Tattoos have been around, it seems, since the dawn of humankind.


In an interview with in 2007, Joann Fletcher – research fellow in the department of archaeology at the University of York in Britain – stated that the earliest known examples of tattoos “were for a long time Egyptian and were present on several female mummies dated to c. 2000 B.C. But following the more recent discovery of the Iceman from the area of the Italian-Austrian border in 1991 and his tattoo patterns, this date has been pushed back a further thousand years when he was carbon-dated at around 5,200 years old.”


But while most of us living in the modern world won’t pass judgment on a shriveled up, centuries-old female Egyptian mummy for having tattoos on her fingers and face, there is definitely a bias – albeit it a dwindling one – against living, breathing men and (particularly) women with tattoos in today’s society.


Shortly after graduating from a strict Christian college – where having the nickname of “Goat” didn’t go over very well at all – I got my upper body tattooed with some esoteric symbols from old Tarot reference books. When my father (a straight-laced accountant with the temperament of a pit bull with hemorrhoids) found out, he exploded. After a highly entertaining string of expletives, he said: “The only people who get tattoos are either in the Navy or Marines or they’re convicts!”


I recently asked my father-in-law, a pretty open-minded guy who grew up during the 1950’s, how he would react if, back when he was in his twenties, he met an attractive woman with tattoos. He thought about it for a while and said: “I would’ve thought she was in the circus.”


Well, that was then but this is now. It’s a different world. In the last few decades, it seems that tattoos have become so culturally accepted, they’re almost passé. Just watch a NBA basketball game or some music videos or any awards show, tattoos are everywhere. And it’s not just men – dozens, hundreds of famous women have tattoos: Angelina Jolie, Beyonce Knowles, Paris Hilton, Jessica Alba, Cher, Megan Fox, Pink, Pam Anderson, Danica Patrick, Gabrielle Reece, Joss Stone, Rihanna, Amy Winehouse, the list goes on and on….


And that proliferation of tattoos into every facet of our society has definitely influenced paranormal fantasy. It seems like every other new paranormal fantasy I receive has a cover portraying a woman with tattoos. The outstanding Mercy Thompson saga by Patricia Briggs (Moon Called, Blood Bound, Iron Kissed, Bone Crossed and the soon to be released Silver Borne) features a shapeshifting, tattooed female auto mechanic. Marjorie M. Liu’s Hunter Kiss series (Darkness Calls and The Iron Hunt) revolves around a female demon hunter with sentient tattoos. Karen Chance’s Cassandra Palmer saga (Touch the Dark, Claimed by Shadow, Embrace the Night, and Curse the Dawn) chronicles the adventures of a tattooed clairvoyant.


There’s even a new anthology – fittingly entitled Inked – that includes supernatural stories dealing with body art from authors Karen Chance, Marjorie M. Liu, Yasmine Galenorn, and Eileen Wilks!


It’s gotten so bad that there is even a tattooed woman on the covers of all three of Adrian Phoenix’s singularly brilliant A Maker’s Song novels (A Rush of Wings, In the Blood and Beneath the Skin) even though – get this! – there isn’t even a comparable character in the storyline! Adrian was recently a visitor in’s Paranormal Fantasy forum and she addressed the question of “who’s exactly on the covers?”


This is what she said: "Given some of the awful covers I've seen on books in the past, I've been pleased that the covers for my books look good and *do* draw readers, but I'm with you – I don't know who is on the cover… The covers are well done, but safe, and don't represent the characters.”


So what’s your opinion? Why are these covers featuring tattooed heroines so phenomenally popular that publishers are actually featuring tattooed women even though they’re not integral to the story within? Is it because female readers want to temporarily escape reality and live life vicariously through these edgy heroines and male readers want to enjoy their literary escapism by being these sexy protagonists’ love interests? And what’s so significant about the tattoos? Do they symbolize on some level a fusion of danger, unbridled sexuality and arcane mysticism?


I guess we’ve come a long way from people thinking tattooed women were either in the circus or in prison… right, Dad?      :smileywink:

by KekeJ on ‎01-29-2010 02:17 PM

I know more people that wish they never got their tattoos than people that still love them years later. Tattoos actually kind of turn me off but the are so prevalent in our society I just ignore them in regards to book covers. I think you are right in that they represent danger and show that a person is willing to do anything sexual or otherwise. I also think it matters what the tattoo is of. The woman sporting the delicate little flower on her ankle is probably saying something different than the woman with a grim reaper covering her entire back!

by on ‎01-29-2010 03:06 PM

Well I'm not in the circus or prison.
I was older when I got my tattoo, a Celtic cross, has a lot of meaning for me.
I don't worry about seeing tattoos. I think attitudes have changed since I was younger.
I do sometimes ask where they got the artwork done and what it means to them.
I have wondered about the prevalence of tattoos on the covers.
If the tattoo on the cover leads me to believe that it has to be part of the story,

and it is not, it really bugs me all the way through the book and I probably won't pick up another in that series.

Otherwise I just look at the tattoo on the cover and think about if the artwork was done well enough to be on a cover. If it doesn't live up to my standards, I usually assume someone made a poor cover choice for that novel.

I will be reading Inked. The cover art looks great. It is an anthology, so when I am done with the book, you will have me thinking of the cover tattoos.
Overall I think the covers are depicting strong women who are not afraid of criticism, social constraints, etc.

by CharlieG31 on ‎01-30-2010 01:20 PM

I believe some people are attracted to tattoos because they show a little bit of mystery , danger and a personality you may be able to represent through a body painting . When I see people with tattoos even though its rude lol I cant stop staring at them, they intrigue me and millions of questions come to mind about that tattoo which is why I belive when we see in book covers tattoo images we are intrigued to know what the book is about ...

by on ‎01-30-2010 01:23 PM

Hmm to me they're just another cliche for covers, in same vein as leather.

It's more that adverage percption of edgy than reality.

by on ‎01-30-2010 03:38 PM

I love tattoos and think they're one of the most artistic endeavors one can pursue -- both for the artist and the person who adorns themselves with the art. There really is no medium that is more difficult to work on than a flesh canvas.

by Joan_P on ‎01-30-2010 03:43 PM

I also got my tattoos later in life. I had a fascination with them for a long time. I had been going through a rough time so my tat was meant as an encouragement to me- a reminder. My favorite flowers, sunflowers, and the words "hope" and "courage" are tattooed on my lower back and a sunflower with "love" on my ankle. So with this fascination of mine- when I see tats on a cover it draws me in. So I checked out the synopsis and decided to buy "Inked" and now it's in my TBR pile...


Funny side note- my son was fascinated because my tat didn't wash off like his did!

by Joan_P on ‎01-30-2010 03:44 PM


Well said!!! Triple laurels for you!!


by B&N Bookseller melissas on ‎02-01-2010 02:30 AM

Funny timing reading this blog, as I am also currently researching the Philadelphia Tattoo Convention for a possible store event. Hmmm. My store is still fairly new, and about 6 months after opening, one thing became apparent—people love tattoos. Magazines about them, books about them, blank books with tattoo designs on the get my drift. I think that at this point in time, tattoos are so ubiquitous, they represent a unifying link for the majority of Americans. Heck, even my dad who abhorred tattoos all the way into my adult years began getting tattooed in his late 40s.


Most of the adults I know have at least one tattoo, even if it's one they hate (I am pointing at myself here). Most of the adults I know who don't have one are likely to get one in the near future. There is a universal appeal here. I think the concept of the inked book cover is similar to cross-genre fiction—it's another way to expand an audience. People relate to a tattoo that they like on the front, and pick up a book they wouldn't normally choose. And as you know, picking up a book means you're halfway there to actually reading it! We've all judged books by their covers, and we've all read books with covers that have no real connection to the books' contents. Right about now I'm starting to feel like I'm part of a big social experiment...


Anyway, Paul, I'm glad we've moved past bare feet! :smileywink:

by Moderator dhaupt on ‎02-01-2010 09:45 AM

Wow Paul, you always tackle the hard questions.

Hmmm, tattoos. I don't have any but not because I don't like them because I do. I've always thought tattoos on guys ,especially heros in novels, portray that devil may care attitude that all female lovers of fiction in the romance genre go for. I won't get one because it may hurt (I know I'm a baby).

My daughter has one and she wishes she wouldn't have gotten it and that's the only problem I see with them. Usually when someone decides to get one they're too young to really know what kind of body art really speaks to them and by the time they do know, it's too late because back in the day they chose a daisy instead of something more meaningful to who they are. The people who choose to get them later in life are the ones that really count like the few previous chatters who did. Good for you. Did it hurt much? And where are they?

Hey maybe I'll change my mind and get one for my 60th birthday. Cool huh.

Now heroines in paranormal fantasy a lot of times get those tattoos by magical means and it tells the story of their powers and their heritage, now wouldn't that be cool if it happened in everyday life.

Did your dad every get over himself? My dad would have had a cow! Of course we're talking in 1960's here.

Thanks Paul



by on ‎02-01-2010 10:22 AM

I have 2 tattoo's lower back,which are very me,plus they look good,and I did it to mark my time on this  earth,..and just never got around to it. I have read a good review of "Inked",by a trusted source,It spoke to me   :  )

by Skyler_White on ‎02-01-2010 10:52 AM

Tattoos feature heavily in my debut dark fantasy 'and Falling, Fly' (Berkley, March 2010), right down to the opening scene:


"The angel of desire is damned – at least that’s what my tattoo says. Okay, if I’m honest, it just says dam,with ned still only outlined in purple stencil. But twenty-first century angel that I am, I don’t give a fig for honesty. I want speed. If Ed doesn’t hurry, no lie I can invent will explain what he’ll start to see."


I'm also using temporary tattoos to promote the book, and have set up a web gallery where people can post photos of their temporary tattoos, real tattoos, body paint, etc. This coinciding with a surge in tattoo-related cover art was complete coincidence -- I wrote this book several years ago simply because it was a story I needed to tell and a concept I needed to wrestle with, not because I was trying to time anything. Funny how things work out sometimes.


Someone on another blog said "there's really only two paranormal romance covers: a shirtless man with a big tattoo, and a girl with a sword". I got the latter (though I LOVE my cover), but no tattoos! Go figure!


If you want to learn more about 'and Falling, Fly', you can go here:

Or, of course, here:


Thanks for a fun post!

by Joan_P on ‎02-01-2010 10:19 PM
Deb said, "Did it hurt much?" My tat on my lower back- I used meditation while I got it. I imagined I was at the beach... no pain unless I "left the beach"! My ankle was different... a few ouchies :smileyhappy: "Hey maybe I'll change my mind and get one for my 60th birthday. Cool huh." My SIL got her tats in her 60's, so, not to worry!! Go fer it! Cool- yes! Joan
by Moderator dhaupt on ‎02-02-2010 09:24 AM

Thanks Joan, now in addition to the B&N gift cards I request for birthday gifts I'll have to include gift cards for body art as well.

I told my husband about the conversation yesterday and he just raised one eyebrow at me and wanted to know if I'd choose one that would look good with wrinkles. ;-)


by on ‎02-02-2010 10:44 AM

You know you average mid level tat and piercing places do have gift certificates. Seen many of them given at birthday parties.


by Joan_P on ‎02-02-2010 09:05 PM



How about a gnome? :smileyhappy:



by Moderator dhaupt on ‎02-03-2010 09:18 AM

Thanks Joan, but I was thinking more on the line of a small blue dragon, or is that too much for a first tat.

Besides if it were a gnome I would always be reminded of those travel ads, you know the ones. 


by on ‎02-03-2010 10:28 AM

Small blue dragon, not too much at all.

Now if you're wanting one of those invisible except to blacklight ones, call around. That's still a specialty.


by Moderator paulgoatallen on ‎02-03-2010 10:35 AM

Placement is of utmost importance. I knew a woman who got a unicorn tattooed on her breast when she was young and two decades later it resembled a horned giraffe.....

by on ‎02-03-2010 10:44 AM

Paul, people wonder why I was laughing so hard.

A horned giraffe, funny!!!

I tattooed my ankle, I figure it wouldn't change as much over the years.

Paul you are right, placement is of utmost importance.

by Moderator dhaupt on ‎02-03-2010 10:45 AM

Well Paul a horned giraffe could be considered paranormal you know. It's just like in real-estate, location, location, location. ;-)

by on ‎02-03-2010 12:02 PM

Upkeep is just as important as placement. Sun is a no, no.

by Moderator paulgoatallen on ‎02-03-2010 12:16 PM

Excellent comment, Paul. Ironically, my sun tattoo was ruined by skin cancer.

by Joan_P on ‎02-03-2010 06:14 PM

Deb said...

"I told my husband about the conversation yesterday and he just raised one eyebrow at me and wanted to know if I'd choose one that would look good with wrinkles. ;-)



Hey Deb!

I was thinking of your husbands comment about wrinkles when I suggested the gnomes- LOL :womanwink:  I like your idea of a small blue dragon!!! My next ones might be Yoda w/ my oldest son's name and Spiderman w/ my other son's name:womanhappy:


Paul, I do know what you mean about placement- I probably would've got those a while back but I can't make up my mind where to put them...



Invisible tat! Never heard of it! :womanhappy: I can imagine a lot of cool stuff I could have done!! And then I can imagine having a party with black lights and everone has the invisible tats!! (chuckle!!)


by on ‎02-03-2010 08:21 PM

Yes folks Invisible tats. Same pain, design, brilliant colors, but after the heal not visible unless under black light. SUPER TAT trendy right now. All about the high tech ink and light refraction.


Then there's frosted (don't get, they cause rashing), day glow, and glow in the dark (last years hot trend).


Fun with color.


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