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Ninja Peas: Inside the Pod

Today is the official launch day for INSIDE THE POD: A Look Inside a Working Writers’ Critique Group — a weekly blog in which I’ll be participating along with my fellow authors and critique partners, Michelle Ladner and Alexis Lampley, aka “The Ninja Peas.”

We launch with a brief history of how we came to be critique partners, but more importantly friends who love and support one another through the trials and tribulations of the publishing industry… and who will gladly sacrifice one another during a zombie apocalypse due to highly developed senses of self-preservation.

INSIDE THE POD isn’t a “how to” blog for writers or a “guide” to publishing. Instead, it will focus on how our little band of misfits works together to make each of us the best writers we can be. We’ll also discuss books we’ve read — not reviews but actual discussions — and off a glimpse into the chaotic silliness that comes with our weekly critique meetings.

It’s all in good awesome nerdy fun so be sure to head over to the POD and say “Hi!” to the Ninja Peas.

 

Cover Art Contest

Love the cover for BLOOD LAW? How about BLOOD SECRETS?

Here’s your chance to own both! No, not as books. Not even cover flats. No, one very lucky winner is will receive these:

Posters -- Alexandra Sabian series

Yes, those are POSTERS of the covers for BLOOD LAW and BLOOD SECRETS and both are signed by me! Each measures approximately 11 in. by 17  in. and are suitable for framing. (There is a slight difference in the height due to printing but it does not affect the artwork.) I only have two of these available so whoever gets them will have the only pair in existence — other than the two I own.

So how do you enter to when these lovely posters? Easy…

1. Leave a comment on this post — NO EMAILS IN POSTS, PLEASE. That’s it. Just a comment. (Just keep it clean.)

2. Contest begins June 13 and ends MIDNIGHT (CT) June 27. Winner will be announced HERE June 28, so check back.

3. Winner will be chosen at random.

4. Winner will receive BOTH posters.

5. Contest is open to international participants.

 

See below for individual pics of each poster:

Deadly Destinations

Dark Faeries Tales and All Things Uban Fantasy are teaming up for Deadly Destinations: Your Guide to Killer Hot Spots! The event will start on July 1st and end on July 31st with a new author blogging about their worlds and characters each day. They’ll also be giving away some pretty awesome prizes — you’re not going to want to miss it!

Look for my guide to Jefferson, Mississippi on July 9, and one lucky reader will receive a signed copy of BLOOD SECRETS!

Deadly Destinations

Check my newly updated Events page for more cool stuff!

And in this corner…

I’ve been hearing a lot of grumbling on various social media sites (okay, mostly Twitter) about the Great Debate: Urban Fantasy vs. Paranormal Romance. For the most part, I’ve stayed out of the fray for a few of reasons–

1. I don’t like to comment on “politics.”
2. It makes my head hurt.
3. I think it’s a silly argument.

Today, an article written by Kim Harrison showed up on SF Signal. The title of the article directly addresses the heart of UF vs PNR debate — “Excuse me, your romance is in my urban fantasy” — and the differences between the two but also bemoans the apparent dilution of the urban fantasy genre by a rise in the romantic content. While I don’t agree with everything Ms. Harrison says, I do find some truth in her arguments.

Ms. Harrison begins by recounting a conversation with a reader in which he was lamenting the “shine fading from the urban fantasy genre” because the kick-ass protagonists we all know and love seemed to be morphing into damsels in distress and needed a big strong man (vampire, werewolf, etc.) to rescue them. She continues by saying:

The industry had a hand in causing it to a certain extent as many houses grabbed anything they could find with a vampire and sexy protagonist, thinking that was all urban fantasy was. Manuscripts that would otherwise be passed over were picked up and promoted. Books that would be stellar romances on their own were lessened by well-meaning editors trying to make them something they were not by asking their author to “stick a vampire in it! They’re hot right now!”

I disagree. This example isn’t a case of established protagonists changing. It’s not that urban fantasy is being “diluted” by a rise in the romantic content — It’s a case of books being marketed inappropriately. It’s a lack of understanding of not just one but two genres and in the end both suffer for it. (Whether they are sub-par or outstanding is not for me to decide and I will not debate the validity of one book over another.)

Ms. Harrison continues:

However, the very aspects that give it strength-the mixing of many genres-may now be threatening to eat away at it. It’s up to the authors and publishing houses to understand that having a vampire in the storyline does not make it urban fantasy.

I agree with Ms. Harrison’s observation that simply having a vampire in a story doesn’t make it urban fantasy. It can easily be paranormal romance. Or horror. The difference is in the author’s intent and the story they are trying to convey to the reader. Most “true” (and I use that word very loosely) UF novels are built on either a mystery or thriller backbone with science fiction, fantasy, romance, and horror mixed in to varying degrees. However, others may rely more on sci-fi or fantasy as the main support. Still others may lean toward romance or horror. This diversity is the very strength that makes UF so popular and yet so hard to define. It is the blurring of lines that make UF what it is.

Ms. Harrison states, “I know where that line is. The greats before me drew it very clearly in the sand.” With all due respect to Ms. Harrison (and I’m a huge Kim Harrison fan), I don’t think anyone can say there is a clearly defined line between urban fantasy and paranormal romance. She uses Bram Stoker’s DRACULA as an example: “For the time it was written in, Dracula could be classified as an urban fantasy.” I agree. It could be UF…and it could easily be read as paranormal romance or even horror. Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN, for the time is was written in, could be classified as science fiction or horror. Charles Dickens’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL, for the time it was written in, could be classified as urban fantasy or horror. Jules Verne’s A JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, for the time it was written in, could be classified as science fiction or fantasy.

Arguments can be made for and against any book belonging to any given genre–and that’s the real problem. People–readers, writers, editors, publishers, etc.–become too caught up in the label game and everyone gets their panties in a wad when something is “mislabeled.” Instead of focusing on The Story and whether or not we enjoyed reading it, we focus on what is apparently lacking or what was added. Suddenly we’re back to the “You got peanut butter in my chocolate/You got chocolate in my peanut butter” argument. If the combination is delicious and satisfies whatever craving you had, does it really matter?

Seriously?

Stories should be weighed and validated based on their own merits and not the label someone slaps on it so bookstores know where to file it and so readers can find it. Mistakes happen and UF can be misidentified as PNR or vice versa. Here’s the kicker: It happens with other genres as well. SILENCE OF THE LAMBS can be viewed as both thriller and horror. THE DA VINCI CODE can be classified as either mystery or thriller. It isn’t unique to UF and PNR. Some stories blur the lines to the point no one knows exactly what label to give it so they make an educated guess of where it will have the best chance of reaching an audience. But it’s still a guess, and sometimes the guess is wrong.

Instead of wailing and gnashing our teeth when that happens, how about we all–readers and writers alike–make a pact to say, “It wasn’t what I expected, but it was a good story and I enjoyed it” and not allow ourselves to be caught up in The Great Debate and the Label Game. Let’s focus on good stories, good writing, and having a good time. Reading and writing books should be fun. Arguing over shelf real estate sucks away that fun and only widens the riff between authors and readers when we should be happy to celebrate the very thing that supposedly unites us:

The love of a good book.

Ever have the feeling…

…someone’s talking about you? I have, and this time, it’s true! :)
 
No less that three blog/review sites are chatting about Blood Law this week (August 15-21). Book Faery and Blog with Bite are also hosting giveaways. Be sure to check them, and Bitten By Books, out for some great discussions!
 
 
 

ThrillerFest 2009 Blog

I have a new blog!

Well, okay, it’s not really mine, but I’m a contributor. As part of the advanced promotional work for ThrillerFest (July 8-11 in New York), a bunch of us from International Thriller Writers have banded together for a blog celebrating all things thriller-y.

ThrillerFest is a conference that is near and dear to my heart, and ITW has become a second family for me, especially my fellow debut authors. So, when the call went out for volunteers to fill the TF Promotional Committee, I signed up. It’s been a lot of fun working to bring this new blog to fruition, and I’m honored to be a part of it.

Therefore, when I was asked to kick off the project with an inaugural post, I jumped on it with both feet. Interested in seeing the results? Check it out at –

Be sure to scroll down the page, past the welcome message, to see my special Valentine’s Day posting regarding ThrillerFest.

(Psst…just between us, it involves a naked guy, and it’s not Mark. I’ll say no more.)

TTFN JKH