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
@pantherista
Author
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

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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.
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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)

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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?

Thoughts?

* * *

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 AKWilder.com site.

Contact at kimfalconer.com or akwilder.com

Sunday, November 3, 2019

High Fives with Amanda: Things for NanoWrimo

High Fives with Amanda: Top 5 things you need for NaNoWriMo

The time is upon us. The one month of the year where writers buckle down and try to write 50k words in one month. Its approximately 1600 words a day. Which for some writers is not a lot and for others is the biggest ask ever.

I've been participating or cheering on people for NaNoWriMo since the beginning. I remember doing it in college. My first book, Diaries of an Urban Panther, was a product of NaNoWriMo.

If you have never heard of it, you can check out more about it here.

 So being a veteran of the event, here are my top fives things you need for NaNoWriMo.

1). New notebook and pen. Not all of us are office supply nuts, but there is a certain magic evoked when you crack the spine on a new notebook and pop off the cap of a fresh pen. You'll need this new energy as you start writing and think of things in chapter 12 when you are only one chapter 3.

2). Tea. I KNOW! I'm such an avid coffee drinker, but I'm also an avid believer in ritual and not overdosing on caffeine. I need a hot cup of something to write and when you are squeezing in an extra hour of brain time at 1130 at night (like I usually do), a cup of coffee is not the best thing for your sleep cycle. So I recommend finding a fancy tea (decaf, obvs) to make special for yourself as you sit down to write.



3). A comfy chair. A coffee shop. A spot where you feel safe and
focused. I usually pick the big green chair in my library and that is where I will write and write only. No reading, no watching TV. Writing only in this chair. It always helps my brain get back to what it was doing last time I was in this chair. Also, its comfy and feels like a hug when I need it.

4). Inspiration that is not the entirety of the internet. And you know me, I'm a Pinterest girl. But during NaNoWriMo it becomes important not to get lost in research and the unknown depths of the web. Pinterest allows for a surface understanding of most things and that is all you really need for drafting a book. Weeks of research on medieval poisons can wait until December as long as you get a dead body on the page in November.

5). Community! Friends! Compadres! I've spoken about the power of supportive writing buddies a
million times, but this is the time that you will need a few to commiserate with about why you do this instead of pottery or macrame. You can also connect with friends on the NaNoWriMo site or through Twitter #NaNoWriMo2019.

There you go. The five things you'll need to get through November!

If you have a Top Five list you'd like me to cultivate, please let me know in the comments below or at @pantherista

In the meantime, give yourself a high five!

Amanda Arista
Author, The Lanard Files (Coming January 2020) 
& Diaries of an Urban Panther (re-release 2020)



Friday, November 1, 2019

Romance in Fantasy Fiction: True Triangles in Patricia Briggs' "Moon Called" (Mercy Thompson #1)

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Intro: #RIFF #YOR

I don't feel I can have a Year of Romance (#YOR) and Romance in Fantasy Fiction (#RIFF) post series, certainly not here on Supernatural Underground without checking out a for-real paranormal urban fantasy. Plus there just has to be a triangle at some stage — and today's the day! 

And since this post series is all about my personal favorites, today's feature is a paranormal urban fantasy I really heart, i.e. Patricia Briggs' Moon Called, in which we first meet the awesome that is Mercy Thompson: car mechanic, coyote shape-shifter (deriving from her Native American heritage), aka Native American 'skinwalker' (as this is part of Mercy's heritage) *(See *Note below post), and all around feisty urban-fantasy heroine. 

And although a paranormal urban fantasy doesn't have to involve a triangle to be the real deal, triangles are part of the tradition — and I like the way the one in Moon Called rolls.

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Patricia Briggs' Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1) & True Triangles — Mercy, Adam, and Samuel

I may've subtitled this "True Triangles", but Mercy Thompson is also the quintessential gal-next-door — in this case, literally right next door to Adam, leader of the local (Tri-Cities) werewolf pack. Adam is not only drop-dead gorgeous, but he's also definitely an "order" and "chain-of-command" kinda guy, which is probably not that surprising considering he's the alpha-in-chief of all those werewolves. 

Now, coyotes may be tricksters with plenty of smarts, but when it comes to a wolf vs coyote contest of strength, the wolf is definitely apex predator. So Mercy knows a smart coyote shapeshifter will show plenty of respect around the local werewolf leader. Instead, she likes to give her powerful neighbor sass, albeit from the relative safe distance of her own back yard, chiefly by 'taunting' him with a dead car body in full view of his own imposing residence. 

You might think this is setting readers up for a bog-standard "we-love-to-hate-each-other-and-wallow-in-misunderstandings" romantic engagement, but when we first meet Adam properly he's actually pretty civil, given the circumstances, and although he's laying down the law to a certain extent, it's actually to very sound purpose. So despite rusting car bodies and more serious divergences of view on a number of topics, Mercy and Adam's fundamental relationship is one of genuine attraction but also a bedrock of mutual respect. 

In addition to romance, adventure and mystery are integral to the Moon Called story and the action soon kicks in. In the Mercy Thompson, Tri-Cities world, any action is going to involve supernatural forces, with fae and vampires, as well as werewolves, all part of the mix along with mainstream human society. So there's plenty for any lover of paranormal urban fantasy to enjoy.

Yep, it's a graphic novel, too.
In terms of the action, escalating violence sees Adam seriously injured defending his home. Not knowing who to trust, Mercy flees with him to her childhood home, the remote rural stronghold of the Marrok, the leader of all werewolves in North America. Enter Samuel, the Marrok's son, another alpha werewolf and the third corner of Moon Called's romantic triangle. 

Samuel, needless to say, is also drop-dead gorgeous. :-) He's also a lone wolf, as opposed to Adam's pack leader, and Mercy's childhood sweetheart. Uh-oh, you may think, and you're not wrong — but here's the thing I really like about Moon Called and the way the triangle plays out: 

Yes, there's plenty of simmering sexual tension and smoldering alpha werewolf standoffs, but ultimately everyone in this story is an adult. So Mercy actively tries to resolve the standoff rather than adding fuel to the flames, and Adam, despite being wounded and confronted by Samuel's taunting, manages to defuse the sexual and alpha-primacy competition. 

Chiefly, this works by everyone realizing that there are More Important Things at stake in the unfolding story, like many lives and the security of North American werewolf-dom. 

So although Moon Called ends with the Mercy-Adam-Samuel triangle essentially unresolved (there are more books to come, after all ;-) ) the lines that have been established are essentially those based on mutual respect and establishing some adult, albeit alpha, ground rules — all without lessening the romantic tension and payoff in the story.

And yep, that rusting car body ends exactly where it started...

*Note: As two commenters have pointed out, I said in the intro that Mercy is a coyote shapeshifter, which is correct, but then implied that equated with a Native American "skinwalker." Although I believe this is implied by other characters in the book, I also believe the commenters are correct: Mercy herself refutes being a skinwalker. -- HL


List of Year of Romance in Fantasy Posts (so far):

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"




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.


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Bookshop of Halloween Horrors


Halloween, born of the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, is nigh and we might all be looking for a good read to suit the occasion. I know I am!

If it's a book that goes bump in the night, there is a multitude to choose from, but there aren't all that many that weave Halloween into the pages.

Here are a few that spark my interest.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked is a classic from the archives of Ray Bradbury. If you haven't read it yet just imagine: two thirteen-year-olds, a traveling carnival and more jump-scares than the heart can handle. Oh yes, and spooky Halloween!


Another classic is Norman Partridge's Dark Harvest

Dark Harvest is set in the 60s, like Stranger Things, and packed with plenty of suspense. Why not when the town's teenagers comb the streets on Halloween, intent on killing the October Boy. The winner (aka murderer) gets the prize and leaves town, never to be seen again. Or so we think...

This one will set the stage for those trick or treat bangs on the door!


A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness



The first book in the All Souls Trilogy, be ready with book two if you don't want to dangle over the edge of the cliff. The story of an academic witch in denial, this is historical fantasy at its finest, with a splash of Halloween at the (cliffhanger) ending.


Dance Upon the Air by Nora Roberts

This is also the start of a trilogy - Three Sisters Island. Set on said island, the series has it all: a strong female character with a terrible past, a curse, a love true-blue and a loudly ticking clock. And yes, Halloween!


A Path Begins - by J. A. White
Book #1 in the Thickety series, this story is set in colonial times. Think a dark forest. Vicious beasts. Deadly plants. Spellbooks. Secrets. Mysteries. Witches, and a girl everyone hates...

Yes, it's marketed as a middle-grade book but some might feel the content is too disturbing for that age range. Are there Halloween themes? You bet, colonial-style!

I'd love to know what your fav Halloween books are and if you plan to curl up with one at the end of the month.

Let us know in the comments!

Trick or treat,

xxKim

* * *



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 AKWilder.com site.

Contact at kimfalconer.com

Thursday, October 3, 2019

High Fives with Amanda: When art imitates life

High Fives from Amanda

Recently, as I crawl through the muck and mire that is revising a series (hopefully I can share some news soon 😊), I started thinking about how strange it was to be a writer. The strange things that we do to ourselves, the way is warps reality around us, the way it fundamental changes the way we look at the world, the caffeine dependency that comes along with it.

And how wrong the movies get it. Which is strange because screenwriters are writers, and yet I've never seen a writer like myself represented on film. But there are some close glimpses of the truth. An essence of what life is like as a person who lives in their head while they are living in the world.

So in no particular order, here are five movies that do get something right about being a writer.


1). Stranger than Fiction - The agony the writer feels about what she might be doing to the main character is totally on par with what I feel about the horrible things that I'm writing about with my MC. I really do feel bad some times, or grossed out that I am actually going to talk about zombie eyeballs, but in the end it really does make for a better story. 

2) Almost Famous - What we wish it was like. I wish writing was all about the glamour of research and parties and drinking and not the actuality of sitting in a cold dark room and just hammering out your thoughts. 
3) The Shining- This one probably gets right what our families think will happen to us after so many hours in front of a computer with people talking in your head. Not sure I really need to elaborate o this one. 

4). Midnight in Paris- This one is probably the closest  to what it is actually like for me when I am writing. Its disappearing into another world with all your imaginary friends and falling in love and wishing that you could just stay there instead of in the real world, where there is laundry and dirty dishes and responsibility. 

5). Young Adult- We are not that damaged, but stealing dialogue from the aisles of Target is SPOT ON as well as the constant narration of our novels in our heads. I'm always listening and thanks to my smart phone, always have something handy to write down little snippets of dialogue or weird things that people. 

Honorable mentions: In the Mouth of Madness. Misery. Writer's Retreat. All three are great for this Halloween season as well.  

If you have a Top Five list you'd like me to cultivate, please let me know in the comments below or at @pantherista

In the meantime, give yourself a high five!

Amanda Arista
Author (more bits coming soon!)