So I’m on the market. I’m dating. Thank God for the Internet, too, because it makes meeting new authors so much easier, although it’s important not to discount the joys of bookstore browsing. And there are so many ways to look for love these days: I can speed date by downloading a number of samples onto my Kindle (or read the opening pages of hard copy books at the brick and mortar stores); I can find lists and reviews of paranormal fantasy and romance all over the internet; I can spend some quality time with my favorite book blog, Maryse.net, and although she’s moved further toward contemporary fiction than I would like, she’s still awesome and I couldn’t live without her series reading order feature; I can ask friends for recommendations (although mostly my friends ask me); I can ask my Face Book and Twitter followers (thanks, guys!! I love you all!!); and I can ask all of you–what are your favorites?
But I’m going to back away from the abyss and assume that I haven’t exhausted the supply of great paranormal and urban fantasy that exists in the world. I’m going to choose to believe that there’s someone new out there for me to discover and that I’m going to go wild with excitement that I’ve found new love.
Sometimes it’s good to visualize our goals, so what would I like to see in these new books with which I want to fall madly, passionately in love? Well, for one, they definitely need to have mad, passionate love, of both the physical and emotional varieties. Preferably with lots of detailed descriptions. Oh no, did I just say that out loud?! Next, the characters must be attractive in the metaphysical sense (although I always like it when the female protagonist isn’t too beautiful in the physical sense because it gives hope to the rest of us). But they need to be people I can both relate to and root for, in the cheerleading sense of the word. I want to want them to get their HEA. I don’t want to feel apathetic about whether they find happiness and fulfillment or worse, not like them enough to feel actively hostile toward them.
And then there is the plot. So many of these novels could elevate themselves into the pantheon of great reads of all times just by having a more interesting plot. A little plausibility (within the bounds of paranormal “reality” of course) goes a long way toward making a plot line compelling. There is a fine line between believable and are you freaking kidding me?! Kind of like the line between a wild time and a flat line. But perhaps less life threatening.
I want a real page-turner. I want the characters’ personalities and personal histories to contribute to the development of the story. J. R. Ward is a master of this, as are Karen Marie Moning, Thea Harrison and Nalini Singh. Others aren’t quite as good, but are good enough and make up for slightly less-than-stellar-plots with amazing characters.
And then there are those, who shall remain nameless, whose plots really fall down six, eight or ten books into the series and the author is clearly resting on her laurels. That is always a true heartbreaker. The sense of betrayal I’ve experienced when I’ve invested countless hours with an author and a series, only to have it go absolutely nowhere can be overwhelming. It is such a disappointment when there is no resolution but only increasingly silly, implausible, or, worst of all, boring new installments. The horror! And I’m not a fan of horror, thank you very much. I’ve always admired J.K. Rowling for her backward planning in terms of plot. I know there were plenty of folks who criticized Rowling for the neat and tidy way she wrapped everything up, but personally, I want my fantasy fiction to have more closure than real life usually does. That’s why I read fiction. If I want to be depressed, I’ll read the newspaper. Or George Martin, who defies all genre conventions.
I think you are probably getting the picture here. So help me! Please send me your suggestions. I’m sending out an SOS and looking for message in a bottle. Please help me find an oasis in this desert.