Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Writing Fiction vs Fact

La-memoria-de-los-peces by Chelin Sanjuan
Fiction and non-fiction, fantasy and reality, they have a lot more in common than we think. On the surface, they seem like polar opposites. One is real, the other not, right? But given a large enough perspective, both are simply stories that we tell, and those stories have a way of swapping places over time.

For example, we've all heard this one: the world is flat - fact or fiction? The answer depends on 'when' and 'where' you ask it.  In the 6th century BC, Samos, the world is spherical, thanks to Pythagoras. Middle ages Europe, flat or round, it's a toss up. 16th century China, definitely flat. Stories change. What's real changes,and sometimes imagining something new can open doors to its existence.

We see this all the time when science fiction that becomes 'science fact'. Here are a few examples:

Edward Bellamy’s 1888 novel Looking Backward introduced the notion of 'debit cards' in a financial era that had no models for this kind of exchange.

Ray Bradbury's 1953 classic Fahrenheit 451 describes the earbud headphone perfectly, when that technology that didn't appear until 2000+.

Hugo Gernsback’s ancient serial Ralph 124c 41+ publised in 1911 included the 'telphot', basically SCYPE, or video conferencing.

Jules Verne, who wrote in the 1800s gave us everything from submarines to lunar landings.  The Earth To The Moon predicted Apollo 11's lunar landing in 1969 - from the launch from Florida to the amount of force that needed escape Earth’s atmosphere.

And Philip K. Dick's 1956 Minority Report portrayed multiple 'fictional' technologies that have since become reality, including facial recognition software, personalized advertising and gesture-based user interfaces long before touchscreens and motion-sensing inputs became common.

The Spell of Rosette, a story about DNA,
strange attractions and other forms of magic.
One of my favorite recent 'stories' from neuroscience is that meditation alters gene expression. It means that our thoughts (mantras) have a direct effect on our DNA, changing our physical make up. Of course, Vedic masters have been telling this story for thousands of years, but now researchers in brain science are saying it's 'real'.

The notion of altering gene expression with our thoughts is the bedrock of my Quantum Enchantment Series, a science fantasy whose hero is a quantum computer who thinks himself up a Tulpa body and gets out of Dodge before they pull his plug. I wrote that before the recent breakthrough . . .

Do you have a favorite 'fiction' you would love to see come true? A story that seemed outlandish at the time but is commonplace now? We'd love to hear about it.

Kim Falconer is a Supernatural Underground author writing paranormal romance, urban fantasy, YA and epic science fantasy novels.

You can find out more about Kim at kimfalconer.com or on the 11th House Blog, and on FaceBook and Twitter. She posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month. Her latest release is"Blood and Water" in Supernatural Underground: Vampires Gone Wild.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Holy Smoke: The Supreme Ordeal

Year of Living Heroically #7- The Ordeal

So my lovelies, you might have noticed that I didn't post last month. I'm not going to say that I was going through my own Ordeal, but let's say that I am really glad that August is over. I don't know if I spent the month living heroically, but looking back on it, I should have just stayed in bed instead of choosing to go once more into the breach.

This month, we are talking about the Ordeal, aka The Supreme Ordeal, aka the Dark Moment, aka, Oh-MyGod-Luke-is-Dead-in-a-Trash-Compactor part in the story where our hero dies. But totally comes back. Its okay. You looked a little worried there for a moment.

After our trek with our allies, meeting the foe, and choosing, not quite brilliantly, to go toward the cave with the dragon, our hero has bottlenecked herself into the certain death. One of the reason's it is certain is the hero doesn't see it coming. The certain death is hiding in a blind spot with the hero's flaws. Ex: Luke's need to be a hero like his father and save the princess is his flaw that ends him up in a nasty situation.

The key to defining the supreme ordeal for me has always been that this event fundamental changes who the hero has been up to this point. Even though she has embraced all the things she has learned during her tests and use them to varying degrees of success, this event will break her because it is directly connected to an internal flaw fighting against her, preventing her from being the hero she needs to be. The supreme ordeal will shatter who she thinks she is. It will literally break them across a rack. It is perfectly tailored to destroy that person who crossed the threshold all those chapters ago. And if she survives, she will be purified to continue on her trek, OR she will fail and is doomed to repeat it again.

Think of our hero as a wad of clay who wants to grow up and be a real coffee mug (no personal preference here, a tea cup is perfectly acceptable). The journey so far as molded our hero into a cup, maybe gotten a nice coat of glaze and a handle. The supreme ordeal is the kiln that will change our hero from a mushy, moldable lump into something that is very much like a coffee cup. After this event, the hero can not go back to being an ordinary guy anymore than the newly fired cup can to back into a ball of clay.

So this takes a newly formed hero, this purer form of our main character, one that has been fundamentally changed, back on course to the reason they were on the journey in the first place. Providing that she didn't fail miserably (possibly another post for another time).

Now, what I'm not going to do is mention a movie with an actual dragon, because that would be too easy. I thought I'd mention two not-so magical supreme ordeals that might feel a little closer to home.

Devil wears Prada- Andy's trip to Paris- she really is not the sweet little Andy she was when she gets back from Paris. Though I wish my supreme ordeals had Simon Baker in them.

Dead Poet's Society- When Todd is forced to improv a poem in front of the entire class. Once done, he is a new student full of confidence who will stand up for his friends and teacher at the end of the movie.

Because I write paranormal, there are some teeth and claws in my supreme ordeals. In Diaries, Violet's
flaw was always her low self-esteem. When she is attacked on her first date in years, she is faced with her boyfriend's death or her accepting that she is powerful enough to save him. Violet comes out the other side a stronger shifter, but no longer just that quirky girl with her head in the sand.

In life, I think we all know what our supreme ordeals look like. They are the moments that we look back on and see that's were I changed. That hurt like hell and I'm stronger for it. Ordeals are very internal and person specific. My ordeal could be your Tuesday and vise versa.

So my parting thought to you for this month of living heroically is to realize that you can't know what part of another's journey they are on. For all you know, they just faced a dragon.

Amanda Arista
Author of Diaries of an Urban Panther

Monday, September 1, 2014

"Supernaturally" Tips For Aspiring Writers

Over the weekend, I had the very great pleasure to chair the "Supernaturally" event with YA authors Laini Taylor and Elizabeth Knox at the WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers' Festival.

L-R: Laini, Elizabeth, moi.
(My thanks to HachetteNZ & The Realm for the photo.)

With authors of Laini and Elizabeth's calibre speaking it's not surprising that the question time included a request for "tips for aspiring writers."

So I thought I'd share something from their replies and add a few "extry" tips of my own today.

Laini Taylor
The remark Laini made that really resonated with me was (& I paraphrase):

Tip 1:
"Writing takes at least 100% of what you have to give so it's important to make other life choices that support your ability to give that 100%+, for example choosing an undemanding part-time or day job."

While Elizabeth Knox made an equally important observation (and again I paraphrase):

Elizabeth Knox
 "No matter how demanding the writing life we need to make sure we keep having fun with our writing."

Yes indeed to both these points. I'd also add the following from my own experience:

Tip 3:
Write, not necessarily what you know (in which case no Fantasy would ever be written—a point both Laini and Elizabeth also made!) but what you love because that is the creative touchstone from which almost everything else follows.

Helen Lowe (that's me again!)
Tip 4:
"Life," to quote Hippocrates, "is short but the art long." So don't wait. Start now!

Tip 5:
The writing flows easily—keep going; the writing comes hard—keep going. Keep going!

Everything else is up to the writer, because every creative voice is unique and must find its own 'right path."

Write on—and may the muses be with us all.

Monday, August 25, 2014


Congratulations to Bella Boo, who won this month's contest! Thank you all for the lovely comments! Please come back next month--I'll have some photos of Scotland!! And I'll be giving away signed copies of The Vampire and the Virgin and Eat Prey Love! Meanwhile, you can follow the Scottish adventures on Facebook and Twitter.  See you next month!

Have any of you been watching the new television series, Outlander?  Jamie Frasier captured my heart years ago when I first read Outlander, back in 1991. But then you know that I have a thing for valiant young men in kilts (or valiant old vampires in kilts!).  One of the things I love most about the TV show is that we get to see Scotland. I've been fascinated with that country ever since I was a kid reading
Nancy Drew books and she traveled to Scotland (and solved a mystery, of course.) And I have Scottish ancestors, so I can't help but feel drawn there.

In September, I'll be traveling to Scotland with a group of writers.  You may know of a few of them-- Cathy Maxwell, Lorraine Heath, Elizabeth Essex.  We'll fly in together to Glasgow, and then take off to an old hunting lodge for a week. Of course, the only thing we'll be hunting is countryside, castles, and men in kilts! When we come back to Glasgow on Sept. 14, I hope to meet some of my readers. If you are able to attend our get-together, please let me know! I want to bring a signed book for everyone.

And since sadly, you can't all make it, I'll give away two signed books today.  One lucky winner will receive a signed copy of Secret Life of a Vampire and Forbidden Nights with a Vampire! Just leave a comment to enter. International entries are welcome. Good luck!!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Loving the rogue

Each month, the fabulous Helen Lowe sends us ideas for posts - because sometimes, you get so caught up in your world (both the real one and the one in your head) that you just can't conceive of what to blog about.

I don't know if Helen was inspired by one of the comments on my last post, but one of her prompts about swashbucking rogues mentioned the one, the only, Han Solo. So, let's get our Solo love on.

What was it about Solo that attracted us (apart from the fact he was played by Harrison Ford - seriously, just look at that face!)? Why was it the bad boy, who wasn't supposed to be much more than a foil to show up how heroic Luke was, who became the star of the trilogy?

I've always kinda felt sorry for Mark Hamill. He should have been the one to come out of those movies a megastar. Instead, we've been gifted with decades of Harrison Ford.

I don't think it's just about the actors. I don't think it's about the fact Hamill had that accident and it changed his face. I think it was about the characters.

While Luke had the real hero storyline, he started off selfish and a whiner and I don't think any of us ever got over that. Whereas the first time we see Han he's poised, in control, and you bet your sweet patootie that he shot first! Not likeable, but still you see in the relationship with Chewbacca that there's something to him. Han knew who he was, and he wasn't apologising for it. Luke knew what he wanted to be, and did nothing to get himself there until circumstances allowed it.

In the end, I think that's the attraction of the rogue - it's his confidence. He don't care what people think, and we'd all like to be like that.

So let's drink a toast to Han Solo and his ilk - may we never lack for a good rogue!

What do you love most about Han Solo in particular, but rogues in general? I'd love to know. Help inspire me to write my own lovable rogue!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Masquerade of Fiction

Zorro the Mask
Name your favorite masked character and win a free kindle book.

The winner is - Diane Scicluna! Please send me your email address  (to enchantmentATkimfalconerDOTcom) and I'll send you your copy of Tatsania's gift, or Vampires Gone Wild, if you prefer. Congratulations! 

Since the beginning of time, masks have had a powerful influence on human evolution. From preliterate societies to the ancient Greeks and on to present times, the mask represents a part of our multiplicity, the many ‘selves’ that reside within.

Greek Masks of Comedy and Tragedy
In the Greek amphitheater, masks were performance props that helped bring out a ‘persona,’ a word that originally meant ‘to sound through’. The mask actually amplified the voice of the actor on stage, a wonderful metaphor for the expression of character.

Joseph Campbell explores this deeply in The Masks of God, delving into philosophical views of supreme beings in preliterate, Eastern, and Western cultures. He shows how, through story and ritual, we meet the divine, and sometimes demonic (dynamic), within - via our masks.

Batman the Game

In modern times, the mask (metaphorical or real) can be a way of allowing a particular aspect of our personality its day in the sun. We put on the mask and become something  else, something more than . . .
This ‘primitive’ practice of donning a mask to express a repressed aspect of the Self is common. We do it all the time when we:

Put on our happy face.

Find our serious look.

Give others our kick-ass stare.

Go all gooey or seductive . . .

Jim Carrey and Cameron Diaz in The Mask

We still use masks in fiction to embellish (hide, punish, trick, curse, bless, amplify) a character. It may seem like the mask makes them more archetypal, as in the evil of Darth Vader, the trickster Stanley Ipkiss in The Mask, or Batman and Zorro’s dark hero, but the story always reveals its deeper meaning when the characters finally take off the mask. Then we see what lies beneath.

William Butler Yeats suggests we sometimes prefer the masks stay on!

The Mask

"PUT off that mask of burning gold
With emerald eyes."
"O no, my dear, you make so bold
To find if hearts be wild and wise,
And yet not cold."
"I would but find what's there to find,
Love or deceit."
"It was the mask engaged your mind,
And after set your heart to beat,
Not what's behind."
"But lest you are my enemy,
I must enquire.”
"O no, my dear, let all that be;
What matter, so there is but fire
In you, in me?"

What’s your favorite mask in film or literature? Lord Vader? Scream? Dread Pirate Roberts? Zorro? Predator? Stanley Ipkiss? Stanley Ipkiss’s dog? I’d love to hear.

Name your favorite, most scary/awesome/sexy mask in the comments and receive a Kindle copy of Tatsania’s Gift, a YA dystopia novella, lead in to the Quantum Encryption series.

Kim Falconer is a Supernatural Underground author writing paranormal romance, urban fantasy, YA and epic science fantasy novels.

You can find out more about Kim at kimfalconer.com or on the 11th House Blog, and on FaceBook and Twitter. She posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month. Her latest release is"Blood and Water" in Supernatural Underground: Vampires Gone Wild.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Creating Characters

A question I'm often asked is how I go about creating characters—and it's certainly a huge part of the writing process.
Malian of Night
Usually, my characters either 'spring forth' in an instant, fully formed Athena style, or they evolve over time a long time before I begin writing. Yet even with the evolving characters, there’s often a flashpoint moment – usually an image of the character in a place or situation where their identity becomes ‘concrete.’ Sometimes it can be the ‘voice’ of the character I hear first. The flashpoint also comes with with far more backstory around what the character’s life is, and the challenges ahead—which is when the writing begins.

In the case of Malian, in the The Wall Of Night series, the flashpoint was an image of her scaling the interior wall of an ancient, ruined castle that was imbued with shadows and a bloody history. She had already been with me a long time at that point, but that was the moment in which her character and journey really became clear. As the series has developed, Malian's character has continued to evolve in relation to events, as well as to changes in the characters around her.

I feel it's important that happen, since it’s a vital part of making characters real. I also believe that character continuity is vital to the authenticity of a story—which means that a character cannot just go and do something against her or his nature, as established in the story thus far, simply to advance the next element in the plot. Not if I’m “keeping it real” as a writer.

Malian is a major character and so obviously gets a lot of attention. But for me, a yardstick of writing quality is whether the minor characters, for whatever brief time they are on the stage of the story, are equally real. One way I like to think about this in my own writing is that even if a character is not important to the story being told, he or she (or "it", since I do write fantasy!) will be important to him or herself. Even the most minor character will have a history and a life that matters to them—and as the writer I have to convey a sense of that.

When an author does this successfully, I believe it adds depth and texture, as well as conviction, to the story. I know it adds greatly to my enjoyment of a book when I don my reader’s hat.