Friday, April 3, 2020

Birthing a Book

Yep- here's the book cover again.
Year of Genesis: Timeline to publishing

I have often compared writing a book to having a baby. There are aches and pains and lets downs and you feel like it just takes forever. But I think that most mothers, like writers, will tell you that once it has been done and you see the fruits of your labor out into the world, you sort of forget how hard it is when you get the notion to have another.

The Truth about Night was one of these stories I couldn't shake and Merci Lanard was one of these characters that just wouldn't go away. I had to get this book out of my head. It just took WAY longer that I wanted it to. Like an elephant's pregnancy, it just went on forever.

As I mentioned in last months post, Merci Lanard came to me fully formed as I was writing CLAWS AND EFFECT, the second book in the DIARIES trilogy. I wrote that book at a breakneck speed on contract in 2010. So Merci and I met in 2010.

In case your life has been as stressful as mine, let me remind you that it is March of 2020.

I've officially known Merci Lanard for ten years.

Ten years.

Just let that sink in really quick.

According to my word document files, the very first Merci narration was around August 2012. I think I remember taking a few of her scenes to a critique group to test it out. It took me a long time to write the first draft of this one. I wasn't sure if it was a romance or a mystery. But I kept hacking away at it on weekends and after work until I had a final draft (saved as TruthAboutNight-FINAL.doc in Sept 2015). I still laugh at how hopeful and naive I was, labeling it FINAL. 

I started submitting versions of The Truth about Night to editors and agents that I met at conferences. And I got some really good feedback on it. Or at least it looks like I got some feedback on it, because I kept producing new versions:
Version 2
Version 3
Version 4
Version 5
Version 6 - Last saved on March 2017.

What is particularly strange about this narrative is that I was also working on a Women's Fiction book at that same time. That WF book got me my agent. The two of us starting working on edits and revisions for The Evil Ex's Bake Club all the way until November of 2018 when we decided to shelve it. Then I wrote another WF and we shelved that. But that is another story that should be told at another time.

My agent asked me if I had anything else that we could work on and I confessed that I had this strange paranormal mystery. She said that she'd like to see it.

I finished our first round of revisions on it in April 2018.
And another in May.
And another in June.

I will always not need a
pic of James Mcavoy
Version Ten is when she felt comfortable shopping it around and the feedback from the industry was split. It was either too mystery and they wanted me to dial back on that and focus on the hot-and-bothery love interest. Or it was too much romance and they wanted me to turn down the sexy and amp up on the mystery and horror aspects. Yep. Welcome to the subjectiveness that is publishing.

And we tried. I kept hacking and switching and baiting and growing, but it never was right. Like trying to put peanut butter on top of your sandwich. The parts were there, but in the wrong order to fit what other people wanted.

After some true soul searching and market research and a bunch of conversations with my agent, she finally asked. "Which one is the story that you want to tell?"

I answered honestly. "The first one that I wrote, back in 2012. The one about the fierce journalist just trying to figure out who killed her partner. The one with the swoon-worthy literature professor. The one with the gore." All three were such strong tenants to the book, that without them, it all fell apart. Without every single one, it wasn't the story I wanted to tell.

So in Oct 2019, we decided to independently publish The Truth About Night. Version Thirteen.

It took ten years to get this book into the world, but I am proud of it, even the few grammatical errors I have found, because it is mine.

She is my baby.

------

Amanda Arista
Author, Diaries of an Urban Panther & The Merci Lanard Files
www.amandaarista.com

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Year of Worldbuilding in Fantasy #3: "Sparrow Hill Road" (Ghost Roads #1) by Seanan McGuire

.
#YoW Year of Worldbuilding
#WiF Worldbuilding in Fantasy

I chose "worldbuilding" as my Supernatural Underground theme for 2020 because (imho) it's a glue that holds all the different strands of Fantasy out there together.

I kicked off the year with two influential examples from mid-twentieth century children's literature, The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe by CS Lewis and A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin. Both are also what is known as "secondary world" fantasies, i.e. they are set in worlds that are clearly not our (primary) world -- although of course Narnia is connected to this world by the wardrobe.

I promised, however, to endeavor to shift between older and newer works and to look at more than one subgenre of fantasy. This month I make both those leaps by featuring Seanan McGuire's Sparrow Hill Road (Ghost Roads #1), and its companion The Girl In The Green Silk Gown (Ghost Roads #2), which are paranormal fantasy and first published in 2014 and 2018 respectively. They're also very much set in this world, so that's a hat-trick for 'the new' this month. :-)

The Ghost Roads worldbuilding is common to both books but established in Sparrow Hill Road, which is why I'll primarily discuss that today.

To quickly summarize what it's all about, the central character is Rose Marshall, who died on Sparrow Hill Road at sweet sixteen, all dressed up in her green silk gown and driving to the prom.  For the sixty years since she's been a “hitcher ghost” and psychopomp—i.e. a conductor of (other) souls to the afterworld—who travels the highways of America, where she's also known as the Phantom Prom Date.

Rose is simultaneously fleeing her murderer, Bobby Cross—a one-time heartthrob of the silver screen who has made a crossroads bargain for eternal youth, which is fueled by feeding his victims' souls to a vampiric car—and seeking to bring him to justice.

The reason Ghost Roads must be part of this worldbuilding series, though, is because the world is so powerful it's a character in its own right.

This is a world of highways and truck stops woven into the supernatural realms of the dead, from the Twilight down to the Midnight and back again. It's also a world peopled by a diverse range of ghosts, from “hitchers” like Rose to the “crossroads ghosts”—and the crossroads themselves, which are quite something else!—as well as related characters from folklore and myth, such as Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld.

Needless to say you can almost smell the road grease, the beer, and the fat and salt of the fries, as well as feeling the bite of a lonesome wind. Something else that strikes me, quite strongly, is how the world is a celebration of Americana in the context of road culture and associated folklore.

As you can probably tell, I really liked the worldbuilding in Sparrow Hill Road and the Ghost Roads series. So if you love ghost stories and urban fantasy, road trip tales and worlds that you can see and taste and feel as you read, then I suspect you may enjoy Sparrow Hill Road as much as I do.
.
---

Previous Months:

February: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe by CS Lewis
March: A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin

---

Helen Lowe is a teller of tales and purveyor of story, chiefly by way of novels and poetry. 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, March 23, 2020

Welcome to Amassia

Rainaya by Alayna on DeviantArt

Welcome to my world of Amassia...

I'm AK Wilder, officially joining the Sup authors in our endeavour to share books that make the heart beat faster. Let's have some fun in the world of Amassia!

The Release Date

Some of you have been waiting for this story world, found in Crown of Bones, to hit the shelves and I thank you for your patience! We have a solid release date now, August 4, 2020, the warm and sparkling time of Leo. Yay!

And now, on to Amassia...

In a World on the Brink of the Next Great Dying


The Journey by lp ysg on artstation.com
From familiar everyday life, farms and crops and fish and seas, to the fantastic beings of Mar, Bone Throwers and Phantoms, Amassia has the entire range. You'll find elements so ordinary you feel right at home, until wham! You don't. For example, you'll come across...

A green-robe level savant
with raised Phantom (the owl).

Savants and Non-Savants

Savants and non-savants make up the 'human' population of Amassia. They look just like you or I would in a diverse-race, pre-industrial culture, but Savants have one big difference. They can raise their phantoms from the ground and direct them in various ways to serve the realms.

Phantoms

Phantoms fall into five classes, ranging from warriors to healers and take the shape of anything from plant to animal to elementals. They remain dormant in the Savant's soul unless raised from the ground and held to form. Children who show potential to become savant are trained in sanctuaries by high ranking masters. There they learn to control their phantoms, hopefully, to serve and protect the realms.

Bone Throwers

The black-robed Bone Throwers decide
the fate of every child on Amassia.
The black-robed Bone Throwers are savants who devote their lives to divination. They keep to themselves in underground temples near each sanctuary, carrying out their work – predicting times for planting, harvest, hunting and war.

The Bone Throwers also carry out the endless task of carving new whistle bones used in their oracles, including the casts that determine the fate of every child on Amassia. Which sounds ominous, because it is.

If a throw of the bones finds a child marred, those infants must be sacrificed to the sea.  

Mar

Are the Mar real or do they only
live in children's stories?
Most regard the Mar as they would water-dragons and voracious river nymphs—fodder for children’s stories or to strike fear into the hearts of seafaring voyagers.

Are they real?

If so, they dwell beneath the sea and are said to eat the children the black-robe send to them.

One thing is sure, if you met a Mar, you'll never know it. As legends have it, they look just like us, though are near-immortal and have little use for land or air.

* * * 

About AK Wilder

I write YA Lit for young adults, and the young at heart.

Meet me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or check out my site, akwilder.com where you can read the Bare Bones Scopes, throw the bones and discover the latest news and giveaways.

My alter ego on the Sup is Kim Falconer...

Remember, when in doubt... Raise. Your. Phantom!


Monday, March 16, 2020

The Great Escape

Runaway Alchemist by ViridRain
Runaway Alchemist by ViridRain
While researching why adults continue to enjoy YA Fantasy well beyond their teens, I found Abbigail Mazour's thesis on The Reality of Escape in Fantasy. It's an insightful read with two points you might enjoy.

1) Fantasy fiction is an “escape of the prisoner” genre, reflected by -- you guessed it -- characters escaping for their lives.

2) Escape fantasy is actually rooted in the real world, complete with real-world philosophical insights.

Okay, three points. This one's kinda important!

3) Reading and immersing in these kinds of stories has the same benefits to us readers as escaping danger has for the characters.

We live to fight another day...

In My Lonely Room by YuumeiaArt
In My Lonely Room by YuumeiaArt
And, this is good!

Research is pretty clear that escapism through books, music, film and TV shows can help us process our own relationships and life dramas.

The beauty of YA Fiction (for any age) is its immediacy. Often written in the first person and at a page-turning pace, YA Fiction puts us inside the character, right from the first line.

The competition for writers breaking into the genre is fierce, which is also good news for readers. Chances are excellent that the YA Fiction you pick up is going to be well written, with a fresh take on the Fantasy world, plot and characters.

Healthy escape. Immediate storytelling. Well written. Immersive!

What's not to love?
Sand by Guweiz on DeviantArt
Sand by Guweiz on Deviant Art
Lately, I've binged on YA SF, with a reread of Anne McCaffrey's The Ship Who Sang and Merrie Destefano's Valiant, then Nicky Drayden's Escaping Exodus and finally Lydia Kang's Toxic. All worthy of a YA Fantasy #outoftheworld reading list.

How about you? Any cool escape books to share? We'd all love to hear them.

***

Author Kim Falcconer
Jump on the Entangled Teen Blog Hop Giveaway with AK Wilder - 

Kim Falconer's New YA Fantasy Series is out August 4, 2020 - Crown of Bones. (Writing under A.K. Wilder) 

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

You can find Kim on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Or pop over and throw the bones on the AKWilder.com site.

Contact at kimfalconer.com

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Year of Genesis: The Birth of a Character

Available @ Amazon
Hello all, 
We have the second installment of my Year of Genesis for my new series: The Merci Lanard Files. 

Year of Genesis: CHARACTER

Merci Lanard was a bit like Athena in her origin story.

While I was writing Claws and Effect: Book 2 of the Diaries series (author edition out later this year), this investigative journalist just showed up on the page. Because of the situation that main character Violet found herself in, I needed someone who Violet could trust right off the bat to give her some information about her romantic lead. I needed a simple herald archetype.


And Merci Lanard appeared, fully named with her actress already cast. Along with her power. Along with a boyfriend. Along with a backstory that was very strange. 

She was an investigative journalist for a newspaper in Philly. She’s dedicated to finding out all the truths in the city that are hurting the underdogs. She’s like their personal Joan of Arc, and Merci doesn’t mind if that means she only has one meaningful relationship with Jack Daniels. As long as the truth comes to light.

Since she was already within the Wandering universe, Merci really got fun to play with because she is not magically powerful. In a world of creatures who can change their shape, fight with psychic power, cast world-altering spells, Merci Lanard has one small, teeny-tiny magical ability that was so minuscule even she missed out on it for the first 30 years of her life.

When she looks at you, you have to tell her the truth. It was simple. Straightforward.

What Merci had in abundance was guts, determination, and a hunger for the truth that nothing can stop. That was her true power.

All I had to do was tear her world apart and rebuild her over the course of the book.

And this boyfriend character?

Rafe MacCallan was a walking oxymoron from the first time he met Violet on the porch. He’s a Scottish professor who specializes in American Lit. He’s a werewolf Primo without a pack. He’s power wrapped up in a tweed jacket with elbow patches. His control is impeccable, but there is something about his unmovable character that explodes when he meets Merci’s unstoppable force.

So much of the paranormal genre is based on alpha males. Rafe is what I have called an Omega male. He’s not going to start the fight, but it is going to end with him. He’s got baggage, but he knows what it is and he guards others against it.

He was exactly the stable force that Merci needed in her life. I just had to prove it to her.

I'm not sure how other authors write, but these two came as a matching pair from day one, with their names, backstories, and arcs just waiting to be written. 

Hope you enjoyed this little bit of how THE TRUTH ABOUT NIGHT came into being and we will see you next month!

Amanda Arista
Author and slave to her characters. 

Monday, March 2, 2020

Mermaids, Selkies & Sea Monsters...Oh, My!


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Merrie Destefano

Bokerah Brumley

Rachel A. Marks

Catherine Banks

Kai Ellory
Viola
Mia Ellas

Anthea Sharp
Kristi
Lea
LA Fox

Nicole Zoltack

Mara Amberly

Raine English

Margo Bond Collins

Sara Elizabeth

Mikayla Symonett

Tricia Schneider
and Pauline Creeden



Are you ready to dive in before your chance is lost forever? Then order this limited-edition collection of exclusive material from USA Today and award-winning authors.

Including the following stories and more!

Fury by Merrie Destefano
To survive, she made a secret deal in the Underworld.

Queen of the Island by Bokerah Brumley
Gaire, the vision, had come back. She always returned. More so lately than she ever had before.

Seize the Storm by Kristi Lea
An Isyre hides from the hunters who killed her family, as far from any ocean as she can be. The fire mage who discovers her secrets has a few of his own. Can they trust each other to face their pasts

Touched by a Mermaid by Raine English
A secret society. A sea witch bent on revenge. An ancient world in peril.  

Paranormal Maritime War by Nicole Zoltack 
A stolen selkie skin just might start a war between the merfolk, the selkies, and the sirens.

Racing the Clock by Catherine Banks
“You will seduce the prince and convince him to give you his soul. If you fail, you will give me your soul for eternity.”

The Church of Moon and Sea by Sara Elizabeth
She must choose between two loves – the sea or the land.

Soul's Reef - Kai Ellory Viola
A mysterious phenomenon. A weird cult.  Vaccines needed at the end of the universe - Captain Holloway just needs to get through the reefs.

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GOODREADS

PURCHASE ON AMAZON




From FURY by Merrie Destefano



The palace corridors felt cold and hollow, my footsteps echoed off polished granite walls. From time to time, a familiar face nodded and spoke a greeting, but I never heard their words.
  

I felt like I was caught in a whirlpool.


Because no matter how far I walked, I couldn’t shake off the warmth of Riley’s kiss.


It didn’t make sense. She wasn’t my type. She was too young and too feisty and too much like me. I hated to admit it, but I preferred girls who were easy to manipulate and who weren’t all that bright.


Riley was neither one of those.


The sooner I got her out of Rìoghachd, the better. Then I could get back to my regular life. I pulled my shoulders back as I picked up my pace, walking faster, remembering how I used to spend my days and nights. Gambling with Sea Warriors who sank and plundered human ships. Taking midnight strolls through Scottish villages where the girls didn’t notice my blue skin. Dining at the King’s table from golden plates and drinking salty seawine from diamond-embellished goblets.


Everything about my life had been off-kilter since that wretched Selkie arrived.


It felt empty.


I hated it.



NOTE: FURY is set in the world of FATHOM, written by Merrie Destefano.


**scroll through the slideshow to find out more about the authors!!**




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Sunday, March 1, 2020

Year Of Worldbuilding In Fantasy #2: Spellbinding – "A Wizard of Earthsea" by Ursula Le Guin

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#YoW Year of Worldbuilding
#WiF Worldbuilding in Fantasy


Worldbuilding lies at the heart of Fantasy fiction, which is why I've declared 2020 my Year of Worldbuilding in Fantasy and started at my personal beginning last month, with CS Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe.
.
In the introduction, I promised that through this year I would continue to focus on some (but by no means all -- the year isn't long enough for that!) of my personal favorites. I'm also hoping to shift between older and newer works and to look at more than one subgenre of fantasy  – and also style of worldbuilding.

While this remains my intention, for this second post I am going to stay with an older work, which is also an Alternate World (aka Secondary World) fantasy, because when it comes to Fantasy literature and worldbuilding I just can't go past Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea.

Firstly, because Earthsea is a fabulous world (imho!) The other, main reason is because as a young but already avid Fantasy reader, Earthsea was the second really formative work in shaping my appreciation and love of worldbuilding. I had read other works between The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe and A Wizard of Earthsea, but Earthsea stood apart from the rest.

I believe this is quite a tribute to Earthsea and Le Guin, since as Narnia was the first real fantasy novel I encountered it was always likely to have a big impact. As aforesaid, I had a far greater exposure to the genre by the time I picked up A Wizard of Earthsea – but it still blew me away.

Spellbinding

Being a poet as well as a novelist, it's perhaps not surprising that A Wizard of Earthsea began casting its spell from the moment I read the poem that prefaces the (fascinating!) map and the first chapter:

Only in silence the word,
only in dark the light,
only in dying life:

bright the hawk's flight
on the empty sky.

I was going to say that the poem, haiku-like in its simplicity (although not a haiku) prefaced the opening lines – but as soon as I shaped that thought I realized that the poem itself constitutes the opening lines. It captures, and encapsulates so much of the Earthsea world, which at first glimpse appears equally small: a scattering if islands amid an immensity of ocean that like the white space of the page, stretches beyond knowledge.

Earthsea is also a world of profound juxtapositions, beginning with the small footholds of land amid the sea, but including the comparative smallness of people and their lives against the physical immensity and longevity of the world's only other sentient beings, the dragons. It's also a world in which nature has a profound influence, not just because of the dominance of sea over land, but because it lies at the heart of the magic that wizards learn and practice. And in which the most significant juxtaposition is that in learning magic, the mage comes to understand the importance of not using it lightly.

All this is pointed to, and hinted at by the poem, but perhaps its greatest significance in terms of worldbuilding lies in stamping an atmospheric impression of the world on the reader. This occurs before we come to the map, with its visual depiction of "the world", and subsequently the story. Moreover, it's almost invisible, something I imagine few dwell on in their haste to get to that story – and yet it has a resonance that is already shaping our view of the world we are about to enter.

With The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe I discussed how Lewis draws us into his world gradually, matching our experiene to Lucy's as she progresses through the wardrobe and into the snowy wood. In A Wizard of Earthsea, even leaving aside the poem, we're into the world from sentence one:

"The island of Gont, a single mountain that lifts its peak a mile above the storm-wracked Northeast Sea, is a land famous for wizards."

Where the poem has conveyed the spirit of the world, this single sentence grounds the reader and the story in its physical reality of (an) island and ocean, but also makes it clear that in this world, magic is real. The next few sentences go on to give a sense of historical context and depth to those qualities, as well as "placing" the main character, Ged, within the world that has been so instantly invoked.

The first chapter layers considerably more physical and contextual depth on the opening brushstrokes that established the world of islands and ocean, wizards and magic. The reader learns something of the nature of that magic, i.e. of language and naming, innate power and taught knowledge, as well as the nature of the world: a preindustrialized village-based society in which warfare is not common, but does occur.

As with Lucy in Narnia, the main character, initially called Duny but who becomes Ged, is the reader's window into that expanding knowledge. Unlike Lucy, Ged is born into Earthsea, he doesn't cross into it from our world, which is another reason for immersing the reader in the world from the outset.

Despite the story taking place entirely within the alternate world, and learning from Sentence One, Chapter One, that wizards are part of Earthsea, I believe the worldbuilding feels less "magical" and more "real." In Narnia, we share Lucy's wonder at her transition into a new world peopled by magical beings and talking animals. Whereas in Earthsea the reader is immersed in Ged's childhood reality: from the harshness of village existence, the excitement of magic and the allure of its power to a young boy, and the terror of warrior raiding parties.

Very different worlds and approaches, but both very skilful and compelling, as well as influential examples of Fantasy worldbuilding.
.
---

Next Month: I'm still pondering the next installment, so watch this space, but at present my ponderings are honing in a more recent work – and maybe one set in this world as well.

Meanwhile, let's all be careful out there and look out for each other.

---

Helen Lowe is a teller of tales and purveyor of story, chiefly by way of novels and poetry. 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.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Where in Which World

The world of Amassia is based on what earth will be like in 250 million years.

Today, I want to look at the question of where we place our stories. From distant planets, real and imagined, to cities we've lived in, or at least know of. The where of a story-world helps tell the tale.


The idea of location was inspired by Helen Lowe's #YearOfWorldBuilding here on the Sup Blog, and Merrie Destefano's Tweet on the places her novels are set.

One thing is sure, LA, California is a popular place for us!


Rachel Marks'
Otherborn series.
In California alone, not only do we have Merrie's Fathom, Valiant and Lost Girls and Rachel Marks' Otherborn series.
Merrie Destefano's books on Amazon.

Then there's my Ava Sykes Novel, Blood and Water (In Vampires Gone Wild) and in part, all of the Quantum Enchantment and Quantum Encryption series. (Though plenty of that story takes place through the portal, in the land of Gaia.

And then, branching out, Amanda Arista has a new book set in Philadelphia, The Truth About Night, in the Merci Lanard Files

But this city of brotherly love is a little different. It has a magical underbelly, a place no one thinks could be responsible for the crime and drug problems... until Merci Lanard starts digging into her partner's death.

Set in the magical under-
belly of Philadelphia -
The Truth AboutNight
Amanda says, "Philly seemed like the perfect place to put it. I needed an old city, with deep history stretching back to the beginning of America. I needed a big city with a full infrastructure that people could get lost in. And I needed a place with enough crime that it would keep Merci busy her entire life. Just add werewolves!" Currently on Amazon

Helen Lowe's Thornspell is set in a magical kingdom 'not-too-far-away' from the Holy Roman
Thornspell set in the mid-Renaissance.
Empire of the mid-Renaissance era, ca. 1450 - 1520.

Helen says, "It's a setting that evolved to suit the original "creative flash", which envisaged the main character, Sigismund, in a small, European-style castle and evolved in step with the cultural, technological, and historical fabric of the kingdom. The Holy Roman Empire of the era was a diverse but loose confederation of states that stretched from Italy in the south to Denmark in the north, and from the Netherlands/France in the west to Lithuania/Poland in the east -- so offered considerable scope for a magical kingdom or two in the mix."

The Wall of Night Series set in the world of Haarth.
Her Wall of Night series is a different story.

"It is set within its own unique world of Haarth, within a universe that is not our own. Partly that is because "otherworld" settings are customary for epic fantasy, but also because it's just how I always envisaged the story, from its earliest beginnings that were very much influenced by the Norse 'twilight of the gods.'"

I agree with the 'otherworld' tradition of epic fantasy.

Writing as A. K. Wilder, The Bone Throwers series is set in the world of Amassia, a place where life has taken a slightly different evolutionary track. The planet is based on what earth will be like in 250 million years, a single continent surrounded by sea... in habitated by the Mar, the once upon a time human beings...

Book #1 of the Bone Throwers series set in the world of Amassia.
Where are your favorite stories placed? We'd love to hear about them in the comments.

* * *


Kim Falconer's New YA Fantasy Series is out May 5, 2020 - The Crown of Bones. (Writing under A.K. Wilder)

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

You can find Kim on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Or pop over and throw the bones on the AKWilder.com site.

Contact at kimfalconer.com

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Year of Worldbuilding in Fantasy #1: Surprised by Delight – "The Lion, The Witch & the Wardrobe" by CS Lewis

.
#YoW Year of Worldbuilding
#WiF Worldbuilding in Fantasy

Last month, I heralded 2020 as the year I intended focusing on Worldbuilding in Fantasy fiction, emulating 1919 as the Year of Romance: #YoR; #RIFF

Worldbuilding lies at the heart of Fantasy fiction
Art (c)  PJ Fitzpatrick
I indicated, too, that I intended following last year's formula in terms of the focus being on some of my personal favorites over the years. I'll also strive to achieve some historical perspective by switching between older and newer works (as I did with romance.) If possible, I'll keep the range of fantasy encompassed broad, rather than just sticking to the one subgenre, such as paranormal urban or epic fantasy.
.

Starting At My Beginning... 


Yes, I am starting with CS Lewis and The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, in part because of the historical perspective, being first published in 1950.

In doing so, I acknowledge that there are even older contenders from children's literature, such as The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald (1872) or Five Children and It by E Nesbit (1902.) A focus on adult literature might also bring me to The Worm Ourubous by ER Eddison (1922) or The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany (1924).

All have their claims to fantasy and worldbuilding renown – but here's the thing: long before any of these titles crossed my ken, and certainly well before I discovered such worldbuilding heavyweights as JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (1954) or Frank Herbert's Dune (SF; 1965), my eight-year-old brother loaned his seven-year-old sister a library book with the brotherly advice to: "Don't mind the cover, I think you'll like the story."

I didn't like the cover, because the book was old and not at all colorful: it was gray, with a couple of kids, a lion, and two strange animals on the front, mostly detailed in black. It looked kind of dull, in fact, but eventually, still grudgingly I got myself past the cover and opened the book – and in very short order was surprised by delight.

And that dear Supernatural Undergrounders, is the main reason why The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe is my first contender for the Year of Worldbuilding. I still believe that its opening worldbuilding, which sets up both the book and the subsequent series in a few short scenes, is among the most masterly – and influential – in Fantasy literature.

It certainly drew me in, much as Lucy is drawn through the wardrobe and into Narnia. In my case, not just into the particular story, but to become an explorer of Fantasy (and other Speculative Fiction Fiction) worlds for life.

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Surprised By Delight

So what wrought that first delight? At the macro level I believe it's the sheer magic of Lucy first finding herself in the wardrobe, then the gradual sensory revelation that it's more than what it seems. As readers, we experience the wardrobe's darkness with Lucy, moving through the softness of fur coats with the expectation of touching timber.

 Instead, Lucy experiences a crunch underfoot, with the revelation of the unexpected, something "soft and powdery and extremely cold" set up through contrast with her expectation of the "hard smooth wood of the floor." Within a few moments, she finds herself among trees (again, more tactile contrast with the previous furs) with snow "falling on her":

"A moment later she found that she was standing in the middle of a wood at night-time with snow under her feet and snow flakes falling through the air."

Like Lucy, I-as-reader felt "a little frightened, but...very inquisitive and excited as well." After all this transition, so expertly managed through a grounding in changing physical sensation and reality, felt both very real and quite unexpected, not to mention mysterious. At the same time, Lucy also notices "...a light ahead of her." 

Consequently, "she began to walk forward, crunch-crunch over the snow and through the wood toward the...light."

At which point Lucy, and the reader, reach one of the most famous, atmospheric, and puzzling (it's the working-things-out, via Lucy, that really snares the reader's attention, I believe) worldbuilding scenes in Children's and Fantasy literature.

"In about ten minutes she reached it [the light] and found it was a lamp-post. As she stood looking at it, and wondering why there was a lamp-post in the middle of a wood and wondering what to do next, she hard a pitter-patter of feet coming towards her. And soon after that a very strange person stepped out from among the trees into the light of the lamp-post. ...[A description of the person follows, including that he was carrying an umbrella and parcels, concluding with:]... "...he was a Faun.* And when he saw Lucy he gave such a start of surprise that he dropped all his parcels.//"Goodness gracious me!" exclaimed the Faun."

*Given my age, I recall spending some time puzzling over "Faun" as opposed to "fawn." ;-)

The reasons this scene is so significant in worldbuilding terms (imho) is because of what it establishes in so short a time: just four to five pages from Lucy first entering the wardrobe to encountering Mr Tumnus, a citizen of that world. Those few pages establish the winter world of Narnia that is pivotal to the story told in The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe.

The lamppost and the meeting with Mr Tumnus also establish Narnia as a magical realm of mysterious artefacts and denizens, beginning with the Faun but including animals that talk. This early scene also establishes the pivotal role Lucy and other children will play in the Narnia.

Yet all of this is done with the minimum of props: just the building wonder of Lucy's transition through the wardrobe, the added curiosity of the lamppost shining in the middle of the forest, and finally the crowning arrival of the faun with his parcels, his woolly scarf and his umbrella. Altogether, it's a sequence of pages that surprises with delight, sets up the existence of magic and wonder, and establishes a world in which the reader, through Lucy, believes in all of it.

Lewis does not rest on his worldbuilding laurels, though. Within a few short pages of Lucy's return, but slightly longer in the timeframe of the story, her brother Edmund also ventures the wardrobe. In many ways his entry into Narnia mirrors Lucy's: the transition through the wardrobe, the discovery of the winter world – only in his case he does not meet the faun but a beautiful and rather terrifying Queen.

The duplication cements the basis of the world; the encounter with the Queen reveals the darker and more deadly aspect of the winter and the magic that holds Narnia in its grip. At the same time, it establishes the conflict that must be resolved in the story through the conflicting experiences of Lucy and Edmund.

This  conflict is then set in motion with the third transition through the wardrobe by all four children: Lucy, Edmund, and their elder siblings, Peter and Susan. As it should be – three times counting for all, after all, in the best fairytale tradition. :-)

And it is in this third transition that the children meet the first of Narnia's talking animals, Mr and Mrs Beaver, thereby confirming the final, but arguably the most important element of the Narnia world.

These elements – the wonder and delight of lampposts, magical creatures and talking beasts, and the darker and more terrible side of magic embodied in the witch-queen and the winter – are themes that will play out time and again. Not just in The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe (when the children must find the lion, Aslan, and defeat both witch and winter) but throughout the series of seven books.

For these reasons, I believe CS Lewis's worldbuilding in The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe is an outstanding example of the genre. It is also one (possibly of the few) that is well known beyond the fantasy genre.

Finding Narnia...
One example of its reach stems from a decade or so ago, when the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was about to go live. At the time, there was considerable fear in some quarters that it might generate a black hole, thereby destroying the planet.  I remember hearing a radio interview at the time, when a LHC physicist indicated that there was far more chance of someone entering a wardrobe and finding Narnia, than there was of the LHC creating a black hole.

I recall laughing out loud, both at the humor, but also at the power of fantasy worldbuilding made manifest in our "real" and "everyday" world. I could say "muggle" world at this point, but won't, because that would be getting ahead of myself...

On that note: see you next month for my next instalment of the Year of Worldbuilding in Fantasy!

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Note: On February 16 Kim Falconer will be doing a post on Fantasy realms that appear on the real-world map – a nice segue on the worldbuilding theme, so check back in for that. :-)

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Helen Lowe is a teller of tales and purveyor of story, chiefly by way of novels and poetry. 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.