Thursday, December 1, 2016

Tis The Season -- 5 Highlights Of My 2016

Yep, that's right! It's December (how did that happen already?!), which not only means that cash registers are jingling and the goose (or turkey, but I was being really traditional) is getting fat: it's also the Season of Lists.

Published 2016!
So getting in the spirit, I thought I'd share 5 of my highlights from 2016 (to date, since there's still a few weeks of 2016 left):

January 26: Daughter of Blood, The Wall Of Night Book Three, is published -- after a 4 year "slog to the finish" for me, and wait-of-saints from loyal readers. And to date the feedback has been positive, with Romantic Times calling Daughter: "a heady imaginative tale full of Lowe's haunting prose and bold characters, that builds to a startling climax that will leave readers anxious for more."
FB Group Haarth
May: The Wall Of Night series' got its own FaceBook group, fittingly titled Haarth -- it was set up by avid readers so they could discuss the story, the characters and the world. All good fun! It led to even more fun, too, with a Q&A on Twitter at #TheWallOfNight I really enjoyed interacting with The Wall Of Night readers in realtime.

L-R: Helen; Courtney Schafer
June 5-8: Sydney -- this visit was primarily to meet up with friend and fellow SFF author, Courtney Schafer, but I also got to meet the crew at both Hachette, my Australian publisher, and Galaxy, the specialist SFF bookstore, as well as other great Aussie SFF folk.

Also published 2016...
July 6: A Twitter Q&A with Kim Falconer -- I had a great time doing this Q&A with Kim on #thebloodinthebeginning to support the release of her paranormal, post-apocalyptic fantasy, The Blood In The Beginning which stars feisty heroine, Ava Sykes. In fact it may even have been the year of the Twitter Q&A!

September 17-18: Masterclass on "Building Fantastic Worlds" -- I got to deliver this masterclass as part of the inaugural National Writers' Forum and it
was a blast. Great to talk about something I loved with a great group of people. Even better, they seemed to enjoy it, too, with one participant providing the following feedback: 

Building Fantastic Worlds
 "My highlights were Helen Lowe’s session on Building Fantastic Worlds (utterly worth getting myself out of bed on a Sunday morning)..." (The Big Idea.)

So there you are, just a few of the highlights from my year. I'd love for you to share one or more of yours in the comments -- because it is the season. :)


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

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Guff on Supermoons

Her Only Friend the Moon by Alexander Jansson

Hi Everyone, The 'supermoon' has been getting a lot of attention this week, and since the influence of the Full Moon in Taurus is still HOT, I thought I would share a post from my site - Thoughts on Supermoons.

'Suppermoons" ... here's the guff.

Hang on. I should say, here's my guff. I don't expect everyone to agree.

There are people who swear by 'supermoons', saying the moon is larger at these times, and yeah, it looks larger, by about 14%. But heads up. It hasn't really changed size.

The appearance changes because the moon has cycles of perigee -- when it's closer to earth. (if you can call 357,000 km close).  The perigee happens 2-3 times every 14 months.

Loui Jover

Social Media gets all excited about it, claiming there is stronger astro effect raining moonbeams down on our heads. Like, get out the garlic and the holy water or something.

Me? I don’t give ‘supermoons’ a thought, basically because it's the New or Full Moon that matters astrologically (the lunations as we call them), not the proximity of the moon to earth via the ecliptic. 

I guess you could argue that because it looks bigger, it does more, but then there’s Pluto, you know? 4.28 billion km from New LA.  Not super close … but super powerful. A Pluto transit trumps a lunar one, super or otherwise, by about a million.

What a 'Supermoon' does is generate hype that doesn’t amount to any actual astrology IMHO - but that could be my North Node in Capricorn talking.

Still, it’s not grounded in ancient astrology, or astronomy, the wisdom passed down for thousands of years. It's a 'pre-new age term that popped up in the late 1970s, an easier handle for the scientific 'perigee-syzygy' (try saying that three times in a row).

It's more meaningful to look at what degree the new or full moon is in, and the sign. ie where's this mojo landing in your chart? 

The most recent SM was on the 14th of November, at 22 Taurus and will have it's 'sway' until the New Moon in Sagittarius at the end of the month. 

Thoughts? I'd love to hear your take. 

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, November 3, 2016

This is the show that never ends, yes it goes on and on

Year of the Like: Supernatural Season 12

I had the honor of hearing Billie Piper (of Doctor Who and Penny Dreadful fame) speak about the end of Penny Dreadful, which ended rather abruptly after its third season. She said that she would rather have a show end and the character's live on in fans' heads than to have their stories drag out until they were unrecognizable from the characters they started out as.

The notion really stuck with me, as both a writer and a lover of TV. We all know book series and TV shows that should have ended ages ago, but publishers and producers just kept coming back for more. The drama gets more and more ridiculous because they are just at a loss as to what to do with these characters who they forced to change over the course of the show/series.

Even I have been asked when there are more Diaries books coming out and I have to answer, I'm not sure there will ever be. Are there more Wanderer books? YES (more to come on that). But I'm not sure I have much more to explore with Violet.

The one show that has literally stood the test of time is SUPERNATURAL. Going into its 12th season, the two main characters, Dean and Sam Winchester, are still fundamentally the same characters that they were in the first season. Dean hides behind sarcasm and really loves of his car. Sam is smart and really, really tall. They still make the right choice and they will always save their brother's life over their own.

Did it have some rough patches in the writing and story lines: Yes.

Have the characters both sacrifice themselves for each other multiple times: Yes

Have they learned that they really shouldn't lie to the other: Finally.

Has the show taken over most social media due to its catchy phrases and completely insane range of topics covered: OMG Yes.

Does it hurt that the two main characters are portrayed by the hottest boys from Texas ever: Not at all.

And yet, I still watch. I am still engaged with their fighting the forces of darkness that has escalated from a demon to the Devil, and their allies have included an angel and God himself. They have faced down banshees and leprechauns and Norse gods. They've seemingly done it all, and yet I still watch because their world is my world and there is still so much out there.

Perhaps it is their never-changing natures. The heroes are completely steadfast in their ways. Even through multiple apocalypses, deaths, resurrection, and possessions, the stories have just carved out a more defined version of the characters that we saw in episode one. They grew up, but they didn't become different people. Maybe I grew up with them. Maybe this show is part of me because I want to know that the world throws demons as you every day and with a partner and some rock salt, you can pretty much take on anything.

Perhaps it is the familiarity that keeps me coming back. Perhaps it is a formula. Perhaps it digs in deep to my monomythic brain and strokes that story structure week after week in a wonderfully predictable and yet satisfying ways.

 Or its just that Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki just keep getting better with age.  Seriously. Its supernatural.

Some season I imagine the show will end. But this is not that season. Some episode will be their last and it better have them riding out in a blaze of glory.

But until then, Thank You SUPERNATURAL for always being my go-to, familiar scare of the week so I can go out and fight the real bad guys that are out there.

Thank you for providing me with twelve years of monster stories that let me know I'm not the only person out there who likes things that go bump in the night.

Thank you for giving Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki steady face time on TV because they really are pretty and can actually act the hell out of a bro-ment.

Amanda Arista

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Portent and Fate: The Mythic Aspect of Dream in Fantasy

Dream magic plays a relatively significant part in both Thornspell and The Wall Of Night series and one of its more important aspects is that of portent, with fulfillment locked into whether—or how—the foretold doom or destiny will play out.

This aspect of dream and fulfillment is an essential element of both the Greek and Norse myths, as well as folklore. We all recognize, after all, that if our hero or heroine is told something three times, especially by an oracle of some kind, then the foretelling is likely to prove true …

(This is not just in Fantasy, by the way. In the now-classic SFF television series, Babylon 5, I believe careful perusal will show that the captain, John Sheridan, is warned three times that, “If you go to Z’ha’dum, you will die.” Just sayin’)

Yet any exploration of dreams and their “fated” fulfillment in Fantasy also gives rise to the alternative consideration: the extent to which characters have free will. Can they, like Will Thatcher (the mourned Heath Ledger) in the film, A Knight’s Tale, change their stars?

The Greek and Norse myths would answer that question with a resounding “no”—in fact it is usually the protagonist’s endeavours to avoid his or her prophesied fate that brings about the doom.

In The Wall of Night series I keep the fate vs free will aspect open by having the prophetic dreams occur very much in the “jumbled workings” of the subconscious. There is truth in them, but they may only imperfectly reflect events that occur in the daylight world. Nothing is certain … and every action a protagonist takes acts on the dream, creating alternative possibilities of fulfillment.
Thornspell cover illustration
In exploring the prophetic dream tradition, both through reading other writers and in my own work, I suspect that we are also talking about aspiration—the innate human desire to affect our fate and exert control over destiny. The myths, of course, would say that any such aspiration is doomed, its fulfillment stillborn before it has taken the first breath of life.

But what do you think? Do you have a view on the use of dreams and portents in contemporary Fantasy, or a favorite book or series you feel uses them well?


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

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Burnout, or sometimes you just gotta take five ...

Hi. I haven't been here for awhile. Apologies for that, but I've had some thinking to do, and to be honest, I'm not sure whether I'm done thinking or not. I am back, though, at least for today.

I think I flamed out for awhile there ... blogging and writing and blogging and writing and blogging ... until I thought I might implode. Everything felt like work. Just dragging myself out of the bed in the morning turned into a miniature triumph.

Writing seemed like such a bloody chore, I had force my way through every blog post. Fiction was a little easier, but not by much. Even though I wasn't under contract anymore, I kept pushing myself as if I was, and that attitude had a negative impact both on my work and my mental health.

The weird thing is that I never felt as stressed while writing under contract as I did when there is no contract. Writing on spec is hard, because you're never sure if the next thing is going to sell or not. I placed a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself.

And while all of these things were going on, I became frustrated and discouraged--two things that are never good for me--and the whole writing gig just plunged me into an abyss, where it seemed that no matter what I've done, I felt like I'd done nothing. I know this makes no sense, but bear with me ...

After some time off and a good long think, I realized I needed to write the stories and posts that I love writing. I'll never make money at this gig, so why be miserable?

Just to draw myself out of my funk, I wrote some blog posts about grimoires. I enjoyed working on them and had a great deal of fun. Then I decided to release a Los Nefilim novelette to my newsletter subscribers one chapter at a time. It's been very well received. My subscribers are having fun and so am I. The project isn't overwhelming, and I am slowly, but surely falling back into good writing habits.

I'm exceptionally pleased with the rewrite of my proposal for a new Los Nefilim novel. I'm also working on a Los Nefilim novella and a short story set in that world. In addition, I'm working on a contemporary novel that is beginning to take shape. I've also got some reviews of other authors' books that I'm looking forward to writing.

Self-care has become my watchword, and I'm learning to pace myself better. I want to thank the authors here at Supernatural Underground for being so supportive of my time away. I think I'll be around a bit more in the coming months, but if you don't see me here, it doesn't mean I've left. It simply means that I need a little time to regroup and clean up my attitude before showing my face in public.

Sometimes I just have to take five. I'm sure you do too.

Be well ...

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