Thursday, March 28, 2013

Dakota Interviews her Series Character

Giveaway! See-Through Calculator - 5 chances to win!
Thanks to the five winners for their comments:
CrystalGB, Eva, Unknown, llamannerdymama,
and Melissa!

Dakota Banks here. I've finally gotten Maliha Crayne, heroine of The Mortal Path, sitting across from me in a corner booth at Kelly's Pub in Chicago. It's mid-afternoon and we're the only customers.

Over a beer, she relaxes completely and I'm the one who's nervous. I wonder how many weapons are hidden in her worn black jeans and under the baggy T-shirt that says Bite Me. Her thick hair is woven into a braid down the back of her neck, and her alert green eyes show warmth and attention, but she's not missing a thing that goes on in the rest of the pub.

I set out my voice recorder and she frowns at it momentarily, as if I'd tossed a grenade between us.

Dakota Banks: Welcome, Maliha. You're a tough woman to track down, and it's good to finally meet you. Would you like a burger or something?

Maliha Crayne: No thanks. This week I'm not eating.

DB: Uh...

MC: That was a joke. Your name's Dakota, right? I like that.

DB: Thanks. I love your name, too. I'm glad you agreed to this grilling.

MC: Could we avoid the word grilling? I have this thing about fire.

DB: Sure. Tell me a little about yourself.

MC: The first thing is that I'm over three hundred years old. I was burned as a witch during the Salem witch trials. Usually witches were hanged, but I rated special treatment. Another woman wanted my husband, and.... Let's not get into that. A demon left over from the Sumerian period grabbed me and gave me a choice: go back and finish roasting or become his immortal assassin. At the time, immortality sounded good. I was also granted superhuman speed and healing abilities, and I could read auras, although I don't think that was totally a gift from the demon. All I had to do to stay young and enjoy life was kill people whenever the demon gave me assignments. Sometimes the target was an individual, sometimes it was starting a teensy war.

DB: So you've killed a lot of people. I'm okay sitting here, right? And I don't suppose you can tell me any details about who got axed?

MC: Just don't ask the secret question that drives me crazy. Relax! You're okay. Lucky guess on the axe. That was when I was the Black Ghost. Then I just decided I couldn't kill anymore. It's complicated, but the demon gave me an assignment I couldn't carry out. Put me totally off being an assassin.

DB: You just turned your back on the demon and that was it?

MC: It doesn't work that way. I have to save as many lives as I took when I was the Black Ghost. I have this carving of scales I have to balance. Wanna see?

DB: Uh... Note: Maliha yanks up T-shirt. She's not wearing anything underneath.

MC: If I just stroke here for a minute ... There! Do you see it?

DB: Readers, for the record, this wasn't my idea.

MC: See it?

 DB: Just ... barely. It's like the scales of justice, with two pans that are out of balance.

MC: That was carved on me by the demon's claw. Bet you've never seen anything like that before.

DB: For the record, I haven't. Is this one of those situations where now that you've told me, you have to kill me?

MC: Are you always this murder-minded?

DB: No. Something about talking to you just brings it out of me. Now you're doing good things instead of bad?

MC: Kind of a simplistic way of putting it, but if I want my soul back, that about covers it.

DB: Do you have a significant other?

MC: You first.

DB: Me? I'm married and very much in love.

MC: Things aren't that straightforward for me. It's hard to find a soulmate when a demon owns your soul. But I'm working on it.

DB: Tell me something no one else knows about you.

MC: I like bowling.

DB: That sounds a little tame for you.

MC: Depends on what the winner gets, doesn't it?

DB: I can't stand it anymore. Show me one of your weapons.

MC: How about this one?

DB: Note: A short black knife appears from nowhere and Maliha stabs it into the table between the fingers of my hand. That'll do. Just checking, in case all that talk was hype. You can put that knife away now.

MC: No hype. It could just as easily have gone into your throat. Ask me about my last interview.  It didn't go very well.

DB: Uh, no thanks. Wrapping up, readers. Thank you, Maliha, for this glimpse into your life. I'll be leaving now. Right now.

End of Interview

Whew! That Maliha is intense. I wish she'd let me take her picture, but all she did was give me a handout photo. Usually people give the interviewer a head shot, but in this case ... "I've got your back!" indeed. I guess that's semi-comforting.

Now for the giveaway. Here is a picture of a transparent calculator I've used as a promo item. It really is completely clear, see-through. Leave a comment below and I'll randomly select FIVE WINNERS to receive a calculator! That's 5 chances to win. :-) Please make sure I have a way to contact you to let you know you're a winner.

The last day to enter is Tuesday, April 2nd.

I'll be back April 28th. See you then.

Monday, March 25, 2013

More Vamps Going Wild!!

Congratulations to Janice of California for winning the signed copy of The Undead Next Door. Thank you all for the comments!  Please come back April 25th for the next contest!

Some of you have already enjoyed Vampires Gone Wild as an e-book. But for those of you who like to touch and feel your vamps (on paper!), you're in luck!  The print version of Vampires Gone Wild goes on sale Tuesday, March 26th!

Four novellas comprise the anthology, Vampires Gone Wild, and other contributing authors include my fellow Supernatural Undergrounders Pamela Palmer, Amanda Arista, and Kim Falconer. My contribution to the book is a novella titled, 'V is for VampWoman.' It stars prim and proper Regency vampiress, Lady Pamela Smythe-Worthing, as she dons spandex and a masked cape to fight the forces of evil as VampWoman! She doesn’t think anyone will be able to see past her clever disguise, but of course, the hero does.  He’s that mysterious Russian vampire, Mikhail!

As part of the Avon Impulse line, Vampires Gone Wild will not appear in bookstores. You'll need to order the print copy online or ask your favorite bookseller to order it for you. The ISBN for the print edition is: 9780062264985. If you would like me to sign a print copy for you, please contact Katy Budget Books. They have ordered a bunch of print books, and I'll be dropping by their store to sign them. If you would like me to personalize a book to you, just let them know!
Katy Budget Books
2450 Fry Rd
Houston, TX 77084

And now for today's contest! Which book shall I give away? Eenie, meenie, mynie, moe-- I'll just grab one from the bookcase without looking's The Undead Next Door!  Ah yes, sexy Jean-Luc Echarpe. There he is, outside your door, waiting for permission to enter. Would you like him to spend the night with you?  He would like Crepe Suzette, without the crepe. Just leave a comment below to enter, and one lucky winner will be chosen at random. International entries welcome.
As Jean-Luc would say-- Bonne chance!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The beauty of short stories

I love short stories.
I love how they capture the essence of an idea, a moment, and transfer it to the reader in such rich, wonderful language that you’re transfixed.
I don’t think there’s a genre that does short story better than ours. Fantasy, science fiction, horror – they all lend themselves beautifully to the shorter form.
I write short fiction – not as well or as easily as the novels, I will admit. For me, short fiction is a really challenge. It’s where I get to test my writing chops. Can I make a story compelling, engaging, complete, when I don’t have tens of thousands of words to make it so?
I love editing short story as well. It’s great to get hold of a story, see the possibilities there and then work with the author on seeing them too and bringing them to life.
That was what I loved most about In Fabula-divino – my short-lived publishing/mentoring project. And the great thing about working with other people’s stories is that it taught me a lot about my own.
The anthology has a really wide range of stories. The very first one I bought was from Australian Holly Kench: a comic zombie romp called ‘The Secret Life of a Zombie Fan’. The last story I bought was from a 17-year-old high school student, Lily Ariser, who took a new look at fairytale in her story ‘A New Ever After’.
In between that is a traditional sword and sorcery; several stories about death; a re-telling of Snow White and one of the most haunting stories I’ve ever read.
Even though it’s speculative fiction, ‘eclectic’ is the word to describe this anthology.
Working on this anthology reminded me that no matter what level you’re engaging in a story at – reader, writer, editor – that emotional attachment has to be there! Life is too short to read/write/edit stories that don’t capture your heart.
And what captures one person’s heart may not capture another’s. You could well read this anthology and think to yourself ‘meh, whatever’ when you read SG Larner’s Regret, whereas I sat there with a little tear in my eye, entrapped by its beauty.
That’s the real joy of this, isn’t it? That each one of us can find beauty in such a different place. That uniqueness is mesmerising.
I hope that In Fabula-divino is an anthology that provides such a range and depth that EVERYONE can find something to love within its pages.

Leave a comment below and two people will win a signed copy of In Fabula-divino.

In Fabula-divino – electronic on sale only, paperback to come.
Available at Smashwords and Amazon

Saturday, March 16, 2013

16 Things About a Kiss - Giveaway!

Kiss Me So
Hi Everyone! With Vampires Gone Wild about to come out in paperback (March 26th) I'm giving away copies!

*I've LOVED all your comments! Drawn from the hat winners are:

Impish Scribe
Oliver Marcro

Please email me (enchantmentATkimfalconerDOTcom) your postal address and a copy of Vampires Gone Wild will be one its way March 26th - the release date!

Thank you! *

If you are brave enough to tell your best, wildest, scariest, loveliest or sexiest kiss in the comments, your name goes in the hat!

Can't wait to see what you've all gotten up to! Don't be shy!

Meanwhile, here some interesting facts about 'the kiss.'

(Note: because my contribution to Vampires Gone Wild. Blood and Water, begins and ends beneath the sea, all images are underwater, in keeping with the mood.)

1. The word origins of 'kiss' stem from the proto-Germanic kuss, possibly an onomatopoeia for the act of kissing.

2. The lips are the most sensitive part of the body, feeling 100 times better than the fingertips.

Underwater Kiss from The Well
3. The longest kiss ever recorded is 31 hours, 30 minutes, 30 second. (Really!)

4. The study of kissing is called philematology.

5.  To French kiss, you use 34 facial muscles. A pucker kiss involves two.

6.  Passionate kissing burns 6.4 calories a minute.

7. It is possible for a woman to reach an orgasm through kissing. (Really?)

8. The Kama Sutra lists over 30 types of kisses.

9. Scholars are unsure if kissing is a learned or instinctual behavior. In some cultures in Africa and Asia, kissing does not seem to be practiced. (My opinion is that with men, it's definitely learned, and women have to teach them!)

25 Atemberaubende Unterwasserbilder

10. Kissing at the conclusion of a wedding ceremony can be traced to ancient Roman tradition where a kiss was used to sign contract.

11. Under the Hays Code (between 1930-1968), Hollywood had its limits. People kissing on the silver screen could not be horizontal; at least one had to be sitting or standing, not lying down. In addition, all on-screen married couples slept in twin beds...and if kissing on one of the beds occurred, at least one of the spouses had to have a foot on the floor. (my how times have changed!)

12. The kiss between Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant in the 1946 film Notorious is one of the sexiest kisses in cinematic history. Because the Hays Code allowed on-screen kisses to last only a few seconds, Alfred Hitchcock directed Bergman and Grant to repeatedly kiss briefly while Grant was answering a telephone call. The kiss seems to go on and on but was never longer than a few seconds.

13. More than 95% of men and women occasionally like to rub noses while kissing. (The correct phrase for this would be 'Inuit kiss.')

Underwater Bridal Photography
14. The film with the most kisses is Don Juan (1926) in which John Barrymore and Mary Astor share 127 kisses. The film with the longest kiss is Andy Warhol’s 1963 film Kiss. The 1961 film Splendor in the Grass, with Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty, made history for containing Hollywood’s first French kiss.

15. The Four Vedic Sanskrit texts (1500 B.C.) contain the first mention of a kiss in writing.

16. The term “French kiss” is a 1920's reflection of the French culture which was thought to be quite sexy. In France, it’s called soul kiss because if done right, it feels as if two souls are merging. In fact, several ancient cultures thought that mouth-to-mouth kissing mingled two lovers’ souls. (That's my favorite!)

Kim Falconer is a Supernatural Underground author writing paranormal romance, urban fantasy, YA and epic science fantasy novels.

You can find out more about Kim at or on The 11th House Blog. She posts here at the SuperntrlUnderg on the 16th of every month. Her latest release is Supernatural Underground: Vampires Gone Wild.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Confused About What Genre You're Writing?

“What genre is this book?”

This is a question that authors ask themselves frequently while writing. Agents ask it when considering representation. Editors ask it when acquiring. Marketing departments ask it while trying to promote the book. Bookstore staff members ask it when trying to categorize the book and when speaking to customers. Readers ask it before buying the book and when telling their friends about the book.


The problem is, when you’re writing speculative fiction, all the boundaries seem to blur until you feel like you’re cross-eyed. To give you a brief example, when I wrote my first novel, Afterlife, I saw it as science fiction. When my editor acquired it, however, she asked for a few changes -- not many -- and the book was then marketed as an urban fantasy. To me, that book will always be sci-fi. But to many readers, it’s urban fantasy.

My current novel, Fathom, probably falls into the category of paranormal romance. But to me, it’s fantasy. I never saw the paranormal romance elements when I was writing the book. They’re probably there, but to me it was like a math equation:

Overarching coming of age theme + legendary creatures + mythological elements = FANTASY.

But then, I’m just the writer. Writers don’t usually get to decide what category their novels fall into. They just write the best book they can and try not to worry about things like markets or categories or the dreaded Latest Hot Topic.

So, just for fun, I put together a little Cheat Sheet for helping to define what category the book you’re currently reading might fall into. Now, these are just suggestions, not hard, fast rules. Here goes...


FANTASY: May take place in another world and often contains magic or supernatural elements. Does not contain scientific themes (otherwise, it would be science fiction.) Usually has a battle of good versus evil. May or may not have romance.
Books: The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones.

HORROR: Can contains supernatural themes; meant to scare, startle or terrify. Sometimes rooted in folklore. May have vampires, werewolves, etc. Also may have a gothic tone. Sometimes written very beautifully, despite horrific subject matter.
Books: The Shining, Dracula, The Haunting.

PARANORMAL ROMANCE: May blend elements of science fiction, fantasy and horror. Takes place in our world, but often has otherworldly creatures, like vampires, ghosts, shape shifters, etc. A sub-category of fantasy and/or a sub-category of romance that contains experiences outside the normal or supernatural aspects.
Books: Highlander, Twilight, The Vampire Diaries.

URBAN FANTASY: Usually has a contemporary urban setting -- although the urban setting can be in another time period. Set in our world, which is often populated by otherworldly creatures or immortals. May or may not have romance. Is usually written in first person, and is often graphic, gritty and/or noir in tone. Considered a sub-genre of fantasy.
Books: Small Favor, Moon Called, Dead Until Dark.

FANTASY: The creature lives in another world and is beautiful.
HORROR: The creature is scary and wants to kill you.
PARANORMAL ROMANCE: The creature is a little scary, but wants to kiss you.
URBAN FANTASY: The creature is horrid, and you need to hunt/kill/destroy it.

FANTASY: Creature—yay!
HORROR: Creature—boo!
PARANORMAL ROMANCE: Creature—smooch!
URBAN FANTASY: Creature—thwack!

Have you ever read a book that crossed genres? If so, which book was it? And what is your favorite genre to read?


Merrie Destefano left a 9-to-5 desk job as a magazine editor to become a full-time novelist and freelance editor. She has two speculative fiction novels with HarperVoyager: Afterlife: The Resurrection Chronicles and Feast: Harvest of Dreams, and her most recent novel, Fathom, is a YA paranormal romance. A regular contributor to the Supernatural Underground, her favorite hobbies include reading scifi and fantasy, attending Comic Con, watching The Walking Dead, and preparing for the zombie apocalypse. For more information, visit her website at

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Snow Bound

It is once again the seventh of the month, which makes it my day to ramble about writing, books, and the general joys of author-dom.  Since I don't have another book coming out until May 7 (which leaves me plenty of time to talk about the awesomeness of the Asylum Tales), I think I will just talk about something more personal to me: snow. 

Has everyone had enough snow this year?

I think I'm getting there.  No, actually, I'm there.  I've had enough snow to last me until next winter.  I have seen so much snow this winter that I've forgotten what grass looks like.  No, really, I have. 

I was born and raised in Northern Kentucky, just across the river from Cincinnati.  I lived there almost my entire life.  Snow was something that arrived in an inch or two, and then melted the next day.  And then, my husband and I went on an adventure.  I got a new day job and we moved NORTH. *burr*  *shiver* 

Yes, we are now living in Madison, Wisconsin.  We moved at the very end of August, so we did get to enjoy a few snow-less months in Wisconsin.  What we've seen of the area is very pretty and the people seem to be quite nice.  However, since the snow hit, we haven't gone exploring much.  Neither of us are skiers or snowboarders.  Neither of us like cold. So for most of the winter, we've huddled in our new place and watched movies, played video games, and marveled as the inches of snow accumulated at a startling rate.

There is someone in our family who ADORES the snow.  That would be our puppy Max.  He's going to be 2 years old this spring and we believe that he is a hound/Labrador mix.  For Max, the deeper the snow, the better.  Potty breaks become his opportunity to go charging through the snow like a lunatic.  He has yet to pull me onto my face in the snow, but he keeps trying.  He jumps through it, lays in it, and bites at it when you throw it at him.  I'm beginning to think that he's hoping that the snow stays all year round.  The only drawback to the snow is that he has seen less of the other dogs that live nearby, so he's had less time to play and socialize.  I'm looking forward to finally taking him to some dog parks when the weather finally turns warm.

In the meantime, when I'm not working on a new book or stalking bad guys in Assassin's Creed III, I have taken up crocheting.  I think it's my attempt to keep warm and keep my hands busy.  The picture to the left is of the afghan that I am currently working on.  I don't think it looks too bad for my first attempt.  At the rate I'm going, I should be done in a couple months.  You know, when the snow finally melts here.

If it's still cold where you are, snuggle up with a nice blanket or someone warm while you read a new book.  If your e-reader is getting a bit low, you can always try my new Asylum Tales series.  I've got a few e-novellas that are just a couple of bucks (Kindle, Nook, Kobo).  Or I noticed that Vicki Pettersson's entire Zodiac series is still priced only $0.99 per book.  (Kindle, Nook, Kobo) Happy reading!

Friday, March 1, 2013

High Romantic Fantasy & "The Gathering Of The Lost"

UK cover
Last week, February 21, saw the mass market release of The Gathering Of The Lost, Book Two of The Wall Of Night series, in the UK.

I've celebrated with a couple of posts on the Orbit blog: Use of Weapons--The Armory of Epic Fantasy and just yesterday, War and Power--Sources of Conflict In The Gathering Of The Lost.

None of which sounds very romantic, right? But blog post titles can be deceptive, and I feel that The Gathering Of The Lost (and Wall of Night series) is the style of epic that is also known as High Fantasy, or alternately High Romantic Fantasy.

Rightly, I believe, because the chivalric epic of the High Medieval period is a major influence on this style of storytelling: for example, the Morte D'Arthur and Sir Gawain and The Green Knight, as well as Le Roman de Perceval ou le Conte de Graal, Parsifal and Lohengrin.  

Both romance and love are an integral part of the High Fantasy tale, and I discussed the romance in The Gathering Of The Lost here last year.

But the High Romance lies in notions of quest and of chivalry, of tryst and tokens, of the trumpet blast at dawn, the banners of noon day, and the twilight of the gods--and the romance is as often unrequited, star-crossed, or doomed, as ending "happily ever after." This is the romance of Lancelot and Guinevere, Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady, of Tristan and Isolde...    

In short, the love of High Fantasy Romance may be bitter-sweet, but no less poignant for all of that. 

Today, to celebrate last week's UK release, I thought I'd feature three excerpts that I feel exemplify The Gathering Of The Lost's use of the High Romantic tradition, focusing on three of its heroines:

USA cover
Queen Zhineve-An of Jhaine

"Soon they could all see them, eight riders galloping out of the dust raised by the caravan behind them ... The horses seemed to float above the ground, their manes lifting on the wind of their speed; the riders’ hair, too, flowed out like banners. Sunlight flashed off the armor worn by seven of their number, while the central rider wore crimson beneath a pale mantle that curved against the sky ... The priestess-queen, Malian thought ... She wore no crown; needed none, in fact, although a narrow gold fillet circled her brow. A border of goldwork edged the pale mantle, and the broad, linked belt around the queen’s waist was also gold ... [her] eyes, the shadowed gray of dawn skies, were fixed on the Duke."

Kalan and Jarna

 "Kalan and Jarna had crossed to a booth selling midsummer fruit and Malian saw Jarna smile as Kalan hung long-stemmed cherries over her ears. They swung when the girl moved her head, glowing richer in the lanternlit dusk than any jewels worn by the great ladies of the Emerian court. Kalan leaned close, saying something, and Jarna ducked her head shyly, but she was still smiling. Malian, watching, was conscious of a pang that she had not felt before. ... She bit her lip as Jarna glanced up again, the young knight’s feelings written all over her face for anyone who happened to be looking."

Chivalry, the Midsummer Tourney, and Ghiselaine of Ormond

"A girl caught his eye and leaned over one of the hurdles that separated the spectators from the competitors, tossing a flower at his feet. He blinked, then picked it up as the girl ducked back, giggling. The bloom was of a kind that grew wild along every roadside and was already starting to wilt, but he worked it into the knot of ribbon around his arm—Ghiselaine’s colors, which reminded him to turn and raise his sword to her, where she sat at the Duke’s right hand.

The cavalcade rode close by them, the Duke lifting a hand in acknowledgment as he passed. Ghiselaine, too, raised a gloved hand and bowed from the saddle, fair and graceful as the lily of her guerdon. Alianor and Ilaise rode behind her, together with a mix of other guests... Both damosels waved, and once the last riders had passed a pair of heralds crossed from the shadow of the ducal stand, making for the list barrier. The gathered watchers fell back on either side to let the great gray horses through. ... 

“We have a commission,” the heralds said, drawing rein by the barrier and speaking in formal unison. “We are sent by Ghiselaine, Countess of Ormond, to salute all those who wore her colors today.”


"Powerful story lines, memorable characters and a vividly imagined world.” ~ Juliet Marillier 

“Helen Lowe writes wonderful stories. ... With lovely prose that brings vivid life to her characters, she creates a universe with people we care about. This is an author with a gift for fantasy.” ~ Nebula Award-winner, Catherine Asaro



So what do you think: are there other contemporary epics you feel fit the High Romantic Fantasy tag? And do you have a personal favorite? Let me know in the comments. :)