Friday, June 16, 2017

Mapping the Worlds

Hi everyone!

I've just finished a more polished version of the world Map of Amassia, the series I am currently writing. It's out in 2018 with Entangled Teen. I'm thrilled to be writing Young Adult Fantasy for this publisher.

About the Map

Amassia is a time so far in the future that the continents have reformed into a single landmass. (It's predicted to happen in another 250 million years.) Here's a glimpse at my original drawing, before I learned the open source image editor, Gimp.

My worn sketch and noted for the world of Amassia

Why Maps?

We humans have been making maps for thousands of years. From cave paintings to ancient Babylon, Greece, and Asia, to the 21st century, maps are used as tools to help us understand, and explain, the known world.

My Father's Dragon
It's no wonder that many fantasy authors choose to do the same, even though their worlds will only exist in their reader's imaginations.

It all started with Tolkien. The Hobbit, and the LOTR came with a map, and it's an unspoken expectation that authors of this genre will follow suit.

But for me, the longing to look at maps of imagined worlds began before LOTR was ever published, in a little book by Ruth Stiles Gannett called, My Father's Dragon. I loved hearing the story, and tracing the journey of on the little map.

Another classic map on the heels of Tolkein, Brooks, Goodkind (who apparently didn't like the idea of mapping at all), Eddings (who thought it was essential), Hobbs, Le Guin, Martin and countless other fantasy authors is the world of Harry Potter.

More recently is the Shadow Hunters, a TV version of The Mortal Instrument Series by Cassandra Clare. With this app, Mundanes can download and view an overlay of the Shadow World right on their phones.

Mundanes' Guide to the Shadow World

One of my favourite maps artistically is from our very own Helen Lowe's Wall of Night Series. I love this fantasy world!
Wall of Night's world of Haarth

And finally, here's the map from one of the more ingenious and mind bending story worlds from China Meiville - The City and the City. When you think about it, it't not that far from the Shadow Hunter world, where one city is superimposed over another.

The City and the City Map by Simon Rowe
What are your view on maps in books? Do you read them? Are they spoilers, or part of the adventure? Have a favourite?

All of us Sup authors would love to hear your thoughts.


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.  Or on where she teaches law of attraction and astrology.

Kim 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

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Love is messy, love is kind.....wait- that's not how it goes.

The Things I Carry- Love is messy.

So, I know that this is supposed to be an all things fiction blog, but I find myself ruminating on Romance recently. Maybe its because I'm plotting out two romance series right now, but I have a feeling its primarily because I'm celebrating my twelfth wedding anniversary today. Twelve years of marriage to the same man. Seeing the same face every morning for 4,380 mornings.

That's a lot of mornings.

As much as I want to say that its been easy, it hasn't. In fact, I'm coming to terms with the fact that sometimes what I read in books (and sometimes what I write in books) is only the shiny, brand new love, and rarely the dingy because its been washed for 12 years kind of love.

So I love it when I find something that hits on that note, that Love is Messy idea, because love in real life is messy, and complicated, and gets rusty if you don't use it, and that's okay. Its actually better that way.

There are a few things that I carry with me to help me remind me of this notion. And Yes, some of them come from Rom Coms.

In Someone Like You, which is based on the book Animal Husbandry by Laura Zigman (HILARIOUS, btw), there is a scene at the end in which Jane (Ashely Judd) realizes that when you are at your worst, love is at its best. And even though the movie ends with a sweeping kiss a swelling music, I still carry with me the notion that when I'm a total wreck, a very hot Hugh Jackman will dry my tears.

In Edward Norton's directorial debut, Keeping the Faith, the three main
characters find out that love is complicated but possibly the only thing that everyone can believe in. In this movie, Rabbi Jake Schram falls in love with his childhood friend Anna Riley, but so does his best friend, Fr. Brian Finn. Yep, you read that right, a rabbi and a priest are best friends and a girl gets between them. From this movie, I carry the notion that love doesn't plan on ruining everything, it just sort of happens, and those who think that can efficiently plant it in their lives are going to have a rude awakening.

If you follow me on Twitter, you'll know that I re-read Alice Hoffman's The Museum of Extraordinary Things recently. This book is perfection. Beautiful, and intriguing, and just perfection. In there, one of the main characters gives a piece of wisdom that really resonated with me. That perfect beings, like angels, can not love the way that flawed humans can. They can not feel the depth and breadth of it because they are perfect. Only the flawed can find love. I think that line sunk into me in conjunction with the line from Leonard Cohen "There's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." We have to be flawed so love can find its place within us.

So without being too mushy, remember that love, like a great plate of spaghetti or an amazing cheesy enchilada, is messy. And that's okay- the best things usually are.

Until next month, carry on.


Amanda Arista

Thursday, June 1, 2017

#WhyIRead — Join in HarperCollins' 200th Anniversary Fun

Hey, did you know it's HarperCollins 200th birthday this year? Well, it sure is, and you can follow the celebratory goodness on #hc200.

The other space to checkout is #WhyIRead — started by HarperCollins "to highlight the importance of literacy and the transformative effects of reading, we are launching a social media campaign that encourages book lovers everywhere to share what reading means to them using #WhyIRead."

You probably know that the Supernatural Underground was founded by HarperCollins authors, and although we're no longer all with HC, I felt it would be great to both highlight #hc200 and #WhyIRead here today.

Most importantly I would love you to join in the conversation and share why you read: through the comments and/or using #WhyIRead.

To kick off, I thought I'd share why I read, as posted earlier on my own blog:
"Why I Read 

From earliest childhood, reading has been one of my favourite pastimes, if not the favourite. I was fortunate to be read to by my parents and to have the opportunity to listen to storytelling via the radio, but quickly progressed to reading and selecting stories for myself. Choosing the first book I ever bought—which although now coverless and decidedly tattered, is still in my possession—remains a vivid memory. And although I played games and sport as a kid and teen, I was also one of those kids that hung out in the library, both at school and in town.

Loving books is reason enough to read, but the question implicit in the hashtag is why I love them so much. My initial response was that I simply love stories: the non-fiction stories that are “real” and the fictional stories that help us to understand them. With a teaspoonful of luck and a dash of hope, they may also assist us to better comprehend ourselves as individuals, societies, and a species.

I also love reading because it’s essentially an active and interactive process. The primary act of creativity may be that of the author, but the imagination of the reader is essential to interpretation of the writer’s creation—and every reader’s vision of the characters and their stories will almost certainly be (at least slightly) different. If anything may be said to be perfect, the wonderful AS Byatt quote from Possession perfectly captures this alchemy of creative interaction:

Think of this – that the writer wrote alone, and the reader read alone, and they were alone with each other.”
Books also encompass voyages in space-time. Even if I never step beyond my front gate onto Tolkien’s “road that goes ever on”, every book opens a portal into a new world: worlds in which the voyager may encounter landscapes, cultures, history, secrets and revelations, questions and answers—and walk in many different shoes.

Through books, I am always—in the words of John Donne’s famous Meditation XVII—“involved in Mankind.” When reading, I never have to send “to know for whom the bell tolls.” I already know that it tolls, but also rings out, for me."  

So that's it, that's me. How about you?


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

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

To Dream or Not to Dream

The World - Shadowscapes Tarot 
I just finished reading Laini Taylor's new book, Strange the Dreamer. It's a story about a boy named Lazlo Strange who dreams of things no low-born orphan could hope to aspire to. The plot revolves around the blue skinned godspawn, a past slaughter, a lost city and the lucid dreaming of Lazlo and Sarai. It got me thinking about dreamscapes in fiction, something I've explored in my own novels as well. The funny thing is, while researching dreams in Fantasy Fiction, most of the sites that come up say, Don't do it!

Seriously? Why not?

It's considered something to avoid, but don't tell that to Laini Taylor, Elizabeth Knox - The Dreamhunter Duet, Suzanne Young and Tom DeLonge - Poet Anderson ...of Nightmares, and hundreds of thousands of writers who have used dreams successfully in their fiction.

So which is it. Avoid, or use? 

Yvonne Woon's Dead Beautiful Series uses dreams as vision, 
intragal to the plot.

Reasons to Avoid Dream Scenes in Fiction

According to K M Weiland, "A story opening that features a dream is a story opening that almost always fails to present a strong hook, character, setting, conflict, or frame."

Jackal Editing agrees saying, “Don’t put dreams in novels” isn’t a rule; it’s advice that emerged from readers’ negative reactions to dreams in novels, and it’s practical advice."

Surveys show that dreams sequences in fiction are often skimmed or skipped entirely. Readers report them as boring, distracting and irrelevant to RL, the real life of the story. It's a valid point. Because dreams aren't RL, they have no stakes. No matter what happens, what's revealed, learned or accomplished, in the end, 'is just a dream.' 

Jungian analysis aside, a dream sequence may have no relevance to the story save to tell the reader something about the dreamer's subconscious mind, repressed emotions or secret fears and desires. That may move the story along, or come off as a transparent plot device.

Other cons include:

Dreams in stories almost never ring true. Symbol is the language of the subconscious so in dreams, there is no order, no beginning, middle and end. Hence, dreams that play out as a textual mini-series can't happen, unless you premise your story-world with that ability, and explain why.

Dreams used to flesh out a character may be lazy writing. As Jackal says, "If you can’t develop your character while they’re awake, you’re already in serious trouble."

Dreams in RL are tricksters. They mislead, have dead ends, and rarely portray any concrete ah ha moments when considered rationally. NOTE: This could be both a pro and a con for writing dreams into the story, depending on how its used. 

Harry Potter is led astray by subconscious thoughts implanted by a dastardly villain. 

Reasons for Dreams in Fiction

If the dreams are visions, essential to the plot, as we see happening to the character RenĂ©e Winters in the Dead Beautiful series, by Yvonne Woon, and in all seven novels of the Harry Potter series, then they belong in the narrative. In these examples, dreams are portrayed as powerful, mysterious, dangerous, and a source of power. Good additions.

Our own Supernatural Author Helen Lowe adds, "Dream magic is an important part of the Wall of Night series world and also figured in Thornspell. You will notice, the dreams are not alternate to the main story but an integral part of it."

She has written about her approach to dreams in fiction here:

I find Dreams belong in the prose if they are forms of magical communication. Laini Taylor's Strange the Dreamer and Heartless (Tales of Goldstone Wood #1) by Anne Elisabeth Stengl are examples. Also George R. R. Martin uses dreams for prophecy and communication (particularly the wolf dreams of the Stark children) and in the above mentioned Elisabeth Knox duet, dreams are the premise for the entire story. 

Dreams may also bring humor, a kind of comic relief for the characters. This can work by highlighting their reaction to it, and the reactions of other characters when told the dream.

For writers, if you are Homer, Shakespeare, Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Carrol, Bronte, Orwell and others of that calibre who have used dream narratives to great success, then don't hesitate. Dream sequences CAN work. But it might help to reread some of your favorite authors and see how they managed it.

For readers, I'm wondering how you feel about dreams in novels? Do you ever skim? Get distracted? Bored? Or do the dreams seem like integral, captivating additions to the plot? Somewhere in between?

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.  Or on where she teaches law of attraction and astrology.

Kim 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

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A new meaning to Fight Club

The things I carry with me: Everyone is mid-battle

So I know that you know that I had one of those child things a few years ago. The Bean has changed a lot about my life, but mostly, made me a lot calmer.

I just don't get frustrated with life like I used to. Most of my expectations of how people "should" do something have been tossed out the window.  Doesn't mean I don't empathize with people who are having a hard time dealing with life's expectation gaps.

The more plates I spin (worker, mother, daughter, writer, teacher), the calmer I tend to get and the more understanding I have. I think it has given me an insight that I carry with me in my life and in my writing.

Its best put in the most mis-cited quote on the internet. As I searched for an image, I found that it was said by Plato, Buddha, and John Green. All brilliant. All said cool stuff, so in my head, they can share this.

The notion I carry with me is that everyone has plates spinning. Everyone has a battle they are fighting (internally or externally). Everyone has a wound they are protecting, and everyone has armor to shield who they really are. Whether they know it or not.

In my writing, this means that each person who says something, who has an impact on my main character, gets backstory and a level of awareness about their wounds. Now, I'm not talking write out biographies for the guy that serves her coffee, but he does have history. And you have to respect that history if for no other reason than to give each character a different voice.

I think in life, this makes me just try to wait one second to consider someone else's story. We are all characters in our own journeys figuring out how to be heroic. Everyone is working through a path they might not know about, so just be kind.

When I oriented my thinking to this notion that everyone is plowing through their own Heroic Journey, I get the choice to be an antagonistic force, or the ally, or the mentor. And honestly, sometimes I am lazy and just want to be a tertiary character. Or after a bad day, I realize I'm the antagonistic force. But I might have the power to help them, to be kind, to lessen their plottings for a while.

Carrying that notion with me helps not only in my writing to make sure that I am considering the whole person, past-present-future, but also helps me just be a little kinder, because I optimistically hope, that when I come to an Ordeal in my life, there are a few allies to help me out as well. Because ultimately, we are all fighting together.

Until next time, carry on.

Amanda Arista

Monday, May 1, 2017

Book Of Magic: "The Changeover" by Margaret Mahy

"A gorgeous, strange, unforgettable story...I more than loved it." ~ LAINI TAYLOR

First published in 1984, Margaret Mahy's The Changeover won the Carnegie Medal (for Children's and YA fiction) in the same year. It is now regarded as a classic of supernatural Kids/YA fantasy and is currently being made into a film, with the great (UK actor) Timothy Spall as the bad guy--or bad demon, as is in fact the case.

33 years after first publication, The Changeover is still very much in circulation but has also been re-released by Hachette ahead of the film coming out.

So, of course, having somehow mysteriously missed reading this book when it first came out, or subsequently (despite hearing so many good things!), I was determined to read the re-release -- and I am telling you about it right now, dear Supernatural Undergrounders, because I loved it!

Probably the most important aspect of the book is that it stands the test of time. The author has focused on universal themes of family, friendship, and "the ties that bind", which are all as vital and important now as they were 33 years ago. So there is little to date the story in that sense.

In addition, the main character, Laura, has a wonderful "voice", but is supported by an equally engaging cast of surrounding characters: her mother, Kate, and baby brother, Jacko; her fellow High School student and probable "witch", silver-eyed Sorenson; and Sorenson's mother and grandmother (definitely witches.) I love the way Laura and Sorenson's relationship evolves during the book, managing to achieve romantic tension while still remaining a relationship of equals. Which is important, as it happens...

As for that bad guy, Carmody Braque -- he shifts from creepy, to spooky, to downright evil in a way that makes your skin crawl: guaranteed to creep you out as a reader and I am sure Timothy Spall will achieve just that effect, with spades, in the film.

The Changeover is supernatural urban fantasy from the time before such stories enjoyed their current prominence. I can see its influence on the evolution of the genre and on more recent works such as Neil Gaiman's The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, without it in any way feeling old hat or "read it before, already."

As you can see from the quote I started with, Laini Taylor loved it. So did Justine Larbalestier as discussed here -- and so do I. So there you are, the power of three -- but I know there are many, many more than three The Changeover fans out there. Maybe you're one of us already. :-)

But if not and you're feeling in the mood for a classic YA supernatural read, then I recommend giving The Changeover a try.


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, April 16, 2017

Not Just the Easter Bunny

White Rabbit as Trickster - Image by Caitlin Hackett
Hi everyone! I want to say Happy Easter, but if we were talking thousands of years ago, in a pre-Christian era, the greeting might be more like, Happy Equinox, with a pagan smile or Happy Innana Resurrection Day, with a Sumerian inflection. 

Or maybe, Happy Wenut, forever live her Glory, with an Egyptian twang. Or, drawing on a popular neo-pagan deity, Happy Ostara
Three White Hares by Jackie Morris - The origins and significance 
of the "three hares sharing three ears, yet every one of them has
two" are uncertain, as are the reasons why it appears in such diverse 
locations as the middle east, cave temples in China, Russia and
churches in Devon, England.
There's no arguing that the rabbit is linked to the Christian tradition of Easter, but other than the mysterious triple hare symbol (seen above), there doesn't seem to be any connection prior to a few hundred years ago.

There are recent claims that Ostara, goddess of the dawn (eastern) light, took on the form of a rabbit and is associated with hares and eggs. It's not authenticated. The only ref to Ostara (Eostre) is from the Venerable Bede in his work The Reckoning of Time where he talked about calendar months.

All Bede said was that the pre-Christian celebration of “Easter” is predated by “Eostre” (another version of the name Ostara) who resided over the entire month of April. 

That's it. 

No rabbits. 

No eggs. 

No other description. 

Hmmm ...

The rabbit may be a new addition to the accoutrement of Easter, but the symbolism is important - fertility, virgin births (rabbits can store sperm, birthing a litter long after the male is gone, which can seem miraculous) the season of Spring, abundance, renewal, wit, survival and my favourite - the Trickster.

The Trickster is an archetypal figure found in all cultures, in all places, in all times. She, or he, is both unconscious and super-conscious, hidden in our awareness and projected out into the world. And, sometimes that projection takes the form of a rabbit. 
The Egyptian goddess Wenut 
The Trickster comes along when we are stuck, either in a habit pattern that no longer serves us, a limiting thought about ourselves or others, or a feeling of being trapped or out of touch with the creative life force. 

When we get into such a state, the Trickster comes to blow the roof off the house, shaking our core, facilitating change. We fall in love, or make a radical decision, or have a sudden shattering to restore the flow of energy to our hearts.

We see the rabbit as trickster in literature, from the great rabbit in Watership Down, to Re're Rabbit in the West African rooted tale, from the White Rabbit in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland to the resurrected Velveteen Rabbit. 
So, is there a link to religious festivities, the Easter Bunny and hiding chocolate eggs? Consider Byrd Gibbens, Professor of English at University of Arkansas at Little Rock:
Many native traditions held clowns and tricksters as essential to any contact with the sacred. People could not pray until they had laughed, because laughter opens and frees from rigid preconception. Humans had to have tricksters within the most sacred ceremonies for fear that they forget the sacred comes through upset, reversal, surprise. The trickster in most native traditions is essential to creation, to birth. 
In a roundabout way, the rabbit as trickster, making an appearance at the time of Easter, has a certain circular symmetry to it - Rabbit --> Trickster --> Laughter --> upset --> contact with the sacred --> Rabbit --> Trickster ... 

Something to think about as you bite off a choc-bunny head. 

Hey, maybe even something to laugh about.

Happy Easter, Everyone!

Let me know your favourite rabbit in literature. After all, the Trickster is afoot! 
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.  Or on

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

Monday, April 3, 2017

What do you sacrifice?

The things I carry with me: American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

So many things to say about this one. I think I read American Gods in college and it changed what I thought about everything. Screw Philosophy 101, I had my own new textbook about what was meaningful and what was not.

American Gods is about Shadow Moon who falls into the employment of Mr. Wednesday who is on a cross-country quest to unify the Old Gods against the New Gods that American's have created: Media, Technology, and  everything else that American's sacrifice themselves to.

And then there was Neil Gaiman himself. A British author who had managed to capture the problem with the American condition. He is a hard-core feminist, someone who animately believes that dragons can be beaten, and an author who crossed genres with little more than the bat of an eye. If you've seen the new Lucifer series on FOX, that's a brain child of Gaiman. If you remember Coraline, that made buttons scary for me, that was Gaiman as well.

So what exactly do I carry with me from this extremely influential author and this paramount of a book?

1). That we determine what we worship and what we expend our energies on. The most powerful part of American Gods is that people created the gods based on what they sacrificed their time, blood, sweat, and virgins to. The power is really within people, the gods take it and live off it with very little in return. I carry with me the notion that I choose what I deem sacred. I choose what I spend my time on, no one else.

2). World-building doesn't have to be middle earth. As Kim Falconer talked about here, World Building is just as important to your story as who is in the plot. Gaiman was an inspiration that Magic could be found in everyday life with normal humans knowing nothing about it. World building was research into the normal horrors that could be magical, as well as strange things that could have a double story. Its pretty much the philosophy behind Urban Fantasy, only Gaiman took it to a national level and not just a city.

3). When things get bad, make art. When things are good, make art. Art can change, can be used to make the world better. It seems like more and more, we need to fight for what we believe in and Art is a powerful force to make out point.

So, in case you didn't know, STARZ is making a miniseries of American Gods starting on April 30th. I am very nervous about this as this book is a fundamental part of who I am and what I do. So hopefully next month, I will be able to report that its natural wonder was not stripped away, but that it faithfully imparts the lessons that the book did.

Until next time, carry on.

Amanda Arista

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Ingredients of A Fantasy Heroine


UK cover
On Monday, as part of celebrating Daughter of Blood's longlisting for the Gemmell Legend Award, I featured some of the central characters from the book and The Wall Of Night series:

Daughter Of Blood: Meet The Characters!

Because both the series' main character (Malian) and the title character of the book (Myr) are women—and there are also a large number of other important women characters in the WALL story—penning Monday's post got me thinking about the particular ingredients that characterize the Fantasy genre's heroines.

Usually, with SFF, there’s a “quest” or problem to be resolved, which the heroine usually either finds by curiosity or accident or which finds her, either willingly or unwillingly. 

Karou in Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Ava Sykes in Kim Falconer's The Blood in the Beginning fit the former scenario. Malian and Myr from Daughter of Blood both exemplify the latter; and Shallan in Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive series is another good example.

One of the factors Fantasy heroines often have in common, whether dealing with the stuff of everyday life or the fate of worlds, is resolution in the face of difficulty, particularly in withstanding adverse circumstances but also in seeking for solutions.
All the heroines mentioned above share this quality, but Rachael Boucher in Teresa Frohock's Miserere and Teia of Elspeth Cooper's Wild Hunt series are also strong examples.

In order to be a heroine, too, the circumstances the character is dealing with must involve an element of grave risk, possibly even death—she must be called upon above and beyond the demands of simply being a good citizen.

Yeine Darr, in NK Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, is in no doubt that her own life and that of her country rests on her ability to overcome the dynastic and divine politics of the Kingdoms.

Malian of Night, too, is faced with choices that affect the lives and wellbeing of others and her own life is very much on the line.

I would also argue that to be a heroine, as opposed to an anti-heroine, the character must have some concern about choices between right and wrong, either at a personal or societal level, or both.

Karou fits this bill at both levels, while a character like Mercy Thompson, from Patricia Briggs' paranormal urban Fantasy series, is more focused at the personal—hometown and community—level.
My own character, Malian, while not unconcerned with personal considerations of right and wrong, is far more focused at the wider societal level.

I also believe that the possibility/potential for self-sacrifice is tied to what it means to be a heroine—a natural extension of both risk and considerations of right and/or wrong action.

In the final analysis, too, I feel that to be a great heroine, we as readers have to feel empathy for the character’s tribulations and choices.

USA cover
This may not be as straightforward as liking the character but we have to be emotionally engaged with the path she’s walking.

Of course, you may also point out that this is true for what makes a heroine in real life as well—and I can’t argue with that.

But what do you think? Are there other qualities you feel are essential to make a character a great heroine, either in Fantasy or other fiction?

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

Monday, March 27, 2017

"Daughter Of Blood" -- Meet the Characters!

US cover
A few weeks back I shared right here that Daughter of Blood (The Wall Of Night Book Three) has been longlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award for Best Fantasy Novel — which is very exciting news.

It's been awesome, too, to have such wonderful Supernatural Underground support as the voting is on for the shortlist. What a great community the authors and readers here are!

I'm sure you all agree that one of the most important things that "makes" a book is the characters. So with Daughter of Blood getting the Legend Award longlist nod, if you havena already stepped between the covers to meet the characters I thought you might enjoy an opportunity for the main characters to step out and meet you.

So without further ado, please meet some key players from Daughter of Blood:

UK cover
Malian, the Heir of the warrior House of Night:

'[The facestealer] drew the axe and swung in one swift, fluid movement. If Malian had not been expecting an attack, the blade would have split her skull. Yet even as he moved, her mind was burrowing into the wooden handle, splintering it to shards as the weapon cleaved the air. A voice screamed as her opponent cursed and snatched at his sword, which Malian’s power told her was warded against magic. She threw the dagger from her wrist sheath, and the facestealer’s smile was contemptuous as he deflected it with the sword. He was fast, she gave him that, but so was she, and his contempt slipped as she drew the frost-fire sword before he could counter-strike. The blades clashed together—and his sheared off below the hilt.'

Kalan, Malian's closest friend and ally

'Outside, the
Halcyon’s gangway thudded down onto the Grayharbor dock and someone came up it, whistling. Time to move, Kalan thought—but he still took care over his armor, paying attention to every buckle and binding. In Emer, a knight learned how to arm himself, but it felt odd to be so doing without any of the comrades he had lived and fought alongside for the past five years. Kalan slid the longsword and scabbard with the hydra device onto his belt and buckled it on, realizing that it was almost the first time since he had fled the Keep of Winds with Malian—six years ago now—that he could recall being alone. Yet the most disconcerting step was donning the crimson cuirass of Blood, the House that had expelled him as soon as his old powers manifested at seven years of age.

“What are you, boy? Who? …None of our family ever had such powers!” Kalan heard his father’s voice again, from that long ago day when he had been banished from family, Hold, and House. “You are no more son of mine.” '

Myr, also known as the Lady Mouse (and the Daughter of Blood of the title)

'Noise broke over Myr like a physical wave as she approached the arena known as the Field of Blood. She stopped, almost reeling from its force, while the curtains to the Earl's box stirred before her. Her brother's retinue and Blood’s guests would be waiting on the other side—and from the roar of sound, every tier that ringed the great amphitheater must be full. Myr took a deep breath, summoning resolve, while her attendants whispered and the guards stood like statues, blank faced. A Daughter of Blood must not show fear, Myr told herself...'

Faro, a Grayharbor street kid

' “You will take us there,” the stranger said.

Not for nothing, I won’t, Faro thought. The nearer of the other two strangers turned as though overhearing his thought and held up a copper coin between black-gloved fingers. Faro hesitated, aware of the sharpness within his stomach and that an Ijiri penny would buy him both a meat pie and an unblemished apple at the market. “Well?” the first man demanded, and Faro nodded reluctantly, snatching the coin out of the air when the second stranger flipped it to him...Once they set out, the cobbles still dark with rain, the two strangers walked to either side of him, with their companion in the moving hood immediately behind. Silently, Faro cursed himself for having given in to the coin’s temptation.'

Asantir, the Commander of Night

'Shortly afterward, as the warrior flowed seamlessly from one form into another, Myr realized she was seeing a variant of the Derai-dan. Patterns at ground level spun into airborne, acrobatic leaps, and she barely breathed as the blades continued to inscribe their flawless, fatal parabolas around the warrior at the heart of the gyre. This is the true Derai-dan, she thought: not the flashes of it we’ve seen in the arena, or the fragments incorporated into Blood's drills. ... Below them, the flow of the Derai-dan slowed and then ceased altogether. Myr held her breath and waited: for someone to move or strike a brighter light, or for the warrior's face to lift and turn so she could put a name to it...

 "Commander of Night." Parannis was almost purring with satisfaction. "I hoped I would find you here." 

"Lord Parannis." Asantir remained poised between darkness and shadow, her voice impossible to interpret. '

Raven (whom reader Kristen Blount describes as an "international man of mystery") 

'An owl called again from almost overhead and the second bird answered, a mournful echo from the wood. Emuun’s wolf smile thinned as he studied Malian. “Yes, whatever you are may be too dangerous to take chances with. I should just kill you and have done.”

“Perceptive.” Raven detached himself from the gap where the roan was tethered. He had resumed the hedge knight’s amulets and shabby armor, and his visor was raised as he halted a few paces clear of Malian. “But as for the rest…Not this time, Emuun.”

Emuun was staring, the last remnant of his wolf’s smile wiped away. “It’s not possible,” he said slowly, as though struggling to accept the evidence of his senses. “You’re dead. You all died in the void.”

“Yet here I am.” Raven was ironic. “You broke your own rule, Emuun. Didn’t you always say that you only accepted a death when you saw the body?” '

Tirael, an Envoy of the House of Stars  

'The envoy turned out to be not only one of his House’s ruling kin, but the Countess of Stars’ second child. His silk and jewels, as well as the silver-chased armor of his company, thirty in number, made the dress uniforms of Adamant’s warrior-priests look drab. “Popinjays,” a sentry muttered.

Her watch partner rolled his eyes. “How much’d you bet against every one of them having a name longer than my arm?” 

The first sentry shook her head, because the envoy might have introduced himself as Tirael, but any Son of Stars’ full name would have at least five syllables. “Too long for everyday use,” Tirael had said, smiling as he dismounted with a swirl of his blue-black cloak.'

Although not all the characters, these are most of the story's key players. I hope you've enjoyed meeting them here on Supernatural Underground.

So You Want To Vote For the Award?

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