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McKenna Dean: Writing a Paranormal Romance (Excerpt)
Sunday, October 6th, 2019

Disclaimer: There are some great guides out there as to how to write paranormal romances. This is by no means meant to replace the advice or experience of authors in the genre. This is just how I write a paranormal romance.

*coughs*

1: First, decide on your shifters. Honestly, that’s the best part of the process as far as I’m concerned. I’m a biologist, so I love putting my knowledge of different animals to use when selecting shifters for my characters. To a certain extent, the choice I make becomes incorporated into the character’s personality and physique as well. A bear shifter might be a big burly guy, or a cheetah shifter may also be a runner in human form.

Because opposites attract is so much fun, I enjoy making my pairings different shifter species as well. A panther and a dragon, or a hawk and a raccoon. The dichotomy between the animal shifters and the human personalities is meat and drink to me.

2: Decide if your shifters are comfortable with their inner beast. There’s SO much scope for storytelling if one of your characters is on the outs with his or her shifter. I love stories about self-acceptance and empowerment, so this is a big one for me.

3: Pick your setting. Location can be almost as much as a character as anyone else, particularly when it comes to shifters. Are your characters able to shift whenever they want or are they constrained by society to stay in hiding and only shift when they are alone in the woods? In the Redclaw Universe, shifters keep their identities secret because of public hostility and fear toward shifters, which means many long for a private, safe place they can truly be themselves. There’s a lot of built-in tension and potential plot material right there!

4: Figure out what the heck you’re going to do about clothing. Because while having to strip down before shifting can lead to some fun, sexy times, it can also be a big pain in the storytelling patootie. Where did they leave their clothes? Can they get back to them? Are they just going to walk around naked now? *sigh* That’s why I invented the very rare, much-prized shifter clothing—made by special tailors out of cloth only dragons can produce, it has the ability to shift with the shifter. Ergo, no more inconveniently naked people when you’ve had your Redclaw agent shift into a tiger to chase down a bad guy. *buffs nails against shirt in fake humility*

5: Liberally add tropes to the mix. Fated mates? That’s always a good one. Snowed-in at a remote location? Love it! Duking it out for a joint inheritance? Sign me up! Pretend relationship while undercover? Yes, please! You don’t have to stick with just one, either. Mix and match!

6: Turn those tropes on their heads. Say what? You heard me. Have one character scoff at the idea of fated mates. Make the heroine the more powerful shifter. Have a real boyfriend/husband waiting in the background. Make one of your characters ignorant of their shifter background. Offer the formula but change it up just enough that your reader is breathless trying to race to the end to find out what happens.

7: Give them a common/enemy to face together. Someone trying to kill them is always good. Someone trying to stop a witness from testifying, or an heiress from coming forward. Create a dangerous situation and throw them in the middle of it. I like putting my characters in hot water to see how strong they are. Like tea bags, only sexier.

8: Speaking of which—sexy times! That fated mate thing can come in handy here. So can surviving something terrible together. MAKE THEM KISS. And whatever else they feel like doing.

9: Make them fall in love. Passionately, fiercely. Willing-to-die-for-each-other love. This is above and beyond the sexy times. This is TRUE LOVE. It can come before the sexy times, during the sexy times, or after—it can come after much trials, tribulations, and misunderstandings but it must come!

10: Figure out how you can turn the whole thing into a series and start all over again with the next installment. Because by this point, you’re invested in this universe, and you want to see more of it yourself.

Bishop Takes Knight

Destitute after her father gambles away the family fortune and commits suicide, former socialite Henrietta (“Rhett”) Bishop takes a job at Redclaw Security in NYC in the spring of 1955. It’s not long before she realizes there is something very odd about the place: Redclaw is an agency that investigates matters concerning an emerging world of shifters and some strange alien artifacts that have appeared since the advent of global nuclear technology.

Peter Knight is a nuclear scientist shattered by the murder of his wife. Blacklisted by the government and scientific organizations, he drowns his sorrows while searching for the people behind his wife’s death.

When Rhett is assigned to recruit Knight to work for Redclaw, their meeting is more than they bargained for. Someone out there doesn’t want Knight to work for anyone—and a missing cache of alien technology has all parties scrambling to be the first to secure it. Investigating a hunch throws Rhett back into her former life, with Knight as a pretend boyfriend. But when someone from the past turns up to start a bidding war on the artifacts, Bishop and Knight wind up in a fight for their lives.

Get your copy here!

Excerpt

I couldn’t decide if he’d insulted or flattered me, so I said nothing, but took two bowls down from the cabinet. Regardless of my earlier snack, the soup smelled good as he ladled it into the bowls.

He just shook his head when I added crumbled saltine crackers to my portion as we sat at the table. “Why don’t you just open the shaker and pour salt directly into your mouth?”

“I like crackers with my soup.”

He stabbed at my bowl with his spoon. “That’s more like you enjoy a little soup with your crackers. It looks revolting. Like chicken-flavored porridge.”

Put that way, it did sound disgusting. As I eyed the sodden mess, I changed the subject. “You never said how it is you’re able to leave Redclaw with no one being the wiser.”

Especially in view of the added security.

He must not have been all that hungry, for he pushed the bowl of soup aside and fished something out of one of his pockets. After placing it on the table in front of him, he gave it a gentle push in my direction.

I didn’t reach for it. Much like the previous devices I’d seen, this one had that same dull metallic casing, with odd markings carved on the sides. Unlike anything else I’d seen before, however, it had a raised ring in the center that cast a warm yellow glow. “What’s that?”

An infectious grin lit up his face. “I call it an image-projector. I think about what I want to look like in great detail, and it projects that image over me. I’m still wearing the same clothes and everything, but if I can imagine it, I can look like it.” He swept the device back toward him when I would have picked it up. “Few people question the boss when he’s leaving the building.”

“What if you run into the boss? That could be awkward.”

He didn’t seem concerned. “The odds are low. Besides, I can just as easily be an anonymous lab tech. Have you been downstairs? There’s a lot going on, and as I said the other day, they’re more worried about unauthorized people getting in than paying attention to who’s getting out.”

“But to what purpose?” His attitude made little sense. “You’re safer inside Redclaw. Why leave?”

“Boredom.” He shrugged when I raised a disbelieving eyebrow. “Okay, then. The desire for decent food.”

My eyebrow went even higher as I stared pointedly at the cooling soup in front of him.

“Fine. I don’t like being caged. Is that answer enough for you?”

I could see his point. And since I had him here, I asked about something that had been on my mind since the day of the mechanical spider. “What do you think is the purpose behind these artifacts?”

He leaned back in his chair to the point he risked toppling it over backward. The front legs lifted until he settled the chair back in place with a thump. “That’s the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question, isn’t it?” His raised eyebrow implied both curiosity and concern. The combination was frankly compelling. “Where do they come from? Who or what is behind the technology? It’s beyond anything I’ve ever seen, and I’ve worked on some top-secret projects. My guess? It’s not from this planet.”

My mouth dropped open. “You mean… alien?” I sputtered.

He nodded in all seriousness.

“You seriously believe Martians or Moon Men or something like that is seeding our plant with their gizmos?” The shock of his statement having worn off, scorn now laced my voice.

His shrug was eloquent. “Maybe. I think it more likely an advanced race implanted these devices millennia ago, knowing at some point we’d develop nuclear technology, hence the activation of said devices now.”

“But why?”

He shook his head. “A test? A trap? Who knows? Maybe the awakening tech triggered some kind of signal to the developers and even now, they’re on their way to greet us.”

I wondered if we would disappoint them. It was a distinctly disturbing thought. “Is this a working theory or are you just blowing smoke?”

His devilish smile made an appearance. The way it peeped out of hiding, combined with the fall of that rebellious lock of hair over his intense eyes when he leaned forward, would have charmed the pants off most women I know.

I don’t charm that easily.

“My dear, I just tinker with the gizmos.” He leaned back in his seat once more, his clever fingers toying with his spoon as he spoke. “I’ll leave winkling out the motives of the artifact-builders to the scary people, like you and Ryker.”

I straightened. “Me? Scary? What on earth have I done to give you that impression?” Ryker, I could understand. We knew so little about the shifters, how they lived, and what they could do. The way Ryker had tossed Billy around that day in the office was a fair indication he was stronger than most men, and of course, there was the rapid healing thing as well. More than that, I didn’t know.

“Scarily competent.”

I wrinkled my nose. “Am I supposed to thank you? That makes me sound like every other woman in the workplace. Standing behind the boss and making him look good.”

His laugh caught me off guard. “No, you have it all wrong. The smart man stands behind the girl with the ray gun.”

Okay. Perhaps I could be charmed a little.

About the Author

McKenna Dean has been an actress, a vet tech, a singer, a teacher, a biologist, and a dog trainer. She’s worked in a genetics lab, at the stockyard, behind the scenes as a props manager, and at a pizza parlor slinging dough. Finally she realized all these jobs were just a preparation for what she really wanted to be: a writer.

She lives on a small farm in North Carolina with her family, as well as the assorted dogs, cats, and various livestock.
She likes putting her characters in hot water to see how strong they are. Like tea bags, only sexier.

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