Thursday, May 20, 2010

Stacia Kane Guest Blogs & Contest for UNHOLY GHOSTS

“Simply the best book I’ve read this year."
Caitlin Kitteridge

"The ultimate bible of badassery. This is a black diamond of an urban fantasy, fierce and darkly satisfying as running on a storm-lashed shore.”
 Ann Aguirre

"...reasons-why-this-book-is-awesome, there’s a lot of action and very little fluff. I don’t think I settled down for a moment."

First, you may notice the new tab bar at top!  I'll fix the links soon.  I'll do a lot of things soon, honestly.

But what's most important right now is that Stacia Kane is my guest here at Vampire Wire, offering an in-depth look at how she created the damaged heroine of her new novel, Unholy Ghosts, the first in her Downside Ghosts series.  Stacia is the author of the Megan Chase series:  Personal Demons, Demon Inside, and Demon Possessed.  Her new series includes: Unholy Ghosts (May 25, 2010), Unholy Magic (June 2010), and City of Ghosts (July 2010).  Her stories can be found in Vampire Romance 2 and Love Bites.

When someone tells me about a book I should read, it sets me off to thinking about all the other things I really should do and I never hear what they're talking about (a blessing or a curse, you decide), but I always listen with rapt attention to the bitter grumblings of internationally renowned curmudgeon and vampire academic Dr. Derek Tatum of Mondo Vampire.    Dr. Derek first told us about Stacia's book:
One of the things that I love about Unholy Ghosts is how it is a subversion of the standard "kickass heroine" urban fantasy tale. A couple of the reviewers have been critical about how messed-up Chess is, but that's part of the point. What Kane has done is take an honest look at the "kickass heroine" stereotype and acknowledged how utterly screwed-up someone like that would be in reality. Chess is not a sanitized character, and as a reader I am thankful for that.
Stacia's post is a long and thoughtful one, but I hope that both authors and readers will take the time to read through it.  She's also giving away a copy of Unholy Ghosts in a contest.  Please read to the end to learn how to enter.  Welcome, Stacia!

Damaged Goods (or: Damaged? Good!)

I’ve always been attracted to damaged people, particularly in writing and reading. It’s the weaknesses, the vulnerabilities, the pain and anger and, well, damage, that make a character interesting, and that excite me.  To be perfectly honest, I don’t really know how to write characters who are happy and confident, at least not main characters.

I’m not entirely sure why this is, but it’s true.

Unholy Magic (Downside Ghosts, Book 2)Quite a while ago now I started thinking that what I’d really like to do is write an urban fantasy with a heroine who was also an addict. Part of the reason for it was simply that I hadn’t seen an addict heroine anywhere else, and when you find something new or rare in a genre you tend to get very excited about it (as a writer, I mean). Part of it was that for a while I’d been wanting to write about a heroine who had real, serious problems, who didn’t have a lot of money, who didn’t know a bunch of nightclub owners, who couldn’t afford leather pants (yes, that’s a joke). But I did want to write a character with real problems, problems that wouldn’t go away overnight and would have a real, concrete presence in the book.

The last thing was the idea of a strong, independent character who was nonetheless completely dependent on something, and how interesting I thought that dichotomy was. A character who seeks to discover the truth in her cases, and works for a Church government where Truth is the most important thing, and yet consistently lies. Not to mention the way her addiction marks time, which I quite like.

So once I had a plot, I started thinking about it further. I knew a drug-addicted heroine might be a tough sell. I knew there was a chance it would turn people off. But Chess was already under my skin; I needed to write her.

And I also know that for every weakness a character has, there has to be an equal and opposite strength. For every problem there has to be, not necessarily a solution, but the ability to find a solution. For every bit of self-loathing there has to be some kind of pride. Otherwise your character is simply a sad sack, a depressing pile of mope who doesn’t interest or excite anyone, much less make them identify or care. The last thing you want is to write a heroine who more readers wish would just throw herself off that bridge already, because they can’t stand spending any more time with her.

One confidence was easy; her work with the Church. She’s proud of it, and good at it, and she knows it. In fact, her work is one of the brightest spots in her life, and we’ll get to the reasons why in a minute.

So I needed a reason to balance out the addiction.

For a brief while I toyed with the idea that she did drugs because her powers were too strong, that if she didn’t do something to keep them muted a bit they would destroy her. It was an interesting concept, and one I liked, but it was also one which had been done before.

City of Ghosts (Downside Ghosts, Book 3)Besides, for my character it felt like a bit of a cop-out. I knew this girl already. I knew what kind of person she was. I knew how she felt and how she looked at the world. I knew how scared she was, deep down, of other people and how she expected them to hurt her. I knew how she separated herself from them so she could reject them first, and because she couldn’t quite bring herself to trust them, but how a small part of herself really wished she could belong. I knew everything, in fact, so I also knew she had no parents, no family. I knew she’s grown up in a series of foster homes, and most of them hadn’t been pleasant places. She’d been beaten. She’d been starved. She’d been molested. You name it, it happened, and it kept happening until she was fifteen.

That was when the Church found her, during its annual tests for magical talent. They brought her to live with them, gave her a room of her own and regular meals and privacy. And Chess, who imagined no brighter future for herself than a lifetime of being used—maybe eventually for money, though—suddenly found herself a highly respected employee of the Church who runs everything. A responsible job. A powerful job, and she is a powerful person. Her loyalty to the Church is unfading; she sees its flaws but doesn’t care, because it saved her life.

But that past led to her addiction. She’s a functional addict; I know when most people hear about or think of addicts they think of skinny, shivering, filthy people with track marks everywhere, stealing and begging for money for their next fix.  Not Chess. Taking her pills is simply a part of her life, just like antidepressants or heart medications might be for anyone else. Maybe that’s a bad comparison, and I hope it doesn’t offend anyone; I’m just trying to make the point that her addiction isn’t lurid.

The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance 2And I hope it isn’t glamorized either. I tried very hard not to do that, to make it clear that although Chess might not necessarily see it, her addiction does impede her life, it does take away a good share of her hard-won freedom, it does get in the way of so many things.

Self-preservation is an instinct we all have. In Chess it runs a little deeper, because she’s had such a hard life; she instinctively mistrusts pretty much everyone (which is another reason why she’s very good at her job). But she’s not a bad person; she still has feelings, as much as she tries not to. She feels a responsibility to the Church and to other people. She doesn’t suffer fools and she doesn’t have a lot of patience all the time, but she does care. She’s not mean, and she’s not bitchy, cocky, or even particularly snarky, although she does have a wry, sometimes sarcastic sense of humor.

I could go on and on about her, to be honest; I’ve already gone on way longer than I expected to. But I really do love Chess so much, and I love talking about her. And I want to talk about her, I want to show people how much they can identify with her, and how in a lot of ways she’s kind of an everywoman; struggling through life as best she can, day by day just like the rest of us. I’m very proud of her. I really love writing about her and her world, and I really hope you love reading about her just as much.

Read an except from Unholy Ghosts.

Visit Stacia's Website.

CONTEST: To enter the contest for Unholy Ghosts, just leave a comment about one of your favorite characters and a flaw, or leave a comment for Stacia.  One of my favorite flawed characters is Spike from Buffy, the Vampire Killer.  Despite his bravado, he retains some of his human character, a mama's boy who wrote sentimental poetry, and that sentimentality is both his curse and his saving grace.  The contest runs through May 31, and a winner will be selected in a random drawing.  Entries are limited to the US and Canada.


The theme is...some favorite damaged and amazing characters.

This is a pretty fabulous video by Poebelly.


Becky said...

I don't really have a favorite character, since there is to many to chose from. Stacia is a new author to me. "Unholy Ghosts" sounds real interesting to me as does Stacia's other books. I am planning on checking out your other stories Stacia.

Barb P said...

Hi Stacia! Fantastic post! I've read all 3 of the Megan Chase books and loved them. I can't wait to dig into the new series. Winning the first book would be a great 50th B-Day present. Congrats on the new release!

SandyG265 said...

My favorite character is Gin from Spider's Bite. She is a strong person but she is haunted by the death of her family that happened when she was a child.

Jess Tudor said...

I've never seen an addict heroine but Jack Winter as an addict hero is a fabulous character (Caitlin Kittredge's Black London series). I want to read this book so much - I can relate to a lot of the emotional stuff.

And we all have our obsessions, our addictions. Some are just easier to hide or bury, some don't seem harmful on their own. You can become obsessed with your lover or your child to the point of losing yourself. You can depend too much on anything, really.

van_pham said...

Hi Stacia!

Looking forward to reading 'Unholy Ghosts' when it comes out next week!

Will there only be 3 books for this series? Also are you working on any projects at the moment?


Rosie said...

Hand's down it has to be Spike. His character evolved so much over the years on Buffy. I still enjoy watching the repeats to get my dose of Spike!!!

Thanks for the contest. I look forward to reading Unholy Ghosts!!

Zita said...

For straight-up laughs, my favourite flawed character is MaryJanice Davidson's Betsy.

Your Demon series was fabulous, Stacia. I'm really looking forward to reading about the Ghosts.

Sandy Jay said...

Hi Stacia! I'm sorry to say that I haven't read any of your books yet. I'm definitely going to have to remedy that. I've put them on my wishlist now. I'm looking forward to reading Unholy Ghost. It sounds like the beginning of a great series.

forwhlz at gmail dot com

angeleyesak said...

one of my fav characters is Gibbs from NCIS..Flaw: still haunted by the death of his wife & daughter

December/Stacia said...

Thanks, everyone!

Jess, that's exactly how I feel. And funnily enough, Caitlin and I met--and I got to read a draft of STREET MAGIC--right around the time UNHOLY GHOSTS was coming together in my head. So it was another reason we became friends, I think; we had that same sensibility. Jack is awesome, isn't he? I just love him.

Van, right now there are three books, but I definitely want to do more, so I'm really hoping the books are successful enough that I can! And right now I have a few irons in the fire, nothing really concrete yet, but I'm hoping they turn into something. :-)

Thanks Zita! The Downside books (UNHOLY GHOSTS et al) are much darker than the Demons books, just FYI. There's still a bit of humor, but overall it is quite different. I'm really hoping my readers love it just as much (if not more), though!

Marta said...

Hi, everyone, and welcome, Stacia! I had some questions for you. You're publishing the three Downside books in quick succession. Had you written them all out before you got a book deal, or was it one long book that you split, or what? Readers will love that the can go right from one to the next.

Also, I see your series listed with different names. Any reason for that?

writtenwyrdd said...

Oooh, count me in...although I've already ordered the books via amazon.

Derek Tatum said...


Marta said...

Oh, the beast speaks!

Derek Tatum said...

It's Stacia. Of course I'll say something.

Leslee said...

I love Jack Winter! I LOVE HIM so much! Also Caitlin Kittredge's Luna Wilder from Night Life, etc is a very flawed heroine that I enjoy. I have been looking forward to Unholy Ghosts since I heard about it months ago! Can't wait to read it :)

December/Stacia said...

Hi, Marta! Thanks again for having me!

Actually, it sort of worked out in kind of a strange way. I'd written the first book, and while it was on submission I started writing the second (my agent told me to). So when we sold the three books I had about eight chapters of what became UNHOLY MAGIC.

And Del Rey wanted to do the concurrent releases, but they didn't have a proper hole in their schedule. So we were going to do Oct 09-April 10-October 10, I think. But then the hole opened in the summer schedule, and we sort of all decided to go for it! I'd actually finished UNHOLY MAGIC in Jan 09, and CITY OF GHOSTS in April. So they've been written for a while now.

Which different names? I've always called these books the Downside books; somewhere along the way my publishers started calling them the "Downside Ghosts." I'm not really sure why (and since the second book was originally titled DOWNSIDE GHOSTS, and I'd planned to use that title for a later book...sigh).

Are the Megan books listed under a different name? I think they're just listed as "Megan Chase." For some reason I like series to have a name aside from just the MC's name; I don't mind when they're called the Megan Chase books at all, and I call them that sometimes myself, but I guess to me it just seems easier to call the respective series the Downside books and the Demons books.

Plus, alliteration is fun. :-)

Hey, Written! Thanks for stopping in!

Wow, don't hurt yourself with all that typing, Derek. I'd hate for you to sprain something. ;-)

Thanks Leslee! I know, he's amazing, isn't he? And yep, I love Luna too.

Karen W. said...

Hi, Stacia,

I had UNHOLY GHOSTS on my "wish list" even before I read your thoughtful post about the heroine, and now I'm even more anxious to read it! I love dark and gritty with flawed characters you can root for, and I'm looking forward to meeting Chess.

Favorite characters with flaws include Angel, Buffy herself, Dean Winchester, and Walter from "Fringe."

Thanks for the contest!

Derek Tatum said...

Hey, I was quoted liberally above! ;)

But I digress, anyone who wants to read some good, dark, and honest urban fantasy has to read UNHOLY GHOSTS. Period.

BrigidsBlest said...

My favorite flawed character is currently Dean Winchester, from the TV show Supernatural. He drinks like whoa, he goes through women like an elephant with a nose cold goes through Kleenex, and he's incapable of honestly expression emotions that could leave him vulnerable. But there's nothing, NOTHING, he wouldn't do for his brother.

BrigidsBlest at yahoo dot com

JenM said...

These books sound fantastic. I love books that feature truly flawed characters who've really suffered but have risen above it anyway. I read a vampire story last year by an Indie author that featured a drug addict heroine and the author commented on how she was having a lot of trouble selling the book because of her heroine so I think it's great that Stacia's books are going to be published.

Anyway, I just read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, so my favorite flawed character at the moment is Lisbeth Salander. She's an amazing character with serious anger management issues who jumps off the page and grabs you by the throat. Wow, because of her, I could not put this book down, and I can't wait to read the sequels.

Tynga said...

I am really excited for this series =) Can't wait to get my hands on them!

My favorite flawed character, now that's a hard one. I think I will go with Adrian from Vampire Academy. He has a lazy ass attitude, drinking problems, chain smoker and he acts like he doesn't care for anything. But he is so clever, I really like him. Tough I think he shouldn't be with Rose, but that's another story!

Thanks you!

catie james said...

I'm really reaching back in time here for my all-time favorite flawed characters. Why two? They're inextricably linked; either one without the context of the other would be complete wretched, self-centered, wicked, cruel people. (Can anyone guess where I'm going with this?)

Yes, it's none other than Emily Brontë's Heathcliff and Cathy. In my humble opinion, it's they're unyielding love that allows these otherwise horrible examples of humanity (seriously - does anyone need a list of all the ways in which they fall short?), a measure of redemption.

Mardel said...

One of the things that I liked the most about the main character (Jesse) in Hells Belles, was that she was a succubus that wasn't ashamed or angsty about being a succubus. I was ready for a character that was different and not beating her self up over being the way she is.

I'm looking forward to Stacia's new series - very much.

Rebecca @ DSB said...

I enjoyed this post, and I'm fascinated by the idea of a 'functional addict.' It immediately made me think of Dr. Gregory House from the Fox series House. For many, many seasons he was addicted to pain killers, and the sight of him popping pills was commonplace. I also liked how showed him beating his addiction finally, but man, what a process that was!

I hope Chess will eventually triumph like that too.

Pamk said...

I think some of the flaws you pointed out in megan would be considered assets in certain situation. and see them as quirks and one my favorite quirky characters is the heroine in Ilona Andrews on the edge. Rose has no faith in herself and it gets in her way a lot.
Please enter me in this contest. I'd love to read this series.

mountie9 said...

So many tortured characters to choose from

I loved Spike from the day he came on, through his obviously love for Dru to his "sacrifice" at the end of Buffy.

Captain Mal from Firefly/Serenity. Well for just about everything (and of course he was played by a Cdn)

Currently loving Gin Blanco from Jennifer Estep's novels. An assassin with a tragic past and even-though she is an assassin she has some morals -- and she cooks yummy stuff too.

I could go on an on, but I won't

December/Stacia said...

Thanks everyone!

Wow, Jen, I'd be really interested to hear more about that; email me with info if you like? (If you remember.)

Mardel, did you know that Jackie is posting a NEW Jezebel novel in installments on her blog? It starts here.

You know, Rebecca, it's funny, because I hadn't really seem House when I wrote the book, but I did after. Ad kind of thought, okay, nobody is giving that show shit or saying House must be unable to think clearly all the time, so maybe I have a shot, lol.
I didn't realize he'd gotten off, though! And as for Chessie...maybe one day. :-)

Thanks everyone! Keep 'em coming, lol!

Marta said...

Hi, Stacia, yes, I meant that when I went to your site, I saw your books listed as the Megan Chase series and the Chess Putnam series. So I wasn't sure what was the "official" series name.

Written, always good to have a spare set in case you drop a book in the bathtub.

Leslee, I love Caitlin's covers and have wondered about her books.

Dr. Derek, we are honored with your visit!

Bidgid, I heart Dean.

JenM, don't tell anyone but Stacia had already offered a copy of her book for a contest here and then her publicist sent a copy and I'm keeping my copy for a relaxed afternoon of reading.

Tynga, thanks for sharing! I know that's a really popular series.

Catie, Heathcliff and Cathy are such a hot mess.

Mardel, I've always wanted to read that succubus series and also Richelle Mead's Succubus books.

Rebecca, I hearted Hugh Laurie the most as Bertie Wooster in Wooster & Jeeves. His House character gets really old when I know the actor is capable of such wonderful and wacky humor.

Hi, Pam, thanks for the info!

Mountie9, you think anyone who's not Canadian is fatally flawed.

mountie9 said...

Not really, I just love to tease Americans ; ) - it's really cuz I am totally jealous and know that you would totally save our ass' in case of giant asteroid or the big freeze : )
Though seriously I just like to kid I love pretty much everybody -- with the exception of Tom Cruise (Since I had postpartum depression)
Take care!

blackroze37 AT said...

spike is good, but dean, is so tough but so hurt too

donnas said...

Congrats on the release. It sounds great and I cant wait to read it.

One of my favorite flawed characters is Clay from the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong. He is such a great and wide ranged character and I like to read about how he adjusts.

And I totally agree about Hugh Laurie. I have watched him for years in the British movies and TV and he has such amazing talent.

booklover0226 said...

Ever since I read Dark Lover by J.R. Ward, flawed heros have held a special place in my "reading" heart. Wrath, the main character, is blind. Each "brother" in the brotherhood has some sort of emotional or physical flaw which adds to the character, IMO.

Tracey D
booklover0226 at gmail dot com

YzhaBella (aka Kate) said...

I have to agree with booklover. JR Ward has the "flawed hero" down to an art form! I have to say though, that Vishious is my favorite bro. Not only does he have to contend with the "gift" his "mother" bestowed upon him, he has a pretty "major" flaw. Although he is deeply in love with Jane.....he's got the hots for someone else....Butch. Whew, let me tell you! If I had a man as HOT as V who had a thing for a man as HOT as B, ......I'd be in heaven! Flaws and all!

Lol, great event! I'd love to be entered for "Unholy Ghosts"


December/Stacia said...

Oooh, I do love flawed heroes. And heroines. And secondary characters.

Lol, if you're flawed, I probably want to write about you.

LSUReader said...

One flawed character who comes to mind is Clayton Danvers, of Kelley Armstrong's Otherworld series. He makes a tremendous mistake early in the series. But it's so interesting to see how that changes him and those he loves.

Leslee said...

I had forgotten about JR Ward! Awesome flawed heroes, esp. Zhadist! I love him!! Also, Zarek from Sherrilyn Kenyon (from back when I read her). And all the guys from Anne Bishop's Black Jewels series!

@Marta, do give Caitlin Kittredge a try. I was lucky enough to get ARCs of all her stuff and I highly recommend her. The Nocturne City series is her first and Luna is a complicated woman. They are well written and I enjoy them! But I have to say the BEST is the Black London series!

heatwave16 said...

For me, the characters have to be flawed, if not, they are not real. There is no such thing as a perfect person.

Marta - I just love Spike. His sensitive side was showing with his addiction to Passions. :)

One character that pops to mind for me is Anita Blake. She has the stress of her religious upbringing that is always weighing her down. Having been surrounded by that your whole life, it makes it hard to realize that some things you learned where not right. Its hard to brake from that, and we see her struggle with her guilt constantly. I'm not talking about the killing part, more the romance and love side. ;)

Valorie said...

Marius de Romanus. My all time favorite character. But, unfortunately far from perfect. Yet that is why I love him. His... superficiality and love of beautiful things sometimes makes him miss the "big picture."

Kristina Meister - Author and Uber-geek said...

for all you spike fans...there IS a comic book series that picks up where the Angel series...All I have to say is...spoiler alert...Gunn turns. Ok...go about your business, go buy the Angel comic if you want the details on the world ending etc.

k_sunshine1977 said...

i completely agree with catie on this on - heathcliff and cathy all the way!

k_sunshine1977 at yahoo dot com

Marianna said...

P&P, prime example of two characters with big flaws, but everyone loves 'em. As do I.

patronus89013 at yahoo dot com

layla418 said...

My favorite flawed character is Joanna Archer from the Zodiac series by Vicki Pettersson.

Cathie said...

My favorite flawed character is Phoenix from the X-men comic books. She tries and tries, but just ends up destroying things...

jellybelly82158 said...

Stacia is a new author for me but her books really sound good. I am putting them on my must read list.

jellybelly82158 at gmail dot com

Christine H said...

Hi Stacia, congrats on the new series I look forward to reading it. Sounds great!

draconismoi said...

My favorite flawed character has to be Andrea Cort from Emissaries From the Dead by Adam Troy Castro.

It was surprisingly hard thinking of flawed main characters that didn't just have quirks thrown in to cause romantic tension or laughs.

cass at feministdracona dot net