Category Archives: roots of paranormal romance

New Adult Paranormal Or: Bringing Back the Gothic Cover

Moonday Mania

a mystery, an innocent girl, a dark deceptive man…

For the last several years all I’ve heard from authors is: NEED MAN CHEST! Gotta have it on my cover or  it doesn’t say romance. But I don’t just write romance, I write dark paranormal romance, new adult paranormal, or… dare I say it… Gothic Romance.

Right now, and for the past few years, that’s exactly what man chest does. For women, book buyers, editors, the sight of a guy on the cover signals romance. So does a couple in a hot embrace. But what about a solitary woman on the cover, what does that say?

A woman on the cover brings me back to my classic Gothic roots. All those romances where a young woman goes out on her own and deals with a dark, dangerous, sexy, alpha male. Hey wait, isn’t that what I write? Isn’t that the basis for New Adult Paranormal?

Yeah, it is.

So do I need man chest? Does it signal to my group of readers that they are getting what they are looking for?

Um, no.

Why?

the dark huntsman by jessica aspenBecause there is a new trend taking shape. A new, but old trend. The gothic romance is coming back and it’s signaled not by lots of skin, but by lone women. If it’s a YA paranormal you would see a single item a la Twighlight, but the latest trend in NA is a single woman with lots of angst. In other words, a cover like The Dark Huntsman.

Now, strictly speaking The Dark Huntsman is not a gothic, there is no spooky house. (I’m writing a gothic Christmas novella right now, The Ghosts of Christmas Past and that one has a house.) But it has the other elements of a gothic and curously, New Adult Paranormal.

  1.  a young woman, just finding out who she is
  2. a dark, mysterious man. Sexy and just a little bit powerful or intriguing
  3. a mystery

Add in the house and you have a Gothic Romance, just like days of old. Starting with Daphne Du Maurier’s famous line from Rebecca and moving through the golden age of authors like Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, Barbara Michaels and Phyllis Whitney we see a slew of books about young women going out on their own for the first time and discovering…DANGER.

And love.

the legend of the seventh virgin by victoria holt

And what did those covers look like?

Hmm, let’s look. Any man chest visible? No.

A lone woman, obviously in trouble, and a dark stormy background.

Romance has come full circle with New Adult Paranormal, we’ve come back to the Gothic Romance and I love it. What an opportunity to write angsty heroines, dark mysterious heros, and of course, classic haunted houses. Now in a New Adult Paranormal, you might find something else takes the place of the house, but you would still have the three key ingredients: a young woman in trouble, a dark sexy man, and a mystery.

What books have you read lately that fit this bill? Do you see the trend in romance to come back to the Gothic? Have you read a New Adult Paranormal Romance? Have you dipped your toe into New Adult? What romance trends do you see? Are you still hungry for man chest?

There is still time to enter my Goodreads Giveaway for The Dark Huntsman. Ten print copies, up for grabs! Only three weeks left, so hurry up and enter today.

And if you are on the winners list for The Dark Huntsman e-book giveaway, and you haven’t checked your spam file, please do so. I sent all the winners an email and I’d love to send you your prize!

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Filed under Moonday mania, New Adult, roots of paranormal romance, The Dark Huntsman

A Bite of Spring

Thursday’s Bite

celebrating the rites of spring

The spring equinox occurred yesterday. (If you live down under it was the fall equinox.) The day when the minutes of daylight and dark are perfectly balanced. It’s when the pagan religions celebrate spring. Check out my post on banning Easter Egg Hunts to see where I was last year when the days equalized. And today I’m posting links so you can explore different aspects of spring. Happy linking!

Click HERE to learn  about five goddess and one spring god who represent spring in different ancient religions on About.com.

Click HERE  for lists of sacred foods and gemstones to celebrate Ostara or Lady Day as the spring equinox is called.

Click HERE for a terrific article on the origins of spring equinox celebrations.

And enjoy your holiday, no matter how you celebrate it!

-jessica

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Groundhog day

Thursdays Bite

a blog for the paranormal-not the normal

I’ve always felt that spring starts in February. I know officially we have weeks of winter, but the wind feels a little warmer, there is more sun, and I feel springy. Shouldn’t that be enough?

Well guess what,  I’m right! Just as I’ve instinctively felt fall starts much earlier than our boring calendar, it turns out that the Celtic Pagan Calendar starts spring on February First. Imbolc. This is the pagan day when the goddess Brighid is celebrated. Bridhid has now morphed in our modern world into St. Bridgit and Imbolc has morphed into Candlemas. Or Groundhog day.

Why the date change? Well, the pagan calendar is not set by the date, it’s set by the seasons, so Imbolc usually falls on February 1st, but it might be January 31st some years and February 2nd others. We modern people, however, like rigidity, so our holidays all fall on the same dates and February 2nd is it.

 So how did we get from Imbolic to Candlemas to Punxsutawaney Phil?

There is a pagan tradition that if a hibernating animal casts it’s shadow on Imbolc, winter will last another six weeks. In Pennsylvania, where the people who we call the Pennsylvania Dutch settled (otherwise known as Germans), they brought with them that myth in the form of a hedgehog. I’m sure you can see how they would transfer the hedgehog into the groundhog.

All of this makes sense. What is a little unusual is the now magical tradition of Punxsutawney Phil. Did you know that supposedly this is the same groundhog they’ve been using for one hundred and twenty three years? Every summer members of the inner circle feed Phil a special potion that extends his life another seven years. They even have special top hats and coats, dressing up for their mystical rites. If that’s not spell casting I don’t know what is.

“If Candlemas be fair and bright,

Winter has another flight.

If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,

Winter will not come again.”

Did you know that Groundhog day had it’s roots in Imbolc? Did you suspect that Punxsuawney Phil was well over one hundred or that he’s a magical being? Have you ever seen the movie “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray? It’s one of my favorites!

Don’t forget to find me on Romance and Beyond on Friday where I’m blogging about the other reason (besides spring) that I love February.

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Filed under paranormal inspiration, roots of paranormal romance, Thursdays Bite, witches

Is Paranormal Really Dead?

Thursday Bites

a paranormal blog

twilight saga boxed setIs paranormal romance a thing of the past? Since Twilight hit it big that is the scuttlebutt around the industry. But I think they’re wrong.

All genres and sub-genres have their ups and downs. And there are always naysayers who say the genre is dead when is starts to come off of it’s high. But rarely is the genre truly gone. There are always the core readers who are upset when they can’t find their genre of choice. And while the large print publishers may be backing off of buying paranormal, the readers really aren’t.

Yes, you lose the non-core readers. Those bandwagon jumpers who only read the hotest thing. They read Twilight and they are likely moving on to Fifty Shades of Gray at this very moment. But they weren’t the people who boosted paranormal in the first place. Readers like you and I did that. Readers who loved when they stumbled upon a romantic ghost story, or psychic investigators and ate those books up and demanded more. Those readers are still out there. And they are hungry for the next big thing in paranormal romance.

Hungry for something different.

Why has paranormal romance declined? Well, it’s natural for any thing to drop after hitting a high. The stock market does it. The economy does it. And trends do it. But that doesn’t mean that that trend is dead, it just means it is in a natural low. And that low doesn’t have to be extreme. Paranormal romance is still selling. It is still selling strong. The only people who are not buying it are the big print publishers. And they are still buying it. New authors like Joan Swan are still being given contracts, and selling well. joan swan's fever

What the big print publishers are doing is slowing down. And that’s fine. The genre is slowing down. And that’s fine. But dead? No, I don’t think so. Not when so many people are still reading and still buying.

Even genres like the cowboy romance aren’t dead. Publishers stopped putting their weight behind them and the readers and authors went underground. More self-publishing authors are doing very well with genres like cozy mysteries, and cowboy romances than we know of. Are they big news? No. And they won’t be, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there. Authors are writing what they love and readers are buying what they love. It just means the big print publishers aren’t involved in the transaction.

That’s what happens when you only want large sales of individual titles or trends. When the sales are still viable for a genre, but not enormous, that’s when small publishers and self-publishers get a huge opportunity. An already hungry group of readers looking for more. And this group of readers is willing to look. Whether it’s for paranormal or gothic or urban fantasy there will always be a group of readers who want the supernatural in their romance. And I’ll keep dishing it up.

And if the wave starts to rise again? Well, grab your board, I’ll already be in the water!

What are you reading that isn’t popular? What do you look for? What is your favorite genre, sub-genre, sub-sub-genre? Do you read what is hot, or do you read what is not? Or both? What about paranormal? What would you like to see that hasn’t been done? What about the genre is boring you now? What about paranormal is hot?

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The Ins and Outs of Historical Paranormal

Today I am thrilled to provide another Halloween Treat in the form of guest blogger Jana Denardo. Jana writes historical paranormal, a growing sub-genre and one that I find particularly interesting. Don’t forget to leave a comment for Jana to enter my month long Halloween Treats Contest in celebration of my upcoming release Little Red Riding Wolf from Passion in Print Press.

The paranormal and urban fantasy subgenres are heavy on modern day stories, but the genre has begun to grow up and down the time line. One notable series that’s moved paranormals from the current era is Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, set in the ever-popular Victorian era. Using a historical setting adds another level of difficulty to the world building and plot.

The first level, of course, is typical of any paranormal story. Who are you your paranormal entities? Are they good, evil or, like humans, both?  For me, the real consideration is what are their abilities and weaknesses. Any bobble in what you establish early on can destroy reader faith and I’ve seen it happen to the best of them. I remember a scene in Buffy the Vampire Slayer where a vampire didn’t go to dust. They passed it off as him being so old, that he reacted differently than usual. Later in the series, they came up with another even older vampire and he dusted fairly normal. A little slip like that can make the blogs light up as fans nitpick away.
For me, the easiest way to keep their abilities straight is to keep records of how the paranormal aspects work. I’m not an outliner, and while this sometimes leads me into blind canyons that I’ll have to write around if there’s a sequel, I am a good note taker when it comes to character attributes and supernatural abilities. This way if my vampires don’t burn up when hit with holy water, I don’t have them blistering three chapters after I’ve made that announcement. It is embarrassing to get called on a mistake like that by an editor.

Still, coming up with the paranormal attributes is the fun part. You can world build and bend things to fix your story. You can take an old creature from folklore and twist it into something new and exciting. However, when adding the layer that is the historical setting, you lose the ability to bend certain historical facts. Regardless of genre, most readers who enjoy historical settings are sticklers for accuracy. The exception to this would, of course, be alternative histories and steampunk. Even with those, historical research is necessary. You can not believable create an alternative history without first knowing the actual facts.

Nothing makes me run faster than reading an author’s blog and seeing them proclaim they hate research but are going to write a historical story anyway. I’ve seen that more times than I want to think about. A quick look at Wikipedia might be enough to say, knock out a short Buffy the Vampire Slayer  fan fiction with Angelus and Darla cheering on Jack the Ripper  – might – but it is not enough, by itself, to be the foundation for a historical novel.

However, this blog entry isn’t really about how to do the research. Most of us have experience in that if only from high school history classes. I’m more concerned about considering the possibilities inherent in a historic setting. In the 1800s, the belief in vampires was stronger than it is today, so it could impact your story in a variety of ways. Prey with built-in paranoia and armed with crosses and holy water, which were often part of the household goods, could present difficulties for a vampire. Ever see a vampire hunting kit from that time? They are very interesting and would make a fun addition to a story.

Go back a hundred years earlier, and almost everyone would believe in ghosts and spirits.  This could work for or against you, depending on what your story needed in way of the characters’ belief system. Heck, even going back a mere twenty-five years could take the tension up a notch, because it would be easy to isolate the protagonist from potential aid, leaving them at the mercy of a paranormal entity by the mere fact no one had cell phones and couldn’t just place a call out.
Another concern is the morals and cultural stigmas of the time period and the country in question, or even what part of the country you are in. I came up against this when I started my 1930’s era demon hunter series. Without thinking about it, I knew I wanted a world-wide organization and pulled the characters from all over then assembled the team in my hometown of Pittsburgh. These demon hunters included Hindu and Chinese men, and all four are homosexual, which ran me smack up against the prejudices of the day (and to what degree of prejudice they faced would vary depending on where in the country they are). A minority or female protagonist would have to face very different circumstances and have even more hurdles to clear.

I could keep on going about the pitfalls of trying to cram too much research into the story, or getting caught up in the lingo of the day but we’d be here forever. The historic paranormal story may be a bit more work up front, but if you enjoy the research like I do, you won’t mind that one bit. It’s fun to play in various points of history. Thanks to Jessica for allowing me the time to talk to you all. I hope this was help. If you’d like to find my blog, I’m at http://jana-denardo.livejournal.com/ and if you’d like to read my 1930’s demon hunter series, you can find them here: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/index.php?cPath=55_202&osCsid=8dlkb1ua7verd7mcgid4uug4o5 and they are Snowbound (which includes Temple, urban fantasy/historical) in the anthology Necking  and  A Brief Respite is hidden on my author’s page as a piece of ‘Halloween candy’

In celebration of my upcoming release from Passion in Print Press, Little Red Riding Wolf, I am running a contest for the entire month of October! Leave a comment for Jana and enter to win a copy of Demon from the Dark by Kresley Cole!

Monday’s winner of my Halloween Treats contest in celebration of Little Red Riding Wolf is Kerri. Congratulations Kerri, send me your address through my contact box on my contact page and I’ll ship you your book!

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What in the BLEEEP Do I Write?

Thursdays Bite (on Friday)

a paranormal blog

Due to the added post on Tuesday for the first challenger of the Third Writers Platform-Building Campaign (click HERE for post) Thursday’s Bite has been delayed till today (Friday). Thanks for your understanding!

I say I write paranormal fiction, but is that exactly true? After reading Is it Paranormal, Supernatural, or Preternatural? by author Elijana Kindel on Paranormal Freebies I began to wonder. I write twisted Fairy Tales, like Little Red Riding Wolf and The Queen’s Huntsman. I also am currently writing a darker non fairytale linked series of werewolf stories. Do these qualify as paranormal by Elijana’s definitions.

PARANORMAL…that which lies outside the range of normal experience or scientific experience.

SUPERNATURAL… anything above or beyond what one holds to be natural or exists outside natural law and the observable universe.

PRETERNATURAL…that which is outside or beyond the natural and is believed to have a rational explanation for its occurrence.

Are werewolves and elves and witches outside the range of normal experience. I’d have to say yes. Are they outside natural law? I asked Elijana about werewolves and vampires and here is what she said:

“Weres and Vamps would actually fall into the Preternatural camp. Because they’ve got a finite range of abilities and they have (if the paranormal world is built correctly) a rational explanation for their existence. It might be genetic–or magical–or whatever, but there is a reason why they exist.”

So why do we call it “paranormal” fiction when it is really about preternatural creatures?

Here is my view:

It’s because of the universe. If you use our basic universe and our basic rules, stay on our planet and stay (mostly) in our time period. We label it paranormal, because it is within our normal range of experience.

If you go to other worlds without reference to our modern normal world, its fantasy. And if you go to other planets and too much in the future, it’s science fiction and you need to have reasonable solid science (okay, not perfect science, but believable within the worldbuilding).

So when is it urban fantasy?

Here is Wikipedia‘s definition:

Urban fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy defined by place; the fantastic narrative has an urban setting. Many urban fantasies are set in contemporary times and contain supernatural elements. However, the stories can take place in historical, modern, or futuristic periods. The prerequisite is that they must be primarily set in a city.[1]

Doesn’t that sound like paranormal? When I looked at Wikipedia’s definition of paranormal fiction it sounded like it included urban fantasy, not that they were separate and distinct genres.

Which leads me to believe that even though my twisted fairy tales have werewolves in a modern setting, as do my newer WIP’s, and even though I write about elves and witches and magic. I can cover it all by calling myself a paranormal romance author.

What is your view? Do you have a distinct idea of what paranormal is versus urban fantasy? Do you only read one or the other or do you read a wide eclectic variety like me?

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Why Do We Find 500 Year Old Men Sexy?

Thursdays Bite

a paranormal themed blog

Vampires are the rage.

And they’ve been the rage for so long that authors, editors and readers all wonder, how long can this go on? How long can we find new vampires to love? Well the answer is, forever. Because that’s how long they live. Forever.

And they just get sexier as they age.

I blame Bram Stoker. He wrote about a sleezy perv preditor who accosted innocent women in their sleep. Well, that’s what he thought he wrote about. But by exploring the idea that good women had secret sexual longings that the vampire could bring to light and satisfy, Bram did the complete opposite of demonizing vampires. He began the myth. If you want a good time, better get a vampire.

Maybe its their age, maybe its the experience. Maybe its the innate magical gifts they have that make them such good lovers. (It always helps to have a magical boost.) Vamps got it going on. From the secret pleasure Victorian women got from reading about the fall of Lucy and the thrill of seeing Mina almost reach nirvana, to the current frenzy about Edward and his amazing self-control, we love the blood-suckers.

Who wouldn’t want a man who is gorgeous forever and has been around enough to know true love when he finds it. A man who knows to seize the day and get the girl, no matter what obstacles stand in his way. A man who really knows that if you don’t hang on to a good woman, before you know it, she’ll be dead.

With a man of experienced years, oh say five hundred, you know he knows what he’s doing. You know he understands women inside and out. And there is none of that youthful sowing of oats. The oats have been sown, the rampant blood-sucking is over, the accidental killing of lovers is no more.

Five hundred year old men know what they want and how to get it. They have money and have had it long enough to feel comfortable with it. They are able to keep their lovers in luxurious settings, provide exotic foods, and designer dresses. And the house guests are the type of exotic interesting people every Manhattan hostess would kill to get. Every one attractive, well dressed and articulate. Every one rich. And every one with a “do tell” story of murder and mayhem.

Why wouldn’t a woman want a vampire lover. Great sex, money, appreciation. And They also provide the one of a kind adrenaline thrill that women everywhere desire. Every kiss is a brush with death.

Love to hear why you love or don’t love vamps, or any 500 year old men! Leave a comment by clicking on the purple bubble.

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Paranormals: Modern Day Cautionary Tales

Thursdays Bite

A Paranormal Themed Blog

The roots of paranormal stretch deep, far past the gothics of the sixties, past the rise of horror and mystery in the Victorian age all the way to our oldest tales. The ones we know think of as sweet, innocent and only for children. Well, mostly for children. For a long time authors of all genre’s have been twisting the old fairy tales into new dark tales. But the originals were created just as dark, sometimes even horrifying.

I love twisted fairy tales, and have for many years so when I looked for inspiration a few years ago, that is right where I went. The result’s are Little Red Riding Wolf and my novel, The Queen’s Huntsman.

Little Red Riding Wolf, my sensual novella, received an Honorable Mention in Passionate Ink’s Stroke of Midnight contest. Little Red is loosely based on an old French fairy tale called (amazingly enough) Little Red Riding Hood. You may have read it. But you might not have read the original written by a famous French author named Charles Perrault (12 January 1628 – 16 May 1703). Not as famous as the Grimm brothers he is the author of not only Little Red Riding Hood, but romance’s greatest fairy tale, Cinderella. Unlike sweet Cinderella though, Little Red is a dark tale that Perrault ends with a sinister message.

Fairy tales were the original tales of horror in a time when most people couldn’t read and the only book available in many places was a bible written in Latin. Around the fire stories were told to entertain and to warn children of dark places and dangerous  people. As we know they’ve been watered down over the centuries and likely changed many times to suit the culture. Perrault’s story is a cautionary tale warning little girls not to trust strangers and ends with a lightly veiled warning about pedophiles.

These stories form the roots of romance and horror. Cinderella swept off her feet and out of poverty is first tortured by her evil step-mother and step-sisters. Snow White, sent off to be murdered by her step-mother, only avoids death by the tender feelings of the huntsman, but does he save her? No. He sends her off into the deep dark woods alone. These are the lighter fairy tales, the darker ones (like the Red Shoes) are rooted in death and madness.

Just as in the old world when fairy tales married fantasy and horror, paranormal is the marriage of magic and our modern world. Men live down the street and look normal, but turn into ravaging beasts at the full moon. Evil witch step-mothers from the past morph into modern day  witches and vampires who fight in city streets in a struggle for survival. Are we sending our own warnings?

Are paranormal stories tales of romance or warnings of where you might go if you stray into the dark? We live in one of the safest times in modern history. We don’t need to worry about walking down city streets, or do we? When we live in a time when women are expected to live alone in city apartments and need to get to work, to parties, to the grocery store on their own, are we to tell them its not safe? No, if we do that, no woman would walk alone and our world wouldn’t be the same. Instead we, just like our predecessors, tell our tales. We set up scary situations, thny warn under their happy endings, it’s not safe. Things lurk in the dark.

In paranormal we disguise our murderers as viscous vampires and wild wolves. We create heroes from fear and strong women to take them on. We may not be aware of our role as our society’s warning system, we may only think we are telling stories. But in truth we join a long tradition of using story telling to mask the truth, to sugar coat the threat. But we still do what our ancestors did for thousands of years, sending messages of caution to our readers. Beware the dark stranger. Lock your doors. Don’t venture out at night. Or the bogeyman might eat you.

Like this blog? Have some ideas for me? Leave a comment and let me know.

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