Monday, November 30, 2015

Step Away From That Manuscript--After #NaNoWriMo

This post was going to be about monsters, but it's not, because things are happening all at once again, as they sometimes do in my life. Due to these mitigating factors, this will be a much shorter post than my previous two.

Initially, I had wanted to talk to you about the importance of monsters in fiction. However, I am under a deadline, and it's the end of NaNoWriMo so I figured most of you were under deadlines, too.

Anyway, I thought I would impart a bit of writing advice to you.

Or make that non-writing advice, as the case might be.

That's right. I'm telling you not to write. Let me explain:

If you participated in NaNoWriMo, I'm sure you're excited about your story. You should be. Writing a work of fiction can be a major undertaking. Whatever else you do, finish your story.

If you intend to submit your story for publication, I would like to make a suggestion. this will be the hardest thing you will do, but I suggest that you set your story aside for one week at the very least. One month is optimal.

Don't look at it. Don't think about it. Write something else. Start a blog. Play on Twitter. Take a workshop. Read. Read. Read. Read books and stories within your genre and outside your genre.

But whatever you do ...








You will be amazed at the things you see when you go back and read it after being away from it for a week or more. You will find missing words, badly phrased sentences--sentences that sounded so profound in your head when you first wrote them now seem trite and underdeveloped! You will discover poor transitions between paragraphs, and scenes that were fun to write, but don't actually move the plot forward.

By leaving the manuscript alone for a period of time and returning to it, you will find the themes that stand out clearly, and the muddled subplots that need to be eliminated.

This past summer, I was on a deadline to complete Without Light or Guide and did not have the luxury of a week away from the manuscript like I had with In Midnight's Silence. The difference between the two was that Without Light or Guide took a lot more editorial guidance and rewrites than In Midnight's Silence.

With my last novella in the series, I had the luxury of that week. I'm rereading the manuscript now with an eye toward clarity and plot. I'm catching simple errors and more complex ones in order to fill in the story so that it reads more smoothly.

So at midnight on November 30 (or on the date you finish the first draft), step away from that manuscript. Let it simmer. At the end of the month, you'll be able to see precisely what the story is missing, and you will make it better with each pass.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Everything Has a Name

As a writer, I'm interested in how language works, not just English. Mind you, not interested enough to be good at grammar.[1] But motivated enough to be able to play with/make up words and even fake fantasy languages.[2] So, that's why as I was running my errands the following story on NPR caught my attention. It was about a man who, at age 27, had no languageIldefonso had been born deaf and had been isolated. No one taught him language. Susan Schaller ran into him at a university and ultimately began to teach him. As fascinating and depressing and inspiring as Ildefonso's story was, the podcast then moved on to other interesting, but related ideas. Questions about how language affects how the human brain works. Questions about how communication happens--even to a certain extent, empathy and even internal thought. As someone who is interested in dialog, communication, and psychology, it was incredible to hear and consider. has two podcasts on their site. The first is primarily about Ildefonso. Listen to it. Then move on to the next podcast. The second is about a group of children living in Nicaragua. In 1978 Nicaragua didn't have an education program for the hearing impaired. Like Ildefonso, these children didn't have language. A program was established for them, and they were grouped together. They began to communicate with one another, but everyone had different gestures and short cuts. That's when a wonderful thing happened. They began to form a new language. The interesting thing is that no one had ever seen a language being born before. The first generation of speakers had a limited vocabulary that involved more movement of their bodies. By the time the fourth generation of speakers came along, more words were added and the guestures became more efficient. What interested me the most was the part where they discovered a connection between having multiple words for something and understanding it on a deeper level. I'm not really doing the story justice. You really should take the time to listen. It's incredible.

It's also inspiring in all sorts of science fictional ways.
[1] I'm dyslexic and pretty much universally bad at grammar, punctuation, and spelling. [pause] Yeah. I said it. And hey, I'm a professional writer. It just goes to show you what one can do with a more than healthy dose of bloody-mindedness.
[2] Only a little. Not much. I'm no Tolkien. But it is part of the gig as a fantasy writer. If that's what you want to be, I'd highly recommend taking some non-English language classes. You don't have to be fluent, not even remotely, but you do need to understand how other languages function.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Curse of Griffith Park

Most people that talk about Griffith Park are usually bringing up the Observatory, which would make aliens come to mind, if we were talking weird stories, I suppose. But actually Griffith Park's most famous markers could be seen as the strange by-products of a curse laid on its soil in the 1860s by a blind woman who'd been left destitute. 

The area of land that incorporates Griffith Park is much larger than most people realize. It was once owned by the Feliz family, but there was a dispute in the passing down of the land when the patriarch, Don Antonio Feliz, died. Many say he was tricked in his fevered stupor from smallpox, and bequeathed the land to Don Antonio Coronel under much pressure and duress. Needless to say the destitute women left behind with nothing weren't thrilled. His blind niece, Dona Petranilla, put a heavy curse on the land and everyone involved with the dirty deed. 

Legend says that she died in the weaving of the dark magic.

As the land was passed on the cattle on the land died, the grain burned up when lightning kept striking, grasshoppers destroyed the remaining crops; at every turn the land lost value. Family members died young and went bankrupt, until the property was sold, then sold again a year later, then again, until it ended up in the hands of Colonel Griffith. Today the land consists of the Observatory, the Greek Amphitheater, the Los Angeles Zoo, the Museum of the American West, the Travel Town Train Museum, two golf courses, a merry-go-around, countless hiking and horse trails, and the Hollywood sign. 

The supernatural stories that emerge from the land are all over the map—quite literally. The Hollywood sign has the ghost of a failed actress, The Zoo is haunted by the souls of dead animals, and Don Antonio Feliz still laughs atop the rocks overlooking the Park. Ghosts run rampant everywhere, it seems, as if the curse holds their souls captive to torment the living.

But, by far, the most interesting and bizarre story to come from the cursed land originates in the picnic area off Mt. Hollywood Dr. The story of haunted picnic table, to be exact. In 1976 a young couple was making out on said picnic table when a large sycamore tree fell on them, killing them both. Yes, that's right. The tree killed them. On Halloween night of all nights. 

The ashes of the young couple were sprinkled onto the spot of their gruesome demise by the family, in memory, allowing them to be together forever. But it also seems to have created a problem. When the city came out to trim out the dangerous tree, they didn't get very far into the process until the tree shook and groaned at them. 

The job of removing the beast was left undone for decades. The city worker even filed out an incident report. And to this day it remains, the ashes and souls of the couple said to have become a part of the odd sculpture of table and branches.

Rachel A. Marks is a proud nerd, and the keeper of faerie secrets. She's also an artist and the author of DARKNESS BRUTAL and WINTER ROSE. You can read more about her and her work on her webpage:

Monday, November 16, 2015

When Parallel Worlds Collide . . .

A wie armageddon. by danirolli
High concept: it can lead to a breakout novel or film. Given that, it's not hard to guess why writers want a clear concept at the core of their work, but pinning down exactly what that means can be challenging.

I've heard a lot of mini, fractured definitions, but every writer, and reader, knows what high concept is when they see it.

It a nutshell, it makes the story sing.

Still, that's not a Webster definition.

According to Jeff Lyons, author of Anatomy of a Premise Line, high concept has:

  • entertainment value
  • originality
  • uniqueness
  • visual appeal
  • emotional depth
  • asks "what if"
Anatomy of a Premise Line:
High level of entertainment value High degree of originality High level of uniqueness (different than original) Highly visual Possesses a clear emotional focus (root emotion) Targets a broad, general audience, or a large niche market Sparks a “what if” question - See more at:
You don’t have to slap your reader in the face with your concept - that's best avoided - but the writer needs to know what it is, to stay on track. My favorite support for this is with the tagline - the short-short sentence or catchphrase that resonates with the story's core values.

Condensing a novel or film to a tagline that reflects the richness of concept can be painstakingly difficult, but incredibly rewarding. Here are a few examples, some of which I am sure you will recognize.

When Parallel Worlds Collide . . . 

Journey by Night by Kim Falconer (the third book in my QE Series)

The last man on earth is not alone . . . 

I am Legend by Richard Matheson

Fifty million people watched, but no one saw a thing . . .
The Quiz Show based on Richard N. Goodwin's memoir

In space, no one can hear you scream . . .

Alien by Alan Dean Foster 

Winter is coming . . .

Game of Thrones by George R R Martin

Your Mind is the scene of the crime . . .

Inception written, produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . .

Star Wars (1977)

An adventure 65 million years in the making . . . 

Jurassic Park  by Michael Crichton

Everybody Loves Ernest... But Nobody's Quite Sure Who He Really Is.  

The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde (2002 film)

She has the power . . .

Lucy (2014)

One last chance for peace . . .

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes  (2014)

You can see that the tagline doesn't include the full heart, essence, premise, design or images of the story, but if it has the same vibration, it will inspire readers to pick up the book (and writers to keep writing them). Once in the pages, or theater, the concept works invisibly behind the text and images to sweep the audience away.

What are some of your favorite film or novel concepts? Do the taglines reflect them?

Sup authors, I'd love to know what you're working on now. Do you start with a tagline in mind? A core concept to keep you on track?

Feel free to share in the comments.

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 the 11th House Blog, and on FaceBook and Twitter.

She posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month and runs Save the Day Writer's Community on Facebook.

Her latest release is "Blood and Water" in Supernatural Underground: Vampires Gone Wild.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

"Daughter Of Blood" (The Wall Of Night Book Three) Now Stars On My Website!

US cover
Daughter Of Blood, The Wall Of Night Book Three, is coming --- on 26 January, in both the US and UK: w00t!

To herald this awesome event, I've now given Daughter Of Blood star billing on my website.

The publication date, together with both the US and UK covers, are highlighted on the home page, here.

And there is also a dedicated Daughter Of Blood page, joining those created previously for The Heir of Night and The Gathering Of The Lost --- exciting!

UK cover
To add to the fun, there's a brand-new excerpt featured:

"The three hooded figures came up Grayharbor’s Sailcloth Street just as the rain swept in off the sea for the second time that day. The deluge brought a swirl of leaves and rubbish down the deep gutters on either side of the cobbled thoroughfare, and all three leapt for the portico of Seruth’s temple where Faro had taken shelter. He heard one of the strangers curse as his boot came down in the flood. The fine black leather was soaked in an instant, and the man cursed again as he followed his companions into the porch. Faro moved further back, into the corner closest to the temple door, wary of the long black cloaks and deep hoods that did not fall back even when the newcomers sprang for shelter. They were carrying swords, too. He recognized the shape of hilt and scabbard beneath their cloaks and knew that likely meant other weapons as well ..."

To read more, check out:

Daughter Of Blood

Enjoy! ;-)

For more deets of how/what/when/where (woo-hoo!), you can learn more via my publishers' sites:

Voyager, USA 

Orbit, UK

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Can't Post: NaNo-ing!!

Year of living authentically: My writer brain's favorite time of year.

Its NANOWRIMO time!!!

National Novel Writing Month is an online effort to increase creativity across the world by sponsoring a challenge to write a 50,000 book in a month. Yep. 50,000 words in 30 days.

That is roughly 1700 words a day.

Depending on your writing speed that is 2-4 hours a day working on a novel. Or 12,000 words a weekend.

Its a lot of writing, but it does something to my writer brain. I love the accountability of it all. I love that I can look at my region to see how we are doing in compared to the other states and countries. That I get pep talks from other NaNoWriMo authors. I get to contact other writers in my area. I get to see there are other crazy people out there like me who love the process of creating something new (though a bit slap-dashed- NaNo is not about perfection). I get excited about the creative side of writing versus the business side of publishing that can seem like a void that makes your eyes water if you try to look at it for too long.

I've been participating in NaNoWriMo for years now. Diaries of an Urban Panther was a NaNo book. But NaNoWriMo isn't for everyone. Its intense and you will forget to eat and YOU WILL LOOSE SLEEP!! And people will think that you are now a robot when you say "Have to go NaNo!"

It works for me. The challenge jump starts my brain and gets it going again. Gets my fingers on the keyboard and my brain into that creative sweet spot where perfection and self-doubt don't exist. Reminds me that I am not alone in the quest to understand my world through story.

If you haven't heard of it before, click on the link above. If you have heard of it and think that we are crazy, we are. If you've been itching to maybe try your hand at the creative life, please do! Your story is important.

Have to go now: NaNo-ing!

To the Writers Cave-- see you in 30 days!


Amanda Arista
Author, Diaries of an Urban Panther Series

Sunday, November 1, 2015

From the UK with Love: More Daughter Of Blood Cover Fun -- *Plus* An Excerpt!

Tis only 3 months now until Daughter Of Blood, The Wall Of Night Book Three, is out, out, out — on both sides of the Atlantic.

Exciting times! And cover reveal mania is always part of the fun. :D

We took our first peek at the UK cover in July, and the new-look US cover on 1 August. But these were "front cover" previews only, although I did sneak in an early draft of the back cover text with the UK reveal ...

In the meantime, the good folk at Orbit UK have been working hard to get to an all-systems-are-go final cover for us today — and here it is! Not just the front cover, but the spine and back cover, too, and complete with an updated synopsis. Way to go, Team Orbit!

Doesn't it look great; atmospheric and just a wee bit eerie, in the best Gate of Dreams style.

 Now, here's that excerpt, which I hope you'll find atmospheric, too. No spoilers, though.:)

“…Malian gathered herself. Breathing in the resin of the pines, mingled with acrid earth, she brought the two places together in her mind, folding the distance between them. For a moment she stood poised between the quiet stable with its scents of horses and leather and hay, and the darkness beneath the pines with its thickly layered needles and scattered cones. She smelt sheep dung, too, scattered amongst the tree roots—and opened her portal, out of the stable and into the hollow in the foothills.

Peta, Raven’s mare, tossed up her head, but he spoke a quiet word and she steadied. Hani pricked her ears forward and then both horses followed Raven through the gate. Malian waited until the mares’ tails had swished clear before following, letting the opening close as soon as she stood on the foothill side. The imprint of the stable lingered briefly against the darkness and then there was just the pine grove, with the wind sighing down from the high peaks, bringing the chill of snow.”

~  from © Daughter Of Blood, The Wall of Night Book Three


If you're looking for the Halloween giveaway result , just scroll down a little further, or click on:

The Power of 13: Supernatural Underground Giveaway Result

Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, interviewer and blogger whose first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. Her second, The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012. The sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013. Daughter Of Blood, (The Wall Of Night, Book Three) is forthcoming on January 26, 2016. Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog, occasionally on SF Signal, and is also on Twitter: @helenl0we.