Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Art of Inspiration

René Magritte’s painting, The Empire of Lights) was the inspiration for William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973) movie including the famous scene in the film where Father Merrin first appears outside of possessed Regan MacNeil's home.
As an author, I'm often asked, where do you get your ideas? It's a common interview question and I think the most honest answer, for me, is EVERYWHERE.

Ideas are in the air we breathe, the food we eat, the colors we see, the sounds we hear, the textures we feel whether they warm or chill. Everything contains a kernel of inspiration, a spark that can contribute to a scene, a character, a twist in the plot.

One of the most visual inspirations is through art. In a painting, there is a story, and translating that story into words is pure magic. In this sense, art is the inspiration.

The Siren by John Waterhouse

A new series I'm writing under AK Wilder, for example, came to life at the behest of John Waterhouse's The Siren. It has also given rise to a paranormal romance novella, Blood and Water and an urban fantasy novel, The Blood in the Beginning.

Can you feel the inspiration coming from these paintings?

Mona Lisa by Leonardo Di Vinci 
Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code is powerfully plot driven, the main character being the Mona Lisa. Film or book - which brought the art to life the most for you?

The Blue Scarf by Tamara de Lempicka
The Last Nude by Ellis Avery found inspiration in Tamara de Lempicka's life and art. It's a story of a struggling American, Rafaela Fano, who avoiding the path to prostitution by agreeing to model for an artist... the results are as sultry as Lempicka’s Jazz Age paintings.

John Singer Sargent’s Madame X
The novel, I am Madame X by Gioia Diliberto. brings to life the image by John Singer Sargent in a way the painting, in its time, could not. Unveiled in Paris in 1884, it met with shock and ridicule for being too provocative, too risque. The book, in 2003, met with no such objection.

Vermeer's View of Delft

Finally, in Marcel Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu, the elderly writer, Bergotte, visits a Dutch art exhibit and, while gazing at a detail of Vermeer's View of Delft, drops dead.

Many critics search for what it is in the painting that killed Bergotte and triggered his final thoughts in the book.

I love how these pieces of art morph into a character in the story, answering questions as well as asking new ones.

If you have a favourite book born of a work of art, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

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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 Series

You can find Kim on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

High Fives from Amanda: Reasons to find your Peoples

This year has not really been any better than the trash fire that was 2018. I looked up and it was March.
MARCH. 

Like I missed the first two months of 2019 with my head still spinning, my desk still unorganized, and resolutions... forget it. I did manage to nearly finish a new book in the last two months, but its still unfinished, unlike that box of girl scout cookies I was supposed to share with my family. 

So I thought this year, 2019, we might just keep it short and sweet. As Helen is working through her Year of Romance, I'm going to work through a year of High Fives from Amanda, a short and sweet series of Top Five lists from yours truly. 

Five reasons you need to find a writing group. 
5. Writing has its own language. How many other hobbies really talk about the dark night of the soul on a regular basis? Other writers speak the language and you won't have to explain yourself to your significant other. Again. I've always thought people talking about football was like listening to the Droids from Star Wars, but some people get it. So its important to find your droids. 

4. Writing is a strange hobby. Other writers get it. They understand the carpal tunnel and the caffeine addition that you do to yourself willingly because you have this strange drive inside. Most importantly, they understand what happens when you don't write. When writer's block hits. They've hit the highs and the lows and they will have your back. They will laugh with you and cry with you and celebrate with you. 
Look at the #WritersCommunity hastag on Twitter.

3. Some will have already been there, gotten the tee-shirt, and its already in the cleaning rags pile. You don't have to reinvent the wheel, you just have to get it on your cart. When you find a group, sharing experiences and problems and resources becomes natural- you join a flow of information that you too can add to with your own experiences. 
"You're having a character problem- have you heard of this book?"  
"You're dialogue sequels aren't popping-- try this exercise." 
Mi shelf of writing books es tu shelf of writing books. 

2. Importantly, finding a group is a face-to-face, screaming reminder of hope that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. So many times growing up, I thought I would never find anyone like me, and when I did, I was so much more confident in all aspects of my life. This part of me wasn't wired wrong. There are other weirdly wired people too. 

MOST IMPORTANTLY, 

1. You might just get lucky enough to find a wonderfully supportive group like the ladies here at the Supernatural Underground blog who have literally been with be since the moment I launched my book and who continue to inspire me. I'm talking about you: Merrie and Terri and Helen and Kim. Stina and Rachel and T. Frohock too! 

Now most of these can also go for a sewing group, or a model rocket group, or a scuba diving group, but you need to find others who share your interests, your drives, your passions.  


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


Friday, March 1, 2019

Romance in Fantasy Fiction: "The Lord Of The Rings" Effect

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In last month's post, I promised that 2019 would be my Year of Romance (#YOR) in Fantasy fiction (#RIFF).

To begin, though, I 'm going to feature what is in many ways the least romantic story in Fantasy, The Lord Of The Rings (LoTR) by JRR Tolkien.

The reason I want to start with LoTR is because it's so hugely influential, particularly in the epic fantasy subgenre. And yet it's also a story in which romance is almost entirely missing-in-action—a trend that has come to characterize the epic fantasy subgenre as a whole.

(Although  recent years have seen a shift in this respect, with books like NK Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms having a strong romantic element.)

For a long time, though, epic fantasy has been the purview of major world events, conflict, and war—a trifecta in which love and romance haven't had much of a look in.

At least in part, I believe this is because LoTR is the yardstick against which subsequent epic fantasy has been measured. If you read on, I believe you may see why. :-)

Aragorn and Arwen: Love As Loss
LoTR
contains three "main" romances, although only one (Eowyn and Faramir) is in any way integral to the story. Arguably, it's not the most important relationship, though. That is, or "should" be the love between Aragorn, the leader of an old, lost kingdom in the north of the world, and also heir to the throne of Gondor, in the south.

Aragorn in the LoTR films
Arwen is an Elven princess and immortal, but if they marry she must lose her immortality. It's never quite clear why this "must" be so, but it certainly adds up to love as doom, and sacrifice, for Arwen. They can't marry, though, until the great evil, Sauron, is defeated and Aragorn becomes King in Gondor. So there are certainly strong elements of "star-crossed love", although they do win through to their "happy ever after."

Or so you think, if you don't delve into the Appendices. If you do, however, you'll realize that mortality ends up being a bitter cup for Arwen, one she must drink to the lees, ending up living alone long after Aragorn has died and all her kindred have gone. Of course, this will only matter if, as a reader, you care about Arwen.

Arwen in the LoTR films
But why should you care about Arwen? Because here's the thing: if you rely on the book itself and not the appendices, the love between Aragorn and Arwen comes as a complete surprise at the end of the third book. It did for me anyway, when suddenly at the end of everything Arwen arrives, and she and Aragorn are getting married because they've had this great and amazing love story going on...

Except that the great and amazing love story has been signaled by pretty much two prior incidents: in Book One (The Fellowship Of the Ring) when the hobbit, Frodo, sees Aragorn standing by Arwen's chair in the elvish community of Rivendell; and at the beginning of Book Three (The Return Of The King) when the northern rangers bring Aragorn a banner that Arwen has made for him.

Arwen & Aragorn: the film ending
I think I may be forgiven for not adding those two incidents together into the great love story of their age. (Just sayin')

And the subtext, particularly when reading the appendices, is that love between a man and a woman, and particularly its consummation, exacts a high price, including considerable loss and grief, for the woman.

The most intriguing thing about the romance between Aragorn and Arwen, though, is it's absence from the story, when (again) arguably romance, love, and relationship are central to the human condition.

Eowyn and Aragorn;  Eowyn and Faramir: The Schoolgirl Crush and Love As Consolation Prize
Eowyn - not a bit part
Unlike Arwen, Eowyn is unquestionably a major character in the story, really the only female character who gets major page time. (Although a case could be made for Galadriel in terms of quality if not quantity of page time.) As the lone female character-of-significance the main romantic elements in the story also center on Eowyn.

Eowyn & Faramir
In the first instance she has the equivalent of a schoolgirl crush on Aragorn, a love that is definitely not requited. Later, toward the end of the third book, Eowyn and Faramir fall in love, in what is truly the only romantic episode in the book.

In the book, too, their romance comes across as a love between equals, and as Faramir has been established as a cool character in his own right, their romance does not feel like a "consolation prize" for Eowyn. In the film, however, possibly because so much of the story was truncated and also because the character of Faramir was not so well developed, it did feel a little "consolation prize"-ish.

So, the schoolgirl crush and unrequited love for our heroine, but a truer and more equal love at the end—so there is some romantic light, just a little, at the end of the LoTR tunnel. ;-)

Sam Gamgee and Rosie Cotton: The Boy and Girl Next Door and Happy Ever After
Sam Gamgee on the Ring quest
Lastly, we have Sam Gamgee and Rosie Cotton, who if not quite childhood sweethearts are definitely the (farm)boy and (farm)gal next door. Is it romantic, though? Sam, after all, heads off (seemingly) without a backward look in support of "Master Frodo" and to see elves and face equally great dangers and wonders.

At the end, he returns to the Shire, and Rosie to the pages of the book, so they can finally get married and live happily ever after. Arguably, Rosie has remained steadfast in his absence, although we, as readers, don't actually know this.

Sam & Rosie: the happy return
After all, we could equally well assume that no one better has come along in the meantime, since Sam's absence has been a longish one... (Although as Anne of Green Gables would say, that is seeing the world as prose rather than poetry. ;-) )

Suffice it to say that Sam and Rosie seem to see the matter in poetry, rather than prose, and get married and—as in inferred in the book and recorded in the Appendices—live long and happily ever after.

Conclusion:
Aragorn and Arwen, Eowyn and Faramir, Sam and Rosie: unarguably, love makes an appearance in The Lord Of The Rings. And Eowyn and Faramir's story does qualify as a romantic episode. Yet given the importance of The Lord Of The Rings in shaping contemporary epic fantasy, I believe it's not surprising that until very recently epic was perceived as a subgenre that eschewed romance.

Given its importance to Fantasy literature overall, and also because I am currently writing an epic fantasy series myself, I felt The Lord Of The Rings effect should not be overlooked in my Year of Romance in Fantasy. Next month, though, I'll try and pick a book where love is far closer to the core of what makes the story tick.

Until then, read on with a #RIFF and a #YOR in your year. :-)

---

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

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Food That Goes Bump in the Night

Image by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law
I was talking to my editor about a scene that involved a feast and we got sidetracked on how food can become a character, showing us as much about a culture as their clothes, art, dance and music. How it is grown, harvested, prepared, the seasons and the seasonings, are part of a map to the story's worldbuilding.

And in Fantasy, food can also be magic. I thought it would be fun to play with some examples today.



Margaret Atwood's very first novel had a magical realism feel to me. Her use of food as a mirror of the main character, Marian, created a vivid story of shifting identity, self-awareness and lose of Self. representing Marian's identity.



Both the book and the film, Chocolat, delighted me. The creation of the chocolates seemed like an alchemical process to me and the senses that awake in the process, spellbinding!



And speaking of spellbinding alchemy, The Book of Unholy Mischief turns pages into a journey of the senses. "Luciano is plucked up by an illustrious chef and hired as an apprentice in the palace kitchen. It's an initiation into a rich and aromatic world filled with seductive ingredients and secrets..."


The magic in this book is mouthwatering, and the 'gift' the child receives more a curse... or is it. The element of emotional communication and the uncertainty of feeling 'for another' had my attention right from the start.


Holmberg's book is almost a reverse alchemy of Amiee Benders's above. In Magic Bitter, Magie Sweet, Marie doesn't sense the emotions of others through eating but can instil emotions and powers into things she bakes. A whole new look at the Gingerbread Man, that's for sure.



One of the earliest uses of food as magic comes to us via fairy tales where food is not only enchanting but once eaten, ordinary food tastes like dust. 


What I love the most about food as magic, is that it crosses genres, generating a sub-genre of its own that includes fantasy, historical, romance, contemporary, crime, mystery, thriller and of course YA and children's books. ie Snow White anyone? 

What books with food, magical or otherwise, are your favourites? I'd love to hear.

* * * 



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 GoodVibeAstrology.com where she teaches the law of attraction and astrology. 


Friday, February 1, 2019

A Theme For 2019: A Year of Romance in Fantasy Fiction


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 Last month, when thinking about the year ahead here on Supernatural Underground, I realized that this July will be my 9th anniversary of posting here on the 1st day of every month – and I think that I’ve only missed one of those dates.

When I started out, our Supernatural Underground theme was “Books That Go Bump In The Night”, which felt quite deliciously magical and maybe just a tad spooky. Now we’re all about “Fiction That Makes The Heart Beat Faster” – which I sure hope yours may have done when reading some if not all of the books featured in our side bar. J
Over the past few years, I’ve been very impressed by Amanda Arista’s fabulous post series that focus on a theme for the year, such as #YOLA, the Year of Living Authentically and last year’s Year Of The New. 
Nine years (the magical “three times three”) seems like an excellent time to mix things up a little, so I’ve decided to try out Amanda’s theme-for-the-year approach.
That decision made, I then had to put on my thinking cap, to find a theme to resonate with “Fiction That Makes The Heart Beat Faster.” (And if I can touch on “Books That Go Bump In The Night” as well, then all the better!) 
As a starting point, I thought I’d best stick with Fantasy, since that’s the fiction I write (and generally adore.) I then reflected that the Supernatural Underground’s origins were strongly grounded in Romance, particularly the Paranormal Urban kind – and when all’s said and done there are few things that make the heart beat quite so fast as romance…
So this year, dear Supernatural Undergrounders, I’m going to focus on Romance In Fantasy, trying to hone in on a distinctive form of fantasy (e.g. epic fantasy) and/or style of romance (e.g. “star-crossed”) with each post. It will not be exhaustive (or, I hope, exhausting!) in any way shape or form, just a fun look at books I’ve found interesting and at how romance figures – or mostly doesn’t figure, The Lord of the Rings I’m looking at you! – in the story.
There's this kiss -- but when it comes to romance in the book, I'm not so sure...
Sadly, I will almost certainly not feature all your favorites. L Quite probably, I will overlook what you believe to be a definitive book. L L This is because, as you have probably realized by now, I am a deeply flawed “ ‘uman bean.” 
Undying love -- but one sided?
But (great big “but” – huge, in fact!) I do aim to have fun with the Year of Romance and I hope you will, too. And, taking a leaf from Amanda’s book, I’m even going to use a hashtag. Yep, you guessed it, it’s #YOR! (Said with a roar [winks.]) But wait there’s moar – I may even have a second hashtag: #RIFF – Romance In Fantasy Fiction. ;-)
See ya next month with #RIFF #1 for #YOR. J
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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

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Can't Wait To Be Read 2019

The second in the Blood Eternal series is on my radar, out April 2019
With 2019 underway, it's time to reassess the alluring and sometimes daunting To Be Read list. 

Because, no matter how long the TBR stack, there's always room for more great books, right?

Here are some of my new additions, coming out in 2019. They range across a bevy of genres and sound amazing to me! Loving the cover art too! Do you have a favourite?

Can't wait for this by one of my fav authors.

I love this author. Her writing is crisp and engaging, the subject matter always deep. Don't be halted by the YA tag. Dunn is great reading, for any age.

The Wicked King, Book #2 in The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black
My first Holly Black title was The Darkest Part of the Forest and I've been a fan ever since. The Folk of the Air is right up there with her best!

#11 in the Mercy Thompson series out March 2019.
Fabulous Urban Fantasy! In all of this series, I think the first, Moon Called, is my fav, but I'm looking forward to more Mercy and Patricia Brigg's fabulous writing


Coming out February 19th, by Sup author, T. Frohock.

This is a long-anticipated read, a lyrical historical fantasy adventure. It's set in 1932 Spain and Germany and brings to life the world of the novellas collected in Los Nefilim: Spanish Nephilim battling daimons in a supernatural war to save humankind. Can't wait to read more of our own Supernatural Underground authors!

We're all waiting for book #4 of this fabulous series!

Speaking of our very own Sup authors, I just talked with Helen Lowe. Although she concedes it's not quite as exciting as anticipating a new release, Helen is very much looking forward to completing the fourth and final novel in her The Wall Of Night series (working title: The Chaos Gate)... coming out in the middle of the year? I hope so!

And, of course, she can't wait to share all the pre-release excitement, including cover art and sneak previews of the final instalment! Because (I was going to say "at the end of the day" at this point but realize it is every part of the day--and night!) the story is what we're all about here on Supernatural Underground.


Debut epic fantasy? Yes, please.
This is the first book in Lyons’ A Chorus of Dragons series launching an epic fantasy tale I'm really excited to dive into. I mean, dragons!

This book had me at the cover and the tagline. The ARC reviews are riveting! 
Seanan McGuire, who brought us October Daye, has a standalone fantasy coming out in May 2019. Looking forward to this one too. That cover...

Finally, I have a title coming out in September 2019 but am not allowed to say more. Sneak-peek it though, at AKWilder.com. :)

I'd love to hear of more books for 2019... especially the different and obscure ones that might be on your TBR list. As Haruki Murakami says, "If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking."

Ideas?


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 GoodVibeAstrology.com where she teaches the law of attraction and astrology. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Time To Chillax: Happy New Year!

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Happy New Year!
I love the whole idea of the new year, with its official marking off of the old and welcoming in fresh starts.

Most of all, though, I love the opportunity to chillax after all the pressure of Christmas—you know, decorations, food, presents, full on family-and-friends time—followed by New Year's Eve retrospectives and serious party time. Which is all fabulous and fun, but not precisely relaxing, especially when it all comes at the one time!

So New Year's Day is for finally kicking back, putting my feet up, and mixing up such delights as lying on the couch reading a book or watching a great TV show or movie.

At home, I hasten to add. There's no way I want to move away from that couch and "feet up" time if I can help it!

Right now I have a number of books on the go. Having fallen in love with the Shetland TV series this year, I have the first two books in the Ann Cleeves series to read: Raven Black and White Nights.

I've just finished the first one and really enjoyed it. Despite having seen the TV series, the novel still managed to hook me in and keep me reading so I'm really looking forward to White Nights.

Another two-book pair is Lamentation by historical-crime/mystery writer CJ Sansom and his latest work, Tombland (that's Tomb Land, folks, not Tom Bland, as I heard one fellow bookshop afficionado  say, in a slip of the tongue! ;-) )

The books are set in Tudor England, during the period of religious, political, and social unrest that followed Henry the VIII's breakaway from the Roman Catholic church.

The author's historicism is really good (imho) and the main character, Matthew Shardlake, wonderfully flawed.

I am reading Lamentation right now and have my suspicions who the mysterious antagonist may be, but must read on to find out if I have guessed correctly...

The fifth book on my New Year chillax reading list is Tempest and Slaughter (The Numair Chronicles Book One) by Tamora Pierce. I am a longtime fan of Ms Pierce's fantasy fiction, as well as hugely impressed by her output, so really pleased to have a new Tortall adventure to relax with.

As for TV series, besides Shetland, in this past year I've enjoyed time with The Expanse, The Last Kingdom, and Babylon Berlin, so am pleased the latest season of The Last Kingdom is still "to be watched" before the holiday is over.

The Last Kingdom
And then, of course, it will be back to writing, writing... But putting one's feet up with a good book and a TV series or two is a great way to ensure a little refreshment of both mind and spirit before returning to the hard work.

I hope you are all getting in a little chillax time, too, before returning to work. If you have some good reads to recommend or shows to share with your fellow Supernatural Undergrounders, we'd love to see your comment. :-)

In the meantime: Happy New Year!

---


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