Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Choose Your Weapon: Spells


Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Spells as Weapons

In today's issue of Choose Your Weapon, we will consider a category of magic that includes ritual, sacrifice and invocation. In other words, magic spells. Touched on in The Perfect Storm, this form of weapon is as old as sticks, or rocks!

Delving into how magic is hardwired into our brains, Melissa Burkley writes in Psychology Today:

"If there is one thing psychologists can learn from the Harry Potter phenomenon, it is that people love magic." 

Although we associate this form of magic with witchcraft, it was originally used by prehistoric humans who made sacrifices to the powers to ensure a good hunt, calm weather, healthy children and other necessities of survival. Not of a personal nature, these cave-day spells were cast for the good of the clan.

Limited edition The Grimoire of Heaven and Hell by Travis McHenry

As time went on, the clan's shaman--a member of the community with links to the spiritual world (populated by benevolent or malevolent entities)--would use animal guides, divination, medicinal plants, ritual words/prayers and later written spells to heal, promote, protect and ensure the wellbeing of the clan as a whole and specific, usually high-ranking members. They may also cast spells that gave them the upper hand with neighbouring enemies.

Later, as we are all aware, the use of magic spells became outlawed. Practitioners were hunted down, burned alive and their families severely marginalized. But for today's exercise, the takeaway is most people still, even if on an unconscious level, believe in the power of spells, be they thought forms, incantations or ritual magic. 

And you can be sure that the Fantasy genre has tapped into this powerful vein in the human mind.

Fantasy Books with Spells

Across all subgenres, magic spells are alive and well! Consider these titles and how their use of magic fuels the readers' imagination.

General Fantasy Even with the author's controversial exclamations on social media, the Harry Potter Series brought a modernized version of ancient spells, making them familiar to an entire generation of the Western world. For example, we learn the Shield Charm was typically used in duelling along with Stunning Spells, the Impediment Jinx, the Full Body-Bind Curse, and the Dancing Feet Spell. In a way, the idea of 'wizard-craft' (note how the word 'witchcraft' is avoided...hmm) was pulled out of the dark, inqusitioner's dungeon into a normal but consequential everyday life for young Harry Potter.

The much loved David Eddings series, both the Bellgariad and the Mallorean, have characters who weave spells. ... known as the Will and the Word, sorcery is a magic power that lets some individuals manipulate the universe around them.

Anime Girl Alchemist Wallpaper

Anime Fullmetal Alchemist is a strong example of spells in Anime. "...Edward Elric practices magic in the form of alchemy. Unlike most of Amestris, Edward can transmute things without using a transmutation circle. While this power is derived because he performed one of the greatest taboos known, his skill is nevertheless impressive.

Blood Like Magic Duology

Young Adult   My Favorite to date YA contemporary spell crafting is in the Blood Like Magic series by Lissell Sambury. She's a wonderful writer who combines her Trinidadian-Canadian background into a perfect weave of 'black girl magic' we can all relate to.

I'm also looking forward to a new book by Sarah Beth Durst. She is always engaging, creative and insightful, no matter what 'age' she is writing for. This is next on my TBR:

A new release from Sarah Beth Durst!

Perfect for fans of Travis Baldree and TJ Klune, The Spellshop by Sarah Beth Durst is a cosy fantasy tale full of stolen spellbooks, unexpected friendships, sweet jams and even sweeter romance.

'Sarah Beth Durst is the hidden gem of the fantasy world' — Book Riot

Every home needs a little magic . . .

Kiela has always had trouble dealing with people, and as librarian at the Great Library of Alyssium, she hasn’t had to... until now?

Urban Fantasy Books 

Why not try this anthology to see which author you love the most? Many of my favourites are here.

"...magic spells, witchcraft, wizardry, fairies, devilry, and more. Urban living, at least in fantasy fiction, is full of both magical wonder and dark enchantment. Street kids may have supernatural beings to protect them or have such powers themselves. Brujeria may be part of your way of life. Crimes can be caused (and solved) with occult arts and even a losing sports team's ""curse"" can be lifted with wizardry. And be careful of what cab you call - it might take you on a journey beyond belief! Some of the best stories of urban enchantment from the last few years gathered in one volume full of hex appeal and arcane arts..."

Magic City

Film and Gaming with Magic Spells

Gaming - Diablo, Elder Scrolls, Witcher, Path of Exile, Baldur's Gate, Magika, Divinity, Magic the Gathering... so many more I have yet to play.

What are your favourite spellcasters in the Fantasy genres? 

I'd love to hear about them.


Choose Your Weapon Series


The Perfect Storm

The Sword





About Kim Falconer

Kim Falconer, currently writing as AK Wilder, has released Crown of Bones, a YA Epic Fantasy with Curse of Shadows as book 2 in the series. Currently, she is working on the third book, out in 2024.

Kim can be found on  AKWilder TwitterFacebook and Instagram

Throw the bones, read your horoscopes or Raise Your Phantom on the AKWilder.com site

Sunday, July 7, 2024

From The Backlist: "Reasons Why You Never Want to Make an Author Mad*" by Karina Cooper

We love our awesome Supernatural Underground backlist -- and this post by Karina Cooper, now writing as KC Alexander, is a lot of fun. Enjoy!

Reasons Why You Never Want to Make an Author Mad*

KC Alexander

by Karina Cooper

Come on, you've seen us. We're all very lovely people, us authors. We smile at the cameras, sign books, hug fans, and so on. Surely, making an author mad must be akin to swatting at a dust bunny, right? I mean, what are we going to do? Cry into our keyboards?

Well. Sort of.

See, yesterday I found myself in the middle of a task that I do actually need for this current run of books I'm plotting. And as I scrolled through pages and pages of data, I thought to myself, Karina, it's a damn good thing your profession is what it is.

Because how else am I to explain why my internet history is full of information on modern day torture techniques?

That's right. Let's talk about reason number one: We know how make you scream. We've researched it down to the last details—certainly not for ourselves, oh, no, but what out characters know, we know. And if we're carrying around a character who is an inquisitor, or a character who was tortured, or worse, we know.

Would we use it? Oh, of course not, officer! We'd never use this information for evil. We're entertainers, not in the business of making the things we know actually happen. Right?

Heh. Heh heh. Right.

Reason number two to avoid making us angry? We know how to hide the body. We've thoroughly researched it. Currents, erosion, garbage truck route details, you name it, we know it. We're a little obsessive when it comes to details, you might have noticed. After all, how else can we guarantee that the extra we offed in chapter 4 doesn't come to light until chapter 15?

The devil is, in fact, in the details.

And speaking of details, let's talk about reason number three: we know things about weapons even the movies get wrong. In that obsession with details, we'll travel all over the information highway to get the facts. Which means we know what kind of weapons a SEAL carries, we know which weapons jam underwater and which can fire in below freezing temperatures. We know which bullets will turn your brain into so much pink mist and which will leave a neat little exit wound, and which sniper rifle will make this easy.

We know about ninja stars, and the different kinds of knives. We know which guns have suppressors and which can be made to have suppressors, and that the potato suppressor doesn't actually work.

Oh, and I certainly don't mean we'd use these tidbits of terminal information on you! I mean characters, of course! We know how to kill characters. As I said, we're in the habit of making up stories, not in shaping reality. Rest easy, dear reader.

Unless, of course, you'd like to make us mad...?

Which brings us to reason number four: Odds are, we have fans in the police department. No joke! If it's not the boys in blue who love us, it's the women. Or the wives. Regardless of who or how, the reality is, we have people who would love to give us alibis.

Wouldn't any of you give me an alibi if I rang you up one day? "Hey, listen, I'll make a character of your choice and thank you in the acknowledgements if you just tell these nice people where I was yesterday. You know, at your house. Watching Friends. And eating cheddar cheese."

Then there's reason number five: You remember school, when there'd be this rumor going around about "that girl" who did this one horribly embarrassing thing, and you knew—just knew—that everyone was talking about you?

Imagine having a character based on you. A character who reveals all your secrets—or makes them up. A character who is murdered in the most grisly way. Or a character who survives, but gets exactly what he or she deserves?

Yeah. In our worlds, baby, we're the gods. And we will talk about you in our godly land of godliness.

You don't want that, do you?

So there you are. Five very good reasons not to piss off your favorite authors. Or even your not so favorite authors. 


To read the full post, including comments, click here

To find out more about what Karina's doing now, visit her on kcalexander.com

Monday, July 1, 2024

The Year of the Villain #6: When The Author Messes With Your Mind


AKA “When the Hero Is Really A Villain” Part 2

Crossroads series #1

Spoiler Warning: I can’t pen this post without a significant plot spoiler in terms of Kate Elliott’s Crossroads series. So although it’s no longer a new-out series, having been published between 2006 – 2009, if you haven’t read the books yet, but feel you may wish to, this may not be the post for you. However, like most of Kate Elliot’s stories, the Crossroads series is complex and multi-layered, with many protagonists of note, so although the element I’m discussing is important, it’s a very long way from being the whole story. With these considerations in mind, I leave the rest to you. J

Last month, I focused on when the main character in a Fantasy story is as much, if not more, villain than hero, i.e. they may be the main character and/or protagonist, but a hero they are not.

But what if both the reader, and other characters within a story, believe someone to be a hero and champion, only to find out, a very long way down the road, that the opposite is the case? This is what I call the author messing with my mind – and I can think of no better example than Kate Elliott’s Crossroads series: Spirit Gate; Shadow Gate; and Traitor’s Gate.

I also hasten to add that I love it when an author manages to not only surprise me, but pull the wool over my eyes as comprehensively as Kate did with the Crossroads trilogy. J

Crossroads #2

The Crossroads series focuses on The Hundred, where the traditional spirit guardians are under siege and society has descended into civil war. A number of very different characters are caught up in these events, including an exiled prince from a neighboring empire, with his bodyguard of elite warriors, and a young bride, Mai, recently married in a star-crossed meeting of cultures and personalities.

The prince, Anji, and his well-trained and disciplined bodyguard come to play a critical role in resisting the magical corruption besetting The Hundred and stemming the tide of civil war. In doing so, Anji and Mai forge new alliances and establish friendships. They are, their new allies and friends believe, very much on the side of the angels.

As a reader, I believed it, too—although in retrospect, the contrary signs were there from the outset, but the author wove them into the larger story so subtly that I (like the other protagonists) thought this a traditional heroic and romantic tale. Instead, readers eventually discover—along with the characters, some at the cost of love, others of their lives—that it is a tale of ruthless opportunism and ambition. 

Crossroads #3

I can say it no better than two of the other protagonists, when finally seeing Anji for what he has become, and maybe always was. One of these characters is Shai:

“Anji had walked beyond anger. Indeed, Shai thought, he had walked beyond shame. He had walked beyond honor. He knew what he wanted and he knew how to get it; the ghost of another man, a man he might have been, faded behind him.”

The other is Mai, when she finally realizes that Anji has lied to her, too, along with everyone else, and betrayed her trust:

“To think she had mistaken him for the hero of the tale.”

The irony, and the author’s subtlety in creating this villain, lies in a divide between personal and public goods. Anji has “become in all ways but name” the sole ruler of The Hundred. In part, he has done so by effectiveness in war and reestablishing order. He has also done so by lying to and betraying former friends and allies and eliminating potential rivals. To seal his hold on power, Anji also betrays Mai, abandoning their love.

Sequel to Crossroads series

Lies, betrayal, murder – but those who see the restoration of order and law, peace and security, are willing to accept the lies used to justify the betrayals. For many, who have not shared in the revelations and experience of Shai, Mai, and others, Anji remains a hero: the savior of The Hundred.

© Helen Lowe


About the Author

Helen Lowe is an award-winning novelist, poet, and lover of story. With four books published to date, she is currently completing the final instalment in The Wall Of Night series.
Helen posts regularly on her
“…on Anything, Really” blog, monthly on the Supernatural Underground, and tweets @helenl0we.


Previous “Year of the Villain” Posts:

January:      Ushering in 2024 -- & the Year of the Villain

February:    The Year of the Villain #1: The Lord of The Rings Pantheon

March: The Year of the Villain #2: Ursula Le Guin & “Earthsea”

April: The Year of the Villain #3: Tigana and Brandin of Ygrath

May: The Year of the Villain #4: Elidor and Formless Evil 

June: The Year of the Villain #5: When the Hero Is Really A Villain

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

From the Backlist - Feathers, Fur, Fangs, and Snakes

Shapeshifter fro, Diablo 4 Icy Veins Build
 Hello Sup Readers and Writers!

It's time again to explore our awesome Backlist!

Today we are sharing a post by the author of the bestselling Mortal Path series, Dakota Banks. Her thoughts on shape-shifting from June 28, 2010 are just as relevant in 2024. 

Read along to discover how, and why, this magic works so well!

* * *

Huge Jackman is Wolverine

Hi, I'm Dakota Banks. If I were to die and come back as something, it would be as a Dove extra dark chocolate bar in the hands of the man to the left...

... Now that you've learned everything there is to know about my personality... eyes over here, please...

... Werewolves also have a long history of stories behind them. Ancient Greek gods turned a king with an appetite for human flesh into a werewolf. There is a famous story from the 1600s involving a she-wolf. A French king saw a hunter in his woods and asked him to report on the success of the hunt. The hunter encountered a vicious wolf who was too strong for him to kill, but he managed to cut off the wolf's forepaw. He wrapped it up and took it to the king. When the king heard the story, he unwrapped the bundle and found a woman's hand with a gold ring on her finger. Horrified, he recognized the ring as belonging to his wife. Searching her out, he found her injured, with her hand missing. She admitted being the she-wolf and was burned to death...

... People tend to develop their myths and folklore using animals that are local to where they live. That gives us werehorses from Europe, weredolphins from Brazil's Amazon River basin, wereseals from island communities, werehyenas from Africa, and weremers (okay, mermaids) from countries that sailed the oceans...

... For my writing, I wanted to see what I could do outside the vamp and werewolf norm. I found the myths of ancient Sumeria fascinating, so I built a story around the idea that some of their gods, goddesses, and demons are still around today. Only a few humans know about them, and are aligned for or against. I was lured in by shapeshifting, though, so there are demons who transform into various horrid forms. I have a lot of fun writing the Mortal Path series! The second book is Sacrifice - READ THE WHOLE POST HERE.

Thanks for joining us in exploring the backlist!

See you next time! 

The Sup


Sunday, June 16, 2024

Choose Your Weapon - Ranged


Archery in Anime

Ranged Weapons

In today's issue of Choose Your Weapon, we will consider 'ranged' weapons, a category that includes the bow, crossbow, repeating crossbow, slingshot and blow gun. As you can see, the main focus is on the archer.

Archery has been with us from the start of humankind,  with arrowheads found in South Africa dating back 60,000 years. Think of this weapon as 'archetypal' in that it has been found in all places, all cultures and all times, from neolithic beginnings to contemporary Olympic games. 

It's as pervasive in pictorial form and literature too, from cave paintings in Spain from 20,000 years ago to Homer's account of Prince Paris who slays Achilles. Of course, he also told stories about the huntress, the goddess Artemis and Eros, the god of love whose dart would cause his victims to fall in love.

Writing characters who use archery is often intricate, centering and poetic. There is something about the moments before, during and after the shot that defies time, creating the opportunity for an inner journey that no other weapon can, at least to me.

Whether to feed the tribe, slay the enemy or seduce the lover, archery holds a powerful position in storytelling. 

Subgenres with Archery

Fantasy Books - examples are LOTR by JRR Tolkien, Fire by Kristin Kashor, Heir of Fire by Sarah J Mass and The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black.

Anime - Ashitaka in Princess Momonoke, Tigreurmud Vorn, Lord Marksman and Vanadis.

Superhero Comics - Marvel's Hawkeye and DC Comic's Green Arrow.

Urban Fantasy Books- Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Percy Jackson Series by Rick Riordan.

Film and Gaming

- Merida in Brave, Cassandra in Tangled and of course Hercules ... in Hercules.

Adventure - Lara Croft in Tomb Raider!

Ledgen - Robin Hood!

Ancient Myths - Psyche and Eros, Apollo, Artemis, Ullr (Norse god of the hunt).

Gaming - Diablo, Elder Scrolls, Witcher, Path of Exile, Baldur's Gate, Minecraft Dungeons, Chop-Chop, Divinity, Magic the Gathering...

What are your favorite archers in the Fantasy genre? I'd love to hear about them.

See you in the comments.


Choose Your Weapon Series


The Perfect Storm

The Sword




About Kim Falconer

Kim Falconer, currently writing as AK Wilder, has released Crown of Bones, a YA Epic Fantasy with Curse of Shadows as book 2 in the series. Currently, she is working on the third book, out in 2024.

Kim can be found on  AKWilder TwitterFacebook and Instagram

Throw the bones, read your horoscopes or Raise Your Phantom on the AKWilder.com site

Monday, June 10, 2024

From The Backlist: "Unhealthy Obsession?" by Jocelynn Drake

We love our awesome Supernatural Underground backlist -- and this post, where Jocelynn Drake poses the Unhealthy Obsession? question is an excellent example!

Jocelynn Drake
Unhealthy Obsession? 

by Jocelynn Drake

It’s just after midnight and I should be heading to bed, or at the very least settling in with a book to relax.

Instead, I’m surfing the net and obsessing about all the little things that I love. And I’m wondering if it’s unhealthy. I mean, everyone needs a little distraction in life. A little escape. Most of the time, I escape into the worlds of my own creation, but sometimes I need someone else’s world.

Obsession #1: Batman

My long-time love affair with Bruce Wayne started when I was young, watching the Adam West/Burt Ward Batman and Robin show. At that time, I loved Robin, but then I was very young and foolish; not realizing the wonderfulness that is the complexity of Bruce Wayne. My love cooled over the years until the early ‘90s when the Adventures of Batman and Robin cartoon was released. The art was beautiful and the stories were surprisingly rich for a 30-minute afternoon cartoon show. I fell in love all over again. Batman had taken on a gritty, darker feel. He had finally become the tortured soul that most of us have come to equate with Batman.

I love Bruce Wayne/Batman because he doesn’t have any super powers. He’s just a man. Every night he pushes himself to the absolute limit while walking a fine line between good and evil. Handsome, strong, confident, determined, dedicated, brilliant, loyal, and secretly, very compassionate, Bruce Wayne makes my little heart stammer in my chest. The new DC Universe reboot, which will launch in September, has me concerned about what they will do to the Batman canon, but I know they will not change the soul of Batman.

I own a large collection of comics, graphic novels, movies, figures, and cartoons. One dream would be to publish my own Batman story.


To read all about Obsession #2 and the full post, including comments, click here

To find out more about Jocelynn and her writing you can visit her blog.

Saturday, June 1, 2024

The Year of the Villain #5: When the Hero Is Really A Villain

Well, here we are -- 1 June and half way through the year already, which kinda feels a little villainous! So-o -- clearly! -- it's time for another post on villains in Fantasy literature.

You may recall back in post #3, when I discussed Brandin of Ygrath (in Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana), I referred to him as more "antagonist" than "villain", because he's a sympathetic character despite being Tigana's ultimate "big bad."

In today's post I'm going to flip this by talking about "protagonists" rather than "heroes" -- because when the main character is pretty much a villain, it's a bit of a stretch to refer to them as a "hero", even when they're lead character in the tale.

Han Solo
I also believe there is a difference between an anti-hero protagonist, i.e. such as Han Solo in Star Wars, who is a smuggler and rogue but comes to the heroes' aid, saving the day in the end, and tales where the central character's deeds place them at the "villain" end of the hero-to-villain spectrum. 

Two of the more powerful examples of this are Yarvi, in Joe Abercrombie's Shattered Sea series (Half A King; Half A World; Half a War), and Rin in RF Kuang's The Poppy War trilogy (The Poppy War; The Dragon Republic; The Burning God.)

[Note: There is a spoiler regarding the ending of The Poppy War series toward the end, but there's an alert just before you get there.]

In Half A King Yarvi is dispossessed of his throne, exiled, and enslaved. In both this and Book 2 (Half a A World -- where he is a more background character) his behavior is usually self-interested, to the extent of not serving either his friends (to the extent he is capable of friendship) or the realm. And he's always manipulative. 

In the trilogy's conclusion, Half A War, Yarvi engineers the war that threatens to destroy his own and the other Shattered Sea kingdoms, in pursuit of the power that led to their shattering. (Although it's never stated, the Shattered Sea history points to the action taking place in a post-nuclear holocaust world, but far into the future.)

Rin, the central character in The Poppy War series, is a young woman who already exists in a war-torn world. (If you're familiar with Chinese history you'll recognize analogs of the Opium Wars, Boxer and Kuomintang rebellions, and the Communist revolution that created the contemporary Chinese state.) She is also able to channel the power of a phoenix god, with its ability to generate annihilating fire and inflict widespread destruction.

Rin is a protagonist who starts with considerable promise in terms of magical power and leadership skills. By the end of the first book she has already abused her power and betrayed a great many people, and when the series ends, the betrayal has extended to every friend and ally, and the destruction has completely obliterated one enemy realm. (A comparable analogy would be if the United States had not only bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but unleashed nuclear destruction on the whole of Japan.)

(Spoiler Alert: The next sentence is definitely a spoiler, so maybe skip to the end if you're not already familiar with the story.)

In the end, Rin does check her (or the god's through her) insatiable thirst for destruction by taking her own life, but only after that swathe of knowing and intentional betrayal and obliteration.

In both Yarvi and Rin's cases, it's the "knowing" and "intentional" that sets the seal on their being villains, as well as protagonists -- proof that Fantasy villainy has come a long way from The Lord of the Rings in post #1, with its clear demarcation between good and evil, heroes and big bads.

© Helen Lowe


About the Author

Helen Lowe is an award-winning novelist, poet, and lover of story. With four books published to date, she is currently completing the final instalment in The Wall Of Night series.
Helen posts regularly on her
“…on Anything, Really” blog, monthly on the Supernatural Underground, and tweets @helenl0we.


Previous “Year of the Villain” Posts:

January:      Ushering in 2024 -- & the Year of the Villain

February:    The Year of the Villain #1: The Lord of The Rings Pantheon

March: The Year of the Villain #2: Ursula Le Guin & “Earthsea”

April: The Year of the Villain #3: Tigana and Brandin of Ygrath

May: The Year of the Villain #4: Elidor and Formless Evil