Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Puzzle Cover Reveal and Giveaway

Crown of Bones puzzle hunt cover reveal and giveaway.
I'm so excited to point you all in the direction of EntangledTeen's cover reveal of my next book! The cover is spectacular and finding the pieces on the Instagram tour puts you in the running to win a copy, fresh off the press.

The Giveaway

It’s all happening on Instagram. You simply follow and copy a puzzle piece from each of these influencers below, screenshot the puzzle piece from their insta, then post on EntangledTeen to be in it to win.

Details live on the 18th on my Instagram, a.k.wilder, or Entangled's or any of the book Divas below. The influencers participating are:   

What the Cover Won't Be

I can't divulge the Crown of Bones cover until September 25th, but I can tell you what it won't be like. Here are a few of the early drafts from the Entangled Art Department.

These drafts were created with the w/t of The Bone Throwers, now the series title.

I hope you like the official cover as much as I do. Drop back here on the 25th to see it, or take the Instagram tour and be in it to win.

Fun Jigsaw Puzzle Facts

Image III

The origins of jigsaw puzzles go back to the 1760s when European mapmakers pasted maps onto wood and cut them into small pieces with - you guessed it - a jigsaw. But the name 'jigsaw' wouldn't be applied for another 150 years. Before then, the puzzles were called 'dissecting puzzles'.

Not exactly a name that flows off the tongue...

Image III is 'Europe Divided into its Kingdoms,' a1766 puzzle drawn by London cartographer John Spilsbury. It's known as the world’s very first jigsaw puzzle.

More Facts

Jigsaw puzzles are good for the brain, waking up both left and right sides. The left side sorts the pieces logically while the right side visions the finished product and works intuitively. 

And how long does it take to make one? Guinness Book of Records has 15-year-old Deepika Ravichandran as the fastest puzzler on the planet, logging in at 13 minutes and seven seconds to complete the official Guinness puzzle on May 9, 2014. 

* * * 

Stay tuned! I'll be back on the 25th with the full cover reveal just for Sup readers.

Thanks for all your support!

* * * 

Kim Falconer's New YA Fantasy Series is out March 2020 - The Crown of Bones. 

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

You can find Kim on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

Contact me also at

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

High Fives with Amanda: Five Awesome things about Back to School

Hello there!
I know, its been forever, but enough about me, let's talk School. As you might know, I have a Bean who will be in Kinder this year, so we are full on uniforms and backpacks and carpool lanes. As a new mom to this new clutter, there are a few things that are actually GREAT about Back to School and I thought I would share as they have drastically changed my life and my writing.

Top Five Awesome things about Back to School.

1. Germs. New school, new germs! Well after the past three weeks of stomach flu and head cold, I am ready for whatever Germ-pocolypse those scientists can muster up. I'm convinced I can survive everything with the immunity invested in me by the petrie dish that is Kindergarten.

2. School supplies. For a writer, this is the best time of year. This is when the post-its are all BOGO, in every shape and size, and in all the new fall colors. You can get a hundred pencils for three dollars. You can find compositions notebooks for next to nothing. Erasers shaped like Unicorns- no problem. Its like Christmas for writers. This is when you need to make your list for your families to check twice.

3. New for no reason. Need a pencil for Back to School- sure! But sheets? Pillows? Fridge? Coffee pot? Everything is on sale. Need a new organizer for your spirals- bet that is on sale. Need a mirror locker- bet its on sale! Back to School helped me get new journals AND new pants, just because we are going back to school and you can't go back to school in last years pants. Duh!

4. Forces a schedule. With the new carpool times, the Bean and I are on a pretty tight schedule and I find that I like it. She HAS to go to bed at 8:30, which means I have exactly from 5:30-8:30 to love and squeeze and feed and bathe her in an orderly fashion. There is no stay-up night (except on Saturdays) and there is no movie watching on a Tuesday. Our lives have become nearly predictable, which is great for my post-830 brain when I can sit down and actually get some writing done.

5. Time is precious. Please don't read the above as stifling. Its not. It has helped me realize that Time is a precious commodity. Those thirty minutes we get for dinner- you better damn well believe there isn't a screen in sight, because those minutes are now precious and might be the only ones I get to spend with my kid sitting and talking and telling stories. Back to School has brought me a sense of awareness that my kid is growing up and I won't let that slip past me. Knowing that I can focus on her now, because I'll have time to write later, has only purified my attention on those two times of time which are special and deserving of my attention.

So there you have it: the best things about Back to School.

If you have a Top Five list you'd like me to cultivate, please let me know in the comments below or at @pantherista

In the meantime, give yourself a high five!

Amanda AristaAuthor

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Romance In Fantasy Fiction: A "Beauty & the Beast" Riff In Julian May's Saga Of The Exiles


Intro: #RIFF #YOR

I'm excited to get to to the 7th instalment of my Year of Romance (#YOR) post series on Supernatural Underground. Specifically, that is, Romance in Fantasy Fiction (#RIFF) and most specifically of all, romances that I've enjoyed over many years of reading. #JustSayin' ;-)

Today's feature is a series that was pretty big in the 1980s (or so I believe!), just to stay on track with my intention to switch between older and newer works. 

That series, as the title above has completely given away is Julian May's Saga Of The Exiles, or as I think of it, The Many-Colored Land Quartet — The Many-Colored Land being the title of the first book in the series.

Julian May's Saga Of The Exiles — A "Beauty and the Beast" Riff with the Tale of Katlinel & Sugoll

In point of fact, there are many romances in Julian May's Saga of the Exiles, some of them more central to the main story than that of Katlinel and Sugoll  — but I've always liked their particular riff  on the Beauty and the Beast romantic theme. And as I've said from the outset, this post-series is all about my favourites. :-) 

First, though, I think I have to provide a basic outline of the Saga of the Exiles storyline. In the not-too-distant future, humanity has become part of a Galactic Milieu of civilizations with psychic capabilities. Human beings who cannot adjust to this enlightened new world order, are permitted to time-travel back in time to the Pliocene Era, approximately six million years ago, in quest of a simpler life.

There's only one little problem. Unbeknownst to everyone in the 22nd century, there are already two other cultures present on Pliocene Earth: the Tanu and the Firvulag. The Tanu resemble a cross between Celtic sidhe and the Norse gods, while the Firvulag are more closely aligned with races such as dwarves and goblins, ogres and dark elves. Both are highly magical beings and committed to an aeons-old battle for dominance, part of which is expressed through ritualized combats.

At the outset of the story, the Tanu are controlling the arrival of human time-travellers into the Pliocene. Those who have no psychic or magical capabilities are enslaved for labor, military, and reproductive purposes. Those who do possess such abilities, however, are co-opted into the ranks of the Tanu, some of them rising to high positions.

Katlinel, also known as Katlinel the Darkeyed, is the daughter of a Tanu father and human mother, and one of the Tanu elite in terms of power. Sugoll is a Firvulag, but of a subtribe known as Howlers, whose dwelling place and sensitivity to radiation has led to hideous mutations. As the leader of the Howlers, Sugoll is seeking a solution to reverse the mutations. Part of his qualifications as leader are that he is the most powerful but also the most grotesquely mutated Howler...

Although Katlinel and Sugoll are on opposite sides of the Tanu-Firvulag divide, they meet during the truce and Fair that precedes one of the major ritualized combats between the two species. In it, Sugoll uses his magic to manifest as a handsome prince, a magic too strong for Katlinel to completely penetrate, although her own abilities lead her to recognize it as illusion. Regardless, the two fall in love and Katlinel, defying the Tanu-Firvulag divide. goes to live among the Howlers and work to reverse the mutation effect.

One of the significant aspects of the Beauty and the Beast storyline is that as the story, and their relationship evolves, Sugoll ceases to resort to illusion when with Katlinel. Their love is strong enough for him to appear as his true self in every way. An important part of that is because his character and personality resemble his illusion-self and Katlinel sees to the heart of that truth.

Although their relationship is not the most important one in the series, it is nonetheless significant. I've always liked it, too, because Katlinel and Sugoll are the first individuals to step beyond the traditional enmities and bridge the Tanu-Firvulag-human divisions that are core to the book's conflicts. And although there are other relationships in the series, theirs is one of the most truly equal and also based on a positive expression of power, to an end that transcends personal loyalties and ambitions.

In fact, Katlinel and Sugoll are definitely one of the power couples you'd most want to be around in the Pliocene — and maybe in any era. Again, #JustSayin' ;-)

List of Year of Romance in Fantasy Posts (so far):

Helen Lowe is a teller of tales and purveyor of story, chiefly by way of novels and poetry; she also blogs and occasionally interviews fellow writers. Her first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. The second,The Heir of Night(The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012, and the sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013.Daughter Of Blood (Book Three), was published in 2016 and Helen is currently completing the final novel in the series. She posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog, monthly on the Supernatural Underground, and is also on Twitter:@helenl0we.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Are You Game?

The Witcher, based on the novel series of The Witcher by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski.
When I think of how diverse, well crafted and emotionally charged video games have become in the last decade, it's no surprise to find popular novels have found a home on this platform. Take Harry Potter, first up. There are dozens of games under this title! You can check out all the HP games here, rated from worst to best. The Lego one cracks me up.

Harry, Ron and Hermione in LEGO Harry Potter 

But a novel doesn't have to be an NYTimes bestseller to provide a jumping-off point to explore deeply complicated political ideas through computer gaming. From Ayn Rand to the Ming dynasty, here are a few games you probably didn’t realise were based on literary works.

Enslaved: Oydyssey to the West
The 16th-century Chinese story, 'Journey to the West,' was the jumping-off point for a post-apocalyptic action video game, 'Enslaved: Odyssey to the West,'  

Then there's the Slovenian novel 'Alamut' published in 1938 where we learn 'nothing is an absolute reality, all is permitted.' Players of 'Assassin's Creed' (an action-adventure stealth video game published by Ubisoft using the game engine Anvil) will recognise the spirit of that line seen throughout the franchise: 'Nothing is true, everything is permitted.'

Fan art posted in r/assassin's creed by u/Sketchy-Linez

But the odd thing I'm finding as I look at the fantasy-book-to-game model is the absence, or very little at least, of urban fantasy representation complete with kick-ass heroines. With all the popularity of shows like Supernatural, the X-Files, Buffy, True Blood, Vampire Diaries, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and more it just feels like there’s a lot of room for the gaming industry to explore. We know there are plenty of books out there that would be fabulous jumping-off points.

I can think of a few just looking at our Sup author's backlists!

Let me know your thoughts? Any book in mind you'd love to see turned into a game?


Kim Falconer's New YA Fantasy Series is out March 2020 - The Bone Throwers. 

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

You can find Kim on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Romance In Fantasy Fiction: Friends and Lovers, Maggie Stiefvater's "The Raven Boys"-Style


Intro: #RIFF #YOR

At six months in today (hurrah!), you're probably getting familiar with the drill: i.e. that 2019 is my Year of Romance (#YOR) on Supernatural Underground, and specifically Romance in Fantasy Fiction (#RIFF)  which is what we all read, right?! Right! (Even if not exclusively. ;-) )

I'm also alternating between older and newer works, just to mix things up a bit and also give a feeling for romance in Fantasy over time, using the Lord of the Rings (mid 1950s) as a benchmark.

And now the 'housekeeping' is over, onwards to this month's book, which is also a series but I'll be honing in on the first and second books, Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys (2012) and The Dream Thieves (Book #2, 2013.)

Maggie Stiefvater's "The Raven Boys": Friends and Lovers, Never Apart From The Others

'Friends and lovers, never apart from the others' is a misquote from the Bread song, Friends and Lovers (according to the interwebs, "ever apart..." is correct) — but the misquote is the way I've always heard it, possibly because it's so apt for when pairing-off happens among a group of friends. (Just saying!)

It's also encapsulates the sense of the relationships within Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys, particularly in the first two books, where the relationships within the group shift between friendship and romance, in a way that is reasonably realistic (imho) of teen and young/new adult experience.

The main point-of-view character, at least in the first book, is Blue, who although technically without psychic powers of her own can amplify those of others, including the power to see and guide the dead (i.e. a psychopomp.) Initially reluctant, she becomes friends with the four "Raven boys", Dansey, Ronan, Adam and Noah. All four boys are students at the nearby Aglionby Academy, which has a raven as its school crest.

Although the storyline of one (ie 'unique' or 'special)' young woman becoming part of a 'band of brothers', with no corresponding female friendships, is a little dated now, it is compensated for in The Raven Boys by Blue's very female-centric home environment, which is made up of Blue's mother, Maura, and two other female psychics.

And I did particularly enjoy the interplay of friendship and romantic relationships in this story, which as noted above, I thought reasonably realistic. The central characters are all interesting, too, and different from each other, sometimes in difficult and challenging ways, which means that the journey of the four books is really a journey of these five characters and their intersecting lives.

In fact, I would say that it overshadows the working out of the plot premise, which is to find and wake the magician Owen Glendower*, who Dansey, the leader of the Raven boys, believes traveled or translocated to the Americas from Wales. Whoever wakes him is supposed to be granted a wish, which is Dansey and the Raven boys' initial motivation for their quest.

The initial romantic attraction, although for a long time it remains a 'friendship-with-frisson' because of a concern for the dynamic and balance of the group, is between Blue and Dansey, and it is Dansey that draws Blue into the group. Yet there is also a time when the relationship between Blue and Adam skirts a potential romance.

The second book, The Dream Thieves, is centered more on Ronan and his powers, but as the book evolves his relationship with Adam evolves with it, so that by the third and fourth books (Blue Lily, Lily Blue; The Raven King) the potential and actual romantic relationships have consolidated as Ronan and Adam, Blue and Dansey.

Not that it is by any means plain sailing. Ronan is probably the wildest and most disruptive character among the group of friends, but Adam has his demons and is also a difficult personality. In fact, one of the interesting aspects of the story is that Blue, Ronan, and Adam are all loners, which makes negotiating the ties of the group but also cementing romantic relationships difficult for them.

In Blue's case, this is compounded because she believes that anyone she kisses in a romantic sense will die — a barrier to romantic relationship that is compounded by what she secretly knows of Dansey's probable future and fate. And although Dansey is the leader and the glue that holds the group — and the quest for Owen Glendower — even that role is challenged in the end...

That's all I'm going to say about the story as regards plot, but in terms of romance in fantasy, if you like a story that interweaves a number of characters and storylines together in a shifting web of friendships and romantic love that is both delicate and strong as tempered steel, then The Raven Boys may be the story for you.

And just btw, aren't those covers gorgeous?! :-)

*Note: Owen Glendower is a real historical figure from the late 14th, early 15th century British Isles, who fought a guerrilla-style war against Henry IV after he usurped the throne from Richard II. He was believed by many to be a wizard. The rebellion failed but Glendower was never captured, which doubtless added to the accounts of his powers. An American connection is not part of his legend, however, but associated with Prince Madoc in the late 12th century.

List of Year of Romance in Fantasy Posts (so far):

March: JRR Tolkien and The Lord Of The Rings Effect
April: Laini Taylor's Daughter Of Smoke and Bone – "My Enemy, My Love"
May: Patricia McKillip's Riddlemaster of Hed – "Constancy Amid Tumult"
June: Guy Gavriel Kay's Under Heaven – "When Your Ship Doesn't Sail"
July: Katharine Kerr's Daggerspell (Deverry series) – "Love At First Meeting"

Helen Lowe is a teller of tales and purveyor of story, chiefly by way of novels and poetry; she also blogs and occasionally interviews fellow writers. Her first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. The second,The Heir of Night(The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012, and the sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013.Daughter Of Blood (Book Three), was published in 2016 and Helen is currently completing the final novel in the series. She posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog, monthly on the Supernatural Underground, and is also on Twitter:@helenl0we.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Reader's Report: "The Gossamer Mage" by Julie Czerneda


"The world, the magic, the mystery, not to mention a cast of very real characters  -- distinctive and original, THE GOSSAMER MAGE wove a spell that kept me reading well past 'lights-out.' "

~ Gemmell Award-winner, Helen Lowe

When you're asked to read a fellow author's work with a view to a cover blurb, it's a pretty big deal. Firstly, because it's an honour to be asked. Secondly, because you have to feel you can make the time to do the work and the reading justice. And thirdly  hauntingly!  because there's always that secret fear that even if you've enjoyed every other book by the particular author, what if you don't like this one?

As the quote featured above tells you, however, this third fear did not come to pass with The Gossamer Mage by Canadian author, Julie Czerneda. In fact, I would say it was quite the opposite  and although the quote does encapsulate my opinion of The Gossamer Mage, which is about to be released on 6 August, I would like to expand on it a little today.

I've said that I found the book "distinctive and original", and since those are pretty big words for any work of Fantasy, which is so deeply grounded in myth, fairytale, legend, and history, I'd like to focus on what made me feel that way about The Gossamer Mage.

This is a book by Julie Czerneda I'm talking about, so of course the worldbuilding is going to be masterly and the characters interesting. As a reader, I also had a reasonable expectation that I could rely on the plot to hold together. In my view, though, it's the magic system that binds all these elements into a cohesive whole and lifts The Gossamer Mage into that category of the distinctive and fresh.

If I were to play devil's advocate to myself, I could then point to elements of the magic system that one might find in other stories. For example, Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea may have cemented the importance of equilibrium to the magic of the Archipelago, but many fantasy stories deal with the ideas of the need for limitations on magic and a cost being exacted by its use. The price (or prices, because there is more than one depending on who in the society wields the magic) exacted in The Gossamer Mage is not one I have encountered before, however, and I particularly liked the way it pervaded every aspect of the magic and the world. I thought the magic system was very well thought through in that respect.

As the pen on the cover suggests, the magic practiced by the male mages, and in a different form by the Hold Daughters and their Designates – yes, this is a gender-differentiated magic system, but no, not in the way one might necessarily expect – is one based on language. And in the case of the mages, the spellcasting is written. Again, one could point to the poets of Daniel Abraham's Long Price quartet, or Blake Charlton's Spellwright trilogy, for broadly similar concepts of magic – but the way the concept of written intentions works in The Gossamer Mage, and the way in which it ends being bound into a far larger notion of magic, bearing both on the protagonists within this story and their world, is distinct unto itself.

And I really liked the way what I thought was the story, exactly like the magic system, opened out into something far larger.

Sometimes, too (if not always) – and just to answer my own devil's advocate – what makes a story unique and fresh is not the individual elements but the way they are put together into a new pattern. In this case, I really like the way Julie has woven the elements of The Gossamer Mage's magic system together in a way that imbues her characters and the world---and into a tale with an overall, indefinable sort of something...

For me, The Gossamer Mage worked. When I reached the end and closed the (e-)cover, I felt satisfied. I also felt that I had never read a fantasy quite like it. (And, dear readers, let me assure you that I have read a LOT of Fantasy over the years. :-) )

If you are not already a Julie Czerneda reader and still wondering whether this is the Fantasy for you, then I would say that if you enjoy the work of Ursula Le Guin, or like Neil Gaiman's The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, and/or either of the works mentioned above---Daniel Abraham's Long Price quartet, or Blake Charlton's Spellwright trilogy---then you will probably enjoy The Gossamer Mage.

As noted in several other posts regarding Julie Czerneda's work, we are friends-in-writing, having met at NZ's Natcon in 2009 and remained in touch since. I read an electronic advance copy of The Gossamer Mage manuscript, which is published by DAW books.


About The Author: Julie Czerneda:

For over twenty years, Canadian author/ former biologist Julie E. Czerneda has shared her curiosity about living things through her science fiction, published by DAW Books, NY. Julie’s written fantasy too, the first installments of her Night’s Edge series (DAW) A Turn of Light and A Play of Shadow, winning consecutive Aurora Awards (Canada’s Hugo) for Best English Novel. Having completed her Clan Chronicles series with To Guard Against the Dark, Julie’s latest SF novel is Search Image, Book #1 of her new SF series, The Web Shifter’s Library, bringing back her beloved character Esen the Dear Little Blob. Julie’s edited/co-edited numerous  award-winning anthologies of SF/F, including SFWA’s 2017 Nebula Award Showcase, but nothing prepared her for the sheer joy of opening her Clan Chronicles to fans of the series to produce Tales from Plexis, out December 2018. What’s coming next? Her new fantasy standalone, The Gossamer Mage, out August 2019, and so much more. Visit: She is also on Twitter: @julieczerneda


The author quote and review for The Gossamer Mage were cross-posted by Supernatural Underground author, Helen Lowe, from her "...on Anything, Really" blog.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Print to Screen - Do They Get it Right?

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina show has surprising
differences to the comic book.
The recent explosion of SFF titles developed into films is exciting for us readers and writers alike. How glorious is it to see the genre we love splashed across the screen, larger than life? 

Unless they haven't gotten it right.

Tom Bombadilo's Godberry, the River's Daughter.
The wave of Fantasy adaptations started with Tolkien's LOTR and J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter almost twenty years ago and moved on to properties like Charline Harris's True Blood and Stephenie Myer's Twilight, both released in 2008. 

They were followed quickly by L. J. Smiths The Vampire Diaries in 2009 which brought us to a peak in the realm of VampLit. 

But readers of our genre tend to be sticklers for authenticity. Keeping to the 'spirit of the book' isn't always enough. 

For example, a strong character from LOTR was omitted from the film adaptation.  (I've mentioned this before so you can tell I'm one of those reacting.) The enigmatic Tom Bombadil is nowhere to be seen. In this interview, Peter Jackson explains why:

AICN: Will you be including Tom Bombadil? The Ralph Bakshi production cut it out, as did the BBC radio drama.

PJ: At this point in time Bombadil is out. The main reason is not just time or pace, but one of simple narrative focus ... the Bombadil sequence has so little to do with Sauron or the Ring, it is difficult to justify the screen time. It simply doesn't give us any vital new information. A very simplest rule of thumb that I use in movie storytelling is to try and further the story with each new scene. 

I wonder what Tolkien would say about that!

In other adaptations, readers had trouble adjusting to a dark-haired, slightly tragic Elena Gilbert of the TVD series. After all, L. J. Smith made a big deal in the books about her long blond hair, blue eyes and snarky attitude. A reader elaborates: became immediately obvious that TV Elena was more of a mild-mannered doormat instead of an ice queen with a sacred, sworn duty to ensnare the hot new student. - Read more...

An interview with TVD creators Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson explained that actor Nina Dobrev was perfect for the parts of Elena and her doppelganger Katherine (who isn't a doppelganger in the books BTW) and the gal just wasn't blond. They also found the book Elena too unsympathetic and decided to write her a different way. 

Some readers still haven't forgiven them.

In 2011, episode one of Game of Thrones appeared and yes, the first five seasons are drawn heavily from the books because they were already written. HBO had direct material. But... seasons six, seven, and eight aren’t based so specifically on Martin's next books. Regrets? 

GRRM himself says he wishes the show had found time to include Lady Stoneheart. "I can't imagine how different the show would be with her in it."

From Marvel and DC Comics' The Avengers, I Zombie, Umbrella Academy, Aquaman, to Terry Brook's Netflix release of the Sword of Shannara, print versions differ from the scripts. 

Apparently, there are four major reasons why this happens: 

1. Time
2. money
3. technology
4. storytelling. 

After all, it is an adaptation, not a direct translation.

In iZombie, our main character in the show has a change of name, location, occupation, origins, memory, friends and enemies from her comic book counterpart. In many ways, it's a completely different story, but a good one, on both platforms.

How about you? Have any pet peeves from print to screen adaptations? Favourites? I'd love to hear about them.

* * *

Kim Falconer's New YA Fantasy Series is out in 2020 - The Bone Throwers. 

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

You can find Kim on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

High Fives from Amanda: Getting Burnt

I thought this month I would get SUPER honest. 

I'm exhausted. Even after a vacation, I'm exhausted.   So this month, I thought I'd five you a few pointers on how to avoid that other burn that happens during the summer time: Writer Burn Out.

Burn out is a warning you might be losing passion. You are running out of energy to actively sustain your love of something. If losing passion is not an option, then you need to heed the warning. And this isn't just for writing- this can be for a job that you are passionate about or, frankly, life in general. 

Here are my five tips for dealing with burnout. 

1). Negotiate a successful failure- If you really can't finish, what can you finish? If you can't do the edits on the whole thing, can you finish the edits on the first 15? the first 30? Thirty pages edited is more than nothing, and you'll be sane enough to edit another day. This is when having SMART goals comes in really handy. 

2). It is okay to suck. Leave your perfect Alice Hoffman and Steven King and Jim Butcher at the door. Accept that somedays it is okay to just suck. Just tell the story. Just get the words on the page because, very much like #1, it is easier to edit a page with words than a page without words. For me, sometimes this looks like (insert emotional beat here). 

3). Explore other creative outlets- the more physical the better. Sometimes you just have to get out of the 'writing brain' and use some other hemisphere. Work in a garden. Color-coordinate your bookshelves. Reorganize your living space. Clean everything. Honestly, sometimes just cleaning off my desk is enough to get me back in a writing mood. Mostly because I hate cleaning, and I tell myself, "Look Arista, it is either cleaning or writing, so pick one."

4. Sleep and Relax. When you are facing burnout, sometimes binging Netflix is TOTALLY OKAY. Its okay to watch five seasons of a TV show in a weekend. You are a) potentially angering your muse so much that she will start to saturate your brain with better ideas than this drivel and b) resting and releasing the tension that burnout causes. It is a powerful thing to just put your phone down, put the book down, and allow yourself to go to sleep at the same time as your kids. Try it. Ten hours of sleep is LIFE-CHANGING. 

5. Worry about yourself and yourself only. This one takes a few different faces. - Get off social media. When you are burnt out, the last thing you need to see is some peppy author with a three book deal. What she didn't post was the years that it took to get there- you're only seeing the snapshot and you don't need to see that right now. Stop comparing your journey to others journeys. There are others like it, but this one is yours.- Assess motivations for writing. Do you need to adjust your goals? Are you being too hard on yourself and that is causing burn-out? Is what you are doing today really advancing those goals or is it just busy work? If you stopped writing, what would happen? That last one is hard, but if its a scary thought- you're world without writing- then at least you know the passion is still there. - Eat better, drink water, and exercise with a purpose. Like throw yourself into taking care of YOU. Do that 10 step face cleansing. Try that three day juicing thing. Walk your dog. But do it for you. 

Not trying to be preachy with this, but I know. I've been there. So forgive yourself for the bad days and know that with a little sleep, some hydration, and maybe a walk around the block, it will be better tomorrow. 

If you have a Top Five list you'd like me to cultivate, please let me know in the comments below or at @pantherista

In the meantime, give yourself a high five!

Monday, July 1, 2019

Romance In Fantasy Fiction: Katharine Kerr's "Daggerspell" and Love At First Meeting


Introduction: #YOR #RIFF

As recapped last month, I've dedicated 2019 as my Year of Romance (#YOR) here on Supernatural Underground, specifically Romance in Fantasy Fiction (#RIFF). Because it's love after all, that helps make our crazy old world go around (in addition to physics, that is! ;-) )

Also last month, I let you in on my sekret plan to alternate older Fantasy works with more recent titles. So since last month's title was a 2010 publication, which counts as recent by my book, given I started with Tolkien in the mid-1950s :-), this month I'm heading back to 1988, when Katharine Kerr's Daggerspell launched her wonderful Deverry series (or sequence of series, as it turned out.)

And because the #YOR #RIFF posts are building up now, I'll start listing the links to the preceding posts at the end of each installment. Now  onward to Daggerspell and the fateful "love at first meeting" between Jill and Rhodry.

Katharine Kerr's Daggerspell: Jill, Rhodry, and Love At First Meeting

Love at first sight is one of the great traditions of romantic love and Jill and Rhodry come close, being strongly attracted from their first meeting. I also said their meeting was "fateful" and that is also true, since fate, or wyrd, is one of the prime drivers in Katharine Kerr's tale of the Celtic world of Deverry.

In particular, the spirits and wyrds of four central characters are tied together through a succession of lives, because of initial tragic events. The first of the four is the sorcerer, Nevyn, who has sworn an oath not to rest until the old wrongs are righted. This has rendered him undying until the oath is fulfilled, so he is the only one of the four not to die and continually be reborn. The other three were originally Brangwen and Gerraent, a brother and sister, and Blaen, a friend to Geraint and in love with Brangwen. Nevyn was Brangwen's original betrothed before circumstances and his own youthful pride forced them apart.

In the story's present time, they are Jill (originally Brangwen), her father Cullyn, a "silver dagger" or mercenary soldier (originally Gerraent), and Rhodry (originally Blaen), who is heir to his mother's small kingdom (part of the wider kingdom of Deverry.) I say originally because they have all been through many lives between the original events and the present, some of which are also woven into Daggerspell

When it comes to romance, though, there are several time-honored aspects at play in the story. In addition to "love at first sight" and the "fated love" angle, there are also two triangles, in various permutations depending on how the reincarnated lives play out: Nevyn-Brangwen-Blaen; and Brangwen-Gerraent-Blaen. 

In terms of Jill and Rhodry's love, however, which is central to Daggerspell and the first Deverry quartet, another important aspect of that is "unequal love", i.e. Rhodry is a minor prince and Jill is a silver dagger's daughter, one who carries a silver dagger in her own right. Silver daggers are almost-but-not-quite outcasts, so that puts Cullyn and Jill at the bottom of the social order. 

Jill and Rhodry meet under exceptional circumstances, however, the sort that breaks down social barriers during the crisis. Part of that crisis, too, is a rebellion based on sorcery (called 'dweomer' in the Deverry world) and where Jill turns out to have a vital part of play  all of which conspires to throw Jill and Rhodry closer together, despite Nevyn and Cullyn's best endeavors otherwise.

And here's a wee excerpt from that first meeting:

"Jill turned to Cullyn and gave him a smile that made her beauty as delicate and glowing as that of any court lady. Rhodry's heart sank. It was cursed unfair of the gods to give a lass like this a father who happened to be the best swordsman in the whole wide kingdom of Deverry."

Overall, Daggerspell is a fantasy read I recommend, but if you like romance (#RIFF) to be as much part of your Fantasy reading as adventure and battles and magic, then I think you'll find a lot to enjoy as the Year of Romance (#YOR) rocks on. 

See you all again next month. :-)


List of Year of Romance in Fantasy Posts (so far):

March: JRR Tolkien and The Lord Of The Rings Effect
April: Laini Taylor's Daughter Of Smoke and Bone  "My Enemy, My Love"
May: Patricia McKillip's Riddlemaster of Hed  "Constancy Amid Tumult"
June: Guy Gavriel Kay's Under Heaven  "When Your Ship Doesn't Sail."


Helen Lowe is a teller of tales and purveyor of story, chiefly by way of novels and poetry; she also blogs and occasionally interviews fellow writers. Her first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. The second,The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012, and the sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013. Daughter Of Blood (Book Three), was published in 2016 and Helen is currently completing the final novel in the series. She posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog, monthly on the Supernatural Underground, and is also on Twitter: @helenl0we.