Friday, April 3, 2020

Birthing a Book

Yep- here's the book cover again.
Year of Genesis: Timeline to publishing

I have often compared writing a book to having a baby. There are aches and pains and lets downs and you feel like it just takes forever. But I think that most mothers, like writers, will tell you that once it has been done and you see the fruits of your labor out into the world, you sort of forget how hard it is when you get the notion to have another.

The Truth about Night was one of these stories I couldn't shake and Merci Lanard was one of these characters that just wouldn't go away. I had to get this book out of my head. It just took WAY longer that I wanted it to. Like an elephant's pregnancy, it just went on forever.

As I mentioned in last months post, Merci Lanard came to me fully formed as I was writing CLAWS AND EFFECT, the second book in the DIARIES trilogy. I wrote that book at a breakneck speed on contract in 2010. So Merci and I met in 2010.

In case your life has been as stressful as mine, let me remind you that it is March of 2020.

I've officially known Merci Lanard for ten years.

Ten years.

Just let that sink in really quick.

According to my word document files, the very first Merci narration was around August 2012. I think I remember taking a few of her scenes to a critique group to test it out. It took me a long time to write the first draft of this one. I wasn't sure if it was a romance or a mystery. But I kept hacking away at it on weekends and after work until I had a final draft (saved as TruthAboutNight-FINAL.doc in Sept 2015). I still laugh at how hopeful and naive I was, labeling it FINAL. 

I started submitting versions of The Truth about Night to editors and agents that I met at conferences. And I got some really good feedback on it. Or at least it looks like I got some feedback on it, because I kept producing new versions:
Version 2
Version 3
Version 4
Version 5
Version 6 - Last saved on March 2017.

What is particularly strange about this narrative is that I was also working on a Women's Fiction book at that same time. That WF book got me my agent. The two of us starting working on edits and revisions for The Evil Ex's Bake Club all the way until November of 2018 when we decided to shelve it. Then I wrote another WF and we shelved that. But that is another story that should be told at another time.

My agent asked me if I had anything else that we could work on and I confessed that I had this strange paranormal mystery. She said that she'd like to see it.

I finished our first round of revisions on it in April 2018.
And another in May.
And another in June.

I will always not need a
pic of James Mcavoy
Version Ten is when she felt comfortable shopping it around and the feedback from the industry was split. It was either too mystery and they wanted me to dial back on that and focus on the hot-and-bothery love interest. Or it was too much romance and they wanted me to turn down the sexy and amp up on the mystery and horror aspects. Yep. Welcome to the subjectiveness that is publishing.

And we tried. I kept hacking and switching and baiting and growing, but it never was right. Like trying to put peanut butter on top of your sandwich. The parts were there, but in the wrong order to fit what other people wanted.

After some true soul searching and market research and a bunch of conversations with my agent, she finally asked. "Which one is the story that you want to tell?"

I answered honestly. "The first one that I wrote, back in 2012. The one about the fierce journalist just trying to figure out who killed her partner. The one with the swoon-worthy literature professor. The one with the gore." All three were such strong tenants to the book, that without them, it all fell apart. Without every single one, it wasn't the story I wanted to tell.

So in Oct 2019, we decided to independently publish The Truth About Night. Version Thirteen.

It took ten years to get this book into the world, but I am proud of it, even the few grammatical errors I have found, because it is mine.

She is my baby.

------

Amanda Arista
Author, Diaries of an Urban Panther & The Merci Lanard Files
www.amandaarista.com

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Year of Worldbuilding in Fantasy #3: "Sparrow Hill Road" (Ghost Roads #1) by Seanan McGuire

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#YoW Year of Worldbuilding
#WiF Worldbuilding in Fantasy

I chose "worldbuilding" as my Supernatural Underground theme for 2020 because (imho) it's a glue that holds all the different strands of Fantasy out there together.

I kicked off the year with two influential examples from mid-twentieth century children's literature, The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe by CS Lewis and A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin. Both are also what is known as "secondary world" fantasies, i.e. they are set in worlds that are clearly not our (primary) world -- although of course Narnia is connected to this world by the wardrobe.

I promised, however, to endeavor to shift between older and newer works and to look at more than one subgenre of fantasy. This month I make both those leaps by featuring Seanan McGuire's Sparrow Hill Road (Ghost Roads #1), and its companion The Girl In The Green Silk Gown (Ghost Roads #2), which are paranormal fantasy and first published in 2014 and 2018 respectively. They're also very much set in this world, so that's a hat-trick for 'the new' this month. :-)

The Ghost Roads worldbuilding is common to both books but established in Sparrow Hill Road, which is why I'll primarily discuss that today.

To quickly summarize what it's all about, the central character is Rose Marshall, who died on Sparrow Hill Road at sweet sixteen, all dressed up in her green silk gown and driving to the prom.  For the sixty years since she's been a “hitcher ghost” and psychopomp—i.e. a conductor of (other) souls to the afterworld—who travels the highways of America, where she's also known as the Phantom Prom Date.

Rose is simultaneously fleeing her murderer, Bobby Cross—a one-time heartthrob of the silver screen who has made a crossroads bargain for eternal youth, which is fueled by feeding his victims' souls to a vampiric car—and seeking to bring him to justice.

The reason Ghost Roads must be part of this worldbuilding series, though, is because the world is so powerful it's a character in its own right.

This is a world of highways and truck stops woven into the supernatural realms of the dead, from the Twilight down to the Midnight and back again. It's also a world peopled by a diverse range of ghosts, from “hitchers” like Rose to the “crossroads ghosts”—and the crossroads themselves, which are quite something else!—as well as related characters from folklore and myth, such as Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld.

Needless to say you can almost smell the road grease, the beer, and the fat and salt of the fries, as well as feeling the bite of a lonesome wind. Something else that strikes me, quite strongly, is how the world is a celebration of Americana in the context of road culture and associated folklore.

As you can probably tell, I really liked the worldbuilding in Sparrow Hill Road and the Ghost Roads series. So if you love ghost stories and urban fantasy, road trip tales and worlds that you can see and taste and feel as you read, then I suspect you may enjoy Sparrow Hill Road as much as I do.
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Previous Months:

February: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe by CS Lewis
March: A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin

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Helen Lowe is a teller of tales and purveyor of story, chiefly by way of novels and poetry. Her 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 is also on Twitter: @helenl0we.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Welcome to Amassia

Rainaya by Alayna on DeviantArt

Welcome to my world of Amassia...

I'm AK Wilder, officially joining the Sup authors in our endeavour to share books that make the heart beat faster. Let's have some fun in the world of Amassia!

The Release Date

Some of you have been waiting for this story world, found in Crown of Bones, to hit the shelves and I thank you for your patience! We have a solid release date now, August 4, 2020, the warm and sparkling time of Leo. Yay!

And now, on to Amassia...

In a World on the Brink of the Next Great Dying


The Journey by lp ysg on artstation.com
From familiar everyday life, farms and crops and fish and seas, to the fantastic beings of Mar, Bone Throwers and Phantoms, Amassia has the entire range. You'll find elements so ordinary you feel right at home, until wham! You don't. For example, you'll come across...

A green-robe level savant
with raised Phantom (the owl).

Savants and Non-Savants

Savants and non-savants make up the 'human' population of Amassia. They look just like you or I would in a diverse-race, pre-industrial culture, but Savants have one big difference. They can raise their phantoms from the ground and direct them in various ways to serve the realms.

Phantoms

Phantoms fall into five classes, ranging from warriors to healers and take the shape of anything from plant to animal to elementals. They remain dormant in the Savant's soul unless raised from the ground and held to form. Children who show potential to become savant are trained in sanctuaries by high ranking masters. There they learn to control their phantoms, hopefully, to serve and protect the realms.

Bone Throwers

The black-robed Bone Throwers decide
the fate of every child on Amassia.
The black-robed Bone Throwers are savants who devote their lives to divination. They keep to themselves in underground temples near each sanctuary, carrying out their work – predicting times for planting, harvest, hunting and war.

The Bone Throwers also carry out the endless task of carving new whistle bones used in their oracles, including the casts that determine the fate of every child on Amassia. Which sounds ominous, because it is.

If a throw of the bones finds a child marred, those infants must be sacrificed to the sea.  

Mar

Are the Mar real or do they only
live in children's stories?
Most regard the Mar as they would water-dragons and voracious river nymphs—fodder for children’s stories or to strike fear into the hearts of seafaring voyagers.

Are they real?

If so, they dwell beneath the sea and are said to eat the children the black-robe send to them.

One thing is sure, if you met a Mar, you'll never know it. As legends have it, they look just like us, though are near-immortal and have little use for land or air.

* * * 

About AK Wilder

I write YA Lit for young adults, and the young at heart.

Meet me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or check out my site, akwilder.com where you can read the Bare Bones Scopes, throw the bones and discover the latest news and giveaways.

My alter ego on the Sup is Kim Falconer...

Remember, when in doubt... Raise. Your. Phantom!


Monday, March 16, 2020

The Great Escape

Runaway Alchemist by ViridRain
Runaway Alchemist by ViridRain
While researching why adults continue to enjoy YA Fantasy well beyond their teens, I found Abbigail Mazour's thesis on The Reality of Escape in Fantasy. It's an insightful read with two points you might enjoy.

1) Fantasy fiction is an “escape of the prisoner” genre, reflected by -- you guessed it -- characters escaping for their lives.

2) Escape fantasy is actually rooted in the real world, complete with real-world philosophical insights.

Okay, three points. This one's kinda important!

3) Reading and immersing in these kinds of stories has the same benefits to us readers as escaping danger has for the characters.

We live to fight another day...

In My Lonely Room by YuumeiaArt
In My Lonely Room by YuumeiaArt
And, this is good!

Research is pretty clear that escapism through books, music, film and TV shows can help us process our own relationships and life dramas.

The beauty of YA Fiction (for any age) is its immediacy. Often written in the first person and at a page-turning pace, YA Fiction puts us inside the character, right from the first line.

The competition for writers breaking into the genre is fierce, which is also good news for readers. Chances are excellent that the YA Fiction you pick up is going to be well written, with a fresh take on the Fantasy world, plot and characters.

Healthy escape. Immediate storytelling. Well written. Immersive!

What's not to love?
Sand by Guweiz on DeviantArt
Sand by Guweiz on Deviant Art
Lately, I've binged on YA SF, with a reread of Anne McCaffrey's The Ship Who Sang and Merrie Destefano's Valiant, then Nicky Drayden's Escaping Exodus and finally Lydia Kang's Toxic. All worthy of a YA Fantasy #outoftheworld reading list.

How about you? Any cool escape books to share? We'd all love to hear them.

***

Author Kim Falcconer
Jump on the Entangled Teen Blog Hop Giveaway with AK Wilder - 

Kim Falconer's New YA Fantasy Series is out August 4, 2020 - Crown of Bones. (Writing under A.K. Wilder) 

Also, check her urban fantasy  - 
The Blood in the Beginning - and Ava Sykes Novel and the SFF Quantum Enchantment Series

You can find Kim on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Or pop over and throw the bones on the AKWilder.com site.

Contact at kimfalconer.com

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Year of Genesis: The Birth of a Character

Available @ Amazon
Hello all, 
We have the second installment of my Year of Genesis for my new series: The Merci Lanard Files. 

Year of Genesis: CHARACTER

Merci Lanard was a bit like Athena in her origin story.

While I was writing Claws and Effect: Book 2 of the Diaries series (author edition out later this year), this investigative journalist just showed up on the page. Because of the situation that main character Violet found herself in, I needed someone who Violet could trust right off the bat to give her some information about her romantic lead. I needed a simple herald archetype.


And Merci Lanard appeared, fully named with her actress already cast. Along with her power. Along with a boyfriend. Along with a backstory that was very strange. 

She was an investigative journalist for a newspaper in Philly. She’s dedicated to finding out all the truths in the city that are hurting the underdogs. She’s like their personal Joan of Arc, and Merci doesn’t mind if that means she only has one meaningful relationship with Jack Daniels. As long as the truth comes to light.

Since she was already within the Wandering universe, Merci really got fun to play with because she is not magically powerful. In a world of creatures who can change their shape, fight with psychic power, cast world-altering spells, Merci Lanard has one small, teeny-tiny magical ability that was so minuscule even she missed out on it for the first 30 years of her life.

When she looks at you, you have to tell her the truth. It was simple. Straightforward.

What Merci had in abundance was guts, determination, and a hunger for the truth that nothing can stop. That was her true power.

All I had to do was tear her world apart and rebuild her over the course of the book.

And this boyfriend character?

Rafe MacCallan was a walking oxymoron from the first time he met Violet on the porch. He’s a Scottish professor who specializes in American Lit. He’s a werewolf Primo without a pack. He’s power wrapped up in a tweed jacket with elbow patches. His control is impeccable, but there is something about his unmovable character that explodes when he meets Merci’s unstoppable force.

So much of the paranormal genre is based on alpha males. Rafe is what I have called an Omega male. He’s not going to start the fight, but it is going to end with him. He’s got baggage, but he knows what it is and he guards others against it.

He was exactly the stable force that Merci needed in her life. I just had to prove it to her.

I'm not sure how other authors write, but these two came as a matching pair from day one, with their names, backstories, and arcs just waiting to be written. 

Hope you enjoyed this little bit of how THE TRUTH ABOUT NIGHT came into being and we will see you next month!

Amanda Arista
Author and slave to her characters. 

Monday, March 2, 2020

Mermaids, Selkies & Sea Monsters...Oh, My!


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Catherine Banks

Kai Ellory
Viola
Mia Ellas

Anthea Sharp
Kristi
Lea
LA Fox

Nicole Zoltack

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Raine English

Margo Bond Collins

Sara Elizabeth

Mikayla Symonett

Tricia Schneider
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Fury by Merrie Destefano
To survive, she made a secret deal in the Underworld.

Queen of the Island by Bokerah Brumley
Gaire, the vision, had come back. She always returned. More so lately than she ever had before.

Seize the Storm by Kristi Lea
An Isyre hides from the hunters who killed her family, as far from any ocean as she can be. The fire mage who discovers her secrets has a few of his own. Can they trust each other to face their pasts

Touched by a Mermaid by Raine English
A secret society. A sea witch bent on revenge. An ancient world in peril.  

Paranormal Maritime War by Nicole Zoltack 
A stolen selkie skin just might start a war between the merfolk, the selkies, and the sirens.

Racing the Clock by Catherine Banks
“You will seduce the prince and convince him to give you his soul. If you fail, you will give me your soul for eternity.”

The Church of Moon and Sea by Sara Elizabeth
She must choose between two loves – the sea or the land.

Soul's Reef - Kai Ellory Viola
A mysterious phenomenon. A weird cult.  Vaccines needed at the end of the universe - Captain Holloway just needs to get through the reefs.

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From FURY by Merrie Destefano



The palace corridors felt cold and hollow, my footsteps echoed off polished granite walls. From time to time, a familiar face nodded and spoke a greeting, but I never heard their words.
  

I felt like I was caught in a whirlpool.


Because no matter how far I walked, I couldn’t shake off the warmth of Riley’s kiss.


It didn’t make sense. She wasn’t my type. She was too young and too feisty and too much like me. I hated to admit it, but I preferred girls who were easy to manipulate and who weren’t all that bright.


Riley was neither one of those.


The sooner I got her out of Rìoghachd, the better. Then I could get back to my regular life. I pulled my shoulders back as I picked up my pace, walking faster, remembering how I used to spend my days and nights. Gambling with Sea Warriors who sank and plundered human ships. Taking midnight strolls through Scottish villages where the girls didn’t notice my blue skin. Dining at the King’s table from golden plates and drinking salty seawine from diamond-embellished goblets.


Everything about my life had been off-kilter since that wretched Selkie arrived.


It felt empty.


I hated it.



NOTE: FURY is set in the world of FATHOM, written by Merrie Destefano.


**scroll through the slideshow to find out more about the authors!!**




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Sunday, March 1, 2020

Year Of Worldbuilding In Fantasy #2: Spellbinding – "A Wizard of Earthsea" by Ursula Le Guin

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#YoW Year of Worldbuilding
#WiF Worldbuilding in Fantasy


Worldbuilding lies at the heart of Fantasy fiction, which is why I've declared 2020 my Year of Worldbuilding in Fantasy and started at my personal beginning last month, with CS Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe.
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In the introduction, I promised that through this year I would continue to focus on some (but by no means all -- the year isn't long enough for that!) of my personal favorites. I'm also hoping to shift between older and newer works and to look at more than one subgenre of fantasy  – and also style of worldbuilding.

While this remains my intention, for this second post I am going to stay with an older work, which is also an Alternate World (aka Secondary World) fantasy, because when it comes to Fantasy literature and worldbuilding I just can't go past Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea.

Firstly, because Earthsea is a fabulous world (imho!) The other, main reason is because as a young but already avid Fantasy reader, Earthsea was the second really formative work in shaping my appreciation and love of worldbuilding. I had read other works between The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe and A Wizard of Earthsea, but Earthsea stood apart from the rest.

I believe this is quite a tribute to Earthsea and Le Guin, since as Narnia was the first real fantasy novel I encountered it was always likely to have a big impact. As aforesaid, I had a far greater exposure to the genre by the time I picked up A Wizard of Earthsea – but it still blew me away.

Spellbinding

Being a poet as well as a novelist, it's perhaps not surprising that A Wizard of Earthsea began casting its spell from the moment I read the poem that prefaces the (fascinating!) map and the first chapter:

Only in silence the word,
only in dark the light,
only in dying life:

bright the hawk's flight
on the empty sky.

I was going to say that the poem, haiku-like in its simplicity (although not a haiku) prefaced the opening lines – but as soon as I shaped that thought I realized that the poem itself constitutes the opening lines. It captures, and encapsulates so much of the Earthsea world, which at first glimpse appears equally small: a scattering if islands amid an immensity of ocean that like the white space of the page, stretches beyond knowledge.

Earthsea is also a world of profound juxtapositions, beginning with the small footholds of land amid the sea, but including the comparative smallness of people and their lives against the physical immensity and longevity of the world's only other sentient beings, the dragons. It's also a world in which nature has a profound influence, not just because of the dominance of sea over land, but because it lies at the heart of the magic that wizards learn and practice. And in which the most significant juxtaposition is that in learning magic, the mage comes to understand the importance of not using it lightly.

All this is pointed to, and hinted at by the poem, but perhaps its greatest significance in terms of worldbuilding lies in stamping an atmospheric impression of the world on the reader. This occurs before we come to the map, with its visual depiction of "the world", and subsequently the story. Moreover, it's almost invisible, something I imagine few dwell on in their haste to get to that story – and yet it has a resonance that is already shaping our view of the world we are about to enter.

With The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe I discussed how Lewis draws us into his world gradually, matching our experiene to Lucy's as she progresses through the wardrobe and into the snowy wood. In A Wizard of Earthsea, even leaving aside the poem, we're into the world from sentence one:

"The island of Gont, a single mountain that lifts its peak a mile above the storm-wracked Northeast Sea, is a land famous for wizards."

Where the poem has conveyed the spirit of the world, this single sentence grounds the reader and the story in its physical reality of (an) island and ocean, but also makes it clear that in this world, magic is real. The next few sentences go on to give a sense of historical context and depth to those qualities, as well as "placing" the main character, Ged, within the world that has been so instantly invoked.

The first chapter layers considerably more physical and contextual depth on the opening brushstrokes that established the world of islands and ocean, wizards and magic. The reader learns something of the nature of that magic, i.e. of language and naming, innate power and taught knowledge, as well as the nature of the world: a preindustrialized village-based society in which warfare is not common, but does occur.

As with Lucy in Narnia, the main character, initially called Duny but who becomes Ged, is the reader's window into that expanding knowledge. Unlike Lucy, Ged is born into Earthsea, he doesn't cross into it from our world, which is another reason for immersing the reader in the world from the outset.

Despite the story taking place entirely within the alternate world, and learning from Sentence One, Chapter One, that wizards are part of Earthsea, I believe the worldbuilding feels less "magical" and more "real." In Narnia, we share Lucy's wonder at her transition into a new world peopled by magical beings and talking animals. Whereas in Earthsea the reader is immersed in Ged's childhood reality: from the harshness of village existence, the excitement of magic and the allure of its power to a young boy, and the terror of warrior raiding parties.

Very different worlds and approaches, but both very skilful and compelling, as well as influential examples of Fantasy worldbuilding.
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Next Month: I'm still pondering the next installment, so watch this space, but at present my ponderings are honing in a more recent work – and maybe one set in this world as well.

Meanwhile, let's all be careful out there and look out for each other.

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Helen Lowe is a teller of tales and purveyor of story, chiefly by way of novels and poetry. Her 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 is also on Twitter: @helenl0we.