Posts Tagged ‘heroines’

Hey, all!  I’ve been crazed with work, a contest to judge, my wonderful sister and friends from the old days in town, so I’ve been a bit behind on my blog.  Posts will probably be a little fast and furious this week, so stay tuned.

To begin with, here’s Amy Christine Parker’s and my YA Rebels vlog from last week on How the World would be Doomed if We were Action Heroines!


I’m thrilled to have DD Barant here with me today.  I must admit that I wanted to channel my inner UF heroine to forceably introduce some folks to their turn signals on the way to dropping my son at school today…exactly the kind of heroine that DD talks about here.  But before I introduce him, his wonderful perspective, and the link to the audiobook giveaway for KILLING ROCKS, one of his wonderful Bloodhound Files novels, a couple of quick things – for a limited time, Flux Books is making my novel VAMPED free(!) for Kindle and Nook.  I hope that you’ll want to take a look and that, if you enjoy it, perhaps you’ll check out the sequels: REVAMPED, FANGTASTIC and FANGTABULOUS, which is forthcoming in January.  Or, you can buy the print books and get them signed, along with the first book of the Latter-Day Olympians urban fantasy series, BAD BLOOD, at Necronomicon this weekend.  They’ll be available at the Books at Park Place booth. If you want to learn a bit more about the Vamped series, you can check out my interview yesterday on A Life Bound by Books, part of the Crossroads Blog Tour or visit my website.  This public service announcement has been brought to you by the letter “s” for “shameless self-promotion.”

And now let’s move on to the fabulous DD Barant…






I can sum up my biggest influence as a writer of urban fantasy in two words.

Joss Whedon.

I’m something of an anomaly, as I’m a guy writing in a female-dominated genre, and doing so from a female POV.  But then, the same could be said of Joss, who’s justly famous for his strong female characters and feminist stance.  I admire many things about Joss’s writing: the action, the characterization, the sharp, funny dialogue. I try to emulate those things when I’m writing THE BLOODHOUND FILES.  But what I draw on, more than anything, is an archetype that Joss may not have invented, but has arguably perfected: the Woman with No Social Filters.

Cordelia and Anya from Buffy, Ilyria from Angel, River from Firefly; all these women have one striking thing in common.  They speak their mind, with little or no thought as to the consequences.  They speak from different perspectives—Cordelia’s selfish, Anya doesn’t understand human customs, Ilyria’s an arrogant goddess, River’s brain-damaged—but they all fill the same role.  Like the jester in a king’s court, they use humor to say things no one else can get away with—things we wish we could say.  When I wrote the Angel novel SHAKEDOWN, I found writing Cordelia’s dialogue was both the easiest and the most fun; her snarkiness just seemed to flow from my brain with no effort.  I decided to borrow that for the main character of Jace Valchek in THE BLOODHOUND FILES, giving her a sarcastic, cynical worldview that she uses to help her cope with the stress and horror of her job.  Because the series is told from her point of view, I can also get away with a great deal of blunt honesty simply because it’s an internal monologue; we can say things to ourselves we can’t say out loud.

I get compliments on how funny the BLOODHOUND FILES is, which is nice—but the compliments I really treasure are the ones that can’t believe I’m not a woman.  If I can capture a female voice well enough to do that, I figure I must be doing something right.  But I can’t really take all the credit, either—a lot of that has to go to Joss, for doing such a damn good job of creating believable, honest characters that manage to make us laugh while still delivering the truth.

Or as Cordelia might say, “Look, he’s a genius and you’re not.  Too bad, suck it up, let’s move on.  Is that a new sweater?”

But if you’d like to judge for yourself, you can listen to the extremely talented Johanna Parker read KILLING ROCKS via the new audiobook from Tantor Audio.  What, you say?  You don’t have said audiobook or MP4 file?  Well, I can fix that.  Go to my Facebook page at and Like it between now and Halloween, and I’ll enter your name for a draw to win said audiobook or MP4 download.  And Happy Halloween!

I’m very pleased to continue the Men of Urban Fantasy theme with author James A. Burton.  His novels are incredibly character driven, with lush language and, as he discusses, more than your typical heroes and heroines.

Heroes? by James A. Burton (aka James A. Hetley)

Lucienne suggested that I write something about non-traditional heroes and heroines, those being the sort I’ve written in POWERS (as by James A. Burton) and my earlier novels.  And my first thought was, “I don’t write heroes.”  What I write, what I try to write, are people I can respect.  To do that, I don’t start out with Athena springing fully-armed from the forehead of Zeus.  I have to meet the characters and get to know them, walk around with them — let them grow into people.  Some writers outline and know the story before they begin writing.  I find out the story as I write it.

My first published novels, THE SUMMER COUNTRY and THE WINTER OAK, began with a scared woman walking through a winter storm at midnight.  I had to find out who Maureen was, why she was scared, what she would do about it, the same way you find out things about a “real” person you’ve just met.  As I wrote her story, I watched how she reacted to the world, what she did when things happened.  She turned into a person rather than a character after the first twenty or thirty thousand words, and from there on, she told me what happened next.

POWERS began with another abstract character dealing with a problem, Albert Johansson faced with a demon materializing on the other side of the kitchen table, and then I found out who Al was by writing him reacting to and solving that problem.

He was a man faced with a demon, a man with certain skills and failings.  He had to be a loner by the setting, meaning he had to have a reason to live quietly alone, a reason readers could respect.  He wasn’t antisocial, he didn’t have psychological or physical problems with social interaction, so the reason developed into the problems of a man who doesn’t die and how that kind of man would fit into modern life.  He can’t form relationships, he can’t stay in any place too long, he can’t be any kind of public person, because humans age and die.  He doesn’t.  And people notice things like that.  Modern governments notice things like that.

Al asks, verbatim in that first chapter, “Why me?”  The demon has to answer that, which means I had to answer it before I could write it.  It isn’t the problem that the demon poses, it’s the question behind that and the one still deeper down.  Al turns out to be unique, not just a supremely talented smith with senses that go beyond human sight and smell and hearing.

Then, solving that problem, I had to have him collide with an antagonist, since stories require tension.  The demon seemed too abstract, an outside force with powers and motives neither Al nor I could really understand.  But an arson detective, another person with motives and shortcomings and secrets of her own — there I have another character I could respect.  So Mel entered the story, Melissa el Hajj, and just by naming her and describing her through Al’s eyes, she has a background.  She has a story of her own, and it goes way back because of the things she saw and figured out about Al that no normal human would see or understand.  “Antagonist” doesn’t have to mean “villain” or “enemy”, so I started with Mel . . . ambivalent.  Al tweaks her curiosity, the first new thing that has crossed her path in several hundred years.  Al fears her, and I had to give him reason for that fear.  He sees her as deadly and enigmatic, as swift and merciless as the killer mountain winds, as vengeful and long-memoried as the Asian hill-tribes of her people.

Somewhere in all this they turned into gods — very minor gods you’ve never heard of — but I’ve tried to keep them people rather than heroes.  They have powers, minor powers in narrow areas.  They have strengths and weaknesses and blind spots.  They have obligations, things they cannot or will not do because of who they are.  They can be hurt, hurt in ways that make death look like the easy way out.

Traditional heroes are ideals.  If heroes have weaknesses, those become mythic in themselves, like Achilles’ heel.  Heroes don’t have second thoughts and sobbing nightmares over past mistakes, like Mel.  Heroes aren’t afraid all the time, like Maureen in THE SUMMER COUNTRY.  Al’s only heroic attribute is that he never quits.  Real-life heroes turn out to be complex people when you get to know them.  I try to bring that to my stories.

(Note: THE SUMMER COUNTRY is currently just $.99 for Nook and Kindle, if you want to give his work a try!)