Please judge this book by its cover

photo and cover design by Bill Wadman

 

It’s beautiful, isn’t it? I honestly don’t think I could love it any more than I do. Many, many thanks to the very talented Bill Wadman for designing it and for patiently tolerating my obsessive need to over analyze the font.

You can see more of Bill’s work (which has appeared in TIME magazine, BusinessWeek, Improper Bostonian, POZ, and others) at billwadman.com. It’s worth the trip. USA Today calls his work “transgressive in the sweetest possible way.” That pretty much describes Bill too.

https://plus.google.com/u/0/108802687698724664405/posts/Xs1S4aCX715

Thank you Mr. Tolkien

About two years ago I decided I wanted to write a book about elves. I imagined it as your basic good versus evil, light versus dark, princess in disguise fantasy story with a beautiful heroine, a handsome prince, some unresolved daddy issues, and a quest for revenge. It sounded simple. I sat down and, drawing on everything I learned about writing fantasy fiction by watching the Lord of the Rings movies, I wrote the first draft of Tab Bennett & the Inbetween. And that’s when I realized I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know anything about fantasy, urban fantasy, or paranormal romance. I was in way over my head.

As is so often the case, I found the solution to my problem in a book – in many books actually. Here’s what I learned by reading the work of nine bestselling authors and the father of modern fantasy:

  • From J.R.R. Tolkien I learned that people will believe what you tell them to believe. If you do it well enough they’ll forget they ever believed anything different.
  • From George R.R. Martin I learned that constructing a world and its mythology and then moving everyone around in it is difficult and time consuming but worth the effort.
  • Charlaine Harris and Stephanie Meyer reminded me that a woman should not wear a hair bow to coordinate with her reindeer sweater and a man should never wear a sleeveless button-up. Ever.
  • Karen Marie Moning and her excellent Fever series taught me that a cream puff can become a tough cookie with the proper motivation. Also never trust a man who can manipulate time and space or cause mind shattering orgasms through sheer force of will.
  • In the Merry Gentry series Laurell K. Hamilton introduced me to the necessary mix of magic and menace and power. Also tentacle sex . . . but that’s a different story.
  • The compulsively readable Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole showed me how to use an enigmatic and (almost) all-powerful character to guard rail the plot when things get messy.
  • Gena Showalter and the Lords of the Underworld showed me how to overcome my inhibitions and write sexier sex scenes.
  • J.R. Ward and the Black Dagger Brotherhood confirmed what I already knew: vampires are dead sexy.

These authors taught me a lot, gave me a lot to think about, and, completely without their knowledge, made me a better writer – which in turn made Tab Bennett & the Inbetween a better book.  I owe them each a muffin basket and a great deal of gratitude.

Soul Mates

I don’t believe in soul mates. I used to, when I was young and stupid. Now that I’m old and stupid, I know better. The idea that there’s one person – one perfect person who will love your quirks, embrace your flaws, and provide perfect balance to your otherwise topsy turvy life – in a world of like 7 billion people is too ridiculous to be true.  Not to mention mean spirited on the universe’s part. I prefer to think there’s a team of lets say like 5000 or so people with whom you could, under the right circumstances, have a happy life. A different happy life with each of them.

Of course that’s not what I write about. Soul mates are the bread and butter of the genre.  They’re what every romance novel I’ve ever read – whether the heroine spent her time twirling a parasol or swinging a sword – was ultimately about. In Inbetween, Tab Bennett, the heroine, has a soul mate (or Homecoming as the elvish call it). They belong together. Undeniably. Everlasting.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to get them to their happy ending.

 

 

work in progress

unlike inbetween, which was a talking book, its sequel, underneath, is about walking around. there’s adventure, several ambushes, torture, and knife throwing. there’s a dark forest to cross, a dungeon to escape, and bad guys to vanquish. all of which is a lot harder to write about than tab’s feelings about robbin or lust for alex.

just describing where everyone is standing during a fight is enough to drive a sane person to madness and i did not start out sane. here’s a little excerpt from the fight scene that’s going to be the death of me:

And strangely, although I stood there dotted with blood from a recent impaling and Daniel and Alex were locked in some kind of deadly, magical  pissing contest, I was okay. The old magic that filled the room embraced me, soothed the bite of Daniel’s attack and left me completely blissed out. Which is probably why I didn’t notice the fact that the serving girls were rushing from the shadows, their red eyes glowing in the darkness, ready to rescue their king – or die trying – until they were crouched down in front of him, daring us to move.

“Hello Finnegan,” the beautiful one snarled.

He nodded to her. “Serena.”

“You came back.”

He shrugged. “Said I would.”

With her pale skin and slight frame, it was hard to believe Serena was a threat. But I could tell by the casual, bored to tears tone of his voice, and by the way he kept me pinned to his side but slightly behind him, that Finn felt she was. Later he told me it was stupid to confuse an opponent’s size with their potential to kick your ass.  Second best piece of fighting advice I ever got.

“And this? Is this really what you want to do?” she asked, eyeing him suspiciously.

The conversation was dense with subtext, leaving me on edge but in the dark about why.

“This is what I was born to do,” he replied.

That’s what set her off. Without warning, she leapt at him, growling, a fury of teeth and nails. He pushed me away, attempting to get me out of her reach. Unfortunately, I collided with the edge of the table then slammed into the tallest of the three girls. She rounded on me, punching me before I had a chance to find my balance.

I want to win, I thought. Got to stay on my feet.

Ignoring the ringing in my ears, I hit her back, hard, and she crumpled to the ground. When the middle girl left Daniel’s side to defend her sister, I picked up a crystal goblet and swung wide, snapping it neatly into her chin. She fell beside her sister and stayed down.

Tab Bennett 2, bad guys zip.

Edward with a Whip

Like so many American families, mine has been torn apart by an inability to agree on Team Edward or Team Jacob. My sister says Edward is a control freak and a stalker. I say Jacob is a potential date-rapist and a moron. She calls Bella’s feelings for Edward an unhealthy obsession. I call them true love. That’s why when she called to tell me about a book that was, and I quote, “a grown up version of Twilight” I was hesitant to get involved. I mean, why reopen those wounds?

Then, of course, I read Fifty Shades of Grey anyway.

In it a young woman meets and falls in love with an older, more experienced, gorgeous, tortured millionaire. He’s controlling, bossy, and inexplicably worried about her safety even before there’s a threat to it. He tells her he’s bad for her but that he can’t stay away from her. Then the girl befriends a werewolf—Wait. No, sorry, that’s Twilight. In this book they enter into a BDSM relationship where she is the submissive. They’re really similar books, which makes sense because Fifty Shades started out as Twilight fan fiction.

[Don’t you think  Stephanie “no sex ‘til we’re married” Meyer probably hates that? Edward with a riding crop? Bella handcuffed to a bedpost. That’s not just premarital, it’s deviant!]

As a general rule I don’t understand fan fiction. I don’t get the appeal. For me, it’s not the real (fictional) characters unless the real author is the one moving them around. For example, although Christian Grey talks about butt plugs and ball gags quite freely, I don’t imagine Edward Cullen could force himself to say either. That said, once I put the Twilight connection aside and got passed the massive overuse of the phrase inner goddess, Fifty Shades of Grey was an interesting read – full of sex and intensity and beautiful, emotionally crippled soul mates, which are like my favorite kind.

Also, I really dig it when something magic like this happens to a writer and suddenly, for no reason, their work just catches on. I heard that I could have found the whole story online for free with just a little clever googling but I was happy to pay for all three books in the trilogy. E.L. James has my thirty dollars and my congratulations.