Tag Archives: J. R. Ward

Is My Book Urban Fantasy?

Posted by October 25th, 2013

Urban fantasy is such a popular genre that we often forget that it’s of relatively recent vintage–it only came to the fore in the 1990s. Kelley Armstrong’s BITTEN is a case study for this rapid transformation; in her words, “[It] was called a supernatural thriller, then paranormal suspense, and finally urban fantasy.

To complicate matters, urban fantasy are very similiar. The most fundamental characteristic they share is, of course, the presence of magical creatures (vamps, weres, shifters, angels, demons, and fairies, to name a few). However, as paranormal romance authors have ramped up the worldbuilding in their books and crafted mythologies that any fantasy writer would kill for, urban fantasy authors have steamed up their novels with great, sexy subplots. It is harder than ever to tell the two genres apart.

We’ve come up with a genre questionnaire to help you shelve your book in the right place. Here we go.

1. Is your book set in a contemporary city setting? 

One of the fundamental conventions of urban fantasy is the modern urban setting. There’s grit, there’s danger, and the dour realities of city living. If your story takes place in the past or in the country, your book is most definitely not an urban fantasy.

2. Is there a strong mystery plot to your book?

sotrm_frontIf your book follows the main character as they try to uncover some type of paranormal mystery, and it ends with the mystery’s successful resolution, there’s a good chance your book is an urban fantasy. UF books have strong ties to noir, and many of the protagonists in urban fantasy books wield a paranormal power that helps them in their work as private investigators. Famous urban fantasy PIs are Harry Dresden from Jim Butcher’s Dresden File Series (wizard detective), Seanan McGuire’s Toby Daye (fae half-breed PI), and Alexa Craft (grave witch and police consultant).

 

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Member Spotlight: Meet Writer Michelle Hiscox

Posted by August 5th, 2013

michelle_hiscoxMichelle Hiscox is a career counselor who hails from Drumheller, Alberta. The dinosaur bones buried in the hills of her hometown inspired the first stories she ever wrote. Michelle holds a degree in psychology and is a member of the Romance Writers of America, as well as an avid paranormal romance fan. One night, she pulled her nose from a book to start working on her own and has been writing ever since.

NG: How did you become a writer?

MH: I was a reader first. My grandma introduced me to Stephen King when I was about twelve and I was hooked. In my twenties, I found the paranormal romance genre and that’s mostly what I’ve been reading ever since. I always read but hadn’t written since high school. Over time, the urge to write grew until I had no choice but to create a story of my own. That was about six years ago. My commitment to writing has grown over time.

NG: Why do you read and write paranormal romance?

MH: I get lost in the stories and love the characters. When they are well done, I get to live through their experiences, feel their feelings. I can’t wait to turn the page to see what happens next and will neglect sleep to find out. It likely relates to my interest in both horror and romance. Where else could I find such a perfect match?

anewdayatmidnightNG: True! Tell us more about your novel on the site, A NEW DAY AT MIDNIGHT. Why should the Book Country members check it out?

MH: Can I say because it’s worth it? I put all of my heart, and head, into writing something that I hope invokes emotion in the reader. Merik and Hannah, the main characters, are flawed, passionate, and conflicted. Their lives come through the pages.

NG: A romance novel needs to tell a good love story. How did you go about crafting yours?

MH: It didn’t start out as much, just a picture I conjured in my head and then jotted down on paper. I had Merik in my mind first with Hannah soon to follow. I can honestly say that who the characters are allowed me to develop much of the plot. The more I work on it, the more it has become about learning the elements of fiction. Grammar, plot development, and executing proper point of view are just the start of a long list of areas I had to learn more about. I think the best tool I found is being open to the idea that I can always improve.

NG: Let’s talk about your process. Do you keep a strict writing schedule?

MH: My strict writing schedule consists of writing every spare moment I have. At night, on my lunch break, in the passenger seat of the car. When I’m not writing, I’m reading, either studying the craft or looking at examples in the work of popular authors.

NG: How do you go about learning more about the craft and the business of writing? Do you have favorite resources you can share with us?

MH: When I get constructive feedback on Book Country, I research it, try to build my understanding, and then try to put it into practice. The last item is the one I struggle with the most. I like to have a good grasp of one concept, such as breaking out of the passive voice, and can execute it before I move on to the next area I need to work on.

I’ve also learned from some of the more experienced writers on Book Country, such as Elizabeth Moon. I read her entries because she gives insight into writing in terms I understand. Romance Writers of America has been helpful, providing access to free workshop content on anything from writing a synopsis to creating believable characters. Miss Snark’s blog and Query Shark are also great for picking up valuable pieces of information.

NG: Thanks for the tips! Who are your literary role models?

MH: Stephen King is probably the first. I’ve read every book he’s written with the exception of the Dark Tower series. Many of his euphemisms about the life of a writer really resonate with me. J.R. Ward is another. Everything she writes invokes emotion and every character is original. When I need inspiration or to see an example of how I think romance should be written, I read passages from her books.

NG: Why are you on Book Country?

MH: I joined Book Country because I wanted objective feedback on my work, but it definitely evolved into more. It gives me the chance to learn about the craft of writing from those willing to share what they know. It’s also good to be connected to people who can relate to other aspiring writers.

NG: Do you want to give a shout out to any of your friends on Book Country?

MH: I would like to say thanks to a few people. Is four still a few? David Downer, Michael Hagan, Rosie Ward and Kathleen Shaputis all helped me to identify areas I needed to work on in my writing. They also stuck with me until I understood what they were talking about. Their honesty and encouragement still means a lot to me.

NG: A round of applause for them!

What is something fun that we don’t know about you?

MH: I’m hooked on made for TV movies. Show me a good Danielle Steel special and I’ll show you an attentive aspiring writer. For some reason, my husband doesn’t think I should share that with others.

NG: Haha, we all have our guilty pleasures! Thank you so much for being our guest. It’s been a pleasure.

Connect with Michelle on Book Country and check out her paranormal romance novel A NEW DAY AT MIDNIGHT

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Know Your Vampires

Posted by March 8th, 2013

A glimpse into adult vampire fiction across the urban fantasy and paranormal romance genres.

 vampire_fiction_smAn editor once told me that an understanding of magical creature lore is as important to her as craft when it comes to scouting for new paranormal authors. Writers must know their vampires, werewolves, and shifters inside and out, and how they are represented across famous paranormal titles.

In other words, writers must be expert readers.

You know how prevalent vampires have been for the past decade. Your vampires must build upon existing tropes and conventions, and also offer something new and unexplored.

To lend a hand, here’s a crash course in vampire lore from key urban fantasy and paranormal romance titles.

(Warning: fangs and spoilers ahead.)

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris (2001)

Dead Until Dark

The series that inspired True Blood chronicles the adventures of charming waitress and telepath Sookie Stackhouse. It has set the standard in sexy bloodsuckers. Here, vampires love human blood and exist for hundreds of years, but they no longer have to hide from the world because of Japanese synthetic blood. Vampires still prefer to stick to their own kind; only a few “mainstream” with humans. Many live in nests, where they sleep during the day (they’ll deep-fry if caught in the sun). These vampires have immense physical strength, and many have special abilities such as sharp hearing, flying, and super speed. To become a vampire, a human is drained of blood and fed vampire blood, bringing him or her over to the other side. Vampires tend to be good in the sack—they’ve had centuries to hone their lovemaking skills.

This series draws on the legacy of Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series, another classic in the vampire genre.

 Dark Lover by J.R. Ward (2005)

Dark Lover

J.R. Ward’s vampire world in Dark Lover couldn’t be more different. The series revolves around the Black Dagger Brotherhood, a group of hunky vampire warriors tasked with protecting their race from the Lessening Society, soulless creatures trying to wipe them out. Vampires here are not “dead” but a different species, and they can’t convert humans through a bite. In their twenties, vampires go through a sort-of puberty when their vampiric nature appears. They get bigger and hotter, and their strength quadruples. Vampires prefer to feed from and mate with their own kind. You got that right—human blood is not as sweet and tantalizing to Ward’s creations. However, male vamps can have children with human women. In the first book, readers meet vampire king Wrath and his beloved, Beth, who’s the half-breed daughter of Wrath’s late friend Darius. Most books in the series revolve around a different “brother” and his romantic interest.

If the leather-clad, motorcycle-gang-like vampires are your type, also check out Lara Adrian’s Midnight Breed series.

Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost (2007)

Halfway to the Grave

The Night Huntress series, of which Halfway to the Grave is the first book, gives us vicious vampires whose eyes glow emerald in the heat of action.

Cat, the half-vampire protagonist, is just as “if Buffy and Angel had a daughter”*: a feisty vampire hunter. Because her mother was raped by a freshly-turned vampire, she is trying to kill as many vamps as she can get her hands on. Cat’s mixed lineage is unique since, in this worldview, humans and vampires can’t normally have children. When she meets British vamp and bounty hunter Bones, she needs to accept that not all of his kind are bloodthirsty monsters. Together they kick some bad vampire butt, and star in steamy sex scenes.

If Dead Until Dark fits the urban fantasy genre and Dark Lover the paranormal romance genre, Frost’s book walks a fine line between the two. The attraction between Cat and Bones is too center stage for the novel to be straight urban fantasy. The lack of HEA, or Happily Ever After, at the end of the first installment, means that it can’t be categorized as romance either. As readers continue through the series, they discover more details about the feudalism-like vampire system as well as vampire physiology (e.g., drinking vampire blood makes humans stronger, faster and adds years to their lives). Here, vampires inherit abilities like flying from their makers, but these specific abilities appear as they age.

What about Twilight?

Young adult vamps like those in Twilight abide by a different set of standards. Check out these cornerstone series if you’re writing YA: Vampire Academy, House of Night, and The Vampire Diaries.

Today’s adult fiction vamps are buff, leather-clad, emerald-eyed, often impotent, undead or a different species, and have a thing for human women.

How do your vampires build on these tropes?

*Description from the book jacket.

©iStockphoto.com/IvanBliznetsov

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