Saturday, January 16, 2021

Reading Fantasy Rocks


Reading About Dragons is a piece of digital artwork by Daniel Eskridge

Hello Sup readers! It's 2021, and my plan for you this year is to post, every month, something to lift the spirits. Let's make this a wondrous New Year, every way we can!

With that in mind, today I want to highlight the benefits of reading Fantasy Fiction and share a few titles on my TBR list.

If you read regularly, you already know some of the perks: quiet time with yourself and your own thoughts. The joys and sorrows of imagined worlds. The feeling of accomplishment, of being part of a larger community...

And there is more! Check out these amazing benefits:

1) Reading Makes you Smarter - Research shows that reading enhances fluid intelligence. That means it helps build new neuro-pathways in your brain, neurons that are available for smart decision making in the future. There is also an increase in emotional intelligence and empathy toward others. You make more creative decisions about yourself and those around you.

2) Reading Makes Life Better -  Readers are less stressed and less depressed. They sleep better and have lower blood pressure, steadier heart rhythms. Higher levels of self-esteem are reported by readers and, compared with non-readers, they also report feeling close to friends and their community, with more awareness of social issues and cultural diversity.

3) Readers Age Better - Reading keeps your mind active and engaged while improving memory as you grow older. One study showed that those who read more than 3 1/2 hours every week were 23% more likely to live longer than non-readers. 

4) Joy - All studies aside, reading brings us joy as we escape into the metaphorical spaces of the mind, and engage in the ancient and time-honoured experience of storytelling. 

* * * 

In the spirit of more reading for everyone, here are some books on my TBR list I'd like to recommend. Please feel free to jump into the comments and offer up some of your own!

And Sup Authors, here is your chance to let us know about your next, upcoming release!

The Once and Future Witches image by @littlebookelf92
Image by @littlebookelf92

The Once And Future Witches by Alex E. Harrow, is set in In 1893, a time when there's no such thing as witches. 

There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

When the Eastwood sisters--James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna--join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women's movement into the witch's movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There's no such thing as witches. But there will be.

I'm reading this now!

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Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) by Emily A. Duncan
Image by @abookwormwriter
Another on my TBR is Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) by Emily A. Duncan. I know a few people who loved it! Here's the blurb:

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy.

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The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison cover image
Image by @obscure.pages
The Angel of the Crows comes highly recommended by a reader and editor I trust. It's on my TBR for sure! Here is the blurb:

This is not the story you think it is. These are not the characters you think they are. This is not the book you are expecting.

In an alternate 1880s London, angels inhabit every public building, and vampires and werewolves walk the streets with human beings under a well-regulated truce. A fantastic utopia, except for a few things: Angels can Fall, and that Fall is like a nuclear bomb in both the physical and metaphysical worlds. And human beings remain human, with all their kindness and greed and passions and murderous intent.

Jack the Ripper stalks the streets of this London too. But this London has an Angel. The Angel of the Crows.

* * * 

Black Sun cover image
Image by @tyffany.h
Black Sun by Rebecca Roahhorse is another I am excited to read. Some of my Insta friends are raving about it.

A god will return
When the earth and sky converge
Under the black sun

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.

Crafted with unforgettable characters, Rebecca Roanhorse has created an epic adventure exploring the decadence of power amidst the weight of history and the struggle of individuals swimming against the confines of society and their broken pasts in the most original series debut of the decade.

Now it's your turn. What are you going to read next? 

Let's share our ideas and make for a better year, by reading more books!


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Crown of Bones by AK Wilder - image by @darjeeling_and_jade

Kim Falconer, currently writing as A K Wilder, has just released Crown of Bones, a YA Epic Fantasy.

She can be found on  TwitterFacebook and Instagram

Or pop over to throw the bones or Raise Your Phantom on the site

See you there!

Monday, January 4, 2021

An Interview with AK Wilder – Talking Magic In Her New-Out "Crown Of Bones" (Amassia #1)


On New Year's Day, I shared my intention to focus 2021 on magic systems in Fantasy – and wherever possible, to do so by talking with a fellow author about the magic systems in their work.

Today, as heralded then, I'm delighted to welcome AK Wilder to discuss the magic systems in Amassia, the world of Crown of Bones, the first in her exciting new Fantasy series that's released today!

Welcoming AK Wilder: In Conversation On Magic Systems In Crown Of Bones (Amassia #1)


HL: Congratulations, Kim, on the publication of Crown Of Bones. After the ups and downs of 2020, releasing a new book and series must feel like the best way of seeing in the new year!

Hi Helen! Thank you! Yes, releasing the first in this series is like starting the New Year on a high note. I feel like we have all had so much to face in the last twelve months and finding positive, creative things to focus on is the antidote. Hopefully, reading Crown of Bones will bring its own delight to the new year as well.
And it's here!
HL: As one of the lucky advance readers for Crown Of Bones, one of the aspects of the book that I really loved was the magic system, especially the twinned concepts of “throwing the bones” and “raising your phantom.” Can you tell readers a little more about what these terms mean and how they’re integral to the magic in the book?

You are right. These two concepts are cornerstones in the story world, really what all else is built on. “Throwing the bones” is a phrase used by all the peoples of Amassia, but only a select few, the black-robe Bone Throwers, learn this art of divination and utilise it. And these bones they throw are no ordinary charms. Every piece is carved into a whistle and etched with one of the 108 steps to An’awntia, the highest state a person can reach along the Path –
the way to their perfected state of being. When played, they make up the song or story in the cast, revealing the message therein.

Bone throwing is based on an ancient art of divination and the ‘magic’ comes from the black-robe's “phantom” – in their case, a translucent, formless part of themselves that moves along the corridors of time, forward and back. These Bone Thrower are oracles with a huge responsibility as they determine the fate of every child on Amassia, deeming them savant (able to raise a phantom), non-savant (unable to raise a phantom), or marred (damaged and sacrificed to the sea).

Classes of Phantom
Credit: Anna Campbell Art

Most of the population is non-savant but those the Bone Throwers mark as having potential are taken into the Sanctuary as eight-year-olds to trial. Their hope is they can raise their phantom and join the ranks of savants who serve the realm as healers, warriors, teachers and scribes. The ‘magic’ in their abilities is woven into their souls, developed over many lifetimes and predicted by the throw of the bones. With the right training, the young savant can touch a knee to the ground, allowing their phantom to drop out of their consciousness and gain form as it passes through the earth and erupts fully formed. Most phantoms take a solid form, and can appear as almost anything – human-like, animal-like, or even combinations of animals and vegetation.
The black-robes, with their formless phantoms, are the only exception.

Crown of Bones
begins with a troubled Marcus, the Heir to the throne of Baiseen, who raises a warrior phantom but cannot hold it to form. If he doesn’t master that step soon, he will be given over to the black-robes to become a Bone Thrower, a fate he’ll do anything to avoid. As a Bone Thrower, he would have to give up the throne and leave his life behind to join the ranks of these mysterious oracles.

HL: What are the aspects of the magic system in your new world of Amassia that are most distinctive? Are there any particular influences from our world that shape the magic?

AKW: The most distinctive aspects would be the phantoms. They are inspired in part by Jungian psychology and the notion that we all have a shadowed side, an unexpressed or unconscious aspect of ourselves. The shadow contains our greatest potential as well as what we loath and repress. The shadow can seem to burst suddenly through the floorboards and take over our voice and actions. In the world of Amassia, that event can be quite literal as phantoms take physical form and act, at times, outside the savant’s control. Another component of phantoms is the way they take form. Like the Tibetan mystical ‘Tulpas’ they are ‘thought forms’ rising from the mind or spirit.

The world of Amassia

HL: I was intrigued to discover an overlap between the magic of your Ava Sykes world (The Blood In The Beginning) and Crown of Bones in the form of the Mar sea people. How do the Mar and their magic fit into this story?

There is definitely an overlap in the books with the Mar and the characters of Salila and the sea king, Teern. In Amassia, Teern still rules under the waves and Salila hunts anything that moves. They both manipulate and/or terrorise the world of landers.

The mar, Salila.
Credit: Anna Campbell Art

The Mar can also be seen as magical though I like to think of them as a divergent race whose DNA took another track. Descendants of Neptune, if you will… They are people of the sea, without fish tales but having some qualities of sirens and vampires combined. Mar are created from the ancient Ma’atta, a coral that grows out of the bones of the old gods. From this divine power, they are given the ability to live in the sea, a realm the landers cannot enter, at least, not for long. Whereas the only way Mar can walk under the sun is to take the sea with them in the form of a drop of human blood. But on Amassia, as we see by the continental drift, much time has passed…

Actually, when it came to this aspect of the world building, the idea was born literally from continental projections 250 million years in the future. Yes, the world of Amassia is a magical, agrarian hegemony, but as you can see in animations on Youtube –
How The Earth Will Look In 250 Million Years – a single continent is where we are all headed. The seven major landmasses we now inhabit will eventually return to form one again. The process captured my imagination and I started to wonder, in all those millions of years, what else will change… In this way, Amassia is both the world in a very distant future, and a secondary world existing right now, in the pages of Crown of Bones.


HL: Wow, that sounds amazing! And Amassia being "this world", albeit a long time in the future, totally explains the presence of the Mar – and of course worldbuilding and magic systems can never be completely separated in Fantasy. :-) I imagine readers are already intrigued, but just to whet our appetites further, is there any other significant change readers should look for in the world of Amassia and its magic?

AKW: There are quite a few changes, one being the social biases. In this world, there is a natural diversity of peoples that comes from continued mixing of DNA, but in Amassia, instead of those distinctions creating potential classes or value judgments, it is a person’s status as savant, or non-savant that creates social marginalisation. It’s like they have gotten over themselves when it comes to color and gender, but now, how far they are along the Path to self-actualisation can create elitism and abuse of power. The twist here, without giving too much away, is that even though the Bone Throwers predict a child’s potential, “sometimes they get it wrong…”

The black-robed Bone Throwers decide
the fate of every child on Amassia.

HL: It all sounds completely fascinating – and as an advance reader I already know that Crown of Bones is action-packed and imbued with the magic system we’ve discussed today. Thank you so much for doing this interview, Kim, and may your release day be awesome!

AKW: Thank you so much, Helen, for this wonderful opportunity to chat about Crown of Bones. Happy New Year, and great reading, to all!


About AK Wilder:

Kim Falconer, currently writing as A K Wilder, can be found on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Or pop over to throw the bones or Raise Your Phantom on the site


To find out more about Crown of Bones, visit AK Wilder's site, or Entangled Teen – who point you to where the book is available! 

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Happy New Year -- Ushering In A Year of Friends, Fellow Authors, & Magic Systems

Happy New Year from the summer side of the world :)

Why, hello, 2021. I suspect I'm not the only person who is feeling cautiously pleased to see you, right about now. I'm quite sure I'm not alone in hoping for better times to come although that is probably true of every year, rather than just the past Year of Covid.

Yet much as the virus has dominated our lives, we have all soldiered on. Here on Supernatural Underground, that means we've kept writing books, and sharing and talking about books, and generally spinning our tales. In short, we've kept having some fun. We also hope we've managed to keep the Supernatural Underground a place where you can come and have some fun as well. 

Yep, that's us! ;-)
here at
Supernatural Underground HQ we're pretty sure there's more fun to come for 2021! J

Last year, I focused my 1st of the month slot on Worldbuilding in Fantasy, because as opined in my wrap up post last month, "I believe worldbuilding lies at the heart of what makes the genre distinctive from other styles of literature." 

When it comes to Fantasy lit., worldbuilding's twin sibling has to be magic systems – because if there's one must-have element for any good Fantasy, it has to be magic, right? Right! From magic realism to the highest of high epic fantasy, the magic – and by extension the magic system is the leaven in the mix.

Magic in the mix...
By magic "system, I mean the internal logic and coherence, from principles to laws, that convey "conviction" and so make the magic in a particular fantasy world and tale "work" for readers, allowing them to suspend disbelief and become immersed in the tale being told however fantastic its elements. No surprises, then, what I plan on featuring in 2021...

This year, though, I've decided to mix things up, just a tad, on 2019 (the Year of Romance) and 2020 (the Year of Worldbuilding.) In 2021, I won't just be talking about the magic systems that have wowed me, spinning my fantasy-reading wheels. Wherever possible, I hope to combine the focus on magic systems with an even more longstanding tradition of having fun with friends and fellow authors, by enjoying a blog conversation on the magic systems in their books. (Otherwise known as a good old Q&A. ;-) )

I'm already pretty excited by the prospect, especially as the very first author I'll be e-chatting with is AK Wilder on 5 January – release day for Crown of Bones, the first book in her brand-new Amassia series! And yes, we shall most definitely be talking of the magic that imbues the Crown of Bones world. Roll on January 5!

Oh, yes, that's right, almost forgot: Happy New Year!


Helen Lowe's first  novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. The second,The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012, and the sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013. Daughter Of Blood (Book Three), was published in 2016 and Helen is currently completing the final novel in the series. She posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog, monthly on the Supernatural Underground, and tweets @helenl0we