a HUGE nerd. I'm incapable of not overanalyzing everything I get my hands on: books, The Vampire Diaries, movies, chewing gum wrappers. This is why I'm thrilled to be taking part in a new group blog, Paranormal Unbound.

ParaUnbound is the brainchild of my writer-friend Amber Belldene, Episcopal priest and author of sexy vampire romance Blood Vine. (Yeah, you read that right.) Amber rounded up a group of paranormal romance and urban fantasy authors who aren't afraid to flirt with the boundaries of the genre. We're going to be indulging in our inner (and not-so-inner) English majors, gushing about books, fangirling over Firefly and otherwise being ourselves. I'm honored to be blogging with these ladies.

Today is my debut on the blog, and Amber and I are having a conversation about feminism in paranormal romance. Stop by and chat--we're hoping the blog becomes a place where like-minded dorky genre enthusiasts can hang out. (Oh, and we're giving away books!)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

My First Interview!

I'm over at the Firebirds today answering questions about tough heroines, hurricanes, and the science of world building. Stop by and say hello!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Release Day: My debut novella is now available!

So, I have some news:

My fabulous agent and I have decided to self-publish a novella! Anchored went on sale yesterday as an e-book. It’s set in the same paranormal world as Questionable Miracles (my Golden Heart finaling manuscript), and it tells the story of Susannah March, a winged guardian charged with protecting the city of Biloxi, Mississippi. That’s no easy task in hurricane country, but Susannah is a brutally powerful supernatural warrior, and there's no problem she can't handle, usually by beheading it. Her biggest challenge is accepting help when she needs it, which is why the arrival of an inconveniently sexy supernatural healer named Jason Delacourt sets her completely off-balance. You can read the full blurb here, and you can get to know Susannah in the excerpt below:

I stood over the body and cursed.
“There’s nothing you could’ve done,” Max said. “She lost too much blood.”
I allowed myself a single display of temper: I punched through the wooden railing of the beachside boardwalk.
“That’s going to confuse the police,” he said, looking at the splintered wood.
“Let it.”
I turned and strode for the beach. My hand was bleeding, and I picked splinters out of my knuckles as we walked. I have a high tolerance for pain, but I was dripping blood all over the sand, so I ripped off one of my sleeves and bound my knuckles with it. Max politely said nothing and got out his cell phone to call in an anonymous tip.
The police wouldn’t know what to make of her anyway, a bloodless body without a mark. It was part of my job to keep them from suspecting the supernatural existed, but I couldn’t put blood back in that girl’s body, and I wasn’t going to hide it and make her family spend decades hoping she was still alive. She’d looked to be nineteen, maybe younger. What a fucking waste.
It was late, almost two a. m., so I didn’t bother with a glamour as Max and I went up the deserted beach to my diner. My wings drifted behind me, and I walked to the edge of the water where the sand was firmer, letting my right wingtip trail through the still-warm water of the gulf. I could already see the lights of my restaurant ahead. The bastard had killed within two hundred yards of it. It was an insult.
“They’re on their way,” Max said, pocketing his phone and coming into step with me. “It’s good we found her before the storm hit.”
“Yes.” There was a good chance her body would’ve been dragged out to sea by the hurricane if we’d just left her there.
“There’ll be more questions this way.”
“There will.”
He fell silent while we walked. He knew better than to try and comfort me; we’d been working together too long.
We reached my diner, the front covered by a corrugated steel security gate, and I took out the key and unlocked it.
“You going to ride it out here?” Max’s normally carefree face was concerned. He was a telepath—he knew what I’d planned already—but he liked to give me the illusion of privacy.
“You can go,” I said. “Go take care of Kaitlin or Kathy or whatever her name is.”
“Kellie.” He flashed a grin that was almost apologetic. “Thanks.”
I flapped my hand at him, and he took off for his car.
After he’d sped down the empty street, I stood on the front porch and looked at the stacks of plywood waiting to be nailed up. Max and I had almost finished boarding up the windows when I’d felt the near-death terror of the victim and gone racing down the beach. There were still three more to go. The Sand Angel Grill had been through seven hurricanes since I’d owned it, and this wouldn’t be the first one to blow it down, but Mandy was a small storm, and I was hoping to get away without too much damage.
I picked up the hammer, held a half dozen nails between my lips and went to work on the last few windows. It had been a long time since I’d gotten an alarm like that. I was Biloxi’s guardian, a sort of supernatural police chief, so when something went wrong in the city, I could feel it. Usually, I sensed rogue sups before they got into any trouble. Not this time. The vampire who attacked that girl must have been a powerful one. Old enough to have control over his bloodlust, to know how to keep me from sensing him. It was troubling. I slammed the last nail in and tossed the hammer behind my cash register. It would do.
I should’ve gone inside to get what rest I could before the storm hit, but I was too unsettled. Natural disasters are difficult times for guardians. There’s not much we can do about them—nothing to fight—and the chaos was going to weaken my communion with the city. Max was smart to take off for his girlfriend’s. For the next two days, I was going to be difficult to be around. More difficult, Max would say.
But the storm wouldn’t hit for a few hours. I had time. I left the security gate open and walked barefoot onto the beach.
The sky was full of beautiful fury, all rolling blue-grey clouds above a white-capped sea. The beach was still deserted, so I kept my glamour down as I walked to the water and stretched my wings. It was a relief after keeping them furled all day. My glamour kept them from being seen, but that didn’t mean the wait staff couldn’t run into them. Once, out on the beach at sunrise, I’d been stretching them out and a jogger had run right into them and gone sprawling. She’d convinced herself she’d tripped, but I’d never seen her take that path again.
It had been a busy day even before I started chasing rogue vampires—everyone grabbing sandwiches so they’d have more time to board up and batten down. It wouldn’t make up for the week of lost business after the storm, but it was something. My feet were sore, my wing crests ached, and my feathers were sticky with sweat and grease. I wanted nothing more than to dive into the ocean. I didn’t have my swimsuit, but I didn’t care. I started shucking my clothes.
I was down to my bra and underwear when the rain-heavy air shifted behind me. I already knew who it was, so I didn’t turn around. He landed in the sand with a soft shush and walked toward me. I sighed and pulled my jeans back on.
“Evening, Susannah.” He stood next to me and folded his arms.
He had dark brown skin and cardinal-red wings with black markings to match his hair. He was the Atlanta’s guardian, serving his city just as I served mine.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
He was four hundred miles from home. Even as old and strong as he was, it wouldn’t have been an easy trip. Guardians lose strength the farther we are from our anchor points. Too far, and we fade away entirely.
“I have a candidate for you.”
I didn’t look at him. “It’s not a good time.”
He laughed, big and loud. “Not a good time? It’s been ten years and she says it’s not a good time.” In my peripheral vision, I saw him shake his head.
“Hank, this hurricane’s going to hit in three hours, I’ve got a rogue vampire running around, and my line cook just quit. She can wait a week.”
Hank smiled. “He.”
“You heard me.”
I frowned. Male healers are uncommon. About as uncommon as female guardians.
“You know I’d rather work with a woman.”
“Ah, yes, that proved to be a splendid idea with the last one.” His lips twisted. “How long did she last?”
“She was a disaster. You saw her with that gunshot victim. She went into hysterics.”
Hank looked at his bitten-down nails and sighed. “Susannah, you can’t reject everyone out of hand. Potential healers aren’t exactly common. It took me a long time to find this one.”
“I don’t recall asking you to look." Healers are like guardians: We can anchor to our birthplaces, draw power from them to amplify our gifts. But Biloxi isn’t all that big, and the number of born-and-bred natives with potential is low. I had no idea how Hank had found this one, but it couldn’t have been easy.
“Give him a chance. A trial. That’s all I ask.”
I thinned my lips. Hank was the ranking guardian in the Southeast. He was the sort to see this as his duty.
“I’m not going to take that risk again,” I said.
“It was a long time ago.” He turned to face me squarely. “This isn’t just about one person’s life. And it’s not just about you.” His eyes were kind through the gentle rebuke.
The breeze was picking up. I beat my wings against it, letting it riff through my feathers with a phuttering sound. I remembered the dead girl on the boardwalk. Hank, wisely, stayed silent. Deep in the oncoming wall of rain over the gulf, lightning struck.
“After the storm passes,” I said.
He inclined his head. “I’ll send him.” He looked up, assessed the sky and took flight in a smooth burst of muscle and power. I watched him disappear into the cloudbank.
It took an hour for the drizzling rain to turn pounding and the storm surge to hit the high-tide mark. The power winked out along the coast in a scattered line, generators going on in a handful of houses. A few lights were still on in the high rises, but the smaller hotels were dark. I could have closed my eyes and mapped the shape of the skyline in my mind. My beautiful, flawed, complicated city. And now I was going to have to let someone else into it and trust him not to screw up.
Trust myself not to screw up.

It's been an adventure getting this little book into the world, and I'll be posting some of my experiences with the self-publishing process in the weeks to come. For now, though, I hope you enjoy reading Susannah's story as much as I enjoyed writing it. :)