When I saw the cover of MORE THAN A MAN, my August Intrigue, I did a double take. The great-looking guy on the cover is the spitting image of my son. Did the art department find a picture of him? Or is it just an accident? The skin tone’s off. My son’s got more olive coloration. And his hair is shorter. But that’s HIM. And if he ever sees this post, he’ll probably come after me with an ax for telling you about my reaction to the cover. I know he doesn’t see himself as the hero of a romance novel. (He once did a sarcastic review of one of my books for a literature class he was taking at the University of Maryland, where he pointed out that the brand of car my heroine drove changed in the middle of the book.)
On the other hand, he’s obviously a danger junky. He’s a State Department Foreign Service Officer, and his assignments are mostly in places I don’t want to visit, like Albania and Kazakhstan. The exception was a posting to Moscow a few years ago. Right now he’s in Afghanistan, on a Provincial Reconstruction Team. And he’s volunteered to stay another year, this time at Kandahar Air Base. Where I can worry about him some more.
He’s due to come home for a brief vacation in–wait for it–July, right around RWA. But his home base is DC, so I hope to see him during the conference. Maybe I can even persuade him to stop in at the Marriott so everybody can compare him to the MORE THAN A MAN cover. If I break away from the conference for a few hours, you’ll know it was to have some time with him. I’d love to rent a beach house for a week while he’s here and get the family together. But I don’t know if it’s going to happen, since he hasn’t answered my questions about when exactly he’ll be in town. How’s that for a cliff-hanger?
(cross-posted at Alive & Knitting)
I was thinking this week about moving targets, of the book market variety. Popular fiction, like romance, is a reflection of popular culture – as those of you who read my blog have heard me say seven zillion times or so – so it’s constantly changing. As consumers (and that means readers) we’re always looking for the next new sensation. We are incessantly trying something new, then becoming bored with it. As producers (and that means writers) we need to somehow stay ahead of that curve.
Since RWA’s National Convention will be held next month in Washington, D.C., I thought it might be useful to have a peek at this, in action. Meet our Aspiring Writer (A.W.) who has her very first pitch session at this conference. She’s meeting an editor with a big New York publishing house, the very editor and the very house that A.W. has carefully researched and targeted as the best fit for her book. She’s prepped and practiced, she’s gone to the bathroom a couple of extra times (she’s a little bit excited) and now her name has been called for her editor appointment. This is it! She’s sure she’s going to get a request to submit.
Editor (stands to shake hands): Good morning, A.W. How nice to meet you.
A.W. (tries to be cool): Good morning. I’m very pleased to meet you. I know you edit Ms. NYT-Bestseller and I’m a huge fan of her books
E: As am I. (They both sit down) Well, then, tell me about your book.
A.W.: Well! It’s a vampire romance. The hero is a vampire and the heroine is a witch… (Brief synopsis ensues.)
E: What’s the obstacle between them?
A.W.: Well, she’s a witch, like I said, so she’s sworn to the reid. You know, “do whatsoever you will but harm none”.
E: So, she rejects him on principle, because he drinks blood?
A.W.: Right. But he’s just so sexy that he’s irresistible. And, you know, he’s not entirely happy with the need to drink blood either – he thinks he’s a monster himself and has to fight to accept the demon within. Being in love helps him control the hunger so he’s kind of addicted to her.
E: Um hmm. Any other plot elements?
A.W. (thinking desperately): Well, there’s a demon who is her familiar.
E: Tell me about him.
A.W.: Oh, he’s kind of mischievous and tries to force them apart. He’s a minor character but I could give him more lines.
E: What else?
A.W.: Um, it’s set in Iowa, and uh, it’s really really sexy. It’s a vampire novel, a sexy one, and I know those sell really well right now. Like Ms. NYT-Bestseller. My book is similar in a way, but the vampire is a bit darker…
E: We’re a bit over-inventoried in vampires right now. What else are you working on?
Ooops. A.W. expected to have the editor ask for the manuscript by now, but that’s clearly not happening. Why not?
The paranormal romance market has been on the move over the past decade. In 1994, I wrote an historical featuring a shapeshifter hero. A MAGICIAN’S QUEST was published in August 1995 and other than its exotic setting (medieval Morocco) the main conflict was the hero coming to terms with the beastly side of his nature. In 1998, my medieval ENCHANTED was published, which featured a hero condemned to become a wolf half of the time – that book was about breaking the curse so he’d be a normal man all the time. These two shapeshifter novels could be sold in that time because shapeshifters were new and novel – exploring the notion of what it meant to be a shapeshifter was “fresh” enough for the work to sell.
Shapeshifter romances were never as “in” as vampire romances – or at least they haven’t been yet! – but even so, that internal conflict, in and of itself, is no longer enough. The battle against the beast within is old news. The fight to assimiliate into society and have a normal life has been done. You’ll find the same thinking in vampire romance, or time travel romance, or any of the various paranormal romance subgenres. We need something new in order for the work to catch our interest.
At various points in time, we as readers have been enamored of vampires, or historicals set in Scotland, or sexy Regency romances, or erotic romance. There will be other infatuations. The point is that for brief moments, an aspiring author can get an invitation to submit work on the basis of that one qualifying detail alone. Publishing houses see something that works and want more of it.
But it doesn’t last. It really is a fleeting moment – you might get lucky or you might miss out. As we read more and more of the books in each targeted subgenre, we become a bit jaded. We want more than the basic hook. At least five years ago, just another vampire romance wasn’t good enough. We wanted something more, something special, something fresh.
And to be fair to A.W., this kind of sea change happens sooner within the publishing house than in the writing community. That’s because they’re putting together packages and cover copy and sales tips for each book in the list, and as the umpteenth romance in a particular subgenre comes across each individual’s desk, they need to know why this one is special. Editors read the most – including what doesn’t get bought – so they start looking for the change first.
Remember also that editors at print houses are at least a year ahead of readers. If you buy a book on July 7 which is the first title by a new author who is being promoted heavily by the house, and which just went on sale that day, that book manuscript was purchased at least a year ago. For a new author, it might have been bought closer to two years ago. There’s been a whole lot of work cross that editor’s desk during that interval. Unfortunately, you can’t know what that work was, or what the editor bought – you can only pick up that July 7 title and hope it tells you something about the editor’s taste.
Two years ago.
You can, however, assume that such subgenre elements will move in one predictable direction. As these hot-ticket elements become more popular and more mainstream, they all evolve in the same direction – they all require a deeper romance and better character development. In a sense, the hook or the element becomes part of the market at large and the story itself (the characterizations, the dialogue, the action, the romance) becomes the discerning factor. So, it can’t just be a vampire romance or an erotic romance – it also has to be a really good romance.
The other thing that happens – although this is harder to predict before it does happen – is that genres infect each other. When I sold Dragonfire to my editor, she told me that one thing she liked about it was the mythology of the Pyr and the worldbuilding. She told me that she saw that as key to the success of paranormal romance series, and that it was particularly what she looked for in a new series.
The intensity of the worldbuilding probably originates from the fantasy market, but the fantasy market has been around for a long time without this cross-over – I suspect the more immediate impetus is television series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This series and other similarly popular paranormal series posit an entire hidden universe right beneath our human noses, one populated by otherworldly creatures with their own agenda. The protagonist – or protagonists – stands on the cusp, with one foot in each world, often as a gatekeeper. This notion slid into the romance section and the paranormal romance subgenre, colouring the expectations of readers. One vampire alone isn’t that compelling anymore. We want him to be part of an entire vampire world, one with lots of other vampires and lots of issues.
So, I think that A.W. would have had a better chance of getting a submission request if her vampire romance had been part of a series, one that peeled back the veil on a whole ‘nuther parallel universe. She argued that her book was similar to those of Ms. NYT-Bestseller, who this editor bought and published with great success, but the point is that Ms. NYT built her audience when the market was in a different place than it is currently. Ms. NYT was the fresh voice then, not the one mimicking another established writer. What A.W. needs to do is be the fresh voice for the future, to write something that builds upon the notion of a vampire romance in a new and innovative way.
How is she going to do that? By keeping her eyes open and being aware of popular culture. By not being so quick to toss out her “odd” or “outrageous” ideas – no matter what her critique partner thinks of them. By going to the Spotlight sessions at RWA National and not just listening to the publishers’ presentations but looking for patterns. What are people buying and why? No one will tell her what to do. She has to figure it out for herself, and then make it happen.
Nobody said this was an easy business, but as writers, we are the source of new trends and ideas. Don’t take the easy path. Make your book, even if it is the umpteen gazillionth vampire romance, stand out from the pack.
Make it fresh!
“Deadly Liaisons” by Terry Spear
Ever since I was a kid, I was fascinated with spooky stories. I read myths and legends, fairy tales and folk tales from far away countries, immersed myself in the Greek myths and legends, Chinese legends, Native American legends, African tales, Norwegian tales, and many, many more…And then I had a strong fascination for ghost stories. I read the classics, and true life adventures. You name it, I loved to read.
But besides falling in love with the prince and princess tales, the classic knight in shining armor princely type who rescues the fair damsel, whether she’s a princess or not…I loved the darker side of romance–and truly fell in love with Dracula the first time I’d seen him on stage at Brevard Community College when I was a teen.
He was handsome and suave and in love. He wasn’t a monster–to me. He wanted and desired to be loved by the woman of his dreams for all eternity. And what’s so wrong with that? Now some would say he was a dead guy and that’s what’s wrong with that scenario. That he would have to kill her for her to become his mate forevermore.
But in my stories, humans are changed through a plague centuries earlier. They’re not dead people. If they die, they die, and they never come back to life. That would be a zombie. And though I’ve read some tales where the secondary characters verge on being romantic zombies, uhm, not to my way of thinking. So nope, no dead, cold, heartless vampires. Mine are hot, hot, hot! And carrying earth from the native soil around or they’ll die? Not mine. No buried in the earth for rejuvenation, no carrying it around in their pockets or shoes, no coffins. I have claustrophobia. No, on coffins. And no buried “alive” in the earth. Period.
And they can eat. Yep, they are not dead people. They eat. They also have to have blood. Yes. They are vampires, after all. In Deadly Liaisons, they live in Oregon, where I used to live, where it was rainy and cloudy and misty months and months during the year. So perfect for vampires. Although they do live all over the States. And since I love the princely theme, Daemon is the prince of the vampires in the States. The head honcho. He’s had terrible problems with having mates in the past. So when he takes on a vampire huntress, matters only get worse.
I’ve seen a lot of vampire romances lately where the vampire hates being what he is, hates being alone, living forever and wants to die. Mine are perfectly content to be vampires. They don’t care what others think of them. They’re not in the closet. And just like in any species, good ones and bad ones exist.
They’re shape shifters also. In Deadly Liaisons, one of the forms they take is one of my favorite shape shifter forms, of course, the wolf. 🙂
What similiarities are there between my adult vampire romances and werewolf romances? Everyone, no matter who they are, deserves to be loved. 🙂 Although in my wolf stories, the werewolves are perfectly happy to be who they are, they are not out of the closet yet. 🙂
And neither world exists in the other. I like to concentrate on one shape shifter species in a story. That way I focus on them and their strengths and weaknesses, pitting them against man and their own kind, attempting to make the fantasy as real to life as it can be.
So if you’re in the mood for vampires with heart, check out Deadly Liaisons! For a sweeter version of a vampire world…this one where witches are the norm and vampires are still hidden from the populace, check out The Vampire…In My Dreams.
Publication Date: March 31, 2009
Cover art by Scott Carpenter
He resisted the dark huntress…now he’ll use all his powers to make her his own.
Tezra Campbell treads a dangerous line between her job as a telepathic investigator for the Hunter Council and her alternate life as a renegade. Beneath her cool, professional exterior lies a dark obsession to find the rogue vampire who murdered her parents ten years ago and left her sister a traumatized shell. An obsession that drives her to use herself as bait.
Daemon, former bastard prince of Scotland and now head of the American vampire clans, sees Tezra as a danger to herself and to his people. Especially if the killer vampire takes her bait. Concerned his own brother might be accused of the crime, Daemon takes Tezra into custody, intending to keep her out of the way so he can find the killer himself.
Things don’t work out the way either planned. The more she fights him with her telepathic powers, the more she stirs up his sexual bloodlust—the kind only a mate can cool. And Tezra begins to wonder…is her desire for him real, or just a way to use Daemon to find the murderer?
It’s a deadly game they both aim to win—even while they try to keep their hearts intact.
Warning: Romance with a bite!
“The Vampire…In My Dreams” by Terry Lee Wilde
Publication Date: October 9, 2007
Cover art by Scott Carpenter
Love bites when a seventeen-year-old vampire and witch tangle.
Marissa Lakeland faces her worst nightmare one dark and misty night when she chases a gorgeous hunk of a guy to prove he’s a vampire. So why does the thought of tall, dark and vampiric appeal to Marissa, when there’s no way a vampire can compel a witch to do his bidding? At least that’s what she’s read in vampire lore. But lore can be mistaken.
Fledgling vampire Dominic Vorchowski knows Marissa’s the only one who can save him. Only why does she have to be a witch? Fate has thrown him together with the bewitching Marissa and if he gains her trust, he’ll have his life back again. Except for that whole eternal thirst for blood thing. And the fangs. Not to mention the aversion to intense sunlight. In any event, he’s set his sights on one girl who’s totally off the menu.
The centuries-old vamp Lynetta wants Dominic to replace the lover she lost, and no teenaged witch is going to take her guy away. Dominic and Marissa must stop the vampiress from winning the battle of the night…but time is running out.
So what do you think? Are you game to mix it up with a vampire with heart?
Terry, who is running to work as usual!!!
A few weeks back, my friend Magaly Guerrero wrote a great blog about Paganism in fiction and asked the question whether or not this was a good idea and why. Personally, I think it’s a great idea because it opens up her world to those who may not know about her beliefs and/or encourage people to research what Paganism is truly about while dispelling many rumors.
During an Heart of Carolina meeting where I was a co-panelist with the very cool Jenna Black, I had read my original pitch as an example of what to do when you’re sitting in front of an editor or agent. She wanted (like any interested agent or editor) more about my werecheetah world. I told her I had done a lot of research about cheetahs and tried to incorporate as much as I could into my world building.
What all this boils down to is how much reality do you like in your fiction? A lot or a little?
For me, I like it when an author gets as close to reality as possible. While I may not know much about dragons, if the story is good enough, it’ll make me curious about their history and any other legends that might be associated with them. Had it not been for a dragon book that I really liked, I might not have cared.
In STRIPPED, I had incorporated a few Pagan beliefs to fulfill part of the plot. However, I was careful to take only tiny liberties here and there without going overboard. In the end, I want readers to think that my witchy world is real and not something from a horror movie. After all, we know how believable everything is on the big screen right? *eye roll* That’s probably why, as Magaly said in her blog, many “believe that Paganism is something otherworldly, unnatural and often scary.” I’d feel really bad if readers got that type of impression from reading my book. The last thing I want to do is slander some else’s beliefs for the sake of making a buck. In fact, I’m hoping it’ll make readers seek out the truth for themselves and make up their own minds based on fact. Not fiction.
So how much reality do you like in your fiction? A little or a lot and why?
by Terry Spear
I’ve always loved mythology and enjoyed reading folk tales from other countries. I slip in fairy tale references in my wolf stories too…Little Red Riding Hood in To Tempt the Wolf, and a different reference to
Illustration published in 1868 Dutch edition of Little Red Riding Hood. Engraving by English printer Kronheim & Co.
Little Red Riding Hood in Legend of the White Wolf, The Three Little Pigs in well, one of the wolf tales. Can’t remember which now. 🙂 Maybe in Heart of the Wolf? Or Destiny of the Wolf? 🙂 And in the current work in progress–a reference to Alice in Wonderland in Seduction of the Wolf. 🙂 I’ve also referenced Hansel and Gretel, can’t remember which story now either. 🙂 But I love to reference them because they were such a mainstay of what I read as a kid and certain aspects really stuck with me!
Ever see references to fairy tales in books you’ve read? Some of course are Cinderella knock offs, or other such tales, using the same premise for the whole story, and those are fun to read too!I wonder some day if the old classics weren’t read, would fans in the future not even know what the references were to???
I have some fun pre-published stories that I have the rights back to that I’d like to serialize and share, and I’m experimenting with Bravenet’s free newsletter, which like everything else has a learning curve.
So if you want to sign up for my newsletter, I’ll try to post once a week on Sundays. I’m REALLY bad about sending out a newsletter so I’m hoping this will keep me on track. Just go to: http://www.terryspear.com/ and there’s a registration at the bottom of the page.
I made the mistake of sending it just to see what it would look like in my email and voila, Bravenet told me I could send it only once a day. LOL oh well…so that’s it. One person got to read my newsletter. Me.
This is a painting of Hera and Zeus, who in Goddess in Training, make one of their wagers. 🙂 Like other fairy tales, I loved Greek mythology, so this is a fun play on the sexy myths I read as a kid and teen! 🙂
Drop by and post a comment on Sia McKye’s Thoughts Over Coffee blog for a chance at a free copy of Destiny of the Wolf!
Thanks to everyone for sending me name ideas. (You can keep sending them if you want; I’m still not completely decided.) Because the response was so great, I’m picking two winners, and they are:
You two ladies please email me at email@example.com with your snailmail addresses.
Ok, I’m a bit blogged out this month, so today’s post is all about you guys doing the work, and me sitting back and reaping the rewards. 😉
I just got the edits back for HER VAMPIRE HUSBAND. The first notation? Change the hero’s name. Now, this isn’t the first time his name has changed. He started out as Henri in the proposal. My editor nixed that because it wasn’t ‘alpha’ enough. So we both decided Edward was manly enough. But at the time neither of us were thinking Twilight and the hero of that story is also Edward. So another name change is required.
Here’s some info on him: He’s a 1000 year old vampire who is leader of the Nava tribe. He’s fought for two French kings, used to be a bounty hunter (of werewolves), and has seen it all, done it all, and doesn’t regret a bit of it. He’s French, aristocratic, and feels he’s getting a bit long in the tooth (sorry, couldn’t help it), and the heroine, a sassy werewolf princess, enters his life with a bang and really turns his world upsidedown. And he loves it.
His last name is Saint-Pierre. And I need an ALPHA name (preferably French, but if it sounds old world, that’ll work too.) And here’s a picture of the guy who inspired my hero’s looks. (Jean-Hugues Anglade, an amazing French actor.)
So here’s where you all come in. Comment with a name idea, and you’ll be entered to win a copy of THE HIGHWAYMAN, my July Nocturne. You can enter with as many names as you can think of, but I’ll only put your name in the hat once for drawing.
Go for it!
The big news around here this past month is how I’m falling behind on pretty much everything – dishes, laundry, blogging, miscellaneous other jobs. You’ll be glad to know that this is because I’m writing! Dragonfire #5, which will be Niall’s book, has been pushed up in the schedule so I’ve been writing as quickly as I can.
First up, though, will be WINTER KISS, which is Dragonfire #4 and Delaney’s book. I liked this book a lot – Delaney has some baggage, which I like in a hero, while Ginger is one of those heroines who isn’t afraid of anything. They had a fun chemistry. We also get to see the other Pyr in cameo appearances, and those babies are growing up. I’m having a lot of fun with the way this series is developing and hope that you are, too. WINTER KISS goes on sale the first Tuesday in November – you can read an excerpt HERE. (Because I see that creating a page for it here is another thing I haven’t gotten to doing just yet! Yikes. I’ll add that to the list.)
I had Advanced Reading Copies for GUARDIAN a few weeks back, as well – aren’t they pretty? – which were mailed out to reviewers and bookstores. GUARDIAN is the second book in my fallen angel series from Tor, the one set in the post-nuclear future. It comes out in October of this year. You can read an excerpt for it HERE.
I’m feeling pretty lucky about covers this year. What do you think of them?
There has also been some happy contest news lately. KISS OF FIRE – Dragonfire #1 – won the Colorado Romance Writers’ Award of Excellence for Best Paranormal, Time Travel, Futuristic or Fantasy Romance of 2008. It’s also a finalist in the same category of the Orange County RWA’s Book Buyers’ Best Award – winners will be announced in August. FALLEN – the first book in my angels series – is a finalist in the FF&P PRISM in the Best Futuristic Romance of 2008 category, and took third place in the Wisconsin RWA’s Write Touch Awards in the Best Paranormal Romance of 2008 category.
Phew! It’s been hectic but fun – sorry to not have posted as often as I’d like, but I’ve got a book to finish. Niall and Rox still need their H.E.A. and the end of the month is drawing near.
Here’s hoping you have lots of great books to read, and that all is well – if busy – in your household!
I’m working on Seduction of the Wolf right now, and preparing a teen writing class to give tomorrow at our local library, but I had to take a moment and make a trailer for the already released vampire romantic suspense, Deadly Liaisons.
Dark huntress and rare telepath, Tezra Campbell treads a thin line between being a skilled criminal investigator for the Hunter Council and a renegade. She has an obsessive compulsion to find the vampire who murdered her parents, resulting in severe trauma to her younger sister who’d witnessed the crime a decade earlier. Prince of the American vampire clans, Daemon, sees Tezra as a danger to herself and to his people if the serial killer vampire terminates her next. He’s also concerned his own brother might be accused of the crime, takes her into custody, and intends to find the killer himself.
Only things don’t work out the way either planned, yet both aim to win the deadly game.
In Deadly Liaisons, you’ll note that my vampires shapeshift into wolves! 🙂 Hey, my favorite hunks all in one story!
Do you like the trailer??? I need to make Legend of the White Wolf next! 🙂 But first, I’ve gotta teach!!!
BRIDE OF THE WOLF SHADOWMEN BOOK FOUR
Release Date: April 28th, 2009
Bride of the Wolf (ISBN 1416563415)
Injured Blood Hunter Navarre is kidnapped along with oil heiress Marissa Vasquez. Their bid for freedom, puts them into a deadly race for their lives as they become the hunted prey of two Vladarian Vampires and the evil Dr. Cinatas. Together Marissa and Navarre’s spirits form a powerful link matched only by their passion. But can a mortal woman attain true love with a man who is half wolf? Or will their enemies steal their one chance at happiness?
I’ve come back for my just desserts! Sorry I’m late! Kids are outta school and summertime has exploded. Fresh fruit is coming in, time to pick some berries! So how bout those recipes now? Does anyone out there have some mouth watering to-die-for recipes for pache, or tamales dulces? Now’s the time to give us your opinons on Bride of the Wolf by Jennifer St Giles, because one lucky person will win a copy of a book from our next monthly focus author, Lori Devoti. We’ll be a little off on our post days so come visit often!