Thursday, January 16, 2020

Visioning Equality in Fantasy Fiction

Blue Petals by Tim McBurnie
In the wake of the issues re the cancellation of the RWA Awards - this will get you up to speed - I wanted to talk about the challenges of writing diversity, equality, inclusion and realism in Fantasy Fiction. It can be a double-edged blade.

Celebrating Diversity in Anime - Yatta Tachi

If I write a world where real-life marginalized people are 'normal', is it showing readers a better possibility for the future or is it whitewashing issues that shouldn't be ignored? There are books and academic papers that explore this in-depth, but for now, I'll just share the approach I take in Crown of Bones.

Yuri & Victor
In my new series, The Bone Throwers (Book #1 Crown of Bones out March 17th!), society sees gender, race and LGBTQ diversity as normal. No big thing.

But issues of marginalization of another kind occur. The theme is not ignored or sugarcoated.

Just revisioned.

Divyatattva Art
For example, in the world of Amassia (think Earth so far in the future that all the continents have returned to a single landmass) there are essentially two kinds of people: savant, those who can raise a phantom, and non-savant, those who can not.

The savants of this story world are privileged, though they are meant to serve the masses with their gifts. And yes, it is the masses, the majority of people on Amassia, who are non-savant.

Alan Lee | Merlin & Arthur
The story follows a girl named Ash, a lowly scribe who is, indeed, non-savant. How she deals with her degraded life becomes a powerful thread in the plotline.

Work-in-Progress Witch's Shop by Aiseph
In this way, The Bone Throwers explores prejudice of a kind not seen in our 'real' world but remains a metaphor of our everyday lives.

This is one of Fantasy Fiction's most vital roles, investigating contemporary issues from a new or alternative perspective.


* * *

If you're getting excited, you can pre-order Crown of Bones, hardcover or eBook, from any outlet near you, including multiple language translations. Just google it!

Hope you enjoy!

* * *

Kim Falconer's New YA Fantasy Series is out March 17, 2020 - The Crown of Bones. (Writing under the pen name 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 site.

Contact at or

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Year of Genesis: The Birth of a Paranormal

I published my first book in June of 2011, which means that I’ve been blogging on Supernatural Underground since July of 2011. That seems like FOREVER of sharing my content and my writing process and my thoughts with you all.

And now I am starting over. New Series. New characters. Same world. Three New books. Three old books. All 2020!

So this year, I thought I would focus on this new series creation. Not just as blatant promotion, but as a journey of how books get developed and made and editing and covered and everything. Where the characters come from, where the world comes from, all the stars that have to align to get a story out into the universe.

So we are going to call this the Year of Genesis: How a book comes into being.

So lets start with where the seed of THE TRUTH ABOUT NIGHT came from.

My first series, Diaries of an Urban Panther (which will be re-leased this year) was about a very shy women who became very powerful very quickly. By book three, Violet Jordan is the most kick-ass panther that Dallas has ever seen. There wasn’t a wanderer that I could throw at her to fight anymore.

Now, I love the Those Who Wander universe, and I knew I wanted to stay and play in that world. I knew there were more magical stories to tell.

And naturally as my stories do, a question formed. What if there was a Wanderer who only had one itty-bitty, tiny power in a world of monsters and panthers. I loved the notion of the one power. It was very reminiscent of Piers Anthony’s Xanth series where everyone is born with one power. Some big. Some small. But one each unique to each person.
I wanted to play with that notion. What if there was a girl who had some small little talent, and it wasn’t her magic that made her as powerful as Prima, it was her person. It wasn’t what she was, it was who she was.

And what if I pitted her against a demon, something that was as powerful as it was hungry. I knew I wanted to play with demons in this one. I wanted something big and dark and dangerous. I’d alluded to them in Diaries, but now I wanted to play with the nature of a demon.

Merci Lanard was born, fully formed and demanded a story of her own. Which I can proudly present to you on January 21!

If you have an topics that you can think of, please feel free to let me know! I will be back at my normal date next month!

Until next time, Happy 2020.


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy New Year, Supernatural Undergrounders! Welcome to My Year of Wonderful Worldbuilding

Happy New Year!
Happy New Year, dear Supernatural Undergrounders. In a world that often seems increasingly troubled and beset, I hope we can all find a path through 2020 that sustains our hope, our creativity, and our wellbeing.

When set against the larger backdrop of world, national, and even community affairs, posts on a blog with a focus on fiction that makes our hearts beat faster, and books that go bump in the night, seems like pretty small beer.

On the other hand, sometimes finding our path through the world is about focusing on what we can do and then doing it as well, and with as much generosity, kindness, and love, as we can.

So I am resolved, since posting on the Supernatural Underground on the first of every month is part of what I do, to write the very best posts I can. I hope they'll also be fun to read and maybe even brighten the occasional dull day.
Put your feet up & read! ;-)

So Why Worldbuilding?

Last year, I decided to take a leaf from fellow Supernatural Underground (SU) author Amanda Arista's book and dedicate 2019 to a theme. Because the SU has its origins in paranormal urban fantasy, and paranormal urban romance in particular, dedicating the year to Romance in Fantasy Fiction seemed the natural and obvious choice.

Yet we've never been exclusively a romance or even paranormal urban community. We've had YA writers and historical fantasy, as well as epic (hand shoots up :-) ) and fairytale retellings.

The great thing about fantasy is that it's a broad and inclusive genre -- but one of the elements every part of the genre has in common is the vital importance of worldbuilding. This holds true regardless of whether we're building an alternate reality in this world, as many of our authors have done, e.g.
  • The Blood In The Beginning -- Kim Falconer
  • Diary Of An Urban Panther -- Amanda Arista
  • Lost Girls -- Merrie Destefano 
  • Fire and Bone -- Rachel A Marks
  • Where Oblivion Lives -- Teresa Frohock
  • Whistling Past The Graveyard -- Terri Garey
  • Of Blood and Honey -- Stina Leicht
Or alternatively, building a completely other world, as is the case with my The Wall Of Night series, Kim's Quantum Enchantment series (although that's also partially in this world), and Teresa's Miserere.

All of which makes shining the spotlight on wonderful worldbuilding in the Fantasy genre seem like the perfect and logical choice for 2020, and something we can all enjoy: me writing, you reading. :-) #AsItShouldBe

2020: Let's explore worlds...
Our Year Of Wonderful Worldbuilding 

In terms of how it will work, I think I'll approach it pretty much as I did last year, with the focus being on my favorites, i.e. a few of the many worlds that have spun my wheels over the years, and inspired me to emulate the author's worldbuilding excellence.

Conversely, what it definitely won't be is an effort to exhaustively chart worldbuilding exemplars of the genre -- because although that might be Very Worthy, I feel it world also quash the fun quotient. Besides being impossible to encompass in ten to eleven posts. #Just Sayin'

I will try to achieve some historical perspective, though, by switching between older and newer works as I did with romance. I'll also try and keep the range of fantasy encompassed broad, rather than just sticking to the one subgenre, like paranormal urban or epic.

But that all lies in the realm of February 1 and the first #YearOfWorldbuilding post. For the moment we're still in January 1, with 2020 an uncharted landscape before us. Let's be careful what path we track through it.

Take care, dear Supernatural Undergrounders, throughout 2020: Be kind to yourselves and others.


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, December 16, 2019

Deadlines - Writing Under the Hammer

Hammer fall Art Print

Every writers' bane, right?


Leonard Bernstein, director of the New York Philharmonic and one of the most talented and successful musicians in USA history, had a different take. He said:
To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.
Image from Who do Writer's Really Write for?
But still... deadlines. What a bitch... Especially during the 'holidays'. 

Love them or hate them, every published writer has to deal with the.

At least they are well named.

The History of Deadlines

Originally, a deadline was literal, an actual line drawn around a prison. If prisoners crossed it, the guards could shoot to kill.

Nowadays, it can feel as dire. Miss a publisher's deadline and the writer's entire career can derail, especially in commercial fiction.

Hard and Soft Deadlines

Yet, not all deadlines are equal. In the industry, they call them soft or hard. The soft deadlines are malleable. It's expected to edit and revise beyond them. The hard deadlines? That's the shoot to kill order, only it's the career that dies, not the author. (Some writers feel it's one and the same...)

Ancient Magic Script - Etsy
Those soft deadlines are important. For example, I set myself writing goals for new work - a scene a day, or 2k words a day, depending on the stage of the story. I stick to them, 95% of the time, but I don't burst into flames if one day is missed.

With hard deadlines, the only sane thing to do is meet them. Without complaint. There are too many publishable authors ready to take your place if you prove too 'difficult' to work with.

Remember, shoot to kill.

Support for Meeting Deadlines

There are a few things you can do meet every deadline every thrown at you. One is to make sure your agent has negotiated reasonable expectation for turnaround times with your editor BEFORE you sign the contract.

Another is all about the planning. I map out the editorial schedule and make sure I clear the decks for each phase of the process.

Sock up on essentials! 
I stock up on necessities (coffee, cat food, quick but healthy foodstuffs) before the edits come back to me. I also write blog posts, columns, reports and newsletters well in advance so there is nothing else on my plate when the time comes to write.

What About Procrastination?

If there is a tendency to procrastinate, explore possible reasons - fear of failure, fear of success, Mars in Taurus, Cancer or Pisces, not loving the project -  and find solutions, again, BEFORE the deadline looms.

Best Tip Ever

Set an intention ahead of time to meet the deadline efficiently and with massive amounts of creative savvy and ease. 

How to do that?

Go here for details but this, from my friend Jeannette Maw, will put you in the sweet spot.

On-the-Fly Intention Setting
(for when you don’t have a lot of advance prep time)
  1. Focus your thoughts on the result or experience you want (deadline met, in our case)
  2. Let it go

Could it get any easier? The only thing better than how simple it is, is how effective you’ll find it!

Have a deadline story to tell? I'd love to hear it in the comments!

Now, back to work!

* * *

Kim Falconer's New YA Fantasy Series is out March 2020 - The Crown of Bones. (Writing under the pen name 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 site.

Contact at or

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

High Fives with Amanda: Gifts for the Authors in your life

Hello there!

Honestly, I can't believe that it's December. This year has flown past!

So to wrap up my Year of High Fives, here are five things you could think about getting the author in your life for the holidays. We are a strangely eclectic bunch, us authors, so there will be variations of this list depending on your author, but something here will probably work for this gift-giving season.

1). A master class, potentially from Master Class or LitReactor (not sponsored). Most authors I know love to learn about craft. They love to see how other creative brains work. And what better than a class taught by an industry professional that they can enjoy in their PJs with a cup of tea.

2) Something sparkly. Honestly, I'm a raccoon, so anything that sparkles I'm attracted to. I bought this emerald ring for myself and I love the way that light hits off my fancy finger as I'm typing away. Or perhaps sparkly nails (Color Street makes it really easy). Or a sparkly coffee cup.

3) Subscription service for coffee/tea/wine. You'll know your writer best. But a subscription service to their favorite beverage of choice will prevent them from having to put on real pants and get out of the house to re-stock. Which will keep them in their chairs. Which will get more books written.

4) Entertainment gift card to feed the muse. Again, you'll know your
writer best if they are a movie person, a book person, or a music person. The muse needs to be fed, so why not help your writer absorb more fodder to write those books!

And the last which can be an excellent stocking stuffer for all your writerly friends:

5). Buy their book and write a review! Or similar Social Media love! We are all slaves to the algorithms. A little re-tweet there. A sweet note on a review site here. It only takes a little bit of time, but might get your author's book seen by a new person, who shows it to a new person, who shows it to a ....well, you get the pattern. A little social media love goes a long way this holiday season.

Well, there you have it. The last High Fives with Amanda for 2019.

Thank you so much for another great year! And I'll see you on January 3rd when I'll have some AWESOME NEWS! and my theme for next year.

Until then, give yourself a high five!

Amanda Arista
The Truth Series, coming Jan 2020
Diaries of an Urban Panther series, coming back June 2020

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Romance In Fantasy Fiction: Celebrating Difference


Intro: #YoR #RIFF

Wow, we're here: December 1 and my final post for 2019 — my own personal Year of Romance in Fantasy Fiction!

I started a tad late in the year (in March, with The Lord of the Rings), and proceeded to alternate between older and newer works — noting all the while that the romances featured are my personal favorites, rather than any endeavor to comprehensively chart the genre!

In alternating between older and newer works, however, there has been a certain degree of 'charting', so in finishing up today, I'd like to have a brief look, over time, at the degree to which Fantasy has explored diverse expressions of romance.

It's only a post, not a thesis, so again I'm going to arbitrarily select a few sample works rather than undertake a comprehensive survey. But I hope it will still prove interesting, especially since we tend to regard diversity as a recent phenomenon.

Celebrating Difference:

Latest cover
First up, The Ladies of Mandrigyn by Barbara Hambly, first published in 1984.

A few years back, I posted about this book on SF Signal, as part of the Fantasy Heroines That Rock My World series. The theme of the post was "sisterhood is powerful" because the friendships between women are one of the elements that make the story distinctive and compelling. Quite aside from the whole story being awesome imho: just sayin'!

Romance is also an important part of the story. The central romantic pair are Sun Wolf, a mercenary general, and Star Hawk, his second-in-command, a strong and capable warrior in her own right. She also plays as important a part in the story as Sun Wolf, rather than just being the "best supporting actress", charting similar ground to Patricia McKillip's Raederle (1980) in the Riddlemaster of Hed trilogy.

Original cover
Another couple that play an important part in the story are Amber Eyes, a courtesan, and her lover, Denga Rey, a gladiator and woman of color:

"And what about you?" he [Sun Wolf] asked Denga Rey as the gladiator stood, scarred arms folded, surveying their joint charges...

Her eyes mocked him. "Me? Oh, I'm in this only for the sake of the one I love."

He stared at her in surprise. "You have a man up in the mines?"...

The curved, black eyebrows shot up; then she burst into a whoop of delighted laughter. "A man?" she choked, her eyes dancing. "You think I'd do this for a man? Oh, soldier, you kill me." And she swaggered off, chuckling richly to herself."

Not the central romance, but a significant supporting relationship nonetheless.

Ten years later, in 1994, Irene Radford's The Glass Dragon featured a romantic relationship between three protagonists, Jaylor, a journeyman magician; Brevelan, a witch; and Darville, their country's enchanted crown prince. The consummation of their three-sided love, as well as their enduring friendship, is an important element in the resolution of the story.

Five years later again, in 1999, the relationship between the vintner, Sobran, and the male angel, Xas, formed the heart of Elizabeth Knox's acclaimed novel, The Vintner's Luck — a precursor to the paranormal focus that swept the Romance and Urban Fantasy genres ca. five to ten years later.

And perhaps to series like Teresa Frohock's Where Oblivion Lives, in terms of the angelic-demonic elements and homosexual love story (although otherwise they are very different books).

In 1984, Denga Rey and Amber Eyes' love was a supporting romance rather than the main romantic focus of The Ladies of Mandrigyn. In 2009, Malinda Lo's, Ash, was a re-imagining of Cinderella in which Ash falls in love with and ultimately chooses, Kaisa, a huntress, over both the mortal and fairy princes that are also core to the story.
Lo's second novel, Huntress (2011), which is set in the distant past of the same Fantasy world and centered in Chinese legend and culture, also focuses on a lesbian relationship between the heroines, Kaede and Taisin.

While in 2010, NK Jemisin gave Fantasy literature The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms — an epic fantasy in which the romance between Yeine Darr and the enslaved god, Nahadoth, the Night Lord, is not only front and center of the story, but one in which both central protagonists — and a significant number of others — are persons of color. 

I'm going to finish in 2015 with The Labyrinth of Flame by Courtney Schafer, which is the culmination of her Shattered Sigil series. The two relationships that have been central to the preceding novels are the friendship between Dev, a caravan scout, and Kiran, a young magician, together with Dev's romantic relationship with Cara, a fellow caravan scout.

In The Labyrinth of Flame these two relationships come together into a three-sided partnership. In the Shattered Sigil series, such partnerships are an accepted part of the world's desert cultures, in particular.
(In case I've never shared this with you before, Courtney's world is strongly informed by the mountains and deserts of the south-western United States where's she's lived and done extensive climbing, and has a uniquely wonderful Fantasy vibe — again, imho. ;-) )

So there you have it, the wrap up to my Year of Romance (#YoR) in Fantasy fiction (#RIFF) with a peek at, and celebration of, a slice of of diversity and difference in the genre.

And this is just a slice, with novels such as Elizabeth A Lynn's Watchtower (1989), which I discussed here, also groundbreaking in terms of romantic diversity in Fantasy. But one can never mention All The Books — not and stay post-length!

What I hope I have done, is mentioned enough titles to convey that although the difference and diversity of romantic relationships may have come to the fore in our current era, it has been a distinct thread in Fantasy literature for some time.

And I'll be back on January 1, not only to wish you a Happy New Year but to reveal my year's theme for 2020. :-) Watch this space!

List of Year of Romance in Fantasy Posts:

March: JRR Tolkien and The Lord Of The Rings Effect
April: Laini Taylor's Daughter Of Smoke and Bone – "My Enemy, My Love"
May: Patricia McKillip's Riddlemaster of Hed – "Constancy Amid Tumult"
June: Guy Gavriel Kay's Under Heaven – "When Your Ship Doesn't Sail"
July: Katharine Kerr's Daggerspell (Deverry series) – "Love At First Meeting"
August: Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys – "Friends and Lovers"
September: Julian May's Saga of the Exiles Katlinel & Sugoll aka "Beauty and the Beast"
October: Teresa Frohock's Where Oblivion Lives (Los Nefilim) – "Endless Love"

November: True Triangles in Patricia Briggs' Moon Called (Mercy Thompson Series)


Helen Lowe is a teller of tales and purveyor of story, chiefly by way of novels and poetry;she also blogs and occasionally interviews fellow writers. 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.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

The Cover Story

Cover artist Zalantina Zareva 

We all know we aren't meant to judge a book by its cover.  I mean, really. The saying's used as a reminder not to base our opinions on outward appearances. But...

It happens all the time.

For example, check out these fun facts listed by Aaron Gouveia:

Tall people are paid more.

Overweight people less.

Blonds, gym addicts, women wearing makeup, 'attractive' people' all get more, unless you are female and VERY attractive. Then you can forget about being hired for the position traditionally held by men.

Bottom line; we humans judge books, and other things, by their covers and like it or not, we might as well use that trait to our advantage.

Cover art by Alexander Jannson
Which is what the marketing department in a publishing house is for. They decide what's trending in which genre and do everything they can to apply that to your book, without outright stealing the design.

Though apparently there is stealing at times.

Meanwhile, when it comes to Fantasy, unicorns on the cover are down, dragons up. Crowns and thrones going like hotcakes, stilettos not so much. 

Note: crown and castle double whammy!

In YA Romance, the girl in the dress is still a classic, though being replaced by crowns and thrones and castles/citadels.

The designs shift but the facts remain, the cover is the first thing that draws a reader to the book.

It also tells a story of its own, hopefully, one that correlates to the pages of the book!

And now, in the digital age, it has to look awesome when the size of a postage stamp as well.

For me, I'm all about the artistry of the cover, but that is so individual, it's near impossible for a marketing team to predict.

How about you? What draws you to pick, or click a cover?


* * *

Kim Falconer's New YA Fantasy Series is out March 2020 - The 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 site.

Contact at or