Monday, October 24, 2016

The End of Chaos - When Can We Do It Again?

It's very strange to be a debut author after more than a decade of striving to get through that gateway. But it's especially strange if your debut is birthed as three books released in eighteen months. *gulp* I feel that I can now tell this tale, at long last, and maybe, through my own weakness, fellow writers out there can figure out how you'd do it better, or you amazing readers can see how the cheese is made. For now, I'm just glad I survived.

The truth is, there are enough ups and downs in merely creating/editing/proofing a first book to make the most sturdy soul blanch. Because as the edits begin you become acutely aware, as you comb your way through rewrites and plot spaghetti, that this is only going to be the beginning of a very foggy journey. There is a long way still to go. But in spite of your doubt, you trudge your way through the edit phase of Book One even as you begin the daunting task of attempting to create a sequel—though you've become fairly sure through the multiple rounds of edits on Book One that you're actually a talentless hack, a charlatan, who couldn't write copy for the back of a cereal box.

Needless to say, doubt and the fear of impending failure become your familiar bedfellows as you complete those edits, then tie up the over-sized manuscript for your "bridge book", all the while being terrified everything you've been working on is a flim-flamming cliche. Your dreams at night now consist of rooms full of people laughing and pointing at you in mockery. And in the waking hours (or the witching ones) you wander in a brain fog between your coffee pot and your writing desk, making interesting mosaics on your flooring from dribbled vices like wine or Milk Duds.

But still, at long last, you turn in the jumble of words called Book Two just as Book One releases out into the world.

Shockingly(!) not too many people trash your attempt at a debut. It's actually received with interest—if not fanfare—and you feel better. You think, Huh, maybe I can do this author thing. It hasn't killed me yet!

And then the edits for Book Two begin. Your editor also reminds you of that whole "Book Three" thing you should already be half way through. *blink, blink* Book Two begins to feel contrived and underdeveloped as you attempt to untangle it, and your panic bunnies start jumping through your subconscious again, this time with great clanging symbols of ineptitude.

But, yet again, you turn in the edits and somehow manage to patch together something resembling a trilogy finale. And just as Book Two flies out to readers, you feel yourself come back to reality with a weighty thud. Because in the midst of the fog, you've forgotten your children's names, lost the dog somewhere, and you're pretty sure you accidentally went to church in your pajamas several weeks in a row. Everyone who knew you BC (Before Contract) wonder if you're even still alive, but you are on a first name basis with every Starbucks barista in town. Still, you somehow have this wide-eyed amazement at finishing (of a sort) this vast task that felt insurmountable only a year prior.

You've turned in the over-written Book Three, and you are PUMPED to have this thing nearly in the bag!


So, you work like a BOSS on those Book Three edits. You make those intelligible scenes and massive plot holes your b*tch. And then you smile in satisfaction as it all wraps up and is handed back in. You've finished edits for Book Three in record time, gotten your editor's high-fives for climbing Trilogy Mountain, set up all the marketing madness you can manage for the final release, and suddenly you sit back and look at your cat named Noodle and . . . and . . .

And a dark thought creeps in. What. Comes. Next? 

For eighteen straight months you've had your bones, brains, and soul pouring into this beast of a task, this epic arc of a story, and now, well, you need to figure out what's your insides gonna do now? Because who would you be if you weren't hunched over your keyboard with bagel and smear crusted in your hair?! You'd have to, like, be normal again. Uhk!

This, my friends, is what my debut journey felt like. True confessions: I was scared of my inability to do this task as my agent and I jumped into the unknown, and now I am feeling the heavy lack of it. Because there is an alluring adrenaline to impossible deadlines, and I am definitely an adrenaline junky. I'm a go-go-go creator when pushed. I'm also apparently a massive masochist because I cannot WAIT to do this all over again. And again.

And again.

So stay tuned for the next leg in this insane journey, hopefully it'll include another sarcastic main character and shadows lurking around every corner. ;)


Rachel A. Marks is an award-winning author and professional artist, a SoCal girl, cancer survivor, a surfer and dirt-bike rider, chocolate lover and keeper of faerie secrets. She was voted: Most Likely to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse, but hopes she'll never have to test the theory. Her debut series The Dark Cycle, described as Dickens' Oliver Twist meets TV's Supernatural, begins with the Amazon Bestseller, DARKNESS BRUTAL.

Buy: The Dark Cycle
Her Website: Shadow of the Wood

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Downside of Adaptation

Have you ever walked out of a film thinking, "It was nothing like the book?" There's a reason for this conclusion, and it isn't necessarily bad script writing.

When Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Jeffrey Eugenides talks about adapting a novel into film, he makes a good point. The book's story radically changes once it becomes visual.
"It's no longer a book, and to try to insist on it being a book will usually make it a poorer film." - Jeffrey Eugenides
Warm Bodies
David Mitchell (the author of Cloud Atlas) agrees. He feels that a novel's size and scope has to be parred down to fit into a visual narrative. Things have to happen faster too. Where a novel can take its time world-building and developing its characters and history, giving readers thrills and elevated heart rates along with downtime and moments of chilling out, films don't have that luxury.

Mitchell says where the novel is like a DVD box set, the film, costing over $100,000 per minute to shoot, puts the human eyeball in danger of exploding after the first 180 minutes. The film's plot must be delivered at the speed of light, or something close to it, compared with the novel.

If we are in love with the book and sitting in the theater, lights going down, it can help to remember that adapting to film means transposing from one medium to another, a process that involves rethinking the entire story.

First, it moves from telling to showing. That means description, narration and internal thoughts must be translated into speech, actions, sounds and visual images. Backstory, slipped in throughout a novel, isn't going to play out visually, unless a flashback is used. There are ways to portray nostalgia and history in film, but they are very different from getting the same message across in text.

Cloud Atlas
Another consideration is the fluidity of interpretation in novels. Scenery, ideas, characters' intentions and desires are suggested in the text, open to the imagination of the reader. In a film, the writer and director, and actors, are making much more definitive statements, open not so much to the imagination but recording what is seen as fact.

Cast of characters can be an issue as well. Though HBO's Game of Thrones is managing to tell the ensemble stories, scope and scale of George RR Martin's novels, as Peter Jackson did with LOTR, it's easier to fit a multitude of characters into a book than a film. Even with a longer movie, or television series, there isn't the time or space to explore a large number of characters. There's only so much the viewer can keep track of in the period of time.

Not only will the screen writer and director, time and space have a strong influence on the adaptation, the score composer will as well. The mood the music creates controls the interpretation of any scene in ways that the novel does not. If you doubt this, watch the same scene from Pirates of the Caribbean with four different sound tracks.

In the end, you may fully enjoy a book more than the film, or vice versa, but it's fun, and revealing, to consider why.

Do you have a favourite adaptation? We'd love to hear about it in the comments.

Kim Falconer's latest release is out now - The Blood in the Beginning - and Ava Sykes Novel. Find this novel in a store near you.

You can also learn more about Kim at, the 11th House Blog, and on FaceBook and Twitter.  

She posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month and runs Save the Day Writer's Community on Facebook. Check out her daily Astro-LOA Flash horoscopes on Facebook

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Guest Post: Of Sirens --- & The "Queens & Courtesans" Anthology

Today we are delighted to host Kristen Blount here on Supernatural Underground with a guest post on her involvement with the Sirens convention in the USA and the production and publication of the newly released Queens & Courtesans anthology.


Of Sirens --- & The "Queens & Courtesans" Anthology

A Guest Post by Kristen Blount

Despite reading almost exclusively in the speculative fiction genre, I am not much of a con-goer. In 2009, though, a favorite author (Sherwood Smith) mentioned that she was going to be a Guest of Honor at the brand-new Sirens Conference – along with Tamora Pierce and Kristin Cashore. Yummm. 

Being a responsible, part-time employed, full-time mom, I decided that I couldn't really afford a weekend in Colorado (being 2/3 across the country from home).

I received one of my best Christmas gifts ever that year… registration to Sirens!

The conference describes itself as being, “dedicated to the diverse, remarkable women of fantasy literature: readers, authors, scholars, librarians, educators, publishing professionals, and characters.”  Still, I did not really know what to expect and so was delighted to have a relaxing weekend in a mountain resort devoted to women in fantasy literature. 

The conference fostered conversations via roundtables, panel discussions, presented academic papers, and keynote presentations. It wasn't overly busy, with plenty of time built in for side conversations, walks, shopping at the book store, a visit to the spa, and impromptu meals with other attendees. I now look forward to seeing my “Sirens friends” every other year or so.

I don't know how to emphasize how different and lovely I found the experience of sharing a love of fantasy with other women (and the few men who joined us). It has been a revelation to meet all these other people who love girls with swords, the monstrous feminine, and even a little romance. These are just three of the themes that Sirens has considered – along with faerie, retold tales, and hauntings.

Finding new authors is always a bit of a struggle for me, since I am a shameless re-reader. This year, I discovered Renée Ahdieh's magical retelling of Shaharazad (The Wrath And The Dawn; The Rose And The Dagger) and Laurie Marks' Elemental Logic series.

I now can't wait to meet to the authors! Kiini Ibura Salaam's short story collection, Ancient, Ancient, is waiting for me to have a few more brain cells to devote to it. For some reason, short stories seem to demand more from me as a reader.
Speaking of short stories, something new and completely apropos arose among a group of Sirens attendees. We decided to produce an anthology! One of the writerly types talked on Facebook about having had a set of characters in her brain – a queen and a courtesan – who just would not leave her alone. This became a writing prompt, which quickly led to the proposed anthology to benefit our shared love of the Sirens Conference.

I happily signed on as a beta reader and editor. What a terrific experience it has been! Queens & Courtesans: A Sirens Benefit Anthology, edited by Jessica Corra, showed me a wide range of ways powerful women could interact.

In one of the stories I was lucky enough to proofread, all the characters are female: the ex-military space navigator/pilot, the nuns, and a bevy of school girls, one of whom is queen presumptive. Almost unbelievable, murderous plot twists aside, these women with different skills, agendas, and needs come together in frightening circumstances to work for a common good.

In another story I met a prince's lover, who was chosen by his mother because she's blind. This story is strictly told from the blind girl's point of view, and it brings a richness of other sensory details with it. Every story in this anthology gave me something to mull over in the days, or weeks, after reading.

If you have the opportunity, please consider purchasing a copy of Queens & Courtesans (available via Amazon and for most e-readers). It promotes the voices and concerns of women within the speculative fiction field. And mostly, it contributes to continuing the Sirens Conference.

If you have the opportunity, I also encourage you to consider joining us some year for a weekend of reading, talking about reading, and writing.

~ by Kristen Blount


Queens and Courtesans is published today. To find out more, click on:.


About Kristen Blount:

A lifelong reading enthusiast, Kristen enjoys speculative fiction most but will read just about anything that holds her attention and offers up a good story. With two adult-ish children who are nearing the end of school, Kristen has discovered the joys of free time to indulge in baseball, baking, and cross stitching. In order to pay the bills, she works in the local library’s marketing department as a graphic designer.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Fashions In Names—Yes, Even in Fantasy Fiction

Have you ever noticed that there can be fashions in names for Fantasy characters, just as there are in real life?

Take “Ash” as in Aislinn/Aisling/Ashleen for example. It’s a real name, but in the mid-Noughts it ‘suddenly’ made a strong showing in Fantasy novels, particularly those with a YA flavour.

For example, Katie MacAllister’s Guardian series, published between 2004 – 2007, features protagonist Aisling Grey. In 2007, Ash — short for Aislinn — was the lead character in Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely, while in 2009 Malinda Lo’s Ash (a retelling of Cinderella) had another Aisling as the main character.

Almost simultaneously, Patricia McKillip brought out The Bell At Sealey Head (2008), which featured an Aislinn House as its (arguably) central location. Yet here’s where this gets really fun: one of the occupants of Aislinn House, and a main character in the book, was called Ysabo.

The previous year, 2007, Guy Gavriel Kay had published his standalone novel, Ysabel, with a main character of the same name — while Melina Marchetta’s first foray into Fantasy, the novel titled Finnikin of the Rock, had a main character called Isaboe. Noticing a trend, anyone?

Of course, all are variants of “Isabel” — so I must not omit Bella, short for Isabella, of the Twilight saga (2005 – 2008) fame.
Last but not least, I have to mention “Kat” — with Katsa in Kristin Cashore’s Graceling (2008), and Katniss in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games (also 2008).

I’m sure there are many more you can point to — and I'd love for you to share them in the comments — but I thought these were sufficient to illustrate how there really can be fashions in Fantasy names at certain points in time, just as there are in everyday life.


Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, interviewer 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) was published this year. 

Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog and is also on Twitter: @helenl0we


Friday, September 16, 2016

Giveaway at Blood Rose Books

Crispin Korchen
Hi Sup readers!

Over at Blood Rose Books, they are giving away copies of The Blood in the Beginning with my recent interview. I thought I would give you all the highlights, and the chance to grab an ebook (for Aussies) or physical book (for Aussies AND/or international peeps).

To enter, go to Blood Rose Books Interview with Kim Falconer.

Below are highlights of the interview (with my comments on the questions).

BRB: If there was one author you could co-write a novel with (they can be alive or dead) who
would you choose and why?

KIM: They opened with this. Very challenging. I thought of 20, then 20 more ... then thought of how to explain ... I spent all day pondering it! You can see where I settled, after thinking of Homer to Jane Austen, all my Supernatural buddies to several best friends.

BRB: ...why did you decide to create the Mar?

KIM: More hours of contemplation. Did I create them? They already exist, right, as mythological creatures appearing for thousands of years in all cultures, in all places, in all times. They well up from memory, for all of us ... a loaded question, I thought!

BRB: ...What about Astrology appeals to you?

KIM: For me, this question is like asking, 'What is it about the English language that appeals to you? Here is my answer in full: My first six novels, the Quantum Enchantment and Quantum Encryption series, have themes of astrology and astronomy relevant to the plot. Some of the characters are expert stargazers and rely on the symbol system to solve mysteries and make critical choices. Being an astrologer for over 40+ years, my father an astrologer before me, means it’s part of the way I perceive the world. It naturally seeps into the writing, unless I make an effort to keep it out. I’m sure we’ll have more astro-relevance in the future. It would be weird without it.

BRB: What do you think would be the hardest or most challenging genre to write a novel in and why?

KIM: I liked this question, and had an answer immediately - narrative non-fiction  - a novel-like story about real-life people and events. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood is the classic example; Into the Wild is a more contemporary one. The research and ethical issues alone would be daunting for me, maybe even stifling, especially with a still-living subject. I have a lot of respect for authors who tackle this genre.

BRB: ... how much research did you do in order to make the information in these parts of the book sound extremely real?

Will Smith and his 24/7 work ethic
KIM: Another immediate answer. To quote Will Smith: "Sicking amounts of work." But I loved every minute of it. One of my fav aspects of writing is discovering new things. 

BRB: ... what appeals to you of the darker side of our culture?

KIM: Hours of contemplation went into finding this answer, starting with 'I'm attracted to the dark side?' Really good question!

BRB: Holy Crap is Ava an amazing character, she basically has the perfect balance of badassness, smarts but also self-aware (plus she lacks the whiny or smugness that many female characters have in this genre), what went in to her creation? Was important to you to make sure she was balanced character? Do you train in MMA to help Ava learn all her skills?

KIM: My answer in full, because what author doesn't like chatting about their main characters? 

I’m syked you think Ava is amazing. A lot went into her creation. 
She evolved organically, but I think, for one, the environment has shaped her. She develops what it takes to survive the Big One, CHI-Tech, being raised in the system … survive and thrive. If she was whiny, I don’t think she would have made it through her teens, living under the radar, in the streets. Ava’s character grows from the unseen past that moulded her to the current challenges she faces. It’s sink or swim. (LOL the pun)

I also wanted to balance Ava’s badassness with heart. She’s defensive, at times. Cautious. Brutal. But she will do anything for those she loves, as we find out.

Training on the beach

To help write ‘real’ characters, I give them astrological charts, a horoscope just like anyone born in the future might have, only I get to pick the day, month and year to fit. It ends up being a character reference guide. If I am not sure how she might respond to a certain situation, I refer to her chart and ask, “What would a Virgo with Pluto rising and Moon in Gemini do?” Gets me unstuck every time.

I’ve trained in martial arts and Iaido, (Japanese Sword) and I do pull on those experiences to choreograph fight scenes, but in this series, I collaborated with a Jujitsu and MMA fighter as well, to give that extra level of authenticity.

To see the full interview and put your name in the rafflecopter for a free paperback or ebook of The Blood in the Beginning, hop over to Blood Rose Books. Great reviews there too!

Kim Falconer's latest release is out now - The Blood in the Beginning - and Ava Sykes Novel. Find this novel in a store near you.

You can also learn more about Kim at, the 11th House Blog, and onFaceBook and Twitter.  She posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month and runs Save the Day Writer's Community on Facebook. All Welcome.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Writers Helping Writers

I'm very fortunate to be in a great writing group, but I know it's not always easy to find someone to help you. Sometimes you need assistance with a query letter or a synopsis or the opening pages of your manuscript. So my writing group and I want to help.


On September 20, we're going to be accepting pitches. We'll each select one pitch and work with that person to get their first 5 pages or synopsis or query letter ready to send out to agents and editors.


Merrie Destefano: I write for the General Market, YA, Adult, SciFi, Fantasy, Contemporary, Gothic Romance
What I’m looking for: General market, YA or adult, SciFi, Fantasy, Contemporary, or Literary, Mystery.
What I’m NOT looking for: Romance, Dark Horror, Non-Fiction

Rachel Marks: I write for the YA market, urban and high fantasy.
What I’m looking for: Anything YA, Fantasy, Light Horror, Romance. A mystery element is a plus.
What I’m NOT looking for: Non-fiction, Straight Horror

Mike Duran: I write in the General Market and CBA, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Horror
What I’m looking for: Adult Urban Fantasy, Horror, Dark Fantasy, Paranormal
What I’m NOT looking for: Romance

Rebecca Luella Miller: I write in the General Market
What I’m looking for: Any Genre, Any Market, Any Age
Accepting the first 5 pages only, not a synopsis or a query letter.

Paul Regnier: I write in the CBA market, SciFi, Fantasy
What I’m looking for: Speculative Fiction, SciFi, Paranormal
What I’m NOT looking for: Romance, Horror


We’re going to be hosting a Facebook event on Sept. 20, where writers can pitch their ideas to us. Here’s a link to the event, which already has some discussion going on: FACEBOOK EVENT.

FIGHT CLUB meets BLACK SWAN in LOST GIRLS: 17-year-old girl rediscovers her dark identity in a dangerous rave-like club where teens fight to near death. YA, General Market, Dark Contemporary #WHW16

More details will be posted on the FACEBOOK EVENT PAGE as the event draws nearer.


Saturday, September 3, 2016

Pound it! and other strange phrases now in my life

Year of the Like: Not brain-numbing kid shows

So, if I haven't made it clear, I've got a kid. And along with kids come kid television. Its unavoidable, and for those of you who have avoided it, awesome. 

Me, I love TV. BB (Before the Bean), I probably watched fifteen hours of scripted TV a week. I had my entire life based around what was on TV and what I could record and watch later. Supernatural, Lucifer, Sleepy Hollow, Criminal Minds, Big Bang Theory, Eureka, Defiance, Castle, Walking Dead. 

Now AB (After the Bean), I only watch Supernatural. So you can bet how excited I was to find out there was going to be a 12th season. I have one constant in my life. and one hour a week that I get to hide in a corner and watch TV. 

Now that doesn't mean that I'm not watching TV. It is still on in my house, but the programming is drastically different. The Bean likes Disney over NICK and we can agree that Caillou isn't terrible, but that Sesame Street just isn't what it used to be and I didn't remember Power Puff Girls being so violent. 

As a writer with a sense of story, I am constantly watching these things for the lesson. What are these things teaching my child. What is there survival lesson. Some are pretty transparent. Some are more subtle. Some I have no idea what is going on. 

There are two shows that I want to Thumbs-up this month for not being boring or overly brow-beating. 

Miraculous : This was a show that NICKELODEON bought from France (a new source of kids programming). It is translated into a million languages. We started watching it in Spanish, but found the English translations. 

Its about Marinette who has a miraculous (spirit alien) that changes her into Ladybug, a superhero with Spiderman-like agility and a yo-yo that is pretty amazing. Yes, a yo-yo.  Each episode she takes on a normal person who has been 'evil-ized' into a villain because of a negative feeling or attitude. She has to figure out what happened and 'de-evil-ize' them. Its parts Sailor Moon and Saved by the Bell and there is an appropriate amount of teenage romance (Chat Noir).

As a writer, I find these 20 minute shows really satisfying. They are funny and really deal with issues that kids deal with (bullies, crushes, mistakes, parental pressures). And its wrapped up nicely with a turning point and resolution. I keep watching them and I'm really getting a sense of what you need to tell, and what you don't need to to get a good structure for a short story. 

And its in Paris- accurately depicted Paris. With Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower and the river. Its awesome. 

Miraculous can be purchased on Amazon. 

Beat Bugs: This is a Netflix original show based on one man's love of The Beatles. It is a show about a group of bug who live in a little girls back year in their little big town and when they are having a bad day, or need some words of encouragement, they break out into Beatles's songs, minus the drug references. 

Their adventures somehow mimic the song lyrics (Lucy in the Sky is awesome) and they have a small cast of characters and the stories roll into each other. 

As a writer, I find this interesting because of the limitations that the lyrics put on what stories they can tell and emotions they can deal with. That limitation has really blossomed into a really cute show with some really creative solutions to the limitations. It is a really fun way to see what creative limitation does to a project in 15-minute segments. 

So this month's Thumbs Up goes to children's programming that tells good stories in innovative ways that don't baby me or my kid. 


Amanda Arista