Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Release Day for The Second Death

A little over a year ago, I had decided to rethink my writing career. My stories weren't selling, and even the novella I had written for a specific editor had been rejected. So I was in the process of trying to decide whether I really should keep writing fantasy or begin working in a different genre, one better suited to my writing style, when my agent told me that David Pomerico at Harper Voyager Impulse was interested in publishing my novella, In Midnight's Silence. Of course, I was elated.

Then he wanted to know if I had more novellas planned for Los Nefilim, and of course, I said absolutely. The characters and story had been percolating for quite some time. The backstory was already there, and all I had to do was put the characters into motion.

I wanted to recreate the serials from the 1930s and 1940s--those action adventure radio shows that delighted so many. Just before the second novella, Without Light or Guide, was published, I wrote about the big idea behind the series here at Supernatural Underground.

Fantasy Faction recently did a wonderful review and called the series a triptych of novellas, which is exactly how they were designed to be read. Each novella is threaded into the next one with the final novella, The Second Death: Los Nefilim, Part 3, being published today.

I wanted each Los Nefilim novella to be a complete "episode," leading into the next installment. Thanks to David's excellent editorial advice and the great folks at Harper Voyager Impulse, I am exceptionally pleased with the result.

So today is the final installment to this Los Nefilim cycle. Will there be more? I don't know. Sales and reader interest will dictate the ultimate fate of Diago, Rafael, and Miquel. As for me, I would be delighted to keep writing their adventures.

While Diago is far from being the first gay protagonist in a story, I think he is an important one, because people need to see LGBT heroes who aren't placed in the story as a prop. I am exceptionally fortunate to have a great diverse group of LGBT friends who are heroes to me, and Diago and Miquel are composites the wonderful people who have so deeply impacted my own life with their everyday courage and compassion. The whole series has been a joy to write.

In The Second Death, Diago is given the choice to save the world or his family. While he grows more comfortable not only with his heritage, but also with his place among Guillermo’s Los Nefilim, he is still unsure if he truly belongs amongst them.

In a frantic race to save the future of humanity, Diago is forced to rely on his daimonic nature to deceive an angel. In doing so, he discovers the birth of a modern god—one that will bring about a new world order from which no one can escape ...

The year is 1931.

The city is Barcelona.

The angels war, and a new god is born.

And deep in the heart of an asylum,

Diago Alvarez must outsmart them all to save his son.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Dark Part of the Forest

The other day, I told someone that I subscribe to Fairy Magazine. He pulled a face and made a couple of mocking comments. Me being me, I rolled my eyes and went about my business. (I'm way over being ashamed of my interests.) Great, imaginative photography is inspiring. I also enjoy stories written by the likes of Kelly Link and Holly Black and Alice Hoffman. I love art by Charles Vess and Kinuko Craft. You got a problem with that to the extent that you have to make fun of it? You're probably not someone I need to hang around. Can the magazine get overly twee? Not often, but sometimes. Largely, it's filled with cover to cover gorgeous. So, this morning I came upon Why Enchantment Matters. So much good stuff there. I suspect she's right--that most of the negative reaction is misogyny-related. Screw that. Sing and dance that magic into being. Think of it as an act of rebellion. I do. Because it fucking is.

Still, everything has its dark side. And yesterday, I also came across a passage in Rising Strong that touched on a related topic. That is, focusing entirely on the good aspects of oneself and separating them from the bad aspects. This can manifest itself in an obsession with twee. JK Rowling's character Dolores Umbridge is used as an example. 
If you somehow managed to miss her, well, click on the link. She's the type of woman that takes twee to Olympic levels. And in pretending her dark side doesn't exist...she ultimately gives it free rein. That story is common as dirt. Women aren't the only ones who indulge in this kind of denial. I dated a man who did this, and he exacted a great deal of harm to everyone around him in the process. Need an example? Pretty much any tele-evangelist preacher is a poster child for this shit. (And, if you ask me, Ted Cruz is a walking, talking illustration of this principle.) Anyway, I wanted to add my voice to the chorus. There's nothing wrong with enchantment. Just be aware that forests also have shadows, and not all that dances by the pale moon light is nice. Integration of light and dark is vital. It's what keeps us whole as human beings.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Judging Books by the Cover

Her Silent Silhouette by Arcipello

Hi Everyone,

It's exciting times as I talk cover art, blurbs and quotes with my publisher and editor at Harlequin Australia. The Ava Sykes series starts with The Blood in the Beginning, steamrolling towards a July release.

Meanwhile, I'm putting a lot of consideration into the cover design talks. As Jeff Goins says:
Books don’t just speak with words. They also speak with the way they are designed.  

When my agent asked me to create a mood-board of favorite cover art and why it sparked me, I didn't hesitate. Here are some favs, but note: I purposely didn't choose any today that are linked to Sup or other authors I know and love. This is a pure, outside source, fact finding mission.

I'm looking forward to sharing with you what the Harlequin Design Team came up with for Ava Sykes!

For the de-saturated colors
For the cool cape morph
For the contrast!

For the Elements

To go deeper, you might want to watch this fabulous TED talk about designing book covers. Very quirky-smart entertaining!

How about you? Have an all time favorite cover? Feel free to share in the comments. xxKimmy

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.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Scottish boys and their King

Year of the Like: Scottish Boys and their King

So as most of you might know, I have a very deep rooted and healthy love of Jensen Ackles, the actor. Our love chase has gone on for more than ten years now. He is golden, and Texan, and has the lips of Adonis. But I feel like I'm preaching to the choir.

Outside of him, most of my tastes in men come from across the pond. I have a MASSIVE thing for Scottish guys. No joke. Its Texas or Scotland or nothing. In case you don't believe me,  I've got a few hotties to the right, if you'd like to drool for a second.

I'll wait.

So this obsession with Scottish boys started when I spent a semester abroad. I studied in London and I seemed to have left my heart there because I yearn for it some days. I traveled Europe as well, but nothing could hold a candle to the boys I met in Scotland.

Now, while normal teenage girls were read Sweet Valley High and The Babysitters Club, I was knee deep in Shakespeare and read Hamlet every year since eighth grade. I'm not saying that I understood it in eighth grade, but I managed through it and was beyond elated when they actually taught it to me in school.

As you can imagine, I nearly fainted when I discovered that Hamlet was going to be part of the Fall 2000 season at Shakespeare's Globe. I remember how nervous I was, how I was so afraid that what I saw on the stage wasn't going to match what I had been reading all these years and what Kenneth Branagh had brought to life a few years earlier (I would put in a picture, but he's not Scottish. Sigh).

So one misty day,  I found myself in the Bard's playground. I took my groundling spot in the back because I am tall and I didn't want to crowd the stage. With a beat up old copy of Hamlet that I had read a million times clutched to my chest, I took in a deep breath as the first lines were uttered, "Who goes there!"

And then this little creature came upon the stage. He was not imposing. He was not blond and he certainly no means Mel Gibson. There was no castle. No fancy costumes. But I was still held spellbound.  I don't think I blinked for three hours.

This man was Hamlet.  He was amazing and brilliant and had a frailty and incredible sympathy about him. I understood things about the play that I had never picked up on in ten readings and three watchings. By the third act, I was the only one of my group not leaning against the back wall. I was transfixed.

His "fall of a sparrow" speech will be etched in my brain and I will take it with me to the next life. There was a moment during that scene where I knew that if I died, I would die happy for having been there, in the groundling section hearing the best actor on the planet say the words to my favorite scene in written in all of history.

That Scottish actor was Mark Rylance. My First Scottish boy obsession.  At the time, he was the artistic director of the Globe and doing another play at the National at the same time. I went to go see that too and was completely astounded.

It was hard to keep up the obsession as I had to come home and he was dedicated to theatre. I tried to keep tabs on him and saw every one of his movies. All four of them. And then Wolf Hall happened and I was beside myself that I could now introduce my husband to Mark. And Mark to my husband.

Sixteen years after our brief encounter in the rain, Mark Rylance won an Oscar for his performance in Bridge of Spies. Possibly one of the quietest performances of the year. And it took me a while to realize why I love him so much, why every performance that I can find haunts me. He allows you to play with him. He is quiet and doesn't rage about and yell. He is still and in that stillness, he allows his audience members to creep in closer, to listen, and to write their part of the story in his eyes and his wrinkles and how he fiddles with things.

I think it is a powerful thing about storytelling, the potential for connection. We writers are providing the words, but we can not make them come alive, we need the readers for that. It is a joint effort. He mentioned in his Oscar speech he is a fan of storytelling, and right now, Hollywood has the best storytellers. So I hope that some little future storyteller will get the inspiration that I had when he stars in this years The BFG.

So here's to you, Mark Rylance. Two thumbs up. For not only winning an Oscar, but also for making your impression on a young girl born in the wrong country. For letting her know that quiet is not wrong and there is a lasting power in stories to connect people.

Now go do it! Be the 'Like' you want to see in the world!

Amanda Arista

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Daughter Of Blood Is Out In The World -- And I'm Having Fun With That!

US cover
A book launch is an edge of the seat, don't hold your breath, wild ride of a time, with interviews and guest posts, reviews and reader feedback all a-happening.

When I posted last month, Daughter of Blood (The Wall of Night Book Three) had just been published and everything was very new. So this month, I thought I'd share some of my highlights from the book launch journey between then and now.

Very early on, I did an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit Fantasy. I was a tad nervous, since the subjects I know nothing at all about include quantum physics, crochet, and the rules of croquet. (Just to name a few!) Luckily for me, none of those subjects came up -- but one Redditeer did ask me:

"What was your favorite part to write in Daughter of Blood? Was there a particular scene..."

And yes, there was. As I replied then:

"There are many favorite scenes, but one that I very much enjoyed but also seemed to be greatly enjoyed by my beta readers is a glorious charge against rather large, if not overwhelming odds--I did say above, that this is epic fantasy, right? At any rate, the charge is, like the character who leads it, glorious but when I was thinking of paring DAUGHTER back, I did wonder if I could delete both that character and therefore that scene. But my beta readers said, pretty much as one, "No, you can't!" And who am I to deny such conviction from my beta readers? So the scene is still in there and I hope readers may also enjoy it."

UK/AU/NZ cover
Meanwhile, in an interview on The Qwillery, I was thrown a real curved ball:

"Describe Daughter of Blood in 140 characters or less. /like a tweet/"

Like a tweet, thought, OMG -- this is like the dreaded elevator pitch only a kerzillion times worse! However, once I stopped hyperventilating and put my thinking cap on, I did manage this:

“Intrigue, war, & friendship in the face of darkness as two heroes race against time to find a lost shield and solve a 400 year-old mystery.”

Sound OK? I thought it would probably past muster. ;-)

About the same time, I also had a guest post on TOR.comAikido: The Art of Falling. (AKA "Helen -- the Martial Arts Years.") I had a lot of fun writing this post, although it also contained a thread of seriousness:

 "Some moments are magic and you remember them forever—which pretty much sums up the very first time I ventured into an aikido dojo ... Aikido just clicked for me and although I drove home with a reasonable complement of aches and bruises (the first of many over the years to come) I also had this huge sense of wellbeing. I felt as if I was the right person in the right place at the right time—and doing absolutely the right thing. .."

To find out more about "how" and "why" click on through to TOR.com and:

Aikido: The Art of Falling

Just a grab-bag of highlights from this rollercoaster ride of book launch fun! Some of the other highlights include:
I hope you have as much fun checking them out as I had doing them all. :-)


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) was published on January 26, 2016. Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog, occasionally on SF Signal, and is also on Twitter: @helenl0we