Monday, April 29, 2013

Sneak peek at the cover to "Electrical Hazard", a new superhero romance / supernatural romance novel

Electrical Hazard is book four of Elizabeth Gannon's Consortium of Chaos series, and should be out sometime next week.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Things that bug me in Romance novels: advice for self-published authors on Kindle

As a teen, I was a kind of geeky, straight A student, with an active imagination.  (As opposed to today, where I’m… yeah… exactly the same.)  Bookworm-y tendencies manifested themselves in a variety of ways for a high school girl.  There’s watching Dirty Dancing six million times.  There’s passionately debating episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer online.  And there’s reading every romance novel in the local library.  Truthfully, none of these addictions have left me, but romance novels are definitely the deepest. 

Over the years, I’ve developed a list of small and mostly nitpicky things that I like and don’t like in my romance novels.  They aren’t against the rules of the genre or necessary for me to enjoy a book.  They’re just little personal stuff that bug me or that I look for in my favorite stories.

1)      I don’t like it when the hero/heroine sleeps with someone else during the course of the story.  It just feels wrong to me.  I’ve seen this is lots of different books, from Material Girl by Julia London to Dance on the Wind by Mary Jo Putney.  (And I liked those examples overall.  I still have both books on my shelf.)  But why did the hero and/or heroine need to have sex with someone besides their love interest?  What did it add to the story?
2)      I don’t like it when the heroine has no role in the finale.  That’s not to say she has to be judo-chopping the villain or kidnapped in some hostage-deal, but she’s got to have a part to play.  For example, I’m very fond of Linda Howard’s books.  (My favorite being After the Night.  Or White Lies.  Or Heart of Fire.  Yeah, probably Heart of Fire.  I enjoyed Ben Lewis immensely.)  But the heroine in Open Season spends the climax of the book hiding at a hotel.  Granted, it probably made sense from a “realistic” POV, but where’s the fun realistic? 

3)      I don’t like first person narration.  I feel like I’m only getting half the story if I can’t get into other character’s heads.  I thought the Mockingjay, the third book of the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, was severely limited by the fact that Katniss was away from the action for long stretches or time.  (SPOILER !!!!!!!! Mostly, though, the book upset me because Finnick died.  WTF was that about?  Seriously, he was my favorite character, damn it.  END SPOILER!!!!!!!!!!!!)  Anyway, not many romances have first person narration, but, when I come across one, I tend to put that book back on the shelf.

On the other hands, there are oodles of small things that amp up my liking of a book.  I’m pretty eager to enjoy a book, especially when I’ve paid good money for it.  But, sometimes there will be some little thing that makes a story even more delightful for me.
1)       I like big casts.  I’m not saying that I want to take notes in order to keep everyone straight, but I like it when there are a lot of people interacting.  I think it creates more complex stories and relationships.  The way the characters in JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood books all live together and have to deal with each other’s quirks makes the series interesting to me.  Another example would be Nora Roberts’ Montana Sky, where she writes three sisters, their love interest, and various other characters on the ranch.  Everything just comes to life. 

2)       I like it when the characters do what I would do in their place.  Sometimes, this means jumping off the paddle boat when you’re kidnapped, such as in Once a Princess by Johanna Lindsey.  Sometimes, it’s just the character saying obvious thing.   I remember reading Tempest in Time by Eugenia Riley, where the heroine is sent back in time to the pre-Civil War South and insists on challenging everything she sees.  A small example was when the annoying plantation men started complaining about malaria, she’s like, “Idiots, malaria comes from mosquitos.  How can you not know that?”  I started laughing, because if it was me, I’d probably have said the same thing.

3)      I like it when the heroes aren’t perfect.  Sure being rich, handsome, and well-adjusted is great for the happily-ever-after part of the story.  But, it’s a heck of a lot more enjoyable for me to watch the hero’s process of getting there.  I don’t want him to always be right or popular.  I like it when the guy’s kind of a mess.  Zarek is Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dance with the Devil is a good example.  He’s a sweet guy underneath the bitterness and snark and everybody-wanting-him-dead parts.  It just takes three hundred pages for the heroine to help him figure it out.  If he’s already doin’ fine, what’s the point of the story?
Personal taste plays into so much and this is some of the things that I notice when I’m reading a romance novel.  None of this stuff will make-or-break an entire book for me.  They’re just the details that can turn the experience into something extra special or detract from the overall story.
- Cassandra Gannon

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Superhero Romance character bio #5: Amity and Enmity

Another entirely random character today.  This time around, let’s do Amity and Enmity.  If anyone has any character requests, just shout them out. 

Amy and Emily Eden AKA “Amity” and “Enmity” are identical twins.  Amy is in charge of the kitchen at the Consortium Crater Lair, and I would imagine several other departments as well.  If I had to guess, I’d say she is also in charge of making costumes for the other members, but I’ve never really gone into that, so I can’t say for sure.  Whatever Emily is in charge of is unknown, but she is forced to do kitchen duty by the Human Resources Department, due to her inability to follow rules.  Their powers are that Amy is always happy and spreads joy wherever she goes and causes people to embrace their fellow man in blissful celebration.  Emily is an irritating harpy who no one likes and who causes people to become blinded by rage and hatred.  They spend all of their time together, either because no one else can stand them, or because their powers temper each other so that they don’t become out of control.  I’ve never actually written what would happen if they were separated for any length of time, but according to Tyrant (who has encountered them before in other dimensions), it’s not pretty.  His contention is that they are far more dangerous and powerful when they are apart, but I don't know if he's correct or not. 

They both have blonde hair and blue eyes (actually, their eye color has never been mentioned as far as I recall, but I just wrote down “blue” here for some reason, so that’s what I’m going to go with).  Amy dresses like a pilgrim, and uses phrases like “ever so nice,” while Emily prefers wearing nothing but red lingerie and a witch’s hat, and uses words which would make a drunken sailor blush.
Their backstory hasn’t really been gone into to any real degree yet.  It did exist in Yesterday’s Heroes at one point, but it got edited out.  I’m not entirely certain if it’s the one I’m going for with them anymore or not, so I won’t repeat it here.  It has been revealed that they were born in a town called “Sinner’s Grove, Massachusetts” though.  I have also always seen them as having a "Corsican Syndrome" type of thing where they can feel what the other is feeling.  It's never been mentioned in the books though.
They have a brother named Adam Eden AKA “Apathy,” whose power is evidently to make people just not care.  He himself rarely gets involved in anything, and seems (unsurprisingly) apathetic about everything.  His powers don't seem to change when not in the presence of his siblings though.  He favors wearing his pajamas at all times, and stays to himself.  His only contribution to the Consortium seems to be his mumbling “Meh” when asked his opinion about various important topics, and shrugging disinterestedly at earth-shattering events.
Emily has a large backpiece tattoo of a dragon/snake monster emerging from a grove of apple trees above the bodies of its victims, who apparently ate it’s apples.  I have no idea why she has it or what it means.  If it's a metaphor for something, it's over my head.  I’m assuming that she got it as an homage to her surname and “good and evil” costume theme, but I don’t really know for sure.  I would like to say that it has a deeper meaning than that, but really, she just has it.  It was one of the first things I knew about her, so I’d imagine that she likes it.  Emily’s other passions include nail polish and raspberry iced tea.  Why ice tea?  Again, I have no idea.  There’s no story there as far as I know; that’s just what she likes.
Emily’s character was actually originally an entirely different character, but for some reason I changed her name, appearance and powers shortly before the final draft.  I honestly don’t remember why I did that.  In retrospect, it really didn’t make much sense, as the previous incarnation of her character “Miss Anthrope” even shared much of the same dialogue with her.  It was just one of those instances of reading the book and thinking “…Wait.  That’s not who says that.  Emily says that, not you.  …Wait…. Who’s Emily?”  At some point, I fully expect Missy to make an appearance as well, but I have no idea when or why.  Strangely, I doubt the two would get along anyway.  
Amy likes baking and singing little songs to herself.  She’s nice to everyone else in the Consortium, even the people who are threatening to kill her.  She doesn’t appear to worry about very much about anything, possibly due to her deep religious conviction, possibly due to her natural exuberant optimism, and possibly because she has complete faith in her own abilities, although she's too humble to admit it. 
I seem to recall the basic idea of their characters coming from the Simpsons characters “Sister Bernadette and Roxy Monoxide” from the episode “Pygmoelian.”  They are seen for a few seconds on a soap opera which Marge is watching, and one is evidently a nun and the other is a prostitute.  They in turn are based on Kristen Blake (DiMera) and her identical twins “Susan Banks” and “Sister Mary Moira Banks” on Days of Our Lives.  Who in turn are based on any number of stories dating back to before Shakespeare’s time, of evil twins.  Emily and Amy just so happen to be evil twins who get along.  I probably also based them on twins I used to know (who were also blonde and had blue eyes), and their struggles for individuality, despite the fact that they did everything together.  As far as I know though, unlike Emily, neither of them was ever warned by their parole officer that they should refrain from kidnapping anyone until they “realize that people need oxygen to live.”
I do recall having to think for a while as to what costumes they could wear though.  I remember that Emily was almost dressed as a little devil for a time, but then I decided that a witch’s hat would be the better antithesis of her sister’s pilgrim garb.  I also considered “Antipathy” as Emily’s codename, but it didn’t shorten into a real name as well, and it looked too much like both “Amity” and “Apathy” when reading fast.  At the very beginning of their characters, I also went back and forth on making them men or not.  Ultimately, I decided that finding the opposite of a pilgrim was harder for a male character.  A warlock look is hard to convey when he's wearing next to nothing, and again, a guy in a devil costume just doesn't strike me as the opposite of a pilgrim man.  Plus, I'd just always thought of them as female characters, and I couldn't change that.      
Amy and Emily are probably closest to modern age comic villainesses.  Emily’s costume and attitude puts her squarely in the crop of mid to late 80s comic characters, where underwear-clad dominatrices from hell were quite popular.  Amy’s just along for the ride.  Most comic book series would doubtlessly split them up and have one be a hero and the other be a villain, but I think it’s cute that they love each other so much.  I think they’d be bored and miserable if you put one on one team and the other on another.
I find their relationship interesting.  Amy is a genuinely good person, but doesn’t seem at all put off by what her sister does and says.  In fact, she seems to find it charming.  She’s a sweet girl. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Superhero romance character bio #4: Robber Baron

I haven't done one of these in a few weeks now, so I'll choose someone I was discussing with Cassandra today. 

Montgomery Tarkington Welles AKA “Robber Baron” is Head of the Purchasing and Production Department of the C of C.  He first appeared in one scene of Yesterday's Heroes (he had one line during one of the meetings), but his character was formally introduced in The Son of Sun and SandHe claims to be responsible for the Consortium’s supply of everything from “bullets to toilet paper.”  His chief duties consist of making sure that the rest of the C of C has what it needs to do their jobs.  He oversees a team of workers he refers to as “The Irregulars,” who seem to be responsible for all the more mundane aspects of life in the Consortium Crater Lair.
Monty has dark hair and his skin is on the paler side.  He dresses in the stereotypical suit and overcoat of a late nineteenth century industrialist, complete with top hat.  Think Ebenezer Scrooge.  He walks with a limp and uses a walking stick which is topped with a rock crystal globe, complete with tiny golden continents.  He is missing the middle finger of his left hand, which was lost during an accident years ago.  He has a scar from a bullet wound beneath his left eye, which turned a milky blue as a result.  He wears a monocle, but it hasn’t been revealed if this is due to his needing it to see with that eye, or if it is merely a part of his costume.  Monty seems to spend most of his time with his ever present aide, “Higgins,” who he orders around.  The other man treats his boss with a fearful respect, boarding on reverential awe.    
His powers (if he has any) have not been revealed, aside from a near preternatural ability to somehow know secrets people try to hide.  Monty is described by the other members of the Consortium in less than glowing terms.  Tyrant refers to him as “the sly fox among the howling wolves,” meaning that the man is far sneakier and more underhanded than the rest of them.  He seems to think the man is dangerous though.  Wyatt also indicates that Monty is one of the only truly villainous people left on the team, and one of the only people who doesn’t belong with the others, who he mostly thinks of as annoying but harmless.  Marian describes Monty (in a sequence that was edited out of an earlier book but will probably be in a later one) as “obdurate,” meaning “refusing to reform or repent; hardened by wickedness.”  Poacher describes Monty as exhibiting “random cruelty.”  As Tyrant, Wyatt, Marian and Poacher almost never agree on anything, I think it’s safe to say that taken together, their opinions on him are probably fairly accurate.
Monty’s personality is characterized by his ability to bottom-line things, and he's always willing to ignore ethics in favor of expediency and efficiency.  He’s unemotional and simply doesn’t care about people.  He detests what he calls “impractical morality,” and is always seeking to cut Consortium costs to the bone.  He rarely attends meetings because he’s busy in his department (which is sometimes described as looking like something from the movie “Metropolis”) and making sure his employees do their work.  He’s privy to all the gossip and goings-on among the other members, because his Irregulars are reportedly spying on the others for him.  He represents part of a powerful "uncaring but frugal" segment of the Consortium, which exercises a considerable amount of voting power when matters come up for debate.
Monty is what happens when you’re watching a TV series about the terrible conditions in nineteenth century textile factories (the BBC miniseries “North & South”) while writing about supervillains.  I liked the idea of a cruel well-dressed taskmaster and a team of workers dressed in rags.  It’s interesting to note though that up until literally the very last minute, I went back and forth on whether to make the character male or female (although strangely, the female version of the character would have also been named “Monti.”)  His name comes from a list of common names for industrialists, and my choice was probably more than a little influenced by “C. Montgomery Burns” from the Simpsons.  His last and middle names are an homage to the author of The Magnificent Ambersons, and to Orson Welles, who directed the film adaptation.  I recall several different versions of how Monty arranged his name though, including several versions inspired by the movie Metropolis.
He was introduced to provide the group with a unemotional sort of antagonism.  Most of the others run hot; passionate people who yell and scream and get into petty fights over nothing.  Monty is colder than that.  Wyatt contends that the man is “heartless, nasty, sly and underhanded” and is sarcastic and cold because he doesn’t like anyone and wants them to know it.  I’m not entirely certain if his appraisal of Monty is correct, but if he’s wrong, there’s certainly been no sign of it yet.  Monty is unsympathetic, hard and bitingly mean.  He doesn’t (yet) appear to be close to anyone else on the team, and doesn’t seem to want to be. 
My sister contends that he’s the one character she just doesn’t think can go anywhere good.  I don’t know.  He’s never had a chapter from his point of view, so I’m unsure if the Consortium and Cassandra are correct about him or not.  If he’s secretly got any inner goodness, he’s certainly doing a good job of hiding it, and he’s definitely going to have to change his attitude if he’s ever going to be able to have his HEA.  …He doesn’t appear to really want to do that at the moment though.  There are a bunch of different places Monty can go long-term, and he hasn’t really told me where he wants to go yet.