Shadow Witch Rising

Shadow Witch Rising Cover
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Two people, bound by a powerful curse.

When Sophie Turner finally returns home to the sleepy tourist town of Copper Falls, she imagines the kind of life she’d always dreamed of: calm, quiet, and peaceful. After years of having her steps haunted by a powerful and devious stalker, she is now living on land settled by her ancestors. She can feel the magic in her blood responding, and she feels like she finally has the chance to build a life.

Until he comes along.

All of her dreams of peace and calm come tumbling down the second Calder Turcotte enters Sophie’s life. The danger he brings threatens everything she’s worked for, everything she’s tried to build for herself. He gives Sophie an ultimatum: break the curse her ancestor set on his family, or lose the very land that’s allowing her to heal. And as much as she despises him, as much as she fears him, she’s equally drawn to his icy gaze, his strength. Helping him is the right thing to do.

She never would have guessed how much she’d end up losing to save him.


“Colleen Vanderlinden proved herself a master of fantasy action and adventure in her HIDDEN series. In COPPER FALLS, she only digs deeper. Character. Atmosphere. Humor. Intrigue. Shadow Witch Rising will draw readers into the Copper Falls world. It’s a fantastic start to a series I’m eager to follow.”

—Elizabeth Hunter, author of the Elemental Mysteries, and the Irin Chronicles

“A spectacular start to a promising series.  SHADOW WITCH RISING takes the reader on a turbulent journey with Sophie and Calder, where Evil is parasitic, relentless and determined and Love, in its many forms of friendship, brotherly affection and timeless devotion, offers hope.”

—Grace Draven, USA Today Best-selling author of RADIANCE

Lessons in the Mundane {A Hidden: Soulhunter Short Story}

13648446099i2neThe first thing you learn is how to be invisible.

How to avoid being seen, even when you are standing right beside someone.

In all honesty, sometimes, it is not that difficult. A man gasps his last breath, a woman fades away peacefully in her sleep, and they are alone as they pass. Just you and them, and in those moments there is beauty. It is a sacred moment. Sad, to those left behind, but sacred nonetheless.

Sometimes, it is not only the deceased there. Some lucky humans die surrounded by loved ones. It is easy to stand among them to witness those last moments. Their attention, after all, is not on me.

Violent deaths are different, I thought to myself as I walked along a dusty road in rural Wisconsin. Those, I usually did not watch. We never knew we would have to be there until the death had already happened. Random. Cruel. Violent death left its victims with no dignity, no peace in that moment, that infinitesimal space between life and death.

The hot summer sun beat down on my hair, making my scalp feel hot. I’d shed my leather coat a few miles back. Even I have my limits, and there was no one here to intimidate.

 * * *

So the first thing you learn is how to be invisible. The second thing you learn is how not to care. Caring is useless, a waste of time and energy, when our entire existence was devoted to one purpose: escorting the dead to what came next. There was nothing else.

A crow passed overhead, squawking at me in passing, and I knew that it was going to claim a soul. I could feel it, that old urge to escort it myself still strong. In this case, a twenty-seven year old man had died when his tractor tipped and crushed him beneath it. He was leaving four children and a young wife, and there was not a single thing that could be done about it because death comes for all, even those who are not human.

I have watched great human empires rise and fall. I have watched the most powerful men and women take their final breath. Some raged against me when I came to claim them. Some went happily, ready for the next part of their journey. I wondered how this man would feel, a father and husband, with so much yet to live for.

I pushed it aside, and walked on. It was no longer my concern. In some ways, I was glad for that. For the first time in eternity, my path was one of my own choosing.

I never would have guessed that freedom would be so stifling.

I have made choices in the past couple of years that I never could have imagined making before. The decision to not merely befriend Mollis Eth-Hades, but to fight for her, to defend her and her home against those I’d known for millennia, had surprised me as much as anyone. It felt right, and I still do not understand why, but I am glad I did so.

More decisions. More choices, things I never even gave a second thought to before, such as how I would dress, how I would wear my hair, which foods I preferred. Music, movies, books. None of them were things I had given any consideration to before. It was as if a whole new world had opened itself to me. I have seen everything. Nothing surprises me. Yet I find that I delight in ordinary things in a way that feels alien to me.

Perhaps I am changing.

 * * *

The first thing you learn is how to be invisible. The second thing you learn is how not to care. The third thing you learn is that your only value lies in how well you dedicate yourself to those you were created to serve.

I was the most dedicated. The most reliable. The one who would go without sleep, food, or even sitting down for days on end if it was needed. I was the perfect servant, the perfect hunter for the god of Death. I reveled in it. I believed in it. I prided myself in my ability to keep working long after the others had decided to quit.

I believed in Hades. The beauty and dignity in death. I believed in justice, in my role in assuring that actions taken in life were judged and punished after death. Balance. Righteousness.

I still believed in those things, but somehow, it was not as simple anymore. My god had died. My king. If death can claim even the god who ruled it, what balance can there truly be in this world? What purpose is there for someone like me, like Mollis? Is it all just chaos that we fool ourselves into believing we have some control over?

I kicked a stone and idly watched it disappear into the tall wildflowers at the side of the road. Perhaps Mollis changed us all, with the things she’d done. Some believe so. Mostly the Aether gods. I do not think so. My sisters began betraying Hades and his family before Mollis even became part of our lives.

I furrowed my brow. It was a choice they’d made. One I had not. One I had not been privy to until I was slapped in the face with the cold reality that the twelve immortals I’d referred to as “sisters” had not only betrayed everything we were, but had left me behind.

I took a breath and looked up at the clear, empty blue sky. It was time to move on from here. It was time to stop wandering, hoping to find something I am not even sure I would recognize if I saw it.

 * * *

The first thing you learn is how to be invisible. The second thing you learn is how not to care. The third thing you learn is how to serve. And the fourth thing you learn, the thing all immortals hold on to, is that humanity is beneath us. Humans are a means to an end, to either be ignored or toyed with; chess pieces in an endless game to use as the gods see fit. To Hades, they were like tally marks, and all had to be accounted for.

I believed all of it, once upon a time.

I walked back toward the small log cabin I had slept in the night before, and every night the month before that. When I opened the front door and stepped into the single room of the cabin, the woman I had been staying with was lying in bed, watching me with a sleepy expression on her lovely face. Violet smiled, and I smiled back.

“I am glad you are awake,” I said.

“I was wondering if you’d taken off on me already,” she said, sitting up. Her toes peeked out from beneath the buttery yellow sheets, her toenails painted a pearly pink. Her long blond hair flowed in waves over her shoulders, her skin tan from days spent out in the summer sun. She was golden and soft and warm, and I was happy I’d known her.

“Not without saying goodbye,” I said, a small smile still on my lips. I sat on the bed beside her, and she gently ran her fingertips through my hair. An intimate gesture, one I would not have expected as part of my life.

“Thank you for last night,” Violet said, giving the ends of my hair a gentle tug.

I smiled wider. “I feel as if I should be thanking you,” I said, and she laughed, and it was rich and alive. She hugged her knees, still sitting in bed beside me.

“You really have to go?”

I nodded.

“I haven’t had many flings, Mia,” she said, using the shortened form of my true name I’d begun giving to the humans I met along the way. “I’ve gotta say: usually I feel like shit when it’s all over.”

“And now?”

She grinned. “Usually I feel like shit because it’s awkward,” she said. “This isn’t awkward. I’m glad you stuck around.”

“I am awkward by nature,” I pointed out, and she laughed again.

“Not as awkward as you seem to think,” she teased. She sobered. “I want you to take care of yourself, Mia. I know you’re a quiet person by nature, but these past few days it’s been clear there’s something on your mind.”

I nodded. How odd to be known, even a little bit, by another. “My family needs me,” I said.

“I hope everything goes all right, then,” she said softly, taking my hand. “Be safe. The way you talk about your family, I keep picturing The Godfather or something.”

I let out a short laugh. Well, she was not too far off. I was familiar with those movies. “It will be fine. I have been away for some time. I miss a few of them.”

“And the rest?” she asked, delicate eyebrow raised.

“Not so much,” I admitted, and she laughed.

“That’s the way it is with families, I think,” she said, and I nodded in agreement. We sat in silence for several long, comfortable moments that I wanted to hang on to for as long as possible. She was a good woman. A sweet woman, and she’d brought laughter, warmth, and pleasure into my life in the time we’d spent together. I had never lied to her. She knew I would not stay, and she was not looking for more, content, at this point in her life, being alone. I looked up at her, meeting her soft brown eyes as I had so many times when we’d loved one another, my gaze moving to her full lips, and I warmed at the memory of the things we’d done together. I met her eyes again, and she smiled.

“I’m not going to see you again, am I?” she asked in a low voice.

I squeezed her hand, leaned forward and gently pressed my lips to hers. She sighed in contentment, and the sound filled me with joy. That my touch could have this effect on someone still amazed me. She kissed me, gently nibbled my lower lip, and I heard a soft sound escape me, one that spoke of desire. Need. She had that effect on me. A few more soft flutters across her lips, and I pulled back.

“So I guess that was a ‘no,’” she whispered, worrying her full lower lip between her teeth, as if mimicking the way she’d just done the same to my own mouth.

I did not want to think about the next time I would have the chance to see her. Likely, it would not be until her soul passed from the mortal realm, and all of her warmth and life was left behind her. I hated the thought of it.

What a surprise, that death, which has always been my life, is something I have come to greatly dislike at times.

“We both knew it would be so,” I reminded her gently, and she nodded.

“I know,” she said. “It would just be nice to know you’re okay. You’re pretty awesome, Mia.”

I smiled. “As are you, Vi. I will be fine,” I told her, squeezing her hand again. “I do not know how to be otherwise.”

She shook her head and climbed out of bed. I watched as she pulled a white t-shirt over her body, covering curves I’d delighted in over and over again.

“Take a picture. It’ll last longer,” she teased, and I smiled.

“I will remember,” I said, and she smiled back. She was beautiful, and I would not forget her. I have been with a small number of people in my time wandering. Men, women. What equipment they had or did not have did not matter to me. Eyes. Smile. The ability to make even a cold old woman like me laugh. Those were the things that made me want someone. I would not call any of it love, if such a thing is even something I am capable of. But there was joy, and warmth, and laughter. Life.

Gods, life is a beautiful thing.

I stood up, and grabbed my black duffel bag out of the closet where I’d left it the night before after I’d packed. Violet watched me, and I went to her, and we shared one slow, sweet kiss before she tugged my hair gently and pulled away.

“Go on. Otherwise I’m totally going to kidnap you and keep you here,” she murmured with a smile.

I laughed, and we hugged. “I will never forget you. Thank you for this time.”

She nodded, and blinked a tear from her eyes, and gave me a small wave. I walked down the road, toward town, where it would be possible to catch a bus if one needed to travel that way.

When I was out of sight, I turned back one last time. The cabin looked tiny in the distance, its green metal roof shining in the summer sunlight, heavy branches of the nearby white pines arching over one side of the structure. I breathed in the scent of wildflowers, dusty road, her scent still on my skin.

 * * *

The first thing you learn is how to be invisible. The second thing you learn is how not to care. The third thing you learn is how to serve. The fourth thing you learn is that humans are of no consequence.

The fifth thing you learn is that we are the choices we make. And this is something the humans learned long before we immortals did.

I dropped the enchantment that had hidden my wings from Violet. It was no longer needed, and it was time to be myself again.

I had spent over two years trying to find myself, trying to find a reason for being now that my role was stripped from me.

I do not know that I found it. What I do know is that this world is beautiful and worth protecting. And there is one woman who does that better than any other. It was time to serve my friend, my Queen. I spread my wings and rose into the air, delighting in the warm sun on my skin, the air cooling me as I flew east.

It was time to go home.

 

Audiobook News and Writing Update

Things have been BUSY around here lately, and I have a few things to share with you guys.

First off, the audiobooks for both Broken and Home are finished and available on Amazon, iTunes, and Audible! My narrator, the fabulous Tonya Cornelisse, did an amazing job with both books, and we’ll be moving forward with Strife as soon as Tonya and her production crew can work it into their schedules. There is nothing quite like hearing that moment toward the end of Broken when Molly feels you-know-who again in the Nether. Or that moment when she sees Sean for the first time in Home. I’m very pleased with all three of the HIDDEN audiobooks, and I hope you enjoy them as well!

In more audiobook news, I have signed the very talented Julia Knippen to narrate the Shadow Witch Rising audiobook! It’s looking like that will be available sometime in July, so you’ll be hearing more about that as time goes on.

If you are interested in sales links or listening to audio samples of any of my audiobooks, please check my the Audiobook page.

Writing Update

I am in the home stretch of Hidden: Soulhunter! I have been editing as I go, so there really shouldn’t be too much clean-up to do once I have the end the way I want it. I’m planning to have it finished by 3/31, and then on to my beta readers and editing, which is a pretty quick process — we’re pretty much all pros at this by now. :)

I have Shadow Sworn (Copper Falls #2) all outlined and writing has started on that as well. The current plan is to have Hidden: Soulhunter #1 come out in April, and then if everything works out, Shadow Sworn should be out in June or July. I’ll take a look at things and decide after that whether I want to launch straight into writing Copper Falls #3, Hidden: Soulhunter #2, or the first of the HIDDEN vampire novels. So many options, which is really a nice situation to be in.

I hope you all have a fabulous week!

XO,

Colleen

What’s next for the HIDDEN universe?

I’ve gotten a few questions about this, so I thought this might be a good time to explain my thought process and plans for the HIDDEN universe, and maybe shed some light on why I’m doing things the way I am.

I’ve mentioned before that HIDDEN was hugely inspired by superhero comics. Everything, from the sometimes frenetic action to the drama between characters, was informed and inspired by my love for superhero comics. I wanted to create a hero unlike anyone I’d seen before. I wanted her to be tough yet vulnerable, powerful yet completely breakable if pushed too far. I wanted her to be imperfect. I wanted her to make mistakes. Sometimes, huge ones that messed things up big time. I wanted her, like many of us, to have more questions than answers.

And we ended up with Molly, and she will, most likely, always be my favorite character from my own books.

Because HIDDEN was inspired by comic books, I always thought that, eventually, it would be expanded.

How to explain this…. if you are familiar with comic books, you know that Marvel publishes The Avengers, right? And you can follow that story and be happy. But if one series isn’t enough for you, maybe you take a look at New Avengers, and maybe Secret Avengers, and maybe you really like one particular character, so you read Captain America or Black Widow as well… and while each book has its own focus, its own primary characters, it all relates back to The Avengers. And then every once in a while, you’ll have a great big crossover event where all of the different teams and characters end up coming together when the shit is really going to hit the fan.

This has been my model for the HIDDEN universe for quite a while, and I wanted to let you guys know what my thoughts are moving forward.

So we have HIDDEN, the original series, which focused on Molly and the team that developed around her.

And then we have the upcoming HIDDEN: SOULHUNTER series, dealing with Eunomia and those who end up working with her. We’ll see some new characters, some familiar ones, and hear a bit about how things look from where Eunomia stands. This team is allied with the original HIDDEN crew, but separate.

Coming up in a few months, we’ll have the first of the HIDDEN: BLOOD BOUND series (that title is still something I’m deciding on, by the way) which is about Rayna and her family of vampires. They are the street-level muscle, and deal with a whole different set of problems from what Molly and even Eunomia deal with.

There may very well be another series about the shifter coalition in Detroit. That would be Brennan’s series.

At some point, it will all come together for a giant, crazy crossover series.

My plan for the series is that they each build on the original HIDDEN story, but (because this is me) we start seeing that things are changing in ways no one quite expected after NETHER. So you can read each series independently, and you can likely even read them if you haven’t read the original HIDDEN, because my goal is to tell a complete story in each series, but still tie them all together and raise the stakes so that it all comes back together in the end.

Heh. And this is where I pray to the writing gods that I can pull it off. :)

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know what was happening next. I am nowhere near finished writing in this world, and I hope you’ll come along for the ride. And those of you who have fallen in love with Copper Falls — don’t  worry! Shadow Sworn is moving forward as well.

Thanks for reading!

Weekend Update, Shadow Witch Rising Edition

ShadowWitchRisingCover_200So Shadow Witch Rising came out this past week, and I can admit now that I was terrified. It was a different direction for me, and both my husband and Elizabeth Hunter probably heard way more panic from me than they ever wanted to. But, I’m a lucky girl, and both of them withstood the onslaught of “oh my god I suck —  what the hell am I doing… I should just write more HIDDEN!” like pros. :)
My fear was somewhat alleviated by the fact that both Elizabeth Hunter and Grace Draven (two of my absolute favorite authors) beta read and blurbed the book, which was something I really didn’t expect. Even so, I wondered how my readers would respond, and so far, a little less than a week in, the feedback has been very, very positive and people are excited and a few people have crushes on Calder, so I’m happy.

Aside from the Copper Falls series, work continues on the first Soulhunter book. This one is also getting very enthusiastic feedback from my newsletter subscribers (who are reading it in weekly installments as I write it) and I’m looking forward to writing the rest of Eunomia’s series once this book is available.

If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen that I mentioned my planned upcoming releases. I don’t have release dates yet, but I know that I’ll be publishing the first Soulhunter book in the next couple of months, followed by the second Copper Falls book. After that, the next release will either be the second Soulhunter book or the first of my planned spinoff HIDDEN series about Rayna and her family. I’m still deciding which it will be.

Reading

I am still working my way through Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbot — it’s a really good read so far, but I read nonfiction much more slowly than I read fiction, so it is taking me a while. Highly recommended so far if you enjoy Civil War and/or women’s history.

I have also finally read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander and have started Dragonfly in Amber. Holy shit. Reading something like Outlander makes me want to weep in delight as a reader, but despair as a writer because there is no way I’ll ever be that good. But I can try. :) (Seriously. Why have I not read this series before?? I see more historical romance in my future. If you’ve read Outlander and can recommend similar books/series I might like, drop them in the comments, please!)

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I’m also re-reading Grace Draven’s Radiance just because it’s too good not to read again. I will have a more comprehensive write up here on the blog eventually, and I know many of you have already read it. Another “holy shit” read for me. I called Grace a writing mage over on Facebook and I’m even more sure of it upon a second reading.

I beta-read Elizabeth Hunter’s third Irin Chronicles book, The Secret. We’ll just go three-for-three with the “holy shit!” reads in this post, apparently. It is amazing. Beautifully written, captivating perfection. Hunter’s ability to create and sustain a mythology throughout a series is amazing, and I have loved every second I’ve spent reading the Irin Chronicles. You all are in for a major treat when it is available on March 31st. Again, I’ll have a more complete write-up at some point here on the blog.

Of course, there have also been comics. Thor and Bitch Planet have continued to make me a happy reader. I am behind on others, but I’m hoping to catch up eventually.

That’s about it for now. I am going to try to blog more regularly, but that depends on how well the writing is going. Today, I met my word count early, so it seemed like a good time for a post. :)

Have a great weekend!

XO,

Colleen

 

In which I read to you…

Shadow Witch Rising CoverMonday, guys! Shadow Witch Rising will finally be here, and I am about to die of excitement. I can’t wait to share this story with you. So, because I’m losing my mind here, I figured I’d try something I haven’t done before: an author reading. But because I don’t especially enjoy leaving my house, I recorded myself reading a little bit of Shadow Witch Rising. :)

To set it up: this scene takes place between Sophie and Calder’s ancestors. Because Sophie and Calder are in the situation they are in due to the actions of their ancestors, I wanted to tell a bit of their story along the way as well. So in this scene, Migisi (Sophie’s ancestor) and Luc (Calder’s ancestor) meet for the very first time. Enjoy!

HIDDEN Love Letters

Happy Valentine’s Day, all! To celebrate, I thought I’d have some fun and share some love letters from some of our favorite HIDDEN couples. I hope you enjoy them! (Warning: Spoilers if you haven’t read Nether yet!)

hephletter

meaghanletter

 

 

zeroletter

 

 

stoneletter

mollyletter

nainletter

Happy Valentine’s Day, all!

XO,

Colleen

New Teaser! Shadow Witch Rising

We are about a week and a half from the release day for Shadow Witch Rising, so I think it’s time for another teaser! This little peek gives you a bit of insight into Sophie’s powers, as well as introduces you to two of her oldest friends. I hope you enjoy it!

* * *

ShadowWitchRisingCover_200Sophie drove home from work, singing along to Taylor Swift and, as always, enjoying the scenery on the meandering two-lane highway. Forest on both sides, and the leaves were starting to turn, shades of red and orange adding to the lush beauty. The sumac at the base of the trees along the roadside were already crimson, like rubies dangling from arching branches.

The sun was just starting to set, washing the landscape in deep orange. She drove with the window down, and let the cool breeze reinvigorate her after eight hours of cleaning up other people’s messes. Not that she wasn’t grateful for it. She was happy to be back in the place she’d grown up, and happy she could support herself. Not only had it been the place she’d spent the happiest times of her childhood, not only was it the only place she’d ever lived where there was actually a community of “others,” including witches and shifters, but it was more friendly and welcoming than anyplace she could imagine. The year-round residents all knew one another. Her first winter, no less than six people she knew from town had driven out to check on her, knowing she was a city girl and, most likely, needed help. She hadn’t, but she’d been touched by the gesture, especially after spending most of her teens and twenties utterly alone.

She rounded a curve in the road, and noticed a large form lying at the side of the road. As she got closer, she recognized it as a deer. Its legs were moving, but it seemed to be struggling.

Sophie pulled over onto the shoulder and got out of her car, leaving the car running and the headlights on so she could see clearly in the darkening evening. She reached the deer and crouched down near its head. It was a doe, she realized. She caught movement in the brush at the side of the road. When she looked, there were at least two fawns there.

Looking back down at the doe, she noticed that its left shoulder was bloodied. She touched it gingerly, felt bone shift beneath her fingers, and the doe let out a pained call.

“All right now,” Sophie murmured, keeping her tone low and soft. She rested both hands over the wound, focused. The doe calmed, stopped flailing, stopped its mournful calling. Sophie closed her eyes, focused what little Light magic she had. From what she’d read, she was basically doing everything wrong. It seemed that many Lightwitches felt and went by instinct more than anything else. Maybe it was because Sophie’s power was so meager in the first place, but she didn’t rely on feeling and intentions. When she closed her eyes, after a while, she could see, in detail, the way the deer was injured, worked her magic in and around it as if binding the broken bones. Her magic wasn’t a sensation or a spirit or whatever her fellow Lightwitches called it. Maybe that was the way it was supposed to be. That was entirely possible. But to Sophie, her magic was and always had been more like a tool, something she could focus and use to her own will. There was really nothing ethereal about it, not the way she used it. Maybe if she’d been trained by another witch instead of learning on her own, it would have been different.

It worked, and that was all that mattered to her. Even with the meager amount of Light magic she possessed, Sophie soon felt the doe’s shoulder healing, bones knitting back together. Had the break been more substantial, she knew she wouldn’t have been able to fix it. Minor wounds, she could heal. Anything beyond that was impossible for her. Her real power seemed to be in protective wards. This was just a side thing she’d figured out as a teenager.

Pulling her hands back, she opened her eyes and looked down at the doe. She was no longer bleeding, and was already trying to stand. Once on her feet, she gave Sophie one final glance, then bounded toward the woods where her fawns were waiting.

Sophie smiled and stood up. The after-effects of using her magic left her warm and peaceful. And, just as the few times she’d managed to heal before, she felt a little more powerful, almost as if Light itself was rewarding her for doing something good with her power. She actually knew it to be true. Her magic had been almost non-existent, just the barest threads of power. Each time she’d done something worthwhile with her magic, she’d felt herself grow a little stronger. Not by leaps, but by bits. Enough to make a difference and enable her to ward herself from danger and use her magic for good things.

Sophie got back into her car, took a couple of wipes from the canister she kept in her back seat, and cleaned the drying blood from her fingers. It was dark now, and the woods looked less friendly. Time to get home.

She put the car into drive and maneuvered onto the empty highway. When she pulled into her driveway, she shook her head. The twins’ familiar convertible sat in her driveway already, the sisters sitting on her porch waiting.

She got out of her car and slammed the door.

“Finally!” Layla said, and Cara elbowed her.

“You smell like deer,” Cara said in greeting.

“Nice to see you, too, dear,” Sophie said. “What are you guys doing here?”

“Were you saving wildlife again?” Cara asked with a wry smile.

“Maybe,” Sophie said.

“You know we’re probably just going to hunt it later, right?”

“Don’t. You. Dare,” Sophie said, and Layla laughed. “She’s a doe, with fawns. Be nice.”

“Fine,” Cara said.

“Come on. Go wash the deer stink off you… although, maybe not. That might actually work for you,” Layla said, and Cara laughed.

“What in the hell are you even talking about?” Sophie asked, unlocking her front door. The twins followed her in.

“We’re going to Jack’s. And you’re coming with us,” Layla said.

“Oh, hell, no. I am not. I’m going to take care of my goats, and take a shower, and read…”

Cara let out an exaggerated yawn.

“Babe, you’re gorgeous, sweet, and you have the kind of boobs I can only get from a really expensive push-up bra. We need to find you someone to get friendly with.”

“I do not need to get ‘friendly’ with anyone.”

“Girl, if that stick gets any further up your butt, I’m gonna start calling you Popsicle,” Layla said, and Cara snorted. “You need to let loose a little and get your mind off of all of this crap for a while. Now, let’s go.”

Sophie rolled her eyes. “What are the chances you’re just going to get up and go without me?”

“Right around zero, Popsicle,” Cara said, and Layla erupted into a fit of giggles.

“Ugh,” Sophie said, though even she had to laugh at the ridiculous nickname. “Fine. Let me go take care of the animals. Are we in a hurry?”

“Not really. We don’t work tomorrow. You?”

Sophie nodded. “Later shift, though.”

“Good. Go do your thing. We’ll be here, rummaging through your cupboards.”

Sophie grabbed the bucket off of the back steps, shaking her head to herself. They did this every once in a while, got it into their heads that she needed to be more social, that she was sinking into melancholy. And, usually, as with now, they were right. She always felt better after a night out with them, so she didn’t put up much of a fight anymore. And they were stubborn as anything. Crazy wolves.

She milked the goats, secured them and the chickens for the night, then carried the milk bucket back inside, put it in the refrigerator.

“It’ll be a few minutes,” Sophie said.

“Take your time,” Layla said, flipping through a magazine from the coffee table.

Sophie headed into her bedroom, grabbed a gray tweed skirt, a form-fitting black sweater she liked, and her pair of knee-high black boots. She showered (pulling her hair up and stuffing it into a shower cap, because it would take forever to dry and even the twins wouldn’t be okay with waiting long enough for her to mess with her crazy mop of hair). Makeup, clothes, arranging a few of her curls that kept trying to twist funny, and she left the room.

“Okay?” Sophie asked, holding her arms out.

“You are so gonna get laid,” Layla said, and Cara whistled.

“I am not going to get laid,” Sophie said. “I’m going out to have fun and relax and stop thinking about the jerk across the road for a while.”

* * *

Shadow Witch Rising is available for pre-order now on Amazon, and will be out on February 23rd!

On the romance genre as a punch line

It started when I was scrolling through Book Riot this morning. The post was typical February/Valentine’s Day fare: books to read about love. All right, fine. I like books about love! Love is awesome. And then I read this:

If you want to dip your toe into girly-romance but want something decently-written…

Uh.

Wait, what?

And on first blush, it’s so easy to say, “oh, relax. This is one blogger, one person’s opinion, and they probably didn’t even necessarily mean it the way it sounded.”

Except, no. That statement above and the attitude behind it are not at all uncommon, and it suggests that, as a whole, the romance genre is full of badly-written work. It is dangerous territory, through which one must tread carefully, because landmines are everywhere, and you’re more likely to come across purple prose and mentions of “throbbing members” and heroes “sheathing the sword” than actual, meaningful stories.

And you know what? It pisses me off. It’s not fair, and it’s not true. I went off on a little bit of a Twitter rant…

twitter

Of course, I’m not the first person to say this, and there’s no way I’ll be the last. In her fantastic article on Writer Unboxed, author Barbara O’Neal writes:

“And yet, romance novels continue to be the most disdained of all genres. Often not just disdained or dismissed, but reviled with an unbridled hatred that oozes and splutters.

Why is that? Serious question.

Genre novels such as mysteries or science fiction are often dismissed, but they are not often reviled the way romance novels are. Why is it so much more ridiculous or ignorant to read and write romance novels than something like Game of Thrones or the latest gory offering from Patricia Cornwell?”

Part of it, certainly, could be outdated ideas about romance novels and their role in society. Maybe we hold to the idea Germaine Greer once espoused about the genre, when she stated that the romance genre encouraged women to accept and, even more, welcome, “the chains of their bondage.”

Uh. No. I’m one of the most feminist bitches you’ll ever meet and I would not love this genre as much as I do if that were the case.

Maybe we believe romance novels are nothing more than “mommy porn.” Which is utter bullshit, first off because the term is stupid, but even more because… yeah? So what if that was the case? I’d never call it that and I disagree that that’s what it is (not even close, actually) but even if it was true it’s certainly not a reason to deride an entire genre. Many comic books, military thrillers, science fiction novels and a wide range of primarily male-dominated genres are nothing more than male power fantasies for the most part. Why aren’t those genres a ready punchline whenever a discussion of books comes up?

Maybe we believe, as the aforementioned Book Riot blogger, that the genre is mostly poorly-written slop. There is no accounting for taste, of course, and people have different preferences. Are there poorly-written romance novels? Of course. Are there poorly-written mysteries, thrillers, westerns, horror novels? Yep.

Yet only one of those is a ready punchline.

Do I seem irritated? Good. Because I am.

Here’s the thing. I love this genre. I love sweet romance, and spicy romance. I love paranormal romance and western romance. I love this genre in all its diversity.

Yes, diversity. Because while the rest of the world seems to think the genre is nothing more than “girl meets boy, girl wants boy, girl may or may not shag boy (often or less-often, depending on the type of book), girl loses boy, girl finds happily-ever-after” — it’s so much more. It is a genre filled by heroines and heroes of all backgrounds, belief systems, and challenges. It is a genre in which, first and foremost, the story is about the woman. The woman is the focus. She has agency — she is not there merely as the hot girlfriend or the object of affections for the hero, or, worse, to get fridged so the hero has a reason to go out and kick ass — it’s HER. goddamn. story. It’s about her desires, her life, her goals… and when she meets the hero (or heroine) and decides to let that person into her bed, her pleasure matters. And while the happily-ever-after is important, the ways of getting there never fail to surprise and delight me.

The heroine may be a doctor, a lawyer, a vampire killer, a stay at home mom, a college student learning what it means to be out in the world. None of them, nor the women who write them, deserve the easy derision they receive.

And that’s all I have to say about that. Time to go write some books about awesome women living their lives for my audience of (mostly) women who find joy in these books.

And none of us are a goddamn punchline.

Update: BookRiot has since improved the post, changing the headline I and many other authors and readers found fault with. Kudos to Elizabeth Hunter, Kat Bowen, KT Grant, Chloe Neill, and many readers for raising a little hell on Twitter. Nice job, all! :)

 

 

 

Copper Falls: Inspiration and Other Miscellany

ShadowWitchRisingCoverI mentioned on Facebook that I’ve had a few questions about the Copper Falls series, and I thought I’d answer those here as well, and also include some other background information for those interested.

First off, I’ve been asked if the series is urban fantasy or paranormal romance. It’s paranormal romance. You’ll find that the pacing and feel of the series is very different from Hidden, because they’re two very different things. Which leads us to the other most common question…

“Is Copper Falls like Hidden?” And the best answer I can give is: in some ways, maybe? It is similar to Hidden in that the series focuses on a female protagonist (Sophie) who is strong in her own way and has to find a way to deal with both external and internal challenges. It’s similar to Hidden in that, obviously, it’s written by me, so you’ll see some familiar things and themes popping up, such as mentions of gardening and old cars and Detroit and (my biggie) the question of what strength looks like. Because there are many ways someone can be strong. Molly was physically/magically strong. She was strong in her sense of right and wrong, and in her devotion to helping. She was weak in other ways. You’ll find that Sophie is also strong in some ways and not so strong in others, because that’s realistic and I like writing those kinds of characters.

It’s not like Hidden, however, in the pacing and overall feel of the story. It’s just different, because that’s what this particular story required.

Inspiration?

I wrote the original set of notes for the series that has since become Copper Falls back in 2010. I wanted to write about someone who had almost no power, magically speaking, but was forced into a situation that seemed impossible given how little magic she had. And I had already written the first draft of Lost Girl and knew who and what Molly was and how her power would evolve, and I liked the idea of writing about someone very different.

Detroit is practically a character in Hidden. The story, for me, had to take place here. The setting is just as important in Copper Falls.

We took a few long camping trips when I was a kid, where we’d travel through Michigan over the course of a week or two, and one of my favorite places in the entire state was Copper Harbor, which sits at the very tip top of the upper peninsula. I still can’t explain it, all these years later, but something about the place just spoke to me and has stayed with me. It is wild and beautiful and touristy… yet not such a big tourist spot that it loses its small town feel. So Copper Falls is based on Copper Harbor somewhat (based on what my favorite things were when I was last there). The falls that are a recurring theme in the books were inspired by the  Manganese Falls in Copper Harbor, which I rode my bike to when we camped nearby. It was a long ride, and it was an accomplishment just to reach them. And then when I did, I’d just stand there, mesmerized. Being a city girl, there was just something magical about having a waterfall within bike riding distance, and that feeling has stuck with me ever since.

There was also this crazy thing where you could go to the town dump and watch black bears come to scavenge for food. People would just sit in their cars and dozens of black bears would show up around sunset. It was really probably stupid, but those bears… they stuck with me as well. :)

I can’t wait to share this story with you. It is up for pre-order right now, and will be available on February 23rd!

In the meantime, I know my newsletter subscribers are waiting on the next installment of SOULHUNTER. I was wrapped up in revisions this week, so I didn’t publish a newsletter on Friday. You will definitely get an installment this week, though!

Thanks for reading!

XO,

Colleen