Saturday, December 28, 2013

New Year's Just Around the Corner

Wrapping paper cleared away, exchanges made--what comes next? A good, long rest, of course! We all deserve it.

I like to use the week between Christmas and the New Year as a time to reflect on how fortunate I have been in my life. I could have been born into a country torn by war and live in fear daily. I could be without the means to feed myself and my family or to provide shelter. I could be suffering from some dread malady for which no cure is available.

Instead I am enjoying the benefits of living in the United States in a way that I don't have food insecurity, homelessness, bombs to frighten me, or diseases that commonly threaten people in undeveloped countries. I'm a writer, the most gratifying way I can spend my time as a career. I have a loving family plus felines Marble, Snickers, and Squeakers who all bring me joy.

What did I do to deserve this?

 When I figure that out, I'll let you know! In the meantime, one thing I can let you know for certain is that I love you all. :-)

SSU 2014 Calendar
Here's a 2014 calendar with the Supernatural Underground logo in the background. Click on the thumbnail for a PDF. 

Here is a greeting card with my wishes to you for 2014. Click on the thumbnail. 

If you have some pre-New-Year's reflections to share, I'd love to hear them. Doesn't have to be anything grandiose. Just a little reflection will do.

See you in 2014!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Congratulations to Ilyssa!!! You are this month's winner. Please contact me at, so I can get your address.  Many thanks to all of you who dropped by with lovely Christmas wishes!!  I am always amazed by the kindness of my readers. Wishing you all much happiness and good health in the New Year, and hopefully that will include lots of great books!  See you January 25th for the next giveaway!

Happy Holidays! It's the time for being with family and friends, not really the best of times for being on the computer-- not when there are cookies and pies in the kitchen!  Since some cookies are calling me, I will be brief.

It's also the time for giving, so this Christmas, I'm giving away a werewolf, a were-bear, and that merry vampire, Dr. Phang!  Yes, one lucky winner will receive a signed copy of Wild About You, starring that cuddly were-bear Howard, and a signed copy of Wanted: Undead or Alive, where the Love Doctor meets his match with werewolf Brynley.  Just leave a comment below to be entered. International entries are welcome. The winner will be chosen at random. Please check back here in  a day or so in case you're the winner and I'm looking for you.  Meanwhile, enjoy your holidays and may you have a happy and healthy New Year!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Holiday Traditions

We've just received a fresh blanket of snow up here in Wisconsin and we're guaranteed another white Christmas.  I've run to the grocery one last time to get everything that my husband will need to make our Christmas dinner and my stomach is already growling with excitement.

As you Christmas steadily approaches, I was thinking of some of the family traditions that I look forward to every year.  One is my mother making these candy cane-shaped coffee cakes.  About a week before Christmas, she's prepare mounds of dough that would be rolled, snipped, filled, carefully shaped, and decorated like candy canes filled with apples.  Yum!  She would them give them to our neighbors about us.  It was only years later that I found out how much many of our neighbors looked forward to those coffee cakes.

I'm not much of a baker, though I do like to attempt cookies every once in a while.  I look forward to seeing the Christmas movies that start to populate every channel during the month of December.  Growing up, Thanksgiving wasn't Thanksgiving until we watched Planes, Trains and Automobiles (which still has the power to make me cry at the end).  And the family favorite for Christmas is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.  I think watching it make us feel a little better about our own chaotic Christmas.  That no matter how insane things had gotten or how wrong events had turned, you realize that maybe the Grizwalds are having a little more trouble.  Also, it's a good way to remember that you just need to laugh about it.  Clark also set the bar for what it takes to decorate a house with light.  One day, we will reach those lofty heights of brilliant exterior illumination.

 Personally, I love finding a quiet night and settling in with an old classic, White Christmas.  I love the soothing sound of Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney singing.  One of my favorite songs from that movie is "Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me" sung by Rosemary Clooney.  I love watching Danny Kaye tap dance across the stage with Vera Ellen.  I love the pageantry.  I love the costumes.  And I love the story.

Finally, one of my favorite traditions is listening to Christmas carols.  I have far too many favorites, but I think the one that keeps rising to the top is Carol of the Bells.  In closing, I will leave you with this interesting rendition of Carol of the Bells from my childhood and pray that you and your family have a wonderful holiday season.

And if you're looking for something to read while relaxing this holiday season, my Asylum Tales stories are currently on sale. For more information, please click here.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas presents for our paranormal friends

They probably don't celebrate Christmas but still, it is the season of giving and I don't think they should miss out.
Some of the present options are obvious eg raw meat for your favourite werewolf, your neck for your favourite vampire. But if you put a bit of thought into it, I think you can come up with some great ideas. Here's a few to start with.


* Leather studded dog collar, for the werewolf who's also into a bit of BDSM
* A cat onesie, for the werewolf with a sense of humour
* Framed photographs of wolves, for the werewolf who likes to be sly
* A swimming pool, because after all that running in the woods, they'll need somewhere to cool off
* A conservatory on their house, for the nights they can't get out but they need to smell the roses


* A course of allergic reaction reduction for that pesky problem with garlic
* Lessons on wood whittling - might as well do something with those stakes!
* A portrait of them, so they know what they look like
* For the vamp with a sense of irony, a painting of the sunrise
* Computer games - let's face it, they've got the time to finish them!


* A medical-strength suture kit
* A treadmill, for training
* A degustation menu - maybe if they tried some different foods, they'd get off the brains obsession
* A word of the day calendar - some learning might help with all the mindlessness stuff
* A set of keys that actually open nothing - for the zombie with a sense of humour


* A get out of jail free card - give them permission to do one thing really, really naughty and get away with it
* A fabulous apron, followed by dinner at a rib joint - no more worrying about getting dirty
* A massage, to help pull the wax from the joints through their feathers to keep them shiny
* Dante's Inferno, for the angel with a sense of humour
* Your very own sexy angel outfit, for the sexually ravenous angel

Would love to hear all your ideas! And if someone can find me a sexy zombie pic, that would be awesome!

I hope you all have an incredible holiday season and that 2013 ends happily and 2014 starts wonderfully!

Monday, December 16, 2013

When Genres Bleed

Beauty and the Beast by alicexz
When it comes to genre fiction, we can count on the labels - Fantasy, SF, Romance, Crime, Historical - to tells us what kind of a ride we are in for. It's like going to a restaurant. If we feel like the taco salad, we order up, and though it may be a good or not so good version, it's still a taco salad - not too far outside the box. We won't, for example, be served a Greek salad with a side of fries. There's something comforting in that. Same with our fiction, right?

Wrong . .  .

There are some genre blenders out there, and none so plastic as Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance, especially in the YA category (where there's a whole lot of blurring going on). Let's look at Urban Fantasy first. Many see UF as an offshoot of Fantasy, but its origins are in Gothic Horror and Hard-boiled Crime. The Urban setting in UF is contemporary, an almost perfect match to our everyday 'reality', save for the pesky 'breach' that has occurred, just the opening 'others' in various forms - angels, demons, vampires, weres, fairies, fay - can enter, and live among us humans. In Uf the streets are tougher, the crimes uglier and the nightlife grittier, forcing our heroine, or hero, to pack a lot of kick-ass and smarts. The protagonist borrows heavily from the Crime detective, and is often anti-authoritarian, tough, shrewd and ultra street savvy, not to mention, a little more than human.

Our Paranormal Romance heroine may have many of these qualities, both internally and externally, but for her, saving the day or solving the crime comes a close second to winning her heart's desire. HEA is expected, and almost always delivered, the driving motivation being connection. And why shouldn't it be? PNR is neither an offshoot of Fantasy or Horror but of Romance. It follows the path to relationship, through the land of the heart, even if that land has its share of vampires, werewolves, shifters and witches.

How to tell them apart?

Murder, suspense, sudden reversals, strong female protagonists and a contemporary setting may be present in both UF and PNR. They will also share supernatural elements and some other world-building, and usually a good fast pace, edge of the seat drama and a whole hell of a lot at stake. But if you take out the love interest from the UF, you'll still have a ripping good story, no holes in the plot. Take the love interest out of the PNR, and the story fails.

This is all fair and good, until the genres bleed too far. Readers, bloggers and even some publishers are looking at PNR and UF as if they might meld, or perhaps are one and the same. Unfortunately, this means a lot of readers will be confused when they pick up a UF that isn't pivoting on the romance or a PNR that ends without the traditional HEA. Again, genres evolve, a reflection of the readers who love them, but what of this mash up UF/PNR? Will both forms survive, or become something not quite one, or the other?

Have you ever felt misled by a genre label (or cover)? Did you mind? What direction do you see these genres going? As I'm writing a UF series now, I'm interested in your response. And perhaps our Supernatural Underground authors would like to chime in too! I know many of us write in multiple categories.

And warm holiday wishes to you all!

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

You can find out more about Kim at or on the 11th House Blog. She posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month. Her latest release is"Blood and Water" in Supernatural Underground: Vampires Gone Wild.    

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Mark of Character

I spend a lot of time thinking about heroes and what makes a person heroic. A lot of my characters skirt that line from time to time. Many have done things that have bothered their consciences, sometimes to the point of haunting them centuries later. So what makes a person honorable and/or heroic? There are the obvious things, of course, like putting others' safety and needs above their own, particularly in a time of crisis. That kind of sacrifice makes for a great fiction hero. But what about in real life? Rarely are we faced with crises of that magnitude...thank goodness.

For me, the mark of honor...and revealed in how a person lives their life every single day. Does he open the door for the lady with the baby, or rush through before her so he can get in line first? Does she let the store clerk know he forgot to ring up one of her high-dollar scarves, or keep quiet? Does he consider how a decision impacts everyone involved, or only care about how it serves...or doesn't serve...him? And what does she do when she makes a mistake?

It's that last one I'm talking about today because I had a prime example of it this week. Everyone makes mistakes. You do. I certainly do. Though they might not be happy to admit it, all my characters do. Most of the time, our screw-ups are minor, like missing our turn on the way to the store. Other times they're disastrous. Often they fall somewhere in the middle.

The act of screwing up itself has no bearing on whether or not a person is honorable. Because, hard as we try, we're going to from time to time. That's what comes of being human. (Or vampire or shape-shifter, for that matter.) What's important is what happens next. What she does about it is the true mark of character. Does she make excuses and explain why it really wasn't her fault? Does she promise to fix it, then never get around to it? Does she blame someone else for the mistake? Or does she own up to it, apologize sincerely, promise to make it right...immediately...then follow through...immediately? That's the true mark of character and tells me I'm dealing with a person I want to work with again. (Unless, of course, the original mistake was a matter of gross negligence or incompetence. A surgeon who accidentally leaves a surgical implement inside a patient isn't someone I'm going anywhere near, sincere apology or not.)

A couple of days ago, my car started making a funny sound, a sound I recognized as a bad alternator. I took it to my dealer's service department and they determined it was, in fact, the alternator. Which had, unfortunately been bad long enough to wreck the battery. And, oh by the way, the rear brakes they'd warned me were going to need to be replaced the next time I came in ought to be done, too. Merry Christmas to me. Over $1000 in repairs.

The service rep called me late afternoon to say the car was ready, so my husband drove me over to pick it up. Less than twenty minutes after I got home, the service rep called again. "I have an odd question for you. Did you pick up your car?" "I did. Why?" But I knew. "You weren't finished with it?" I asked. He coughed. "We haven't even started it. The technician just came to get your keys so he could start working on it. Apparently we put your folder in the wrong pile." Needless to say, my jaw dropped. I'd not only handed over $1000 for work on a car that hadn't been touched, but I'd already been without my car all day.

I had every right to get mad...but I didn't. Because the service rep continued, "I'm so sorry. I know this is a terrible inconvenience, but I want to make this as easy on you as possible. If it's okay with you, I'll send a porter to come to your house, pick it up, and leave you a loaner. You won't be without transportation. We'll do the work this evening and as soon as it's convenient for you, we'll bring yours back and pick up the loaner. Tonight or tomorrow, whatever time works for you. Will that be okay?"

You know what? It was. They goofed. We all do from time to time. But they apologized sincerely and fixed it immediately, and with a minimum of inconvenience to me. Honestly and character. There's nothing more I can ask. Had they handled this differently, I might be looking for a new service department. Instead, I'm more loyal than ever.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Hyper Poodle Incident (aka Keep the Stories Coming)

Hello there,
First let me apologize for missing last month. I was sort of preoccupied with this little angel:

So life has been a little crazy with a new baby and the holiday season on its way. But Helen Lowe got me to thinking what my favorite Christmas traditions are and I've come up with a few that I can't wait to pass along to the little bean. And as with everything else with my life, there are stories that go along with all of them, and I can't wait to tell her.

Number 1: Watching Love Actually. Its just enough of the Christmas spirit, but ultimately, its about all the different kinds of love in the world and I want her to know that. It will probably be a few years before she knows what is going on, but she will be able to sing "Let it Snow" just like Bill Nighy.

Number 2: New PJs on Christmas Eve. We actually didn't do this growing up, but I have always known that I wanted to do this with my kid. Part of it is that every kid needs to have a footed pair of pajamas for cold winter nights with a reindeer tail, but mostly, you have to look stylish for Santa.

Number 3: Box of Queen Anne Cherry Cordials. My dad loved these holiday candies and I remember wrapping them up one year and putting it under the tree. The next morning, we found our poodle very hyper in the middle of the living room covered in cherry goo. The next year, the box of cherries had petrified. Each year something strange happened to these cherries, so I still buy a box every year because I know that something will happen to them.

Number 4: This should probably go first, but decorating the Christmas tree as a family. We are big on ornaments in our family, and each person has enough to fill their own tree. Every year the weekend after Thanksgiving, we would spend hours taking each ornament out of the box and remembering who gave it to us and why. Little Bean already has her first ornament waiting to go on the tree.

Number 5: Driving around to look at Christmas lights. We used to drive around as a family and Mom would make hot cocoa to take with us. Last year there was Starbucks and bicycles, which could be a little more difficult with a little one, but it is something that I always look forward to.

My new writing partner. 
So I know there isn't a lot in this post about Paranormal or Writing (both of which are still brewing in my head at all hours of the morning), but as I reflect on holiday traditions, each has special meaning because they each have a web of stories behind them (except that PJ one: i just really like PJs).

So, in the spirit of the giving season, if you share a holiday something that you like to do and a story
to go with it, I'll give you a Diaries gift set.

Happy Holiday and type at you next year!!!


Amanda Arista
Author, Diaries of an Urban Panther Series

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Magic Of Winter Worlds

With Thanksgiving past and Christmas drawing near, I thought I'd share a few of my favourite winter worlds in Fantasy literature...

...starting with the Narnia of CS Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, of course. I  think that moment when, together with Lucy Pevensie, I stepped through the back of a wardrobe and into the snowy landscape of Lantern Waste was definitely one of the most magical of my reading childhood.

As an adult, Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness provided a similar defining moment, with the physical world of Winter (Gethen) absolutely dominating the cultural, sexual, and political landscape of the story.

And then there’s Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale — which is more like historical urban fantasy (meets the Gangs of New York) and is rich, mythic, magic-realism imbued — and where winter undoubtedly ‘colors’  the entire story.

More recently I’ve read Kate Elliott’s Cold Magic (the first of a “Cold’ trilogy) which also picks up the idea of an ice age realm where the ice influences magic — but in a world where alternate history means the Carthaginians fought the Romans to a standstill, retaining their maritime empire, and North African (Mali) magicians have emigrated (ahead of a ghoul/zombie horde) to hook up with Celtic druids. Fascinated already — you should be!

Joan Vingt’s “The Snow Queen” is another favourite and one where the prolonged winter world of Tiamat, but also the imminent transition to an equally prolonged summer, is essential to the story being told. 

Picking up on extended winter/summer worlds again, “Winter is Coming” in George RR Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, even if it is not quite here yet — but the giant wall of ice and the Night Watch definitely set the scene from book one, A Game of Thrones.

There are also distinctive winter elements to wider worlds, such as the Winter Country in my own “The Wall of Night” series, and the north of the Finnish witches and panzer bjorn in Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass.

The more I think about it, it seems fairly clear that winter worlds hold an enduring fascination, so now I’m thinking about why that might be… In part, I suspect it is because winter landscapes and worlds are so dramatic, stark and elemental. Physically, they challenge us — and the white on white of snow worlds is also a very strong aesthetic.

Can you think of any great winter worlds I’ve missed mentioning?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

The first Thanksgiving was held in the fall of 1621, sometime between September 21 and November 11, and it was a feast held over three days. The Pilgrims were joined by about 90 members of the local Wampanoag tribe including their Chief Massasoit, to celebrate a successful harvest season, something that was a matter of life or death to them.

While most of us ply the aisles of a grocery store with a shopping cart to collect the makings for our feast these days, the idea of taking time to sit down with family and friends to share our joy has stuck with us through the centuries. Mostly.

There were gaps in the celebration of Thanksgiving, even though George Washington declared it a national holiday in 1789. The woman who wrote the nursery rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb" spent four decades of her life trying to get Thanksgiving to become an annual national celebration. Her name was Sarah Josepha Hale. She and Abraham Lincoln connected on the idea of bringing the nation together for healing during the Civil War. In 1863, Lincoln proclaimed that the last Thursday in November was to be a day of "thanksgiving and praise."

While you have feasting on your mind, you might want to think about those who are hungry this and every day, and do something about it. 

When you go around the table saying what you're thankful for, you might want to add Abraham Lincoln and Sara Josepha Hale. It wouldn't hurt to lift up your voices and sing "Mary Had a Little Lamb" too. Make the feasting and the giving thanks last three days, as in 1621.

My Thanksgiving Wishes to you!
(Click above)
It would be wonderful if you'd share a high point from this Thanksgiving or one in your memory with me and other readers of Supernatural Underground.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Being Thankful

The winner for this month is Mary Chen! Mary, please email me at, so I can get your mailing information. Many thanks for everyone who dropped by to comment.  It looks like we share a lot of our favorite authors!  It's an honor to be included among them. Thanks again for all your support, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Can you believe it's the end of November already?  Where did 2013 go?  This is the time of the year to be thankful and count our blessings, and I wanted you to know you are all blessings to me.  You keep buying

the books.  You spread the word to family and friends.  You continue to come here every month, or email me, or stop by Facebook, Goodreads, or Twitter to give me encouragement and support. I am thankful to you all!  To give thanks, I'm giving away my two latest releases.  One lucky winner will receive a signed copy of The Vampire with the Dragon Tattoo and my latest historical, Less than a Gentleman!

I am also thankful for other authors, who do so much more than entertain me. They amaze me and inspire me. I recently saw some of them in Dallas at the Buns and Roses event, and I asked them to sign the Autograph Keepsake booklet. This booklet has author photos and signatures from authors like Donna Grant, Darynda Jones, Lorraine Heath, Sophie Jordan, Cathy Mawell, myself, and others. A total of 22 autographs!!  So this month's winner will
receive the two books mentioned above, plus the Autograph Keepsake!

To enter, just leave a comment about which authors you are thankful for. The winner will be chosen at random. Please check back here in case you have won, and I'm trying to get in contact with you. International entries are welcome.  Happy Thanksgiving and wishing you a safe and happy holiday season!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

December 1 approaches...

Photo courtesy of
Can you believe it's only two weeks to winter/summer? Depending on where you live, of course.

Here in Australia, we're actually having a bit of a hard time believing it's almost Summer. We're in the middle of a bit of a cold snap at the moment, and the Spring rains have been more 'deluge' than 'refreshing' in some parts. All this just a few weeks after horrific bushfires.

Weather, huh?

On Twitter, I've seen people staring to talk about the build-up to Christmas. In particular, parents commenting on how the stupid end of year whirl has begun, with their relationship with their kids being reduced to little more than a bus driver. There's also been the now traditionally whinge about how early the shops get all the Christmas gear out. Actually, I think they were a little more laid-back this year - it was early to mid-November before it was really noticeable.

Do the shopping centres start decorating for Christmas that early in the US, or does Thanksgiving hold it back?

Lotsa folks have been saying December 1 is the day that Christmas observances can start. It's the earliest day that you can put up your Christmas tree, they opine. It's when the shops should put up their decorations. Anything earlier is a waste.

When you look at that depository of all wisdom, Wikipedia, it turns out December 1 is actually a pretty cool day. Here's some of the holidays/observances from around the world:
Personally, I love the idea of a Good Neighborliness Day - particularly as the stress of the end of the year grows. We all know that for some people, this is a really difficult time of the year, so a day put aside to being a good neighbour sounds awesome.

Christmas and everything just rushed at me last year. Work was extremely busy in December and I just didn't have a chance to stop and think about it and by the time it arrived, I wasn't ready and it was a bit of a dud, quite frankly. This year, December at work is going to be much calmer, so I am DETERMINED that I'm going to give Christmas and the end of the year the attention it deserves. It's going to be a party, my friends.

How about you? Are you looking forward to December?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Take a Holiday from Stress

With Thanksgiving and Christmas Holiday just around the corner, it's a good time to ask "Is there  too much stress in my life?"

To find out, check in with your emotional guidance! Here's how:

Feel good = stress free.

Feel bad = stressful.

The idea is to bring awareness to the situation so we can let go of what's not supporting us. Indicators of stress include:

  • Fatigue, yawning, dozing, spacing out, depression  Aches and pains and symptoms in the body 
  • Nervous tension, anxiety or apprehension 
  • Insomnia and sleep disturbances
  • Lack of enthusiasm for life  

Reducing Daily Stress Where is the relief? Where is the liberation? Four quick ways to let go of stress: • Burn off the adrenaline! Find a feel good exercise!

  • Remove the source of stress by reassessing plans and restructuring goals. 
  • Eliminate ‘tolerations’. Let them go, or find a new way to think about them. 
  • Learn to say no, delegate, and entrust others.
  • Nurture mind/body/spirit. Exercise and meditate! 

Stress Reduction Through the Zodiac

The signs of the zodiac can alert us to authentic needs and modes of stress reduction. We each have all twelve signs in our charts, although some will be emphasized more than others. Looking at the natal signs of the Sun, Moon, Ascendant and Ascendant ruler(s) offers a good starting point.

 AriesAries need to express through assertion and action. Stress accumulates when physical restrictions are imposed or there is a lack of independence, authority and self-direction. Effective stress relief includes defining goals, regular exercise, and focusing on the areas of life where you CAN be in charge.

TaurusTaurus need to express sensually. Stress can accumulate when there is physical isolation, deprivation of intimacy or lack of comfort and security in the environment. Stress relief may come from healthy physical contact, bodywork, regular meals, intimacy, and good financial planning.

GeminiGemini need to express through communication and multitasking. Stress builds up when there is no one to talk to, too little to do, or no way to disseminate ideas. Stress relief comes with the right amount of activity levels, new projects, cultivating friends, study, and varied types of playful exercise.

 CancerCancer need to express through emotional bonds. Stress can arise from discordant surroundings, moving house, loss of nourishing family ties, minimal creative and emotional outlets and financial insecurity. Stress reduction includes building self-nourishment and love, creativity, domestic security and emotional ties.

 LeoLeo need acknowledgement, distinction, and an audience. They like drama! Stress can arise from lack of recognition, humiliation or a feeling of insignificance. Anything that adds sparkle and specialty will help reduce stress, as will exercise, playful joint activities, romance and creative or
Ryan Kwanten - True Blood
dramatic self-expression.

 VirgoVirgo need to categorize, refine, plan and examine. Stress can arise from emotional or environmental chaos, inactivity and lack of order or meaningful tasks. They need to feel their work reflects a valid contribution, great or small. Control over diet, exercise, communication and the day to day environment is critical.

 LibraLibra need to harmonize, share, beautify and relate socially. Stress can arise from imbalance, injustice, harsh environments, social isolation and lack of image control. A stressed Libra needs to talk things out, sharing feelings and experiences with a caring other. One of the people pleasers, they stress about having to say NO.

 ScorpioScorpio need to interact intensely, get behind the scenes and live on the edge. Stress can occur when life is too sedate or lacking in emotional intimacy. Some risk or danger can be nourishing for Scorpio, as is fortifying personal relationships and allowing time and space for passionate expression. Dramas and upheaval are allies = healthy transformation.

 SagittariusSagittarius need to explore, find meaning, direct others and adventure. Stress can arise when life is too confining and predictable. There is a strong need for social contact and a longing to lead the group. Physical exercise in natural outdoor settings is a must, as is spontaneity.

 CapricornCapricorn need to assert their own authority, build structure and gain achievement and results. Stress augments when this sign lacks control, security, plans or power. Self-sufficiency, planning, and wise time management reduces stress, as does exercise that builds, strengthens and

 AquariusAquarius need stimulation, challenge, knowledge and freedom. Stress can arise when life is banal, restrictive, subdued, or routine. Linking with like-minded others, making sudden decisions and daring to be different can reduce stress. Exercise is vital as mental focus causes this sign to forget the needs of the body.

 piscesPisces need to imagine, commune, restore and escape. Stress builds when they ignore physical needs, lack emotional bonds, feel pressure to perform or have no outlets to create and/or escape. Pisces thrives on an active and imaginative inner world where they can retreat to regain balance. Must have a sanctuary.

Have a wonderful family gathering this holiday season, and remember everyone, stress free bliss is best. xK

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

You can find out more about Kim at or on the 11th House Blog. She posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month. Her latest release is"Blood and Water" in Supernatural Underground: Vampires Gone Wild.    

Friday, November 1, 2013

All Hallows Eve

by PJ Fitzpatrick*
Samhain - All Hallows' Eve - Halloween; we celebrate the festival in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, but the trappings of the contemporary celebration—dressing up in scary costumes, jack o’ lanterns, trick-or-treating—are all activities that speak to the gathering dark of autumn nights, far more than the long, light-filled, evenings of the southern spring.

A quick look at the festival's origins also points north. Halloween derives from the Celtic festival of Samhain, which was associated with harvest end and the passing of the year from summer into the dark and cold of winter. From what I have read, it also had elements of a “day of the dead,” when “the hungry ghosts” had to be placated with offerings of food. Even the bonfires of Guy Fawkes, a few days later, echo the bonfire tradition of Samhain…

In the Christian era, Samhain became the festival of All Hallows Eve, comprising first All Saints' and then All Souls' Day—but whether a harvest festival, a celebration of All Souls, or a feast of the dead, Halloween clearly belongs to the dying season of the year rather than to spring.

In that spirit, one of my all-time favorite Halloween stories is the Scottish tale of Tam Lin, and my favourite retelling is found in Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Armourer’s House (Oxford Children’s Library, 1951), in the Chapter titled “A Tale for Hallowe’en.”  Here’s a small sample to give you a feel for why, even though it’s very much a kids’ retelling, I think it’s well worth a read:

… Oh, but it was wild and lonely up there, with the larks singing in the wide skies, and the whaups crying, and the land dropping away from her feet to the blue hills of the Border Country. And all at once Janot was afraid, and just for a moment she thought that she would take the gold pin from her gown and leave it for a gift to the Fairy Kind, and go home quickly, as she had come. But she was not one to turn away from a thing because she was afraid; so she bent forward across the well-curb, and broke off a long wild-rose spray that arched above it. There were two pink blossoms upon the spray, and as she broke it off, the petals fell from one of them, as is the way of wild roses when their branch is shaken. She leaned forward to watch the five petals floating in the dark water, and there was her own face looking up at her from the depths—aye, and another face looking over her shoulder! A thin face it was, and dark enough to startle any maid.

For the time that it might take your heart to beat twice, Janot never moved. Then she turned slowly from the well-curb, still holding the rose-switch in her hand. Close beside her on the green-sward stood a brave young gallant, clad all in green, from his close-fitting hose to his feathered bonnet. And oh, but he was bonny, despite his black hair and his wan, dark face; there was a cleft to his chin and a quirk to his eyebrow, and the eyes of him were bright and grey …

… I am called Tam Lin,” said the young man, and, as he spoke, he doffed his bonnet to her so low that it swept the fern …”

So that’s a very small excerpt from one of my favourite Halloween stories. What 's yours?

* The etching in Jaransor, from The Heir of Night, from a series of images done by PJ Fitzpatrick who drew the Heir map, but the "feel" also suits the description of Carterhaugh: a "wild and lonely" place.