Friday, November 16, 2018

Tricksters Afoot in Fiction

Image by Maroczna Postac

Fantasy fiction is rich with archetypal figures, characters that appear in all cultures, in all places, in all times. Think of them as the wise old man, the hero, the mentor, the villain, the innocent, the witch/shaman, the enchanter, the messenger, the ally, the ghost, the bad place... So many. But the figure I want to focus on today is the wily, enigmatic Trickster.

No matter how storytelling changes over time, through centuries and millennia, the Trickster remains one of the most beguiling and disturbing characters of them all. She, or he, goes by many names, the fool, the clown, the jester the disrupter, the rebel, but all describe a single entity with a powerful purpose.

Spike may be the most honest of all the BTVS characters.

What is the Trickster energy?

At the core of the Trickster is disruption, the intention to pull on the threads of order so the old rule will unravel, allowing for insight, growth and change. The Trickster presents the hero with a new perspective, one that might both excite and terrify. It certainly provides the opportunity for contrasting views.

“The Trickster’s function is to break taboos, create mischief, stir things up. In the end, the Trickster gives people what they really want: some sort of freedom.” — Tom Robbins

Take Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As a villain, he never hides his intentions to do as much harm as possible. But he loves his evilness so much, his joy in it becomes contagious, an act only a Trickster can accomplish. He laughs at the rules and invites the reader/viewer, and Buffy herself, to consider an alternative perspective.

Why we Need the Trickster
Bob the Skull in the Dresden Files

Tricksters come along when the hero, or the story, is stuck. They tip the apple cart, tell the truth, blow the roof off the house and crack open the windows, setting everything upside down. The dust stirred up by the Trickster restores the hero's vitality, returning to flow of the creative life force. Where once there were walls, gates and thick forests, a pathway opens.

Tricksters in Fiction

Some Tricksters are obvious, Mr Nancy in Neil Gaiman's American Gods, Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, Matilda by Roald Dahl, Fitz in Robin Hobb's the fool, Bob the Skull in the Dresden Files.... but one example that strikes me as more enigmatic than most is Tom Bombadil in LOTH. 

He's a Trickster from the start and knows the way's of nature, has command over Old Man Willow and his entire forest, yet  Frodo's ring has no power over him. He speaks in riddles and rhymes and seems to exist outside the rest of the story. So far outside that Peter Jackson deleted his scenes to make room for more vital characters. Fortunately, Tom Bombadil remains in the books.

As Trickster, Bombadil allows the reader to wonder, giving a breathing space to see the larger picture in the history of the Ring. In him, we meet a character who exists beyond the constructs of the story, which shows us, and Frodo, that even for a moment, we can stand in that space too. 

“‘…even in a mythical Age there must be some enigmas, as there always are.  Tom Bombadil is one (intentionally).'” (Tolkien, Letter 144, p 174)

Salia concept art by Anna Campbell
A favourite Trickster character in my own writing, found in The Blood in the Beginning, Blood and Water and in the upcoming The Bone Throwers, is Salila. She's much like Spike in her disregard for the natural order of things, for rules and morals and codes. She blasts into scenes with the irreverence and evil of a demon, all while capturing the readers' hearts.

How about your favourite Tricksters? I'd love to hear about them.


Kim Falconer's New YA Fantasy Series is out in 2019 - The Bone Throwers. Also check her urban fantasy out now - The Blood in the Beginning - and Ava Sykes Novel and the SFF Quantum Enchantment SeriesYou can find Kim on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

Kim also runs where she teaches the law of attraction and astrology. 

Catch her here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Summer Is A Comin' In...

Now doesn't it seem odd to write (and read!) that title on the day after Halloween, which is not only all about "ghosties and ghoulies, long-leggetie beasties, And things that go bump in the night" (and also books that do the same!) but also about autumn and the year closing in.

That's because the origins of Halloween are strongly centered in the cultures and traditions of the Northern Hemisphere, but here in the Southern Hemisphere (as I explained in last month's post, Halloween Is Coming) 31 October is the cusp between spring and summer.

Hence the title of this post, because right now summer "is" a coming in — and to prove it, here are a few photos from my garden:

Poppy splendor
First artichokes of the season
Wisteria in bloom...

But there's still a place for 'books that go bump' in the lengthening summer twilights, so north or south, we have that goodness to share...


Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, and blogger whose first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. Her second, The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012. The sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013. Daughter Of Blood, (The Wall Of Night, Book Three) is Helen's most recent book and she is currently working on the fourth and final novel in The Wall Of Night series. Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog and is also on Twitter: @helenl0we

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Happily Never After: Do Fairy Tales Really NEED to come true?

I've always been a "fairy tale" kind of girl. Anything by the brothers Grimm captivated me as a child, especially if it involved castles or darkened woods, kind-hearted maidens, fantastic adventures and loyal companions. As I grew, so did my reading range, my imagination expanding to devour the fantasy worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien, Mary Stewart and Anne McCaffrey. Most fantasy novels usually seemed to involve some type of historical setting, whether real or imagined, which led me to an abiding love for historical fiction of all types. Georgette Heyer's THE BLACK MOTH and DEVIL'S CUB then led me to discover historical romance novels, where I really hit "fairy tale" pay dirt! I devoured tale after tale of fair maidens both stolen and rescued by manly warriors who found strength in weakness, brought to their knees by the power of true love. It was a fantasy, but as with any good fairy tale, it was a fantasy that I wanted to be a part of. I needed to believe that if good and evil both must exist, evil could sometimes be vanquished and good could sometimes win. Sometimes in life, everything comes together just the way it should, and you get to finish that last chapter with a happy sigh, knowing that "they all lived happily ever after".


In the real world, sometimes things don't work out. Sometimes you fall in love with someone who lets you down, or doesn't love you back. Sometimes a person isn't who you thought they were, or maybe you weren't exactly what they were looking for, either. Sometimes... well, sometimes, there's someone else, someone you can't forget.

This is the premise behind my latest novel, HAPPILY NEVER AFTER, Book #5 in the Nicki Styx paranormal mystery series. For the first four books in this series, Nicki has been head over heels in love with one man, but there is another man who haunts her dreams, someone who walks a fine line between a fallen angel and a devious devil. Nicki wants to live happily ever after, but is she strong enough to shun the Darkness and live in the Light, knowing how easily the dangerously devilish Sammy Divine can turn her dreams into nightmares?

I hope you read it and find out,



A Southern girl with an overactive imagination, Terri Garey writes award-winning and critically-acclaimed urban fantasy. Her novels have been described as "smoldering" by Publishers Weekly, and "sultry and upbeat" by Library Journal. Even though she's a big scaredy-cat who can't watch horror movies or visit haunted houses, she loves moonlit graveyards, moss-covered headstones and the idea that life goes on even after it's over. You can visit her on the web, friend her on Facebook and occasionally find her on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Alchemy of Horror

Magic Realism Art of Rusty McDonald
Halloween, as Sup author Helen Lowe explains in her post this month, comes from Samhain, the Celtic day of the dead, where the spirits of those passed are placated with offerings of food. It makes me wonder what else we are placating when we welcome ghosts, ghouls and demons into our lives. I mean, we do welcome them, don't we?

I know I do.

Three of my favourite series off the top of my head are iZombie, Lucifer and The Vampire Diaries.

Three books that I've read or reread recently are The Southern Vampire MysteriesAnna Dressed in Blood and the Sandman Slim.

All deal with supernatural and horror themes.

I certainly don't need the excuse of Halloween to immerse in these genres. Heck, I write the stuff myself - Books that go bump in the night.

The question is, why?

Why would anyone want to have Horror as a pastime, a career, as entertainment?

You can google it and find explanations like dealing with fear, power and control, an adrenaline rush in a 'safe' environment, living on the edge in the comfort of your own home... Sup author Merrie Destefano has written on this topic and covers it well.

But I can't help but wonder, is there more to it?

Musing on it, up popped a single word: alchemy.

Yes, I mean the exploration of consciousness handed down to us from medieval times.

This alchemy is "...a living form of sacred psychology... the projection of a cosmic and spiritual drama in laboratory terms, an art, both experiential and experimental. It is a worldview which unifies spirit and matter..." - Iona Miller, 1986

Simply put, alchemy reflects the process of personal transformation in the metaphor of turning lead into gold.

So, what does this alchemy have to do with books that go bump in the night?


In the alchemical process, there is always a container, a vessel of some kind, real or imagined, that that provides the space for transformation to occur. When reading horror, the story becomes a container for the prima materia, the raw psychic urge for growth and transformation that lies within us.

Think of it like this: Every time we are moved to the heightened emotions and extreme fear of a scary story or film, we switch on a powerful psychological process that shakes us out of complacency. Within the alchemical container, we may learn to remake ourselves, transcending judgments, social conditioning, unconscious patterns and beliefs.

And then, abracadabra, we create a chance to live more authentically, in full awareness of the present moment.

It's a theory in progress, but the next time you pick up your fav fiction or switch on that scary show, you may notice the mystical fumes bubbling up from the cauldron, engaging you on the next step of your own, inner transformation journey.

And with that, happy Halloween!


* * *

Kim Falconer's latest novel, an urban fantasy, is out now - The Blood in the Beginning - and Ava Sykes Novel. You can find Kim on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Kim also runs where she teaches the law of attraction and astrology. 

Kim posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month, hosts Save the Day Writer's Community on FB and posts a daily astrology weather report on Facebook. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Wait...What...I missed an entire month?

2018 Year of the New: Get it together, Arista!

So apparently after my experiment with waking up early to find time to write (which did NOT work for me), it messed up my schedule so much that I missed an entire month. Like, where did September go?

Did I do stuff? I don't know.

Did I forget stuff? I don't know.

So obviously I need to get it together. I've got a few friends who keep it together with bullet journals
or gratitude books or fancy ways of keeping to-do lists and coloring and writing out what happened that week. They write down their shopping lists, schedules, and keep track of goals in it. And they are all colorful and on pretty pages in fancy journals with fancy tape.

I've never been a journal person. Even when I was little and everyone would get me journals, I would just use those to write stories in. I've never really chronicled my life in any way. Perhaps it is because I know that my external life is really boring, while my internal one is cray-cray.

But I've been reading a few articles in conjunction with the Year of the New and several mentioned writing out small goals. I wrote out my goals in May and that seemed to work. I hit every one of those, so perhaps, a mixture of smaller goals with some sort of journal to help chronicle exactly what I am doing with my time. I know that it won't slow down time, but it will at least help me see what I've been doing (if not writing). Small goals most often take the form of pages editing or words written toward a set number.

So as you can see to the left, I've gotten myself a SIMPLE calendar to put my stuff on and have marked out my need for this month: A final polish on a manuscript before it goes on submission. So a 300 page novel, with a need for about 20 pages a day to make sure that I can have it in my the middle of the month.

And I swear I am not hyperventilating at the sheer number of things on my calendar on the third day of the month (breathes into bag).

The other part of this goal-tracking thing seems to be rewarding yourself for a job well done. I wrote in August about feeding your muse, so it makes sense that once my monthly goals have been written down and achieved that I should get some sort of carrot at the end of the rope, right? I mean, no one edits because they like it, right?

And Netflix, as always has delivered, in the handsome and English embodiment of
Charlie Cox. Daredevil Season 3 comes out on October 19th. I have a huge spot in my heart for this city-driven and super violent show and this adorable actor, so it seems like it is the PERFECT reward for completing my editing goals for the month.

So lets get this month done people!!

Carry Onward, dear readers.

Amanda Arista
Author, Diaries of an Urban Panther series

Monday, October 1, 2018

Halloween Is Coming!

Halloween "is" Coming!
It may only be 1 October today, with Halloween way-aways at the end of the monthbut having turned the seasonal corner into October and with the equinox already two weeks past, my mind is already turning toward jack o' lanterns and trick-or -treating. All the elements that make for a great Halloween!

As some or all of you may know, I live in the Southern Hemisphere, which means that Halloween here falls in spring. The festival does get celebrated, but I can't help feeling that Halloween goes so much better with its autumnal origins: there's something about ghost tales and the supernatural that fits perfectly with the nights drawing in, firesides and candlelight, and shadows dancing on the walls.

Exactly the conditions that are optimal for tall tales, spooky yarns, and "books that go bump in the night" as wellthe latter being something of our raison d'etre, here on the Supernatural Underground. In fact, if you cast your eyes right to the sidebar, you'll find some great paranormal stories and undead tales right there!

The origins of Halloween go back a long way, at least as far as the Celtic era when the festival of Samhain marked the end of the harvest season and the passage of the year out of summer and into the cold and dark of winter. As such, Samhain was also a “day of the dead,” when the spirits of those who had passed must be placated with offerings of food.

Art: PJ Fitzpatrick
Once Christianity became dominant, the 31 October/1 November date for the Celtic festival of Samhain was transformed into the religious festival of All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Day, followed immediately by All Souls. The Celtic traditions persisted, however, which is why Halloween is still a festival for "ghosties and ghoulies, long-leggetie beasties, And things that go bump in the night."

As a kid, one of my favorite Halloween stories was that of Tam Lin, a young mortal man stolen away by the fey, whose soul was to be lost to Hell on Halloween unless his lover, Janet, can win him back. I particularly liked the retelling in Rosemary Sutcliff’s children's book, The Armourer’s House, as recounted in the Chapter titled “A Tale for Hallowe’en."

Subsequently I have read several other Tam Lin retellings, including Pamela Dean's Tam Lin and Patricia McKillip's Solstice Wood (which won the 2007 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature.)

Although not specifically set at Halloween, Raymond E Feist's Faerie Tale delves into the crossover between the mortal and supernatural worlds, while Roger Zelazny's A Night in the Lonesome October specifically focuses on Halloween (with a cast of fictional protagonists and antagonists, such as Sherlock Holmes, Jack the Ripper, and Victor Frankenstein thrown in.)

Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book also has Halloween overtones (aside from being set in a graveyard) when the living and the dead come together to dance 'the macabray' (the danse macabre.) 

And although I can't help but feel that Halloween itself best suits the autumn of its Northern Hemisphere origins, another great supernatural read that brings me back, not only to the Southern Hemisphere but to my home city of Christchurch, is the great Margaret Mahy's The Changeover.

These are just a few, Halloween-suitable reads that I've enjoyed over the ears. But with the eve of Jack O' Lanterns and ghosties coming up fast I'd love a few more recommendations for fireside tales.

So if you have a favorite, do tell me in the comments!

Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, and blogger whose first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. Her second, The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012. The sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013. Daughter Of Blood, (The Wall Of Night, Book Three) is Helen's most recent book and she is currently working on the fourth and final novel in The Wall Of Night series. Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog and is also on Twitter: @helenl0we

Sunday, September 16, 2018

An Image a Day Keep the Doctor Away

Michael Cheval  -  The Twelfth Caprice of Casanova
I made an amazing discovery while researching my current novel. I wasn't looking for a scientific paper on the benefits of viewing art. Not at all. I was looking for inspiration for a character response.

Dragon Sun by Stephani Pui-Mun Law
My hero, faced with multiple threats from every side, needed to keep her cool, her elegance, her composure. I wanted to 'see' the confidence in preparation to write it (because personally, if it were me in those shoes, I'd pick up my skirts and run).

Night Circus by Oleg Tchoubakov
So, as I searched through some of my favourite art pages, Pinterest,  Behance500pxInspiration Grid, I expanded out and found the Michael Cheval and Nina Y, both perfect for my character who doesn't face trouble so much as she feeds off it.

Digital Art by Nina Y
But, I also found this study, the gist being, that viewing art has a positive impact on our health.  It doesn't just lower anxiety and depression,  improving our immunity, it actually boosts critical thinking skills and inspires creativity.

Gabriel Pacheco
Talk about filling your tanks - a tip from Josh Whedon I learned years ago. He said, "My vacation from Buffy was two weeks every year, and in that time I read at least 10 books. My wife and I saw like nine plays, and that’s all we did. We just filled the tanks."

Angel Affair by Michael Parkes
I love that! On top of it all, viewing artwork that we find beautiful causes us to experience joys similar to those associated with falling in love. Do we need any other excuses?

Inspiration, anti-depressant, anxiety relief, immune strengthener, brain booster, and the ecstasy of falling love. So much for Pinterest being a guilty pleasure.

What about you? Fav art site? Museum? Gallery? Style? I'd love to hear about it.

See you in the comments.

* * *
Kim Falconer's latest novel is out now - The Blood in the Beginning - and Ava Sykes Novel.

Kim also runs where she teaches the law of attraction and astrology. 

Kim posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month, hosts Save the Day Writer's Community on FB and posts a daily astrology weather report on Facebook.