Friday, January 11, 2013

Blending Characters and Genres Like Fine Wine

Most of you know that winemakers blend wines to get the right taste, bouquet and color. Very few wines are sold as one varietal. Not that there is anything wrong with that varietal, but interesting combinations of wine get created from talented winemakers who are paid handsomely for their craft, much like a gourmet chef. It is an art. It doesn't take much to ruin a good wine, and a subtle adjustment can create a home run people will covet for years.

Just like there is no perfect fruit, there is no perfect character in writing romance. No one character is better than another. It depends on what mix that character falls into, what blending of plot, time and place, internal and external motivators we writers put these characters into to make a compelling story.

I am currently writing the second book in my Golden Vampires of Tuscany, and the working title is Mortal Bite, since the first book was called Honeymoon Bite. I loved writing the first one, loved creating the world and the large family, the Monteleones of Tuscany. Like coming home, I'm steeped in their rich history and color.

But the SEAL series really called to me. It was the first dabbling into Romantic Suspense (I say more heavy on the romance, since that's what I like to read), and found it came quite naturally. So imagine my surprise when suddenly I have characters in the vampire book that resemble Navy SEALs.

In my world building, I have Golden Vampires able to live in the sun. There are dark vamp covens who cannot, adhering to more traditional constraints. The Goldens bear mortal children, and can only breed with other of their kind they are fated to. But their children are born mortal and elect whether or not to turn after puberty.

Dark forces are at work, trying to eliminate the race of Goldens from the face of the earth. Therefore, the Goldens hire security forces, made up of dark vampire coven mercenaries, to protect their women and children. These honorable warriors are just like my Navy SEALs. They are charged to protect the innocent, even at great cost to themselves. They forego a normal personal life for life of service and sacrifice.

The day I realized this, the Heavens opened and I heard singing. I am over the top in love with the way these characters showed up on the page. Here's a rough excerpt mid-way through the book. Lionel Jett is a dark vampire with two blood brothers hired by the Monteleone family to watch over Marcus and Paolo's children. He's about to go into town to obtain information on some strange happenings.

Lionel Jett searched the sparkling lights of the City of Healdsburg from his loft apartment overlooking the square.  A trio of young men laughed sharply and it drew his attention below to the sidewalk, where Fall tourists had descended upon the little wine country town to feast at one of the two hundred wineries nearby. There weren’t many days he wished he was mortal. He didn’t often wish he was Golden vampire, instead of the dark vamp of his ancestors. But today, he definitely wished he possessed the powers the Goldens enjoyed.
            His weariness was beginning to creep into his everyday consciousness, almost like a kind of aging process. Of course, he would never age. He’d seen changes in the world, especially with the explosion of the mortal population, over the past four hundred years since his birth. The Golden population had remained about the same, or perhaps decreased slightly recently. But that was just something he sensed, rather than knew. He wasn’t privy to all the inner workings of the Golden society, as it should be.
He’d been hired on roughly four hundred years ago to help Marcus and Paolo’s father establish his little estate in Tuscany and raise his ten children, and sadly, watched both Sr. Monteleone, a lion of a mortal man, as was his namesake, and his beautiful wife, who was Lionel’s contemporary in school, die as mortals, without taking the change. He wondered if the brothers he now served understood the depth of his feeling for their mother. His service was the least he could do for a kind lady who took pity on him as a young, struggling waif trying to raise two orphaned brothers after the death of their parents.
            Serving the Monteleones had given his life purpose, and the routine hadn’t bothered him one bit. He served at night, unless he was given an unusual night off, like tonight. During the day, he was dead to the mortal world, locked in a special bedroom that might be impenetrable to anything but a direct RPG attack. It would withstand a 9.0 earthquake.
            No, the vulnerabilities were happening within. Something was brewing inside him. A sense of loneliness and perhaps a little despair. He’d scented down dark coven lords who wanted to do injury to the Monteleones, and had “liquidated” their blood, he was fond of saying.
Sending them back to the source.
That part of his life wasn’t what was causing the problem. It was the living forever, alone, that began to eat a small hole, like a pinhole in that curtain during the daytime.
            This war felt different than all the other attacks he’d survived and protected the Goldens from. More than about power, this war almost seemed like a planned annihilation of the Goldens and their progeny. And for what purpose? He didn’t like fighting a mission he knew nothing about.
            So, though it was his night off, he decided to do a little R&R, check out some haunts some of his dark brethren frequented, on the fringes of mortal society, where it was dangerous, but sometimes delicious. He was in need of information, but a sexual liaison wouldn’t be half bad, either. It might even release the tension dwelling in his loins.
            He decided to connect with his brothers, Jeb and Hugo. He picked up his black cell phone and pushed number 2. Jeb’s voice came on the line immediately.
“Hello, brother. You available?” Lionel asked.
“You need me tonight? Thought we had the night off.” Jeb’s husky voice was somehow reassuring to him.
            “Yes. But I’m going to go mingle, see if I can pick up some information on the currents I’m feeling.”
            “You too, huh?”
            “You talk with Marcus and Paolo tonight?” Jeb asked.
            “You mean, do they feel it?” Lionel wished he’d brought it up when Marcus called him at dusk to tell him he could have the evening off. “I’m sure they do. But no, I haven’t discussed it with them. He’s been pretty focused on Paolo and the girl.”
            “She’s a stunner. Mortal, though, isn’t that right?”
            “Very much so.”
            “Paolo’s playing with fire. That one will get the whole family in trouble if he doesn’t decide which side of the gene pool he belongs.”
            It was true. It could get more than the Monteleone family in trouble. It could cost him on a more personal basis. Lionel was not only protector to the Goldens, he would do anything to keep his two brothers safe, being the elder of the three.
Though they’d never discussed it, Lionel knew Marcus was worried about his brother, and the little one Paolo was learning to raise. That was the hard part, he thought. The innocents who were in danger. The Goldens didn’t worry about defending themselves, but it was their children who were vulnerable. Hard to live forever with the loss of a mortal child, and he knew that was part of the strategy of the dark covens encroaching upon the Golden vamps and their community.
            “I wonder how smart it is for Marcus to be set up here in California. Much safer, I would think, back in Tuscany, where there is a certain safety in numbers,” Lionel said.
            “But I kind of dig it here. From what I can see of it.”
            Both the brothers laughed. They lived in one of the most picturesque places in the whole world, except they couldn’t enjoy it because they only came out at dark.
            “You want to go out?” Lionel asked at last.
            “If you need me. Sure. But I had plans.”
            “That would be that little red-headed witch you fancy, brother?”
            “The very same. She’s been experimenting with some herbs and I rather like the effect, if you know what I mean.”
            “Be careful.”
            “Always. You going to call Huge?”
            The nickname was an apt description of the youngest of the three Jett brothers. Hugo Jett was the tallest by nearly five inches, and stood a whopping 6’7”, a tad taller than his employer, Marcus Monteleone. His size also made him a favorite of women of all species. It was with some regret that Lionel watched his youngest brother’s life roll out before him. The vamp would have made a good family man. But that wasn’t their fate.
            No sense arguing with the gods.
            “Right after you tell me you’ll not do something foolish. Like fall asleep in the sun. Remember, Jeb, to indulge in a little play, but keep your wits about you.”
            “Most definitely. “
            “In service, then,” Lionel said.
            “In service, brother,” Jeb echoed.
            Lionel pushed number 3 on his cell. He heard dead air space at first, then a lot of static as it sounded like the phone had been dropped right after it had been answered.
            “Hugo here.”
            “You alright, brother?” Lionel asked. His brother’s heavy breathing was a little disconcerting.
            “Working out before they close. Why do they call it 24 Hour Abs when they close at nine o’clock?” Hugo exhaled and Lionel could hear the sound of a barbell either being dropped or thrown onto a rubber flooring mat.
            “You up for a little downtown time?” Lionel asked.
            “Sure. I need a few to get cleaned up. Almost done. Got one more rep. Then I’ll shower.”
            “Why do you go to all that work? You’re going to return to your natural state tomorrow, you know.”
            “But what a glorious twelve hours I get, and it makes me feel double-immortal, if you can wrap your head around that. Totally awesome.”
            “Okay, meet me at PRESS in half an hour?”
            “Sure. This official, or recreational?”
            “Kinda little bit of both. Just doing some digging around, but who knows, perhaps we could share a little sweet thing, if the right one comes along?”
            “Hell yes. Didn’t get pumped up for nothing. I’m going to infect the whole square with my pheromones.”
            “So I’ll have to keep careful watch over you. You feel the dark forces?” Lionel asked.
            “Like a rash. All over the place. Wish they’d just come out and meet us directly. If it’s going to be a fuckin’ war, wish they’d hurry up with it.”
            “Could be part of the plan,” Lionel added.
            “Or quiet before the storm. Maybe they don’t have their ducks in line yet.”
            Lionel laughed, thinking he heard it wrong. “You say dicks?”
            “Those too.”
            They shared another throaty laugh.
            “That’s why I gotta go rooting around, investigate. Things just aren’t adding up, Huge. Something major is brewing.”
            “You know they have a new dark coven leader, this Dag fellow?” Hugo said.
            “I’ve met him a time or two. Newcomer.”
            “Like one of their dark toddlers. Hosted off the hands that created him. Not a good dude. Definitely someone to watch, if we can catch him.”
            “Okay, well laters, and Huge—”
            “Go light on the cologne, ‘kay? I was sneezing blood last time we made the rounds.”
            Hugo’s chuckle was deep and rich like chocolate. Like what he’d tasted of chocolate, anyhow.
            “Au naturel, but fresh soap. They won’t be able to keep their hands off me.”
            “Let’s be discrete, though.”
            “In service.”
            “In service.”

Book 2 of my Golden Vampires of Tuscany will be out this February. If you'd like to read Book 1, Honeymoon Bite, you can order it by clicking on the title link. It is also available on Nook and Apple formats.

What about you? Do you like to blend genres when you read? Write? Do the same characters you love keep showing up in different books? What do you find common about them that you like?


julie beasley said...

I like my heroes to be honourable, and macho, i like them tall with good bodies. they dont have to be handsome. im not in to bondage or them being cruel. Dont like clingy and dippy heroines either. But, i do like a good happy everafter. and the cover to match the story.

Rachel Van Dyken said...

GREAT POST! I don't mind it when genres mix and characters mix as long as it's done in a believable way you know?

Danielle Ravencraft said...

I'm with Rachel. Actually, I kind of love when genres mix and cliches are broken. It's always a pleasant surprise. It keeps me guessing. Nothing's worse than a predictable plot and characters to me.

Great post.


Sharon Hamilton said...

I think you are saying that you love heroes, as long as they are heroic. As long as they "do the right thing" and the genre is secondary.

Yes, believable. That is the most important part. Believable, because then we care about the character.

Sharon Hamilton said...

Yes, I rather like the blending of genres too. And I hate predictable. I mean, with the romance you know it's a HEA, as opposed to UF or Horror, which I don't write and rarely read. But other than the happy ending Julie talked about, I like to be surprised too. Sometimes secondary characters can do that: deliver a scene that really takes the book on a twist you didn't expect.

Charlene A. Wilson said...

I have a hard time sticking to one genre. I love it when they cross and bring a new perspective to something that's always done. Don't like the same-o. And I don't mind characters that I love dipping into new ways. I'm with Danielle. Don't give me predictable.

Kay Dee Royal said...

Excellent post, Sharon. I love blending genre's...because I love reading stories that have a number of sub-genres.

There's nice twists and turns, plenty of tension and maybe something unexpected:) As long as it doesn't mess too much with the growing relationship between the hero and heroine - I'm on board with it.

I love surprises:)