Tag Archives: Kensington

2014 New Orleans RT Convention Recap & Giveaway(s)!

People. Oh, people. How I loved this convention! If you don’t want to sort through all my pics and ramblings about New Orleans and the RT Convention, you can skip down to the bottom of the post for the giveaways.

The Road Trip

Rather than fly, I got together with Jennifer (also known as Happy Twilighter and the person behind the Coastal Magic Convention) and author Sarah Nicolas to drive to New Orleans. You can check out our shenanigans via the Twitter hashtag #SexyRoadTrip if you want to see a blow-by-blow account of our trip from Florida to Louisiana. We left at around 8:30AM and arrived at 5:30PM with just a few brief stops along the way.

We saw a couple of interesting things along the way…

Alabama Backwoods
Alabama Backwoods
Blue Angel
Blue Angel
Over the River and Through the Woods
Over the River and Through the Woods

Somehow I managed to miss getting both the Florida and Mississippi welcome signs on the way there and back, but I still managed to get Alabama and Louisiana.

Welcome to Alabama
Welcome to Alabama
Welcome to Louisiana
Welcome to Louisiana

Of course, we were thrilled when we finally got there!

Welcome to NOLA
Welcome to NOLA
NOLA View From On High
NOLA View From On High
NOLA View From On High
NOLA View From On High
Mississipi River at Night
Mississippi River at Night

The Convention

I did a ton of things I didn’t have an opportunity to grab pictures of, and there was so much going on that there is no way I could possibly cover it all in this post, but this should give you a good sampling of the crazypants excitement of this convention.

Once we arrived, we immediately went to Damon Suede and Molly Harper’s Bad Movie Tweetup (basically MSTing or snarking) of Red Riding Hood.

Damon Suede and Molly Harper Lambasting Red Riding Hood
Damon Suede and Molly Harper Lambasting Red Riding Hood
Damon Suede and Molly Harper Lambasting Red Riding Hood
Damon Suede and Molly Harper Lambasting Red Riding Hood

They were hilarious, as always! You can check out the hilarity for yourself and follow along at home with a little guesswork by going to the #RTCC hashtag on Twitter.

The next day we hit the goodie room. There was an incredible amount of author swag up for grabs, as well as a room full of free books, and it was open to every attendee.

The RT Goodie Room
The RT Goodie Room

Brooklyn Ann was my roomie for the rest of the con. She snuck me into the Sourcebooks party so she could show off the Werewives anthology to her editor. (Don’t worry, we checked–it was OK for me to crash the party.) She is such a doll! And very proud of her upcoming release, ONE BITE PER NIGHT (coming August 5, 2014 – pre-order now on Amazon, B&N or Book Depository).

Brooklyn Ann at the Sourcebooks Party
Brooklyn Ann at the Sourcebooks Party

I heard that over 300 people lined up for the Team Shifter vs. Team Vampire party I was a part of–and we had only planned for 100 attendees. I am so sorry so many people didn’t get to join the game, but it was tons of fun and a huge success! Participating authors (aside from myself) included:

  • Alexandra Ivy
  • Molly Harper
  • Carrie Vaughn (who I shamelessly fangirled over and if you aren’t reading the Kitty Norville series, HIE THEE TO THE BOOKSTORE!)
  • Eliza Gayle
  • Lisa Kessler
  • Angela Knight
  • Pamela Palmer
  • Samantha Sommersby
  • Jeanne C. Stein
  • Laura Wright
Team Shifter vs Team Vampire Party - Forsaken Poster
Team Shifter vs Team Vampire Party – Forsaken Poster
Team Shifter vs Team Vampire Party - Getting Ready
Team Shifter vs Team Vampire Party – Getting Ready
Team Shifter vs Team Vampire Party - Authors
Team Shifter vs Team Vampire Party – Authors
Team Shifter vs Team Vampire Party - Lots of Dick In This Room
Team Shifter vs Team Vampire Party – Lots of Dick In This Room

The Entangled Publishing Candy & Spoons Party also merits a mention. They throw a great party! It was my first time playing spoons. I wish I could have stayed until the end, but I had to leave early to let Brooklyn Ann into our hotel room to drop off her luggage.

Entangled Candy & Spoons Party
Entangled Candy & Spoons Party
Entangled Candy & Spoons Party
Entangled Candy & Spoons Party

One other thing that was awesome was the Mardi Gras World Carnivale which was held at Mardi Gras World. My publisher (Kensington) was one of the sponsors, which means I got to meet some of the lovely people I’ve only been able to talk to by email or over Twitter before now. I was so thrilled to meet Vida and Peter in person!

Me and Peter
Me and Peter

This party was crazypants. Totally, utterly crazypants. And I got to walk in the parade throwing Mardi Gras beads and coins at the crowd!

Mardi Gras Parade
Mardi Gras Parade
Mardi Gras Parade
Mardi Gras Parade
Mardi Gras Parade - Line Coming In
Mardi Gras Parade – Line Coming In
Mardi Gras Parade
Mardi Gras Parade
Mardi Gras Parade
Mardi Gras Parade
Mardi Gras Parade
Mardi Gras Parade
Mardi Gras Parade
Mardi Gras Parade
Mardi Gras Parade
Mardi Gras Parade

The after party was incredible. We got to try tons of different dishes (shrimp etouffee, rice and beans, alligator sausage, bananas foster, beignets, etc.) and socialize (which was a tad difficult over the very loud, but very good, music).

Mardi Gras Parade After Party
Mardi Gras Parade After Party
Mardi Gras Parade After Party
Mardi Gras Parade After Party

It was also really nice to see my friends!

Brooklyn Ann, PJ Schnyder, Carrie Ann Ryan and Joy of Joyfully Reviewed
Brooklyn Ann, PJ Schnyder, Carrie Ann Ryan and Joy of Joyfully Reviewed
Brooklyn Ann Having Her First Hurricane at Oceana's
Brooklyn Ann Having Her First Hurricane at Oceana’s
Paige (Also Known As MamaKitty)
Paige (Also Known As MamaKitty)

Some of the other people I got to hang out with included Jackie and Casey from Literary Escapism, Chelsea from Vampire Book Club, Monica Burns (who cracked us up with her story of photobombing Nickelback), Charity of Tempting Graphics (who I strongly recommend if you need some help with book covers, swag, or author branding), KT Grant (also known as Katiebabs), and many more. You can find some additional pics on my Facebook timeline. There were a whole host of awesome rockstars (readers, authors, and publishing professionals) I got to spend time with and it was a total blast seeing so many of my friends in one place again.

Other notable things that happened (that I can remember–I’m probably missing some stuff, but you get the gist):

  • I met representatives from my French publisher (Milady, an imprint of Bragelonne) and got to tell them in person just how much I love my French covers.
  • I got to spend more time with Carrie Ann Ryan (she writes the Redwood Pack series), who I met at Coastal Magic earlier this year and simply adore. She is hilarious, sweet, and knows her X-Men (okay, okay, it was Taylor Kitsch)!
  • I visited my first gay bar, all thanks to Damon Suede’s bad influence.
  • I met Amy Boggs (a literary agent) who was a total doll.
  • I met a couple of very sweet actors. The boys were at the con promoting  target=”_blank”>Necrolectric, which looks to be a delightfully cheesy online PNR miniseries. Zach was charming and utterly adorable. He’s looking to get into audiobooks, so if you are in search of a male narrator you should get in touch with him.
  • I rode in an elevator with Charlaine Harris and managed not to flail like a crazy person.
  • I met (shook hands, shared a table, actually spoke to) Courtney Milan, Kevin Hearne, Tiffany Reisz and Andrew Shaffer, and managed not to flail like a crazy person.
  • I met Carrie Vaughn and managed to contain the fangirling so I only flailed like a crazy person a little bit.
  • Michele Hauf actually knew who I was. (Eeeeee!!!)
  • My friend Elise Hepner did a fantastic job pitching her book. You go, girl!
  • Speaking of Elise, the two of us cried all over and probably scared the hell out of Kim Harrison. I may have made a complete ass out of myself fangirling over her but, hey, I got a signed book and a pic out of it. I can die happy now.
Me, Kim Harrison and Elise Hepner
Me, Kim Harrison and Elise Hepner

The Signing

The signing blew my gourd, people. We had a bunch of “big name” authors like Lee Child, Kresley Cole, Sylvia Day, Charlaine Harris, Kim Harrison, E.L. James, Debbie Macomber, Nalini Sing, P.C. and Kristin Cast, Rachel Caine, Kelley Armstrong and Jennifer L. Armentrout (aka J. Lynn). There were apparently something like 700 or 800 authors signing at this shindig, and we made the Guinness Book of World Records for the world’s largest book signing!

RT Signing - This Room Is HUGE
RT Signing – This Room Is HUGE and It’s Only One of Two
RT Signing - The Authors I Could See From My Seat
RT Signing – The Authors I Could See From My Seat
RT Signing - Moi
RT Signing – Moi

The Food

What kind of blogger would I be if I didn’t write about the food?! New Orleans has some of the best restaurants I have ever been to.

A special mention to Daisy Dukes (excellent if you’re looking for quick and easy diner-style food), Oceana’s (perfect for breakfast–try the pain perdu!), Palace Cafe (their duck and creme brulee are to die for), and Cafe Beignet for the best beignets in town! Pat O’s is also one of the best places on Bourbon Street to kick back and relax with a drink if you’re looking for a quieter, more laid back place to get a taste of NOLA.

Food Porn - Oceana's Big Banana
Food Porn – Oceana’s Big Banana
Food Porn - Cyclone from Pat O'Briens
Food Porn – Cyclone from Pat O’Briens
Food Porn - Cafe Beignet
Food Porn – Cafe Beignet
Food Porn - Breakfast from Red Gravy
Food Porn – Breakfast from Red Gravy
Food Porn - Duck and Pate from Palace Cafe
Food Porn – Duck and Pate from Palace Cafe
Food Porn - White Chocolate Creme Brulee from Palace Cafe
Food Porn – White Chocolate Creme Brulee from Palace Cafe

The Trip Back

This couldn’t go without a mention. You guys have no idea how crazy it was trying to fit all of the swag, books, luggage, and whatever else in the car.

Seriously, This Isn't Even All The Stuff
Seriously, This Isn’t Even All The Stuff
Too Much Stuff - Poor Sarah
Too Much Stuff – Poor Sarah
We Did It - Jennifer Is So Proud! ...And Sarah's Car Is Apparently A Tardis Because It's Bigger on the Inside
We Did It – Jennifer Is So Proud! …And Sarah’s Car Is Apparently A Tardis Because It’s Clearly Bigger on the Inside

The ride home was far more brutal (leaving around 3:30PM and arriving at 3:30AM). But we survived!

Of course, once I got home, I had to go through all of the incredible amounts of stuff I brought back with me. I’m really looking forward into delving into the books by Brooklyn Ann, Tiffany Reisz, Michele Hauf, Ann Aguirre and Kristen Ashley. Naturally I want to read everything in the pile right now but those ones are my priorities.

Books I'm Keeping
Books I’m Keeping

It was also really nice to see the kitties again. They were happy to see me, too. They proved it by attacking my feet the minute I walked in the door.

Happy To Be Home
Happy To Be Home

About Those Giveaways…

If you couldn’t make it to the RT Convention (and, seriously, if you were there please do not enter these contests as they are intended for the many readers who weren’t able to attend), I have not one but 4 separate giveaways just for you!

I Took Home All These Books For A Reason--Many of These Are Just For You!
I Took Home All These Books For A Reason–Many of These Are Just For You!

Randomly selected books from the above pictures will go into the themed bags I created for you! Yes–you’ll even get an official RT Convention swag bag, complete with cherry-picked promo and guides to New Orleans, just as if you had come to the con yourself! I raided the goodie room on Sunday and grabbed a ton of leftover books, bags, and all kinds of goodies the publishers and authors were leaving behind, and I want to make sure they’ll go to people who really wanted to go but couldn’t make it this year or don’t otherwise have the means to get their hands on these books.

Yes, You Even Get An Official RT Convention Shoulder Bag!
Yes, (For U.S. Giveaways) You Even Get An Official RT Convention Shoulder Bag!
NOLA Guides - Included In U.S. Giveaways
NOLA Guides – Included In U.S. Giveaways to Give Those of You Who Couldn’t Be There A Taste of New Orleans

Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy Your Thing? Enter This Giveaway! (U.S. Only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Contemporary Romance Your Thing? Enter This Giveaway! (U.S. Only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Historical Romance Your Thing? Enter This Giveaway! (U.S. Only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Not in the U.S.? This Is The Giveaway For You!

(Sorry, no bag and limited swag included with this one as costs of shipping outside the U.S. are prohibitive.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please be kind, pay it forward, and tell your friends who couldn’t make it to the con about these special giveaways so they can play along at home, too!

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State of the Union (aka: What I’ve Been Up To)

You might have noticed that I’ve been quiet on the blog and elsewhere lately. I’ve taken a couple of weeks to catch my writerly breath, so to speak. It’s been a pretty hectic time for me since the release of Stalking the Others. I changed up my promotional plan for it by doing that blog tour, and that put me behind on almost everything else–books, editing, beta reads, email–which I’m still going to be behind on, though I’m making progress on tackling the pile. With the addition of other unexpected life things, it’s been a heck of a time for me these last few months, but I’ve still got plans for some new books and a lot more work ahead of me.

Even though I’m about to turn in Forsaken by the Others, I’m about to start the editing process with Musa on Silent Cravings. I’ve never done this with an e-pub before, so I’m curious to see how their process differs from Kensington.

If you’re curious, the way it usually works–in my experience, which is as a midlist/relatively low on the totem pole author–you or your agent email your manuscript to your editor. The editor may accept it as-is, or ask for some rewrites or other significant change before accepting.

Once accepted, they may have edits for you on the structural level. You might have a round or two of this brand of edits, and they usually involve fleshing out incomplete ideas, adding/removing details, correcting logic fails, etc. They’ll also squee with you over the awesome parts!

Once that’s done, a copy editor will go through and put a polish on the manuscript with their red pen, noting corrections needed on spelling, grammar, and other minor errors. Sometimes not-so-minor. They occasionally spot things your acquiring editor (and agent and beta readers) missed, like those mysteriously missing pants that were there three paragraphs ago…

Copy edits are the last stop on the line for major changes. Anything significant you think needs to be addressed is done at this point, or forever hold your peace, amen.

Next you’ll get your page proofs, which is a printout of what the manuscript is supposed to look like when it’s bound into an actual book. You might find and correct a few minor things at this point, like spelling errors or missing commas, but significant changes are not supposed to be done on this step. I believe this is also the version that advance reader copies are printed from, but don’t quote me on that. Page proofs are your last chance to make corrections before the final version of the book goes to print.

And that’s your lesson in commercial publishing for the day. I might revisit this topic once I’ve experienced the process with Musa if any of you are interested in hearing about it.

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Just A Reminder – Time is Running Out

For two things:

1) You have until midnight on Nov 30th (GASP OH EM GEE THAT’S TODAY) to enter the Werewives Release Day Giveaway. All you have to do is leave a comment telling me what you think of the Real Housewives TV shows (whether you watch them or not) to enter to win a T-shirt, books, book thongs, and more!

2) If you are planning on participating in the Christmas giveaways for underprivileged / at risk kids, please send me your donations by December 2nd. We are still looking for young adult/children’s books, toiletries, gift cards (to places like Target and Walmart), etc. See my full post about it here. Mail your donations to:

Jess Haines
RE: X-Mas Donations
249 N. Brand Blvd. #587
Glendale, CA 91203

Thanks again to those who have already participated (special shout-out to Jennifer Estep, Jen the Nutcase, and Kensington Books for their donations)!

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Us vs. Them – Traditional vs. Self Publishing

When it comes to the traditional vs. self publishing debate, I tend to keep my mouth shut. I’ll say up front that I haven’t self published anything and I’m not usually one to rock the boat by getting involved in such a hot topic. However, I do keep an eye on the trends, commentary, speculation, and news that floats around the internet about my industry, which self publishing is a part of.

Sometimes I come across stories that make me scratch my head or roll my eyes. If they’re interesting enough, I tend to share them privately with a few friends, but you won’t see me comment on them in public.

Well, today I have something to say.

I find people like Polly Courtney who post pictures of themselves pole dancing online who then go on to complain about how their employer and then their publisher treated them was sexist and condescending is just… ugh. Seriously? You’re not giving back your advance? I thought you believed they were treating you unfairly and that you don’t want to work with them. You must have known that the cover that you complained about on launch day was going to look like that for MONTHS in advance of publication. You’re only just now complaining about it—to the media rather than your publisher, no less—the day the book is released?

Fuck that. No, seriously. Fuck. That. Guess what? The big, bad pro-published guys are not out to get you. The Man isn’t here to keep you down. Editors and agents have not made it their mission in life to make you miserable.

Shocking, right?

When I see someone like Kiana Davenport go off about how their publisher has treated them and how awful things are because they have to pay back their $20,000 advance and oh, woe is me, I shall self publish and go indie because it’s the stylish and “right thing to do” and damn The Man, frankly, it boggles me. Who are you sticking it to? The people who worked hard to find a way to market and print your book and put it in stores and get it into as many hands as possible. The people who believed in your work enough to pay you money (a LOT of freaking money in this economy–the $20K wasn’t even the full amount of the advance) up front for it regardless of whether they would earn that money back and if you smack-talk them in public.

Sorry, chicky, but I have no sympathy for you. Whose fault is it if you didn’t read your contract? Take a look in the mirror. A few other people don’t think you handled this well, either, and they said why a lot more intelligently than I am at the moment.

Let’s look at some pros and cons.

Traditional Publishing Pros:

  • You get an advance (money given to you that the publisher is “guesstimating” you will earn back within a year or so of publication). Unless you make a fuck-up of epic proportions, that advance is yours. You don’t have to pay it back. Seriously, you have to work to piss off your publisher and have your book cancelled, especially after they have already paid you part of that advance. I’m looking at you, Kiana.
  • You don’t have to pay for editing, marketing, publicity, book cover design, printing, etc. Someone is double-checking your work every step of the way for continuity, spelling, and/or grammar errors, and your work is also checked for any potential legality issues. That’s all handled and paid for by your publisher.
  • Your editor bought your book because they believe it will sell. They fought to get you in over other books to sell you to their board, and they think you’ve got something worth putting into the hands of the reading public. That is a very powerful ally to have in your court.
  • Your publisher will handle most of the marketing, so your attention is freed up to do what you love most—writing books.
  • You have an entire company full of experienced people who are working hard to make sure YOUR work is a success—because if you succeed, so do they. They make money off of your book. That’s why this is a professional industry, and not just a “hey, this seems like a nice thing to do, let’s give it a whirl” hobby for most authors.

Traditional Publishing Cons:

  • Sometimes you have to change something you aren’t particularly happy about changing. If you fight against it, you might be considered “hard to work with” and not get another book deal.
  • Sometimes you have to keep something (*cough*fugly book covers*cough*) that you don’t want to. If you fight against it, you might be considered “hard to work with” and not get another book deal.
  • If you are one of those people who gets a tiny advance and your book is going straight to paperback, you might not get much attention from your publisher because you’re one of what in some cases can be literally hundreds of books on their list and they don’t have an equal amount of time to devote to everybody. That means you may have to do some of this marketing biz yourself. It’s not personal—it’s business.
  • There is a possibility you might not earn out your advance or even make the publisher enough money in sales to justify them signing you on for more books. You may never earn more money for your book(s) than what you received for your advance.
  • It can take a really damned long time to get your full advance, get your book on the shelves, get your royalty statements, etc.
  • Rejections hurt. No one likes to hear their stuff isn’t good enough. No one.

Self Publishing Pros:

  • Full control over the entire publishing process.
  • You don’t have to change a thing about your work if you don’t want to.
  • Instant gratification (most companies that offer this service from what I have heard will pay you immediately once you reach a certain amount of money, or pay you once a week/month/whatever, and will also let you see your sales figures right away).

Self Publishing Cons:

  • No advance.
  • No vetting process (there’s no one double-checking your work for errors or for potential legal issues).
  • You are one of so many, getting your voice heard in the market is incredibly difficult. Have you looked on Amazon lately? How many self published books are available there? How many of those books or authors have you heard of aside from Amanda Hocking or Barry Eisler or J.A. Konrath? Per an article on How Publishing Really Works, the average sales figure for a self published (POD or Print On Demand) novel in 2009 was less than 200 copies, and even then, most of the sales were to the author rather than to the reading public. I did a quick search for info on ebooks publishing figures, but I wasn’t able to find anything that answers the question of averages. To give you an idea, based on my royalty statements (and I’ve only seen the figures, both in the five digit range, for two books so far—HUNTED BY THE OTHERS and NOCTURNAL) my ebooks make up less than 10% of my sales. If all you’re publishing are ebooks, it looks like you’re missing out on an awful lot of potential sales. Are you starting to get the picture?
  • As Amanda Hocking herself once said, “The amount of time and energy I put into marketing is exhausting. I am continuously overwhelmed by the amount of work I have to do that isn’t writing a book. I hardly have time to write anymore, which sucks and terrifies me…Just because I sell a million books self publishing, it doesn’t mean everybody will. In fact, more people will sell less than 100 copies of their books self publishing than will sell 10,000 books.”
  • You have to pay for everything yourself—editing, marketing, publicity, cover art—all of it, and you might never make enough sales to earn that money back.
  • Even though you haven’t been “traditionally published,” you can still be rejected—by readers and reviewers. Have you seen many (if any) self published books reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly, Locus, NY Times, etc?

Now, as a published author with a New York house (Kensington), you might think I’m anti-self publishing. That’s the farthest thing from the truth. I really could care less if you self publish. I’ve read some fantastic self published books by David McAfee, Jill Myles, Annie Nicholas, and others. One of my favorite short stories was self published. What do I care how you get your book out there? Honestly? As long as it’s well written and edited, I could not give less of a crap how your book was made available.

So, seriously. Where I’m going with this is for those of you who are pissed off at agents and publishers to just stop it with the finger pointing and the whining and making the traditionally published authors, the agents, and the publishers out to be the bad guys. Read your damned contracts and ask questions if you’re not sure where the line is in the sand. We’re not here to keep you down or hurt you or slam you or make you into a victim. Some of you are doing a fantastic job of that all by your lonesome.

Quite a lot of agents and editors have made a point of being helpful and trying to show you how to make it as a traditionally published author. Have you seen my blog roll? I’ve barely scratched the surface of the number of agents and editors out there who try to post helpful advice on the internet. Have you read the thousands of posts from Miss Snark, Evil Editor, Janet Reid / Query Shark, Bookends, Nathan Bransford (from when he was an agent)—need I go on—all trying to help you? Come on, people. Yeah, there are some “professionals” who are rude and cruel in this industry. It’s true. However, that doesn’t mean EVERYONE is out to get you, or that ALL traditional publishing is bad, or that you need to “stick it” to someone just because you don’t like how the game is played.

There are plenty of us who do. I want to thank all of the agents and editors out there who don’t tolerate this sort of behavior. I want to thank all of the people in the publishing industry who have made a point to help those of us who were at one time floundering newbies who didn’t know which way was up. I want to thank all of the people who took the time to educate themselves and worked out their differences quietly, in non-newsworthy fashion. I want to thank those of you who are self published who don’t make asses of yourselves in an effort to get attention.

Politeness and courtesy goes a lot farther than being a snot, I promise you. Biting the hand that feeds you and then blaming them for smacking you on the nose with a rolled up newspaper is in poor taste and will not garner you any sympathy. Being an internet phenomenon for five minutes thanks to having a public tantrum might get you a lot of attention, but it’s not the right kind, and the sales you get from it will peak—and then that beautiful rise will disappear within a few days or weeks as morbid curiosity/rubbernecking fades, and never return. The only way people will remember you is as “that person who exploded on the internet way back when“.

What I’m trying to say is, you don’t have to take an “Us vs. Them” view on this subject. You really don’t. As long as you understand what you’re getting into on both sides, there’s no reason to cop an attitude about who you read or who you work with or how you get your prose out there. There’s room enough in the pool for everyone to play, and most of the authors, agents, editors, and other publishing professionals I know are fantastically, genuinely nice people. Really, there are a lot of you who are true gems, a boon to this industry. Not the least of which being my own agent and editor.

I really do appreciate the people who take the time to educate themselves, understand this, and realize that there’s no reason we can’t all be in this together. You guys are awesome. And I’ll always have your back.

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Guest Post – Jim N. Duncan on Writing the Broken MC

I’d like to give a warm welcome to my fellow Kensington author, Jim Duncan, author of the up-and-coming DEADWORLD!

She’s as tough as anything haunting Chicago’s streets. But to deal with an inhuman power that won’t stay buried, this FBI agent needs help that comes at an immortal price…

Jackie Rutledge has seen her share of supernatural killers. But her latest murder case is what recurring nightmares are made of. Brutally exsanguinated human victims, vanishing-into-the-ether evidence, and a city on the edge of panic mean that she and her psychic partner, Laurel, are going to need more than just backup…

So Jackie is fine with any help rugged P.I. Nick Anderson can give – even if that includes the impish ghost and sexy vampire who make up his team. But Nick is hiding secrets of his own. And Jackie’s investigation has plunged them both into a vengeful game reaching back centuries – and up against a malevolent force hungry for more than just victory…

Coming April 5, 2011! Preorder DEADWORLD now! (And Happy-Almost-Release Day!)

Jim is going to tell you a bit about the process of writing a broken main character–and stay tuned for a giveaway. Take it away, Jim!


First of all, thanks for having me here on your blog today, Jess. I greatly appreciate the opportunity. A little about myself here before I start. I’m a 40’ish, father of four (eight if you count pets), an aspiring teacher, a fantasy gamer geek, lover of astronomy, most anything paranormal, and I’m married to another writer, romance author Tracy Madison. I’ve been writing since I was 14, but only seriously for the past six years or so. Deadworld is my second completed novel (first was a fantasy I hope to do something with eventually). It’s a dark, urban fantasy (think paranormal thriller), about a struggling FBI agent who gets mixed up in a decades-long vendetta between two vampires.

When I initially approached Jess for this post, I had in mind to talk about writing a character that can be difficult to love or at least feel sympathetic toward. They’re a challenge to write well in my opinion, and likely to read as well. A few days ago, this got pointed out to me in a rather stark fashion, when two reviews, one positive and one negative, wrote their reactions based on either loving or hating my heroine, Jackie. I’m generalizing a bit on the reviews here for the sake of making my point. It got me thinking that I may have a book that people are either going to love or hate based on this singular element.

Strong reactions are good, mind you, but I always hope they’ll tend toward the positive. Why these reactions? Well, Jackie is, at least in the beginning of my story, is a fairly hard person to love. She’s pretty hard-nosed and gruff, and has a bit of an attitude. This is all a thick coat of paint though, that’s covering a cracked shell. Emotionally, Jackie is not a very healthy person. She’s a binge drinker and tends to sleep with guys when she does. Not an endearing quality in a person. However, there’s a reason for it, and the trick, I think as a writer, is to play off these flaws with the motus operandi, such that the reader will end up rooting for them to figure things out before it wrecks their life completely.

This balance will work for some readers, and not for others, as was apparent in the reviews. Broken characters are fun to write. It’s a wonderful source of conflict with which to work, and generates some great roadblocks for the character to have to overcome. Jackie is one of those characters that is her own worst enemy. She’s afraid to deal with her issues, and like any issue, the cover-up is worse than the actual problem.

So, where do you draw the line? At what point does a character’s flaws overcome reader sympathy? That line is fluid for every reader, so honestly, as a writer, you can only draw your own line, and hope that most readers won’t find you’ve crossed it. Fellow urban fantasy author, Stacia Kane has a series with a heroine who is a functioning drug addict. She got some flak for that. How can a drug addict be a hero of the story? How can you like a character like that? The thing is though, her heart is in the right place. She’s a good person, who wants to do the right thing. She may falter along the way, do stupid things, but you want her to succeed, to overcome her faults and become a better person in the end.

This is what is key for the broken character. You don’t love them for the problems they have, but you see what’s underneath and hope they make through them and out to some kind of happily ever after in the end.

Writing characters like this is a challenge, especially I think, in a series, when the development extends over the course of more than one story. Jackie is like this. She’s nowhere near whole again by the end of Deadworld. Did I bring out enough of her good side to offset her issues? That’ll be the key for readers. For some, unfortunately, the answer may be “no”. I’m hoping for most that the answer is yes. I think her issues, as they become known, will be relatable, and thus her outward character more understandable. I get to take it to a place I don’t believe many books go (can’t say much on that without getting spoilery, but it’s in book three, and I’m pumped to write that part). I was a psych major in college, and so delving into emotional issues is a very intriguing part of writing for me. Even though my series is driven by a pretty heavy, external plot, it has, what I hope will be an equally significant emotional storyline of taking this rough and tumble, fractured woman, and seeing her become whole again.

Okay, I’ve rambled on enough here. I’m curious what other reader’s opinions are here on difficult characters and just how bad off they can be before that sympathy line gets crossed and you put the book back on the shelf. Thanks for having me here today, and I hope I’ve peaked folk’s interest in the possibilities of Deadworld.

You can contact me and see more at www.jnduncan.com. Happy reading/writing everyone!


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Contest is open to US/Canada until midnight, PST, Monday, April 11th.

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