Posts Tagged ‘the summer country’

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!)

Just back from the Romance Writers of America annual conference.  What a wonderful time!  Incredible weather, even more incredible people.  I hope to get my pics in order and to blog the conference tomorrow, but for today, I wanted to mention some great new releases for the past and present week.

TIGER BOUND by Doranna Durgin (Harlequin Nocturne, July 24)

“…characters readers will love” – Romantic Times, 4 Stars

“…creative ideas, ground-breaking characters and emotionally charged conflicts.” —Amelia Richards, Cataromance 4 Stars

Cover Copy: Like the Siberian tiger he can transform into, Maks Altán is a strong, ferocious fighter who’s incredibly protective of his Sentinel kin. But thanks to a debilitating injury, he feels anything but fierce. That is, until he is sent to guard Katie Maddox, a gorgeous healer who awakens a dangerous lust within him. Problem is, in the shifter world, Katie’s deer alter ego is easy prey…and much too tempting for Maks.

As unnamed danger lurks just beyond her awareness, Katie has doubts—about her abilities, her role in the Sentinels and the strange desire she feels toward her new protector. But somehow, the wounded predator and his wary prey must ignore their instincts, their fears and their dangerous attraction to each other in order to defeat their common enemy!

THE REUNION MISSION by Beth Cornelison (Silhouette Romantic Suspense, July 24)

This is a fabulous chance to read two books by award-winning author Beth Cornelison for the price of one.  This volume collects two Black Ops romances: THE REUNION MISSION and TALL DARK DEFENDER into one volume!

(Read an excerpt)

ALL SEEING EYE by Rob Thurman (Pocket Books, July 31)

“Visual and engrossing—keeps you rapidly turning the pages.” —Heather Graham, New York Times bestselling author of Ghost Moon

“Multitalented Thurman is moving in a new direction by offering up a supernatural thriller that features a cynical psychic. Life has not been kind to Jackson Lee, which has resulted in a hero who doesn’t merely put up walls around his emotions — Jack opts for virtual electric fences. Thurman specializes in damaged characters with a strong sense of family. Creepy and chilling, this is a ghost story with a killing edge.” —Romantic Times Book Reviews

This is a fast paced story that sucks you in and pulls you along until the best plot twist ever sucker-punches you in the gut. And then it’s over, leaving you wanting more. It’s an easy read, but not a simple one; it’s definitely got its dark and disturbing moments. There’s action, sarcasm, murder and a touch — just a touch, mind you — of affection. I loved it so much that when I finished reading it, I turned it over and started again. That’s the highest praise I can give a book.” -Bookshelf Bombshells

Cover Copy: The New York Times bestselling author of the Cal Leandros series delivers a bold new supernatural thriller where one man’s extraordinary abilities come with an equally phenomenal cost.

Picking up a small, pink shoe from the grass forever changed young Jackson Lee’s life. Not only did its presence mean that his sister Tessa was dead—murdered and stuffed in the deep, black water of a narrow well—but the shoe itself told him so. Tessa’s death triggers an even more horrific family massacre that, combined with this new talent he neither wants nor can handle, throws Jack’s life into a tailspin. The years quickly take him from state homes to the streets to grifting in a seedy carnival, until he finally becomes the cynical All Seeing Eye, psychic-for-hire. At last, Jackson has left his troubled past behind and found a semblance of peace.

That is, until the government blackmails him. After Jackson is forced to help the military contain the aftermath of a bizarre experiment gone violently wrong, everything he knows about himself will change just as suddenly as it did with his little sister’s shoe.

And while change is constant . . . it’s never for the better.

I’m so pleased to announce that James A. Hetley’s classic and critically acclaimed Celtic fantasies are now in digital!  You’ll really want to check out these two novels in his Wildwood series.

THE SUMMER COUNTRY by James A. Hetley (TKA Distribution)

“You don’t find many books like this, never mind first novels. Hetley’s The Summer Country is like an old Irish whiskey — dark and smoky, abounding in flavour and detail… The Summer Country is all the things a good novel should be: a tightly-written, resonant…story rich with flawed characters, dark visions, and quiet joys, with the whisper of true mystery, lying there in wait at the very heart of it all.” —Charles de Lint

“As Mo might put it, compared to standard pseudo-Celtic fare, The Summer Country kicks butt.  And architect/former karate instructor/Vietnam vet Hetley might create as much stir in the field as fellow Maine-man Stephen King when he first came upon the scene.” —Locus

“Beautiful, dark, and gritty, this first novel is a real winner.”  —Booklist

Cover Copy: Maureen Pierce works the night shift in a convenience store, carries a .38 Smith & Wesson in her pocket, and talks to trees. She knows enough clinical psychology to think that when the trees answer, it proves she’s crazy. She can live with that.

She manages to get by in a world where she doesn’t really fit, until the truth reaches out to touch her as she slogs home through the slushy midnight sidewalks of a February sleet storm. That truth offers a seductive promise of warmth and sun, green growing things and trees that really do answer when she talks to them. It tells her that she isn’t truly human.

Now her blood heritage drags her from Maine into ancient myth three steps away from the modern world, with all the claws and teeth and cruelty intact. Camelot is dead. Arthur is dead. Law is dead. Power rules the Summer Country of Celtic myth, behind the Old Blood faces of beast-master Dougal, dark witch Fiona, and her cunning, treacherous twin brother Sean. Their plots entangle and threaten Maureen’s sister Jo, Jo’s human lover David, and Brian Albion — the enigmatic Old Blood knight of the warrior Pendragons, who Maureen trusts about as far as she can throw him.

Maureen can become either a slave or a mighty witch, but her own dark past may be her worst enemy.

THE WINTER OAK by James A. Hetley (TKA Distribution)

“Full of rich prose, this sequel to the critically acclaimed THE SUMMER COUNTRY confirms that Hetley has created that rarest of gems: a Celtic fantasy worth reading. . . . Fans of ‘realistic fantasy’ authors like Charles de Lint and George R. R. Martin will particularly enjoy sinking their teeth into this gritty and entertaining story.”  —Publishers Weekly

“Hetley’s seamless blending of ‘real’ and mythical realities is pure magic, every bit as enchanting here as in The Summer Country.” —Booklist

“You’ll want to read THE SUMMER COUNTRY first before you dive into THE WINTER OAK as this is that rarity of sequels, one that perfectly builds off the previous novel.  James Hetley can be very proud of the story he has created – it’s that good!” —Green Man Reviews

“Readers tired of stereotypical fantasy fairylands will find this sequel to THE SUMMER COUNTRY rather refreshing.  This enchanted land is as dark and gritty as any urban landscape, which should appeal to fans of Tanya Huff and Laurell K. Hamilton.” —Romantic Times

“Fans of urban fantasy in the style of Charles de Lint and Tanya Huff should enjoy this well-written sequel to The Summer Country.” —Library Journal

Cover Copy: “Happily ever after” doesn’t always work, even in fairy tales. Maureen Pierce has won her castle, her man, and her powers, after terrible suffering in THE SUMMER COUNTRY. She has won a host of fierce enemies as well — among them, the powerful dark witch Fiona and the deadly black dragon Khe’sha, who plot vengeance. Many of the Old Blood fear the change that she brings to the Summer Country of Celtic myth, and the warrior Pendragons believe that her lover, Brian Albion, has betrayed their secrets.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Maureen hates her castle for the pain she suffered there. She fears her new-found powers. The ghosts of old trauma still haunt her and those close to her — Brian, her sister Jo, and Jo’s lover, the human bard David.

Against that, Maureen has the love of the Wildwood, the tangled, dangerous, above all magical forest surrounding the castle she won. She and those with her have honor — a strange and rare and powerful concept in the Summer Country.

Holding her place turns out to be as hard as winning it, and she’s going to need help.

Sometimes, that can come from where it’s least expected.