Pondering the Novella Paranormal

I’ve long stated that I’m paranormaled-out, that the struggle of Good vs. Evil with the hairy and the fanged doesn’t do much for me anymore. Too often the Presto Instant-Lurrrve because They Were Meant To Be frustrates me and I stop caring about the fate of the world. Really, if the planet blew up because there wasn’t enough emotional tension between the protagonists, it’s a justifiable loss. I much prefer a plot that forces the hero and heroine to come to terms with their relationship for reasons other than The Fate of the World, and having the attraction and fated attachment mixed in like romance novel Ovaltine bugs the ever living hell out of me.

Sometimes the hero is unable to control his compulsion – they are Meant to Be, and there’s no use fighting. It creates brittle conflict and for God’s sake the world hangs in the balance. Yawn. Other times they hate each other but find out that their hybrid child can save the world, or that they’re being manipulated into hatred because of whatever reason.

At times, the paranormal romances I’ve sampled are like Bond movies: there’s sex and romance in there as a garnish. At no time in a Bond movie are you supposed to believe that old James is hanging up is eternally erect gun and his watery martini because he’s found True Lurrrrve. The Bond women, and sadly, some heroines, are transient and about as emotionally deep as sneeze splatter.

I think my frustration rests with the idea that too often the plot in paranormal romance assumes that the relationship working out, instead of the plot BEING that their relationship will work out, no matter what obstacles are in their way. “We must fuck to save the world” is like a bad pickup line. (I now challenge you to go use it in a bar or club – PLEASE.)

Yet I do like stories about shifters and to a lesser extent vampires that aren’t too angsty or too gleeful about it (what Heather Osborn calls, “OMG I just woke up in a COFFIN – AWESOME!” syndrome) so I’m still cautiously trying out different books that might grab me. My solution: novellas. Paranormal ones. Even if the story isn’t as developed as I’d like, or there’s room for more, often the novella is a strong indication of the larger novels to come, or work really well as a sample for the writer’s world building.

Do you like paranormal novellas? Do you buy them? Do you prefer that they’re free? And if you read them, which ones rock your world, or your otherworld? Are there other novellas you adore? Share, please!

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  1. 1
    Polly says:

    I don’t usually buy novellas period—too often I find the stories kind of silly, or intriguing but not developed enough. This isn’t limited to paranormal collections, but, in my experience, novellas in general (not to make a gross generalization or anything).

    But, I did end up buying On the Prowl, entirely for the Alpha and Omega story by Patricia Briggs. LOVED it. Didn’t like any of the other stories in the book, but loved Alpha and Omega, and was so pleased that there were books (!) to follow.

  2. 2
    Diatryma says:

    Polly, I’m the same way about On the Prowl.  I went to Amazon later and searched the book just to read bad reviews of one of the stories. 

    I agree about novellas.  I’m very glad to have found the romance anthology section of the library (up in nonfiction, because… ridiculous) because there are parts of historical and paranormal/fantasy romances that are crack, and parts that are stupid.  The stupid parts usually get cut for length in a novella.

  3. 3
    liz m says:

    “We must fuck to save the world”

    I’m pretty sure this is in the trailer for the new film “Invention of Lying” or something like that – I think it’s a Gervais project –

    I sample a novella here and there, but largely I leave paranormal very, very, very alone. I tried some of the Harris anthologies because Charlaine Harris books are my abusive codependent self loathing drunken hookup books. They find me with Pringle crumbs on my shirt and tears of regret in my eyes and a queasy feeling when I’ve been up carousing with them all night…

    Am I over sharing? Right, so I tried her anthologies and omg I can’t do it. My eyes roll so hard it’s impossible to focus on the page. You’d better be a master at characterization or world building to get me to see it was anything other than hentai.

    Plus, the vampire stuff creeps me out. You’re 700 years old and a 18 year old chick is the first to light your chimes? They just weren’t underage schoolgirl enough until then?

  4. 4
    MB says:

    I read them.  I don’t buy them.  Novellas are usually pretty mediocre and unsatisfying for me.  (They almost never get more than a 3-star rating .)  But there are certain authors that I glom, so I watch for the anthologies that have their novellas then get them from the library.

  5. 5

    Just a few of the paranormal novellas that rock my world:

    the Patricia Briggs, already mentioned.

    A Dream of Stone and Shadow by Marjorie Liu
    The Night Owl by Emma Holly
    Dark Journey by Anne Stuart
    The Warlord Wants Forever by Kresley Cole
    Beat of Temptation by Nalini Singh
    Roarke’s Prisoner by Angela Knight (okay, I’m cheating, this is Sci Fi)
    Everything She Does is Magick by Maggie Shayne

    My first release was a novella (reviewed here, actually—Candy wanted to slap my heroine with a fish, and so did one of my subsequent heroines). I’ve found that they work best when I don’t try to cram so much worldbuilding in—to take a side story and illuminate one aspect of the world rather than trying to throw everything at the reader in one small story—and to focus on the character and keep the plot relatively simple. Not always easy to do, but necessary in such a short page count.

  6. 6
    Niveau says:

    I like some paranormal novellas, and some I don’t like as much. The insanely, crazily rushed love thing still happens in them, though it depends on the author a lot. If the author isn’t likely to pull a “hey, we’re good in bed, let’s get married!” in a full-length novel, they don’t seem to do it in novellas, either.

    I agree about the Alpha and Omega series – it’s fantastic, and it’s the only reason I picked up On the Prowl. I must confess that I haven’t actually read any of the other stories in it yet. I think I like the series so much is because the characters while it does have the “we’re made for each other” plot going on, that isn’t translated into INSTANT LURRRRRRV FOREVER!

    You’re 700 years old and a 18 year old chick is the first to light your chimes? They just weren’t underage schoolgirl enough until then?

    I haven’t stopped laughing since I read this. It’s so true!

  7. 7
    Heather says:

    My favorite and least favorite novellas are in the same book, On the Prowl.

    My favorite, by far, is JR Ward’s “Story of Son”, more commonly referred to as Michael’s story.  It was the right length to introduce and flesh out the characters, have a (fairly) realistic relationship arc, yet leave so many questions unanswered.  It left you with that great feeling of having read a good story, but really wanting to know more.  If the story had been novel length it would have gotten very silly, but that short?  Perfect.  (If you haven’t read it, Michael is a vampire but with no hints as to his background.  He also speaks in a 19th century idiom instead of the faux modern stuff that the BDB does.  But the reasons for all this *make sense*.)

    My least favorite, by far, is Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Shadow of the Moon, which is Fury’s story.  I read (most) of the were books and I really like Fury.  I was really looking forward to this.  But the story jumped, the heroine was someone from his past that had never even been hinted at but he had been pining for/upset with for centuries.  In a flash of light (or maybe 2 pages of inner monologue), all issues resolved and HEA.  Blech.  This story should have been a full length book because too many steps in the emotional process had been left out.  This one leaves you with the feeling that the center of the book had been accidentally left out of the publishing process.

    One last note: Alpha and Omega?  I love that one.  Yes, there’s that “immediately bound together” that can be silly, but Brother Wolf does the binding, sits back and gloats, while the humans are open to being together but actually have to work out the pesky relationship details.

  8. 8
    Estelle Chauvelin says:

    At no time in a Bond movie are you supposed to believe that old James is hanging up is eternally erect gun and his watery martini because he’s found True Lurrrrve.

    Can I just say how much I love the drop-in reference to how Bond is ordering a watered-down martini and being snooty about it?  Also, the only thing I didn’t like about Casino Royale was how much time it spent trying to make us care about the Bond Girl of the Moment near the end.  Trying to make me care about a Bond girl is like that plot thread in Ice Age 2 about whether or not mammoths are going to go extinct.

    Oh, yeah: paranormal novellas.  I tend only to read novellas of any kind if I follow the author, and I don’t buy them.  I get anthologies from the library and usually just read the ones I picked them up for.

  9. 9
    StephS says:

    I don’t usually read anthologies/novellas for many of the reasons already stated above.  One other thing that bugs the sh*t out of me about novellas is when they are woven into a series.  Essentially used as a bridge to the next book so if you don’t read the novella you miss out on plot points. 
    In one book I read the heroine kept making references to a fight she had fought along side one of the secondary characters who had just been introduced.  WTF?  I skimmed back through the book to see if I had missed something (dream sequence, flash back, phone call, mysterious symbols?) but there was nothing.  I finally figured out that the fight scene had happened in a novella that was contained in an anthology that was published between the two books in the series.  Tres annoying! 
    Now having thus ranted I will say that I am not a complete hater of the novella if I am properly seduced.  Therefore, I have read and enjoyed the following paranormal novellas. 

    The Warlord Wants Forever by Kresley Cole
    On the Prowl by Patricia Briggs  
    Falling for Anthony by Meljean Brook
    Devil to Pay by Jeaniene Frost

    These three were well done and didn’t have that “rushed” feeling to them.

  10. 10

    I have a friend that used to do paranormal novellas before she went into horror novellas.

    Elizabeth Donald’s Nocturne (a collection of Nocturnal Urges and A More Perfect Union) is a murder mystery, a political thriller and a social commentary, all done up as a paranormal romance. Her cop team steals the show.  The third in the series, Abaddon, is straight up horror.

    (her new, non-sexy zombie novella, The Cold Ones, releases Oct 1.)

    straight32. Whoever thought I’d be pimping straight books?

  11. 11
    RStewie says:

    I like novellas only occasionally, because I don’t like a short story.  But when a writer treats the novella like a short story writer would (every word counts—every. one.) then I am happy. 

    I love Kresley Cole’s The Warlord Wants Forever, it’s a great introduction to the series.  I also loved Meljean Brook’s in Hot Spell, although I wouldn’t necessarily call it an introduction to the series like TWWF was (the time setting threw it off, and also that there’s so many characters not introduced or explained)—but it WAS the reason I decided to continue reading her series.

    One of my favorite short stories is Roman Holiday which is by no means a romance, but every word, every scene, every single thing in it leads you to the ending.  Novellas should be like that, to me, otherwise they are too much, or not enough.

    I wouldn’t read a PRNovella that was stand-alone, though…I like my attention to be focused for longer than a couple hours on a world, and PRN is one of the only genres that I won’t read stand-alone novels in, either.  There’s too much going on to just be one story out of that world (except for Sunshine, but my heart prays for sequels there, too).

  12. 12
    StephS says:

    Whoops!  The Patricia Briggs novella is actually titled “Alpha and Omega” and is contained in the anthology titled “On the Prowl”.  Another reason anthologies bug the sh*t out of me…trying to keep all the names straight!

  13. 13
    LG says:

    I usually get my novellas via the library – it lets me try new authors out without possibly wasting my money.  I tend to hate the plots of paranormal romance novellas (or romance novellas in general) because so many authors have problems creating believable relationships in such a short amount of time.

    One I fell in love with enough to buy later on was Lover Beware (I really enjoyed Eileen Wilks’s story, although I can’t even remember what the others in the book were about).  I also eventually want to get On the Prowl, because I love Patricia Briggs’s new characters.  Eileen Wilks’s story was expanded into a novel (with some changes to the characters and happenings from the original story) and Patricia Briggs’s was the start of what is turning out to be, for me, a very enjoyable series.

  14. 14
    MelB says:

    I’m with Heather. Loved Fury and hated what Sherrilyn did to him. He deserved an entire book, unlike some of her dark hunters whose stories should have just been novellas (Wulf).

    My first pub story was a paranormal novella. I love writing them because it forces me to tighten my writing and keep a strong focus. I love reading novellas as well because they are great distractions for the bus, the train, the doctor’s office etc. A good paranormal/were story without the fate of the world stuff is Alisa Sheckley’s The Better To Hold You. I also love Patricia Briggs.

  15. 15
    MB says:

    “Dear Author” has a link to a free pdf copy of “The warlord wants forever” by Kresley Cole, which I really liked! (I’m not sure how to post a link, but it was posted at 18. September)

    P.S.: Please excuse errors – English is not my native language
    P.P.S.: This is my first entry! Great website!

  16. 16
    marley says:

    i’m having an episode much like yours. i’ve been reading Julia Spencer-Fleming, Loretta Chase, Terry Pratchett and Naomi Novik recently so when yesterday i picked up a paranormal romance/urban fantasy i had started and really liked (Howling at the Moon by ummm idk), i was surprised when it held absolutely no interest for me. seriously. i went and started reading classics it was so… bad. cheesy. i don’t know. but i really just couldn’t stomach it after i had been reading so many good books. like traveling to Japan or France and then stopping at a mcdonald’s on the way home from the airport. but i’m usually a big fan of urban fantasy/paranormal romance and so felt i had to put my two cents in.
    the best two novellas/ short stories of the genre were captured in the anthology Hotter Than Hell by Kim Harrison, who happens to be really good (recommendation alert).
    Minotaur in Stone by Marjorie M. Liu was really good, or at least enthralling and made me immediately go out and buy one of her books. the book sucked, and though i’ve read several others of her’s none quite match the novella or anything else i’ve read, including Twilight, which i despise.
    and now i can’t remember the name of kim harrison’s story, but it was about a psychic vampire and the last in the anthology.
    however, straight out recommendations from a long-time reader:
    Patricia Briggs. i know others have mentioned her Alpha and Omega novels, but set in the same world and much better, at least in my opinion are the Mercy Thompson novels, about a coyote shapeshifting mechanic raised by werewolves. another of her best, though not paranormal romance exactly, is Dragon Bones, about a prince who has pretended to be extremely stupid after his father nearly beat him to death at age 12. now that his dad’s dead and it’s his turn to inherit the throne, people have inhibitions about putting their lives into the hands of an idiot barbarian.
    and then the Kitty Norville books by Carrie Vaughn, a werewolf who owns a radio talk show where she delves into the issues of the paranormal, such as a Christian vampire who can no longer enter churches, and the like.
    and one more, the best vampire book i’ve ever read: Agyar by steven brust. it’s paranormal romance but not paranormal romance and is written extremely well as a collection of… writings made by a vampire upon moving into a deserted house in answer to a summons by his creator and finding an old typewriter there.
    i guess this is more than two cents so i’ll shut up now

  17. 17
    JoanneL says:

    I’ve long stated that I’m paranormaled-out, that the struggle of Good vs. Evil with the hairy and the fanged doesn’t do much for me anymore.

    Not me, I love the hairy, the fanged, the super-powered, the winged, the shifting, the immortal, the rich and the dangerous, the angels & the warriors. Many of them.

    ALWAYS depends on who is doing the writing but as long as the hero and/or heroine doesn’t have to pass through any urinals to get to the HEA then I’m going to try to go with the story.

    Novellas can be wonderful but we have to buy a book with authors we may not enjoy to get the one story we really want to read. The Eve & Roarke IN DEATH novellas come with three other authors that I’m simply not interested in reading. I buy the book because I am truly the weakest link in the Visa/MasterCard chain but it’s not a happy purchase.

  18. 18
    Carin says:

    First off, writing short stories/novellas has got to be an art that not everyone is good at.  Some authors I enjoy at full length novel really don’t do it for me in the shorter form, and vice versa, too.  Some authors really rock at both (Patricia Briggs is one who comes to mind for me.)  Here’s my list:

    Patricia Briggs has Alpha & Omega series short stories in On The Prowl (as mentioned by many above) and her story Seeing Eye in the anthology Strange Brew.  They are awesome.  Strange Brew had several good stories I enjoyed (despite their lack of romance).  Bacon by Charlaine Harris, Last Call by Jim Butcher, and Death Warmed Over by Rachel Caine were standouts for me.

    Shelly Laurenston has some books where she’s written two stories about shifters in each.  So. Much. Fun.  Shaw’s Tail in the book The Mane Event is my favorite, but she has a lot of other good ones, too.

    Hot Blooded has Seduction’s Gift by Angela Knight (the intro to her mageverse world) and The Night Owl by Emma Holly.  Both really, really good.

    Finally, though they aren’t paranormal, I have to give a recommendation for the Christmas anthologies with Lori Foster in them (there are several).  Her beach anthologies are really good, too.  (Just to be clear, the anthologies have stories by many authors, Lori’s name just usually gets the biggest font.)

  19. 19
    Miranda says:

    I think short stories/novellas can be a good way to find new authors. If you like the writing/set-up there, you can try a full book. Non-romance, but a Harry Dresden short story was how I found the Dresden Files.

  20. 20

    I also liked Emma Holly’s The Night Owl from the Hot Blooded Anthology.  Very sexy and memorable.

  21. 21
    Cat Marsters says:

    Dude, I write paranormal novellas.  Twenty-odd of them (one day I will count).  Yes, they’re erotic romance, but I’m fairly proud of making them into proper stories, with world building and conflicts-a-glory.  I worked so hard on one of them, I cried when it was over.

  22. 22
    Joy says:

    I am in the mixed on this. I love paranormal stuff but I am really tired of the Vampires. Enough already.
    I read Kona Warrior by Courtney Sheets and really enjoyed it. It dealt with hawaiian myth and was a refreshing change from the usual stuff. Whenever I see something different in the paranormal realm I am on it like white on rice. Also enjoyed Lord of the Unicorns (Sorry can’t remember the author’s name)
    I must admit I was a big fan of Christine Feehan but I can’t get into her stuff any more.

  23. 23
    brooksse says:

    the struggle of Good vs. Evil with the hairy and the fanged doesn’t do much for me anymore

    I think those were pretty much my sentiments after the first couple of hairy or fanged stories I read. Never really did much for me.

    I’ve enjoyed a couple demon slayer themed stories, but I generally prefer romances with light paranormal elements rather than straight up paranormal romance.

  24. 24
    Cora says:

    Can I just say how much I love the drop-in reference to how Bond is ordering a watered-down martini and being snooty about it?  Also, the only thing I didn’t like about Casino Royale was how much time it spent trying to make us care about the Bond Girl of the Moment near the end.  Trying to make me care about a Bond girl is like that plot thread in Ice Age 2 about whether or not mammoths are going to go extinct.

    That bit was pretty accurate to the book. And in the book, it actually worked, because Casino Royale was the first Bond novel, so the trope of the disposable Bond girl had not yet appeared. Besides, the disappointment Bond suffers towards the end of Casino Royale is supposed to explain why he tends to treat women as disposable later on.

    As for paranormals, I enjoy them a lot, both in novella and novel form. Of course, there are some bad ones out there, but then Sturgeon’s Law applies to paranormals as much as to any other genre.

  25. 25
    scigirl says:

    Short stories can be pretty hit or miss—and most of them are miss, let’s be honest—so unless I know there’s an author I love in there I usually wait until I can find them at a used bookstore at the very least.  My biggest pet peeve for paranormal anthologies is when an author tries to fit an entire series’ worth of mythology into one little story!  Just because I’m reading the book doesn’t mean I am a fan of the series; sometimes, in fact, I want to use a short story to see if I want to dig myself into a series that’s twenty thousand books long before I actually make that commitment.  When the author is busy throwing names and species and powers and history at you a mile a minute, there’s no way I can enjoy what little remains of the story.  In fact, I think one of the best examples of this was the anthology containing J. R. Ward’s “Story of Son.”  For all her faults as a writer, her story stood out as a great read because it didn’t assume you knew everything; it stayed in her world but took the viewpoint of an outsider.  All the rest of the stories were pretty much unreadable because I had only the vaguest idea of what was going on.  Paranormals especially fall into this trap way too often!

  26. 26
    DeeCee says:

    I like them when they don’t feel like a novella. Back in 2005 when Berkley/Jove reprinted some short stories by famous authors (most of which carried the anthologies they were originally in) were fantastic. I could pick them up at WalMart and I didn’t feel the need for a paranormal encyclopedia or companion book to figure out who is descended from who (whom? argh I can never tell). I’m beyond sad that they only printed 10 or so of them, because sadly now all are OOP.

    Some of my faves included:
    Nalini Singh’s Beat of Temptation & Stroke of Enticement
    Kresley Cole’s The Warlord Wants Forever
    Eileen Wilks’ Pandora’s Bottle
    Karen Marie Moning’s Into the Dreaming
    Kenyon’s Dragonswan, Winterborn, Love Bytes (not really paranormal, but still…)
    Briggs’ Alpha and Omega (completely made the book worth it)

  27. 27
    ag says:

    I’d read the novellas/ anthologies but won’t buy them. I particularly enjoyed the Lady Whistledown anthologies, which were marvellously connected and didn’t read like novellas. 

    Amongst paranormal works, The Warlord Wants Forever by Kresley Cole is short but sexy.  The ones I’m looking out for are Gena Showalter’s joint effort with KC—Deep Kiss of Winter—and the Heart of Darkness anthology with Susan Krinard and Maggie Shayne.

    Then again, I have a vested interest as they are shorts in between instalments of the authors’ respective series, which I’ve found hugely entertaining.

  28. 28

    I really like paranormal novellas, often because the author has a killer idea that’s just not big enough for a full-length novel, so if she/he tries to make it into a full-length novel, it ends up with shoe-horned-in sex scenes or a tiresome sub-plot, just to spin out what should have been 30,000 words to 60,000.

    I like writing them for the same reason.  If an idea is only going to take 20-30k to do properly, then I don’t want to have to drag the thing out to twice its natural length.  This is one of the reasons I’m so glad of the world of epublishing, because novellas can be published as stand-alone stories, not put in an anthology.

    The last antho I bought (Prom Nights From Hell, I think) I only liked two of the stories.  And two of the stories read like prologues for longer books, which made me cross. I don’t want to pay to read nothing but promo for your full length books!  If that’s what it’s going to be, put it up as a free read, don’t sneak it into an antho and call it a complete short story.

  29. 29
    DS says:

    I don’t buy paranormal novellas.  In fact I don’t buy any novellas although I do enjoy a good short story when the author can handle the shorter form.  But it seems that novellas now are being used to launch series rather than written as satisfying stories.

  30. 30
    Jody W. says:

    I write them and I read them. Shorter fiction, particularly shorter romance fiction with speculative elements, is very hard to balance. With the limited wordcount, it’s very hard to include sufficient relationship building, worldbuilding AND plot. For both writing and reading short fic, I like it best when the story isn’t an “end of the world” thing, when it’s a scaled down narrative, so I don’t feel cheated on characterization. I find myself inclined to write novellas where the protagonists already know each other instead of the added demands of the meet-cute (or meet-dark-alley-and-not-very-cute, as is most often the case in paranormal romance).

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