Thursday, April 16, 2015

Supernatural Sidekickin'

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Hello Sup readers and writers!

Before we begin, remember everyone, the Supernatural Underground "Never Have I Ever" giveaway is still on. Pop into the comments and be in the draw! 

This month, I'm blogging about sidekicks! I want to explore the qualities of a 'good' sidekick/wing woman/man, what traits they have, their roles in the storytelling and how to write them. Re-blogged from the 11th House

What Sidekicks Are Good For

Back story: A well written, three dimensional sidekick can help with back story, allowing the reader to see and hear about things that came before page one without wading through heavy exposition. We see this in Star Wars with the sidekick Chewbacca, where his adventures in the past with Han Solo help shape our understanding of the man. Also in the sidekicks C-3PO and R2-D2. We learn much about the world through their cometary.

World Building: The sidekick can represent a culture or social group as Gimli and Legolas do in Lord of the Rings. Gollum, a 'minor' character, but with a major goal, provides a talking point for the long and complex history of the ring. What life was like in the past, the roots of the hobbits as a people. He is kind of an 'anti-skidekick' to the anti-hero Frodo.

Contrast: The sidekick can have different values, ethics, goals and motivations, making for a contrast to the main protagonist. Damon Salvatore in The Vampire Diaries, for example, hasn't much of a moral compass. At all. His buddy Alaric Saltzman, however, does, and watching that friendship grow is a measure of the main character's arc and emotional evolution.

Humor and wit: The protagonist has to be pretty serious at times, playing it 'straight' as they work out how to fight the baddy, retrieve the lost treasure and save the day. The sidekick, however, is free to use wit and humor at times when the hero cannot. We see this in Buffy the Vampire Slayer with Xander (one of Buffy's many sidekicks). She may be in deep emotional angst and he can pop a one-liner that lifts the moment without throwing away her feelings.

Throw-aways: Similar to wit and humor, there are times when a scene is too intense, deep or meaningful and the sidekick can be just the one to lighten it all with a 'throw-away' line. Clive and Ravi do this on iZombie when Liv is too deep into the fact that she is dead, turned into a zombie and has to eat brains to survive. It can turn a scene around in a flash.

Freedom of Speech: The sidekick can say things the hero might be thinking, or wish they could say, but can't. In the Quantum Enchantment Series, Rosette has a sentient familiar, a temple cat who links with her telepathically. She might be having a conversation with a mentor or rival while her familiar does a running commentary on the whole thing, adding a new element to the scene.

Sympathy: The hero may also relate to the sidekick in ways they can't to others, allowing the reader to gain more compassion or understanding. This works especially well for main characters that are not fully sympathetic. Eric Northman's compassion for his progeny, Pam, is an example from True Blood, or Charlain Harrie's Southern Vampire Mysteries.

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Writing the Sidekick

The first question to answer when developing a sidekick in the story is why are they there? They have to move the plot forward, be part of the part of the story. They also have to have their own GMC - goals, motivations and conflicts, internal and external. In a shorter work, these won't be explored to a great depth, but with novel length stories and series, there is room for these subplots to be woven.

In Lord of the Rings, Gollum is a shadow figure of Frodo, a kind of "anti-sidekick" representing the "anit-hero's" darker obsessions, passions, and also his instinctual side. Gollum knows natures ways, leads Sam and Frodo into dark places, with darker designs. Gollum's inner goals, in the end, aren't any different than Frodo's, but he still has his own history, motivations, conflicts, and outer challenges.
Further questions to ask when developing a sidekick:
  • How do they move the plot forward?
  • What do they contribute?
  • Do they have heart or at least evoke an emotional response?
  • Are their stakes genuine?
  • Is their dialog strong and juicy?
  • Are they redundant in any way?
When getting the story down, the writer isn't usually thinking of all these things. I know I'm not! Still, it's a useful checklist for the next edit, and the next.

How about you all? Who are some of your favorite sidekicks?

Writers, how to you approach these types of Characters?

Comments are always welcome!

Kim Falconer is a Supernatural Underground author writing paranormal romance, urban fantasy, YA and epic science fantasy novels.

You can find out more about Kim at the 11th House Blog, and on FaceBook and Twitter.

She posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month.

Her latest release is"Blood and Water" in Supernatural Underground: Vampires Gone Wild.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The messy art of life



Year of Living Authentically #3: What a writers life really looks like.

After last months post, I got a few comments about how self-aware I was and how put together I appeared. And I laughed. I, like my current manuscript, am a work in progress. I just happen to know where my plot lags and what my filler phrases are.

I like to look at what other writers' spaces look like, where they do their creating. Marissa Meyer talked about the 10 Things that Lived on her desk. With nice neat pictures, she told of the ten things that she needs to write, that help her get her juices flowing.

It was beautiful and I think wistfully for that kind of space. So, to face my fears and let you guys know what one writer's life really looks like, I thought I would show you where I write when I'm at home. My mother is going to kill me, but I wanted you guys to know the truth.

I do have an office with a lovely desk that I picked up on craig'slist with all these neat ideas about refurbishing it to make my office into some gothic red and black den of magic and creativity.  This is what it actually looks like, including a brief cameo by the Bean because she likes Mommy's office supplies too.

I did manage to paint a wall red and get a bookshelf of all my writing books in one place in the house, until my collection over flowed and now the rest of the pile is on my nightstand by my bed.

This is wear I actually end up writing when I'm at home, the kitchen table. Tonight, it is still cluttered from a weekend away, mail, and cookbooks from the grocery trip we just went on. But now that the Bean has gone to bed, Mommy gets to unpack what she needs to be creative: notes, a computer, a hot beverage (tonight it is honey chamomile), and some books on story structure. And my current book-o-the-moment- Blood Rites by Jim Butcher.

I'm sure that the above pictures might make some of you itch. And yes, some days I will actively use decluttering to avoid writing when my characters aren't talking to me, or I'm just about to do something horrible to them. But most nights, I just recycle what I can, put away what can be within four feet, and get on with the writing. Clutter has never killed anyone. Yet.

I believe in the notion that a first draft of a novel is figuring out what you are trying to say, and the second draft is figuring out how to say it. The first pass is heart, the second pass is head. The same is true for life. Your mess helps define what you find important and what isn't. You collect things that are important to you, and your second pass, your spring cleaning, is when you get to appreciate what happened or learn from what didn't happen.  My clutter is cookbooks because I love to cook for my family. We still haven't fully unpacked from our annual family trip to San Antonio. And there is a box of books that I need to put on a bookshelf that I haven't had time to buy yet because I love stories. Life is in this clutter.

Life is messy. Life is layers of things that can stack up next to you and make you feel small. My life has become a daily juggling act of art and motherhood and work and marriage. Some things are going to get dropped from day to day. But maybe they slide off to the pile until a moment when you can pick them up and have time to appreciate them again.

Authenticity test: When you are doing your spring cleaning, take time to think about the mess. Appreciate the mess. Let it tell you a story that you can love or learn from. And SNAP, the job's a game!

Until next time, LIVE AUTHENTICALLY!

Amanda Arista

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April Foolery: "Never Have I Ever" – Plus Giveaway!

April 1 means fun time on the Supernatural Underground so we're playing a little game of "Never Have I Ever" – with a good old Supernatural Undergound giveaway for good measure. 

"Never Have I Ever" first, then the giveaway details at the end!

Never Have I Ever – Supernatural Underground Style


"Never have I ever gone skinny dipping to research what it felt like to be a mermaid." ~ Amanda Arista
– Amanda is giving away an ebook of her first novel, Diaries of an Urban Panther

"Never have I ever been held at gunpoint or surrounded by a SWAT team." ~ Merrie Destefano
– Merrie is giving away
an ebook of her YA novel, Fathom

"Never have attended a cocktail party with Guillermo del Torro and Jerry O'Connell." ~ Jocelynn Drake

– Jocelynn is giving away an ebook copy of Angel's Ink, from her Asylum Tales 'verse.

"Never have I ever been stuck at 80 ft, bottom of the anchor line, waiting for a school of 12 ft long tiger sharks to pass overhead . . . with only 3 minutes of air left in the tanks . . ." ~ Kim Falconer
– Kim is giving away an ebook of Path Of The Stray, Book # 1 of her Quantum Encryption series

"Never have I ever stayed in a "haunted house" while doing research for a book." ~ Terri Garey
– Terri is giving away an ebook of her latest publication, Whistling Past The Graveyard


"Never have I ever ridden across Mongolia and hunted from horseback using a golden eagle." ~ Helen Lowe
– Helen is giving away either a paperback or ebook (winner's choice) of The Heir Of Night, Book One of The Wall Of Night series

How The Giveaway Will Work!

You've seen the swag listed with the "Never have You Ever" contribution from each author.

To be in to win, all you have to do is enter your take on whether the "Never Have You Ever" contributions are True or False.

Just leave a comment to tell us what you think but every comment will go in the draw (via RANDOM) to win the books!

The result will be drawn and posted here on Friday 24 April, so you can enter any time up until then and be sure to check back to find out the correct answers and whether or not YOU won the giveaway!

Monday, March 30, 2015

April 1 Is Nigh...

No, that's not giving anything away -- but a few of us here on Supernatural Underground do feel a bit of April Foolery could be in order...

Not only that, but we thought we'd throw in a good old SU Giveaway as well.

Check back in on Wednesday to find out what's a-foot...

Monday, March 16, 2015

Genre and the Zodiac

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What kind of reading personality are you?

Most of us have a preference for certain kinds of books that fall into multiple genres. We also have a style of reading - eclectic, focused, serial, exacting, flitting, browsing. Whatever our approach, it changes over time, representing healthy evolution.

Can these preferences be related to the zodiac?

Test it for yourself and see!

AriesARIES: An independent reader. You like to browse for something that spontaneously lights your fire. Who cares what the critics think? This is all about your desires. No need to hold the thrills, chills and spills. Adventure and conflict a must. Action, SF, Romantic Thriller, War, Page Turners.

TaurusTAURUS: A slower pace isn't an issue, as long as there is sensuality and pleasure. Woven into the pages is a true alpha hero and a powerful, high libido female. HEA is probably a must. Finds delight in Romance, Erotica, Memoir, Historical Fiction, Alternate History Fantasy.

 GeminiGEMINI: Must capture interest in the first sentence. No slow starts. Must also be intelligent. sharp and fresh. Bestsellers are excellent for conversations/social gatherings. Loves a good "whodunnit", Medical or SF Romance, Urban Fantasy, Crime-procedural, Self-Help, Literary Fiction.

CancerCANCER: Loves tales of the past, historical, classical, haute sensibilities - Jane Austin! But not afraid of the darker side of fiction. Must engage the emotions. Will tolerate almost anything as long as there is a non-contrived HEA. Cook Books, Vampire, Mystery, Paranormal. Of course Romance!

LeoLEO: It does matter what the critics are saying and you may use reviews to guide your choices, but you'll make up your own mind in the end! A focused reader with more traditional preferences: High Fantasy, Classical, Supernatural, YA and Children's Books, Hero's Journey, Time Travel.

VirgoVIRGO: Most likely has a TBR list and sticks to it! You're a serial reader who also makes a  great reviewer. Non-Fiction can be as enjoyable as fiction, especially Self-Help or exploring your favorite research topic. SF, Dystopia, YA, Paranormal Romance, Magical Realism, Steam Punk!

 LibraLIBRA: You love to read what your friends are reading. It's as fun to discuss as it is to immerse in the pages. Prefer a certain level of refinement and sophistication. Not too hard core. HEA important. Chick Lit, Classical, Memoir, Romantic Suspense, Faery Tale, Space Opera, Trad Fantasy.

ScorpioSCORPIO: Here we have the sign that not only enjoys a trip to the underworld, it is required reading. A focused and eclectic reader, drawn to stories with extreme emotions and experiences. Horror, Gothic, Dark Fantasy, War, Urban Fantasy, Hard SF, SF Thriller, Erotica.

SagittariusSAGITTARIUS: The explorer into the unknown. Does like to keep up with trends and read current bestsellers (so, like Gemini, can discuss in social situations!) Not afraid of avant guarde. All forms of SF including Alt History, Zombies, Comic Fantasy, YA, Short Stories, Philosophy, Adventure.

CapricornCAPRICORN: One of the most pragmatic and accomplishment oriented signs in the zodiac. Loves academic or business/finances . . . but, there is a whole imaginative and creative side here too! Drawn to Historical Fantasy/Romance, Hard SF, Drama, History, Religious/Spiritual, Vampire.

AquariusAQUARIUS: The most quirky and unpredictable of the signs. The read must be fast pace, full of twists and turns. You don't want to see the end coming! Reads traditionally for knowledge, and non-traditionally for pleasure. New Weird Fiction, Slip Stream, Erotic Romance, SF and Fantasy Thriller.

piscesPISCES: This is the "everything, everywhere, all the time" reader who would probably list all genres known to human kind as a preference. Does love a good Magical Mystery Tour! Faery Tales and Classical Murder Mysteries, Romantic Mystery, Shape-Shifter, SciFi Fantasy, Poetry, genre blenders.

Do any of these ring true for you? I'd love to hear what your favorite genre is, and your sign in the zodiac.

For example, I'm a Gemini and love Urban Fantasy!

Comments are always welcome!

Kim Falconer is a Supernatural Underground author writing paranormal romance, urban fantasy, YA and epic science fantasy novels.

You can find out more about Kim at the 11th House Blog, and on FaceBook and Twitter.

She posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month

Her latest release is"Blood and Water" in Supernatural Underground: Vampires Gone Wild.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Urban Fantasy: Modern Day Faery Tales Drawn From Fantasy and Folklore

As an author with an all-too-vivid imagination, I've never had a whole lot of trouble with “suspension of disbelief”. Ghosts, near-death experiences, haunted houses - anything that frightens or intrigues me is very likely to end up in one of my books.

I write Urban Fantasy, which is basically fiction that’s set in the real world, yet contains aspects of the supernatural or fantastic. Urban Fantasy was first defined as an acknowledged sub-genre in the late 1980’s and early ‘90s, but in my opinion, “Urban Fantasy” has always been around, from the earliest days when spooky stories were first told around warm fires on cold nights. Ancient gods and goddesses, elves, witches, faeries and werewolves. Dragons, trolls, giants. By the standards of the era (whether it be Classical, the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages, the Victorian, etc.) any of these stories could be considered Urban Fantasy, for they all involved a mixture of the real and the fantastic. Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Robert Lewis Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde – these are all fictional tales that were based in the real world, yet include elements of the supernatural.

In Urban Fantasy, the supernatural elements are limited only by the author’s imagination, but certain themes, however, remain constant. These “literary tropes” are at the heart of every good fantasy novel, whether it’s Urban Fantasy, Sci-Fi Fantasy (Star Wars, Star Trek), Historical Fantasy (Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones), or Young Adult Fantasy (Harry Potter).

1) First comes the over-arching theme of Good vs. Evil. The stakes can be as high as the fate of the world, or as simple as saving the life of one individual, but there is always a goal that serves the greater good. Whether the protagonist is a supernatural bounty-hunter who keeps demons from taking over the world, or a single mom who finds out her neighbor is a vampire, moral dilemmas—and the consequences of them—are a mainstay of Urban Fantasy.

2) Second is the journey of the self – protagonists often start out ill-equipped, or even unwilling, to deal with the situations they find themselves in, but through character development (which the author shows by their ongoing actions and insights), find within themselves the strength to meet ever-increasing challenges.

3) Third is A Major Secret – one that puts the protagonist outside the realm of “normal”, but forces them to behave as though they were just like you and me. By placing the protagonist in an urban, “everyday” setting, the author creates a sense of kinship with the reader, fostering the much-needed suspension of disbelief.

If literary history is any judge, we, as humans,are drawn to the unexplained, the fantastic, the out-of-ordinary. I, for one, am proud to continue the storytelling tradition that began around those long ago fires. I am a writer, yes, but first and foremost, I am a storyteller, and I write Urban Fantasy.

Terri Garey is a Supernatural Underground author who writes award-winning and critically-acclaimed Urban Fantasy. Even though she's a big scaredy-cat who can't watch horror movies or visit haunted houses, she loves moonlit graveyards, moss-covered headstones and the idea that life goes on even after it's over. Her latest release is WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD, and you can visit her on the web at, or friend her on Facebook.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

What if you don't have time to write?

I'm sure there are writers out there who have plenty of time to write. Their houses never get dirty, their dogs don't need baths, their children don't need help with their homework and their husbands/wives don't expect dinner. On top of that, these lovely writers look amazing all the time. They don't gain weight from too many hours spent in front of a computer and they never have problems paying their bills, because everything they write becomes a best-seller.

These writers, bless their hearts, are myths.

If you are fortunate enough to make a living writing, there's a good chance that you're writing more than fiction and that you have a significant other who helps pay the bills.

The Real World
I currently juggle magazine editorial work with novel writing. Between working as the editor on a variety of publications like Vintage Gardens magazine, American Farmhouse Style magazine, Victorian Homes magazine and Zombies magazine (you knew there had to be something weird and slightly supernatural in that mix, right?), I write fiction.

But, it's not easy to find time to write the stories I love, because at this point in my career, those stories don't pay the bills.

[Cue a heavy sigh here]

Giving Up
I almost gave up on writing because of this. I almost gave up something I love—just because I was only looking at the "end goal," without realizing that the best part of this journey is the journey itself. I love writing even more than I love being published. Once I realized that, I discovered that getting a book published was no longer my end goal.

Writing the absolute best book that I can is my goal. And I want to write as many books as I can in the amount of time I have left on earth.

My New End Goal
But even when I came to this conclusion, I still didn't know how to accomplish my new "end goal." I still had to find time to write when my schedule was full. Like every other person who works full time, I have a spouse who wants to spend time with me, dogs who need to be walked, friends who need to be nurtured, and a house that refuses to stay clean no matter how often I threaten it.

I finally realized I was going to have to steal time from my day if I wanted to write. I was going to have to be super efficient with that stolen time. And I was going to need a community to support me. I would never be able to do this alone. Finding the right community for this endeavor was my first step.

Finding a Community

I found part of my community on Twitter and part of it at a writer's conference. If you want to discover other writers, you have to go where they go. There are all sorts of groups out there, on and on Twitter and Facebook, and I'm sure there are other places to find like minds. NaNoWriMo is another place to meet writers. Once you find a good group, stick with it. These are the people who will support you and cheer you on throughout your career, just as you support them.

Making a Commitment
Once I found a good mix of writers, I discovered we liked to "work together." We did word sprints together, we plotted together, we set goals together. We made each other accountable. And believe it or not, this really helped. You don't have to be best friends with someone to work together and help one another, but you do have to treat each other with respect. You have to care about their goals as much as your own.

Finding Time to Write
So how did all of this help me find time to write? I realized that when I worked within the confines of a community, I was driven to write more, to write faster, and to write better. Sometimes we'd challenge each other to a word sprint on Twitter, sometimes there would be an hour-long sprint mentioned on Facebook, sometimes we'd start a writing sprint through an e-mail prompt. We would give each other a time limit, then come back and state how many words we got. We made ourselves accountable, right there in the midst of social media, in front of God and the world. Maybe nobody was listening but us. It didn't matter. We were listening and we were getting our stories written. Together.

Using this method and having the support of my community, I finished one book and got half way through another, within a few months.

First Draft in Three Months

When I was writing, I would give myself about an hour a day to write. Even on my busiest of work days, I would take an hour for lunch and that was when I would write. When I got back to my computer (for work purposes), I would eat lunch at my desk. Since I worked at home and made my own hours, I could sometimes write for longer than an hour, as long as I got my other work done.

If I followed this method, I could usually finish a first draft of a manuscript within three or four months. This included time for me to get lost and confused, time to throw pages away and to rework the plot. It also allowed me time to fully immerse myself in the story, to the point that it flowed without very much thought. If I was writing almost every day, the story would come alive—it would live and breathe inside me and it would flow onto the page.

I had to be careful not to criticize my first draft. In fact, sometimes what I did during my one-hour writing sprint was just throw down a rather detailed outline of the next scene. Later, if I had more time to write in the evening or on the weekend, I would go back over that draft and discover it held not one scene, but almost ten pages of story material and three scenes.

This is a method that I still use. It doesn't solve all my problems. For instance, I found time to write, but I still haven't found time to edit. I'm working on carving out some weekend blocks of time to do that. It's still hard when I'm in the midst of magazine deadlines to do that, but I know I have to be patient. I don't want to rush the final step in creating a book, so perhaps my editing cycle will have to wait until my work schedule lightens up a bit.

What about you? What tips or techniques have you discovered along the way that have you become a better writer? Do you have trouble finding time to write? Let me know in the comments. I'd love to hear from you!


Merrie Destefano is the author of Afterlife, Feast and Fathom and you can learn more about her work by visiting her website,