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My Paranormal Malaise

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I can count on one hand the number of paranormals that I’ve finished since last December. It’s a tiny number. At first, I thought it was because all that was available were vampires, werewolves and witches. I thought that I was tiring of paranormals. The more that I thought about it, though, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am not tired of paranormals. Instead, in the rush to read something new, I was satisfied to be introduced into a new world, with new themes, myths, tropes, etc. In the height of the paranormal, the newness of the concept could hide a myriad of flaws but now that the myths, worlds, magic has achieved a certain sameness, I’m beginning to feel some malaise with the sub genre.

Now that the myths, worlds, magic seem so similar from book to book, the worldbuilding can no longer merely carry a story for me. I’ve come to two conclusions looking back over the past paranormals that I’ve read: I’m either reading authors who can deliver an emotional punch or authors who are bringing new myths into my reading world. Anyone not fulfilling those criteria and I’m not making it past the first two or three chapters.

So what do I mean by emotional punch? Alot of readers tell me that they aren’t reading JR Ward for her world building because it is inconsistent and doesn’t make sense anymore. Instead, they are reading it for the relationships and the ongoing character arcs. This is why I enjoy the Lara Adrian, The Midnight Breed series, and to some extent the emerging Carolyn Jewel’s Fiend series despite their similarities to the Ward series. The emotional connections of the characters are riveting. I find this particularly true in the case of Carolyn Jewel’s paranormals since half the time, I have no idea what is going on in her world and with the magic that defines the boundaries of the characters’ paranormality.

As for new concepts, I’m looking for paranormals or speculative fiction that feature new concepts. One of the new to me concepts is the science fiction opera although I haven’t quite found an author who writes like Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series in romance. Another new to me concept is the high fantasy that is found in C.L. Wilson’s Tairen Soul series. But even beyond that, there are existing paranormal tropes that seem to go unexplored. For example, where are the Egyptian based mythologies in romance? Why can’t we explore more East Asian myths? Why, even in the paranormal realm, are we relentlessly stuck in European mythology? Ilona Andrews’ upcoming book, Magic Strikes, features some Russian mythology. Kresley Cole’s books are loosely based on Norse mythology.

But the majority of paranormal romances seem stuck with the same retelling of vampires, werewolves, and witches with demons and angels making a strong appearance. It seems odd to me that some of the most innovative writing in the paranormal/speculative fiction is coming from Young Adult writers. Post apocalyptic tales from Suzanne Collins in Hunger Games and the impending The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan are riveting and imaginative. (Both titles are so visually arresting as well).

Early on, a creative myth could carry a weak character arc or a weak romance (which is sometimes what you get with romantic suspense). It takes a rare special writer to get me interested in vampires these days. The concepts seemed dated; not retro or vintage, just tired and old and worn. My interest can be peaked by high concepts, new to me concepts in the paranormal romance sub genre, but it seems that there isn’t as much innovative offering as there was in the past. I need to see the romance sub genre stretch here. I hope that in the future I see less werewolves, vampires, witches, demons and angels; and more post apocalyptic literate, more unique mythologies; more diversity in the characters.

I’m always looking for emotional vibrancy, but part of the vibrancy can be enhanced or diluted by the world inside the book. To some extent, I could read the same myth over and over if the emotional resonance is there, much like I do with historicals. But even with historicals, readers get tired of one historical time period. The Regency era has been done to death and now it’s time to hammer the Victorian era into the dust.

It’s time, I think, to be more innovative in the paranormal / spec fic romance sub genre. I need more variety and from what I hear from other readers, they do as well. I would love to hear from readers about unusual myths in romance books or authors in the romance field who I am overlooking. Are you feeling the paranormal malaise or are you still loving every vampire book that hits the shelves? If the existing slate of paranormal/spec fics don’t interest you, what would?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

140 Comments

  1. Sonya
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 06:43:11

    I think I’m with you on the part about still enjoying the more common paranormals as long as there are strong, resonating and unique characters. The myths don’t have to necessarily be original or different, as long as the characters are awesome.

    And, we-ell, I haz a shiny new contract with Pocket Books for my urban fantasy about the djinn, which I happen to think is fairly different from the norm. Of course, since I wrote it and all, I may be a wee bit biased.

    *cough* it’s gonna be out in spring 2010 *cough cough* and there will be a sequel *cough*

    /hesitant plug

    btw, not just popping in here to comment for the first time with a plug. I’m otherwise known as S. W. Vaughn :-)

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  2. Jane
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 07:14:48

    @Sonya Heh, 2010 is a long ways away. Or at least it seems like it. I think that’s one reason that I moved into urban fantasy so well for a while there. The myths seemed newer but UF, as with all genres, suffers from some sameness.

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  3. joanne
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 07:54:29

    Most authors would probably slap me silly if they knew how much or their world building I ignore. For me — with a few minor exceptions along the years — reading for pleasure has always been about the romance and the relationship growth between the characters. It’s about the HEA & road to getting there. Those have to jump off the page and into my head/heart or I’m done reading.

    So spaceships or wings don’t matter much to me…. the characters, the dialogue, the ‘whys’ are important and the rest is just stage setting.

    I absolutely agree that Egyptian settings, Victorian settings, ancient Rome would all be a wonderful change, but vampire or English aristocrat, the characters have to be center stage.

    Did I answer the question? I’m not so sure.

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  4. Rowena Cherry
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 08:16:27

    Jane,

    If you might be interested in well-researched Djinn with genie abilities, look for Kathleen Nance’s series from the early 90′s Much More Than Magic, Wishes Come True, and there were more.

    Kathleen Nance is very good. She went on to write a Sons of Olympus series including The Warrior, and The Trickster, which were based on the premise that there are descendents of the Greek gods among us.

    My own Djinn romances involve alien djinn and the premise that all our myths and legends about gods are revisionist reports about gods from outer space. My novels are Forced Mate, Mating Net, Insufficient Mating Material, and the most recent release, Knight’s Fork.

    Kellyann Zuzulo (Zubis Rising) has a series starting “A djinn in the House of Saud” .

    For alien romances, check out other PEARL finalists and winners from the past five or six years and you will find lots of Futuristic and Fantasy and Science Fiction Romance authors including RITA award winners Susan Grant and Linnea Sinclair. Jayne Castle (aka Jayne Ann Krentz) is a frequent winner.

    Susan Kearney writes very romantic stories involving alien cultures. So does Susan Sizemore. Check out Colby Hodge, for instance Stargazer.

    If aliens aren’t your cup of tea, have you seen all the mermaid lore. There’s been quite a wave (pardon the pun) of mergods, merfolk, Altantans, and shapeshifters who turn into dolphins/seals etc

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  5. Rowena Cherry
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 08:21:24

    Forgot to mention Bonnie Vanak who writes wonderful Egyptian stories. Sword and the Sheath… I forget the latest title.

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  6. Aoife
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 08:25:41

    In general, when I (very occasionally) read paranormals, etc., I am reading them for the emotional punch, and the character interactions. With a very few exceptions, I find the world-building in paranormal/fantasy/etc. Romances to be desultory at best, derivative and/or hysterically funny at worst. I’ve never read one that had the complex and utterly satisfying world building of a Barbara Hambly, Joyce Ballou Gregorian or Lois McMaster Bujold, among others. Perhaps that’s why I never got on the C. L. Wilson bandwagon. I’d already read variations of it a hundred times, and I never really connected to the characters enough to keep going past the beginning of the second book.

    The thought that occurs to me in reading Jane’s excellent commentary, is that, in a way, this is a continuation of the old wallpaper historical debate. If the setting of a story, whether it’s set in Regency England, or some fantasy world, is not thoroughly and authentically based in its world, then the emotional aspects of the story have to carry a very heavy burden, and persoanlly, I am finding fewer and fewer books where the writing stands up to that burden.

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  7. Sandia
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 08:29:27

    I think that’s why I love Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden series so much. It’s a completely new and creative paranormal world. I think it’s more urban fantasy than paranormal romance but the world she’s created is great.

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  8. Jane
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 08:34:51

    @Sandia I read that series until the time in which David was reabsorbed into someone else’s body and was lost to Joanne. I just felt like I couldn’t go where the author wanted me to go anymore.

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  9. Maya M.
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 08:35:21

    this seems like a good opportunity to ask something I’ve been wondering ever since coming across the term:

    what’s the difference between ‘sci fi space opera’ and mere ‘sci fi’? Singing? *g*

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  10. Jane
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 08:36:12

    @Aoife You are so right, Aoife. I was thinking about the Regency historical while I was writing the article. And I tend to agree with you that strong writing about the characters and the emotional connection seems hard to find.

    I think that is one reason why I’m gravitating toward more straight contemporaries. In those books, it’s all about the emotional connection, the character arcs and growth. The books totally rise and fall on that alone.

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  11. Jane
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 08:37:10

    @Maya M. I’ve always viewed the space opera as something that is more emotionally driven than science driven. (I.e., soap opera versus singing opera)

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  12. Caroline
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 08:43:39

    Lori Devoti has an Amazonian tattoo artist as the the heroine of her upcoming Amazon Ink (more UF than para romance, I think). It’s a May release.

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  13. Anion
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 08:53:16

    Must…not…plug…self…

    mustnotplugself!

    *whimper*

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  14. Heather Massey
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 08:54:03

    Jane, great post. I appreciate your call for more innovation. As a longtime horror fan, I was excited to see paranormal romance authors enjoy such success. However, I was dismayed not to encounter much experimentation in the genre, especially with all the rich source material around the globe. I experience this ennui with films, too, not just books.

    When I became jaded on Western fare, I indulged in lots of foreign films. ENCOUNTERS OF THE SPOOKY KIND (China), THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE (Spain), YOKAI MONSTERS (Japan), and GIN GWAI (a.k.a THE EYE-’but *not* the Jessica Alba version) (China) are all examples of films that could really inspire some great paranormal romances or urban fantasies.

    And where are the golems? Alexander C. Irvine did a terrific job exploring that concept in THE NARROWS, and of course, there's the Japanese film DIMAJIN (1966), but I'd love to see more like that, and it would be neat if an author could create a scary story along those lines with a romance.

    It'd be great to encounter more books in the vein of Bujold in romance, but from what I've been seeing, it seems to me that publishers wouldn't even consider stories like hers (whatever the romance equivalent) from a debut author (and maybe not even from an established author). Maybe from an SF publisher, but I doubt it. Not because there'd be something wrong with the books, but because the market is tight/still developing. And goodness, would I love to be proven wrong.

    Science fiction romance in particular has the potential to offer more than just starships and wormholes (although there's nothing wrong with them!!). Steampunk, m/m SF, military SF, mundane SF-’paired with a romance, the possibilities are endless. I'm interested to see what Gail Dayton does with her steampunk fantasy/romance NEW BLOOD (Tor).

    I think there’s potential across all romance subgenres for innovation, but for it to happen in any significant way, readers have to want the unexpected.

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  15. Jane O
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 09:03:24

    For me it is all about the characters, no matter what the subgenre. All too often all the emphasis is on the world building or the novelty of the setting and the characters get short shrift.

    After all, you could take the plot of High Noon and set it in the future, or in an alternate universe, or in medieval Scotland, or in Regency England, and the success or failure of the book won’t depend on the setting. It will depend on the believability (and likability) of the characters.

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  16. Keishon
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 09:12:35

    I think there's potential across all romance subgenres for innovation, but for it to happen in any significant way, readers have to want the unexpected.

    Reader’s will have to read a completely different genre altogether. I’ve never really caught on to the paranormal surge/trend and I don’t think I’ve read much of it and couldn’t name you a book. I say just skip along into the SF/F realm. It might not have romance as the focus but sometimes it is character and emotionally rich. At least I feel that Catherine Asaro’s work fits that bill (on certain titles not all).

    I’ve heard great things about Robin Hobb’s Ship (I think that’s what it’s called) series which I am going to try and read this year and Mercedes Lackey as well. I don’t know. I know this goes beyond the scope of your article but paranormal romances just lack something for me and I’ve never been one to enjoy them. Ah, c’est la vie.

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  17. K. F. Zuzulo
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 09:22:22

    While I do enjoy many of the vampire novels biting away at the shelves (especially the L.A. Banks series), I must admit that I, too, feel the paranormal malaise. And that’s partly why I wanted to write a series of metaphysical suspense novels with a heavy romantic theme about the djinn. Rowena Cherry has already mentioned some above and is herself a consummate storyteller in both innovative paranormal world-building and heady character interactions. I really enjoyed Insufficient Mating Material.

    Besides A Genie in the House of Saud: Zubis Rises, which is the first of a trilogy, I’ve also written about the djinn in novelette form for Sapphire Blue Publishing. That’s a great, new e-book website that has strong heroines with captivating and titillating relationships.

    I definitely think you hit the stake on the head, Jane, about the need for diversification in the paranormal market and it seems to be happening.
    Great post!

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  18. KMont
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 09:35:04

    I think the diversification is there, it’s just harder to find because of that sameness some books/series have. I quite agree with you that it’s the emotional resonance and characters that make a difference sometimes in works that feel similar. I’ve felt this to be the case for some time now and have enjoyed so many more paranormals because of it.

    What’s frustrating to me is when I think I’ve found a diamond in the rough, only to realize that unique element is not going to be pushed to the point of greatness. It’s not going to make the book unique and fresh. So sad, that.

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  19. Jade Lee
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 09:41:22

    Take it from someone who is fighting the fight in mutli-cultural and fantasy…niche markets are not selling right now. It’s not the publisher support or IMO the writing. Both have been excellent for me. Jane even gave The Concubine a great review here! But not enough people are buying fantasy or Asian. Which leaves me thinking about becoming as white as Wonder Bread.

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  20. Jane
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 09:45:06

    @Jade Lee I’ve always believed that it only takes one great author to break through a perceived barrier and I hope that becomes true for multi cultural books. I can’t help but believe that the paranormal/spec fic will be the area where we can see growth or even breakthrough. As an aside, it was our fabulous Jia who wrote that great review. I know, the J’s are hard to keep apart.

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  21. Jane
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 09:46:04

    @KMont I’ve been there. I kind of feel that way about the Mayan myths. I think, in part, because the Doomsday prophecies tied to the Mayan myths seem hard to get around if you are tying yourself closely to the Mayan myth.

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  22. Jane
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 09:47:39

    @Keishon I think I tend to use paranormal to encompass all the other worldly books. I have a hard time with classification. I’ve been meaning to read an Asaro book and I think I will for the March TBR challenge.

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  23. Jane
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 09:48:49

    @Heather Massey In some sense, we readers are holding ourselves back by not being adventurous enough? I think I can agree with that. It’s hard to experiment because of time constraints and money constraints. we don’t want to risk our precious resources on something unproven and untested.

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  24. MoJo
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 09:48:57

    But not enough people are buying fantasy or Asian.

    Chicken, meet egg.

    I’m spawning a whole new race: Glow In The Dark.

    But I want to see more Asian heroes (and I can get even more specific than that). Can’t find ‘em. What I’d BUY is limited by what I can FIND and until somebody can prove to me that’s a demand problem, I’m forced to assume it’s a supply problem.

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  25. Lynne Connolly
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 09:54:38

    Well, if you’re at Romantic Times, there’s a panel on Friday morning called “WORLDBUILDING: BEYOND CELTIC FAIRIES AND GREEK GODS Worldbuilding: Beyond Celtic fairies and Greek gods” where some of us are talking about the alternative mythologies we use.

    I’m doing the medieval bestiaries, which is where I get a lot of my shape-shifters from. In the Pure Wildfire series, I used the Russian firebird myth, and one day I’ll do a Baba Yaga story, I swear. A house that walks around on chicken’s legs? Bring it on!

    When I did my vampire research, I found vampire myths all over the world. Barbara Karmazin has done a chupacabra story, and I want to do a Jewish vampire story (Lilith, the first wife of Adam, was a vampire in some versions).

    Here’s the blurb, because I can’t improve on it. “The Greek gods weren't the only ones getting their freak on in the ancient world. The Etruscans taught the Romans everything they knew about sex and magic, and the Egyptians contributed an entire pantheon of gods and goddesses whose twisted plotting make contemporary soap operas look like children's TV. Add to the mix faeries and fairy-like creatures found in the mythologies of virtually every ancient culture in the world and you have yourself all the necessary ingredients for some extraordinary worldbuilding! Panelists: Jessica Andersen, Lynne Connolly, Stephanie Julian, Melissa Mayhue”

    Anyway, just saying that some of us do try to vary our stories a bit.

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  26. Jade Lee
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 09:55:00

    Oops! Sorry Jia. And thank you for the fabulous review!

    Also…as I understand it … space opera comes from soap opera. So it’s Dallas in space. (Or Gossip Girls, Heroes, what’s the new medical drama? Anyway…insert any nighttime soap) Regular SF is more action oriented, less who slept with whom. In which case, I believe Heroes walks the line between Space Opera and regular sf/urban fantasy.

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  27. Catherine
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 09:58:48

    I’m not really tired of vampire books or historical Regency. I love historicals and paranormals that involve those. That doesn’t mean that I would say no to something new though. I’m always willing to try something different. But I really don’t want Regencies or vampire books to go away.

    Having said that, I do have to admit that I’m tired of the shortcuts that seem to go hand in hand with those kind of books. I don’t want to read about “fated mates”. It seems like an excuse to ignore building an actual relationship. I can’t help but feel that because people are so familiar with these settings/creatures authors think they can skip detailing the setting/time and creating believable mythology. If you miss a step readers are probably so familiar with the setting that they can fill in the detail themselves.

    I’m fascinated by vampires and love Regencies, but you have to make me believe it people!. Please build your worlds better and make your characters more believable.

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  28. K. F. Zuzulo
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 10:03:46

    I think Catherine (#26) makes a great point: It’s all about the craft (of writing, that is, though could apply to witchcraft in some literary cases ; >)
    If the writer does her job well in creating a believable and wondrous space populated by “real” characters with “real” emotions, it really doesn’t matter what you’re writing about. Tell the story well and people will want to read it….

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  29. Jane
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 10:08:22

    @MoJo I think someone here mentioned that there was a secondary romance in Nancy Warren’s Unfinished Business? featuring an Asian male lead.

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  30. Jayne
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 10:08:43

    If you might be interested in well-researched Djinn with genie abilities, look for Kathleen Nance's series from the early 90's Much More Than Magic, Wishes Come True, and there were more.

    I read the first two in this series and liked them. For some reason, I didn’t continue with them after that. Melanie Jackson’s “Wildside” books were different utilizing goblins. The first, “Traveler” rocked all kinds of awesome. After that, they began to peter out until, again, I stopped reading the series.

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  31. Jane
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 10:10:38

    @Jayne I remember reading the Melanie Jackson Traveler book as well. (Probably on your recommendation). I might have to go back and pick up the Nance books. Maybe this summer when Dorchester is all digitized, they’ll be available in ebook format.

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  32. Keishon
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 10:11:50

    I've been meaning to read an Asaro book and I think I will for the March TBR challenge.

    I would like her to make a good impression on you so here are some choices to consider: Primary Inversion, the first in the Skolia series that you can dl for free at the Baen library here. Unfortunately, some of her best titles are not all in ebook, eh, not sure about The Quantum Rose which is another good stand alone. If you enjoy AI, there’s The Phoenix Code which I enjoyed as well and not in ebook and I need to read The Veiled Web and will probably do that for the challenge as well. I would love for some new readers out there to get some exposure to Asaro. I realize you may change your mind but keep these titles in mind when considering. They all have hard sci-fi in them but also a strong romance as well.

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  33. Kalen Hughes
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 10:12:07

    In general, when I (very occasionally) read paranormals, etc., I am reading them for the emotional punch, and the character interactions. With a very few exceptions, I find the world-building in paranormal/fantasy/etc. Romances to be desultory at best, derivative and/or hysterically funny at worst. I've never read one that had the complex and utterly satisfying world building of a Barbara Hambly, Joyce Ballou Gregorian or Lois McMaster Bujold, among others. Perhaps that's why I never got on the C. L. Wilson bandwagon. I'd already read variations of it a hundred times, and I never really connected to the characters enough to keep going past the beginning of the second book.

    Ditto. I grew up reading Science Fiction and Fantasy and I’ve found that very few paranormal romances offer the kind of world building that is necessary for these types of books to work for me. I found myself pushed out of the books all too often by inconsistent or contradictory things cropping up in the world building.

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  34. Jane
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 10:12:36

    @Catherine I love the way Kresley Cole takes the fated mate meme and kind of turns it on its head. It’s one reason that I responded so well to the book, A Hunger Like No Other. The idea that the fated mate can be a curse instead of a blessing adds some flavor to the concept and makes it much less a concept. CL Wilson does a fabulous job of showing how awful the fated mate bond can be when your fated mate marries someone else or where your fated mate bond keeps the two of you alive to suffer eternal torture.

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  35. kirsten saell
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 10:24:20

    I never hesitate to recommend Guy Gavriel Kay’s stand-alones (and his Sarantium duology).

    He bases his works on things like the battle for the Iberian peninsula, the rise of Byzantium, the Vikings, sets them in a fantasy world as rich and well-developed as the real one, adds elements of his own unique theologies and magic, and there’s almost always a love story (or two) in there, although it isn’t the main focus. His heroes (both male and female) are wonderfully nuanced, his villains are 3-dimensional and his endings often bittersweet.

    His writing is almost unbearably lyrical at times and he sucks me right in. I cried for the last 90 pages of Tigana and had to tell people for two days that my eyes were puffy because of an allergy attack.

    I’ve never been big on paranormal, because so much of it I’ve found is just not “other” enough to sate my appetite for fantasy. If you want something from him that’s more paranormal or urban fantasyish, his recent Ysabel is set in modern day France. I haven’t quite gotten the nerve to pick it up yet, because I’m terrified it won’t grab me like his others.

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  36. Keishon
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 10:38:00

    I never hesitate to recommend Guy Gavriel Kay's stand-alones (and his Sarantium duology).

    I have TIGANA and another one of his, A SONG FOR ARBONNE in my stacks here. Jan from DA thinks highly of his work as well. I will have to give him another try. Yes, I’ve tried the latter book a few years ago and didn’t get gripped into the story. But I’d like to think that I am more open to try new things now which is why I like hanging onto books like these because one day I will finally “get” what everybody is so excited about regarding his work.

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  37. Nadia
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 10:42:31

    The stories I read must not bore me or make me go “huh?” or “WTF?”

    Great characters, pacing, plot, superb writing, etc. can all keep me engaged. Any inconsistencies in world building and/or characters pull me out of the story, and if it happens more than twice, I put the book away.

    With paranormal romance, there are more things that can go wrong, mainly inconsistent world building and mythology. A lot of myths / world building seem to be there just so that h/H can go “mate mate mine mine…!” *yawn*

    P.S. The whole destined mate plot device drives me crazy, esp. when I honestly cannot understand why h/H are in love. It seems like a short cut to establishing a truly meaningful relationship, and I feel cheated.

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  38. Jorrie Spencer
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 10:46:31

    I loved A Song for Arbonne, but it’s not romance, but you probably know that.

    I also really liked Asaro’s Primary Inversion, but the rest of her stuff didn’t work so well for me.

    It’s been a while since I’ve read these though.

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  39. Linnea Sinclair
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 10:46:47

    Wow, lots of stuff going on here. I’m going to ramble. This should surprise no one. ;-)

    1 – world building in SFR or any cross genre: Mary Jo Putney called it “limited real estate” in a recent radio interview Catherine Asaro and I did with her. The thing is this: a book has a finite page/word count (with a NY publisher). Think of it as a suitcase. You can pack 3 pairs of jeans for the RT convention. Or you can pack 3 ball gowns for the RT convention. But wait! You want to wear jeans AND have ball gowns for the convention. But you can’t fit 6 things in the suitcase. So by necessity, you must cut back on each. That’s what writing cross genre is like and that’s why world building and romance both get somewhat shorted. A ‘standard’ fantasy/SF novel has, say, 110K words in which to do plot and world building. Make it an SF romance and you have that same 110K words but you must now do a romance plot ARC as well and romance-based characterization AND the usual SF requirements. Same small suitcase. Double the clothes.

    2 – something new and fresh: the old adage of NY publishing is “give me more of the same, but different.” I personally feel cross genres does that but then marketing gets involved and very often, great cross genre books get buried for lack of PR because we’re the square peg in the proverbial round hole. The reads you want ARE OUT THERE. There are just no obvious sign posts.

    3 – I think the Bombshell series and Shomi series had some unique stuff. Bombshell went 404 and I hear Shomi is having problems. Blame is placed on marekting, cover art, PR budget or lack or and just plain lack of word of mouth that these are terrific books to read that push the envelope. Try Hodge’s TWIST and Kenin’s HIDDEN.

    4 – It’s hard to get readers to push the envelope. Try sitting behind my book signing table at the local Borders and watch readers recoil in horror when I say the words Science Fiction Romance. The SF readers go “ew ick” on the romance aspect. The romance readers panic at the word “science.” I’ve resorted to saying “character driving action/adventure novels, like James Bond in Space.” That seems to do better.

    5 – I would definitely explore the small presses. Unfortunately most don’t have the budget to be noisy and get readers’ attentions. Try Elaine Corvidae and Isabo Kelly and Stacey Klemstein in addition to the ones already mentioned. Surf Samhain’s site. Corvidae’s stuff especially is very edgy, very different. Her Tyrant Moon stuff is BARBARIAN paranormal/sorcery. Her WINTER’S ORPHANS stuff is early-Industrial Age fae. http://www.onecrow.net

    6 – Space Opera Romance–IMHO yes, more character-driven, less SF thematic. More “Saturday Afternoon at the Movies” feel. Less “Dismal Future Angst Esoteric” feel. IMHO IMHE.

    Okay, back to a howing book deadline. (lurve the kitty pic–icanhascheezburger rocks!) ~Linnea

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  40. Judi Fennell
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 10:57:41

    Rowena sent me here – she mentioned Mer folk.

    I’ve got a tongue-in-cheek, light-hearted Mer trilogy coming out in June from Sourcebooks. In Over Her Head, Wild Blue Under and Catch of a Lifetime. My editor loves the world-building and it has a lot of supporters, having been in the Gather.com First Chapters Romance Top 5 finalists. Perhaps that’s something new you’d like.

    I also have to mention Etruscan mythology – Stephanie Julian (www.StephanieJullian.com) has an amazing series with Ellora’s Cave utilizing that mythology.

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  41. rebyj
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 11:06:43

    I’m sick of vampires, if they’re so immortal why are their predesessors all dead in most books?

    I’m sick of demons and angels, Demon heroes / oxymoron. And omg enough with the horns that get erect when the demon is “horny”. What is UP WITH THAT?

    I’m sick of werewolf stories, they are just getting way to squiggy and cross the beastiality line. I don’t care what “form” your body is in, if you’re stuck together for 30 minutes that’s ICKY!

    I finally got sick of Greek/Roman mythology when there were 82 characters in Kenyon’s 300 page “One Silent Night” .

    I’m not sick of Wiccan/witch stories yet, I’ve yet to find any that surpass Maggie Shayne’s “Immortal witch” series and would love rec’s from any of you.

    I agree with not liking the whole “fated lifemate” storyline. The only one that does it interestingly is Feehan in the Ghostwalker series where they are genetically altered by the bad guy to be attracted to specific person. The stories still have their problems but it’s better than most.

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  42. Catherine
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 11:08:16

    Jane, that’s a good point. I’d forgotten how much I had enjoyed that twist in CL Wilson’s world. I still have to stand by my original opinion though. Too often I see the “fated mate” theme used to let the so called hero act like a stalker or abuser. I can use Christine Feehan as an example.

    A couple of years ago I had glommed onto her writing and loved everything about it. I’d have a few uncomfortable moments but I’d push it aside because the world and the creatures were new and fascinating. The other day I went to reread the Carpathian series. I was shocked. I had liked these? They creeped me out bad now. I really couldn’t understand how I had ever thought they were ok. I don’t like the fact that the men are so controlling and that the females are so weak. They always lose.

    I think the author had to use the fated mate thing because otherwise she would have no reason for the girl not leaving her stalker mate. Because of the mate thing they couldn’t get too far apart or the girl would feel emo and want to kill herself. It’s all really creepy.

    Too much ranting, sorry. My point is that the author never developed a believable relationship. They stayed together because they had to. The guy wanted the girl because he finally saw colors and felt desire again. Sure, that’s love…

    I pulled all her books off my bookshelf, but now there’s a ton of them sitting on the floor waiting for me to figure out what to do with them. :(

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  43. Edith
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 11:28:59

    If you don’t mind reading fantasy (vs PNR) try Martha Wells. All of her books (except the first, City of Bones) have nice non-trad romances and are not in cookie-cutter settings. Wheel of the Infinite has an India-feel. Death of a Necromancer setting is 18thC London with magic. Element of Fire is medieval. But my fave, The Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy, has two settings, dealing with people in parallel worlds. One setting is eartly 20th C and the other is a non-industrial fishing village. Lovely romance, great snarky dialogue, fabulous world-building.

    FWIW, I can’t read PNR. 99% has laughable world-building. I spend all my reading time criticizing the world-building so can’t get into the romance.

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  44. Jane
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 11:34:01

    @Edith Someone at DA either recommended Wells or did a review of her books. I went to look up her backlist and none of it was digitized. I should probably revisit that.

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  45. Jane
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 11:34:41

    @Catherine I’m not disputing the hatred re: fated mate theory. I’m not a total fan of it either but I can instances (maybe exceptions) when the concept is played with that it can work. But yes, alot of the times, it is a total shortcut.

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  46. Meljean
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 11:36:30

    A fresh concept will make me pick up a new series almost every time, but even if the worldbuilding is spectacular, it’s the relationships and characters that have to hold me. If I don’t care about the people in the world, I won’t bother with a second book.

    But I find that holds true across the board — contemporary, historical, SF. I don’t care if a historical author gets every detail just right, or if I can smell the sweat of the footman and hear the creak of carriage; if her romance and her characters aren’t as compelling, I’m gone.

    J.D. Robb, for example — I’m not a huge mystery reader, but the concept that drew me in. Eve keeps me there and now I’m buying in hardback after … 28 books? The world isn’t fresh and new anymore, I know the rules, but that cop has me hooked.

    I love it when authors venture into new areas. I’m heading into steampunk myself, just because I’m excited about the ways I’ll be able to play with it. BUT! the second the worldbuilding overshadows the characters is the second I’m not going to be worth reading anymore. It’s difficult to find the balance sometimes, because I think we can get so excited about the worlds we’re building…but because I’ve had to put down more than one book/series that did the same — got so wrapped up in the awesomeness of its world (and not just UF/fantasy/SF worlds) that the characters faded into the background — it’s become a mantra when I’m writing and when I’m looking through reviews for books: character, character, character. Give me that, and I can get through a lot of shoddy worldbuilding, wallpaper historicals, and even contemporary comedies (which usually give me the willies.)

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  47. Courtney Milan
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 11:39:41

    There is always Tessa Dare’s upcoming Samhain novella, The Legend of the Werestag.

    Because, hey, what could be better for paranormal malaise than a legendary man-beast? ;)

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  48. Noelle/Barbra E Noel
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 11:39:52

    Here Here Jane!!

    I always tend to go back to the same example of the perfect mix of world building and emotional punch but it’s not romance and it’s not even in print.
    it’s Battlestar Galactica. It cannot say enough about the writing. Each week I’m amazed at the story telling.

    I'd love to see more Romance written like Jane said along more apocalyptic lines or with more Sci-Fi- Fantasy rather than paranormal but not the same old ass kicking heroines of UF.
    Since I can’t find that kind of thing in Romance I’ve started reading more Neil Gaiman.

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  49. Jane
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 11:40:54

    @Courtney Milan Oh, Courtney, aren’t all romance heroes legendary man-beasts?

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  50. Courtney Milan
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 11:45:43

    @Jane: It is true. But how many of them have . . . prongs?

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  51. Catherine
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 11:48:26

    I agree with not liking the whole “fated lifemate” storyline. The only one that does it interestingly is Feehan in the Ghostwalker series where they are genetically altered by the bad guy to be attracted to specific person. The stories still have their problems but it's better than most.

    Oddly enough this was the series that caused me to reread my older Christine Feehan books. I had liked the Ghostwalker series (more than the Carpathian one) but when I picked up the newest one, Murder Game, I had major issues with it. It was a DNF for me. I tried to reread her older books to recapture the magic I had found with her, but I just ended up realizing that I could no longer ignore the things that bothered me. I still like the idea of her Ghostwlker series, I guess it’s just the execution that I now have a problem with.

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  52. Kalen Hughes
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 11:50:22

    @Courtney Milan Oh, Courtney, aren't all romance heroes legendary man-beasts?

    *snort* I just blew tea all over my keyboard.

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  53. Courtney S.
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 11:52:34

    Hi Jane,

    As shameless plug and an answer to one of the questions you posed in this post, My paranormal. Kona Warrior, will soon be released by Ravenous Romance. It is the first of my books to deal with the Hawaiian Myths.

    I too enjoy a great paranormal, but am a little tired of greeks and vampires…so I decided to write one of my own set in Hawaii :)

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  54. Susan/DC
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 12:07:31

    I’m not a big paranormal fan because all too often the paranormal aspects simply seem to be a way to make the H/H the biggest, fastest, strongest, bestest-all-around without having to go to into all those messy explanations as to how and why they became what they are. It’s also a way of giving a super-alpha hero who runs roughshod over the heroine an excuse: he can’t help it; he’s a vampire/werewolf/whatever. This is certainly not true of all paranormal romances, but I think that it may true often enough to be the cause of some of the dissatisfaction.

    As many others have noted, it’s all in the writing. While not romances, I’ve loved some books with creatures clearly not of this world: Gaiman’s American Gods, Bull’s War for the Oaks, Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, to name a few classics. They each made me believe in the characters, the plot, the entire world, and never once did I feel the author was taking a shortcut

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  55. K. Z. Snow
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 12:10:50

    Jane, have you looked into Drollerie Press books? I’m absolutely intrigued by them, although my frayed shoestring budget doesn’t allow for puchase of new print titles right now.

    What I would love to see more of are genuinely spooky tales a la Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. Not Kingish gore, but “zero at the bone” (to borrow from Dickinson) creepiness. Creating that kind of atmosphere and tension seems to be something of a dying art among contemporary authors.

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  56. K. Z. Snow
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 12:24:05

    one day I'll do a Baba Yaga story, I swear

    Beat ya to it, Lynne! Baba Yaga, and other creatures from Slavic myth and legend, appear in an intense m/m novel (urban fantasy/romance/journey of self discovery) I have coming out from Liquid Silver. But she only makes a cameo appearance, so the field is still wide open for The Greatest Witch of All Time to have a story of her own!

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  57. Sonya
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 12:37:16

    @Jane – yeah, it’s a looong way from now, is 2010. LOL

    But I’m happy to see so many fantastic reading suggestions in this comment trail! Hooray for diversity. :-) Jade Lee’s books are on my list, and now I’m gonna have to check out the djinn stuff mentioned upthread.

    @anion – plug yourself, do! :-) C’mon, everybody’s doin’ it…

    (And man, is it ever hard. I tremble at the thought of having to self-promote a lot more in the coming months… *shudder*)

    Thanks for indulging me here, Ja(y)nes. *G*

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  58. K. Z. Snow
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 12:41:47

    Jane, have you looked into Drollerie Press books?

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  59. K J Gillenwater
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 12:43:47

    I could probably read a hundred paranormal books all about vampires, as long as the characters are well-done and the plot is a good one.

    I think every reader has a different ‘thing’ they look for in a story. I am not big on world-building (either as a writer or a reader). Too much of it in a story turns me off completely. I don’t like working that hard to get into a story.

    My favorite kind of paranormal book is one step beyond reality. So that most of it is built around the world I already know, with just a few elements to learn about. Nothing too taxing.

    Other readers love complex worlds in books. The more layers the better.

    As for more asian-themed paranormal….I’d love to give it to you. I am a huge fan of Asian horror, which makes me want to write a book based on those myths and themes. However, I have to say, as a total American white girl, I’m intimidated. I don’t want to insult the culture by doing a hack job. It’s easy to use the vampire or werewolf myths because they have grown into American culture icons (even though they began as European). But to introduce a reader to something more foreign has its downsides as well. Too foreign and maybe you don’t have a wide enough audience. Too simple and you may insult those who are familiar with the culture.

    Great debate.

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  60. theo
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 12:54:54

    I still like the vampires, werewolves and other paranormals as long as the romance is foremost and the secondary stuff (including a consistent world) is believable in the context of the story itself.

    I can’t read Ward anymore. She went from Romance front and center to UF with a little sort of romance thrown in. I much prefer Adrian. She is still about the romantic relationships first. Besides, she’s still consistent with her characters and world and I don’t have to go to her website to find out about new characters who get thrown into a novel with a “Gee, you should know all about him by now so I don’t have to give you any background” crap, or the “this is what’s been happening between books” garbage. Sorry to those of you who love Ward. This is only my opinion and certainly no one has to agree.

    I’ve read just about every genre over the years (except steampunk – is that what it’s called?) and I still go back to the romance so if I pick up a book that says romance, whether it’s paranormal, historical or futuristic, that’s what I expect.

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  61. Keri M
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 12:57:31

    I am more into paranormal romances with a suspense twist, rather than SF/Fantasy. Although Christina Dodd’s Darkness series did hook me and I enjoyed every book. I just finished Feehan’s Murder Game in the Ghostwalker series and I thought the book stood up to the first books in the series. I truly enjoyed it and couldn’t read fast enough. The last two or three books in the series have been off for me, but I kept hoping she would get back on track and to me she did.

    I think a refreshing new voice in the paranormal realm is Wendy Robert’s Ghost Duster series. She talks to dead people or at least she does as she cleans up their crime scene and solves the mystery with help of course from her hunky ex-cop assistant.

    PS. I have sworn off of all vampire/god series as Kenyon just completely wore me out on her all her characters I had to keep up with…i waved the white flag long ago on that. However having said that, I did read Archeron and enjoyed most of it.

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  62. Ashley
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 13:19:40

    Have you tried Judith Tarr? She’s great for world-building, relationships, and delicate handling of magic — and syntax. If you are tired of stupid books, check out:

    Alamut
    A Wind in Cairo
    The Hound and the Falcon trilogy
    White Mare’s Daughter
    Throne of Isis

    These are just a start, some of my favorites, running the gamut from djinni, faeries, and magi to gods, all with a strong relationship development and not-yer-typical setting.

    Lian Hearn’s Tales of the Oltori trilogy is also worth checking out, if you like a Japanese style setting.

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  63. DeeCee
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 13:39:59

    I was never really big on paranormals until I read Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Night Pleasures. It drew me in, and because there was nothing else like it on the market in 2002, it was a keeper. But like someone said earlier, 80 some odd characters in One Silent Night….it kicks you out of the story. In the end reading one of her books now seems like a shameless ploy to get you to shell out the $8 for a pb or $25 for a hardcover, and leaves me feeling used.

    I want to be entertained to the point that I can SEE what is described. Ward’s novels quickly wained in enjoyment when she broke her own world building rules. Authors that do that seem like they get caught up in the hype of their writing prowess. The ultimate Ward book Lover Awakened was at heart a deep, fulfilling romance that kept my very short attention span. Her latest two are definitely UF, but left me pretty empty. Her new book out in a month is making me wonder if it’ll be worth shelling out the cash, because Revh is the only character that I continued the series for.

    One author that brought a different twist on the were/vamp stuff is Patricia Briggs. She took an old theme, made it her own, and got me interested again in Mercy. Even her A&O series is refreshing.

    One thing I know I’ve been searching for in paranormal romance is the shaman. Briggs touches on it, but it doesn’t flesh out. I would love to read a well written pr from a shaman’s point of view. And it can’t be like some of the other pr/uf cop outs I’ve read where the character can just magically do anything without a consequence.

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  64. ~Sia McKye~
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 14:00:41

    I think there are favorite *world-settings* readers are drawn to whether regency or Celtic/European myth base ones and there always will be. I enjoy Paranormals but I like the ones that present me with a well developed culture of the world and characters to care about.

    I’m not a fan of Asian myths, although I have found some that are interesting. I have read some fascinating myths from Egypt. Seems to me, Egypt is the *home* to many of the other myths. They’ve morphed from Egypt to everywhere else.

    Whatever your world, you have to have good characters. Realistic characters that act and react in normal ways. We have to see enough layers to these characters to pique our interest and attachment. Otherwise, why bother? Pick up the historical writings of the period or mythology and read that. But, if an author is skilled, they can weave character within the tapestry of the history so we see it in context. So that the characters set in the story move us draw us.

    Seems to me, that everyone wants to have a piece of the bandwagon that was ushered in with paranormals. Unfortunately, in their rush, they forget about bringing a fresh perspective and twist to the stories they write. When you can’t see the differences between the different books out there except character names, it’s time to find something else to write.

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  65. Estara
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 14:32:57

    @DeeCee: There’s one book that comes to my mind immediately, but isn’t mainly a romance from a shaman’s point of view, it’s a murder mystery first (with a romance). It’s one of the most underappreciated books by Mercedes Lackey, Sacred Ground. I do not know if Native Americans would think her interpretation of tribal lore and shamanism correct, but I do think it was respectfully done.

    ====
    Some nice fantasy romance for Young Adults (although I discovered her as an adult and enjoy her a lot) can be had by Sherwood Smith. The Trouble with Kings (what do you do when you don’t want adventure, but you’re a princess whose hand is valuable in marriage and you can’t avoid adventure… whom do you trust, who’s the right prince for you?), A Posse of Princesses (which I see a bit as court society fantasy romance) and Crown Duel (so your current king is a tyrant and you won’t stand for it anymore and actually accuse him. Your brother could be the new king if all the other aristocrats agree, but there’s this one court flower who seems to have his hand in every pie and you’re not sure he’s got the right qualifications… and he seems to like you, what’s up with that!!) spring to mind right away.

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  66. DeeCee
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 14:38:34

    @Estara:
    That sounds like a good one. I’ll have to check a ubs for a copy.

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  67. MaryK
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 15:00:14

    re: vampires – Have you tried Susan Sizemore’s Laws of the Blood series? It’s lesser known than the “Primal” series and much more like UF. I haven’t been able to get into the more popular series because I keep wanting it to be the Blood series. :)

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  68. Michelle
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 15:04:24

    I am reading Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series. The Last Herald Mage series just blew me away. Talk about tortured/selfless heros.

    Lynn Flewelling’s series are great.

    I am also reading more fantasy and less paranormal.

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  69. MaryK
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 15:05:36

    @Anion: How very frustrating for you! :)

    Maybe you need a secret, secret identity. :D

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  70. Gail Dayton
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 15:09:50

    I cut my reading teeth on fantasy and science fiction. I got into it when I was young enough, I still thought kissing was icky.

    Now I’m grown, I still tend to have that early insistence on good world-building, and hope I manage it with my own books. (Thanks Heather for the mention of my new one. It’s out now! :) )

    I enjoy books that don’t have much romance, but if they’ve got some good romance, all the better for me. (I just finished SABRIEL, a YA fantasy where the hero only appears halfway through the book and at the end tells the heroine “Oh by the way, I love you” without any showing of how and why. She tells him she loves him back, then they go fight the bad guy. The end. Bleah. But then it was written by a man, and too many of them are clueless in realizing the how and why of falling in love. It “just happens.”)

    I’ve never been real big on vampires–but I read a fair number of vampire series. I like shapeshifters. And Nina Bangs (who has done a vampire series) has come out with something in the realm of Shapeshifters that is totally new, totally off the wall, and I think really works. She’s also working with that Mayan Doomsday thing in this series. ETERNAL PLEASURE is the first one, and the next one is out in… May. I think. (Nina’s still bunking in with Gerry Bartlett because her home hasn’t been repaired yet from Hurricane Ike.) Anyway, these shapeshifters are not your usual werewolves. Or even big cats. They are– well, IMHO, Best Shapeshifters Evah!!

    And I likes me some shapeshifters. Nalini Singh’s Psy-Shifter futuristic universe, for example. Good stuff.

    Oh, post-apocalyptic: Claire Delacroix’s FALLEN, and Jordan Summers’ RED–FALLEN has angels and RED has werewolves, but they’re different.

    I’ve bought most of Jade Lee’s Asian-flavored books, and would like to write some (I have a half-Japanese nephew–would that give me credibility?), but–well, case of too many ideas, too little time.

    But yeah, the new and different is out there. And some of it is really good stuff.

    (P.S. if anybody’s interested in Victorian steampunk with no vampires, just magic, NEW BLOOD did come out from Tor Paranormal Romance this month by yours truly) End of Shameless Promo.

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  71. MCHalliday
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 15:26:26

    Samhain has a selection of Fantasy Romance and Romantic Scifi that might ease a paranormal malaise.

    Janet accepted my FR with Samhain, THE KING'S DAUGHTER, for review in August last year but has been rather busy and unable to do so just yet. The tale takes place in a medieval Eire where the Druid legacy survives, with the bartered daughter of a clan king struggling in a web of dark spells to save herself ~ and her beloved knight ~ while under the watchful eye of a lough wizard.

    As indicated above, it is romance atypically showcasing a heroine not saved by the hero and more, she weds a man other than her beloved. Political intrigue is light for fantasy and the plot twists surprising. I should give a heads up, some sexual situations might be discomforting to sensitive readers.

    There are books available from small presses that stretch the PR boundaries set by NY. Samhain is one of them.

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  72. Irene Chandler
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 15:37:28

    Seconding the recommendation for Sacred Ground.

    As for space opera . . . I’ve always understood it to mean science fiction where the science and social examination take a back seat to a fast-moving action or intrigue plot. They’re adventure stories, basically, and things like faster-than-light travel are tools to make the canvas bigger or the plot better, not the whole point of the book.

    It’s all about the focus. I mean, you can envision a stratified society where caste is based on genetic engineering, where the rulers are eerily beautiful and charismatic because they were designed that way, and mobility between the classes is very, very restricted. You could focus your novel on the sociological implications of all this, on the notions of class and how genetic engineering affects our assumptions about human beings and all that-’that’s sociological SF, the sort of thing Ursula K. LeGuin might write. Or you can center the plot around a very important theft, add in a bit of kidnapping and political intrigue and danger and a protagonist who’s kind of a self-propelled trouble magnet with a silver tongue, and then you have yourself an adventure story-’a space opera. (It’s called Cetaganda. There is no such thing as too much Bujold-love.)

    Irene

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  73. MaryK
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 16:03:06

    Ann Aguirre recommended two books which I bought but haven’t read yet – The Eye of Night and Nine Layers of Sky. I also have Soul of Fire on my TBRSoon pile.

    Patricia Briggs doesn’t just write werewolves; she has a backlist of great fantasy books. I didn’t get into the Mercy craze until after I’d read Dragon Bones and realized what a good writer she is. (She was my doorway into UF.) I just reread The Hob’s Bargain which has a sweet romance. Love that book.

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  74. DS
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 16:14:43

    I don’t think I’ve read a book this year yet that is straight romance of any flavor. I’ve started the series by Simon R. Green that begins with The Man With the Golden Torc. It’s Green at his tongue in cheek, slambam action best, but there is a romance. And if you don’t think of Richard Thompson’s song 52 Vincent Black Lightning at one point then you haven’t heard enough songs about motorbikes, redheaded women and dangerous men. (I advise the audio version of Green’s book, by the way. It’s well read.)

    I’ve also been enjoying listening to one of Phil Rickman’s Merrily Watkins mysteries. I think the series is up to 9 thick volumes now as Merrily, vicar and deliverance minister (exorcist) of Ledwardine struggles with her faith, her self confidence, her teenaged daughter, her love interest and some truly creepy supernatural events including murder. This is another series I’ve enjoyed in audio– Emma Powell does the unabridged ones. I think Mr. Rickman does a very good job with his mainly female cast of characters.

    Most of the romance books I have picked up recently seem to lack the ability to grab me and pull me in the way these two series have.

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  75. Stevie
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 16:25:22

    I think the space opera tag derived from singing opera rather than soap opera; it tended to be very loud and very long, though I don’t recall many fat ladies.

    I came to paranormals via SF and fantasy, so I started out with the expectation that someone had put the world together reasonably competently, which possibly explains why I wasn’t very impressed with much that I found.

    But I do accept that the constraints on the author in the way the publishing industry is constructed really don’t help; C J Cherryh wrote a fascinating introduction to the re-issue of Downbelow Station setting out just how revolutionary Don and Betsy Wollheim were. Without their willingness to create a new size of book there would have been no Downbelow Station; shortening it would have destroyed it…

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  76. Diana Peterfreund
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 16:27:54

    The other day, I heard someone refer to the pararom/UF market as the “vampire boyfriend” genre. Which is really interesting and not necessarily inaccurate because so many stories seem to be able to be described as “girl falls in love with [insert paranormal creature here.]”

    It’s especially all the rage in YA para rom/UF right now, because of the popularity of Twilight. You hear lots of conversations among YA writers these days about “[insert paranormal creature here] is the next big thing” because vampire YA books (which were always around, and were even waning in popularity when Twilight took the world by storm) have received a huge push due to the public’s renewed thirst for “vampire boyfriend” books.

    I was interested in the comment about how often the paranormal element seems to exist to make the hero faster/stronger/etc. because I’ve had discussions with romance writers about how often the para element is a way to make the contemporary hero more acceptably alpha. If a regular guy was sneaking into your bedroom or whatnot, you’d call the cops. But if he’s a werewolf/vampire/etc. compelled to by his special powers or whatnot, it’s more acceptable. If the paranormal culture he comes from is all ancient, it makes sense that he’s acting like a Byronic hero — he’s as old as Byron.

    Similarly, “soulmates” is the paranormal equivalent of arranged marriage stories in historicals.

    It’s very rare to see paranormal romances where the hero is not [insert paranormal creature here]. Heroine, yes, she can be either. Hero, not so much.

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  77. orannia
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 17:00:34

    DeeCee – what about CE Murphy’s The Walker Papers. I believe the first book is Urban Shaman.

    Jane – have you read Sandra MacDonald’s The Outback Stars? Science fiction with Aboriginal mythology and a touch of romance. I’m currently reading Sarah Monette’s Melusine, which is fantasy but I’m finding some interesting urban parallels. Mark Polaris for example :)

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  78. Kerry D.
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 17:24:03

    Jane ~ Martha Wells’ The Element of Fire is available as a free ebook on her website. http://www.marthawells.com

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  79. Charlene Teglia
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 17:31:37

    Nobody writes like Bujold. Sigh. So long to wait between books!

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  80. Trisha
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 17:32:17

    @MoJo I think someone here mentioned that there was a secondary romance in Nancy Warren's Unfinished Business? featuring an Asian male lead.

    Was that my comment for Jia’s review of Marilyn Pappano’s Scandal in Copper Lake? And the book is Under the Influence. The guy in the secondary romance is actually hapa. But I agree about wanting to see more Asian or Asian-American characters and Asian or Asian-inspired settings/worlds.

    Re: paranormal romances, I don’t have much to add to the discussion. I don’t care so much about the type of supernatural/paranormal being I’m reading about, with the exception of vampires and werewolves (because I’ve always avoided both those kinds books, although maybe it’s a terminology issue? If the book says werewolf, I’ll skip it. If it says shapeshifter I might give it a try.). Instead, I need a compelling voice, plot, or, as Jane put it, an emotional punch or a sense that there’s something fresh about the story. Or the Asian/Asian-American thing, because right now, I buy those books just on principle.

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  81. SonomaLass
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 18:06:41

    I used to read sci-fi/fantasy and romance for very different reasons, but my favorite books are those that do both fantasy world-building and romance well.

    I’m a squeeing Guy Gavriel Kay fangirl, and for romance readers looking to try his work, I always recommend The Lions of Al-Rassan. Kay may be a guy (yes! pun intended!), but he really gets to me with his romantic stories. Of course sometimes you need a broader than usual definition of “HEA” for his stuff to work, but then I like that, too.

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  82. Margie
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 18:07:28

    For really awesome sci-fi world building (and a bit of opera) I would highly recommend Ann Sommerville. The great thing about her writing is that most of it is free on her website (http://logophilos.net/index.php), so you can see if it’s your cup of tea without spending lots of money. Even in her short stories she manages to create detailed and interesting cultures. Her stories can also carry a big emotional punch. Many of her stories are M/m (they might all be, I’m not sure), but IMO they aren’t necessarily expicit (at least the ones I’ve read).

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  83. DeeCee
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 18:32:32

    @ Orannia-Thank you. Urban Shaman sounds like an interesting book. I’ll have to check it out in June when it hits mass market pb.

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  84. Janine
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 19:44:44

    Re. Catherine Asaro, I really recommend The Veiled Web. It’s the only one of hers that I’ve read and although its science fiction from what I understand it is softer SF than most of her other books. It’s also about an East-West culture clash — the hero is Moroccan and Muslim, and Asaro deftly sidesteps the cultural sterotypes that we sometimes see in those desert shiekh romances. Plus, part of it set in Morocco which is beautifully described.

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  85. Mischa
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 19:46:54

    And omg enough with the horns that get erect when the demon is “horny”.

    LOL! What series is that? I have to read at least one.

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  86. Jane
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 20:01:27

    @Mischa Kresley Cole’s books: Dark Desires After Dusk and Kiss of a Demon King both have demons with horny horns. I think it’s kind of entertaining but I am a pretty big fangirl of Cole.

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  87. Jia
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 20:19:05

    @Jade Lee: No problem. The J’s are hard to keep apart. After all, we’re all pretty fabulous. ;)

    But seriously, I know it can be tiring to fight the good fight and to keep on fighting the good fight, but as evidenced by the comments in this thread, by Jane, and by me, we want the multiculturalism. And I agree with Jane — sometimes it just takes the one author to break through a perceived barrier.

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  88. rebyj
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 20:30:17

    Mischa, The Kiss of a Demon King like Jane mentioned. That is a great book but I was ROLLING my eyes at the horn rubbing scenes LOL.

    I may be wrong but seems like there is similar scenes in on of Gena Showalters books. My memory sucks when it comes to specifics, I’m sorry. I know I’ve read about horny horns in several books though.

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  89. Rae Lori
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 22:12:51

    But even beyond that, there are existing paranormal tropes that seem to go unexplored. For example, where are the Egyptian based mythologies in romance? Why can't we explore more East Asian myths? Why, even in the paranormal realm, are we relentlessly stuck in European mythology? Ilona Andrews' upcoming book, Magic Strikes, features some Russian mythology. Kresley Cole's books are loosely based on Norse mythology.

    I agree Jane. I’ve been blogging about this as well. I’d love to see more multicultural paranormality myself. ;-) There’s so many variations of one myth across the cultures that it’d be great to see more authors explore these themes in various stories.

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  90. MoJo
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 22:47:59

    @Jane:

    Jane, thank you. I’ll check that out. I’m actually writing an Asian hero right now.

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  91. Eilis Flynn
    Mar 03, 2009 @ 22:55:42

    As someone who grew up in an Asian culture, I’d love to see more multicultural paranormality too, but I’ve found that it’s a challenge. I pitched my FESTIVAL OF STARS, a romance loosely based on the Japanese myth of Tanabata, to a dozen editors and didn’t get much interest. I finally sold it to Cerridwen. That’s one thing about small and e-press; they’ll try something new.

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  92. CrankyOtter
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 00:57:31

    Jessica Andersen’s Mayan mythology in Nightkeepers and Dawnkeepers is new, mythology wise compared to the norm. The books are good but not great. The mayan mthos is the big draw for me. Plus they’re dense so you can spend a while with the story.

    Aside from that I’m in such a reading funk I’ve turned to nonfiction. Horrors. (actually, I’ve found fun stuff, it’s just not for this thread)

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  93. Evangeline
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 02:42:34

    I don’t know about calling for non-European myths. Nowadays, a lot of “new” twists on vampires/weres/goblins/witches/etc just read plain forced. And I’m not ashamed to admit that when it comes to trying new urban fantasy, I’m more likely to take a second peek if the author has a sf/f background as opposed to romance. Call it mean considering the fact that I write romance, but I want world-building and characters, and the few new PR/UF authors I’ve browsed who happen to have a background in the romance genre tend to focus more on creating sexy love interests and crafting smokin’ sex scenes for the heroine rather than a real “world” and the troubles and tribulations living in it creates for the protagonist and the other characters. But I second the call for more protagonists of color. I’m greatly anticipating Seressia Glass’ urban fantasy, and I may be mistaken, but I believe the heroine of S.J. Day’s (aka Sylvia Day) series is Asian.

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  94. BlueRose
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 04:20:05

    CE Murphys House of Cards series is about Gargoyles – also has Chinese dragons and Djinnn, and the story and characters and plot are pretty good, I enjoyed them

    Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series has a variety of different paranormal entities, yes vampires, but they are only part of the series, and the humour is excellent. TA Pratt has a new series out starting with Blood Engines, which is about a woman who is the sorceror who runs a city, and its dark and gritty and dry and worth reading.

    And its a bit older now but Camille Bacon-Smith does an excellent couple of books about demons, and a half demon son who set up a PI agency. Its a bit dark but a good read. Good enough that Im sad there were only two.

    I see some recommendations for the Asaro books, note she writes in series and some series are spinoffs of the major one, so I would recommend starting at the beginning, otherwise it would probably lose you in all the missing backstory. I dont like her romance style ones but the SF ones are good

    Guy Gavriel Kay has a nice contemory book in Ysabel, which would stand up on its own, but is really a sequel the the Fionavar Tapestry – also contempory in its time

    Both LMB and GGK are in my top 3 Authors list FWIW

    I second the Martha Wells rec – City of Bones is a standalone, and a good place to see if you like her style

    Jane Linskold has a new asian fantasy out based around the tile game of Mahjong, its the first in series, but I enjoyed it – Thirteen Orphans

    Vicki Petterson does a great new series about Superheros based on the Zodiac, and its set in Las Vegas, and its certainly different. Scent of Shadows is the first one
    I only hope if you have read Bujolds romance series, you have read her Chalion fantasy series and of course the Vorkosiverse series – all have a romance element in them.

    Personally I like the Paranormal fantasy stuff but the Paranormal Romance I cant read (Sherilynn Kenyon etc), that sort of thing doesnt spin my wheels at all. I want a good solid well written, well plotted, interesting and engaging characters. If there is romance, then thats ok but Im not a fan of the Paranormal version of Mills and Boon style of writing.

    Im not over vamps/werewolves, I just want them to be Fresh and Original and New in concept :)

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  95. Kimber An
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 07:31:55

    You all should pop over to Heather’s blog, The Galaxy Express, if you want variety. She’s got the whole run-down on SFR.

    http://www.thegalaxyexpress.net

    To find variety, I’ve learned I cannot confine myself to New Releases, which is a shame since selling new is how authors make money. However, that aisle is always deluged with the latest trend. If I see another TWILIGHT knock-off, for example, I swear I’m going to puke garlic and scream. Rather, I also hit the library and used bookstores, plus ePublishers like Samhain and Cerridwen Press. But, I don’t stop there. I’ve found all sorts of gems as free and legal (not pirated) downloads all over the Internet. By criss-crossing genres, subgenres, and decades, I can find the very best of all the trends which have come and gone since Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN.

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  96. Virginia Kantra
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 08:41:40

    A YA with a muted romance but some lovely, unique world building is Robin McKinley’s Chalice. (I still think McKinley’s Sunshine is the best of the vampire books, although not strictly speaking romance.)

    Someone above mentioned Jessica Andersen’s Mayan series. I’m kind of surprised no one has brought up Dogs and Goddesses.

    And I’ll go ahead and mention that I have a golem (in a supporting role) in the upcoming Sea Lord .

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  97. DS
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 08:48:32

    by Kimber An March 4th, 2009 at 7:31 am Reply to this comment

    You all should pop over to Heather's blog, The Galaxy Express, if you want variety. She's got the whole run-down on SFR.

    Is it just me or is this blog particularly hard to read? I don’t usually have a problem with white text on black but the text is showing up on my monitor as grayish.

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  98. Kimber An
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 09:01:10

    Yes, it does look a bit gray and the text small. I’m not sure if Heather can do anything about that. Personally, I prefer a slightly larger text in blue against black. I’m visually sensitive.

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  99. Stella
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 09:07:14

    My first thought was Marjorie Liu. She is a prolific writer with a unique style featuring a a racially diverse cast in many different geographical locations.
    Other authors that I love are Nalo Hopkinson, Lynn Viehl and Octavia Butler.

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  100. A new writer
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 10:09:39

    Forgive me if this author has already been mentioned, but Patricia Briggs
    tends to have very diverse characters. I love how she explores and weaves Native American lore and other myths with her werewolves. I also enjoy LA Banks, as her books tend to explore world mythology.

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  101. kirsten saell
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 10:25:15

    I write fantasy erotic romance, and although I don’t spend a huge amount of wordspace on worldbuilding, that’s mostly because I’ve got 3000 years of history/mythology invested in the main (enormous) project all my smaller works are spun from. All my stuff is set in that universe, so I can introduce things element by element, over several books. I’ve never had my editor ask me to add more world-building–other than to describe a specific neighborhood in more detail once. As a reader, my favorite books don’t necessarily reveal everything about a given world, but as long as I have the feeling the author knows all the details, it’s all good.

    My published books aren’t epic, quest type stuff, and they don’t concentrate on kings or wizards or battles of good versus evil. They’re more about the (sometimes criminal) underclass and their individual problems. Their struggles may not decide the fate of the world, but they’re still pretty important to the people involved. Not every Regency or Medieval is going to involve royalty or court politics or saving the world, so I wonder why so many fantasy and fantasy romance novels seem to focus on those.

    Sloppy or half-baked worldbuilding infuriates me, as does the tendency in paranormals to use elements that appear to exist solely as vehicles to put the H/h in bed together (fated mates, etc.). After dating a D&D enthusiast in my youth, I shudder whenever I read terms common in role-playing games, too. Bluh. I can’t remember where I’ve read “level” to describe a mage’s magical abilities (probably more than once), but I found it almost as cringe-worthy as I would have found “hit-points”. Vampire and were books don’t appeal to me, because… I don’t know, the unique elements of the world don’t feel unique. They almost always feel too well-worn to appeal to me. Give me something I’ve never seen, please.

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  102. MCHalliday
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 11:43:07

    Not every Regency or Medieval is going to involve royalty or court politics or saving the world, so I wonder why so many fantasy and fantasy romance novels seem to focus on those.

    Kirsten, perhaps I can answer your question. High Fantasy subgenre typically includes medieval settings with kingdoms and castles, and a ‘high stakes’ theme of good versus evil. Epic and High Fantasy are rooted in mythology and legend; the Arthurian Fantasy subgenre focuses on medieval court life, love and chivalry.

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  103. Lisa Paitz Spindler
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 11:48:32

    Noelle/Barbra E Noel said:

    I always tend to go back to the same example of the perfect mix of world building and emotional punch but it's not romance and it's not even in print.
    it's Battlestar Galactica. It cannot say enough about the writing. Each week I'm amazed at the story telling.

    Love, love, love BSG. They actually have three-dimensional female characters on that show.

    Diana Peterfreund said:

    The other day, I heard someone refer to the pararom/UF market as the “vampire boyfriend” genre. Which is really interesting and not necessarily inaccurate because so many stories seem to be able to be described as “girl falls in love with [insert paranormal creature here.]”

    An apt description, and partly why I’m much more interested these days in SFR rather than Paranormal. Why is it the paranormal character is so often the hero and not the heroine?

    Authors on my auto-buy list are: Catherine Asaro, Lois McMaster-Bujold, Linnea Sinclair, and Susan Grant. Recent great reads for me are Sandra MacDonald’s THE OUTBACK STARS, Marianne De Pierres’ Parrish Plessis trilogy, and Ann Aguirre’s debut. I also very much like the Shomi line. My own writing tends toward twisting political drama and character-driven romance set on a SF world.

    Science Fiction Romance has been living on the edge of both genres for at least a decade and I’m delighted to see that now the sub-genre seems to be finally finding its audience.

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  104. Leslie Dicken
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 11:55:22

    Science Fiction Romance has been living on the edge of both genres for at least a decade and I'm delighted to see that now the sub-genre seems to be finally finding its audience.

    ROCK ON, SFR! It happily blends my geeky love for SF (Star Trek, anyone?) and my absolute devotion to Romance.

    A new story I’ve started seems to be it’s own SFR Lite, taking a SF idea and placing it in a contemporary setting with ordinary (gasp!) characters. ;-) I’m sure if it sells, marketing would have NO IDEA where to put it. LOL!

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  105. Susan Grant
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 12:27:19

    “A new story I've started seems to be it's own SFR Lite, taking a SF idea and placing it in a contemporary setting with ordinary (gasp!) characters. ;-) I'm sure if it sells, marketing would have NO IDEA where to put it. LOL!”

    And you won’t be the first, Leslie, or the last! :) (I think there is a real market for these types of books.) That fits my Otherworldly Men series to a T. The first and last took place right here in Sacramento, and revolved around the siblings in a contemporary family attempting to thwart an alien invasion (the first book, Your Planet or Mine), being forced into a marriage of convenience with the Queen of the Galaxy (My Favorite Earthling) and sheltering an extraterrestrial terminator-like assassin (How to Lose an Extraterrestrial in 10 Days). I called them SF romantic comedies. Harlequin labeled them paranormal romances, and emphasized the contemporary elements in their marketing. Some of my longtime readers didn’t like them because they were too “Lite” but the trilogy gained me so many NEW readers who previously didn’t try SFR. I call them “bridge books,” leading contemporary romance readers to SFR. MY FAVORITE EARTHLING ended up winning the PRISM award judged by paranormal writers. Go figure. So, yes, more genre mutts. We’re out here, we’re pushing the boundaries. We’re not Urban Fantasy tho, and thus lack that certain cool factor. We’re Battlestar Galactica and ST geeks and proud of it!!!

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  106. kirsten saell
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 13:44:02

    High Fantasy subgenre typically includes medieval settings with kingdoms and castles, and a ‘high stakes' theme of good versus evil. Epic and High Fantasy are rooted in mythology and legend; the Arthurian Fantasy subgenre focuses on medieval court life, love and chivalry.

    Yeah, I get that. But that doesn’t mean people can’t write fantasy focusing more on everyday people and their struggles, even if it’s within the context of something more save-the-worldish. I read recently (I think it was here) a reviewer wondering why every kid from humble beginnings MC in YA fantasy has to turn out to be the secret daughter of a king or something. I sometimes wonder that myself.

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  107. MaryK
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 13:49:38

    BTW, if you want to read a really awesome but unpublished SFRish book, try Apprentice by Ardath Rekha. It’s fan fiction based on Pitch Black and manages the amazing feat of turning Riddick into a romantic hero. I don’t normally like psychotic killers as heroes, but she has such a good explanation for him being that way that I didn’t mind.

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  108. ilona andrews
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 13:52:58

    “Ilona Andrews' upcoming book, Magic Strikes, features some Russian mythology. ”

    Hindu mythology. :)

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  109. Kalen Hughes
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 15:29:11

    Yeah, I get that. But that doesn't mean people can't write fantasy focusing more on everyday people and their struggles, even if it's within the context of something more save-the-worldish. I read recently (I think it was here) a reviewer wondering why every kid from humble beginnings MC in YA fantasy has to turn out to be the secret daughter of a king or something. I sometimes wonder that myself.

    Plenty of stuff out there that fits the bill. Lord of the Rings to use a famous example. Frodo is a nobody (yes, there are lots of other characters who are IMPORTANT PEOPLE, but the person upon whom everything rests is a nobody). Guy Gavriel Kay’s books are often centered on someone ordinary (The Sarantine Mosaic’s main character is a mosaic artist, The Lions of Al-Rassan’s main narrator is a simple doctor). Pretty much everything ever written by Charles De Lint is about ordinary people sucked into extraordinary circumstances. If you run through the racks at any bookstore you can find lots of books that aren't about endangered princelings and their usurping uncles or swineherds who discover they're powerful mages.

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  110. Kalen Hughes
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 15:36:47

    BTW, if you want to read a really awesome but unpublished SFRish book, try Apprentice by Ardath Rekha.

    Wish there was some way to download this for an eReader. The chapter by chapter thing online sucks the white wonder.

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  111. Virginia Kantra
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 16:10:20

    a reviewer wondering why every kid from humble beginnings MC in YA fantasy has to turn out to be the secret daughter of a king or something. I sometimes wonder that myself.

    Because high fantasy usually includes high stakes–not only the progress of the romance, but the fate of the kingdom.

    Even Prince Charming is driven by dynastic necessity.

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  112. MaryK
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 16:21:41

    @Kalen Hughes: Ha! Yeah, I’d forgotten about that. I found the story ages ago when it was in another section of her website. I was able to copy/paste each chapter into a document on my desktop and read it that way.

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  113. Janine
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 16:52:13

    I always tend to go back to the same example of the perfect mix of world building and emotional punch but it's not romance and it's not even in print.
    it's Battlestar Galactica. It cannot say enough about the writing. Each week I'm amazed at the story telling.

    Love, love, love BSG. They actually have three-dimensional female characters on that show.

    I’m another huge fan of “Battlestar Galactica.” Was the most recent episode amazing or what? I’m so sad that that show is about to end.

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  114. Kim W
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 17:03:37

    Wow, looks like you’ve pushed a hot button here and I agree with what you said – I haven’t read all the comments. For me, I’m so tired of the vampires, werewolves and the like and I’m not even wasting money on them now. That’s bad, I know because I like most of the authors but they are truly sounding exactly the same – the same heroes, heroines and bad guys. I’m desperate for futuristic and stuff outside what the norm is now.

    I actually have a story I’m sending around with good results that, while is a fallen angel, demon story, it’s heavy on archeology and Ancient Egyptian myths/legends including King Solomon. Maybe this is the type of book that would tickle your fancy. :D

    Would you mind telling the agents/editors to take chances on something besides vampires and werewolves? :D

    Kim

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  115. Kalen Hughes
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 17:22:25

    @Kalen Hughes: Ha! Yeah, I'd forgotten about that. I found the story ages ago when it was in another section of her website. I was able to copy/paste each chapter into a document on my desktop and read it that way.

    I thought about it, but I just don’t have the time.

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  116. Anion
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 18:26:09

    Would you mind telling the agents/editors to take chances on something besides vampires and werewolves? :D

    There’s TONS of non-vamp/were stuff out there and more being contracted and released every month–I can think of six or seven new series coming out in the next year that have neither of those elements. Neither of my series have either. In fact, only one UF author I know personally writes vampires, and one other writes weres in additon to several other non-vamp non-were books.

    So there is plenty of stuff out there, and there are plenty of editors looking for new things.

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  117. Jia
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 18:28:55

    @kirsten saell:

    I read recently (I think it was here) a reviewer wondering why every kid from humble beginnings MC in YA fantasy has to turn out to be the secret daughter of a king or something.

    That would have been me, yes. It was more of a rhetorical question since I know the reason why it’s often employed in fantasy, just like how the default setting for so much fantasy is pseudo-medieval Europe. But that doesn’t mean I’m not tired of it since re-treading well-worn paths tends to result in ruts when there’s so much unexplored territory that could be mined instead.

    Personally, I want more Asian-based worlds. Bonus points if it’s not based on China or Japan.

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  118. orannia
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 19:31:03

    Guy Gavriel Kay has a nice contemory book in Ysabel, which would stand up on its own, but is really a sequel to the Fionavar Tapestry – also contempory in its time

    I just LOVED The Fionavar Tapestry when I was younger. It was one of the first series I ‘ordered’ from a bookstore. So Ysabel is a sequel? Ohhhhh *claps hands*

    As for Battlestar Galactica – I love it but I just watched the latest episode and I have no idea where the writers are going!

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  119. kirsten saell
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 20:37:17

    @Kalen Hughes,

    Yeah, I’ve read everything by GGK, largely for that reason (Crispin is one of my favorite characters ever). I also loved some of Ellen Kushner’s stuff because of that. And yeah, I’m vaguely aware of Lord of the Rings, LOL.

    I guess I’m longing for more fantasy that isn’t High or Epic Fantasy. More personal struggles, smaller stories. People who start off in a cottage in the woods (or a tenement in an alley), and end up there, maybe even without the detour to Mount Doom. :)

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  120. Kim
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 21:03:35

    Sorry Anion, I respectuflly disagree with your comments and since I don’t know your “real” name, I can’t find yours to see that they are different from what’s being currently published.

    However, I do suspect I’m very limited as to my choices which is my choice – I don’t read ebooks and I don’t read erotic. Still, each month, I eagerly pursue the bookshelves for something that doesn’t include werewolves, vampires or to add another not-so-fav of mine, soul/fated mates which also seem to be predominent in paranormal. And I’m not finding any.

    I pick up every new futuristic I see (I like Autumn Dawn’s “No Words Alone” and am enjoying it and will likely pick up her next one. This is a book where the hero and heroine aren’t hopping into bed by the end of the first chapter and they aren’t vampires or shape-shifters of any kind. I really miss the Dorchester LoveSpells done back in the 90s – and I still have a bunch in my keeper shelf. I just miss those types – maybe not so much the writing since I like the edgy writing nowadays but I miss the story lines. I do read Linnea Sinclair but for me, her books tend to be a bit more technical and politicky then I like so I read her but not all and not often.

    Anion, if these “six or seven new series coming out” aren’t epubbed or erotic, I’d LOVE to know about them so would you please share? I’m totally eager to try out someone new I might have missed.

    And again, I respectfully disagree that editors/agents are wanting the other stuff – not when I do the To Market column for my chapter and every week I’m seeing paranormals that are the “same” as everything else already released. I can certainly understand and share Jane’s frustration as I share it.

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  121. Heather Massey
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 21:33:29

    You all should pop over to Heather's blog, The Galaxy Express, if you want variety. She's got the whole run-down on SFR.

    http://www.thegalaxyexpress.net

    Thanks for the shout out, Kimber An! You’re very kind.

    Why is it the paranormal character is so often the hero and not the heroine?

    I believe SFR is more equalizing in that regard. Heroines range from kick butt warriors to brainy scientists to space pirates–and the same goes for the heroes.

    Speaking of what I’m looking forward to, I’m looking forward to Lisa Paitz Spindler’s THE KINSHIP, *when* it gets published. The list of aspiring SFR authors is growing, not to mention the whispers I’m hearing regarding established authors with SFR projects in the works.

    To the great recommendations provided upthread, I’d also add Kristin Landon’s THE HIDDEN WORLDS, the first in a trilogy. It’s serious in tone but has a strong romance arc that adds a layer of hope.

    A new story I've started seems to be it's own SFR Lite, taking a SF idea and placing it in a contemporary setting with ordinary (gasp!) characters.

    Leslie, that sounds like mundane SF with a romance–bring it on! Best of luck with finding it a home.

    We're out here, we're pushing the boundaries.

    Susan, that sounds pretty cool to me! (not that I’m biased or anything)

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  122. BlueRose
    Mar 04, 2009 @ 21:55:14

    @ Orannia

    Yes Ysabel is a sequel but its set about 20 years later, and only some of the original characters are in it but yes, it gives some nice closure to the whole “what happened next” question.

    Its utterly delightful tho – I was almost tempted to buy it in hardback (approx $50 here in NZ)

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  123. Anion
    Mar 05, 2009 @ 06:24:15

    @Kim:

    Anion, if these “six or seven new series coming out” aren't epubbed or erotic, I'd LOVE to know about them so would you please share? I'm totally eager to try out someone new I might have missed.

    And again, I respectfully disagree that editors/agents are wanting the other stuff – not when I do the To Market column for my chapter and every week I'm seeing paranormals that are the “same” as everything else already released. I can certainly understand and share Jane's frustration as I share it.

    Okay, I’ve just spent forty minutes or so trying to find the Deal Lunch postings and can’t find them here anymore! So I’m going mostly by memory here, sadly, and some of my info might be a little fuzzy:

    Laura Ann Gilman's Retrievers series

    Lori Devoti's upcoming AMAZON INK (June)

    Caitlin Kittredge's upcoming STREET MAGIC (June)

    Anya Bast's WITCH HEART

    Seressia Glass's upcoming series-’not sure of the release date yet-’has no weres or vamps afaik and uses Egyptian mythology

    Cherie Priest's FATHOM

    Stacia Kane’s Megan Chase books and her upcoming UNHOLY GHOSTS (November)

    Jill Myles’s upcoming GENTLEMEN PREFER SUCCUBI (Feb 2010)

    Richelle Mead’s SUCCUBUS series

    Cat Adams’s MAGIC’S DESIGN

    Jenna Black’s Morgan Kingsley books

    Rachel Caine’s just-released Outcast Season series

    Karen Chance’s Cassie Palmer books

    Annaleise Evans’s upcoming NIGHTS ROSE series, fantastic historical romantic UF (I believe there is a vampire in it but in a small role, it’s not the focus)

    …heck, just go on Amazon and look up any one of those titles, and check the reader-created lists they’re on. Like I said I wanted to go back through the Deal Posts here because I remember dozens of non-were non-vamp blurbs in those but I can’t seem to find them, sigh.

    For that matter, go check out the Fangs Fur Fey community at livejournal; over 150 authors of fantasy, urban fantasy, and paranormal romance, just waiting for you to trot on over and pick up our books. http://community.livejournal.com/fangs_fur_fey/

    As for agents and editors…I seriously have not heard a single one who isn’t saying they’re looking for something new and different. I’m not sure which houses are included in most of these same-old same-old sales you’re listing? Maybe that would help us figure out where the disconnect is.

    I hope that helps. :-)

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  124. Lisa Paitz Spindler
    Mar 05, 2009 @ 08:29:47

    Heather Massey said:

    Speaking of what I'm looking forward to, I'm looking forward to Lisa Paitz Spindler's THE KINSHIP, *when* it gets published.

    Thank you so much Heather. THE KINSHIP is in the Harper Collins competition over at Authonomy where currently the first four chapters are available.

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  125. Christine M.
    Mar 05, 2009 @ 09:55:27

    Karen Chance’s main male cast (minus one) is entirely made out of vampires so this one has to be rules out fo the list.

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  126. Leslie Dicken
    Mar 05, 2009 @ 10:04:18

    Leslie, that sounds like mundane SF with a romance-bring it on! Best of luck with finding it a home.

    Heather, I have to laugh. I’m such a dork. I said to Lisa: is MUNDANE a good thing? And she pointed me to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mundane_SF .

    Who knew what I was writing actually had a name! “It focuses on stories set on or near the Earth, with a believable use of technology and science as it exists at the time the story is written.” Yeah, that’s pretty close to what I’m working on. COOL!

    Thanks for the shout out and for letting me know that my little story is a true subgenre! :-)

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  127. Susan Grant
    Mar 05, 2009 @ 10:29:54

    Heather, I have to laugh. I’m such a dork. I said to Lisa: is MUNDANE a good thing? And she pointed me to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mundane_SF . Who knew what I was writing actually had a name! “It focuses on stories set on or near the Earth, with a believable use of technology and science as it exists at the time the story is written.” Yeah, that’s pretty close to what I’m working on. COOL!

    I’ve learned something, too. I thought: is that an insult? “Mundane”? :) Then read the link. Cool. Thanks, Heather, for enlightening us. My O.W. series isn’t this (mundane sf), as my ETs have all that high tech even if Earth doesn’t, if I read that def. right. Leslie’s WIP would be entirely different then if no ET civilizations or interaction, advanced tech etc. Wow, that would be hard to write, though, wouldn’t it? A lot of restrictions. Yet, a chance to imagine what we can do within our limitations…

    I second the recommend for Heather’s GALAXY EXPRESS. Truly extraordinary blog, and one-stop shopping for those wanting to know more about SFR.

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  128. Susan Grant
    Mar 05, 2009 @ 10:37:06

    OK, for the person (can’t find the comment) who commented she wants SFR other than mine & Linnea’s, and likes the circa 90s Love Spell futuristics, might want to keep her eyes open for Jess Granger’s upcoming Berkley release (8/09) Beyond the Rain. I read it for a cover quote and enthusiastically recommend it for you. It’s got that “vintage” fut feel to it, loads of great romance and adventure. http://www.jessgranger.com/

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  129. Leslie Dicken
    Mar 05, 2009 @ 10:59:48

    Leslie's WIP would be entirely different then if no ET civilizations or interaction, advanced tech etc. Wow, that would be hard to write, though, wouldn't it? A lot of restrictions. Yet, a chance to imagine what we can do within our limitations…

    Actually, Susan, my WIP doesn’t involve any aliens or otherworldly events. I just use a technology (computer simulation, virtual reality) that exists today in a limited form. I’ve expanded the uses to suit my storyline and drive my plot and characters. I wasn’t even sure this was SF until Lisa assured me it was (the use of science/technology, I suppose)! LOL!

    I write using a story idea and think about the genre and where/how it all fits later.

    Glad I wasn’t the only one confused at first with Heather’s comment. LOL!

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  130. Heather Massey
    Mar 05, 2009 @ 11:20:15

    Heather, I have to laugh.

    Right after I turned off my computer, I realized how my statement could have come across, and that I should have provided a link–d’oh! But I didn’t want to insult anyone’s intelligence.

    I second the recommend for Heather's GALAXY EXPRESS.

    Thanks, Susan! That means a lot.

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  131. Anion
    Mar 05, 2009 @ 12:00:53

    @Christine M.: Sorry, Christine. I must have been thinking of a different series; like I said I was going from memory so it just slipped in there.

    But I know for a fact at least *most* of those are were- and vamp-free. :-)

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  132. Kimber An
    Mar 05, 2009 @ 15:12:58

    Heather said, “I believe SFR is more equalizing in that regard. Heroines range from kick butt warriors to brainy scientists to space pirates-and the same goes for the heroes.”

    Absolutely! I complain about wanting more variety in SFR all the time, but actually it has a lot more variety than other Paranormal Romance in my opinion. For example, I cannot wait for Susan Grant’s next novel to come out, about a lady space pirate who happens to be an, ahem, working mother. Can you imagine a Kick-Butt Heroine who actually gets knocked up from all that Hot Nookie in Outer Space? Bring it on!

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  133. Susan Grant
    Mar 05, 2009 @ 17:50:56

    Actually, Susan, my WIP doesn’t involve any aliens or otherworldly events.

    I KNOW. That’s what I was trying to say at any rate. :) :) My point was I’d find that sort of story hard to write FOR ME. (It’s the conflict between disparate cultures that drives my muse.) But I DO love reading it. Susan Squires’ Philomancer was brilliant. Have you read it? Loved that book–so different. There was also a funny one a few years back, forgot the title, by Katie MacAllister about people stuck in virtual reality. Like Anion, I, too, think editors are gung ho about finding new and exciting stuff. Whoever quoted the Publisher deals, not all agents post to that. Mine doesn’t like to. So maybe there’s lots of stuff not being reported that would have fallen outside the vampire/UF box.

    I write using a story idea and think about the genre and where/how it all fits later.

    Don’t we all? :) I think I’d drive myself crazy if I tried to squish my work-in-progress into a hole that never really will quite fit. Besides, whatever you decide to call what you write, the publisher will label it what they want anyway, and readers don’t seem tho split hairs with the subgenres as much as the authors do, in my experience. There were some great debates over at Galaxy Express recently over SFR versus futuristic and the opinion from the readers was they didn’t care so much what it was called, as long as it delivered what they wanted.

    Right after I turned off my computer, I realized how my statement could have come across, and that I should have provided a link–d’oh! But I didn’t want to insult anyone’s intelligence.

    Heather, thank you for assuming I’d know! You are so knowledgeable about the genre and many would love to learn more, namely me. From here on out, never assume–at least not with me! ;)

    Absolutely! cannot wait for Susan Grant’s next novel to come out, about a lady space pirate who happens to be an, ahem, working mother. Can you imagine a Kick-Butt Heroine who actually gets knocked up from all that Hot Nookie in Outer Space? Bring it on!

    Ah, Kimber–thank you! Val is one of my fav heroines that I’ve ever written, because she is momming DURING the book. Yes, a single-mom-pirate, she can kick butt, but she is so maternal, not just wallpaper maternal: she’s fiercely protective of her cub, and utterly tender with him, hiding her fears and worry as she goes off to raid in the morning… (pirate day care anyone??) :)It brings out a whole other side of such a strong woman, and makes her even stronger, IMO. The emotional triangle of her, her rival and lover Dake, and their unplanned son is something I am absolutely loving to write.

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  134. Heather Massey
    Mar 05, 2009 @ 21:21:16

    I’m looking forward to Susan Grant’s lady space pirate, too. I’m sure the hero will be fun, but honestly I’m more looking forward to Val’s story.

    And do you know, I recently finished Karin Shah’s STARJACKED (Samhain)–that story has a heroine space pirate named Tia Sen. Fun read, and Shah really put Tia through the wringer–yeah, baby! Kimber An, you would like how STARJACKED ends.

    For really awesome sci-fi world building (and a bit of opera) I would highly recommend Ann Sommerville.

    I enjoyed Somerville’s INTERSTITIAL immensely. I highly recommend it.

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  135. MaryK
    Mar 06, 2009 @ 12:48:29

    @Susan Grant:

    Susan Squires' Philomancer was brilliant.

    What? How did I miss a Susan Squires book? I loved Body Electric.

    And now I’ve looked for it and still can’t find any reference to it. Was it published?

    (I love threads like these where you find gobs of recommendations.)

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  136. Susan Grant
    Mar 06, 2009 @ 14:02:21

    So sorry, MaryK! I referred to the book by its original title. It was changed before publication because the pub felt not everyone would get the reference. It is Body Electric. Wasn’t it a great story? Part of it I can still recall vividly even though it’s been years and other reads have been long forgotten. I haven’t followed Susan into her vampires as I do not read the genre, but loved her historicals. Did you read any of those?

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  137. MaryK
    Mar 06, 2009 @ 15:02:34

    @Susan Grant: Funny, I was just thinking about Body Electric the other day. It’s one of those that, even years later, you think about periodically when something jogs your memory. I need to reread it. I wonder if there’s an audio book.

    I read her first historical, Danegeld, though I don’t remember it very well. I tend to prefer fiction with fantastic elements. :) I really liked Sacrament, the first vampire book, but I’m way behind on that series. She has a contemporary paranormal, too, that’s on my TBR pile.

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  138. SMyers
    Mar 09, 2009 @ 17:01:18

    I’ve just had an epiphany after reading this post and all of your comments. I know what the problem is! Paranormal romance is, in two words:

    Romantic fantasy.

    But these are two completely separate genres! As any good fantasy writer will tell you, the key to good Fantasy is the myth/magic that’s inherant to the story. If you can take away the magic then you don’t have a Fantasy story.

    The same is true of romance. In romance, the love story and the emotional journey between the characters is the central focus of the plot. If you don’t have love that grows over the course of the story, you don’t have romance.

    Fantasy has been such an explosive genre in recent years that it’s not hard to see why it’s spilled over into romance. Readers are drawn to the paranormal romance market because they primarly love discovering relationships between characters but are interested in exploring it in a spectacular place full of out of this world ideas. Paranormal gives authors room to play with new romance concepts and intrigue us with old, but still very romantic and emotionally stirring ideas (mundane desk job by day, hunky men sneaking around in the dark just waiting to ravage us by night.) Some of these ideas cross genres and draw both markets of readers, and some are the kinds of things that one or the other genre wouldn’t usually tolerate. But somewhere along the line I think paranormal romance authors/editors/publishers left the emphasis on “romance” and forgot the single most important rule of Fantasy literature. What the paranormal romance genre has been asking its audience up until now is: “Can two people fall in love in a unique fantasy world?” But the question it REALLY needs to be asking is, “How does this unique world define whether these two people fall in love?”

    Take Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. The heroine in the story is happily married up until she steps through a portal and traverses time back to the 18th century. There, believing her former life lost, she marries a Highlander to keep him out of jail and over time falls madly in love with him. And from there on out, the whole story hinges on their romance being threatened by the heroine’s otherworldly status and the very real problems of living in the 1700′s. Separate the magic from the story (the time-travel/mystical portal) and the romance doesn’t/can’t happen. Take the romance out of the story and a time-travel story back to observe 18th century Scotland life is just ho-hum.

    Hence, the key to good paranormal romance (and what we’ve been missing) is meshing the romance with the fantasy so that the two depend entirely on each other. Take note, all you writers! No more setting and backdrop, please. Give us something so rich in myth and romance that we can’t separate the two!

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  139. 6 Reasons Why the Paranormal Character is Always Male
    Aug 15, 2009 @ 03:13:24

    [...] Need More Alpha Heroes? The specific section that caught my eye was this: In response to the My Paranormal Malaise post at Dear Author, Lisa Paitz Spindler [...]

  140. Lisa Paitz Spindler, Danger Gal»Blog Archive » Of Paranormal Heroines
    Sep 09, 2009 @ 09:54:56

    [...] life of its own. A while back I responded to a comment by Diana Peterfreund on the Dear Author post “My Paranormal Malaise”: Diana Peterfreund [...]

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