Today is the day! Phoenix Rising is out in paperback!

I received my author copies a few weeks ago and took time to sit down and fondle them a bit. New book smell! Nothing else like it!

So, contest!!

Comment below about what you’re currently reading! That way we can talk about books and recommend them to each other too.

THREE PRIZES, THREE WINNERS, chosen by random number from the comments.

1. A print copy of Phoenix Rising.

2. Ecopies of Phoenix Legacy, the sequel coming on Nov. 11th. , Phoenix Rising,  and Luminous, the short story set in the same univers.

superhero novels, superhero romance, Phoenix Rising,

3. A $10 Amazon certificate.

I will close entries in one week, at midnight on October 9th. Make sure that there is a way I can reach you if you want a prize, preferably via email. I’ve found Facebook messages tend to get lost.

As I held my book in my hands, I started to think of all the different influences on the series, especially the first book. The first, obvious, one is my love of Marvel’s X-Men, as the heroes in my books are born with their powers, as are the mutant X-Men, and the eventual goal of those running the Phoenix Institute is to provide a safe haven for mutants and teach them how to use their abilities safely.

But that was the general concept. As it took shape, it became more my own idea. For one, I restricted all the abilities to ones that could be explained by psychic powers. That means telekinesis and telepathy.

Alec Farley, the hero of Phoenix Rising, is a telekinetic but also a firestarter, as starting fires is just another level of moving things around with the brain, albeit at a molecular level. There are many variations I can use. The hero of the upcoming Phoenix Legacy has TK but it’s limited to the ability to heal himself. He can literally order his body to repair damage I’m currently working on the third full book in the series and the heroine can walk through walls, which is due to her psychic ability to control the molecules of her body.

Telepathy, on the other hand, could also take many forms. There are: simple communication/ the ability to mentally order people around; to cast illusions by making someone see what isn’t real; and to make what is real invisible. (See Luminous.)

It would be boring to write such powerful people without giving them weaknesses, so each strength has an appropriate drawback. Alec’s fire can escape his control. My self-healer can’t solve blood loss. My telepath can only control so many people for a short period of time. My ghost walker can only carry something with if it’s smaller than her own body weight.

Something else I borrowed was part of the setting. I feel in love with one of Nora Roberts’ Harlequin stories involving one of her big families. I loved the story about a young artist who lived in a lighthouse in Maine, especially the setting. I had just visited Maine and it resonated. So I took that idea, “borrowed” a real house set up on a hill over looking the harbor in Maine, and put that in the book.

And Beth…the first stirrings of the character that became Beth, the heroine of Phoenix Rising, took place back in 2004 when I was talking to Karen Harbaugh at RWA National in Dallas. She talked about how few leads of Asian descent there were in romance stories. I said maybe people write what they know. And she said that was no excuse. If people could research Regencies and historicals, they could research a character’s background too.

I sat down to write Phoenix Rising and Beth took shape as a Japanese-American. It’s not that I said “I’ll write a minority lead,” it was more “I’m writing a very unique character and this background adds to it.” I saw her as just Beth, whose background I had to get right as I had to get Alec’s background just right. But I received a few comments about people happy to see a non-white lead in a book, so that was nice.

And, last but not least, I owe a debt to the great writers of books I devoured in my childhood. Alec Farley is my own tribute to the wonderful Walter Farley, who wrote the Black Stallion series. I keep and treasure those books to this day. Alec Ramsey is the hero of the series, so I just swapped his last name for the author’s last name.

I only hope, in some small way, that I can touch reachers a tenth as well as Walter Farley’s stories touched me.

Today is a big day for me. It’s the day my first superhero story, Phoenix Rising, is released. (Here’s the Amazon Kindle link as well, only $4.40 there! Discount!

I’ve wanted since I was a kid to write superheroes but I never expected to be able to do so.

Getting a job as a writer at Marvel or DC is one of the most sought-after jobs in writing and the odds are long. It’s a job you basically have to commit to full-time at the exclusion of any other writing. I have to admit, I love my blogging and fiction writing and I’m just not willing to put all that aside for a couple of years for a job that seems uncertain even when you’re established.

But then I realized I could write my own version.

When I sat down a couple of years ago to write a paranormal/urban fantasy story because they seemed all the rage, I was at a loss. Vampires are cool but I’m not into them enough to commit to a full book. Ditto with all kinds of shapeshifters. And then I thought–D’OH!–I know how to write people with super-powers. At least, I should, after reading them all these years.

And, naturally, I had a blast. My critique partner teased me that I wrote “Young X-men in Love with stuff blowing up,” and I guess that’s somewhat close. It’s an X-Men influenced story in that it features two protagonists born with powers they have to control–firestarting and telepathy–who have to work in tandem to save the world or, in my case, New York City.

Her comment did get me thinking, though, about my favorite superhero stories, ever, the ones I return and return to over and over like comfort food. So I thought I’d list my top five for you.

1. X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga by Chris Claremont  and John Byrne

Forget Twilight. Scott and Jean were my forever couple for years, even though they ended so tragically and poignantly at the end of this story. Want to know where all the good X-Men stories stem from? You have to read this one. And while I love Hugh Jackman, it’s just a crying shame that Scott/Jean together never got their full due in the X-Men movies.

2. The New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract by Marv Wolfman and George Perez

It was an awesome time to be a comic reader in the early 1980s, as this story ran about the same time as the Dark Phoenix saga. It’s the place where Dick Grayson grew up to become Nightwing, where Wonder Girl became the fully realized Donna Troy, where Changeling/Beast Boy became more than a joke, and where a teen sociopath almost tore them apart. It also features absolutely breath-taking art by George Perez. The ladies look good but, wow, so do the men.

3. DC: The New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke.

Whenever people ask me why I love superhero stories, I hand them this book. Of course, then their hand breaks because I have the Absolute Edition, which is a coffee-table sized book with slipcover. There are paper trade versions, too. New Frontier is set at the dawn of the 1960s, with the country coming to the end of the era of suspicion at home and abroad and into the New Frontier. It’s about yesterday’s heroes giving way to a new generation. It’s also, at times, wrenchingly tragic, incredibly uplifting, and always epic.

4. Birds of Prey: Sensei & Student by Gail Simone & Ed Benes

There are so few superhero books about female friendships and this one knocks it out of the park. The core of Birds of Prey is the relationship between Black Canary and Oracle (Barbara Gordon, the former Batgirl) as both struggle with a new way of thinking. Canary’s recovering from a traumatic kidnapping and Oracle’s learning to reach outside her circle to form friendships with others, including the prickly and intense Huntress. Oh, and, yeah, it has the best superhero punch-panel I’ve ever read.

5. Captain America: War & Remembrance by Roger Stern and John Byrne

I hadn’t realized until I got to this entry that Byrne appears twice on my list as an artist. At his peak in the 70s and 80s, he drew some of the most incredible panels but I think the quiet ones are what makes this run shine. It’s panels that feature Steve Rogers deciding to have a partially normal life and spending downtime with an attractive Jewish lawyer. Cap seems to be having fun a lot in this run, despite the threats. For those who are curious about him from the movie, this is an excellent place to start.

It was my turn to blog over at my publisher’s site, so I decided to riff off the comments I got on the Kindle giveaway over on GeekMom.

Yes, I used geeky examples. Of course I did.

And for fun….a tragic ending that wasn’t an ending…