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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Series Update

Hi there!
Just thought I'd take my nose out of the keyboard long enough to give everyone an update :-).

Yes, Blood Possession (book 3) is coming right along, and the further I get into the rewriting/editing process, the fonder I become of Napolean. ;-) However, I think the biggest challenge for me is keeping my attention on one book at a time: The moment the first draft of book three was done, my imagination jumped ahead to book four, and I swear Nachari's story has been haunting me like a persistent ghost: "See me? Here I am! Come get me. Boo!"


Now, in my defense, I will say that scenes from future books often pop into my mind, and most of them will never be used (I imagine them while driving, walking, name it...and the scenes that recur again and again or continue to expand are usually the ones that end up in future books). However, the scenes from book four have become so distracting that I finally had to sit down and outline the entire book in hopes that they would just...chill for a bit. :-)  

The upside is -- I'll be ready when the time comes, and I'm even more motivated to wrap-up book three now.

As for those who have asked about my process, it goes something like this:

1. I create an outline (which I rarely stick to, but what can I say...).
2. I write a rough draft (this is where the story unfolds for the first time...and usually changes).
3. I re-write the entire book.
4. I print it out and edit. (Yep, in this advanced world of technology; I still have to edit by hand. For some reason, I just can't see all the glaring errors on a screen!)
5. I input the changes on my computer and READ the story from beginning to end (usually for the first time). Final adjustments happen here.
6. I submit it to the publisher.

Right now, book three is in stage three, with 80% of the rewrite complete.  The scheduled release date is still April, 2012, but as always, I hope to finish early.

Well, that's my update for now.  Hope everyone had a wonderful Halloween (and remembered to turn back their clocks...unlike me...)


Until next time,
Stay Positive!


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Okay, Okay -- I admit it.  I'm the world's worst blogger.  I never remember to submit new posts!  However, it isn't because I'm not thinking of everyone: I'm just very busy writing and editing (and I find the mundane details of my day-to-day life hardly worthy of airtime.  LOL)

I've been spending a lot of time in the mountains -- yes, is the same forest that sets the scene for Dark Moon Vale.  It's beautiful, spooky, and inspiring.  Last week, I saw more deer than I could count, and there was a really neat fog that settled in at night...I was just waiting for a vampire to appear. I will try to post some pictures to my facebook account soon.

In the meantime, I hope everyone enjoys their Halloween!


Monday, August 29, 2011

Analyzing Fiction: Perception verses Reality

As many of you know, my undergraduate degree was in psychology (and my minor was in sociology).  In other words, I find the workings & motivations of the human mind fascinating, and I also find the behavior of people in groups & societies interesting. For that reason, I enjoy debates over fiction: discussions about plot, character, and the intentions of an author while using various elements in their writing. In it all, I have come to believe that perception truly is nine-tenths of reality, and truth lies far beneath the surface ~ not in the apparent set of facts, but in our judgement calls about them...

What do I mean by this?

Take a moral-question with regard to "stealing" for example: Which of the following is considered stealing...and why?

a) Holding up a bank?
b) Picking someone's pocket?
c) Getting back too much change from a grocery-store clerk and saying nothing?
d) Finding a ten-dollar bill on the sidewalk and keeping it?

As you can see, in every instance there is a constant, surface set of facts: You took (and kept) money that was not yours to begin with; you took (and kept) money that was not earned by you, and you took (and kept) money that you knew belonged to someone else. These points are not debatable. And if we were to look no further than the surface, we could form some very strong (perhaps absolute) opinions. However, let's delve a little deeper: What if the bank being held up was corrupt? What if the pocket being picked was that of a cruel, rich man -- and the pick-pocket was a starving child? What if that same grocery store shorted you on change last time? Does it depend on how much is "too much" change (is keeping fifty-cents better than keeping fifty-dollars)? What if the ten-dollar bill on the street was lying next to a business card containing the possible name and phone number of its owner?

I think you get the point.  First, we define something based upon our individual perception (the amount of extra change given back by the grocer was only a little); next, we define by degrees whether something makes sense to us or not (the grocer's goods are way over-priced, and the woman who received the money was poor). Then we make a judgement call, often as if the scenario was black & white (what the woman did really wasn't that bad), and we assume that everyone else sees it the same way, naturally.

So, how does this relate to fiction (you might ask :-))? Whether we are analyzing characters, plots, or an author's intentions--whether the viewpoint comes from a publisher, an editor, a reader, or a reviewer--as long as the individual is human, it is being filtered through perception and judgement. Consequently, if one is willing to look beyond the surface to understand the filter as well, a much richer (and more interesting) discussion will always take place.

***Blood Awakening Spoiler Alert***

In Blood Awakening, there is a very intense scene in which the sons of Jadon dispatch a nursery of Dark Ones in fairly short order, evoking a wide range of emotion depending upon the viewer's perception and judgement (everything from cringing & horror to cheering & satisfaction). First, there is the individual perception of "infant" to contend with: For some, infant implies a human-being, a creature with a soul, or an individual of value simply by definition...a very serious subject, indeed. For others, it simply implies a recently-birthed, newborn creature; in which case, there are newborn spiders, snakes, scorpions, and sharks in the world as what. Next, there is a judgement call to be made based upon the individual's concept of souls, evil, and self-defense: Do the newborns have souls; are they wholly evil; are they certain to murder, rape, and pillage if allowed to live?

To one who perceives the newborns as soulless, evil, non-human predators, the argument might sound like this:

a) If a child's crib was filled with newborn spiders or scorpions, would a parent hesitate to dispatch them?
b) If a popular ocean resort, notorious for shark-attacks, were suddenly filled with newborn sharks, would it be okay to act now -- or would we wait for them to eat two people (or ten) first?
c) In a spiritual war between angels and demons, would the angels show compassion for the newborn demons?

To one who perceives the newborns as having souls or being "babies" despite their species, the argument might sound like this:
a) Is it fair to strike down an enemy while it is defenseless?
b) Isn't everything that exists sacred, no matter how vile?
c) Is there a larger moral question involved in any type of battle?

In truth, to argue any opinion -- without first delving deeper to define the underlying perception -- doesn't make a whole lot of sense (the person who believes that a human being should be protected from a scorpion -- even if it's a baby -- is probably right. The person who believes that nothing is more sacred than a "newborn baby" is most certainly right). Ultimately, perception is everything.

***END Blood Awakening Spoiler Alert***

Finally, I'm reminded of  the well-known story of the Ten Commandments where God strikes the land with one plague after another in order to force a hardened pharaoh to let His people go. The last and worst plague is to strike-down the first-born son of every household that does not protect it's doorway with the blood of a lamb in order to force Pharaoh's hand.

Whether this is an act of justice, necessity, or cruelty likely depends upon the perception of the individual (Pharaoh probably saw it a little different than Moses). The point is: When debating life or fiction, it is important to keep in mind that perception is often the foundation of reality, and the richest debates are often created while exploring the former.  In my opinion, the wonder of a piece of art, a compelling movie, or an emotionally-charged book is that it offers us an opportunity to look (and think) beyond the surface. The challenge of a piece of art, a compelling movie, or an emotionally-charged book is to get us to look (and think)...beyond the surface.

Monday, August 15, 2011

You are invited! (to the Blood Curse Series Chat Group)

We have been having a great time chatting about the Blood Curse Series at "Q&A with Tessa Dawn"

  • No subject is off-limits...
  • Readers can create new threads, respond to existing threads, or speak directly to other readers...
  • The only rules are kindness and respect of others...

So, if you'd like to introduce yourself; gab about Marquis, Nathaniel, Napolean (or their destinies); share an insight or hope for Braden or Kristina; discuss the wicked chamber of Cobras, Salvatore's "unique punishment," or the Dark One's Colony (or just hang back in the wings and read what others have to say), please join us at ~

Q&A with Tessa Dawn

***Spoiler Alert!*** 
We definitely talk details! ;-)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Say my name! ;-)

Several readers have asked about the pronunciation of the character's names, so I decided to respond in a quick blog...  :-)

How to pronounce the character's names...

The Silivasis...
Shelby: Shell -- bee
Nachari: Nah - kar - ee
Nathaniel:- Nuh -- than -- yul
Kagen: Kay -- gen
Marquis: Mar -- keis
Keitaro: Key -- tar -- oh
Serena: Sir -- reen -- uh
Storm: Storm
Nikolai: Nick -- oh -- lye

Jadon: Jay -- don
Jaegar: Jay -- gar
Napolean: Nah -- pole -- ee -- an
Braden: Bray -- den
Julien: Jule -- ee -- n
Ramsey: Ram -- zee
Valentine: Val -- en -- tine
Salvatore: Sal -- vuh -- tor

The Destinies...
Dalia: Dahl -- yuh
Jocelyn: Joss -- eh -- lyn
Ciopori: See -- uh -- pore -- ee
Vanya: Von - ya
Kristina: Chris - tina

Sakarias: Suh -- care -- ee -- us
Silivasi: Sil -- uh -- vos -- ee
Demir: Dee -- mir
Mondragon: Mon -- dragon
Olaru: Oh - lair -- roo
Bratianu: Brot -- ee - ah - nu
Nistor: Knee -- store
Alexiares: Ah -- lex -- ee- are -- es

I may have forgotten a few, but hopefully, this covers the basics :-).
Til next time, stay positive...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Thanks for a wonderful celebration!

A huge thank you to everyone who stopped by  yesterday.  I could not have better fans or friends ~ you guys are simply awesome!!!
The winner of the Free Autographed Copy is Aimee Rush (please send your contact/shipping information to as soon as possible...)
To everyone else, thanks so much for entering and I appreciate your patience as the bookstores figure out their inventory! (Apparently Amazon did not order enough initial copies and had to back order. B&N may have done the same thing).  It only goes to show that you surprised them both!!!  And me. :-)

Well, I'm going to take a deep breath and enjoy a one-week vacation beginning Monday before jumping right back into book three (editing/rewriting Napolean’s story).  I will see you all on Facebook, Twitter, and right here (the new BCS BLOG) when I return!  Thanks again for your support...

You are deeply appreciated!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Welcome to the official Release of Blood Awakening!

Welcome to all my fangtastic friends!
I've tried to make our "virtual celebration" as simple as one-two-three…

ONE:  Please Vote in the Poll (to the right).
TWO: Please “Join this Site,” (icon in the upper right-hand corner). 
THREE: Please Post a Comment (below).
(*Note: if you don't see the "Join this Site" icon -- or can't post -- it's probably b/c you're using Internet Explorer as your browser & certain versions are incompatible w/google's "followers" widget! Please try another search engine! {Google CHROME is available as a free download} :-) Thanks!

How to post a comment:
Visitors can add unlimited posts (and view other reader's posts) by clicking Comments at the bottom of THIS entry: Click comments then scroll down to the very last post & fill out the comments box OR click on the date beneath any post). Please feel free to reply to other readers! Oh, and please add a **Spoiler Alert** if a comment reveals details about a book. Thanks! 

 How to enter the **FREE** Autographed Book Giveaway Contest
Complete step three to enter the contest. The winner will be chosen randomly at midnight tonight, and his/her name will be posted on the author's Facebook page – AND on this BLOG – tomorrow (July 22, 2011). Please check back: If you win, email as soon as possible to claim your book and exchange shipping information.

I will be here all day adding comments and answering questions!  Thank you so much for coming!


Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Blood Curse Series has a new BLOG home!

Welcome to the home of my new BLOG! The old Blog has been transferred over (finally), and this one should be a lot more fun, easy-to-use, and interesting!  Plus, I should be able to blog much more often now!!!

(Famous last words, eh?)

Readers of the Blood Curse Series,

Please feel free to post comments, suggest topics, and talk amongst each other: This is your space, too.

Writers and Reviewers,

Please feel free to contact me at to request a guest blog spot or to post a Blood Curse Series book review.

As most of you know. BLOOD AWAKENING (book two in the series) is being released this month: eBook July 15th; Trade Paperback (8.5X5.5) July 21st; however, both the Amazon Kindle Version and the B&N Nook Version are now up for sale!

Look forward to seeing all my favorite friends, fans, and readers here!

As always, keepin’ it positive ~~  A+


Writing Tips: Blog Two (#2)

Writing Tips ~
Blog Two: What to write
Over the past five years, what books have you read—and loved? What books have you had a hard time putting down? And what was it – exactly – about them that you liked?
In terms of main-characters, do you prefer males or females? If females, do you find yourself drawn to sassy, witty heroines; meek, waiting-to-be-rescued girls that will soon come of age; or strong, knock-you-on-your-butt women who take names and leave no prisoners? If males, do you like the sporty jock; the quirky detective; the rakish, properly-bred aristocrat; or an Alpha werewolf or vampire? If so, why? What it is about that type of character that really revs your engine?
With regard to plot, do you like having a mystery to solve, a global conflict to resolve, or a romance to get lost in? Would you prefer to tell a story in the present, the past, or the future? Would you rather be on the edge of your seat the entire book or laughing until your sides hurt? Do you like to be scared by monsters or titillated by steamy sexual entanglements? Is there a combination of these themes you prefer?
I think you get the idea…
Write the book that YOU would most like to read!

After all, you are going to spend hundreds of hours with your book: writing it, dissecting it, editing it, polishing it, reading it…and reading it…and re-reading it! And then you might even have to talk about it and analyze it…a whole lot: Your excitement and passion—or your boredom and discomfort—is going to transfer to the reader…every time.
What about writing to the market? There is definitely a school of thought that emphasizes figuring out what people are looking for and then writing to fill that niche. I don’t personally agree with that philosophy, and here’s why: It can often take 2-3 years for a book to move from conception to publication (and that’s a fast-moving novel with no hiccups). By the time your book comes out, whatever the market was previously doing has likely changed. Beyond that, have you ever tried to be something that you’re not? (To play sports when you wanted to play music? To act like a lady when you were born a tomboy? To become a doctor when you wanted to become a school-teacher? Etc.) If so, do you remember how that felt? No one can be you as well as you. Enough said.
So now that you’ve decided to write what you love, how do you navigate all the existing genres considering that each one has its own set of rules? For instance, in a romance, the relationship between the two main-characters MUST be the primary theme in the book; everything else revolves around those two-people falling in love, and the writer can’t get so lost in fantasy (or mystery or science fiction or suspense…) that the romantic-balance tips. Not to mention, the ending MUST be happily-ever-after (you can’t kill-off the main character at the end and leave his or her partner grieving). By the same respect, in a mystery, the main theme must be “who-dunnit,” and the solution to the problem must not be readily obvious (the reader shouldn’t know in chapter one that it was Professor Plum in the library).
So what do you do?
The answer ~ even when you are navigating the built-in rules governing the various genres, you still follow your personal preference: If you want to kill-off the hero—because you just love tragedy—then don’t write a romance. If you want Professor Plum to be the main—and only—killer in your story, then skip the mystery and go for horror. The point is, decide first what elements, characters, and storylines you want to write based on what you love to read, and then figure out what genre(s) those elements, characters, and storylines fit into.
Not the other way around.
Once you know what you love to read…why you love to read it…and what about it most excites you, then you will know what you want to write. And this brings us full circle to the most-important writing tip of all: READ. READ. READ.

1. Aida | June 24, 2011 at 03:12 PM EDT 
This is the first time I ever read a book of your. I haven'tfinish the book as yet, but I truly love are right there with with Christnia Feehan in my book. Am looking forward in reading your next book, I can wait.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Writing Tips: Blog One (#1)

Writing Tips ~

Blog One: Welcome

The motivation behind writing tips: Lately, I've received so many messages from readers who also love to write! Some of them are thinking about writing books of their own while others have already written stories and are looking for some “what-to-do-next” advice...  Since there seems to be such a strong interest in the subject, I’ve decided to dedicate some blog-time to tips and information, starting at square one (what to write & how to choose a genre); throwing in a host of tips & info along the way (outlining, rough-draft, rewriting, editing, & polishing); and ending at the final-goal of many of my readers (the publishing process in a nutshell).

I must say up front that everything in this blog is just one person’s opinion: There are countless ways to approach—and experience—writing. Since I can only share my own, please (and always) follow your heart…

That said, welcome, and let’s get started…

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lions and Tigers and Reviews ~ Oh My!

Recently, I've received several questions on the subject of reviews:
What's your opinion on writing reviews?
How does it feel to have a work receiving so many positive reviews?
How do you as an author react to the occasional negative review? And…
Do you use reviews to help select the books you want to read?
Rather than continue to repeat the answers one at a time, I decided to tackle the entire subject on my blog (lucky you :-)), but before I do, I thought it might help to share a little about myself: how I write, what I write, and my basic philosophy on subjectivity.

How I write:
I always let the story lead.  The characters and the action take me wherever they want to go, and I simply follow (because if I don't, they will all turn on me in very short order...).  Yes, it's true: I don't lead.  In fact, writing is always an "energetic" exercise (a combination of passion, imagination, and flow); it is never an analytical process. On the rare occasions when I forget and try to tell myself what to write next, or, heaven forbid, tell my characters what they should and should not do, my writing comes to a screeching halt.

What I write
I write the story that I love and feel most passionate about -- the book I would be most likely to pick up, read, and enjoy.  
My basic philosophy on subjectivity:
I will start by saying that as a mother, if I could teach my kids anything at all to help them walk through life, it would be the ability to tune into themselves, know their own truth, and follow it with impeccable resolve.  In a richly diverse and subjective world, there are as many opinions as there are people to possess them (and frankly, I think that's a good thing).
However, when an individual attempts to change who they are in order to please others, they risk getting caught in an endless loop of change that will never end in satisfaction. Why is that? Because no group of people can agree on what that change should be, and each adjustment will only please--and displease--a new group of people. Thus, creating the need to change (yet again) in order to please (and consequently displease) yet another group of people.
And so on and so on and so on... 
In other words, as long as the world is a richly diverse place full of unique individuals, there will never be uniformity of opinion. So whether one is an artist, songwriter, or author, the goal remains to create the best, most-authentic work possible -- and then to trust the universe to attract others of the same likeness, tastes, or interests to share in the experience.
You know: the whole birds of a feather thing...
Will a person who is not a match to a particular work come across it on occasion? Or will a particular work that is not a match to a certain individual still end up on the wall, playing on the radio, or situated in the wrong pair of hands on occasion? Absolutely, but more often than not, I believe the universe gets it right!
That said, here are the answers to the four, original questions:
What's your opinion on writing reviews?
I don't write them; however, if someone asks me for feedback, I may share something I consider helpful. (Or I may tell them the truth, that I don’t have a clue!) J
How does it feel to have a work receiving so many positive reviews?
Like all positive experiences, it feels great...but it doesn't change who I am or the way I approach my work: It just makes me realize what a great planet we live on -- that so many diverse people from so many different backgrounds and walks of life can come together to share in a single creative process.  It makes me thankful for each and every one.
How do you as an author react to the occasional negative review?
First, I take the advice of one of my favorite authors and try not to read them. However, if one of my super-de-duper, kryptonite fans (and they are truly that awesome!) brings one to my attention, I don't respond…at all.
Allow every person their own truth and hold fast to that which is yours.
Do you use reviews to help select the books you want to read?
No, but then, I have such a crystal-clear understanding of what I like…I prefer to read the back blurb and make my choice from there. 
When a friend tells me, You've just gotta read this book, I usually do!

1. Megan Root | March 10, 2011 at 02:30 AM EST 
You need a FAQ section
2. Tessa Dawn | March 10, 2011 at 11:06 AM EST 
3. Megan Root | March 11, 2011 at 12:52 AM EST 
Your fans are anxiously waiting! ;)
4. Tessa Dawn | March 11, 2011 at 10:01 PM EST 
In my defense :-), I will say there is a FAQ section in the Reader's Realm about the series and the characters; I just haven't created one that explains the \"dark recesses\" of my mind
5. Tracey S | March 13, 2011 at 07:01 PM EDT
Just spent today reading Blood Destiny - (thank goodness I have a wonderful husband that took care of the kiddles today!). I truly enjoyed it, and as a fellow Coloradoan, it was nice to have a book set in the Rockies instead of some east coast big city!! Looking forward to your next book. Take care and happy writing. ;-)
6. Serenity Wickford | March 22, 2011 at 09:08 AM EDT 
Making myself comfortable, I grabbed a warm blanket, the last cup of coffee for the evening, and a book. Tessa Dawn's Blood Destiny. My intention was to read a few chapters before calling it a night. I did not sleep! I literally could not stop reading. My first question to Tessa would be does she have an agent? For her book Blood Destiny, without a doubt is blockbuster movie material.
Tessa's imagination surpasses that of many of the authors whose novels have graced the big screen. Her words flow effortlessly, and she brings her characters to life brilliantly. The relationship between Nathaniel Silivasi, a lethal handsome vampire, and the brave headstrong human Jocelyn Levi, unfolds quickly and believably in Tessa's enthralling tale of Celestial Gods, human's, and unnatural beings.
I cannot stress strongly enough the excellence of Tessa's way with words and plot. Blood Destiny is necessary read for all avid readers. I cannot wait to read the next installment of the Blood Curse series.
Serenity Wickford

Monday, February 14, 2011

Reader Update

Feb 14, 2011
Dear Reader,

My last update was in December? Yikes! Time for a new one :-). Let's see...

NOOK: Yes, Blood Destiny is finally available on Nook! Hooray!

BLOOD AWAKENING: The mss is with the publishing house editor, and everything is going as planned.

BLOOD REIGN: I am on chapter 18 of the rough draft.

SERIES BOOK ORDER: Which characters get their own book?

I have received several emails from readers wanting to know the character/book order of the series. I will say this: I initially planned five books with the potential for more depending upon how the series unfolded and the subsequent level of energy (mine and yours!) :-) There are prominent characters in Dark Moon Vale that do not appear in Blood Destiny. That said, here's the original, planned book order:

Book One ~ Blood Destiny: Nathaniel Silivasi
Book Two ~ Blood Awakening: Marquis Silivasi
Book Three ~ Blood Possession: Napolean Mondragon (the king)
Book Four ~ TBA: Nachari Silivasi

To learn more about the characters and Dark Moon Vale, visit the Reader's Realm on this website!

Well that's all for now everyone! There should be several author's interviews coming up on vampire sites and blogs -- please stop by and show your support (links will be posted on Facebook & Twitter). Thanks again for all your incredible support!

As Always, keep it positive!,
Tessa Dawn

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What does your taste in books say about you? :-)

We've all heard of the Rorshark test: a series of cards containing random ink blots that are shown to people in conjunction with the question, "What do you see?"
While books are not ink blots (hopefully, there's a little more deliberation to the plots, characters, and ideas than simply throwing a pile of ink on a page :-)), they are interpreted VERY subjectively...

And for a very good reason! 

We all see the world through a unique, personal filter: We wear a pair of invisible glasses made up of our unique DNA; our cultural & family backgrounds; our vastly different life experiences; our beliefs, personalities, hopes, & fears -- and even the individual choices we make along the way.  In essence, no two people see the exact same event the same way, nor do we interpret the same "stimuli" the exact same way. 

To that end, studies on issues as controversial as politics and religion have uncovered an interesting phenomenon: While people truly believe they view the arguments, issues, and "facts" with a clear, objective, mind--and THEN come to a conclusion based on those facts--in reality, individuals begin with a conclusion or belief that is already quite solid, and THEN they see only those arguments, issues, or facts that support what is already believed (unless they're making a deliberate effort to do otherwise).  In other words, we are predisposed to certain preferences to begin with, and then we interpret what we see based on those intrinsic ideas. (Ever wonder how millions of people in a given political party can agree 110% on every single nuance of an issue--in exact and total opposition to EVERYONE on "the other" side--when it's not even possible to find five adults who can agree on what to have for dinner????)     

This is not necessarily a weakness! It simply underscores the power of thought & belief in our lives--something that can be used to great advantage, especially, if we understand this nature and seek to look at things from opposing points of view, venture outside of our comfort zone(s), and at the least, respect the fact that our opinions may not be as "fact-based" as we believe.  

That said, what we read, what we prefer to read, and even what we SEE when we devour a book may tell us as much (or more) about ourselves as the actual book, author, or genre: A book (like so many other things in life) is, to a great degree, a Rorshark.

So, the next time you are truly gripped by a book--good, bad, or indifferent--consider looking deeper than the plot, characterization, and pacing into the unique, individual story that is you--and you might just find a wealth of fascinating information!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dark Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, or Paranormal Romance: Does a label matter?

Lately, I've seen a lot of great discussions comparing the labels Dark Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and Paranormal Romance: How are these labels defined by readers and writers, and how much of a difference do they really make?  
I thought it might be fun to chime in from an author's point of view -- of course, only THIS author's POV. :)
To give a few loose definitions...
Paranormal refers to that which is outside of the normal physical experience: This could include special powers, magic, or other-worldly beings (such as aliens, werewolves, and my personal favorite, vampires!).
Fantasy refers to the "other" world, itself: a physical setting that contains a different set of rules and realities. It may be under the sea, on another planet, or just plain one in which up is down and down is up (or the local bartender is a shape-shifter who puts magic dust in the drinks).  Hmm, is he cute?
Romance is more cut and dry: The story is basically boy meets girl; boy and girl fall in love (overcoming internal and/or external obstacles); and ultimately, boy & girl live happily ever after.  In a romance, the relationship between the "boy and girl" must be the primary plot, and no other element should overshadow this.  Oh, and you can probably expect to find S-E-X, unless it's a Y/A (Young Adult).
Dark refers to the shadow side of humanity.  It may be as simple as shining a light on what goes on in metaphorical deep, dark alleys or as complex as exploring the darker emotions and actions of beings (human or otherwise).  In the archetype of good verses evil, a dark work of fiction will also include, explore, or delve into the more base emotions &/or behaviors.  (Note: This is not the same thing as horror, where the bad guy in the mask runs around on Halloween and chops off fifty teenager's heads: It doesn't necessarily contain graphic violence {although it might}, but it's not going to be a skip through the park with an ice cream cone either.)
Last but not least, Urban refers to a physical, urban setting: The world in which the story takes place is a traditional, urban world. The main plot involving the werewolf, faery, or shapeshifter will not take place under the ocean or on Mars (as it might in Sci Fi); rather, it will take place in a city or other urban setting. 
As an author, choosing a genre to write within helps define the boundaries of the story.  If I want to create only human characters, I will avoid paranormal. If I want to stay within the expected (and largely agreed upon) boundaries of human behavior, mores, and traditions, I will avoid Fantasy, but if I want to push the limits (or simply change them altogether), I will indulge in the latter.  
Along the same lines, if I want to keep it light, funny, or blissfully comfortable, I will avoid exploring the dark, and if I want to focus solely -- or primarily -- on a male/female love relationship, I will stay within the lines of romance.  (However, if I don't want to create a happy ending, I might have to move to mainstream fiction with very strong romantic elements. From there, I can make it more or less erotic  -- bringing in yet another sub genre: erotica -- but you get the point)...
The truth is...many (if not most) books cross over from one genre to another: They may contain elements of several genres at once as well as present a primary and secondary slant.  But overall, the reader who wants to explore space travel, does not pick up an urban fantasy; the book lover who can't wait to get lost in the laughter, joy, and love of an intriguing tale may want to avoid a Dark Fantasy (although there may be a fair amount of those things in there as well -- just not exclusively); and the person who wants to fall in love with an entire world beyond that of the main two characters might not go for primary romance.  In the end, these labels are only guidelines: The back blurb should give a reader a good idea of what type of content might be explored within the pages, as should any free excerpts on an author's website. When in doubt, check.  (Just as it's no fun for a reader to purchase a romance only to find a dark mystery, it's equally frustrating for a sci-fi author, bookstore owner, or publisher to hear from an urban fantasy reader: "Why do you always set your books in space?!") 
To that end, it's worth having at least a basic understanding of the differences...especially if you have a strong or even singular preference toward one specific genre over another.  
As for myself, I tend to write what I love to read: Dark Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and Paranormal Vampire Fictionwith strong romantic, suspense, & thriller elements!  (Yes, I will read paranormal romance, too, as long as it contains many of the above elements).
In short, storytelling is as old as time, and the limits should be as broad as the human imagination.  While labels should not restrict the rich diversity of the written word, they can help to define the limitless....

1. Janelle Madigan | January 27, 2011 at 08:57 PM EST 
Think I'll share this with some of my LiveJournal peeps. It's really helpful because the lines between genres often can be blurred, and a lot of writers write in multiple genres or walk the line between two. For authors writing in different genres, how do they best let readers know which type of book they're in for? Should they just rely on back cover blurbs, or do they write under a different name, etc.?
Thanks for sharing! :)
2. Tessa Dawn | February 02, 2011 at 01:39 PM EST 
I would love to have the address of your LiveJournal. :)
3. Janelle Madigan | February 03, 2011 at 12:07 PM EST 
Sure! It's