Posts Tagged ‘urban fantasy’

Review: In Search of a Witch’s Soul

Good morning, squiders! Today’s I’ve got an urban fantasy noir story for you.


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Urban Fantasy Noir
Publisher: Ink & Magick
Date Published: March 5, 2019

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Human, private detective Anna Caill isn’t keen on the prohibition of magic enacted by the 18th Amendment, but she won’t deny it’s good for business. The coppers couldn’t care less about the witches’ problems, giving her any number of clients to choose from.

When mysterious witch Jesse Hunt saunters into her office, he and his case will test her limits. While a killer stalks the magical underworld, Anna is hired to find Jesse’s friend, the high priest of an ancient coven.

As her case unravels, Anna is forced to confront her addiction to a dark spell in this urban fantasy noir.


About the Author

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D. writes stories she wants to read. Her love of the worlds of fiction led her to earn a Bachelor’s in English from Wright State University.

When she isn’t reading or writing, she’s probably hiking, crafting, watching anime, Korean television, Bollywood, or old movies. She may also be getting her geek on while planning her next steampunk cosplay with friends.

She lives in Wisconsin with her husband (John) and cat (Yin).


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Review

There’s a lot to like here. I love the world, which is a mixture of historical and urban fantasy. The story takes place in an alternate prohibition time period, where witches (which are tangibly different from humans) are known about and, if not fully accepted into society, somewhat integrated.

The noir elements are well done also, and I didn’t see the twist at the end coming at all (though it is properly foreshadowed–I just fell for the misdirection), so kudos on that. It’s a quick read, and the story moves along well.

Really my biggest issue was Anna, our main character. She’s a great private detective and her voice is fine, but man, does she have a major blind spot a mile high. I know noir main characters need to be flawed, and it is standard to have said flaw be related to their relationships, but it was obvious from the first flashback that she was operating under incorrect assumptions, and there’s no growth in said flaw throughout the book (and, indeed, it gets worse). I liked her well enough otherwise, but this was a major issue for me, and I don’t know if I would read another book following her unless I knew there was some sort of resolution in this area.

Bottom line: great, unique world with fun worldbuilding, fast read. Some characterization issues for me, but that’s completely arbitrary and another reader might not be bothered. I’d recommend picking it up if you like urban fantasy or noir with different-than-the-norm elements.

Shards is out!

It’s here! Shards is now out and available! For how to pick up a copy (including how to get a signed copy), go here. I hope you enjoy it!

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So, Why Thor?

(Two days til release! Aaaaaahhhhhh ::arm flail::)

(Also, my post on using Bible mythology is up over at Paranormal Unbound.)

I admit I still have the Avengers on the brain a little, plus I’m finally going to get to see Thor 2 tomorrow, but people sometimes ask me why, when most of the characters in Shards are from Bible mythology, did I decide to include the God of Thunder as well? And why him, out of all the polytheistic pantheons out there?

The answer is a little silly, honestly. A few months before I started working on the first draft of Shards, I was at work, and that employer insisted on everyone wearing security badges. The badge had your picture on it, your preferred first name in large letters (so mine said “Kit”), and then your full name underneath it in smaller letters. I was on my way back from the cafeteria, and I passed this huge guy coming out of the gate around my building. He towered over me by a good four inches, and I’m over six feet myself, and I tend to take note when people are taller than me. But it got even better. I glanced at his badge as we passed each other, and it said “Thor” in giant letters.

Between his appearance and his name, I was charmed. I made a mental note to stick him in a story somewhere. (This was before the Marvel movies, back in 2008.)

So, when I was writing Shards and needed a non-Biblical character to throw in, I remembered Thor-from-work and made my decision based off of that. It helps that the way I structured the world-building makes Thor and my male main character Michael fairly similar in personality and talents.

The rest, as they say, is history.

(My apologies for this post being so late. Both the mashed potatoes and the brazen commercialism derailed my productivity attempts yesterday.)

Shards Release Week and Miscellany

Guys! Five days til Shards comes out! I’m super excited.

I was going to leave this post until Thursday, but then I remembered that Thursday is Thanksgiving, and hopefully (if you’re American) you will be with your families eating too much and plotting your Black Friday attack plans and watching parades and football and getting started on the Christmas movies.

(If you’re not American, no worries, Thursday shall have a post like normal. Or not normal, depending on if I get it down before or after I overdose on mashed potatoes.)

(Mmmm, mashed potatoes.)

Anyway. If you want to stalk me over the next couple of weeks, here’s my (as-of-today) release tour schedule:

I’ll update this with links to the actual posts as they go up. And, of course, there will be posts here as well. Sunday for release day, and then Tuesday and Thursday as usual. Oh! And there will be a Goodreads giveaway as well. I’ll post details for that when that goes up as well.

Other than that, new stuff continues to go up on the website and Pinterest.

Shards Cover Reveal

Surprise! Monday post. (No worries, Squiders, you’ll get your normal Tuesday/Thursday posts this week.) Anyway, I got the cover for Shards over the weekend, and I thought I’d share it with you lovely people.

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Isn’t it pretty? I especially like Michael’s eyes and the fact that the broken glass is centered behind Eva’s head.

I’ve also been putting up Shards quotes on the Pinterest board and there’s exclusive content over here, such as deleted scenes and research notes, so give both a look as well! New stuff will be going up at both locations periodically until Shards launches on the 1st.

Urban Fantasy versus Paranormal Romance

You know, despite all the subgenre studies we’ve done here, I still have a hard time differentiating between urban fantasy and paranormal romance. I mean, logically, I can spout off definitions but I have a hard time with actual books because a lot of times they read very similar to each other.

Urban fantasy is fantasy that takes place in a city. It isn’t necessarily contemporary. And paranormal romance is just a romance with paranormal elements. There’s a lot of variables on both–time period, setting, types of fantastical/paranormal elements, etc.

But from what I’ve seen, both tend to be modern-day in urban environments. And both tend to have a romance plot/subplot and a non-romance plot/subplot, and often times they seem to be of almost equal importance.

I’ve run into this in other places as well, particularly between cozy mysteries and romance. A lot of it seems to come down to marketing.

Kit, you may be saying, why does this matter?

Well, because me and my publishing team have been a little stumped on Shards. Technically, it’s mythic fantasy, but that’s not normally a nice shelf in a bookstore. And yes, there is romance. But if the major difference between the two subgenres is how important the romance is versus the non-romance plot, well, I guess it slides into urban fantasy. Romantic urban fantasy, maybe? Urban romantic mythic fantasy. Say that five times fast.

What about you, Squiders? Where’s your delineation between the two, if you have one? (Judging by the amount of books listed as both paranormal romance and urban fantasy on Amazon, most people don’t bother.)

The Agony of Book Descriptions (Also: help!)

What is a book description you say, Squiders? It’s that thing that shows up next to a book on Amazon (or your favorite book-buying location) that gives you a basic run down of the plot so you know whether or not you want to read said book.

They also may go on a back cover/dust jacket on the book themselves.

For writers–they’re essentially queries, except now you’re querying the general public instead of agents/editors.

Book descriptions are hugely important–how you portray the book will directly influence who, if anyone, buys the thing. And in this age of author-led marketing, book descriptions often fall to authors rather than PR people. And you’ve got to tease just enough to get people to pick the book up without giving too much away. It’s a razor-thin line.

I am going mad, Squiders.

I’ve done book descriptions and queries before, of course, but Shards is actually the first adult book I’ve had to do them for. (Everything else has been YA. Which is interesting, because I write pretty equal shares YA and adult, but I guess I put the YA out there more.) And I’d say it has more complexity than other stuff I’ve done–layers of symbolism and mythology, plus most of the cast has millennia worth of background.

And somehow, I have to take everything, pick the right approach, and break it down into approximately 250 words to lure people in. The right people too, those that like mythology in their urban fantasy/paranormal romance and won’t mind that there’s not werewolves or vampires. (Or zombies.) Those that won’t mind some romance in with their plot.

I’ve been playing around, but I don’t know what’s best. I’ve got two viewpoint characters–Eva and Michael–and while Eva is definitely the main character, Michael’s obviously a major player as well. So I could try it from both their viewpoints–give them both a quick intro and then lay out how their conflicts intersect–or just Eva’s. I can play up the romance or avoid it. I could TEAR MY HAIR OUT BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW WHAT DIRECTION TO GO IN AUGH

I’ve got three and a half in action, and they’re all completely different, and I can’t tell if one of them is a better direction than the others, and the feedback I’ve gotten has been pretty evenly split.

Other authors–especially urban fantasy authors–any tips? Anything you like to remember when you do your own? Anything you’ve found especially helpful?

Readers–especially urban fantasy readers–what tends to make you pick a book up from its descriptions?

I am flailing around here like you wouldn’t believe, and any help would be appreciated.

The Music of Shards

A few years back (oh, 2009 or so) I started making novel playlists. These are songs that, somehow, evoke a character, a scene, or the overall story for me. A lot of times it’s related to lyrics, and I find that different stories tend to work better with different genres of music. For example, for my high fantasy stuff I listen to a lot of symphonic metal. With my urban stuff, I find a lot more dance music sneaks in.

Shards is a urban fantasy novel being released December 1st from Turtleduck Press. I made a YouTube playlist just for you guys, so you can listen to the whole thing, or you can pick and choose which songs you’d like to listen to.

Shards Playlist (whole thing)

  1. Good Girl (Carrie Underwood)
  2. Mi Amore (Velvet)
  3. DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love (Usher)
  4. Chemistry (Velvet)
  5. You Give Love a Bad Name (Bon Jovi)
  6. Like a Prayer (Madonna)
  7. Take Me Away (Globus)
  8. Fix Me (Velvet)
  9. In This Light (Queensryche)
  10. If I Lose Myself (OneRepublic/Alesso)
  11. Fight For You (Jason Derulo)
  12. Higher Love (Steve Winwood)

I’m curious, do you feel like you get an impression of the story just by listening to the music, and if so, what is it? I’d love to know if your mind works the same way as mine or not.

The Differences Between Urban and Contemporary Fantasy

As we touched on just barely during the Subgenre Study, while many people consider urban and contemporary fantasy to be synonymous, they’re not actually.

Examples!

  • Story 1 takes place in modern times in a major city. The story is both urban and contemporary fantasy.
  • Story 2 takes place in London in the 1800s. The story is urban but not contemporary fantasy.
  • Story 3 takes place on an isolated farm in modern times. The story is contemporary but not urban fantasy. (My story, To the Waters and the Wild, featured in The Best of Turtleduck Press, Vol I, is this.)

The reason the two are synonymous to most people is because, in most cases, stories fall into category 1 above. And you can argue that most modern settings–even small towns–can be interpreted as “urban” because the growing omnipresence of technology, even in more remote areas, changes the feel of the location.

I’ve read a lot of category 1 and a few things in category 3, but I may be reading my first category 2 now. It’s Libby Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty.

It’s not that I haven’t read fantasy before that takes place in a historical setting and a city. But, as we talked about a lot throughout the Subgenre Studies, intent has a lot to do with perceived subgenre. For example, something like the Temeraire series could technically be considered urban fantasy in places, but it reads more like historical fantasy. And books like The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters could probably be considered urban fantasy as well, but it reads more steampunk. (Which, if one wants to get really into it, probably could be a subgenre of the urban fantasy subgenre. But then you get a little too “Yo I heard you like subgenres so I put subgenres in your subgenres” for me.)

This feels exactly like any YA urban fantasy you’d pick up anywhere. It’s first person present tense. It follows all the main urban fantasy tropes. The only difference is that it takes place in the late 1800s and there are occasional mentions of bodices. So, yes, it may be the first true case of an urban, but not contemporary, fantasy I’ve ever read.

What do you think, Squiders? Do you have examples of urban, but not contemporary, stories that you’ve read?

Generational Fantasy

A friend recently loaned me a fantasy trilogy. (I am on the second book.) I started reading and was struck by how…80s…it read. I mean, this trilogy is from the 80s, but even if I hadn’t checked the publication date before I started, I would have been able to tell from the prose alone.

(It’s not weird that I look at publication date, is it? I mean, I use it for statistics when I do my year-end reading wrap-up. I admit I am a giant nerd. I have two engineering degrees.)

I got a few pages in and said, “Wow, this would never be published in today’s market.” I’d never really thought about it, but fiction goes through changes with each successive generation. Subgenres rise and fall, tropes are adopted or dropped. Some are more stable than others – I don’t think mysteries have really changed much in the last 150 years – but there ARE changes.

So, this 80s fantasy novel. Omnipresent 3rd person point of view. Large composite cast. Magic with no clear explanation of how it works. Epic story arc, multiple hero journeys, dwarves and elves. Main characters start in the real-world and travel to a secondary world.

Compare it to modern fantasy. Modern fantasy tends to be in limited 3rd or first person. You’re in someone’s head, and only one someone’s head at a time. Cast tends to be smaller. You don’t see a lot of between world traveling anymore – action is usually all in a secondary world or the real world, but not really both. Plots tend to be more character-focused as opposed to the sweeping epics of the past.

I’m not saying that you can’t find modern fantasy with the same characteristics as the 80s fantasy, but it’s going to be a lot more rare.

Even looking between, oh, say, Tolkien, and the 80s fantasy, there are generational differences. Tolkien has no female main characters, and he doesn’t really care what anybody’s thinking at any point in time. The story’s more important than the characters. The 80s fantasy is kind of a transition between the all-important plot of the 50s and 60s and the all-important character of the here and now.

Admittedly I’m being a bit general, but I do think you could pick up any fantasy from the 50s/80s/whatever the heck we’re calling this decade and be able to tell what generation it’s from without looking and be able to see the differences between them.

What say you, Squiders?