Friday, July 3, 2015

Alone is not Lonely

Year of Living Authentically: A writer is never alone.

I was a kid who spent a lot of time alone, but looking back, there are very few times I felt lonely. Even as early as third grade, I would choose to be writing or reading, rather than socializing and that's probably why I don't have the suave social skill of my little brother who loved to be in the crowd. I had the people in my books and the people in my head and a family who took me to the library every week. 

As I grew up and life got decidedly less fun, I would retreat into the world in my books and the people in my head. While others were boozing away their Thursday nights in collage, I was curled up with a spiral notebook creating the world that would become Diaries of an Urban Panther. I have characters in my head who have been with me longer than some friends.

I teach as part of a writing program and we are always talking about building your writing tribe and finding others who speak your language. I talk about the synergy of writing with a group of people and the relief that comes when someone else gets a 'Call to Adventure' joke. How finding others who share your passion for writing is one of the best things a writer can do.

But fundamentally, writing is an alone process. It is you and your story and maybe a cup of coffee. Writing isn't lonely. You have characters who are making you as you are making them, but the process is not a communal one. You have experiences that you crafting for others to live, but you can not share in the creation because it is creating you as you go. The writer you on page one  is not the same writer you as the one who finishes the manuscript. You have been changed. You know more about yourself than you did on page one and that change is just as important as the one on the hero went through.

Writing is an intrinsic force that almost demands you shut yourself away from the outside world to focus on the internal one. Writers are stereotyped as hermits, because hermitting is a natural reaction to the need to form a chrysalis around yourself so change can happen.  I haven't met a writer yet that doesn't fantasize about cabins in the woods or cabanas on the beach where they can just "be" with their stories.  

I advocate both. Find quite time. Find a ritual that takes you to that internal world and spend lots of time there. Get your story on the page before you share it. But then, find flesh-and-blood humans you can talk to this stuff about, who you can share this process with, who understand the desire to hide under a blanket because change is hard: writing is hard. Find those who understand that a first draft is a new creation, fragile and still hardening its wings, and will respect it as they do their own. 

So when you see that girl in the coffee shop with her over-the-ear headphones typing away at something, instead of making a big show of 'why does she even come here if she's just going to take up a table on a Saturday afternoon,' give her a knowing smile, so she doesn't feel lonely, but let her be alone. She's already got a table full of friends, and maybe an enemy, and there is magic happening right before your eyes. 

Until next time, YOLA!

Amanda Arista
Author, Diaries of an Urban Panther

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

It's Copyedit Time...

The Wall Of Night, Book One
... which means I shall be totally 'head down, tail up' gal until this round on Daughter Of Blood, the third novel in The Wall Of Night series is a wrap.

Exciting times, though — because after the copyedit there will only be the "first pass proof" and then my part in Daughter Of Blood will be pretty much done.

After that, it's all up to the publishers (Voyager in the US, Orbit in the UK) to get Daughter out into the world and into readers' hands...

The Wall Of Night Book Two
What this means, of course, is that I will then be able to concentrate fully on The Chaos Gate (working title), which is the fourth and final book that wraps up The Wall Of Night series.

Exciting times!

I got a hint of even more excitement to come today — apparently both my USA and UK covers for Daughter Of Blood are about to be revealed Very Soon.

I'll be sure to let you know right here on the Supernatural Underground when that happens!


Supernatural Underground regular, Helen Lowe, is a novelist, poet and interviewer whose work has been published, broadcast and anthologized internationally. Her first novel, Thornspell, was published to critical praise in 2008, and her second, The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012. The sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013. 

Helen posts regularly on her Helen Lowe on Anything, Really blog, occasionally on SF Signal, and is also active on Twitter: @helenl0we

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Things to Do on a Gemini New Moon

Ex Libris by Michael Parkes
The New Moon is in Gemini this month, a time to light up the mind, communicate, learn and circulate ideas! One of the best ways to do this, of course, is read, read read! And write!

Gemini is a symbol central to connecting via the written or spoken word —in Gemini we ask, "What is this like? What does this mean? Where can I learn more?"

The answers will be different for all of us, but honoring our thoughts, curiosity and ideas is a way to begin.

The energy of each new moon carries us up until the full. Gemini New Moon begins:

NEW MOON in GEMINI June 16/17th

LA – Tuesday – 7:06 am
NY – Tuesday – 10:06 am
LON – Tuesday – 3:06 pm
SYD – Wednesday – 00:06

Things to do on the Gemini New Moon




Start a blog

Join Goodreads 

Start a book club

Read a new genre

Write a letter to a friend

Start a Pray Rain Journal

Write an email to a friend 

Play with manifesting magic

Research, study, contemplate

Contact a sibling and clear the air

Have a dinner party and play word games

Multitask, communicate, enjoy the complexity of you mind

More Tips for the New Moon: 

Set an intention (state what you want aloud or write it down) on the new moon. Your desires have more power than at any other time. Sign by sign suggestions here.

Gemini Reminds us that Thoughts are Things – Tune in to what you are thinking! 

Have a wonderful New Moon, everyone!

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

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Saying Goodbye to Old Friends

The second hardest thing to do when it comes to working on a book series ... is saying goodbye. (The first hardest thing is creating the series in the first place.)

Counting both published and unpublished books that I've completed, I think I've now topped 20.  Most of those books have been part of a series.  It's gotten me in the habit of becoming close to the characters.  We don't spend a few months together, but years.  In the case of Mira and Danaus from my Dark Days series, I had those two running through my head for nearly a decade.  I saw parts of the U.S. because of the Dark Days books.  There were years where I was so intent on the stories that I'd have Mira giving a running commentary through my head as I shopped for Christmas gifts (and let me tell you, that vampire does not like to shop).

But the truth is that in all those months and years, you learn that series world as well as your own home.  You know the parts of town you don't wander down after sunset and the parts of town you don't go to regardless of the hour. You know your character's favorite food even if it never comes up in a story. In fact, you know tons of things that never make it to the books but they are there, running through your head, shaping little decisions all the time.

And after three novels, two novellas, and a short story, it's time to say goodbye to another set of characters.  This Tuesday, Demon's Vengeance hits the shelves, signaling the end of the Asylum Tales series.  And it's hard to let them go.  Warlock-turned-tattoo-artist Gage Powell is special to me.  He's like a best friend that's moving away, and deep down, you know you're not going to keep in contact. Gage was on the run from a dark force and he managed to carve out a life that made him happy.  He found family, friendship, love, and a greater purpose.

Gage's books became about sacrifice and learning that there are things out there worth fighting for that are so much bigger than ourselves.  And in those moments, you have to be willing to risk everything.  I'm proud of him and his choices... even the bad ones.

But I'm still going to miss him and his world.  I'm going to miss hanging out at  the Asylum Tattoo Parlor and never knowing what was going to step through the front door next.  Maybe it was going to be an incubus, an elf, or a werewolf.  Maybe a set of vampires from TAPSS stopping by to harass him.  Or maybe it was just Bronx or Trixie showing up for their shift.  The Asylum Tales inhabit a world of endless possibilities and that's what made it so much fun.

If you would like to take a step into a crazy world of witches, vampires, shifters, elves, trolls, goblins, incubus, sirens, and soooo much more, I invite you into the Asylum Tales.  Below is the reading order for the entire series.

The Asylum Interviews: Bronx
The Asylum Interviews: Trixie
Angel's Ink
Dead Man's Deal
"Of Monsters and Men" -- short story found in Blood By Moonlight anthology
Demon's Vengeance

And if you happen to run into Gage and the gang, tell them that Jocelynn misses them.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Apology Letter to my Muse

Year of Living Authentically: Does the Muse exist and does she hate me?

First off, HAPPY FOUR YEAR ANNIVERSARY TO ME AT SUPERNATURAL UNDERGROUND! Yes, it was four years ago today that these wonderful women took me under their paranormal wings and let me blog with them. Still feel blessed for all they have taught me.

Now. Back to Business.

Dear Muse, 

First off, I know that you exist. I can feel you dancing around in my brain and pushing me to create stories that answer questions and explore feelings and bring forth goodness and safe places of escape into the world.

But about last weekend.

I know that last weekend I did something crazy and that is why you are not speaking to me now. I know that I spent three days hold-up in a writing retreat. I know that you were with me until the end, and by the end, we were both spent. There was far too much coffee and far too little sleep. There was good times and bad times, and then there was wine.

You let me marinate in the world I was creating,  just living there, the two of us. Let me figure out the questions, the who's, what's and where's. Let me dance with joy when we figured out the missing piece that locked everything into place. And then, we wrote like a zephyr to catch all that magic created between us, all the answers to those questions, all the incidents that tested our hero's limits until we were both saddle-sore and exhausted.

Current Pretty Boy Bait
And now you have gone and my brain is dry. I have nothing creative left to give and every idea seems like the wrong one without the passion you brought to the page.

So the real question is do I wait for you to come back willingly or will I have to bait you once again with pretty boys and pretty words and pretty sleep with pretty dreams.

Do I follow Maya Angelou's advice and just keep writing. Just keep working until you are tempted to join me once again, to capture the magic once again. Tempt you with the rhythm of my tapping across the keys of my computer until you are back beside me once again.

For all that writing is hard work and persistence and just looking at that sentence one more time, I miss your sly smile that makes me forget about the toil and do it for the joy. That drives my fingers a little faster and keeps me up past my bedtime.

I remain yours faithfully (but seriously now, I'm on a deadline),

Amanda Arista

Monday, June 1, 2015

Love, Actually: Childhood Sweethearts & The Gal or Guy Next Door

Last month I kicked off a new Supernatural Underground post series, looking at different aspects of romantic love, including examples from my own fiction where appropriate.

I started with that universal crowd pleaser, "star-crossed love" and "might have been's." This month, I'm checking out "childhood sweethearts" and "the gal, or guy, next door."

When it comes to the gal and guy next door, it's hard to go past Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson and Adam Hauptmann, where motor mechanic Mercy likes to pull cars to bits and leave the result on her back field 'where it was clearly visible from Adam’s bedroom window.'

 Another fictional gal from next door, or at least just across the fields, is Rosie Cotton, the focus of Sam Gamgee's long unspoken admiration in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings:
Rosie & Sam

'But as he started off, Rosie ran down the steps. "I think you look fine, Sam," she said. "Go on now! But take care of yourself, and come straight back as soon as you have settled the ruffians!"'

A speculative fiction couple who tick both the "childhood sweethearts" and "the gal/guy next door" boxes are David Strorm and Rosalind Morton from John Wyndham's post-apocalyptic classic, The Chrysalids. 

'Quite when it was that we had known we were going to marry one another, neither of us had been able to remember. It was one of those things that seemed ordained, in such proper accord with the law of nature and our own desires, that we felt we had always known it.

Anne & Gil
When it comes to fictional childhood sweethearts, it's hard to go past Anne of Green Gables and Gilbert Blyth. Because despite Anne's long-held grudge against Gil, you somehow know that they're going to grow up and be together.

In The Gathering Of The Lost, the herald pair, Jehane Mor and Tarathan of Ar, also turn out to have been together since their cradles:

'Another, clearer vision slipped through...of a youthful warrior, his hair a twisting of chestnut braids, on his knees before a white-clad girl with his face buried in her lap. ... Her hands turned his face up to meet her gaze. “I have always trusted your true judgment and truer heart.” Her expression grew resolute. “And if there is a price to be paid, we will pay it together.”

“You see us as we were long ago.” Tarathan spoke quietly...'

But what about you? Do you have a favorite pair of fictional childhood sweethearts, or a gal or boy next door that you particularly 'heart'?


Supernatural Underground regular, Helen Lowe, is a novelist, poet and interviewer whose work has been published, broadcast and anthologized internationally. Her first novel, Thornspell, was published to critical praise in 2008, and her second, The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012. The sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013. Helen posts regularly on her Helen Lowe on Anything, Really blog, occasionally on SF Signal, and is also active on Twitter: @helenl0we

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Opening Spells

Lost in her Thoughts - Samy Charnine
Every story begins with a spell, invoked through the opening line.

Why? According the the Harry Potter universe, an opening spell facilitates the passage between two zones, creating an accessible connection. In the case of fiction, the connection is between the reader and writer, a conduit that transports both to a “secondary world” where the story takes place.

Think of the opening spell as the magic that draws the reader in, convincing them to sets aside their ‘real’ world responsibilities and immerse in the pages. Like any good spell, there are a variety of ways to go about it, but realize this inaugural line is rarely written first. Often the first line, paragraph and chapter are edited and revised for days, weeks and months after the story is completed.

To make this opening spell powerful, you have to be willing to give it your all. It might help to identify your approach. Here are four to consider:

  • The plunge
  • The mood
  • The compel
  • The back story

Ingredients required for each will vary. I’ll break it down but note all will require a measure of time, imagination, paper and pen or word processor, and of course, solitude.

However you create the opening line, it must always whisper: Listen to me . . . Stay with me . . .

1) The Plunge
The Plunge

This opening spell is usually dynamic, dangerous and always in medias res. In other words, it starts in the middle of the action, where disaster doesn’t have long to wait.

“It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.” Maggie Stiefvater, The Scorpio Races

“Sammy’s voice was low, his fingers warmly persuasive. Terri Garey, A match Made in Hell

“I didn’t realize he was a werewolf at first.” Pamela Briggs, Moon Called - Mercy Thompson

‘Where’s papa going with that axe?’ E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

“Mother, I’m in love with a robot.” Tanith Lee, The Silver Metal Lover

“Screaming, I slashed and kicked wildly.” Jocelynn Drake, Nightwalker

2) The Mood
The Lost Correspondent -
Jason deCaires Taylor.

These opening spells tend to be more world building. They rely on voice, and the promise of what is to come.

"Prince Raoden of Arelon awoke early that morning, completely unaware that he had been damned for all eternity.” Brandon Sanderson - Elantris

“Walking to school over the snow-muffled cobbles, Karou had no sinister premonitions about the day.” Laini Taylor, Daughter of Smoke and Bone

“By the time the first AIVAS had finished its recital of the first nine years of the colonization of Pern, the sun, Rukbat, has set with an unusually fine display. Anne McCaffrey - All the Werys of Pern

“‘Ark-aawl’ —a hundred voices calling their territory from the treetops. Ly de Angeles - The Quickening

“There was a momentary feeling of pressure against her mind, then the stone door shimmered and disappeared.” Nicole Murphy - Secret Ones, Dream of Asarlai

“In the days following the holocaust, which came to be known as the Great White, there was death and madness.” Isobelle Carmody - Obernewtyn

“It is said, in Imardin, that the wind has a soul, and that it wails through the narrow city streets because it is grieved by what it finds there." Trudi Canavan - The Magicians’ Guild

3) The Compel
Falling by
Igor Grushko Vayne

This opening spell is often a cross between the Plunge and the Mood. It has elements of both.

“What I have chosen to do is shocking.” Traci Harding - AWOL

"Everything starts somewhere, although many physicists disagree.” Terry Pratchett - Hogfather

"The building was on fire, and it wasn't my fault.” Jim Butcher - Blood Rites: the Dresden Files

"The island of Gont, a single mountain that lifts its peak a mile above the storm-racked Northeast Sea, is a land famous for wizards.” Ursula K. Le Guin - A Wizard of Earthsea

“The wind blew out of the northwest in dry, fierce gusts, sweeping across the face of the Gray Lands.” Helen Low - The Wall of Night

4) The Back Story
In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit.

Back story as an opening spell is tricky. Readers want to be in the here and now, diving into what is, not what was. But with the right tone and pace, it can work.

Back story first lines deal with the past in a way that draws the reader in. We must be compelled to ask, “And then what?”

“Eight Months ago, I was attacked in the back alley of my home town and rescued by an uber-hot guy named Chaz.” Amanda Arista - Nine Lives of an Urban Panther

“I came to London to write and found myself practicing magic instead.” Kim Wilkins - Angel of Ruin/Fallen Angel.

“I never believed in ghost.” Merrie Destefano - Fathom

“In the early 1800’s a man named Amadeo Avogadro hypothesized a number—a baker’s dozen for chemists, but in his equation hid a paradox, one that could alter reality with a single thought." Kim Falconer - Path of the Stray

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” JRR Tolkien - The Hobbit

Whether the opening begins with fear, shock, surprise, a problem, a question, a character or history, if you keep reading, it has done it’s job.

What are your favorite opening lines? The Plunge? The Mood? Back story? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

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.