Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Honk If You Love Paranormal!

The paranormal market is booming. Editors are buying it. Readers are gobbling it up. And I’m loving writing it–and crossing my fingers that the wave doesn’t crest.

I know there are readers and editors who just wandered into this magical land. But I spent years WAITING FOR this market.

As a young reader, my first love was fantasy and science fiction. It all started in fifth grade, when the D.C. Public Library delivered the monthly “book basket” to our classroom–and one of the selections was RED PLANET, by Robert Heinlein.

As soon as the teacher put the books on the chalk ledge below the blackboard, I knew I wanted to read that book–and I dashed up to get it before anybody else could.

RED PLANET hooked me on the genre. And in many of the Heinlein books I read as a young adult, there was a love story. I didn’t find out until years later that there was a whole genre where that romance subplot became the focus of the story.

Back when I started writing romances, any hint of the paranormal was rare. But I wanted to include those elements in my books, since I always loved reading books where people had psychic abilities. Or books about time travel. Or creatures that couldn’t exist in the real world.

I was lucky enough to have an editor at Harlequin Intrigue who would let me include the paranormal in my stories, but only if I was subtle about it.

For years I wrote what I called "stealth paranormal" for Harlequin Intrigue--where the reader didn't find out about the weird twists until she was way into the story and had gotten invested in the characters. (In PRINCE OF TIME, you don't know that the hero is a space alien who's been in suspended animation in Alaska until well into the book. In NOWHERE MAN, you don't learn the hero is a clone being groomed for an army suicide mission until you get to know and like him.)

I longed to make the paranormal the focus of my stories, so I wrote a proposal for a book about telepaths who don’t develop their talents until they link sexually with each other.

My agent sent it out, and nobody would buy it. So I put it away in a drawer, and pulled it out occasionally to fiddle with it. I wasn’t able to sell it until last year, when Berkley published it as BEYOND CONTROL.

Before that, I got into the market with KILLING MOON, my first werewolf book.

I’d been selling steadily to Harlequin Intrigue on a brief proposal. But I was sure nobody would buy a werewolf book from me unless I wrote the whole thing on speculation. It was hard for me to fit that into my schedule, but finally I decided I had to write the book.

While I was writing it, my agent retired. When I went looking for a new one, I wanted someone who would love my werewolf story. My new agent did but told me it might be a “hard sell.” Lucky for me, Berkley was starting a dark paranormal line. Then when they decided to close all their lines in favor of the Sensation imprint, they made KILLING MOON one of the launch books.

I’m still writing for Harlequin Intrigue as well as Berkley. About two-thirds of my Intrigues are paranormal–with the weird elements right up front.

My next one is CHAIN REACTION, in October. It’s about an explosion in a secret weapons lab. The men who are exposed all develop paranormal powers. CHAIN REACTION is the first book in the three-book SECURITY BREACH series. In the next two books, the reader discovers that it’s not just the good guys who have developed special powers.

My current Berkley release is SHADOW OF THE MOON, continuing my werewolf series. I’m thrilled to tell you that it’s made the Waldenbooks’ mass market paperback list, the B&N romance list and the USA Today list. It’s the story of a werewolf journalist and an artist who go underground to investigate the sinister aspects of a private Washington, D.C., club, where the rich and famous can indulge their sexual fantasies. Unfortunately for them, there’s a "mind vampire" lurking in the basement, feeding off their emotions.

I’m finding that the S&M theme of the book is somewhat controversial. Some readers have told me they love it. Others are turned off. How do you feel about the subject matter?

And how do you feel about paranormal in general? You love it? You can take it or leave it? You hope the current boom in this genre is here to stay?

I’d love to hear how other people feel.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Blog Tour: CALIFORNIA DEMON, by Julie Kenner

I'm going to buy this book just for the title. And if the story is half as clever as the title, then it's going to be fabulous.

CALIFORNIA DEMON: The Secret Life of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom
by Julie Kenner
(Berkley Trade, June 2006)

What's a mother to do, when there are only so many hours in the day, and the fate of the world is in her hands?

Kate Connor was a retired demon hunter. Now, after fourteen years busting her tail as a suburban housewife, raising two kids, and supporting her husband's political ambitions, she's rejoined the workforce-and except for a few minions of evil, no one has a clue. She tries hard to keep her home and work lives separate-a good idea when your job involves random slaughter.

Between fending off demon attacks, trying to figure out why the mysterious new teacher at the high school seems so strangely familiar, and keeping a watchful eye on her daughter's growing infatuation with a surfer dude, Kate is the busiest-and most dangerous-soccer mom on the block…


• Groceries
• Pay bills
• Gas up the minivan
• Pick Allie up from cheerleader practice
• Clean out nest of evil, blood-thirsty preternatural creatures with a few wooden stakes, some holy water, and a can of Diet Coke
• Self-defense class
• Volunteer at nursing home
• Battle determined demon while making meal
• Put Timmy to bed
• Clean up dishes
• Dispose of demon carcass
• Iron Stuart’s shirt
• Write tomorrow’s to-do list



"more witty, funny and poignant adventures from the marvelous Kenner." Combining PTA dangers with demons certainly keeps the characters on their toes and readers chuckling. 4 stars – Romantic Times

While there is a plethora of outstanding romance/dark fantasy sagas currently being released … Julie Kenner's Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom novels are noteworthy in large part because of the author's wit and incredibly intuitive sense of humor. Lines like "Infiltrating a nest of vampires at dusk might be a tad on the treacherous side, but it's nothing compared to telling a fourteen-year-old that she's not allowed to wear eye shadow" will have readers laughing out loud from the first page to the last. If you've changed a leaky diaper, picked up a spilled sippy cup, or purchased a McDonald's Happy Meal within the last 24 hours, this fast-paced, delightfully irreverent amalgam of romance and dark fantasy is for you. – Barnes & Noble

National bestselling author Julie Kenner's first book hit the stores in February of 2000, and she's been on the go ever since. Her books have hit lists as varied as USA Today, Waldenbooks, Barnes & Noble, and Locus Magazine. Julie is also a former RITA finalist, the winner of Romantic Times' Reviewer's Choice Award for Best Contemporary Paranormal of 2001, and the winner of the Reviewers International Organization's award for best romantic suspense of 2004. She writes a range of stories from sexy and quirky romances to chick lit suspense to paranormal mommy lit. Her foray into the latter, Carpe Demon: Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom, was selected as a Booksense Summer Paperback Pick for 2005, was a Target Breakout Book, was a Barnes & Noble Number One SFF/Fantasy bestseller for seven weeks, and is in development as a feature film with Warner Brothers and 1492 Pictures.

Julie spent four years mainlining venti nonfat lattes in order to write, practice law full time, and take care of her kiddo. Then she wised up, quit the practice of law, and settled down to write full time. She now lives in central Texas with her husband, daughter, and a bunch of cats.


Sunday, June 11, 2006


Well, after ignoring my blog for months, I'm going to start posting again. I had some horrible deadlines that I had to meet. And also, we were doing a lot of traveling.

We've been back from Russia (Moscow and St. Petersburg) for a couple of weeks. And here's a report on the trip:

On the way home we had a horrible connection to make in Frankfurt, since our plane from St. Petersburg was late. We had to RUN to catch the plane--not easy for me. And our luggage--with some of the stuff I bought and a lot of my good clothes--floated around Europe for a day and a half before we got it. We didn't have boarding passes, since they wouldn't give them to us in St. Petersburg. So, when we finally got to the counter, they could only get us on in Business Class. A nice way to come home. (I think we couldn't get the boarding passes because we came into Frankfurt on Lufthansa and left on United.)

I learned a lot on the trip. St. Petersburg is a beautiful city. And Moscow is definitely a world capital. But I think we can be glad that we didn't live through the upheavals in Russia over the past 100 years.

After WWI, for example, the country was having a lot of shortages. To cope with the economic situation, they allowed people to have private businesses like restaurants. The enterprises were successful, but after a couple of years the authorities made all the private enterprises close and often imprisoned or killed the owners. Nice, huh?

I got the sense that the people running the country tried various unfortunate experiments on their population. Like when Khrushchev decided that--the U.S. is really successful growing corn. Let's turn most of our wheat fields into corn fields. But corn wouldn't grow in the USSR, so there were horrible shortages of food and long lines for bread. So that must have been before the shortages you experienced.

Our guide told us some Soviet jokes. One I liked was--
Brezhnev is asked about his relationship with the peasants. He says that relations with them are excellent. "We pretend to pay them, and they pretend to work."

I think I've got a lot of good material for a future suspense novel. But as I was driven around cold and sometimes wet Moscow and St. Petersburg, I started plotting a book set on a Caribbean island.

Another funny thing--
There's a very wide avenue called Moscow Avenue that leads from downtown St. Petersburg to the airport. It's also got wide sidewalks, since they planned to switch it to be the main avenue of the city. (Never mind that the main development was in a different part of town. They also planned to arbitrarily make Leningrad--the previous name of the city--an "industrial city" which meant it wouldn't need any trees. But I digress.) As we drove to the airport, there was a tremendous traffic jam. They haven't had a lot of private cars for very long, so motorists often indulge in dangerous stunts. One guy pulled off the road and roared up the wide sidewalk for several blocks. (I assume the pedestrians were able to get out of his way.)

There's very little parking downtown, so there are tons of cars PARKED on the sidewalks. And double parked.

Our son, Ethan, who is a political officer at the US embassy in Moscow, took us to see some sights--and parked on the sidewalk like everyone else. He also took us by Metro to a folk art shopping village. (Where a guy also had a trained bear.) I was really tired, so he got us a gypsy cab home--by holding out his hand. Motorists stopped, and he negotiated a price for driving us to his apartment--which was at least 20 minutes away. It was a really wild ride. Like I was surprised we actually made it home in one piece.

So after cold and wet St. Petersburg, I stepped off the plane at Dulles into 90 degree D.C. heat.

I have attached some pictures from the trip.


St. Basil's Cathedral, Red Square, Moscow

Lenin's Tomb, Red Square, Moscow

Ruth & Foreign Service Officer son Ethan dickering with rug dealer at Izmailovo Market, Moscow

Cathedral, Kremlin, Moscow

Norman with Hermitage Museum across the Neva River, St. Petersburg

Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood (site of assassination of Tsar Alexander II), St. Petersburg

Grounds of Catherine's Palace, Pushkin

Inside Catherine's Palace, Pushkin

Catherine's Palace, Pushkin

Boat Ride in St. Petersburg

Malachite table in Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

Ruth in Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

Mariinsky (formerly Kirov) Theater, St. Petersburg

Peterhof fountains, St. Petersburg

Peterhof gardens, St. Petersburg

Statue of Lenin, St. Petersburg