Thursday, October 15, 2020

Raise. Your. Phantom.


Phantom Motion - Ave Fenix – Ascenso 

In the spirit of Halloween and all the great posts this month on ghosts and ghouls, I thought I would offer a little 'phantoms 101' for those intending to read Crown of Bones.

What is a Phantom?

Do not mistake a phantom for a ghost.

Phantoms reside in the depths of a savants’ soul and with training, they can be raised, held to solid form and commanded. Some say they are the shadow side of the savant, but they are also an embodiment of their will. 

Let’s be clear. They have a will of their own! Training does not always come easy, or stick.

How to Raise a Phantom

To raise their phantom, the savant must be touching the earth, usually dropping to one or both knees. The phantom separates from the savant, travels through the ground and then rises in a blast of rock and dirt. Earth is necessary to take material form.

Classes of Phantoms

The 5 Classes of Phantoms - Art by Anna Campbell Art

There are five categories or classes of phantoms one might raise – warrior, healer, ouster, caller, alter -- each offering a unique way to serve the realm. Warriors are for defence and offence, healers care for people, animals and plants alike, callers can draw the winds, rain, crops, weapons. They can find lost kittens or, with High Savants, call blood from the enemies' bones. Ousters have similar abilities but push instead of pull. Alters are shape-shifters with uses from observation, battle, communication and survival. 

Phantoms can also be a combination, for example, Samsen’s caller-alter. When it’s clear which class the savant belongs to, they are thereafter referred to simply as a warrior, or healer etc.

Take the Quiz

Find out what phantom you raise and report back. I'd love to know!

In the meantime, have a happy Halloween. You can read your Bare Bones Scopes HERE.


* * * 

Author Kim Falcconer

Kim Falconer's New YA Fantasy is out January 5, 2020 - Crown of Bones. book #1 in the Amassia Series (Writing asr A.K. Wilder

Also, check her urban fantasy  - The Blood in the Beginning - an Ava Sykes Novel and the SFF Quantum Enchantment Series

You can find Kim on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Or pop over and throw the bones or Raise your Phantom on the site.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Ghosts Through The Ages: Part 1

The spirits that tormented our ancestors had a lot more bite than they do in the 21st century. 


Think of a ghost and chances are you’re going to think of something ethereal and barely visible, a phantom-like creature that can pass through walls and knock books off shelves. In other words, you’re going to imagine something similar to what you’d see in the movie Paranormal Activity or the television series Ghost Hunters. Shadow-like spirits move through houses when people are sleeping or creep from room to room in uninhabited buildings.

Hence, the title of the television show—Ghost Hunters. It implies we have to hunt the ghosts.

This wasn’t always the case.

This viewpoint of spirits who come back from the dead as insubstantial wisps of smoke didn’t become conventional until the Victorian era. Before that, you didn’t have to go looking for the dead. They came looking for you and usually with a vengeance. They also didn’t come back as transparent pranksters.

They came back in the flesh.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Go a few centuries back in time, to the country of Romania and you’ll discover these folks had a different way of seeing the dead. They believed there were moroi (benevolent spirits) and stigoi (malevolent spirits). The benign spirits of dead ancestors were often welcomed into homes and offered a meal—something you can’t do unless the spirit has visited you in corporeal form. Over time, this form of wraith evolved into what we now call vampires or zombies.

Meanwhile, in Iceland, the Vikings had their own form of the returning dead—the draugar. With either white or black skin, these spirits often came back from the tomb for vengeance. Read through the Sagas of Icelanders, written from the 9th to the 14th centuries A.D., and you’ll discover a host of tales that depict these vindictive “ghosts” who caused physical harm those who stumbled across their path.

Ghost Stories

During the 12th to the 15th century, the telling of ghost stories was darker and fiercer, with tales of the returning dead sounding like a modern-day script for Friday the 13th. Churchmen, courtiers and monks, from both England and Germany, joined in, writing about local ghosts. A Yorkshire canon named William of Newburgh (1136-1198) penned medieval stories about ghosts who assaulted people in order to drink their blood, and corpses that came back from the tomb. An English courtier of King Henry II, Walter Map (1140-1210) also wrote about physical creatures that came back from the dead to drink blood. Another tale—told by a 14th century monk—tells of James Tankerlay, a renowned spirit who came back from the dead and attacked his former lover, putting out one of her eyes.

At this point in history, our written folklore recounted tales of ghosts with physical bodies. These spirits fought with humans, drank alcohol and ate meals. They refused to stay in their graves, choosing instead to rise up and paint the town red—preferably with the blood of the living. As a result, villagers often dug up rotting bodies, then performed unusual ceremonies on the remains, sometimes beheading bodies, sometimes staking them, burning them or chopping them to bits—all acts we now correlate with vampires.

Note: Written by Merrie Destefano and originally published in Halloween magazine. Stay tuned for Part 2, coming soon!

Also, if you'd like to get in the Halloween spirit, check out this sample audio for my upcoming Audible book, SHADE: A RE-IMAGINING OF MARY SHELLEY'S FRANKENSTEIN...

SHADE: Frankenstein meets Dracula in this Gothic retelling of Mary Shelley’s classic tale.
"Beautiful and atmospheric."—5 star review

AND stay up to date with all of my new releases by following me on BOOKBUB.


AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR AND ARTIST, Merrie Destefano studied art at Northern Illinois University, met her husband at a kazoo parade, laughs at all jokes, and ugly cries during corny movies. Her books have been published by HarperCollins, Entangled Teen, Walter Foster, and Ruby Slippers Press, and, most likely, she's writing her next book while you're reading this. Born in the Midwest, she now lives in Southern California, where she runs on caffeine, and shares her home with rescue dogs and cats.

Her writing awards include:
• 2010 Mount Hermon Writer of the Year
• 2019 Realm Award for Supernatural/Horror: Shade: A Re-Imagining of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.
• 2019 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award, Silver Medal Winner: Shade: A Re-Imagining of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.
• 2019 YARWA Athena Award, Second Place: YA/NA Speculative Fiction for Valiant.

You can visit her website here.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

A little night musings

Year of Genesis: Giveaways and Ghouls

I think y'all already know how much I love Halloween. The Arista house already has its decorations up, the Bean has selected her costume, and I've got the movie marathons lined up. Not even CoVid is going to stop me celebrating the one holiday of the year that is made for spooky little girls like me. I like to call it the one time of the year that I feel normal.

So with this Year of the Genesis, I thought I'd do something that might generate a little goodwill: share a bit of THE TRUTH ABOUT NIGHT and give away a few copies! Five print copies are available to cuddle up with on a dark night. The Goodreads giveaway is open Oct 1-15 in time to get the read for Halloween! 

Click here to enter!

And just in case you need a little more instant creepiness to get you through the day, below is part of The Truth about Night, available everywhere!


From the layout, there was only one more room to explore, the bedroom. I knew the truth about what I
was going to find in the bedroom. Had smelled the garlic of decay when I’d walked in the door.

One foot in front of the other, I made my way toward the back of the apartment. Rafe’s heat pressed against me as he followed closely.

It was on the bed, tangled up in sheets like a rowdy night gone wrong. From the doorway, I could make out a foot and maybe an elbow sticking out from under the white sheet with yellow flowers. Someone had covered up the body.

“Stay here,” I whispered to Rafe.

I took another step into the bedroom. Morning light slipped through the windows, and I was glad that no shadows hid in the corners. With one more step, I stood at the end of the bed. I reached toward sheet, but Rafe came to stop my hand.

“I’ve seen dead bodies before,” I assured him.

“What about evidence? What about—”

“I need to know if it’s Benny.”

He pressed his lips together and released my arm, standing next to me, shoulder to shoulder, a united front against the dead, against what might be under that sheet.

I rummaged around in my bag for a glove and pulled out the familiar blue latex.

An arch formed in Rafe’s brow.

“I’ve seen dead bodies before,” I repeated as I snapped the gloves on.

I slowly reached to pull the sheet from the bed. It wasn’t what I expected.

I’d seen dead bodies before. I’ve seen them freshly bloodied. I’d seen them bloated and floating and spread out across the highway like jam. But I’d never seen anything like this.

It was an experiment human beef jerky. The skin was tanned and dried—all of the moisture completely drained from it. The dress seemed starched, then freeze dried to the figure. The arms jutted out to form sharp angles and her legs were splayed wide, but feet touching. The lips peeled back from white teeth. But the hair was perfect. Long, dark hair splayed out against the pillow made her look like she was peacefully floating in water, like driftwood.

Rafe flinched. He had not seen as many dead bodies as I had, but still knew this was unholy. 

“What’s wrong here?” he asked, easing into our natural pattern of professor and journalist. 



Hope you guys enjoy and keep on being Spooky!!

Amanda Arista

Author, The Merci Lanard Files & Diaries of an Urban Panther

Insta&Twitter: @pantherista

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Year of Worldbuilding in Fantasy #9: The Many Worlds Of Kate Elliott


#YoW Year of Worldbuilding
#WiF Worldbuilding in Fantasy


My blogging theme for 2020 is Worldbuilding in Fantasy, chiefly because I believe it's an essential element that all the differing subgenres have in common. Plus it's always been an aspect of speculative fiction that spins my writing and reading wheels. :-)

When it comes to this month's author, I feel she's a must-include. To be honest, I'm not sure it's even possible to pen a series on Fantasy worldbuilding without featuring Kate Elliott. Quite simply, the worlds are a wow factor in every one of her series that I've read.


The Many Worlds of Kate Elliott

I'm going to start at my beginning, which was The King's Dragon, first published in 1997 around the same time as A Game Of Thrones (1996). I recall reading them back-to-back and loving both of them, with the worldbuilding a standout of the Kate Elliott novel for me. 

Along, that is, with Sanglant, the eponymous King's Dragon. Definitely an ooh-la-la encounter in the epic hero stakes... ;-)

I'm not sure if I've said this previously, but I really love history and historically informed Fantasy.Consequently, it's completely unsurprising that I love The King's Dragon's kingdoms of Wendar and Varre, in the continent of Novaria. 

I believe these kingdoms are loosely based on the Holy Roman Empire in the age of Charlemagne, with an empire and civilization being forged out of the (relatively) chaotic era that followed the disintegration of the Roman Empire. In this respect, the descriptor "Holy" is accurate, as it was the Christian religion that provided the new cohesive structure for Charlemagne's kingdom.

Kate Elliott echoes this historical structure in Wendar and its adjoining kingdoms, so religion and religious structures are an important part of the worldbuilding. So, too, are the clerical civil service, but also the military structures that support the power of the King. In this world, though, magic is an important element in the power structures of both church and Court. 

The worldbuilding also reflects the differences between the poor, chiefly rural peasantry, and the knightly/landholding classes, with the Church and the service of the King offering the main paths for advancement between the classes -- albeit only to an extent. And like Charlemagne's Dark Ages' empire, the kingdom of Wendar is beset by internal divisions and external enemies. 

I guess you might be getting why I also think of Kate Elliott's storytelling as anthropological. Culture and context are always integral to the worldbuilding. Yet The King's Dragon (and the subsequent Crown Of Stars series) is still Fantasy with a capital F. 

Magic is integral to the society and its power structures, and also to the powers that threaten it. These include the nonhuman Eika raiders, the nomadic Quman, gryphons, and the Elf-like Ashioi, whose kingdom was banished into another sphere of space-time under cataclysmic circumstances, millenia before, but is now poised to return...

Two subsequent series, the Crossroads and Spiritwalker trilogies, are also excellent examples of Kate Elliott's anthropological worldbuilding crossing with fully fledged Fantasy.

In fact, I believe the author's own words probably best sum up the Spiritwalker ethos:

"...this post-Roman Afro-Celtic icepunk alt-regency adventure fantasy, with Phoenician spies, shapeshifting saber-toothed cats, a handsome if icy cold mage, a woman who likes to eat, and of course lawyer dinosaurs."

Ya gotta love it, right? Right!

Recently, though, I read and loved Kate Elliott's YA trilogy, Court of Fives (which begins with the novel of the same name) --- and immediately loved the world because when it comes to historically-informed Fantasy, I (probably) love an archaic-Mediterranean world best of all.

The Court Of Fives world is (again loosely) reminiscent of ancient Eygpt, overlain with the later Ptolemaic empire of Alexander the Great's half-brother, Ptolemy, and his successors. So the city of Saryenia (think Alexandria) and surrounding realm of Efea, comprise two cultures and two 'worlds', one politically and physically imposed upon the other. The warfare that besets Efea is also consistent with the break-up of Alexander's massive empire following his death.

Best of all, though, this world has the Fives, a game of athletic and strategic skill based around a maze, which permeates every aspect of the culture. In this respect, I discerned echoes of the Minoan maze and the competitive games of the bullring.

As with all Kate Elliott's worldbuilding, I love the attention to detail in food and clothing, religion, cultural practice, and the rituals of the Fives training and competitions, all of which bring the world to life. Again, she does not rely on history, but makes the culture of the world her own. 

In particular, old Efea is a matriarchal cum matrilineal society and Efean women compete as equals in the Fives' Court. The magic of the world is drawn from the land and involves oracles, the reanimation of spirits, and the animation of mechanical "spiders" used for desert scouting and battle.

The heart of the world and the story is the Court of Fives and the adversaries that compete for the victor's crown – in particular the heroine, Jes, who is born of both Efea's cultures, and Kalliarkos, a charming and talented scion of the conquering power...

If you love Fantasy worldbuilding and haven't yet read Kate Elliott, I hope I have conveyed enough to whet your interest. And if you are already a fan – well, then, you won't need any reminder of just how fine a worldbuilder this author is. :-)

Previous Months:

February: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia) by CS Lewis
March: A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin
April: Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire
May: Palimpsest by Catherynne M Valente
June: Ship of Magic & the Liveship Traders series by Robin Hobb
July: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
August: Tymon's Flight (Chronicles of the Tree) by Mary Victoria
September: Dreamhunter, Dreamquake, Mortal Fire, by Elizabeth Knox

Helen Lowe's 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 tweets @helenl0we

Friday, September 25, 2020

Goodreads Crown of Bones Giveaway


Heyo everyone! 

Goodreads, along with EntangledTeen is giving away 5 copies of Crown of Bones. Jump on in to win.


Click here to enter

It's the USA only this time around bu specials for more countries are on the way.

Good luck! Let me know if you win!


About AK Wilder

I write YA Lit for young adults, and the young at heart.

Meet me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or check out my site, where you can read the Bare Bones Scopes each month, Throw the Bones and discover the latest news and giveaways.

My alter ego on the Sup is Kim Falconer...

Remember, when in doubt... Raise. Your. Phantom!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

5 Reasons to Read Fantasy

Art by Catherine Chauloux

In times of isolation and hunkering down at home, reading is on the increase. Some genres are actually skyrocketing as people find diverse ways to entertain themselves and their family while staying put. 

Catherine Chauloux

Although the circumstances are unfortunate, the results are beneficial. Reading has its perks beyond the obvious one of entertainment.

Benefit #1  - Mental Stimulation 

Researchers using MRI scans to measure the effect of reading a novel on the brain made some exciting discoveries. As subjects read, more and more areas of the brain lit up with activity. The scans showed that brain connectivity is increased by reading, especially in the part of the brain that responds to physical sensations like movement and pain.

Benefit #2 - Reduces Risk of Heart Disease

Reading immersive fiction is shown to have a relaxing effect on the body, lowering blood pressure and protecting to cardiovascular system. Even when the story dives and plunges, rushing us to the edge of our seat, the beneficial effects are there.

Benefit #3 - Bye Bye Stress

Research at the University of Sussex shows that reading is a great way to re-energize. Their work provides evidence of how effective just six minutes of reading can be to reduce stress levels by more than two thirds. (And you know you're going to read for more than six minutes!) "Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation,” said David Lewis, MD, who lead the study.

Benefit #4 - Love and Connection

According to social and media psychologists, the companionship experienced with fictional characters can be very real. The phenomenon is called parasocial interactions, one-sided relationships with celebrities or fictional characters. Don't laugh! The research is showing that these relationships, even though one-sided, can offer the mental and emotional benefits of camaraderie, community and sense of belonging, essential states for our health and well being

Peintre Contemporal - Catherine Chauloux

Benefit #5  - Boosts Self-Confidence

While the heroes in our stories strive to do better, accomplish goals, fight off villains, harsh environments, injury and disease, we are doing so too, right along side them. Reading about their triumphs over adversity, how they win love and saving the day makes us feel like we can, too, and that helps us feel a little better about ourselves.

Characters also show us that our “flaws” can be made into gifts, if we perceive them in a new way.
If that's not enough to convenience you, here are three books you may not have read yet that could spark your interest. (I have a reviewer friend who scouts the best page turners and sends them to me! You can follow her on Twitter here.)

Let me know what you are reading right now. Love to hear from you,

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
This is My America by Kim Johnson     Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson

* * * 

Author Kim Falcconer

Kim Falconer's New YA Fantasy Series is out January 5, 2020 - Crown of Bones. (Writing asr A.K. Wilder) 

Also, check her urban fantasy  - The Blood in the Beginning - an 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 site.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Year of Worldbuilding in Fantasy #8: "Southland" in Elizabeth Knox's "Dreamhunter" Series, & "Mortal Fire"


#YoW Year of Worldbuilding
#WiF Worldbuilding in Fantasy


My blogging theme for 2020 is Worldbuilding in Fantasy, chiefly because it's one of the vital elements that holds all the different strands of the genre together. Plus it's always been one of the aspects of Fantasy literature that rocks my reading and writing world.

As promised from the outset, I'm trying to look at Fantasy worldbuilding over time and across a range of subgenres. So this month I'm focusing on Elizabeth Knox's Southland, from her YA series comprising the Dreamhunter (2005) / Dreamquake (2007) duology, and the standalone, Mortal Fire (2013.)


"Southland" in the YA Novels of Elizabeth Knox

Although Elizabeth Knox's Dreamhunter / Dreamquake and Mortal Fire are secondary world Fantasy, one of the magical things about Southland is that it's a Southern Hemisphere world.
Speaking as a Southern Hemisphere dweller, the Northern orientation of most Fantasy worlds undoubtedly has the appeal of the exotic and the magical for example, snow at Christmas / New Year, which is always high summer here. 
These enchantments aside, however, and at the risk of sounding parochial, there is unquestionably something very special in a Fantasy realm that is recognizably based on not just your own hemisphere, but your own country.

For although Southland is not Aotearoa -New Zealand (NZ), there are undoubted overlaps between the two. Dreamhunter's opening, with its seaside settlement of Sisters Beach, the nearby bush with its ferns, supplejack, and whiteywoods, and the driftwood fires with the smell of nearby flax and tea tree scrub, is instantly recognizable for anyone who's spent summer at a NZ beach. 
On seeing the map of Coal Bay, those with a feel for NZ geography may also notice similarities to Golden Bay, particularly the curve of Farewell Spit. 
The author, Elizabeth Knox, makes the matter plain in her opening note to Mortal Fire:
 "Southland is a large island republic in the South Pacific, in a world very like our ownbut not completely. ..."

The "not completely" marks the boundary between the real and the fantastic, which is where the art of Fantasy begins – and there is a great deal more to Southland than the overlap to elements of the New Zealand landscape and culture.

Dreamhunter and Dreamquake are set in the early nineteenth century, in a distinctly Edwardian milieu of trains, cars with cranks, and cameras that still require tripods for ease of use. In the Southland of this era, the holiday settlement lies close by a mysterious region known as The Place, which is environmentally very different to the rest of Southland. Only dreamhunters can venture there, to capture dreams that are then publicly shared in "dream palaces", similar to the "picture palaces" of the early twentieth century in our world. 
As your may imagine, dreamhunting comes with its dangers, including the secret origin of The Place and its mysterious golems, as well as the ambitions of those who seek to use dreams to achieve authoritarian power.  
Mortal Fire is set much later, in a 1959 that closely resembles 1950s New Zealand, including the aftereffects of polio on Marli, a close friend of the protagonist, Canny Mochrie. Canny is of Southland and (Pacific) Shackle Island descent, but her mother never speaks of her father's origins or identity. 
Although the events of the Dreamhunter period are now relegated to Southland history, Canny has always been able to see something Extra in the world. When her half-brother and his girlfriend take her on a camping trip into the remote Zarene Valley, inhabited exclusively by the extended Zarene family, Canny discovers that her Extra is magic – and the valley is rife with it. The magic centres on Ghislain Zarene, imprisoned in his farmhouse for thirty years, and in unravelling his secrets, Canny discovers the key to her own identity.
In terms of worldbuilding, the magic of Southland is always fascinating. The world of the Zarene Valley is also a fascinating combination of a rural, 1950s farming community grafted onto a slightly later era commune, but where the alternative lifestyle is shaped by magic use rather than by environmental or social philosophy.
So whether you fancy a dip into a Southern Hemisphere world, or love the sound of shared dreaming and dream hunting, or the occurrence of strange and compelling magic in a remote, rural community, then Elizabeth Knox's Southland novels could be exactly what you're looking for.

Note: Mortal Fire's Canny Mochrie was one of the fantasy heroines that rocked my world, in the SF Signal post series of the same name. To find out why, click on:

Helen Lowe on the Fantasy Heroines That Rock Her World: Canny Mochrie in Elizabeth Knox’s MORTAL FIRE


Previous Months:

February: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia) by CS Lewis
March: A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin
April: Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire
May: Palimpsest by Catherynne M Valente
June: Ship of Magic & the Liveship Traders series by Robin Hobb
July: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
August: Tymon's Flight (Chronicles of the Tree) by Mary Victoria

Helen Lowe's 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 tweets @helenl0we