Posts Tagged ‘james a. burton’

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!)

Posting tomorrow’s book birthdays today!  (In reverse order from my last week’s “yay, they’re coming!” sort of post.)

BAD BLOOD by Lucienne Diver (Samhain), Latter-Day Olympians, Book 1

Tori Karacis’s family line may trace back to a drunken liaison between the god Pan and one of the immortal gorgons. Or…maybe it’s just coincidence that her glance can, literally, stop men in their tracks. While her fear of heights kept her out of the family aerobatic troupe, her extreme nosiness fits right in with her uncle’s P.I. business.

Except he’s disappeared on an Odyssean journey to find himself. Muddling through on her own, she’s reduced to hunting (not stalking, because that would just be weird) brass-bra’d Hollywood agent Circe Holland to deliver a message…only to witness her murder by what looks like the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Suddenly, all of her family’s tall tales seem believable, especially when Apollo—the Apollo, who’s now hiding out among humans as an adult film star—appears in her office, looking to hire her. She knows the drill: canoodling with gods never works out well for humans, but she’s irresistibly drawn to him. Maybe it’s her genes. Maybe not.

Given her conflicted feelings for one hot and hardened cop, it’s a toss-up which will kill her quickest. The danger at her door…or her love life.

THE KILLING MOON by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit), Book 1 of the Dreamblood Duology

The city burned beneath the Dreaming Moon.

In the ancient city-state of Gujaareh, peace is the only law. Upon its rooftops and amongst the shadows of its cobbled streets wait the Gatherers – the keepers of this peace. Priests of the dream-goddess, their duty is to harvest the magic of the sleeping mind and use it to heal, soothe . . . and kill those judged corrupt.

But when a conspiracy blooms within Gujaareh’s great temple, Ehiru – the most famous of the city’s Gatherers – must question everything he knows. Someone, or something, is murdering dreamers in the goddess’ name, stalking its prey both in Gujaareh’s alleys and the realm of dreams. Ehiru must now protect the woman he was sent to kill – or watch the city be devoured by war and forbidden magic.

THE IMPOSSIBLE CUBE by Steven Harper (ROC Books), Book 2 of The Clockwork Empire

In an age where fantastic inventions of steam and brass have elevated Britain and China into mighty empires, Alice Michaels faces a future of technological terrors…

Once, Gavin Ennock sailed the skies on airships and enchanted listeners with his fiddle music. Now, the clockwork plague consumes his intellect, enabling him to conceive and construct scientific wonders—while driving him quite mad. Distressed by her beloved’s unfortunate condition, Alice Michaels sought a cure rumored to be inside the Doomsday Vault—and brought the wrath of the British Empire down on them.

Declared enemies of the Crown, Alice and Gavin have little choice but to flee to China in search of a cure. Accompanying them is Dr. Clef, a mad genius driven to find the greatest and most destructive force the world has ever seen: The Impossible Cube. If Dr. Clef gets his hands on it, the entire universe will face extinction.

And Gavin holds the key to its recreation…

THE ROPE DANCER by Roberta Gellis (Sourcebooks Casablanca)

She Bewitches With Her Dance…

Carys’s livelihood depends on her agility, beauty, and balance. She enchants crowds with her exhilarating rope dance, but one wrong move leads to disaster—a twisted ankle and no way to survive. Alone and unprotected in war–torn England, she has no one to trust but a handsome stranger—a man most unlikely to give up his wandering ways.

He Enchants With His Song…

Telor is a man skilled with his hands. A gifted musician who rejects city life to travel the country on his own terms—free of any master. Taking on an injured girl will only slow him down. But Carys’s bold nature and haunted past intrigue him, and he soon discovers that beneath the beautiful exterior is a woman with a passion to rival his own.

With over eight million books in print, award–winning author Roberta Gellis sets the standard for captivating medieval romance filled with passion and pageantry.

BLACK DAWN by Rachel Caine (Berkley JAM), Book 12 of The Morganville Vampires

With its eclectic mix of vampire and human citizens, Morganville, Texas, has always been a risky place to call home. But with the invasion of the vampire’s deadliest enemy, Morganville isn’t just in danger—it’s dying…

Ever since the draug—mysterious creatures that prey on vampires—took over Morganville, the lives of student Claire Danvers and her friends have been thrown into turmoil. Most of the town’s residents have evacuated, but Claire, Shane, Eve and Michael have chosen to stay and fight.

Using the city’s water system to spread, the draug have rapidly multiplied. Things in Morganville look grim, especially since vampire Amelie—the town founder—has been infected by the master draug’s bite.

Now, if Claire and her friends don’t figure out how to cure Amelie and defeat the draug, it looks like Morganville will become little more than a ghost town…

POWERS by James A. Burton (Prime Books)

Albert Johannson lives off the grid. He’s forgotten more than he remembers about his past, but those snippets he’s retained tell him two things: he’s lived a long, looong time and he doesn’t trust anyone, particularly gods. He’s not any too fond of demons either, particularly the one that materializes in his kitchen wanting to hire him for a special mission. It’s as deadly to cross a demon as to deal with him, so Albert reluctantly agrees to investigate, putting him in the path of a prickly arson detective named Melissa el Hajj with trust issues of her own. Clashing at a crime scene, they uncover a broken seal that seems ancient enough to have been forged by Solomon himself. The seal cries out to Albert that he must mend it or something dark and dire will happen. Albert, who has a special affinity for metal, must first discover exactly what that will do to his kind – and he’s only just beginning to understand who and what he really is.

(Check out the interview with James A. Burton on!)

“Happy Birthday to me, I’m a hundred and three….”  Oh wait, no, no I’m not.  Just feels like that sometimes!  Anyway, I’m taking part of the day to do fun things, like have lunch with the fab Kira Sinclair over in glamorous St. Pete Beach, but before I go, I wanted to leave you with the thought of some really fun books releasing any day now!  (May 1st to be exact.)  I’ve provided some tweetable snippets below, in case anyone out there wants to help spread the word or go forth and pre-order!

POWERS by James A. Burton (Prime Books)

Out 5/1! POWERS by James A. Burton: not your usual hero & heroine, secrets as deadly to remember as forget

BLACK DAWN by Rachel Caine (Berkley JAM)

A town run by vampires invaded by the one thing even they’re afraid of…how wld U fare? Black Dawn by @rachelcaine

THE ROPE DANCER by Roberta Gellis (Sourcebooks Casablanca)

Beautiful dancer, traveling man, a haunted past & a war-torn country…the makings of epic romance from Roberta Gellis:

THE IMPOSSIBLE CUBE by Steven Harper (ROC Books)

Ragtag teams flees England w/a cure for the Clockwork Plague that will upset empires: The Impossible Cube

THE KILLING MOON by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)

LJ says THE KILLING MOON by @nkjemisin “shines for its remarkable characters and graceful prose”! See 4 yourself 5/1!

BAD BLOOD by Lucienne Diver (Samhain)

Gods & gorgons, murder & myth: BAD BLOOD by Lucienne Diver is out 5/1!