Thursday, June 23, 2016

The End of an Era

In coming to the end of writing my debut series, I assumed I'd feel so many amazing things. I'd be relieved, and thrilled, and I would at last feel like a real author. Because I'd done it. I'd actually done it; the thing I had no knowledge of how to do at the beginning of this, I'd kicked its butt, made all my deadlines, edited until I drew blood, and played out my vision in a majorly epic way. I'd completed the journey.

But . . .

That's not how I felt at all. As I turned in my copy edits for the final book in The Dark Cycle to my publisher, I mostly just felt . . . sad. A small hole opened up in my gut and it was more like I was now saying goodbye to a best friend than rejoicing in a job well done. A million doubts and questions clouded my head. Had I done everything to make the series stand out? Had I given my characters the finale they deserved? Will the readers be satisfied?

But most of all: what in the sam hill am I going to do without these kids in my life?

I had spent three years with a group of characters I'd grown to love and they'd become a part of my every day thought life, to the detriment of sleep and sanity many times. But now, their story is finished. And it's time to move on.

If I have learned anything through this crazy whirlwind that was producing these three books, it's that I may never feel like a real author, a character's story never really feels complete, and there's always another amazing story to be told right around the corner.

In the mean time, I'll focus on what's ahead of me and try not to feel ill equipped for the next leg of the journey. I'll take away from this adventure the realization that I've done it once and I should be able to do it again.

So, here it goes . . .


Rachel A. Marks is an award-winning author and professional artist, a 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 novel is DARKNESS BRUTAL, the 1st installment in The Dark Cycle (Skyscape). Book 2 was released February 2nd, 2016 and is titled, DARKNESS FAIR.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Expected Physical Signs

Image by Loui Jover
 Public speaking sucks. It's mandatory for final year medical science, so I put up with it. Still ...

Excerpt from

Ten a.m. came with the expected physical signs: burning eyes, stiff neck, headache. Oh, boy. My palms were sweat­ing as I walked to the podium, footsteps echoing through the virtually empty UCLA lecture hall. That was a plus. It lessened the potential for public humiliation. The only seats occupied were the front two rows. I squeezed my eyes shut a few times, trying to alleviate the sting ... eye drops might have helped, along with fresh contacts. They were prescrip­tion, for my mixed astigmatism, a near-far sighted combo, and tinted to keep down the glare. I had partial colour blindness too, but that’s another story. Bottom line, sleep deprivation wasn’t a good look. Hopefully, the examiners would be glued to the screen, and my riveting presentation, not my tired face.

It took a minute to password my way through security, log into my CloudBox — and bring up the visuals. I synched with the screen behind me and cleared my throat. ‘Good morning, faculty.’ My voice broke and I tried to humph without sounding like a cat coughing up a fur ball. This was not my favourite part of being fourth year: standing in front of a critical audience, my knowledge and abilities in question. Who in their right mind would want to try and explain auto-immune disorders to a group of scientists who knew hundreds of times more about the subject than any­one alive?

The mic gave an ear-piercing screech as I adjusted it, which didn’t help to calm me down. The lights dimmed and the large screen illuminated. The glare was so strong, I couldn’t read the notes on my tablet. Perfect. I sucked in a deep breath, and ploughed on.

‘Since the first wave of the Aftermath, auto-immune disorders have escalated, not just here in LA, but globally. These diseases cross all borders, cultures and peoples, tar­geting young and old alike. The epidemiology is hard to trace, but at its core is a potentially fatal flaw ...’ I choked on that. This topic got under my skin because I had one of those pesky flaws myself. At times like these, I could almost hear the clock ticking. I cleared my throat. ‘ … a potentially fatal flaw in the evolution of the human genome. Constant bombardment from microwaves, radiation and carcinogenic substances has caused an abnormal gene expression, includ­ing the conditional deletion of the Bcl-x gene from red blood cells, which becomes apparent when the body loses its abil­ity to tell the difference between self and non-self.’

I swiped the small screen on the podium, bringing up the next visual behind me. It showed a clip of a blood clot forming at 500x magnification, courtesy of APS — an­tiphospholipid antibody syndrome — in action. As I talked about causes and potential cures, moving on to my per­sonal favourite, hemolytic anemia and its variants under the umbrella of AADD — Aftermath associated degenerative diseases — my eyes came back to one of the examiners. I’d never seen him before, which wasn’t uncommon. UCLA hosted the largest science campus in the western US, and specialists in the field were invited in to evaluate fourth year students, especially ones like me who hoped to land an internship with the LA branch of the CDC, the Centre for Disease Control. This guy looked too young though. Maybe an intern auditing my talk? Who are you?

The thought floated through my head. Not a welcome distraction. Every time I looked, he was staring at me, his expression a cross between curious and accusatory. It raised the hairs on the back of my neck. Oh, hell! I had the freak­ing wrong slide up. I pulled my focus back to the presenta­tion and kept my gaze well away from handsome mystery man in seat A15. Sure, it registered. Handsome. 

Not helping.

Twenty minutes later, the lights went up and there was a brief, but slightly more than perfunctory, applause. On a scale of one to ten, for senior lecturers that was at least a nine, nearly a standing ovation. It made me smile, and in a momentary lapse, my eyes drifted back to seat A15. Big mistake. The floor was open to questions, and he took it as a personal invitation.

‘You mention the fatigue associated with auto-immune hepatitis. What test would differentiate auto-immune liver disease from other hepatic disorders?’

I swallowed hard, not because I didn’t have a damn good answer, but because his eyes were boring into me. Almond-shaped dark eyes. They had a wild look, or was that the unruly hair? It was like being on a witness stand, which I guess was the point of the exercise. He wasn’t coming across as an intern. His voice was too confident. I reviewed the role of typical histological findings in both AILD and other chronic liver diseases, finishing with a discussion of immu­noglobulins and various
triggers for immune response. He questioned again, and for a while, we had our own private ping-pong match going on. Then others had comments and questions for me and, while I engaged, out of the corner of my eye I saw him check his phone. He nodded vaguely in my direction and left. As he walked out of the hall, a linger­ing thought again floated through my head.

Who are you?

From #TheBoodInTheBeginning An #AvaSykes #Novel
Read more ...

I'd love to hear who your fav characters are that DON'T enjoy public speaking! --Kim
Kim Falconer is a Supernatural Underground author writing urban fantasy, paranormal romance, YA and epic science fantasy novels.

You can find out 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 and

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Merry-Go-Round of Life

Year of the Like: Circles and Cycles and Circuses

So, I know age is one of those weird things people don't talk about, but I'll own up to the fact I'm now in my late thirties. And for my birthday this year, I want to get a tattoo. 
I know exactly what I want: a compass within the circle of the hero's journey. For those of you who have not drunk the Joseph Campbell/ Christopher Vogler koolaid, the Hero's Journey helps map the character arc of a hero along her journey. You guys have heard me talk about it here in the Year of Living Heroically. It is one of many ways to think of story, but I like it mostly because it is a circle. 

I look life like this. I want the fullness of it all. I want to appreciate the process of the cycle. So when I read others books, I want to see the fullness of it all. 

So I was reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and there are circles everywhere. I meant, its a CIRCUS. The Circus is a interwoven dreamland of circled tents filled with wonder, and some might say a catalytic hero in itself (but that might be another post for another time). This book is beautiful and breaks most of the writing conventions I teach to beginning writers. It really was dazzling and enchanting, and I was sucked so deeply into the words and the world, I might have forgotten to go to bed. 

This book did one of the most satisfying things a circle lover like me could ever ask for. I will try not to spoil it but "The circus arrives without warning." The last three pages of the book completely satisfied everything I wanted from a book. And there are really pretty dresses. And it uses second person POV flawlessly. 

I really didn't realize how powerful circles had become to me until I was talking to friend about healing after divorce, another about grief, and another about the crap that happens when you find yourself in the middle of your life  trapped within a cycle of unfortunate Tuesdays. In the past six months, I have used circles to explain why life sucks. I've used this circle too to talk about art and grief and finding your true center.  

And this one to help talk about where we get energy and how we feed that energy. And then I usually break out into cheesy movie songs. (Pause for a nostalgic ride on Falkor's back). 

The primary reason that I find this image so powerful at this point in my life is that I always know is going to loop back around and get better. Today might feel like a Supreme Ordeal, but if I think about life as a journey, that means tomorrow is a Reward. In my writing, its how I can be so horribly horrible to my characters, because I'm going to loop them back around as strong, faster, better heroines. I am creating a circle that will be forged in iron. 

Circles never break. They may go too fast sometimes and the merry-go-round forces of life may make you queasy and sick to your stomach. But just as in The NeverEnding Story and The Night Circus, the story will go on and it will be beautiful. You just need to strap in, pull up your panties, and get ready for the ride.  

Looper- get it!!
So Thumbs Up to finding the one image that makes you, makes your story, makes your life make sense and go ahead an commit to it. Not everyone is a tattoo person, but crochet it, paint it, modge podge the hell out of the image, the beauty, the thing that helps you remember that you are powerful and this is your story. 

Until next time, lovelies. 

Amanda Arista, @Pantherista

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Being Supernatural Underground -- I Count The Goodness

Today, I turned the key and opened up my post office box and found -- a little yellow card!

But being yellow carded via your post office box doesn't mean a hiatus in the sin bin. What it means is that there is a lovely mysterious package waiting for you inside the Post Office (or in this case, postal agency, but hey...)

Today, when I exchanged my yellow card for the package and opened it up, I was thrilled to find an advance reader edition of Kim Falconer's The Blood in the Beginning. O-o: awesome!

Needless to say, I am really looking forward to my chance to advance read -- one of the very many privileges of having Kim as both a friend and a fellow Supernatural Underground author.

Teresa Frohock is another friend and Supernatural Underground author, and having read so many of her fabulous posts right here on the SU it was inevitable that I was going to settle down with an e-reader and the Los Nefilim novellas.

When I finally did, just a week or so ago, I felt really glad that Teresa is a Supernatural Underground compadre, because it made me prioritise reading Los Nefilim -- and I really enjoyed the three linked novellas.

If you'd like to find out more about why I enjoyed them, you can read my book report here:

What I'm Reading: The Los Nefilim Trilogy by Teresa Frohock

Connecting with Kim and Teresa, and their books, made me think about what being part of a community of authors like SU is all about. I've decided that the key lies in the word "community".

Writing is a very solitary occupation, but being a group of writers means that we can share the highs and lows of our individual paths with others who "grok" what we're on about.

It also means we can support each other with our books, whether it's by reading and commenting, or doing interviews and giveaways. One really important way we do that is by boosting the Supernatural Underground signal -- just a way of saying hey, this is where we hang out and talk about some of the cool author stuff together.

I believe we have some fun with that -- which is kind of what community is all about and why I'm always glad to spend some time hanging out here.

If there's something about our hangout you like, or something you'd like to see more of, let us know in the comments. We've got out ears on -- because that's another great thing about the Supernatural Underground: it's the place where we get to hang out with all of you as 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 on January 26, 2016. 

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

Monday, May 30, 2016

Words is your bizness: writing the blurb

This will be a rather short post, but I did want to talk about writing blurbs. I know a lot of authors tend to think that once they've gotten past the initial query letter, they'll never have to face the horror of condensing their novel into two paragraphs again.

Unfortunately, that is not the case.

With both the blurb and the query, you're trying to sell your novel, which is long and deep and complicated, in just a few words, and I know that is hard. One thing I did that helped me immensely was browse in a bookstore. I wandered the fiction section and jotted down taglines and blurbs that caught my attention. Then I went home and analyzed them.

A good blurb is about communicating the essence of your story to the reader, not the details.

Let's look at mine. This was an incredibly difficult blurb to write, because we were combining three novellas into three paragraphs. Here are a few things I learned:

Know your audience. If I am writing historical fantasy with nephilim, I want to target people who love history and magic. So I will design my blurb around the dates, the conflicts, and the how the magic works.

Nail it with a sentence. The biggest argument that I hear from authors is that their story is too complicated. You're a writer. Words is your bizness. Use them well.

Know what appeals to your fans and zoom the lens of your words on the aspects of your story that will appeal most strongly to your reader.

My Los Nefilim blurb encompasses three novellas with one sentence:

T. Frohock's three novellas--In Midnight's Silence, Without Light or Guide, and The Second Death--bring to life the world of Los Nefilim, Spanish Nephilim that possess the power to harness music and light in the supernatural war between the angels and daimons.

What have I told you in that sentence? The names of the previous novellas, what Los Nefilim are (Spanish Nephilim), how they use their magic (through music and light), and finally the nature of the big picture conflict (the supernatural war between angels and daimons).

Narrow the conflict to the protagonist. The next sentence is:

In 1931, Los Nefilim's existence is shaken by the preternatural forces commanding them ... and a half-breed caught in-between.

Here I center the reader in the time period (1931), because this is historical fantasy. I tell the reader all is not well in the world of Los Nefilim (their existence is shaken), and then I zoom the lens one phrase closer to my protagonist and his place within the conflict (a half-breed caught in-between). The word "caught" indicates the protagonist isn't a willing participant in this war.

Who is the protagonist and what makes them special? Now that I've given the reader the set-up for the world, I tell them about my protagonist:

Diago Alvarez, a singular being of daimonic and angelic descent, is pulled into the ranks of Los Nefilim in order to protect his newly found son.

Diago is not human, nor is he normal by the nephilim's standards (a singular being of daimonic and angelic descent). He is not in Los Nefilim entirely by choice (is pulled into the ranks), but he has a reason to be there (in order to protect his newly found son).

What is the protagonist's conflict? This comes in the last two sentences.

As an angelic war brews in the numinous realms, and Spain marches closer to civil war, the destiny of two worlds hangs on Diago's actions. Yet it is the combined fates of his lover, Miquel, and his young son, Rafael, that weigh most heavily on his soul.

Here I have reintroduced the angelic war and tied it into the Spanish Civil War while alluding to Diago's role in the course of events. I also introduce the fact that Diago is gay (his lover, Miquel) and that the fates of Miquel and Rafael are Diago's primary concern, which adds a very relatable human element to the story.

Sum it all up. The last line sums up the crux of the story:

Lyrical and magical, Los Nefilim explores whether moving toward the light is necessarily the right move, and what it means to live among the shadows.

This sentence refers to Diago questioning his decision to join Los Nefilim throughout the novellas. I also like it because it reveals the deeper meaning behind the story: Diago used to live as a mortal, eschewing his magic and trying to be "normal." With his newly found son, he forsakes that existence to join Los Nefilim, although by moving toward Los Nefilim (the angels and the light), Diago is also forced to live less openly. Now he is must move through the shadows of Los Nefilim's various lies in order to hide his true nature from the mortals.

Of course the reader won't understand that paradox until they have read the story, but that is part of the hook.

A blurb is merely a marketing a tool, but it's a very important one. Know your story, but also know your audience. Above all else, pay very close attention to your word choices so you can make your blurb pack a punch.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Shout-out for "The Wall Of Night" FB Group!

The Wall of Night now has its own FaceBook Group! w00t! It's a hangout for anyone who likes getting together with like-minded fellow readers to discuss books and worldbuilding, storyline and characters -- in this case 'mostly' from The Wall of Night series.

The mighty Rosie C. :)
I'd like to say it was all my idea, but no, that honor goes to  reader, Rosie Cooper, who both had the idea and got things up and running! Thanks, Rosie. :)

In this case the purpose of the Group is to discuss The Heir of Night, The Gathering of the Lost, & Daughter of Blood with others who've enjoyed The Wall of Night series or may be thinking about reading and want to find out more.

It's all about the good book discussion vibe, the friendly, and the having fun -- so if you think this sounds like you, head on over to:


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 on January 26, 2016. 

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

Monday, May 16, 2016

Thoughts on Book Trailers

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 11.21.46 AM
The Blood in the beginning - An Ava Sykes Novel #booktrailer

 Hi Everyone,

What's your take on book trailers?

I'm still unsure ...

Book trailers have been around since 2006, and present an interesting paradox: They use audio/visual media to promote the textual. The question is, can it work.

Book trailers evolve for multiple reasons, not the least because information is now transmitted in speedy, cinematic and downloadable bites. It's almost like going back to the picture book mentality, that stage of reading where we relied on the visual to trigger understanding of the textual. Only this is so much more controversial.

puts it like this:
A trailer, in a way, violates a book’s very construction.
But does it?

For readers who don't have time to "spend leisurely afternoons in bookstores or reading extensive book reviews,' as Najafi puts it, a two minute book trailer can give them a feel for the author and their newest release. Maybe. Running on low budgets and using cheap stock footage and sound tracks can create a result that could do the novel a disservice. Going first class and spending thousands on the clip can result in a trailer that gives away too much story or worse, amps the reader for something the book is not going to deliver. Cathy Yardley's crit on book trailers include:
  • They don't get a lot of views
  • Low return on investment
  • They can't up your SEO
Hmmm. Not too inspiring, but there are some trailers that really rock it. I don't know if they sell books, but as a medium on their own, they are rich in value. And it's value that will encourage people to view and share. Catherine Ryan Howard says:
People aren’t using social media because they love being sold stuff. They’re using it ... to find entertainment, information and connection.
If you want your book trailer to promo your book, or bring attention to a new series/author, it might pay to keep this in mind. Is it entertaining? Informative? Creating connections?

Book trailers that work for me:

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 9.15.34 AM
The Blood in the Beginning - An Ava Sykes Novel
I am fortunate to have Shawn Wilder at MonkeyMe Films as my beautiful Pisces sister AND a fan of Ava Sykes. She's read multiple early copies and knows the story inside out. When it came time to play with trailer ideas, she had them, buy the truck load.

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 1.36.50 PM
The Miriam Black Novels by Chuck Wendig
 The combination of voice and text in the Miriam Black trailer is utterly engaging, and dark, but more like an audio book than a trailer, perhaps?

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 1.41.32 PM
Harry Potter Book Trailer
With Harry Potter trailers, Scholatic's budget probably wouldn't have been an issue. And there were the films to pull from. It has a Disney feel. Probably why my inner child likes it so much.

There are many great book trailers out there, but in an article that pulls no punches: Aliza Weinberger explains why book trailers often make readers cringe:
Because most are terrible.

I'm not going to show any examples of trailers in that category, mainly because I have so much respect for authors who are out there writing books and promoting them in every way they can. And, trailers, for better or worse, are art forms. What sparks me might get the brush from another, and vise versa. So . . . do no harm. :)

I won't encourage a rotten tomato contest here, but if you think we can LEARN something from one that doesn't work (for you) please feel free to link to it in the comments. I also want to see what you do love, and of course, what you think of Ava Sykes.

So what's it to be? Book trailer or non?

Share your thoughts. There are emerging writers and published authors out there that want to hear them!


Kim Falconer is a Supernatural Underground author writing urban fantasy, paranormal romance, YA and epic science fantasy novels.

You can find out 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 and