The Oxymoronic Genre – Erotic Urban Fantasy
People tend to look at me oddly when I tell them I write erotic urban fantasy.
Paranormal romances are everywhere these days. Even erotic paranormals are almost commonplace. But when you say you write erotic urban fantasies, readers’ eyes narrow as they try to fit that into their mental landscape of the fiction genre world. I’m not an easy fit.
Try writing it.
Especially try writing a novella.
Erotic romance, as we all know, is very much about developing the romance via the sexual side of the relationship. Authors spend pages and pages...well, most of the damn book, actually, focused on the two (or three or more) lovers falling in love in flagrante delicto. Delicious....
Okay, so now consider urban fantasy. You have all the hallmarks of traditional high fantasy – look at Lord of the Rings, with its thousands of years of history, five distinct languages, four major species, and three hundred thousand words in the main volume alone. Wonderful stuff. I read the book once every year or so. But that stuff takes a lot of time and space to tell the story properly. Pages and pages, one might say, especially with all that back story.
Urban fantasy is no different. You’ve got a modern-day setting, but the fantasy species populating the malls and city streets still have histories, backstories that need explaining, wars that have origins that need developing, and pages and pages of development that need to be squeezed into the narrative without boring the reader or slowing down the action.
Urban Fantasy authors long ago learned the trick of not sending the reader to sleep with endless backstory that halted the action. They instead feed it into the story in small dribbles while the main action is moving on, and the reader shouldn’t really notice that he’s getting a thousand year history lesson along with a sword fight and a romance.
But add an erotic romance to an urban fantasy and you add all sorts of headaches to the author’s lot.
For a start, the author is supposed to spend a great deal of time focusing on the sexual subplot. Even dribbling in the tiniest amount of history lesson is going to look downright weird when the hero is nibbling on the heroine’s toes. See the problem?
For most authors, erotic romance + urban fantasy seem like an oxymoron, and they shy away from the challenge.
But I kept reading all these otherwise superb urban fantasies, except for one glaring exception. The “hero” and the “heroine” would dance around each other coyly for three books, then maybe kiss and cuddle for the tail end of the third.
And that was it for the “romantic interest” for three freaking books!
I like my urban fantasy, sure, but I like my romances at industrial strength, thank you. And that didn’t do it for me. Not even close.
So I thought I’d write an urban fantasy that actually had an industrial strength romance in it, the sort of romance I like. As I like the sort of romances you get from Ellora’s Cave, that meant erotic. Spicy erotic.
The series I ended up writing were a series of three novellas (just to add to the challenge, I was limited to 30,000 words per book), called Destiny’s Trinities. The first of them, Beth’s Acceptance, came out last month. The one I’m talking about today is the second in the series, Mia’s Return. It will be released on November 28th, a mere thirteen days before the third in the series will be released, Sera’s Gift.
I had a blast writing these books. There’s something very liberating about building your own fantasy universe, and I really got to know and love these characters.
I’ve since written two more stories that are set in the same universe, but are unrelated to the Trinity books. Ellora’s Cave have bought both of them, and they will be appearing in 2010.
Mia’s Return was the hardest to fit into the novella length. There was a huge amount of backstory involved and the editing involved to bring it down to length was painful. But I got there!
Ten years ago, Alexander hungered for Mia Menendez and for a single day they had indulged that passion before tragedy struck. Now Mia is back, but she thinks Alexander died ten years ago and no man has been able to stir her heart since. The truth could kill her.
Wyatt Whitacker, demon hunter, hates Alexander and all his kind. But one look at Mia and her pulse-stopping curves and his scarred, angry heart begins to melt and his body to rouse in ways he’s long forgotten.
The bonding has begun…
He considered running down the fire escape stairs to the foyer and avoiding the congestion in the elevators. At this time of day it would take forever. The stairs wouldn’t tax him in the slightest. But it might draw attention to him. So he patiently waited for the elevator and stepped on with a dozen others and moved to the side to give them room.
The elevator stopped on the next floor, with more people getting on but by then his animal instinct was crowding him, making the hair on the back of his neck stand up. He was being watched. His heart thundered.
He made no sudden moves. Instead, as people pushed onto the elevator, he turned so his back was to the side wall of the car, giving him an excuse to look at everyone if he brought his head up.
He lifted his head and looked around.
She was standing on the other side of the car, almost completely obscured by the other riders because she was only just over five foot.
Mia. Shamira Menendez of San Diego, California.
His first aching thought was, You’re so fucking beautiful, Mia.
Then reality caught him in the chest. Mia was staring at him because she thought he was dead. She thought he died ten years ago, in San Diego.
And now she was watching him with tears in her eyes and all he could think about was his swelling cock and his exploding heart and how much he wanted to take up where he had left off…bending her over the counter, sliding his cock into her pussy and making her scream his name.
“Are you all right, sir?”
He tore his gaze away from Mia. “Excuse me?” he said hoarsely. He looked down at the gray-haired lady next to him.
“Your breathing is all funny,” she said. “Are you claustrophobic?”
Others were looking at him now. Becoming the center of attention was never a good thing for a vampire. Zack had drilled that into him. Seaveth was even more of a sergeant about it, now vampires were assimilating into human society. He swallowed. “I’m fine,” he said.
But he wasn’t. He looked at Mia. She was still watching. She knew it was him. There was no way to deny it. No escape. No bluff he could use to fool her. The knowledge gleamed in her eyes.
“Give him room, please,” she said. “Everyone, stand back a bit.” She was stepping closer, taking charge.
They all shuffled back, clearing eighteen inches. Mia squeezed between them and stepped into the space. “Take a deep breath,” she told him, her voice low.
He couldn’t tear his gaze from her face. The tears in her eyes pooled and one fell down her cheek. Just one. But she didn’t wipe it, or show any sign of emotion. Cool, calm, controlled. “We’re nearly there,” she added, speaking for the others in the car, maintaining the illusion of a claustrophobe in full panic mode. She knew as well as he did it was nothing of the sort.
As the doors opened, the others stood back, letting them exit first. She grabbed his lapels and hauled him from the car. He let her, for he stood a foot higher than her and outweighed her by nearly a hundred pounds. But her scent alone was wreathing his head and making his senses reel. Something with vanilla and…grapefruit? He could feel his incisors trying to descend and his mouth filling with vampire saliva to deaden her flesh so she wouldn’t feel the first piercing of his teeth. His cock was pounding with the agonizing need to slam her against the walls of the foyer and fuck her senseless.
He was almost hyperventilating with the dilemma.
Her hand rested on his chest. God, he could feel her heat through her hand. He swallowed.
“You’re supposed to be dead,” she whispered. No hello. No attempt to confirm who he was. She was that sure of him despite ten years.
He couldn’t afford to answer her, to even start the conversation. Instead, he stared at her, soaking up details. She had been eighteen when he left and even at that age, infinitely dangerous to his pulse. Now she was a mature woman and beyond dangerous. He could feel it in his heart, his mind, his cock. His whole body was responding to her like a nuclear magnet. She wore her dark hair down to her shoulder blades but styled in some mysterious fashion that just brushed over one eye and framed her high cheekbones and pointed chin. Her black eyes, still gleaming with tears, with their arched strong brows, were staring at him, giving him no quarter. They never had. And her lips…full, the top one like a cupid’s bow. He had dreamed about kissing those lips and woken sweating in his lonely bed all those years ago when he could sweat. Those lips still looked sweet, the teeth behind them white and beckoning.
Mia was wearing a dress. He had no way to describe it, except to say it wrapped her in roses and made the most of her figure. And she had a figure. Even at eighteen she’d had a figure. He had lusted after it. And in ten years, it had changed very little. Her breasts had not sagged. Her hips had not spread. And her waist was still as tiny as ever. It was that tiny waist he had grabbed as he bent her over the counter…
He realized his heart was thundering in his ears. With her hand on his chest, she must surely feel it too.
She was frowning, staring at him. “You haven’t changed,” she said. “Not at all.” And she stepped back, her hand falling away.
Alexander realized she had seen, then, he had not aged. This was one of the reasons that Zachariah and Diego had insisted he move to New York once Zack had made him.
Mia took another step backward and he could see her doing the mental math.
“Mia,” he began and stopped, mentally cursing. He’d just confirmed he was who she thought he was. Until that moment there had remained the possibility of pretending she’d made an embarrassing mistake. It would have killed him to do it but it would have been a way out. That chance was gone now. He closed his eyes. What a fucking disaster. He opened them again and took a last look at her. Beautiful Mia. She was starting to realize there was something dreadfully wrong. Horror was creeping into her expression. He needed to leave before she began to look at him like the monster he was.
Sera arrives in New York to help Lind·l, but a vampeen attack brings her face to face with two men and changes her life forever.
Diego Savage lives up to his name.† Cynical, rebellious and a womanizer, he doesn’t believe in the trinities at all. Only a handful of people know the truth about his scarred heart and terrible past, and it would take a miracle for him to change.† A miracle, or someone like Sera with her special gift.
Blake Harvey, dedicated NYC police lieutenant, takes one look at the tall, supple woman with the crystal blue eyes and glowing skin and knows his life is about to change in ways he can’t even define, but his body is already responding to with a power that is hard to deny.
The bonding has begun…
Blake jumped and realized he’d fallen asleep in his chair, the same moment he realized it was morning already. He glanced around at his office door. Anna Maria had her head around the door, looking at him. “You clocking off?” he said, glancing at his watch. Six a.m. Her night shift was over.
“You okay, boss?” she asked.
“Long night,” he said, trying to make it sound like he did this all the time. He stood up, stretching carefully, feeling the bones in his neck.
“’Kay. Night, boss.” She let the door shut itself.
He looked out the window. Daylight was trying to break through thunderclouds outside his windows. A soggy, fetid, miserable August day that matched his mood. He glanced at the three in-trays on his desk, all of them overloaded. They stood next to his computer, which was another two hundred and sixty gigabytes of hell screaming at him for attention.
What was happening in his city? Twelve years in the department and he no longer thought he understood New York and its denizens. He’d spent all night doing basic regression analysis. And the numbers frightened him. If things went on this way, New York would turn into an uncivilized all-out crime zone in about six weeks. The police department was slowly losing ground. It just didn’t have the numbers to cope. Rape and murder were the top two favorites, with decapitations being numero uno on the hit parade. But number three on the New York Times Best Seller List right now was Missing Persons. People were vanishing without trace in numbers higher than six hundred percent more than any time in the last three centuries…and that included two world wars, famines and plagues.
And the police couldn’t do a damn thing about it, except record particulars and wait. They were overtaxed by the murders and rapes already. A missing person was a lesser concern.
Blake pushed his hand through his hair. God, what a fucking nightmare.
The other lieutenants in the other departments across the boroughs made light of it. They were mostly older and had seen tough times before and while they all heard the same unsettling rumors about the cults, the gangs, the animalistic behavior, they were in denial. They didn’t want to look at the big picture.
The figures Blake had projected last night didn’t lie, though. Something was going on. But right now he couldn’t see what it was. Despite all the information flowing into his desk, it eluded him. Sometimes, like now when his energy was low, it felt like there was someone else out there manipulating the information that reached him, so that he couldn’t see the truth. Not all of it, anyway.
He bumped his forehead against the window and felt the chill spread across his flesh. It reminded him of how hot and tired he was. He’d been in these clothes for over twenty-four hours. He needed a break. So did his mind. He was slipping into paranoid delusions.
He picked up his jacket and logged off the computer. A few hours sleep, a shower and food, then he’d head back here. Things would look different, then. Maybe.
He clocked out and walked home to his apartment, feeling at odds with the day. Manhattan was just firing up for a busy day of commerce, while he was going home to sleep. He glanced up at the skyscrapers as he passed them. It all looked so innocent and normal.
Who’d’ve thought there was such a time bomb ticking away in her guts?
* * * * *
When Mia came bustling into the boardroom, Alexander felt his heart jump. Even after a year, she still managed to make him pause to catch his breath when she arrived after a small absence. She was here in his life. And she was never going away again.
He kept reminding himself to be thankful to whatever entity or force designed the trinities and chose him to be part of them. Him, Mia and Wyatt. How had he got so lucky? He was careful never to question that good fortune, but to grasp it with both hands and to work his ass off in service of the trinities and Seaveth, in gratitude.
Mia came up to him with the small smile she kept for him and Wyatt alone. “You’re brooding,” she said.
“I’ll shake you about it later,” she said. “Right now, we need to head to the keep for the assembly. The car is waiting.” She looked at the huge watch on her wrist. “And Wyatt still hasn’t shown up. Did he call you at all?”
“No call. No text. But he knows he has to be here. He’ll show, Mia. In a year, has he never not shown up for an assembly?”
“There’s always a first time,” she said darkly, thumbing through her Palm Pilot. She had become the staffing agency’s chief executive officer and completely indispensable, running both the private and public personas of the agency like clockwork and liaising with the Earthwing clan’s seniors and Seaveth’s portfolio with seamless efficiency.
Wyatt had returned to hunting but even there, Mia had left her mark, organizing and commercializing his ventures and bringing recruits to his doorstep. Now Wyatt’s hunting was an organized trade, with tools, equipment, partners and income. Wyatt had been stunned that demon hunting could raise revenue in a human world but Mia had shown him how to bring in profit for himself and make it attractive to other demon hunter and vampire investors and just like that, Wyatt had found himself an entrepreneur.
Mia glanced at her watch again. “Time to go. I’ve texted Wyatt and told him to go straight to the keep.” She chewed her lip. “I hope he’s okay.”
Alexander took her face in his hands. “He’ll be fine,” he said softly. “Stop it, Mia.” He kissed her to stop her fretting and slipped his tongue against her lips. He drew back when he tasted blood. “You just fed?”
She blushed. “Sorry, yes. I should have warned you.” This was one of the changes he’d had the hardest time accepting. As a result of the bonding, from time to time, Mia had to feed on blood, like a vampire. She ate normal food and excreted it like a human but every few months or so, like a vampire, she hungered for blood. Alexander had been devastated by the knowledge. Instead, Zachariah and the other vampires had taught Mia how to ingest the artificial blood developed by the clan.
At least she had no incisors. He was spared that.
Alexander hugged her, instead and let her go. “We were running late, I believe?” he reminded her.
“Damn, yes.” She straightened her business skirt back into place and threw him a dirty look. “I wish you would stop kissing me at work. You know I hate that.”
“While I can make you look like a cat on catnip, I’ll keep kissing you whenever you’re within reach,” Alexander growled softly as they hurried through the office to the elevator bank. The armored stretch limousine would be waiting for them in the lower basement. Max, the driver and one of the Earthwing clan, would have the engine running and his bolo tucked between the seat and the door, watching the street ramp. “Zack and Diego aren’t coming with us?” Alexander asked as they passed the other two partner offices without pausing.
Mia shook her head. “Zack is…he wanted to be with Seaveth today. Diego just didn’t show up this morning.” She frowned. Diego’s dedication to playing the role of a normal human was flaky, at best, despite the combined pressure Alexander and Zack tried to exert upon him. Diego had spent centuries unfettered. He was taking a longer time adjusting to Seaveth’s demands for assimilation than most. But they both knew he would be at the full assembly. Even he would not dare risk Seaveth’s wrath by missing that.
“He’ll come around,” Alexander assured her. “Diego is just…” He tried to find the right world.
“Savage,” Mia said succinctly. “I’ve heard the gossip. There’s a reason for his last name.”
“There is,” Alexander said flatly. “But whatever you’ve heard, it’s wrong.”
She glanced up at him, a furrow between her brows but she couldn’t ask him a more direct question for they had reached the foyer and were surrounded by strangers for the ride down to the basement.
In the elevator car, Alexander was swamped by memories of the day Mia had reappeared in his life, here in New York. She swiveled her head to look up at him and smiled and he knew she was thinking the same thing. She pressed closer to him in the crowded car.
She was getting many admiring glances from others in the car, who skimmed her high heels, smart skirt and jacket, silk shirt and shoulder-blade-length hair she refused to either cut or wear up in a bun despite the weather and the hourglass figure that the suit did nothing to hide.
She’s with me, Alexander thought. At last. And he curled his hand around her hip.
The car was empty by the time they reached the last basement and they looked out cautiously. The limousine was waiting as promised. Mia swapped her briefcase over to her left hand and they stepped out, heading for the limousine.
There was a rattle of metal to their right and Alexander turned, his animal instincts flaring. Max was already leaping from the driver’s seat, his bolo in his hand.
But Mia was faster. She had the gun pulled from the holster at the small of her back and out, ready to fire, before Alexander had completed his turn.
Her reactions were faster than his.
She dropped her briefcase and threw her arm out across Alexander’s path to prevent him from moving forward. “Stop. It’s Wyatt,” she said, putting the small caliber gun away again. She ran forward into the shadowy basement and was enfolded by the dark figure there. Alexander could not make out the details but she had been able to. This had been another of her changes. Not only were her reaction times faster than his, she could see and hear better than a vampire.
And Wyatt was stronger than one. She was leading him forward now but he did not look like the strong hunter who had gone off the day before to Quebec to hunt a gargoyle. He was hunched over, an arm to his stomach. Alexander felt his heart seize. He hurried forward.
“What happened?” He and Mia between them bundled Wyatt into the limousine. “The keep, Max.”
“Aye.” Max climbed in and got the long vehicle rolling with minimum fuss, pulling out into the traffic without delay.
Alexander was grateful for the smoked windows and air-conditioning. He and Mia stretched Wyatt on the seat. “What happened?” he repeated again as he tried to pull aside Wyatt’s shirt to see his stomach.
“Demon was working with the gargoyle. The damn things are ganging up together these days.” Wyatt rolled his head back.
“Why aren’t you healing?” Mia cried.
Alexander winced and leaned over to the back of the driver’s seat. “Sorry, family business, Max.” And he hit the button for the privacy screen, which slid up behind the driver’s seat, a blacked-out window of total privacy between them and Max. It was soundproof and bulletproof.
Alexander turned back to Wyatt and looked at the long crimson gashes on Wyatt’s stomach.
“You’re supposed to have vampire healing powers now,” Mia said, tears rolling down her face.
“He does,” Alexander said quietly, studying the wounds. “These were much worse, twelve hours ago.”
Wyatt swallowed and nodded. “A mate drove me down from Ontario through the night. I had trouble convincing him not to take me to hospital in Toronto but when I didn’t die on him right away and was still talking when we hit the New York border he was starting to put it together. He was happy to get rid of me, I think. I scared the crap out of him. And he hunts demons.” He tried to laugh and it turned into a series of coughs that looked painful. He finally took a deep breath and opened his eyes. “God it’s good to see you both.”
Mia threw herself on his chest and Alexander kissed his forehead. Wyatt held Mia to him and eyed Alexander. “I’m guessing the war ain’t over, if the ass-kicking I just took is any measure. No sign of the infamous third trinity?”
He shook his head.
“Fuck.” Wyatt sighed. “The elves are going to eat Seaveth for dinner at the assembly.”
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Thanks again Teal, for the great post and even more for the lovely excerpts!
Teal was so kind to offer a copy of Beth's Acceptance(my review can be found here) in ebook form for one lucky reader. All you have to do is to leave a comment and answer the following question:
Do you like your Urban Fantasy with a little spice or do you prefer them the traditional way?
That's all. Okay I'm not against spreading the word about the giveaway so you get one extra point for that(leave a link please)!
The giveaway is international and ends on Saturday, December 12th when I got out of bed, drank my coffee and feel like going to random.org.
So comment away!