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Sime~Gen Inc. Presents

ReReadable Books

April 2010

"Group Mind & Media Part IV: Fantasy"


Jacqueline Lichtenberg



 To send books for review in this column email Jacqueline Lichtenberg,jl@simegen.com  for snailing instructions or send an attached RTF file.  
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Dark Stranger by Susan Sizemore, Pocket Star Books, Nov 2009

Primal Needs by Susan Sizemore, Pocket Star Books, Jan 2009

The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff, DAW HC June 2009

Dead Men’s Boots by Mike Carey, Grand Central Publishing

An Agent said recently that the only books editors are asking for now are Urban Fantasies. Nothing is selling like Urban Fantasy. On Twitter, they think UF is passing SF.

I’ve asked publicists who send books for this column for more Science Fiction. I’m still getting ten Fantasies per SF novel. Urban Fantasy is getting the promotional dollars.

In the January 2010 column, I reviewed Amber Benson’s Death’s Daughter in close focus because it looks like just plain Urban Fantasy, but it stands head and shoulders above that. I hope you’ve read it by now to see the interaction between the human Group Mind and the Media, when it comes to shifting social trends.

But I don’t know the whole story behind Death’s Daughter. I know more of the story behind a novel by Susan Sizemore, one of my favorite writers since she wrote fan fiction based on Forever Knight then went on to sell one of the earliest Forever Knight spinoff novels, titled Forever Knight: A Stirring of Dust!

Susan originally developed her strengths listening to feedback about her Forever Knight fanfic on the List where she posted her fiction. Her strong control of her material and her deep understanding of the story Urban Fantasy readers want to read came from inside herself, and was tempered by input directly from those dreaming the same dreams.

She was neither the cause nor the effect of the popularity of the Vampire TV Detective, Nick Knight. She understood that attraction and had the skills to materialize it for the fans in ways that a TV show can’t do.

When I was assembling an anthology of "Good Guy Vampire" stories in the vein of Buffy The Vampire Slayer fanfic, I went to some of my professional writer friends who had written fanfic (before or after going pro) and asked for contributions to go with contributions by great fanfic writers who hadn’t sold professionally yet but were very popular in online posting sites.

Susan Sizemore stepped up and volunteered, because after considerable thought, she remembered she had wanted to write a fanfic story set in one of her professional Vampire Romance universes (the Prime Clans series: I Burn For You, I Thirst For You, I Hunger For You, Crave The Night, Master of Darkness, Primal Heat, Primal Desires), where she writes about the Prime Clans and Families.

Susan Susan Sizemore On Amazon:

There was a story in the Prime universe she had wanted to write for a long time that had the natural title In The Dark but was not set on Earth with the other stories . I needed maybe 15,000 to 20,000 words for the anthology and she thought she could finally write it for this anthology.

But she was the last of my contributors to start to write, and the last to turn in a story.

Why? Because she’s not a prolific or professional writer? No. No way. Because the story she wanted to tell was not a short story, novelette or novella. So she had to search for a way to create an ending. And she had to keep rewriting the structure of the story while turning in other completed manuscripts by contract deadline.

But eventually, she found a way to place a reasonable ending and nice climax at the word-count I needed, and re-title it appropriately, Demon In The Dark. I happily accepted the story. It was a feat of extreme professionalism that I admired no end. But then her agent and her publisher decided putting that story in an anthology was a bad idea. So she withdrew the story.

I was sad because I wanted to publish that story because I knew you’d want to read it. But I was also thrilled. When I had read Sizemore’s ingenious ending, I told her it was good but it needed a sequel. I was totally sold on the characters and their universe, and I wanted more.

Eventually, her publisher made a spot for it on the Mass Market list, which meant Sizemore had to fit this headache of a novel into the set of novels she had already written and complete it as a full length novel.

Again, the result needed a new title, and the work became Dark Stranger, the book you can now buy which is a product of a deep, rich, wide and long interaction between a Group Mind of Vampire Romance readers and a writer with an inspired Talent.

Her Prime series is set on Earth, contemporary urban fantasy with vampires and werewolves etc. But Dark Stranger is set out in space, among variegated species holding an Interstellar War. The female lead character is a cyber-enhanced aristocrat with heavy responsibilities to society. The male lead character is a military officer from a world of Vampires descended from Earth’s Vampires.

They are prisoners of war, kept in a deep cavern, dark and crowded with various species fighting for space.

The novel is the right size for this story but the best thing about Dark Stranger is the way Susan has explained in the Forward that Dark Stranger was written by the writers among the Prime Clans, for their private amusement; a fanzine! By Vampires! The Artists and Musicians of the Primes share their talent with humans, so the writers have now decided to do the same. Stranger is the first selection of the Vampire Book Club.

This is probably the first time a novel written by characters in a novel series has been done in Mass Market, and it just tickles me no end.

If you are not familiar with the Prime Clans and Families novels, this space-adventure Romance will read wonderfully well as a stand-alone. But I think you’ll want to go look up the Prime novels.

Primal Needs by Susan Sizemore is the Jan 2009 entry in the series, and also is fine as a stand-alone read though it continues the chronicles of these odd genetic strains of humanity, werewolves and Vampires.

Primal Needs is about a Vampire female who is totally in love with and totally committed to making a life with a werewolf. Her family, though, needs her to breed with a Vampire male. You will understand the complex sexual imperatives of these species by the end of this novel and it’s all done without laborious exposition.

This is Urban Fantasy at its best, with a realistic background that couldn’t be more unreal. But the people are real. Who they love, why they love, and what consequences they’re willing to accept because of that love, all makes perfect sense. They’re just Vampires & werewolves who try to blend in but have other Primal Needs. Now that you’ve read their hot Fantasy novel, Dark Stranger, you’ll understand them a lot better.

If you like Family Drama Urban Fantasy, follow Tanya Huff (I’ve raved about many of her novels here over the years!) into the all new The Enchantment Emporium.

Set in Calgary, Canada, Emporium is the story of Alysha Catherine Gale, scion of a family of witches, almost all female folk magic practitioners with real Power. The family is run by The Aunties. Alysha is one of the Cousins. Alysha inherits a junk shop in Calgary from her Grandmother but it’s a mystery how her Gran died.

With the help of a Leprecaun who runs the store, Alysha sets out to discover what happened to her grandmother and stirs up the local fey community. Magical threats and a mysterious Reporter lead step by step to a local Arcane Combat showdown. Alysha, who has never been the most obedient and loyal daughter of the house, isn’t sure she can count on her family to come help her.

Now, again, I don’t know the story of the genesis of The Enchantment Emporium as I do Dark Stranger. But Tanya Huff has always paid attention to reader commentary. She knows what people want to read, and Emporium is an excellent example of the trend in tastes.

Comics Creator Mike Carey gives us a world of Necromancy, Ghosts, and Talented specialists in his third Felix Castor novel Dead Men’s Boots from Grand Central Publishing.

Grand Central Publishing (formerly Warner Books) came into existence in 1970. It became part of the Time Warner Book Group in 1998 and in 2006 was acquired by Hachette Livre; it is part of the Hachette Book Group USA.

Dead Men’s Boots is a swashbuckling Paranormal Detective story. Felix Caster reminds me of a cross between Sam Spade and Harry Dresden but though Dresden, like Death’s Daughter, grows because of his adventures, Caster doesn’t. He’s more a Comic Book character.

So which comes first, the Group Mind "need" (6th House Health, Body, Servants) or the Large Institution (12th House) response? On Twitter, someone posted the link to Susan Boyl’s YouTube video of the song that wowed Britain last year, and noted it was an example of how a song could change the world. Is it? Astrologically, mystically, what really happened to Susan Boyl that night? To the audience?


To send books for review in this column email Jacqueline Lichtenberg,  jl@simegen.com for snailing instructions or send an attached RTF file.  



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