Stick a fork in me…

Underneath is done! Next week sometime (technically my self-imposed deadline is Tuesday) it’ll go off to the copy editor. Then on Friday, the lovely and talented Bill Wadman and I will be visiting a local castle to shoot a cover photo. Then before you know it, it’ll be December 1, 2012, and Underneath will be waiting for you, beautifully covered and practically error free, on the virtual shelves. In the meantime, do want to know what it’s about? Because I really want to tell you.

Underneath is about revenge and torture and sword fighting. It’s about destiny, prophecy, true love and great sex. It’s about trolls. It’s about getting over your daddy issues, letting go of your secrets, and learning to trust your friends. It’s about water witches. It’s about deciding who you want to be, then risking everything to become that person. It’s about facing consequences, taking responsibility, and finally growing the hell up.

The blurb is a work in progress, but I’m too excited not to share it!

Four months ago, when the truth of her long-hidden heritage came to light, Tab Bennett reluctantly let go of her past and embraced her future as an Elvish princess on the cusp of her gifts and the edge of her destiny. She never asked for a fairy tale life, but as the daughter of the Dark King and the Light Queen, that’s exactly what she got.

Raised in exile away from the kingdom of the Inbetween, Tab has never even met the parents who ruined her life. Her mother is dead, but Tab’s father, Daniel, is alive and well, the mad ruler of the kingdom Underneath. He’s made it clear he wants to meet her, and now that she knows all the sadness and heartache in her life can be traced directly to the Dark king’s door, Tab wants to meet him too. After all, it’s because of him that the first twenty-five years of her life were a lie. It’s his fault she gave her heart to Robbin when she should have been saving it for Alex, the prince who is destined to be her Homecoming. But, most importantly, King Daniel is the one responsible for her mother’s suicide and her sisters’ murders.

Tab wants justice – but she’ll settle for revenge and Finnegan Blackthorn, an Elvish warrior with secrets of his own, is going to help her get it. Together, they’ll embark on the dangerous journey to her father’s stronghold in the kingdom Underneath. But once she’s there, far away from the Light in which she was raised, Tab will be forced to confront the seductive nature of Darkness and her own potential to truly become her father’s daughter.

So what do you think? Curious? Excited? Intrigued? I hope so. See that you stay that way.

Once Upon a Time

Last night I finally watched the season finale of ABC’s Once Upon a Time. In case you don’t know, Once Upon a Time is a television show about fairy tale characters including Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, the various Princes Charming (you know, all the biggies) who are cursed by a wicked queen to live ordinary lives in the small town of Story Brooke, Maine. They wander around, doing regular things without any idea that they were once a princess or a wolf or a conscientious cricket. Only we know who they really are.

In spite of the occasional touch of cheesiness, a certain little boy I could do without, and the town’s constantly smirking mayor, Once Upon a Time has become one of my favorite shows. In part, it’s because I’m a sucker for stories about the struggle between good and evil, light and dark, and the complications that come from trying to figure out which is which, but there’s something else I really like about this show. Last night I finally figured out what it is.  All the girls kick ass. Little Red Riding Hood is the wolf, not his victim. Emma Swan, the show’s heroine, slays dragons and fearlessly takes on the evil queen. Snow White saves Prince Charming at least as often as he saves her. And she’s not a dope who’s tricked into eating the apple that renders her lifeless, she’s a hero who eats it willingly to save someone she loves. I think the world needs more of this – more stories about girls who slay dragons and are as capable of rescuing as they are of being rescued.

That’s part of the reason I love reading urban fantasy. Heroines who aren’t afraid to get a little dirty (take that however you like) are at the center of the genre – whether it’s Sookie Stackhouse or Mackayla Lane or Georgina Kincaid. What attracts you to the genre? Who’s your favorite UF heroine? Tell me all about it in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tater Tots & Sex on the Desk: Is that Urban Fantasy or Paranormal Romance?

A Tale of Fried Foods, Definitions & the Improper Use of Office Furniture

“So what is urban fantasy anyway?” Bill asked before popping a tater tot into his mouth. “And what’s paranormal romance? Are they the same thing?”

“Um…no,” I replied hesitantly. “Not exactly.”“Well what’s the difference?”

That’s a really good question. And I have to admit / hate to admit that even though I’ve written an urban fantasy novel, I have no idea how to explain the difference. Urban fantasy, the kind I write and the kind I read, seems to have an awful lot in common with paranormal romance.

If you ask the experts, by which I mean wikipedia.com, they’ll tell you: “Urban fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy defined by place; the fantastic narrative has an urban setting. Many urban fantasies are set in contemporary times and contain supernatural elements.”

Wikipedia describes paranormal romance as “a type of speculative fiction, paranormal romance focuses on romance and includes elements beyond the range of scientific explanation, blending together themes from the genres of traditional fantasy, science fiction, or horror.”

Does that clear things up for you? No? Yeah, not for me either.

Carrie Vaughn, an author who writes (among other things) a series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty, has written a great article about urban fantasy, its characteristics, and its origins. I fully recommend you read the entire article but I’ll tell you that for Carrie, urban fantasy must have a kick-ass heroine. She says, “We also have a generation who grew up after first and second wave feminism, who watched the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman and Lindsay Wagner in The Bionic Woman and Charlie’s Angels at young, impressionable ages.  Who also grew up with Ellen Ripley and Sarah Conner.  Who took it entirely for granted that women could be heroes and kick a lot of ass while doing so.”

For UF author Tracy Cooper-Posey the genre is defined by wordiness. She says, “Urban Fantasy is mostly about the back story. The history. While the romance reader wants to know about the romance, dammit.”

Tab Bennett and the Inbetween has a kick-ass heroine and as the series goes on, Tab is going to get tougher and tougher – mostly because she has no choice. It also has a complicated back story full of intrigue and curses and prophecies and murder plots and a war between Light and Dark. So it seems Tab and I meet the basic criteria for urban fantasy anyway. (Huge relief. Huge.)

Which brings me back to Bill. He wanted to know the difference between the two and he was quickly running out of tater tots. So I took a sip of my Diet Coke and said, “Urban fantasy is the combination of fantastic elements, like elves or fairies, and realistic settings, like elves or fairies who live in New York City and work at the New York Times. If it’s a paranormal romance, they have sex on the desk.”

Now it’s time for you to educate me, readers. What’s your take on Urban Fantasy? What’s the separation line for you? Do you love UF but hate PNR? Stop by and tell me all about it in the comments.

 

 

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.