Molly Harper's latest paranormal romance, Better Homes and Hauntings, is the spooky, oftentimes hilarious tale of talented landscaper Nina Linden as she attempts to restore the dilapidated mansion of wealthy entrepreneur Deacon Whitney. But she keeps running into obstacles that keep her from finishing the job, not to mention exploring her feelings for Deacon. Namely: ghosts. In this guest post, Harper shares the inspiration behind the book and her thoughts on played-out horror tropes.
As a child, I watched a little too much Scooby Doo. I remember sitting in front of TV, practically twitching as the ending credits to Guiding Light rolled by, whining, “Is it coming on now, Mom?” Because that day was going to be the day: The day when Fred and Daphne failed to catch the spooky culprit—using Scooby and Shaggy as bait—and Velma would be forced to say, “Jinkies, gang, I guess this carnival really is haunted by the ghost of an evil Cotton Candy Clown.”
I was never happy when the phantom turned out to be a guy in a rubber mask. And their reasons for posing as phantoms never satisfied my curiosity. This turned out to be a lifelong problem. Whether it was a TV show, a campfire tale or a non-fiction paranormal-science book, it was rare to find a haunting explanation that left me feeling sufficiently frightened.
And frankly, I got a little judgmental about the actions of the Scooby Gang and the characters in the horror movies. Why did they always split up? Why did they go investigate spooky noises coming from the basement armed only with a flickering candle? Why did they ignore walls dripping blood and disembodied voices telling them to “GET OUT”?
So when I set out to write Better Homes and Hauntings, my first-ever ghost-based paranormal romance, I had three goals for the characters. I would devise the scariest, twisty-est ghost story possible. I would spare the characters the stereotypical, “let’s split up” moments. And no one would lose their glasses, ever.
Based on the mansions of Newport, Rhode Island, The Crane’s Nest of Better Homes and Hauntings is an enormous, stylish structure on a private island. However, it never quite made it as a family home since Gerald Whitney, the business tycoon that built it, murdered his unfaithful wife, Catherine, immediately after it was finished. Gerald died disgraced but unprosecuted, and rumors of a curse followed the family as their fortunes crumbled. Over the years, locals insisted Catherine’s spirit was still wandering the halls of the mansion, hiding from Gerald’s angry ghost and searching for her lost lover.
Tales of ghosts and curses persist until Deacon Whitney, the first successful Whitney in more than a century, sets about restoring the mansion to its former glory. A team of restorers, including comely landscape architect Nina Linden, plan to stay on the island for the summer to breathe life back into the Crane’s Nest, and the weird phenomena begin before Nina sets foot on the island. The characters are drawn into the mystery of Catherine’s death, but the spirits inhabiting the mansion are none too happy with their sleuthing.
As someone who has grown up with the horror movie tropes, it was a lot of fun to play with those themes and the characters’ awareness of them. I loved hiding clues in strange places around the house and letting the characters stumble into information. My “Mystery Gang” experience fear, ferret out the truth and find love – because this is a romance, and even though Fred and Daphne never got together, I’ll do what I want. And in the end, there is a real ghost and a twist, without a rubber mask in sight.
Better Homes and Hauntings is a childhood dream fulfilled and I hope the readers enjoy it.
Will you be picking up Molly Harper's latest romance?
Best-selling author Gena Showalter's Burning Dawn, the third installment in her wildly popular Angels of the Dark series—out today!—dishes up a sizzling tale that's sure to enthrall fans of paranormal romance.
Thane, a Sent One (an immortal winged warrior and demon slayer) has been enslaved by a Phoenix princess. After his escape is facilitated by Elin, who is half human and half Phoenix, sparks fly between the unlikely pair. But, of course, danger threatens to thwart their budding relationship. In this guest post, Showalter offers insight into her hero and heroine.
I’m often asked what inspires my stories. The answers are as different as the books themselves. I knew the hero of Burning Dawn before I sat down to draft the tale. He appears in two other Angels of the Dark books (Wicked Nights and Beauty Awakened) where readers are given a mere glimpse of his tragic history. He is an immortal warrior who has endured the worst kind of torture: mental torture. Imprisoned for years by demons, his agony was never physical. He resented that fact. Still does. The physical is what he wanted—his way to experience the pain his closest friends were dealt day after day, right before his eyes. He escaped what they did not. He continuously drowns in guilt. The desire for pain eats at him. So does the denial of it.
Once, his days were simple. He fought and killed demons. Rinse and repeat. He lived for it, had no other goals. He was happy. Or thought that he was.
It has always awed me, how quickly life can change. In one of my other books, I wrote this passage: “A blink, a breath, a second and everything I knew and loved was gone.” It’s a theme I’ve explored often, a theme I’ll continue to explore. To me, it’s a slice of real life. And it’s certainly true of Thane’s life at the very moment he meets Elin. He finds this more agonizing than anything else he’s ever endured. And it changes everything for him.
Elin is light in a very dark world.
Some people function better in the dark. Thane is one of them. In the light, all the creepy crawlers hidden inside his mind are revealed. He is forced to deal with harsh truths. About his past—his future. Love, hate. Who he has become. To Thane, Elin is just another form of mental torture—but as powerful as he is, he cannot find the strength to walk away from her.
Thane might be the most damaged character I’ve ever written. He thinks he wants a warrior woman, someone cold, who has a desire to give and receive pain. A mirror of himself, like calling to like. Elin is kind, witty, sexy, fun—and she wants nothing to do with pain.
How can two seeming opposites make a relationship work?
I adored writing this book. It was a joy to watch Thane and Elin fight their attraction to each other, to play, to argue, to learn about each other…and only crave more. Their connection sizzles. Their awareness constantly intensifies. Thane’s obsession with her grows. Her need for him magnifies. She teaches him to laugh. A miracle. He gives her what she’s never had: acceptance. I shiver every time I think of these two together. They have become my favorite couple—a true happily ever after. I hope you’ll give Burning Dawn a read and fall in love with Thane and Elin as deeply as I have.
Thanks, Gena! What do you think, readers? Will you be checking out Burning Dawn?
(Author photo by Kim Haynes Photos)
RITA Award-winning romance author Robin D. Owens has just launched a brand new paranormal series with Ghost Seer (out this week). In it, Denverite Clare Cermak inherits her recently departed great-aunt's ability to communicate with ghosts. When she encounters the restless spirit of an Old West gunslinger and Zach, a handsome (and very much alive) private investigator, things start to get interesting. In this guest blog post, Denver native Owens offers a behind-the-scenes peek at the inspiration behind the fun new series.
The creation of the Ghost Seer series began with a road trip. I was born and raised in Denver, but always dreamt of castles in Europe. Even though the history of the Old West was all around me, I took it for granted.
Two years ago, I wanted to come up with a new series concept, and my mother and a friend and I were driving to California. It's hard to ignore the landscape that shaped the people, or the history those people made—gold rushes, the Overland Stage, the Pony Express, mining towns and ranch wars and gunfighters—when you're traversing the Western United States mile by mile.
So with that landscape and the bits of history we read as we traveled, ideas turned in my mind of a contemporary paranormal series set in Denver. With ghosts. And a woman who wouldn't believe in them, a logical sort, an accountant—but she'd have to come to terms with her "gift" or go crazy or die.
So I thought of a psychic power that passes from family member to family member—the ability to see and communicate with ghosts—and Clare Cermak came into being. Clare had a weird great-aunt Sandra who recently died and left her a fortune, the psychic gift, and a ghost Labrador dog named Enzo to help her accept her new powers.
I am most well known for my telepathic animal companions in my books, and I sure like writing them, so writing Enzo helped me transition to the new series.
On the trip we discussed men, naturally, and I came up with Zach Slade, an edgy, wounded warrior type of hero. He's a former deputy sheriff from Montana who, along with his partner, made a mistake that got him shot and disabled. He, too, has to reshape his life. He's not too happy about giving up the public sector, or even interviewing at the Denver private investigation firm that his old boss recommended. But when he meets and flirts with Clare, he's intrigued by the shadows in her eyes that hint at a puzzle to be solved, and, of course, he's attracted.
As for the ghost, this guy was THE archetype for all the gunfighters of the Old West, a man Mark Twain (who never let the truth get in the way of a good story) made famous . . . at the time. Now, he and his story are barely known. He can't move on until he redeems himself for the worst act of his life. I really enjoyed visiting places my haunt had lived, taking pictures, soaking up the atmosphere.
Ghost Seer has romance: Clare with a paranormal gift, and Zach with a whiff of the paranormal, too. Enzo is there as mentor and comic relief, and there's a light suspense twist, along with historical fact as true as I could make it.
Throughout the series both Clare and Zach will grow, and face danger. For Ghost Layer (coming in September), I took a couple of facts that got juxtaposed in my mind—a millionaire who moved an entire ghost town to his ranch estate and a "romantic" ghost that appeared, skeleton and all, in ladies' beds after they died. My millionaire is having house parties, and the ghost is driving off his female guests as well as his staff. In this story, the apparition was murdered and wants Clare and Zach to find his killer before he can go on.
I am having a great time writing these and hope readers enjoy them, too. Thank you for this opportunity for me to gush about my new passion.
Thank you, Robin! What do you think, readers? Will you be checking out Ghost Seer?
If you are already familiar with Caridad Piñeiro’s The Sins series—we reviewed Sins of the Flesh in November 2009 and gave away a copy of Stronger Than Sin in November 2010—you'll be excited to learn that the author has a new paranormal series in the works.
Book one in the Sin Hunters series is available today, and Piñeiro joins us again on the blog to tell us about an unusual work habit—she watches movies and TV as she writes. Here, she explains why—and what—she watches.
Readers: Where do you take inspiration for your creative pursuits?
Movies that set the mood
by Caridad Piñeiro
When I set out to create the new Sin Hunters paranormal romance series, I wanted to do something very different from the vampires and demons populating so many stories in the genre. I also wanted the mythology to be thought-provoking to readers by creating a concept that would have them thinking about whether or not it was possible that a race like the Hunters could actually exist.
Adam Bruno, the hero in The Lost, is descended from the Light Hunters, one faction of a race of energy gatherers whose destiny was forever changed by the arrival of the Conquistadors in the Americas and the illnesses they brought to the indigenous people. Adam does not know of his origins nor does he truly understand the power at his fingertips—literally. You see Adam’s affinity is lightning, and he can control anything electrical because of that ability as well as a host of other powers.
It took time to build a mythology and history for the Hunters and The Lost. To do so, I took inspiration from various history books, as well as studies regarding the control and enhancement of life forces and energy. I was also inspired by trips along the Jersey Shore and the connection I felt to the ocean and nature.
Because I’m motivated by visual things, I take lots of photographs of the various locations in the books and I will almost always write with the television on while I am working. I’ll play movies and television shows that fit the mood of what I am writing.
Here are five of my favorites that I hope you will enjoy as well!
KING ARTHUR with Clive Owen and Keira Knightley. Honorable hero and a gang of friends who each bring something different to the mix at the round table. A kick-butt heroine in the form of a warrior Guinevere. Amazing action scenes with one of my favorite sword moves.
UNDERWORLD with Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman. Tortured kick-butt heroine, honorable hero and an ages-old battle of vampire versus werewolf. Futuristic-type action sequences and weapons ramp up a traditional vampire mythology.
TWO WEEKS NOTICE with Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant. What can I say: The sight of Hugh Grant flopping around on a mattress like a fish pulled out of water is classic. Humor. Even in the darkest paranormal there has to be that hint of humor that humanizes both hero and villain.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER television series with Sarah Michelle Gellar. Tortured, kick-butt heroine (are you noticing a theme?) and unexpected heroes in the form of Spike and Angel. The Scooby Gang of friends. More importantly, amazing metaphors, story arcs and word play that is as sharp as any punch that Buffy might throw.
A WALK IN THE CLOUDS with Keanu Reeves. Lush cinematography brings to life the California wine valleys and is so real you think you could step into the landscape. A sweet romance filled with amazing sexual tension and the conflict of both cultures and expectations.
[For more from Piñeiro, visit her blog. And pick up The Lost—on sale today!]
Kate Douglas writes the DemonSlayers series for Kensington Zebra, the latest installation of which is called StarFire. Below the author—also an avid traveler—answers the age-old question: Where do you get your ideas?
Readers: Where do you get your best ideas for creative projects? Let us know in the comments.
Where DO You Get Those Crazy Ideas?
Guest post by Kate Douglas
It happened to me again this weekend—someone asked me the question all of us who write often have to answer: “Where do you get your ideas?” Since I write both erotic and paranormal romance, I guess it’s understandable curiosity. Needless to say, I’d much rather discuss the ideas for my paranormal stories. I’ll leave the other to your imagination.
My husband and I love to travel. We’ll take off with Rufus the mutt in our little motorhome and head out with a somewhat nebulous destination in mind. The thing is, when you’ve got your own bed, kitchen stove and potty close at hand, the destination isn’t important. It’s the journey that counts.
Writing is a lot like that. I always know where I’m going to end up—hopefully with a soft sigh and a “happily ever after” ending—but getting there is what it’s all about. For that you need ideas, and those wandering trips often spark the next story.
A couple of years ago, we took off for a long weekend of camping up near Mount Shasta, an absolutely glorious dormant volcano in northern California. Shasta is famous as an energy vortex, similar to those around Sedona, Arizona. While we were in the little town of Mount Shasta, we wandered in and out of the tourist shops. Two of them really held my attention—a rock, gem and crystals shop, and a funky little bookstore. The gem shop had absolutely gorgeous stuff, including some of the most beautiful geodes I’d ever seen. Geodes are totally normal looking stones on the outside, filled with unimaginably beautiful crystals on the inside.
If you’ve read Crystal Dreams in the Nocturnal anthology, you’ll know exactly what story I found in that shop. Before I’d even stepped outside, my head was filled with images of Marigold Moonbeam Schwartz, aka Mari, wielding a powerful geode against demonkind as she fights beside Darius the Lemurian warrior.
Our next stop was the bookstore, which had a wonderful selection of books on local legends. I picked one up about an entire civilization deep inside the dormant volcano and was immediately reminded of the tales my dad used to tell about the Lemurians—for those of you who’ve read any of my DemonSlayers stories, you’ll know where this is heading, too.
By the time we were driving out of town, my head was filled with the first scenes of DemonFire, where demon-possessed garden gnomes are attacking Dax, my demon-turned-demon fighter. Obviously, Lemurians were involved, and the energy vortex that eventually led us on another trip, this time to Sedona, Arizona.
I can’t really explain the segue between a visit to a gem shop and the completed story about an accountant-turned-witch, but trust me on this, if I’d not held those geodes in my hands, if I hadn’t camped in the shadow of Mount Shasta, those stories might never have been written. There truly is a connection between the smallest visual, the slightest comment, the tactile experience of grasping a strange piece of stone in your hand, and the books lined up on the shelves. I know where the idea begins and I know how it ends, but the rest of it in between remains a mystery. And isn’t that what makes reading such a joy? Wondering how it’s all going to turn out, and then going along for the ride?
StarFire, the third book in my DemonSlayers series, came out April 5, and the danger to my band of demon slayers is heating up. Selyn, one of the Forgotten Ones, is badly beaten, but she survives due to Dawson Buck's medical intervention. He might only be a veterinarian, but he treats Selyn's broken ribs and punctured lung and saves her life. Drawn into the battle between Lemurians and Demonkind, Dawson is an unlikely hero, but he proves that a strong heart and stronger will can overcome the greatest obstacles, and that with love, anything is possible.
The DemonSlayers story began with a beautiful mountain and a legend about Lemurians. Where it finally ends up is what makes the trip such fun. Read StarFire, and then watch for CrystalFire, the final installment in the series, scheduled for release in Fall 2011.
Kim Harrison is known for her sexy urban fantasy novels starring witches and demons—but the best-selling writer has a secret life that features "jeans and scuffed boots" that are a far cry from her leather-clad author photos. Today, in honor of the publication of her latest book, Pale Demon (Harper), Harrison gives us the scoop on her double life.
guest post by Kim Harrison
“So, what do you prefer? Kim or Dawn?” It’s almost always the first question I’m asked when I meet professionals in my field. I usually smile, touch my hair, and say, “I’m Dawn, today,” if I’m a blonde wearing jeans and scuffed boots. But if I’m wearing my event wig—a bold reddish auburn that goes past my shoulders—I grin and say, “I’ve got my Kim on. Better stick to that so no one gets confused.”
Split personality? No, though I will freely admit that I frequently have conversations with myself. Secret agent on the run? Not likely, though I’ve been known to take people-watching to the level of an Olympic sport. No, it’s something so banal, so dull that when people find out I’ve got a second persona stuffed in my closet, they scratch there heads and ask me, “Why?”
I’m a writer, who, through contractual obligations and a large shift in writing style, found it easier to create a second, public persona than try to reconcile the old with the new. It didn’t hurt that booksellers will give new talent a bigger push than one with a slow but steady track record. In this case, it has seemed to have worked.
Get-my-Kim-on is more than the wig and black signing clothes, though. It’s almost become a job title, a name tag, if you will, that I wear when I go from the sedate, 8-10 hour day at the keyboard with little human contact to the plane-jumping, speech-giving, always-smiling publicity hound that is what most readers see when they meet their favorite authors.
Author appearances have always been a part of book promotions, and I’m continual reminded of the Westminster Dog Show where it’s obvious that those beautiful animals being paraded before all have never seen a cow or sheep, but they need to look like they can do the things that their working counterparts still do today. I think readers are the same way. They know that the person sitting behind the signing desk isn’t really out there fighting bad guys, making spells, or solving crimes, but if they look like they might be able too, it makes the experience all the more fun—and that’s what a book event should be. Fun. So Kim has long red hair, stylish boots and a penchant for wearing black. I’ll admit that she’s sort of rubbed off on me over the years—in a good way, of course. Kim has class, and I have tatty slippers.
And when I get home, I have the luxury of being able to peel off the layers of show, smiles and graciousness so I can be my old crotchety self again, stumbling about in search of that first cup of coffee.