Category: Special Guest Bloggers


Letting Go

The SaDiablo family has been part of my life for the past 20 years. During that time, I recorded Daemon’s and Lucivar’s transition from tormented slaves to warriors serving their beloved Queen to being the dominant males in Kaeleer.

As the stories progressed, they became men who have firm control over the lands they rule—and a much more slippery hold on the women in their lives. I watched Saetan, family patriarch and High Lord of Hell, stumble through the challenges of being a single parent. And I followed Jaenelle as she changed from haunted child to powerful queen. All of those personal changes kept me coming back to these characters and the Black Jewels world, visiting them from time to time to share their lives again.

With the stories in Twilight’s Dawn, the SaDiablos have told me it’s time to let go. Some of the questions readers have been asking since the Black Jewels Trilogy was first published have been answered. Other questions may always remain a mystery for all of us—and that’s as it should be. Sometimes the veil that keeps a character from being fully revealed is as important to our enjoyment of a story as the things we are allowed to see.

Does that mean these are the last Black Jewels stories? No, I don’t think so. But the lives of the SaDiablo family have changed, and experience has taught me that it is better to let a place and a people rest for a while before exploring the next set of stories. So I’m gathering up my notes and tucking them away until I return to the Black Jewels world again to visit these long-time friends. In the meantime, I’m writing a story set in Ephemera, and may even explore a new world that has been beckoning lately.

Letting go. It’s not forever. And when I return to the Realms, I’m sure the SaDiablo family and their friends will have more stories to tell.

*****

Visit my web site—annebishop.com—at the end of November for excerpts from three of the stories in Twilight’s Dawn.

Bio:

Anne Bishop lives in upstate New York where she enjoys gardening, music, and writing dark, romantic stories. She is the author of thirteen novels, including the award-winning Black Jewels Trilogy. Her most recent novel is Twilight’s Dawn, a collection set in the Black Jewels world.

Thinking About Urban Fantasy

Urban fantasy is dying. Everybody seems to be saying so. Yanno, except for the people reading it, the people publishing it and the bookstores selling gobs of it.

It’s almost too good to be true. This genre of fantasy just keeps growing and expanding, with no end in sight.

The death stuff is true on one level. It’s not so easy to sell vampire fiction anymore and you definitely have to be creative and fresh with the stuff you’re writing. A lot of ground has already been covered, but so you need an original take. Shapshifters and werewolves and faeries are also looking down the same barrel. Zombies are on the rise, as are angels and demons. Soon they’ll be superseded by something else. Maybe new vampires. Maybe it will be something else entirely. But something will come.

The thing with urban fantasy—which is not so urban anymore, but I’ll get to that in a minute—is that it’s incredibly fertile ground. The possibilities seem endless. The idea that your neighbor could be a witch, or a gremlin, or a fairy is seductive. The idea that the real world can be full of magic and mystery if only you look at it just so, or turn the right corner, or pick up the right key, is equally alluring.

At the same time, you can mix in mystery, thriller, romance, the old west, political intrigue, police procedure . . .  You can stir in just about any ingredient you want that makes for a good story and there are readers out there for you. It’s a lot harder to do that in most other fantasy or sf genres. I think part of that is that the everyday life, language, and settings lend themselves to all these elements and don’t seem strange or out of place. I think also, the various flavors mean that readers don’t get bored. They have lots of choices and they dine heartily on whatever appeals at the moment. Don’t want Italian food today? Have some sushi. Not in the mood for soup and bread for dinner? Have some southern BBQ. Tomorrow or next week, you’ll be in the mood for something else and the nice thing is, it will be there.

The thing about this kind of fantasy—which is called Urban Fantasy by some, paranormal romance by others, and various other monikers—is that it has a lot to offer a wide audience. Characters are rich and emotional, the magic is interesting, there is complex and interesting worldbuilding, and you have a lot of choices and a lot of surprises in store.

I don’t think Urban Fantasy works as a category name though. That’s partly because it’s no longer limited to urban settings. For instance, my Horngate Witches books are set partly in an urban landscape, and partly in the very wild landscape of Montana. I can’t call it paranormal romance, either, because while there is romance, it doesn’t focus on romance. And while set in an existing landscape, I’m also bringing on a magical war and so soon it will be more in an apocalyptical world.  At the same time, Nalini Singh is called paranormal romance, but wow, her books contain complex worlds that are amazing and makes reader want to wallow around in them. None of those names seem to be a big enough container for all the flavors of this is this kind of fantasy.

If you read the Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels books (and you should), then you know that her books are set in an alternate Atlanta where magic and technology have changed the landscape considerably. If you’ve read Robin Mckinley’s Sunshine (and again, go do it if you haven’t), then you know that this is no ordinary United States and her vampires are not the usual variety.  Neither fit well into the urban fantasy or paranormal romance categories.

I used to think Contemporary Fantasy was a good group designation—better at least than urban fantasy or paranormal romance. But really, it doesn’t capture enough under its umbrella either. I’m thinking possibly Modern Fantasy might do it, though “modern” carries a lot of its own baggage.

You might ask why it matters what it’s called. There are a few reasons. One, it helps publishers figure out how to market it, and bookstores figure out where to put it, which therefore determines who is likely to read it, and even how long it might stay on the shelves. For instance, if it’s paranormal romance, then it will be in the romance aisle, and there are a lot of people who will sniff and turn up their noses and never even walk down that aisle. But also, romance rotates frequently and the shelf life there can be much shorter than in the sf/fantasy aisle.

On the other hand, people who read romance might never wander into the sf/f, because they believe that all that they want will be shelved in the romance aisle. But for instance, Ilona Andrews, Patty Briggs and Laura Anne Gilman are typically shelved in fantasy, but they all have strong romantic elements. On the other hand, Jeaniene Frost, Karen Moon Moning and Meljean Brook are typically shelved in romance, and they have very strong fantastical elements beyond the romance elements. But they can only be in one section. And that doesn’t cover young adult writers like Melissa Marr or Lisa Mantchev. I remember going into a bookstore and I couldn’t find Richelle Mead. She was in literary fiction, where I never would have looked. Wouldn’t it be nice if they were all together?

If you are shopping electronically, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to click a category and see all the kinds of books that you love? (though in electronic indexing, you could put books in multiple categories, which doesn’t happen in bookstores—there is only so much shelf space).

Regardless of the name, however, this genre is not dying. Not by a long shot. Thank goodness. It looks like I’ll never run out of my favorite stuff to read. And hopefully I’ll keep being able to write what I love as well.

So let me ask you two questions. Do you think the genre is dying? Or maybe you might think it should die. And where do you find books to read? Do you cross out of your normal aisles and look more widely?

Bio:

A professor of English at the University of Montana Western, Diana Pharaoh Francis is also a writer of fantasy. Her novels include the Path series and the Crosspointe Chronicles by Roc books, and the Horngate Witches books from Pocket. She likes to write flawed characters struggling with making good choices (and frequently failing). She believes evil should be punished and good should triumph. Eventually. But figuring out which is which is sometimes very difficult. Her next book, Crimson Wind, will be hitting shelves in December. For more on Diana Pharaoh Francis and her books, go to www.dianapfrancis.com

…And A Side Order of Romance

Two readers walk into a bar. “Read any good books lately?” one reader asks the other.

Two authors walk into a bar. “Sold any good books lately?” one author asks the other.

Honest, that’s the truth. The problem is that the second question is a lot harder to answer than the first. Which is why when I’m asked to wax poetic about the state of the science fiction romance genre, I’ll look at my wristwatch and ask, “Do you mean the state of SFR now or a half-hour from now?”

Adult science fiction novels, according to my agent, Kristin Nelson, are on the down-trend. http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2010/09/when-its-not-hot-passion-can-carry-it.html “This week I went on submission with an adult SF novel. Ask any editor and they will tell you, adult SF is not hot. Fantasy is hot—particularly urban fantasy,” Nelson says.

This obviously is not happy news to anyone reading this blog. Nor is it startling news. Statistically, science fiction has always been a low point-scorer in the game of fiction, accounting for about 8 to 10 percent of all paperback sales. Mystery clocks in around 15 percent.

Which brings me to my title… a side order of romance.

Romance fiction accounts for about 45 to 50 percent of all fiction paperbacks sold. This is a whopping huge number to those of us who follow the business of writing fiction (ie: the second set to walk into the bar above.) So one would think that combining a romance plot with a science fiction plot would bring that additional 10 percent of readers to the game.

It hasn’t—yet. Or it hasn’t to any great extent. A lot of the reason is marketing. Publishers are sincerely confuzzled on how to market science fiction romance or romantic science fiction (and the two are not the same, no.) When publishers hype the romance with kissy-covers, the science fiction fans flee. When the publishers slap a starship on the cover, romance readers recoil. No, not all. I’m exaggerating to make a point (and to have fun with alliteration, obviously). But in the six years I’ve been on the shelves with SFR books, I’ve not seen the barriers come tumbling down from either side when it comes to a side order of romance with SF.

There have been high points. SF readers who like the character-driven visual media tend to be more accepting of SFR. Romance readers who watched FIREFLY and aimed to misbehave along with Captain Mal found the same kind of hi-jinx on the pages of an SFR. But there are still barriers—there are still readers (and bloggers and reviewers) who thrust their heels into the mud and refuse to budge on the issue of mixing SF with R.

The reality is that a goodly amount of SF is plot-driven and/or theme-driven, with the characters simply as vehicles for the plot or analogies for the theme. If that’s the kind of journey a reader wants then, yes, any character-driven novel is going to feel strange to her. It doesn’t mean that plot is better than character, or character than plot. It’s what the reader likes or expects to find between the covers of the book.

And various publishing marketing departments haven’t had much success in telegraphing just what it is between the covers, so that readers can judge whether or not they like it. Which, of course, affects sales and, of course, affects an author’s “numbers,” which of course affects whether or not the author’s next manuscript will be picked up. Which affects the state of SFR as a genre overall.

Dorchester’s SHOMI line and Silhouette’s BOMBSHELL are almost poster-children for this dilemma. Both had SFR/Urban Fantasy/ Paranormal Romance plots. Both lines folded. Both were—in the opinions of just about every editor and agent and author I’ve spoken to in the past two years—horribly mis-marketed. And when a line goes down, detractors love to point to that and say, “See, I told you SFR doesn’t sell.”

No. SFR poorly marketed doesn’t sell well. But with romance readers making up danged near half of all paperback sales, and with SF books traditionally having the longest shelf-life of any paperbacks in a store, there’s every indication the combo CAN and SHOULD work.

If only someone can figure out how to market it.

Maybe we need some guy in a trench coat standing in the bookstore aisles going, “Psst, hey, reader! You want a little side of romance with that?”

Bio:

A former news reporter and retired private detective, Linnea Sinclair writes award-winning, fast-paced science fiction romance for Bantam Dell, including Gabriel’s Ghost, Games of Command, Hope’s Folly, and her current best seller, Rebels and Lovers. Her short story, “Courting Trouble,” is featured in Songs of Love & Death: Tales of Star-Crossed Love, a cross-genre anthology edited by Gardner Dozois and George R.R. Martin (Simon & Schuster, Nov. 16. 2010). Sinclair splits her time between Florida (winters) and Ohio (summers)—and the Intergalactic Bar & Grille at www.linneasinclair.com.

Awards

davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 

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