Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Alchemy of Horror

Magic Realism Art of Rusty McDonald
Halloween, as Sup author Helen Lowe explains in her post this month, comes from Samhain, the Celtic day of the dead, where the spirits of those passed are placated with offerings of food. It makes me wonder what else we are placating when we welcome ghosts, ghouls and demons into our lives. I mean, we do welcome them, don't we?

I know I do.

Three of my favourite series off the top of my head are iZombie, Lucifer and The Vampire Diaries.

Three books that I've read or reread recently are The Southern Vampire MysteriesAnna Dressed in Blood and the Sandman Slim.

All deal with supernatural and horror themes.

I certainly don't need the excuse of Halloween to immerse in these genres. Heck, I write the stuff myself - Books that go bump in the night.

The question is, why?

Why would anyone want to have Horror as a pastime, a career, as entertainment?

You can google it and find explanations like dealing with fear, power and control, an adrenaline rush in a 'safe' environment, living on the edge in the comfort of your own home... Sup author Merrie Destefano has written on this topic and covers it well.

But I can't help but wonder, is there more to it?

Musing on it, up popped a single word: alchemy.

Yes, I mean the exploration of consciousness handed down to us from medieval times.

This alchemy is "...a living form of sacred psychology... the projection of a cosmic and spiritual drama in laboratory terms, an art, both experiential and experimental. It is a worldview which unifies spirit and matter..." - Iona Miller, 1986

Simply put, alchemy reflects the process of personal transformation in the metaphor of turning lead into gold.

So, what does this alchemy have to do with books that go bump in the night?

Everything.

In the alchemical process, there is always a container, a vessel of some kind, real or imagined, that that provides the space for transformation to occur. When reading horror, the story becomes a container for the prima materia, the raw psychic urge for growth and transformation that lies within us.

Think of it like this: Every time we are moved to the heightened emotions and extreme fear of a scary story or film, we switch on a powerful psychological process that shakes us out of complacency. Within the alchemical container, we may learn to remake ourselves, transcending judgments, social conditioning, unconscious patterns and beliefs.

And then, abracadabra, we create a chance to live more authentically, in full awareness of the present moment.

It's a theory in progress, but the next time you pick up your fav fiction or switch on that scary show, you may notice the mystical fumes bubbling up from the cauldron, engaging you on the next step of your own, inner transformation journey.

And with that, happy Halloween!

xxKim

* * *

Kim Falconer's latest novel, an urban fantasy, is out now - The Blood in the Beginning - and Ava Sykes Novel. You can find Kim on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Kim also runs GoodVibeAstrology.com where she teaches the law of attraction and astrology. 

Kim posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month, hosts Save the Day Writer's Community on FB and posts a daily astrology weather report on Facebook. 


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Wait...What...I missed an entire month?

2018 Year of the New: Get it together, Arista!

So apparently after my experiment with waking up early to find time to write (which did NOT work for me), it messed up my schedule so much that I missed an entire month. Like, where did September go?

Did I do stuff? I don't know.

Did I forget stuff? I don't know.

So obviously I need to get it together. I've got a few friends who keep it together with bullet journals
or gratitude books or fancy ways of keeping to-do lists and coloring and writing out what happened that week. They write down their shopping lists, schedules, and keep track of goals in it. And they are all colorful and on pretty pages in fancy journals with fancy tape.

I've never been a journal person. Even when I was little and everyone would get me journals, I would just use those to write stories in. I've never really chronicled my life in any way. Perhaps it is because I know that my external life is really boring, while my internal one is cray-cray.

But I've been reading a few articles in conjunction with the Year of the New and several mentioned writing out small goals. I wrote out my goals in May and that seemed to work. I hit every one of those, so perhaps, a mixture of smaller goals with some sort of journal to help chronicle exactly what I am doing with my time. I know that it won't slow down time, but it will at least help me see what I've been doing (if not writing). Small goals most often take the form of pages editing or words written toward a set number.

So as you can see to the left, I've gotten myself a SIMPLE calendar to put my stuff on and have marked out my need for this month: A final polish on a manuscript before it goes on submission. So a 300 page novel, with a need for about 20 pages a day to make sure that I can have it in my the middle of the month.

And I swear I am not hyperventilating at the sheer number of things on my calendar on the third day of the month (breathes into bag).

The other part of this goal-tracking thing seems to be rewarding yourself for a job well done. I wrote in August about feeding your muse, so it makes sense that once my monthly goals have been written down and achieved that I should get some sort of carrot at the end of the rope, right? I mean, no one edits because they like it, right?


And Netflix, as always has delivered, in the handsome and English embodiment of
Charlie Cox. Daredevil Season 3 comes out on October 19th. I have a huge spot in my heart for this city-driven and super violent show and this adorable actor, so it seems like it is the PERFECT reward for completing my editing goals for the month.

So lets get this month done people!!


Carry Onward, dear readers.

Amanda Arista
Author, Diaries of an Urban Panther series
www.amandaarista.com



Monday, October 1, 2018

Halloween Is Coming!


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Halloween "is" Coming!
It may only be 1 October today, with Halloween way-aways at the end of the monthbut having turned the seasonal corner into October and with the equinox already two weeks past, my mind is already turning toward jack o' lanterns and trick-or -treating. All the elements that make for a great Halloween!

As some or all of you may know, I live in the Southern Hemisphere, which means that Halloween here falls in spring. The festival does get celebrated, but I can't help feeling that Halloween goes so much better with its autumnal origins: there's something about ghost tales and the supernatural that fits perfectly with the nights drawing in, firesides and candlelight, and shadows dancing on the walls.

Exactly the conditions that are optimal for tall tales, spooky yarns, and "books that go bump in the night" as wellthe latter being something of our raison d'etre, here on the Supernatural Underground. In fact, if you cast your eyes right to the sidebar, you'll find some great paranormal stories and undead tales right there!

The origins of Halloween go back a long way, at least as far as the Celtic era when the festival of Samhain marked the end of the harvest season and the passage of the year out of summer and into the cold and dark of winter. As such, Samhain was also a “day of the dead,” when the spirits of those who had passed must be placated with offerings of food.

Art: PJ Fitzpatrick
Once Christianity became dominant, the 31 October/1 November date for the Celtic festival of Samhain was transformed into the religious festival of All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Day, followed immediately by All Souls. The Celtic traditions persisted, however, which is why Halloween is still a festival for "ghosties and ghoulies, long-leggetie beasties, And things that go bump in the night."

As a kid, one of my favorite Halloween stories was that of Tam Lin, a young mortal man stolen away by the fey, whose soul was to be lost to Hell on Halloween unless his lover, Janet, can win him back. I particularly liked the retelling in Rosemary Sutcliff’s children's book, The Armourer’s House, as recounted in the Chapter titled “A Tale for Hallowe’en."


Subsequently I have read several other Tam Lin retellings, including Pamela Dean's Tam Lin and Patricia McKillip's Solstice Wood (which won the 2007 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature.)

Although not specifically set at Halloween, Raymond E Feist's Faerie Tale delves into the crossover between the mortal and supernatural worlds, while Roger Zelazny's A Night in the Lonesome October specifically focuses on Halloween (with a cast of fictional protagonists and antagonists, such as Sherlock Holmes, Jack the Ripper, and Victor Frankenstein thrown in.)


Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book also has Halloween overtones (aside from being set in a graveyard) when the living and the dead come together to dance 'the macabray' (the danse macabre.) 

And although I can't help but feel that Halloween itself best suits the autumn of its Northern Hemisphere origins, another great supernatural read that brings me back, not only to the Southern Hemisphere but to my home city of Christchurch, is the great Margaret Mahy's The Changeover.

These are just a few, Halloween-suitable reads that I've enjoyed over the ears. But with the eve of Jack O' Lanterns and ghosties coming up fast I'd love a few more recommendations for fireside tales.

So if you have a favorite, do tell me in the comments!




Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, and blogger whose first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. 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. Daughter Of Blood, (The Wall Of Night, Book Three) is Helen's most recent book and she is currently working on the fourth and final novel in The Wall Of Night series. Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog and is also on Twitter: @helenl0we

Sunday, September 16, 2018

An Image a Day Keep the Doctor Away

Michael Cheval  -  The Twelfth Caprice of Casanova
I made an amazing discovery while researching my current novel. I wasn't looking for a scientific paper on the benefits of viewing art. Not at all. I was looking for inspiration for a character response.

Dragon Sun by Stephani Pui-Mun Law
My hero, faced with multiple threats from every side, needed to keep her cool, her elegance, her composure. I wanted to 'see' the confidence in preparation to write it (because personally, if it were me in those shoes, I'd pick up my skirts and run).

Night Circus by Oleg Tchoubakov
So, as I searched through some of my favourite art pages, Pinterest,  Behance500pxInspiration Grid, I expanded out and found the Michael Cheval and Nina Y, both perfect for my character who doesn't face trouble so much as she feeds off it.

Digital Art by Nina Y
But, I also found this study, the gist being, that viewing art has a positive impact on our health.  It doesn't just lower anxiety and depression,  improving our immunity, it actually boosts critical thinking skills and inspires creativity.

Gabriel Pacheco
Talk about filling your tanks - a tip from Josh Whedon I learned years ago. He said, "My vacation from Buffy was two weeks every year, and in that time I read at least 10 books. My wife and I saw like nine plays, and that’s all we did. We just filled the tanks."

Angel Affair by Michael Parkes
I love that! On top of it all, viewing artwork that we find beautiful causes us to experience joys similar to those associated with falling in love. Do we need any other excuses?

Inspiration, anti-depressant, anxiety relief, immune strengthener, brain booster, and the ecstasy of falling love. So much for Pinterest being a guilty pleasure.

What about you? Fav art site? Museum? Gallery? Style? I'd love to hear about it.

See you in the comments.
xxKim

* * *
Kim Falconer's latest novel is out now - The Blood in the Beginning - and Ava Sykes Novel.

Kim also runs GoodVibeAstrology.com where she teaches the law of attraction and astrology. 

Kim posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month, hosts Save the Day Writer's Community on FB and posts a daily astrology weather report on Facebook. 

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Fantastic Creatures & Animal Companions — Don't Ya Love 'Em!

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Recently I posted here on Here Be Dragons. And also on Re-Discovering Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone. Meanwhile, over on my own blog, I've been Having Fun With Epic Fantasy Tropes. Between these three distinct trains of blogging thought, I got to thinking about the importance of companion creatures in myth and folklore, an importance which has flowed through into Fantasy fiction.

Returning to dragons, for example, Kim Falconer recently mentioned Menolly, from Anne MacCaffrey's, Dragonsong, in her post on Music As Character.  In addition to Menolly's music, however, I was always entranced by her companion fire-lizards — essentially miniature dragons. How cool is that? And, of course, the adult dragons, such as Ramoth and Mnementh, with their telepathic bond to their human riders, are both fantastic creatures and the ultimate in cool companions.

More recent dragon companions include Temeraire in Naomi Novak's series of the same name and Saphira in Christopher Paolini's Inheritance series. Yet the Pern novels are not the first where I discovered miniature dragons. Yarrow, in Ursula K Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea, carried a tiny dragon on her arm...

Ged, the main character in A Wizard of Earthsea, also has an animal companion for a time. The otak is a wild creature but it comes to Ged of its own volition and remains with him until its death.

While in the Harry Potter series, animal companions are important for wizards and witches in training, the most significant of these being Hedwig, Harry's snow-white owl.
Harry & Hedwig


Some other very significant animal companions include FitzChivalry's wolf comrade, Nighteyes, in Robin Hobb's' Farseer series, and Todd's dog Manchee in The Knife of Never Letting-Go by Patrick Ness. (I know, I know, technically it's Science Fiction, but I'm mentioning it anywyaz!)

No mention of animal companions can overlook horses: from Shadowfax in The Lord of The Rings, to Aerin's Talat in The Hero and the Crown, or The Horse in Kristen Britain's The Green Rider. And Madder, in my own The Wall Of Night series may be worthy of  a mention...

As for fantastic creatures, I don't think any discussion would be complete without mentioning the daemons and the panzerbjorn in Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass. Or the giant eagles, companions to the reeves, in Kate Elliott's Crossroads series. Or, or, or —

Really, there are so many! But feel free to leave a comment and share your favorite. :-)

 —

Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, and blogger whose first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. 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. Daughter Of Blood, (The Wall Of Night, Book Three) is Helen's most recent book and she is currently working on the fourth and final novel in The Wall Of Night series. Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog and is also on Twitter: @helenl0we



Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Happily Never After : Storytellers Need Satisfaction, Too

...and they all lived happily ever after.

Or did they?

Back when my writing career began, I pitched a book idea to my literary agent about Nicki Styx, a young woman who unexpectedly dies, comes back to life, and begins to see spirits. DEAD GIRLS ARE EASY sold very quickly to HarperCollins Publishing, who requested that I turn it into an Urban Fantasy/Mystery series about love and life among the undead. DEAD GIRLS ARE EASY was followed by DEAD GIRLS DON'T TELL, YOU'RE THE ONE THAT I HAUNT, and SILENT NIGHT, HAUNTED NIGHT.

At just four books, it seemed as though the series was just getting started, but then my editor asked if I would interested in writing a spin-off series based on one of my favorite characters, the sexy yet sinister Sammy Divine. (SPOILER ALERT: He's the Devil.) I was excited to do some world building, to delve deeply into the worlds of myth and magic in order to develop and share Sammy's world with my readers, but doing so meant that I had to put Nicki Styx, her boyfriend Joe and her best friend Evan on hold for a while. Several books, anthologies and short stories later, surrounded by the unexpected yet ever-present vagaries of life, I carried with me still the nagging sense of a story left unfinished.

Now, finally, I'm very happy to say that I've been able to finish that story. After all, even though I was the writer, I wasn't sure myself "what happened next", because I hadn't written it yet: Did Nicki and Joe get married, or did she choose the dark side over the light in the end? Did Evan ever meet his soul mate, or just give up entirely and start wearing white after Labor Day? :)

HAPPILY NEVER AFTER answers those questions and more, and I'm very excited to share "what happened next" in this series with my readers. Thanks so much to all of you who've written me asking for more Nicki Styx stories, and I sincerely hope you enjoy this one.

Here's to love, laughter, and happily ever after,

Terri


***


A Southern girl with an overactive imagination, Terri Garey writes award-winning and critically-acclaimed urban fantasy. Her novels have been described as "smoldering" by Publishers Weekly, and "sultry and upbeat" by Library Journal. 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. You can visit her on the web, friend her on Facebook and occasionally find her on Twitter.


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Music as Character

Crazy Fingers by Sue Duda
Writing a novel in any genre means connecting readers to a 'real' world with tastes, textures, smells, sights and sounds. Most authors give us the thunder and crack of the adventure, the whistle of bird calls and the pounding of hooves on a dry dirt road, the deep moans of a lover... you get the idea. But there are particular books that appear over time where the music is so vital it becomes a character unto itself.

One of my favourite of these is Ann McCaffrey's Dragonsong in the Harper Hall Trilogy. What magnificent writing. We root for the hero, Menolly, a girl who longs to play music, but what starts out as a craft turns into a relationship as important as any main character.

Ann McCaffrey's Dragonsong in the Harper Hall Trilogy

Another Fantasy book you may know is The Name of the Wind by Patrik Rothfuss. His main character also has a deep and sometimes tumultuous relationship to his music which is so well developed it has a soul of its own. Then there is Terry Brook with characters in the third book of the Shannara series, Brin and Jair, find, through their voices, that music IS the magic.

Others that come to mind are Alison Croggon's The Naming, about the slave girl Maerad who plays the lyre, and Peter V Brett's The Warded Man.

 Alison Croggon's The Naming,

My interest in these musical novels rises now as I edit my newest series, The Bone Throwers, where the original whistle bones, carved from the skeleton of King Er, become major characters alongside Marcus, Ash and Kaylin. 

"The black-robes carry a sack of bones—whale tooth, horse rib, bird wing, lizard hip, bat tail, water dragon, fossil – carved into whistles of varying pitch and etched with one of the steps to enlightenment. At birth, a Bone Throwers pulls twelve to cast, and how they fall makes up the child’s song, determining if they will live, become savant and raise a phantom, or be sacrificed to the sea…" 


If you want to throw the bones and gimps your own future, tap a black-robe savant on the shoulder. But remember, once set, you can't un-hear it.

Meanwhile, I'd love to know your thoughts on music in your favourite books. Urban fantasy characters, for example, often play contemporary songs on their iPods or laptops. And sometimes, an
Supernatural Underground author Terri Garey
with Jyrki Linnankav of The
69 Eyes
Urban Fantasy series will be so influential, songs will be written about it.

This happened to our own Terri Garey when the Finnish "goth-n-roll" band, The 69 Eyes, read her first UF release - Dead Girls Are Easy - which resulted in their debut single and video by the same name, all inspired by Terri's character, Nicki Styx.

Terri, is there anything you haven't done yet?

Watch the clip here.

* * *

Kim Falconer's latest novel is out now - The Blood in the Beginning - and Ava Sykes Novel.

Kim also runs GoodVibeAstrology.com where she teaches the law of attraction and astrology. 

Kim posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month, hosts Save the Day Writer's Community on FB and posts a daily astrology weather report on Facebook.