Saturday, September 28, 2013

Sex and Violence in my Office

I enjoyed Nicole's post about writing a lesbian love scene on board a plane filled with families, wondering if any of the parents were catching a glimpse of what was on her computer screen as they paraded toddlers to the restroom. I feel her pain, though I'm not writing on an airplane. I'm writing in my own office, and the potentially disapproving "parents" are in my own brain.

Okay, that needs a little explanation. I write the Mortal Path books featuring Maliha Crayne that are R-rated in terms of violence, sex, and language. I've just started working on book 4 of the series, Bloodletting, a meaningful title. We're talking heads flying, other S&S body parts (severed & significant), love scenes between inexhaustible immortals, the gates of Hell, and the list goes on.

But I've just spent the last few months working on Aftermath, a YA proposal, and publishing Honor's Journey, a middle grade historical novel, under the pen name of DB Ayers. Because I was new at writing for young people, I had to grow a censor in my brain - what, no f-words?? Now it's lodged in there quite firmly. When I started work on Bloodletting, I felt like I had an entire PTA hovering over my shoulder gasping at word choices, stages of undress, and the blood dripping down off my monitor. 

It was slowing me down, honestly, and messing with my head. Until I made a discovery one day.

Honor's Journey has a Flesch-Kincaid grade level of 4.0, meaning that according to a popular way of measuring such things, it's at a 4th grade reading level. Just where it should be. Bloodletting will test substantially higher than that, at least if I'm doing my job properly to appeal to my adult audience with vocabulary, etc.

A curious thing, though, that allows me to get around my internal censor: individual sentences from the adult book might still be at the 4th grade reading level or even lower, if you ignore the topic. For example, "He sucked her nipples while she stroked his hard, hot erection," (Uh, I can say that here, right?) tests out at grade 3.7. Seriously. Not that I would ever write such tacky stuff....

Kind of sets the mind free.

Speaking of free, how about a free review copy of Honor's Journey? This isn't a contest! Everyone who requests a free copy will get one, in Kindle, ePub (Nook & other e-readers), PDF, or print format. Print format is only USA, please. Just visit and let me know the format you want.

If you have kids, know someone with kids, or were once a kid, you'll enjoy this exciting adventure. C'mon, you can't pass up this freebie. Promise, no f-words, although the word breasts appears once in the book and it doesn't refer to chicken. Don't you want to know the context? :-)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Dougal's a Hit!!

 Congratulations to Joanne of Iowa who won this month's prize! Please come back October 25th for the next giveaway!  And thank you all for the great comments!

Many thanks to all my readers who are so awesome that The Vampire with the Dragon Tattoo was able to debut at #11 on the New York Times list and #24 on the USA Today bestseller list!  I've been spreading
the Dougal love around a lot lately. Eight radio shows on Tuesday, and more to come!  Wednesday, I'll be on morning talk shows in Gainesville, FL; Kingston, NY; and St.Louis, MO.  On Thursday: Cedar Rapids, IA; Lexington, KY; and Phoenix, AZ.  Friday: Springfield, IL. Monday: NYC, NY and the Frankie Boyer Talk Show.  If you're interested in catching any of the shows, please check Facebook or Twitter where I will post the stations and times.

The first weekend in October, I'll be at the fabulous Buns & Roses event in Richardson, TX (Dallas area).  Cathy Maxwell will be the keynote speaker, and proceeds help fund local literacy programs. For more information, please check!__main. On Saturday, October 5, I will be signing at the Barnes & Noble in Plano with authors Cathy Maxwell, Sophie Jordan, Lorraine Heath, Donna Grant, Darynda Jones, and many more! For more information, check the Appearances page on my website at  And the second weekend in October, I'll be in Copenhagen, Denmark!! Any readers from around there? Contact me, so we can try to meet!

What's next in the Love at Stake series? I'm happy to report that I finished writing Zoltan's book! It still has to go through revisions and copyedits and so forth.  The title is How to Seduce a Vampire (without really trying), and it goes on sale April 29, 2014. 

I'd like to thank you for your support of Dougal's book by offering you a peek underneath his kilt, but Leah has threatened to sic Gu Mina on me. The nine-tailed fox has a taste for liver!  So instead, I will offer one lucky winner a signed copy of Gregori's book, Sexiest Vampire Alive. Plus a signed copy my historical romance Less than a Gentleman, starring the sexiest spy of the American Revolution!  To enter, just leave a comment on which vampire you think is the sexiest one alive.  International entries are welcome. Good luck!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

I don't like to kiss and tell, but...

I wrote my first lesbian sex scene yesterday, on a plane flying from Cairns to Sydney.

I'm not sure what to make of the two parts of that sentence, to be honest. The sex scene was by far one of the hardest I've ever had to write. On the one hand, I'm not lesbian or bisexual myself. I've only ever made love with a man, so it makes sense that scenes are easier to write. On the other hand, I am a woman, and I know what I enjoy, so it also kind makes sense that maybe I'd have a better idea how to please another woman than a man. Or maybe not.

In order to write the scene, I had to put all those concerns behind me and inhabit the minds of the characters. Luckily, the POV character was as new to loving a woman as I am, so I was able to work on that, but still it's one of the harder things of being a writer, to have to go into a headspace you've never experienced and try to make that feel real.

I'm going to be interested to see what my beta readers think of it.

The other half of that sentence was writing it on a plane. I quite like writing on planes. The seats put you in a reasonable ergonomic position, and the tray table is generally at a good height. Also, it's quiet, and so there's nothing really to distract you (although the girl in front of me was watching The Hobbit and that caught my attention from time to time).

What was difficult to deal with was the fact I was sitting in an aisle seat, and there were a lot of families and young kids on the flight (Cairns is in the height of tourist season at the moment). Everytime a parent walked their toddler up to the toilet or back, I wondered what they would think if they happened to look at my computer screen and actually read what I was writing.

In the end, I finished the scene just as we began the descent into Sydney and I had to turn my computer off. I was really proud of myself, proving that I could write anything at anytime.

If you don't have the luxury of writing full time (which unfortunately I don't), then you have to make the most of the time you do have. You need to learn to be able to write at every opportunity given to you, and not let fears or worries eat away at that.

In total in the two plane flights (I wrote on the plane flight up on Thursday as well), I wrote more than 8000 words. The novella only has a few thousand more words to write. So you can see why I'm proud of myself. Even when I can't believe that I wrote my first lesbian sex scene at somewhere around 36000 feet while three year olds walked past me.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Result: Helen Lowe's 3 Book Giveaway From September 1!

Thank you to everyone who participated in my 3-book giveaway from September 1.

The draw has now been made and the winner is:

[Drum roll!]


Congratulations, Ilona!

If you could email me via contact[at]helenlowe[dot]info, to confirm your mailing details, that would be very much appreciated.:)

Thank you again to everyone who participated! I really value your enthusiasm and support.

And don't forget, US readers -- the 99c e-book price for The Gathering Of The Lost is good until September 30.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Men of My Mind

Have I ever told you how I met Danaus, the hero of my Dark Days series?  It was a strange, unexpected meeting that ended up with long-lasting reprecussions.

I had been toying with a short story involving a vampire with a twisted but playful disposition.  She was taunting a lethal vampire hunter who simply refused to gel within my mind.  It was like I couldn't get the spark I needed to bring him fully onto the page. 

And then I found him in the oddest place.  Flipping through a video game magazine, I stumbled across Ubisoft's ad for their Prince of Persia: Darkness Within game and staring back at me in all his rough and angry glory was Danaus.  (Ok, so techincally he was the Prince, but he will forever be Danaus to me.)

Every muscle in my body froze for a breath as I stared at it.  Then I wordlessly ripped out the image with extreme care and rushed to my office.  I started typing, the words pouring onto the screen like a dam had burst open.  I couldn't get my thoughts to slow down.  The story, the voices finally coalesed in my head.  Mira's voice had always been clear as day, but Danaus had been so much slower in coming.  But then, dear Danaus is a man of few words.  He's a man of action and hard-as-stone beliefs.  My roomates at the time thought I had lost my mind.  I nearly had to be physically removed from my computer that night.  I simply didn't want to leave him.

But he didn't leave me when I stepped away from the computer. 

The image of Danaus stayed with me.  A silent force in my brain, driving me to complete my first urban fantasy novel.  For the next month, I haunted every magazine stand I could find, purchasing magazines just so I could tear out Danaus's picture.  I now have three copies and one is framed on my desk.

As time passed, Danaus wasn't just a character.  He became the image of my muse.  He was the driving force to finish the book, to endure rejection until I landed my agent, and then push through more rejection until I landed my first contact.  When I traveled to my first book convention so many years ago where I gave my first pitch to an editor, I took my picture of Danaus with me and I taped him to the mirror in my room.  I promised him that I would sell his book because the world needed his story.  And even after I sold my books and traveled to more conventions, Danaus's picture went with me.

With the completion of the Dark Days series, I have packed Danaus away.  He's still framed on my desk, but he's not on every computer desktop anymore.  He worked hard through six books and two short stories.  I've given him a rest, allowing him to spend some quality time with Mira.  But he does come out every once in a while to remind me to keep writing.

Funny enough, I've found a new warrior to bond with, though in a somewhat different way.  My heart has recently latched onto Ezio Auditorre de Firenze from the Assassin's Creed series.  (Also, it is oddly ironic that this series is also made by Ubisoft. I'm thinking they may have a direct link with my soul.)  While the image of Danaus helped me to solidify the character already in my head, Ezio is already a fully formed character belonging to someone else.  As such, he'll never appear in anything I write.

But Ezio, like Danaus, is a force.  They are a constant reminder that even when things look their bleakest, you have to keep fighting.  These stories we're working on, they are important creations.  The words need to be set free or they will simply clutter your mind.  They need to reach readers to spread ideas and emotions.

 I think because of Danaus and Ezio, I've come to the conclusion that writers are warriors.  We fight for our words.  We fight our stories.  We fight to be heard.

Danaus brings our the warrior in me.  Ezio reminds me that even when I really don't want to, writing is a Leap of Faith.  Inch out onto the ledge and turn your eyes out. Not at the chasm below but out at the wide world spread eagerly before you.  Take that next leap and have faith in your abilities.  Let the stories be told.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

You have no power over me!

I don’t know if I have confessed this on the blog before, but I’m one of those people who can have three or four dreams a night and remember them. The great part about that is that some of them stick with you for the rest of the day. Can we say story fodder?

My favorite story regarding that was when I dreamt that one of my best friends had turned into a vampire and I had to stake him with a No. 2 pencil. Of course the next day, I felt the need to apologize for it because I felt guilty.

I’m sure that some of you have had that happen before.

Now, I know that I have not confessed this on the blog. We are expecting a Baby Arista in November. Both of us are happy and healthy and right on track, but being a writer of the things that go bump in the night, this has been a tremedously interesting experience. Mostly in that I was convinced that I had a xenomorph growing inside me until the sonogram (go back to last month's post about being a visual person).

But back to the dreams. Anxiety dreams are supposedly common in pregnant women. I mean, your whole life is changing, first baby or fourth, and your brain is dealing with it. But anxiety dreams for a person who eats and breathes horror movies and shapeshifters, has manifested into the weirdest, most vivid dreams on the planet. We are talking full-blown, waking with a jump, heart-pounding dreams that stay with me for the rest of the day. Alligators, Zombies, and Kaiju (Pacific Rim) have been the most frequent subjects.

I'm not going to lie and say I am taking them in stride. Now, when I wake up at 4 in the morning to go to the bathroom, again, I usually can't fall right back to sleep. No matter how much I convince myself there is not a woman in the closet who wants to eat my toes.

A writer friend of mine said I needed to take my subconscious and make it work for me. Take some of those crazy dreams and get them on the page. Because they are just dreams. So that's what I'm spending my month doing, getting the drama on the page. Making all these crazy dreams work for me, instead of me being a slave to them.

Don't be surprised if the next story has a few more scary parts in it that normal. I've finally got the demon fodder I needed to flush out the next project.

So to badly quote one of my favorite movies: You have no power over me, Silly Anxiety dreams!

And if you've got any weird dreams that have stuck with you, I'd love to hear them. Make me feel a little better at night knowing I'm in very good company.

Amanda Arista
Author, Diaries of an Urban Panther series

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Gemmell Legend Award Good News -- Plus A "Super" Giveway & E-book Price Break!

UK cover
Tremendous news The Gathering Of the Lost has made it to the shortlist for the international David Gemmell Legend Award for Best Fantasy Novel!

When that news came through, dear Supernatural Undergrounders, there "may" have been a happy dance!

The David Gemmell Awards celebrate excellence in the fantasy genre so I feel deeply honored that readers have voted The Gathering Of The Lost onto the shortlist for the Legend Award.

I would also like to thank everyone here who voted for The Gathering Of The Lost in the shortlist round – you are wonderful, and as the David Gemmell Awards are voted awards, I couldn't have done it without you!

US cover
To celebrate, here's a couple more review quotes on the book:

Helen Lowe writes wonderful stories, yes, but her work also speaks with lyricism to deeper questions ... This is an author with a gift for fantasy.”  ~ Nebula Award-winner, Catherine Asaro

 "The Gathering of the Lost returns the reader to a world of hidden history and shadowed loyalties and keeps you there until well past your bedtime, loving every minute of it." ~ Fantasy Book Review


To Support "The Gathering of the Lost" To Win  Here's What You Do!

With voting now on to decide the winner and who gets to take home the axe yes, the prize is a battleaxe form the Raven Armory! I would love it if you felt you could support The Gathering Of The Lost to win. 

To vote: 

i) Click on the following link: Legend Award 2013 Shortlist 

or here: 
ii) Then click again in the circle above the author name and book you wish to support: for example, 'Helen Lowe - The Gathering Of The Lost' 

iii) Finally, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the "Vote" button.

Voting closes midnight, September 30 (UK time.)

But There Is More: A Giveaway (International) And An E-book Price Break (US Only)!

To celebrate The Gathering Of The Lost's shortlisting, I am giving away a Super book loot package:
  • a copy of Gathering, with the winner choosing between the US or UK mass market covers (shown above), together with
  • Robin Hobb's City Of Dragons (The Rain Wilds Chronicles)
  • NK Jemisin's The Broken Kingdoms (The Inheritance Series)

The winner will be drawn from commenters on this post over the next week, until midnight, Sunday 8 September, US Eastern Standard Time.

The draw is fully international and will be made by Random.Org and the winner's name will be posted here on the Supernatural Underground on Monday 9 September.

The E-book Price Break!  

If you're in the US and prefer ebooks, my US publisher, Harper Voyager, is celebrating The Gathering Of The Lost's shortlisting with a .99c price break until September 30, when voting closes. So do spread the word on this!!

To see retailers, click here