Tag Archive: speculative fiction

Most villains have a reason for being the way they are. The Runner Up is a villain because being left out made him jealous. The Self-Proclaimed Savior suffered a great injustice and is seeking revenge. The Lunatic, however, is just plain crazy.

The Lunatic may have a reason for becoming crazy, but everything they do after they’ve tipped over the edge is devoid of logic and reason. This makes them one of the most dangerous villains of all.  The hero can’t predict what the Lunatic will do next, can’t reason with him or gain leverage. The Lunatic is willing to sacrifice all to hurt the hero–there is no boundary they won’t cross.

One of the best examples is the Joker–not the Jack Nicholson one but the Heath Ledger one. The Joker had no qualms about blowing up buildings, people, and things. Never thought twice about who or what was destroyed in his wake. He was unpredictable, intelligent, and relentless in his pursuit. Beware the Lunatic.


Debut Urban Fantasy author Jess Haines was gracious enough to share insight into her new series, her experience with publishing, and some tips and resources for new writers. Check it out!

Diaz: You are the author of the new H & W Investigations Series. Tell us about the current release, Hunted by the Others.

Haines: Sure thing!  Here’s the back cover copy from Hunted:

They are the Others—the vampires, mages, and werewolves once thought to exist only in our imaginations. Now they’re stepping out of the shadows, and nothing in our world will ever be the same again…

In a Town Like This, Being A P.I. Can Be Murder

Shiarra Waynest’s detective work was dangerous enough when her client base was strictly mortal. But ailing finances have forced her to accept a lucrative case that could save her firm—if it doesn’t kill her first. Shiarra has signed on to work for a high-level mage to recover an ancient artifact owned by one of New York’s most powerful vampires.

As soon as Shiarra meets sexy, mesmerizing vamp Alec Royce, she knows her assignment is even more complicated than she thought. With a clandestine anti-Other group trying to recruit her, and magi being eliminated, Shiarra needs back-up and enlists her ex-boyfriend—a werewolf whose non-furry form is disarmingly appealing—and a nerdy mage with surprising talents. But it may not be enough. In a city where the undead roam, magic rules, and even the Others aren’t always what they seem, Shiarra has just become the secret weapon in a battle between good and evil—whether she likes it or not…

You can get a sneak peek at the first chapter here.

Diaz: The second book, Taken by Others comes out January 2011. Did you intend on it being a series when you started?

Haines: I wrote Hunted by the Others to be standalone, but started working on the second book while I was in the midst of my hunt for an agent.  I made a brief mention in my query letter that I could see expanding into a series, but didn’t make a big thing of it.  My fabulous agent, Ellen Pepus, took me at my word and negotiated a three book deal with Kensington!  I’m hard at work on DECEIVED BY THE OTHERS (book #3 in the H&W Investigations series) and am keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll see more of Shiarra and her friends after that.

Diaz: What other projects do you have in the works?

Haines: I’ve got a few things up my sleeves!  As I mentioned above, I’m working on book #3, Deceived by the Others.  Don’t hold me to this, but I believe that one is expected to hit stores in July, 2011.

I’ve also got a couple of novellas—one called Spark of Temptation that can be found in the anthology Nocturnal.  It tells the story of how Sara and Arnold got together in the span between Hunted and Taken by the OthersNocturnal is releasing in September, 2010.  I’ve got another novella coming out next year in an anthology called The Real Werewives of Vampire County.  Sorry, no release date on that one—yet!

There’s more brewing in the background, but unfortunately it’s too early for me to make any announcements.  You can stay on top of the latest news on my blog or by signing up for my newsletter.

Diaz: What attracted you to the Urban Fantasy genre?

Haines: There’s no one thing I can put my finger on.  I’ve always been a gamer geek with an interest in the fantastical, so it was no great leap of logic for me to take the next step and write some of it myself.  Add my love of vampires, werewolves, and cheesy 80’s horror movies to the mix, and you’ll see how it was only a matter of time before I’d give in and write an urban fantasy.

Originally, when I set out to write a novel for publication, I started out thinking I would jump into the deep end of the high fantasy pool by writing some huge epic in the style of Robert Jordan, Terry Goodkind, or George R.R. Martin.

It took me a while to figure out that I was taking myself way too seriously.  In late 2007, I set aside the high fantasy and took my cue from Jim Butcher, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Patricia Briggs by setting a new story in an alternate now and spicing it up with a touch of humor.  Voila!  HUNTED BY THE OTHERS was born!  Err, written…!

Diaz: You spent several years as a technical writer. Was that just a cover as you pursued a career as a fiction author, or did the decision to write fiction come later?

Haines: Actually, I’m still a technical writer.  That’s my day job—it pays the bills, while the money I make from writing fiction is used to pay for all those little things I always wanted, but never quite managed to save up for.

I’ve been writing fiction far longer than I’ve been writing the technical stuff, but didn’t decide to pursue a potential career as a novelist until a couple of years ago.  My only regret is that I didn’t do this sooner.

Diaz: What about the publishing process surprised you most?

Haines: That my editor did not turn ten feet tall and breathe fire when I had the temerity to offer my own opinions.  *g*

Seriously, this whole process continues to amaze me.  Everyone has been remarkably cool to work with—from my agent, to my editor, to my publicist, to my fans.  Even the bloggers—like yourself!—who offer me a spot to talk or simply share your views on my work floor me with your thoughtfulness and generosity.  You guys are all incredible.  Thank you!

Diaz: What was the greatest challenge you faced trying to get your work onto the shelves?

Haines: Getting past my own insecurity.  It took a lot for me to put aside my personal demons and submit my work to anyone.  If not for one of my closest friends pushing and prodding me to do it, I may never have persevered in my hunt for an agent or gotten as far as I have today.

Diaz: What advice to you have for aspiring writers?

Haines: Don’t despair—there’s always hope!  As long as you don’t give up, and are open to looking at ways to improve your craft, you can find success.

Whenever you feel disheartened by rejections or critiques, remember that it doesn’t mean you can’t make it.  All it means is that you’ve got more work to do to find a home for your baby—whether it be a few edits, a lot of edits, or a whole rewrite.  Remember, success in this business doesn’t come overnight, and it isn’t easy, or everyone would be doing it.

While I’m beating that drum, I’ll list a few good resources for writers:

That’s far from a complete list.  I’ve got more links to handy resources on my blogroll, too.  I’m also open to questions—though I can’t always promise a speedy reply.  Contact me anytime!

The world is decaying–morally, genetically, intellectually, or some other way–humanity can no longer be left to its own devices. In steps the Self-Proclaimed Savior. Steeped in good intentions, the misguided efforts of the Self-Proclaimed Savior usually work against the free will of the people he is saving. Oftentimes it means the demise or eradication of a species–hence the villain stigma.

My favorite example is Magneto. Our polarizing friend believes that the only way for mutants to be free is to rid the world of humans–the weak link in the genetic chain. Despite his love of mutants, he is willing to sacrifice anyone–mutant or otherwise–for his cause and will destroy anyone who gets in his way. Even his docile attempt to create a new world in Avalon came with many challenges, and well, a villain will almost always default back to his deviant ways when things go wrong.

So beware the villain who claims to be acting in your best interest, they may not be so altruistic after all.

I struggled to find the right term for this Archetype. The Disappointing Seed won out for several reasons which I will discuss after I describe the villain who fits this mold.

The Disappointing Seed is the child (usually a son) who never quite lives up to the parent’s (usually the father) expectations. Often times the child is close friends with someone who better performs to the parent’s expectations, and must compete with his best friend for his father’s affection. The father is typically a villain in his own right possessing intelligence and/or an intensely cruel demeanor. He respect’s the friend’s intelligence, all the while ignorant to the fact that the best friend is in fact the superhero who is his arch-enemy. The superhero eventually destroys the father, leaving the son who never quite lived up to his father’s cunning and cruelty to fill his shoes. Key examples of this are the Osbornes from Spiderman and Red Mist from KickAss.

You may be asking yourself why not use the term “Prodigal Son?” Well, the prodigal son is one who doesn’t share and openly rejects his family’s values. Think a pacifist born into a family who owns a weapons factory.  The Disappointing Seed never rejects the family values, he is merely lacking in some skill or personality trait that is necessary to perform at the same level as the father. Plus, the son almost always makes friends with the hero (unknowingly) which adds the awesome twist of friend against friend.

Stay tuned . . . more Villain Archetypes coming your way!

While not battling Evil Attic Clowns and commanding an ever growing army of garden gnomes, Jeremy Shipp finds the time to write amazing stories of bizarro fantasies and all around tomfoolery. He took time out of a food fight to answer a few of my ever so probing questions.

Diaz: Your most recent novel, Cursed, was nominated for a Bram Stoker award. What did you do when you found out?

Shipp: Upon hearing the good news, I threw on my pointy red cap and dashed into my garden to dance a gnomic jig. Afterward, I devoured a celebratory bowl of chunky peanut butter.

Diaz: Did you do any special marketing in the hopes of being nominated for the Bram Stoker?

Shipp: I sent copies of Cursed to those HWA members who wished to read the novel. I also wished on three shooting stars, and I threw a magic penny into a magic well. Well, a semi-magic well, as I couldn’t find a well that was 100% magic.

Diaz: You published Cursed through an independent press, Raw Dog Press. What was your motivation for choosing an indie press over a big house?

Shipp: I’ve been working with Raw Dog for quite a few years now, and they’ve always been good to me. John Lawson and Jennifer Barnes are passionate about the books they publish, and they are always respectful toward their authors. Perhaps someday I will work with a big house, but no matter what happens, I will always be proud of my indie roots.

Diaz: Your screenplay “Egg” has now been transformed into a short film. Why make the leap from written word to film?

Shipp: Films have always held a special place in my heart, and in my spleen. As a writer, I’m significantly inspired by creative geniuses such as Terry Gilliam, Takashi Miike, Hayao Miyazaki, Park Chan-Wook. And so, I jumped at the opportunity to write a short film.

Diaz: What was the process for creating the “Egg” film?

Shipp: Director/producer Jayson Densmen read one of my novels, and contacted me about doing a project together. Eventually, we decided to collaborate on a short film. I wrote the screenplay and acted as a creative consultant. Egg can be viewed in its entirety here.

Diaz: You recently created an alter ego on twitter, TheAtticClown. What was your reason for doing this and how do you handle managing two personas?

Shipp: I created an account for the Attic Clown, because the more time he spends tweeting, the less he spends throwing moldy pies at me and slapping me with rubber chickens. The attic clown character has existed in my skull for a couple years now, and so giving him a voice comes easily for me. Handling two personas is simple enough. I just give my light side a break every once in a while and let my dark silly side take over.

Diaz: Cursed came out Halloween 2009. Do you have anything new in the pipeline?

Shipp: My newest book, Fungus of the Heart, is coming out Halloween 2010. This is a book about relationships—the good, the bad, and the weird. Mostly the weird. I’m also working on an attic clown story collection, a new novel, a comic book series, a short film, and a few other projects.

Diaz: You write a large number of short stories. What is your reason for doing this (purely artistic, to build your career, etc.)?

Shipp: Basically, I have so many worlds and characters in my head that I don’t have enough time on this planet to write about each of them in novel form. Short stories allow me to explore all my worlds. In addition to this, I love short stories. I love the challenge of writing about so much in so few words. I also love the fact that I can write an entire story in a few days or weeks. Finishing a project is a nice feeling.

Diaz: Is your process for writing short stories different than it is when you write a novel?

Shipp: When writing a novel, I tend to brainstorm and research more. I might spend a few months thinking about a novel before starting the first page. On the other claw, when I’m writing a short story, I tend to dive right in.

Diaz: You recently began teaching creative writing classes. Why take the time to do this?

Shipp: My parents are teachers. My grandmother was a teacher. Teaching is in my blood. Also, teaching these classes gives me the opportunity to help aspiring writers learn the craft and business of writing. And that’s a wonderful, satisfying thing.

Jeremy C. Shipp is the Bram Stoker nominated author of Cursed, Vacation, and Sheep and Wolves. His shorter tales have appeared or are forthcoming in over 50 publications, the likes of Cemetery Dance, Apex Magazine, ChiZine, The Magazine of Bizarro Fiction and Withersin. Jeremy enjoys living in Southern California in a moderately haunted Victorian farmhouse called Rose Cottage. He lives there with his amazing wife, Lisa, and an eccentric cat named Lattis who may or may not be a space alien. Jeremy’s yard gnomes like him. The clowns in his attic–not so much.

Rarely do I find books that:

  1. Make me look at tennis balls with extreme dread.
  2. Make me want to hug my mom.
  3. Make me lose all sense of time and space.

Cursed follows Nicholas and Cicely, two people cursed in their own way but both convinced their condition is the result of the deliberate and malicious actions of some person or entity. They form a support group for others like them and find a way to stop their tormentor.

When I got the book I sort of nonchalantly opened it thinking I would start reading it later. In what felt like only five minutes, I had read almost fifty pages, completely caught up in the intriguing dialogue and unique characters. I read pretty fast, but its been a long time since I devoured a book. It surprised me, scared me, warmed my heart, made me fall in love, and appreciate those people who don’t let normal get in the way of their happiness. No handsome young men or gorgeous galls, just normal and genuine people put in an extraordinary situation.  I would reccomend this book for several reasons:

  1. You should read a little bizarro every now and then to keep you from becoming complacent in your normalcy
  2. It’s just the right weight and size for taking out Evil Attic Clowns
  3. It’s the perfect gift for the garden gnome in your life
  4. It really is a good book

I may be poking a stick at a beehive here, but a conversation with a fellow writer got me thinking. We both write dark fantasy and horror and currently are shopping projects that fall under the incredibly broad sub-genre known as Urban Fantasy. From the inception of the term, Urban Fantasy meant to refer to any work with a “world within a world” theme. A fairly broad concept, this would include everything from Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and E.K. Sedia’s A Secret History of Moscow to Laurel K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake Series and Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files.

Now it seems as though a standard plot/character has hijacked the genre and is now dictating all efforts to produce an original work. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Anita Blake, but it seems as though Urban Fantasy can only be one Consultant/Investigator/Enforcer with supernatural powers spending their time kicking monster but while dropping one liners. As editor for Paper Cities, E.K. Sedia tried to bring back the original meaning of the term Urban Fantasy by showcasing a broad range of stories that extended beyond the usual suspects (vampires, witches, werewolves, and zombies) to more unusual constructs that still perpetuated the “world within world” theme. Still, many agents and editors are coming to expect a very specific formula from writers who fall under this category, making it difficult to stand out in a sea of stories about ass kicking loners.

Disclaimer–my current project shifted more toward the acceptable ass kicking paranormal consultant theme, but I did craft it to be different from the norm as did my writer friend with her project. I have other projects manifesting that fall outside of the accepted construct. Does this mean we need to cultivate a new genre, or can Urban Fantasy go back to its more encompassing roots and embrace those writers who may not want to fit into the current formula? Any thoughts from you the masses?