Tag Archives: vampire books

Getting Paranormal with Elisabeth Staab

Posted by June 6th, 2013


ElisabethStaab_bc“It’s about taking what’s commonly accepted and familiar, then finding the tweaks that make it yours.”

I’m excited to welcome paranormal romance author Elisabeth Staab to the blog. Elisabeth is the author of the acclaimed Chronicles of Yavn series. (You’ll love her books if you are a fan of J.R. Ward!) She sat down to talk with us about writing and reading paranormal, vampires, and the secret sauce to creating steamy love scenes. 

Nevena: Thanks you so much for joining us, Elisabeth! Why do you write paranormal romance?

Elisabeth: Thanks so much for having me!

I fell in love with vampires way back during hair braiding and Cheetos munching sessions at a slumber party, when I first saw Michael kiss Star inThe Lost Boys. I point to that as my big moment growing up when I realized that these otherworldly creatures could be something more than just horror monsters. In general, the whole “unexplained phenomena” business always rang my bell. I was the one who told ghost stories and pulled out the Ouija board at parties. So many of us thrive on that mystery, I think. The “what if” factor. What if the leather-clad biker gassing up his crotch-rocket across from you at the Shell station is really a vampire on his way out to fight the bad guys who are threatening his turf? You never know.

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Chelsea Quinn Yarbro on Creating “Presence”

Posted by May 14th, 2013

Establishing a Solid Environment for Your Story

This post is a special excerpt from FINE-TUNING FICTION by the award-winning horror author Chelsea Quinn Yarbro.


You’ve covered the basics: you have characters and a story-line. Now you need an environment to put them in, which is what Presence is all about. Presence makes the situation immediate and real, and provides the back-drop against which the story will be played out. The environment of a story is as much a character as the people in it.  You do not exist in a vacuum, and neither can your characters. Presence is what pulls the reader in with your characters and convinces them that their experience is complete. […]


Presence supplies the answers to the basic questions of Who (are the characters involved), What (are they doing), Where (is the setting for the action), When (everything from time of day to century of the story’s events), Why (are they there), and How (did they get there both physically and psychologically). Also there is the question of familiarity: are the characters familiar with the setting, or is it as new to them as it is to the reader? Is it new to some and familiar to others? How different is the setting, if it is unfamiliar? Are the characters prepared to deal with the setting? These questions need not be answered in a block, but in the first third of any unit action, or scene, there should be some narrative elements to provide those necessary elements.

The time and place questions may be addressed in dialogue, such as:

“Goodness, Nicholas, what are you doing here at this time of night?”

“Sorry; the storm blew a tree down and it’s blocking the road.”

That is the basic information, and it tells us a great deal. For one thing, the two characters know each other: Nicholas is identified by name. It lets us know it is late at night and the weather is—or has been—bad. It establishes an unsettled mood, but not much else. We do not, for example, know the relationship between the two characters or their feelings about Nicholas’ arrival—and at this time of night—whatever time that might be. We do not know the implications of the arrival for either character.

The addition of a Presence will create the setting and situation that can draw the reader in, as well as establishing a framework for their interaction. How you present the dialogue can be as essential as the dialogue itself, for that is what conveys the Presence to the reader. Enlarging on the information to include the environment and character demeanor can fill in the gaps as well as change the tone of the meeting without altering a single word of dialogue, and relatively little exposition that is not incorporated in the characters’ responses, so that the place the action is occurring is part of the whole.  Bear in mind that the Presence reinforces character and story-line, providing what some call authenticity to the story, meaning that the sense that what is happening in the story is real. One of the ways Presence and character interact is through reaction: reaction is always a good source of information in regard to characters. Note particularly those variations which imply that Nicholas belongs in this place and those in which it appears that he does not.

1) “Goodness, Nicholas, what are you doing here at this time of night? Jeanne demanded in vexation as she held the door against the gusting wind. “It’s past three.”

The porch-light cast long, angular shadows on the man’s face. “Sorry; the storm blew a tree down and it’s blocking the road.”

2) The jarring summons of the knocker brought Jeanne running to the door, her bathrobe thrown over her pajamas and untied, her bare feet growing cold on the tile floor. “Goodness, Nicholas, what are you doing here at this time of night?” She held the door to keep it from banging closed in the wind. “It’s past three.”

“Sorry,” he said as he fumbled in his pocket for his keys, “the storm blew a tree down and it’s blocking the road.”

3) “Goodness, Nicholas,” Jeff said, a sardonic note in his voice as he finally answered the adamant knocking on the door, “what are you doing here at this time of night? It’s past three.”

Nicholas grinned sheepishly. “Sorry; the storm blew a tree down and it’s blocking the road.”

4) “Goodness,” said Jeff, peering out into the blustering dark, “Nicholas, what are you doing here at this time of night?” He braced the door with his shoulder. “It’s past three.”

Nicholas shoved his way into the dim light of the entry-hall. “Sorry; the storm blew a tree down and it’s blocking the road.”

5) “Goodness, Nicholas, what are you doing here,” said Jeanne as she looked past his horse toward the east where the sky was a mass of clouds blocking out the moon, “at this time of night. It’s past three.”

“Sorry,” he said, shrugging out of his cloak as he stepped into his grandmother’s house. “The storm blew a tree down and it’s blocking the road.”

Each of these examples creates a different atmosphere for the dialogue to occur in, and puts a different slant on the characters of Nicholas, Jeanne and Jeff. In the first example, we discover that Jeanne isn’t very happy to see Nicholas, no matter what excuse he may have for being there—and in that context, the downed tree does seem a bit like an excuse; the way the light falls on his face implies that.  In the second example there is more importance on the fallen tree, for it may account for the lateness of Nicholas’ arrival; clearly Jeanne has been worried about his absence, or someone’s absence—she may not have expected Nicholas at all. In the third example Jeff is more unperturbed than Jeanne; by shifting the narration to a slightly different part of the dialogue a subtle change in tone occurs—there is the feeling that Nicholas has done this kind of thing before and Jeff regards his lateness as annoying but minor shenanigans. In the fourth example, the character of the night once again becomes important and Nicholas somewhat less welcome in the two previous examples, or perhaps Nicholas is more desperate than in earlier examples. The fifth example moves to what is probably an earlier or fantasy time, and it is the establishment of that other time that becomes the focal point of the dialogue; the specific information in the dialogue, while important, is secondary to the horse and Nicholas’ cloak and grandmother’s house.

Each of these examples shows the Presence in a slightly different way, all of which show a different aspect of this late-night arrival. Yet all establish a context and a spirit for the reader to use to enter into the environment of the story.

Excerpted from Fine-Tuning Fiction © 2013 by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. Excerpted with permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. 


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Meet Writer Mari Adkins

Posted by April 29th, 2013

Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A


“I write because I can’t not write. It’s in my head going around and must come out on paper.” –Mari Adkins

Mari Adkins is a southern gothic fiction writer from southeastern Kentucky. Mari is now on her way to becoming a published author: her novel Midnighthas been acquired by Apex Publications, and will come out in early 2014!

Nevena: Congratulations on selling your book, Midnight, to Apex. Tell us more about the novel!

Mari: Thank you! This is really exciting! (And scary! LOL.)

Midnight is the first book in an adult southern gothic series. It started as a poem and a short paragraph in 1996. Somewhere around 2000/2001, I decided I had a story and started filling in the blanks just to see what I could do with it. Before long, I had 120,000 words! I decided a couple of years ago I wanted to see the story from the main character’s daughter’s POV, and it just took off.

The book is about an abused, chronically depressed young woman, searching for herself, some stability, an anchor. The people she comes to love and cherish as her friends are vampires. As psychologically ill and damaged as Sami is, those three men—all vampires—continue the abuse in the way they treat her. Though her world is in chaos, once she is able to find what she’s looking for, she has no choice but to face herself and deal with what she finds there. She discovers which of her friends and family she can trust as she battles the transformations that will enable her to find the inner strength to embrace her true nature and the will to awaken the vampire within.

(Let the groaning begin. Yes, I write vampires! I’m “that Hillbilly Vampire lady”.)

Nevena: Haha. On your website, you say that the characters in your stories are “not your usual bloodthirsty Bram Stoker-type vampires.” How so?

Mari: My vampires are more human than vampire; they need only a little blood to maintain their health and to keep them from going insane. The stories revolve around the real-life problems the characters face more than their “vampireness.”

: So it’s more about the vampiric consciousness. Fascinating. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

Mari: It sounds cheesy, but I wrote my first “book” when I was six. Complete with illustrations. In crayon. It’s about a princess and her dog and their adventures in their undersea kingdom.

I write because I can’t not write. It’s in my head going around and must come out on paper. And yes, I write longhand; I’ve always found it difficult to get my thoughts straight at the keyboard as I’m dyslexic and have ADHD. This means I’m prone to leaving important things out—like words, sentences and explanations—when I try to compose or edit at the keyboard.
I didn’t get serious about publication until about ten years ago.

Nevena: So how do you balance writing with “life”?

Mari: I’m fortunate to stay home and work at my kitchen table. Since I learned a few years ago that I’m blessed with ADHD, I’ve started keeping a dayplanner so I can keep up with what I’m supposed to be doing on a given day. As well as writing and homemaking, I also do editing for hire. It helps break up the monotony.

When I have to go somewhere, I always take a backpack. We don’t have a car, so I travel by foot or by bus for the most part. I always carry my e-reader, my mp3 player, a journal, notebooks, and a case with pens, pencils, crayons, scissors, glue, and tape. Writing on the bus isn’t the prettiest or best thing in the world, but if I have a scene gnawing at me, I can at least scribble notes so I don’t lose certain thoughts or descriptions.

Nevena: So what is your favorite genre to write, and why?

Mari: I write paranormal fantasy because that’s where my interests lie. I’ve been a Pagan practitioner since 1988. The metaphysical elements and deities I incorporate into my writing are those that I’m most familiar with. The “gothic” element comes in from the setting, especially in Midnight, where Harlan County is very much its own character within that story.

Nevena: Now that Midnight’s with your editor, what have you been working on most recently?

Mari: I’ve been plugging away on my YA project. I started it out as a series of journal entries. But then I realized the format is stifling the story. Writing a journal is fun and what fifteen-year-old girls do. Not so conducive to storytelling. So for the last month or so I’ve been writing. Whatever comes into my head. It’s been more cohesive than what I had before.

Nevena: I’ll look out for it. Now I have to ask: What’s your Book Country story?

Mari: I was invited to Book Country at the beginning and have stayed because I like the professional atmosphere. The members here are all so polite with each other, yet never hesitate to tell each other straight up when they’re wrong. I like that everyone here—admins and members alike—are so free about sharing information with each other. Other places, you have to pry information out of people or go through the whole, “If you spend $20 and buy my e-book,” routine. In all, Book Country is one of my Internet bright spots.

Nevena: You’re one of our bright spots, too. You link to really great writing resources on the Book Country discussion forums. How do you improve your craft?

Mari: Thank you. Google is my friend. I read a lot of blogs. When you read someone else’s links, you get sucked down the rabbit hole and find all sorts of treasures. I also follow a lot of writers on Facebook. Michael Knost, for example, hosts online writing courses now and then, and they are, in my opinion, worth more than what he charges; he’s high on my recommendation list.

Also, I belong to a wonderful writing group. We’re scattered across the US and Canada and meet online once a week. We all have different talents and skills, and read in different areas. In fact, they get the kudos for helping makeMidnight (and its sequel) the story it is today.

Nevena: What should the Book Country community know about you that they don’t already?

Mari: I got so excited about journaling last year that I created a group about it on Facebook, Journaling Journey. We collect prompts, notebook ideas and layouts, shopping hints and tips (where to and how to), pictures of cool things in art journals, scrapbooks, diaries, etc. One of our members started giving us “challenges” once every two weeks. We have a lot of fun, and the people in the group are loaded with some amazing creativity.

Nevena: We’ll check it out. Thanks for chatting with me, Mari! Good luck with the book!

Connect to Mari on Book Country, like her fan page on Facebook, and visit her at mariadkins.com. Look out for her debut novel, Midnight, in early 2014.

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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.


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