Urban Fantasy

I’ve only been in the publishing world for six years this month (oh, happy anniversary to me!). Though it’s a relatively short time in the grand scheme of things, I think the past five years, heck, the last two even, have seen the publishing world change exponentially.

One of the things I find interesting is the discussions of genre. I’m not sure if it’s because more genres are popping up or if authors, looking to break into a highly competitive market, are mashing genres together and therefore defying a genre definition.

Let me first start by saying. I read romance. I write romance. I didn’t know that books (other than non-fiction) didn’t fall into that category. I know some readers who are surprised to find the book they’re reading is considered romance when it was shelved in the science fiction section. The fact is, romance is no longer just sweet contemporary and historical love stories. And there in lies the confusion.

This blog post was sparked by a discussion of what constitutes science fiction. In my opinion (which is what this blog is all about), science fiction stories deal with some imagined technology and its impact on the characters. These stories often, but not always, take place in the future, which means they can also be considered futuristic romances. Though for me, when defining my books, I tend to think of futuristic as specific to an alternate future, like Healer’s Garden. Whereas A Touch of Lilly, which also takes place in the future, but in another galaxy, I would consider science fiction.

Steampunk is a specific type of science fiction that is an alternate history rather than future. The stories involve a period in time when steampower was used. The science fiction is the fantastical weapons and machines powered by steam that the author creates. Think Wild, Wild West with Will Smith (*sigh*) and Kevin Kline.

Another umbrella term for genre especially popular today is the Paranormal category. Stories in this genre often blend and can easily be defined as one sub-genre or another. For me, the easily defined paranormal stories are those that involve vampires, zombies or shifters. My Shifting Bonds series falls into this category.

But … if a story includes faeries, gnomes or magic, then it’s defined as Fantasy romance. This sub-genre is further delineated by the term Urban Fantasy. These stories often are written in first person and take place in an urban setting, though it can be contemporary, historical or future time setting, the defining factor is the world created has magic and mysticism as part of the every day landscape. Urban fantasies however involve human characters with the powers rather than mystical creatures, though shifters, vampires and angels also play a role.

Of course once authors start blurring the lines between genres, mixing and matching as plots, settings and characters develop, more and more authors are having a hard time pigeon-holing their stories. This of course leaves the marketing departments of publishing houses with the difficulty of figuring out how best to market a book and where to shelve it in the bookstores. Which in turn, sometimes leaves readers stumbling around the bookstore trying to figure out how exactly to find their favorite author’s new book.

So, what do you think, did I hit the nail on the head or am I completely off the mark with my definitions? Leave me a comment. I’d like to know how you see this new genre confusion.

I’d like to welcome my guest TRACY COOPER POSEY. Tracy is a multi-published author of erotic paranormal, romantic suspense and urban fantasy romance. (And the very talented web designer who helped me revamp my blog.) Take it away Tracy …

Hot plum pudding with brandy sauce. Or for North Americans, pumpkin pie fresh out of the oven, and ice cream or custard. Fresh home-made cookies, or a cake cooling in the kitchen…you can smell them all over the house.

Have you ever stepped into the home of someone cooking mulled wine? Red wine steeped with spices and sugars…the smell is unforgettable. So is the taste (and my mouth is flooding with saliva even as I write this!)

Croissants in Paris, with butter and real European coffee, hot and with that caramel smell that you only get from African beans.

Tart fruit stewed in its own juices, with cloves and cinnamon to bring out the flavours.

Chicken or turkey, ham or beef, slow cooking all day in the oven for a big family dinner, and all the dishes that go along with it and their aromas that start drifting from the kitchen from lunchtime onwards.

Waking up to the smell of toast, bacon, hash browns, eggs, waffles and coffee in the morning.

The sharp, thick smell of deep fried anything at fairs and sideshows.

Food is with us constantly. You might think you only eat three times a day, but cues for eating and drinking waft past you endlessly, all day long. Smells, sounds, images bombard you, making non-stop suggestions to eat or drink this, that or the other, and most of it isn’t commercial advertising. You probably snack, bite, sip and nibble dozens of times a day without realizing it, and you think about eating and drinking hundreds of times a day. If you’ve ever struggled to lose weight you’ll understand this concept only too well.

Humans are designed to take in a certain level of calories per day in order to maintain body functions and provide energy to keep the body moving, so this obsession with food is built into our genes and psyches. It’s a survival mechanism.

Consider, then, the poor vampire who, after twenty or thirty or more years of uninhibited eating and drinking, suddenly has his food supply abruptly cut off. All he gets to imbibe is blood. Now blood may well meet all his nutritional needs in his vampire form, but depending on which authors’ universe and which type of vampire you’re dealing with, he might still have all or most of his human instincts and psychology intact.

Which means that even if he doesn’t get hungry, per se, he’s going to still get bombarded by the same thousands of daily subliminal “eat!” and “drink!” messages we as humans get. He’ll smell the same delicious aromas, watch humans eating with gusto, see the same commercial advertisements for food, food and more food, steaming gently and looking oh-so-good on the plate as it turns. He’ll hear chips hitting the deep fry and smell them, too. And what’s he going to do when he walks past a Starbuck’s? If he’s a modern day vampire, does he wake with all his addictions intact? Does he hunger for his daily espresso hit?

What if he’s one of the types of vampires whose senses (taste, touch, smell, hearing, etc) are all better than humans? Are all those eat and drink messages going to be more powerful because he can receive them better?

I love my food — too much, frankly — and I’m constantly battling my expanding waistline. While the idea of almost-immortality as a vampire has all sorts of appeal for me (watching history unfold is the biggie), giving up food and well, coffee, dammit, would make me sit down and really think hard if I ever got the offer. I would have to have a written, sealed guarantee that all the cues and triggers that would deluge me every day as a vampire would be negated somehow before I would step over to the other side. Even then, just the memory of eating and food would drive me crazy, I suspect. I would miss it.

Humans have so many rituals and habits built around the consumption of food. From breakfast to work breaks, to simply cleaning your teeth (to get rid of food particles), to dinner out with friends, nearly every social occasion, everything is impacted by food.

Take away the food and you leave a very big vacuum.

That absence is something that Nial, my 1,500 year old vampire in Blood Knot, has struggled with in unique ways over his long life. He misses food and eating as much as any human might, and it shows. It also leads to a small crisis…but I can’t say more without spoiling the story!

After thirty-five novels with various publishers, under various pen names, and after nearly ten years with Ellora’s Cave primarily writing in romantic suspense and paranormal romance, I have finally taken a deep breath and self-published Blood Knot, an erotic urban fantasy romance (MMF, Contemporary, Vampires, Paranormal), and my 36th novel overall. It was released on March 9, 2011 and is available at Amazon and Smashwords for $2.99 in all the common e-book formats, and will soon be available in print.

I’ve won a number of awards, including Australia’s Emma Darcy Award (the equivalent of the Golden Heart) and was most recently nominated for the CAPA’s Best Erotic Paranormal and Favourite Author categories. You can find out more about me and my books here.

An Excerpt From: BLOOD KNOT
Copyright © TRACY COOPER-POSEY, 2011
All Rights Reserved.

[For readers who are following my blog tour, these excerpts are consecutive — each excerpt follows the last one. Check on my blog for details of previous excerpts, and subscribe to my blog to learn about future blog tour posts and the excerpts that go with them. http://tracycooperposey.com]

“One of my weaknesses is redheads,” Nathanial added. “Especially stubborn, intelligent, independent, feisty redheads.”

Her whole body seemed to tighten and pulse. Winter covered up her reaction by turning away and heading for the sink for a glass of water. But her hand was trembling, so she changed her mind and leaned against the counter, her arms crossed. It left five feet of space between them. Good.

Nathanial stayed by the windows. “Tell me why you didn’t look inside Sebastian until you had to save his life.”

Winter could feel her mouth opening as her jaw dropped. She stared at him, trying to gather her thoughts. “Because I just wouldn’t. That wouldn’t be…” She had never had to explain this to anyone before and couldn’t find the words. “Proper,” she finished inadequately.

“It would be unprofessional,” Nathanial added.

“Yes,” she agreed. “That, too.”

Nathanial smiled a little. “You must have given Sebastian merry hell these last two years, Winter. You’re like me in many ways.”

Winter could feel her mouth turn down. “I’m nothing like you. We have nothing in common.”

“We have Sebastian in common,” he said coolly.

“We don’t have him,” she spat. “You had him and you lost him. I never had him the way you did. He was just a business partner. And now he’s not even that.”

“He’s something more than that now, Winter.” He moved toward her. “Why do you need his blood every month or so? Why are you not working together anymore? What happened after Singapore?”

She pushed her hand through her hair with a frustrated sigh. “I suppose, if I don’t answer you in full, you’ll have it out of me one way or another, right?”

Nathanial smiled. It was a full, cheerful grin. “You’re starting to learn.” He cocked his head. “Although if you want to be stubborn, I’m more than happy to…coax the information out of you.” He swayed towards her, his blue eyes full of sudden heat that had little to do with the teasing tone of his voice.

Winter slid along the edge of the counter, out of his way, even as her heart thudded at his nearness. “I’ll cooperate,” she assured him.

Nathanial straightened up. “Ah well,” he sighed. “Tell me about Singapore, then. What happened after?”

Winter sighed. “Who was the idiot that said ‘The truth shall set you free’? I’d like to kill the bastard if he isn’t already dead. All the truth did for Sebastian and me was slaughter everything we had. Two of the best years of my life. Gone. Just like that. Because the truth came out.”

Chapter Four
New York City, New York. About nine months ago.
THE FIRST SHE knew that anything was wrong was when she gradually became aware of Sebastian calling her name. And a hand patting her cheek.

The tapping was annoying and she tried to turn her face away from it. When she didn’t have the strength to do that much, she roused enough to wonder why and realized that things were not right. Something was happening.

She began to pick up external cues. Distant traffic. She must be in her apartment in New York, then. It was early summer and warm in the apartment. But she was covered in a blanket.

And shivering. She was cold. Colder than January.

“Winter! Open your eyes!” It was Sebastian again and he sounded worried. Again, the tap on the cheek. His hand. She would know his scent anywhere—

She snapped her eyes open. How could she know his aroma so well? And from just his hand?

Sebastian was leaning over her, the thick locks of his hair falling forward as always. Relief actually showed on his face. Hovering over his shoulder stood Jackson, her doorman.

Jackson smiled. “That’s the ticket. I’ll call an ambulance.”

“No!” Sebastian shot back. “I’ll take care of her. I know how to treat her.”

Jackson’s smile faded. “You’re sure, Mr. Worthington?”

“You called me first, didn’t you, Jackson? You know I know Winter well. I can take care of this.” He pulled a billfold from his inner pocket and unclipped a couple of notes. “She’ll get eaten up in the system.”

Jackson waved away the money. “I get paid well, Mr. Worthington.”

Sebastian took Jackson’s wrist and laid the notes on his palm. “This is a thank you for calling me in the first place. Your instincts were right, Jackson. You did well.”

Jackson nodded. “I like Ms. Winter,” he said simply.

“I’ll makes sure she stays one of your favorite tenants, then.”

Jackson touched his forehead and left the apartment.

Sebastian turned back to Winter. She was lying on the floor, she realized. Next to the fireplace, right out in the middle of the room. She couldn’t put together what she had been doing to end up here. What day was it? What time? How long had she been lying here? Fright touched her.

“What am I doing here, Sebastian?” she asked. Even her voice was pathetically weak.

“I’m not sure,” he said. “But we have to presume it is something to do with Singapore, as that was just under four weeks ago.” He picked her up. “I’ll put you on your bed. It’ll be more comfortable than the floor. Then, if you can manage it, you need to analyze yourself.”

She tried to put her arms around his neck, but was too weak even for that. Sebastian was warm against her cold body and she sighed in contentment as he carried her through to her bedroom. “Thank you,” she whispered.

“Don’t thank me,” he said roughly. “I’m the one that put you in this position, remember?” He lowered her to the bed, bending to place her gently on the covers. “Damn, you’re colder than an ice cube, Winter.”

He was bowed over her, lifting his hands away from her. It was summer, so he wore his usual jeans and a collarless dress shirt in a cotton fabric so soft and old it begged to be touched. The sleeves were rolled up. The shirt exposed his neck to her and Winter could focus on nothing but the tender flesh running from his ear to his shoulder. She could trace the path his carotid would take. It seemed she could even hear his heart beat in her mind.

She reached for his arm, her strength suddenly enough for that. It was only a few inches, after all.

He froze, his chin turning so that his green eyed gaze could take her in.

Her heart was running far too hard. Dangerously fast. Winter cupped Sebastian’s face, and smoothed her fingers into his hair. In the profound silence that gripped the bedroom, she heard his tiny gasp.

She found a strength she didn’t know she possessed to bring herself up off the pillows he’d laid her upon. She brought her mouth closer to his hot flesh. She craved to taste it. To…

“Winter,” he breathed, holding himself motionless.

She laid her lips against him.

He shuddered.

Driven by something she didn’t understand, something too powerful to argue with, she opened her mouth and sank her teeth into his neck.

“Bloody hell!” Sebastian gasped. He wrenched her away from him and staggered back, exploring his neck with his fingertips, then checking his fingers for blood. He stared at her. “Winter!” He said her name as if he were appalled.

But she was too busy trying to deal with sudden and overwhelming hunger pangs. Pangs that were more like cramps. They were making her writhe on the bed in agony.

Sebastian moved closer, watching her. “Jesus wept…” he said after a moment. “I don’t believe it.” He climbed onto the bed next to her. “Let me see your teeth, Winter.”
“What?” she gasped, holding her stomach.

“I need to know if you can pierce my skin or if I have to do that for you.”

She tried to curl into a ball as the cramps hit her again, moaning.

Sebastian cursed softly. She felt his fingers on her mouth, and one slide gently under her upper lip. “Nothing,” he said. “You’re quite human. But you need to feed. And I don’t have canines any more either.”

The mattress shifted and light glared as he entered her bathroom. Then he was back. She heard him give a soft hiss of pain. “Quickly, Winter. Here.”

His fingers touched her lips. This time they smelled differently. She turned her head, alerted by the aroma. The rich promise.

“Drink,” he crooned as drops fell onto her tongue.

Winter swallowed and felt the spread of warmth and energy from the few little drops. Eagerly, she sought more, and more flowed into her mouth. Thick and sweet as honey. She swallowed.

Warmth seemed to spread through her body as the liquid made its way down to her stomach.

“That’s it,” Sebastian told her, his tone approving. A hand slid under her head, supporting her. “Now, can you put your lips on my wrist?”

The first faint alarm filtered through her haze of enjoyment. But the strength she was drawing from the liquid overrode her intellectual objections. In the back of her mind she put together the truth. Sebastian’s wrist. His hiss of pain. Canines. Teeth. Fangs.

Blood. She was drinking blood. Sebastian’s blood. Hot blood.

It tasted nothing like blood. It tasted ambrosial. The finest wines had nothing on this. The heat and energy it was generating in her was like the strongest energy drink in the world. Industrial strength power straight into her veins. She could feel her body responding and could measure its restoration for herself.

She gripped his wrist and pressed her lips against the wound she knew she would find there. With the slightest of hesitations, knowing full well what she was doing, she made herself draw blood into her mouth

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***  This contest is Closed  ***
Congratulations to Luanna from Maine!

Whew, great excerpt Tracy. Thanks so much for sharing. Tracy has generously offered to give away an e-copy of her book KISS ACROSS SWORDS. Since Tracy is from Australia and currently living in Canada, just leave a comment about something you believe to be true about one of these countries. I’ll leave it to Tracy to give us the correct answer/information.This contest will be open until FRIDAY, APRIL 8 at noon EDT when I will choose a winner at random from all commenters on this post.

Thanks so much for stopping by Tracy!

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