Wednesday, May 16, 2018

People of the Sea

Salila, a Mar of uncanny beauty and brutality - image: pen and collage by Anna Campbel
When Helen Lowe blogged this month on Supernatural Beings in Fantasy: The Fey, I thought, what a wonderful idea. Inspired by her exploration of the Fey, this post focuses on another class of supernatural beings - The Merpeople, or people of the sea.

Elisabeth Jerichau Baumann's havfruen has much in common with the likes of Salila, the race of sea people appearing in my current novels.

Known through history as mermaids or mermen, melusines, sirens, Ved-Ava, water nymphs, nereids, these creatures are half human-half fish or dolphin/whale and live in the oceans, rivers, lakes and waterways. The symbolism is rich and fantastic, the subject of art, film and literature.

One of the earliest images of the merpeople is Ea, the Babylonian god of the sea. From him came the Greek god Posiden and later the Roman god Neptune, all male, powerful and half man-half fish or sea serpent. The first female image is the Syrian goddess Atargatis whose temple had large pools full of sacred fish. These ancient deities are linked to fertility, upheaval, the wealth of the Sea.

But Hans Christian Andersen brought the merpeople to the modern world with his tragic book about the young mermaid who falls for the human lad. It doesn't end well for either of them, though the Disney interpretation would have us think so.

Contemporary books featuring people of the sea, mermaid or otherwise, weigh in strong with hundreds of reads to choose from. Here are a few that I've enjoyed.

The 2017 film adapted from the novel by the same name - provocative, violent, horrific and alluring, a fitting interpretation of this being of land and water.

This book is a YA fantasy, powerfully written with provocative themes.

DS Murphy's enchanting story is the beginning of a series and probably could have been a longer more comprehensive read, but it's wonderful YA paranormal romance/urban fantasy none the less.

Urban Fantasy terrain both above and below the surface of the sea, my Ava Sykes series features Mar and human relationships, including the vivacious and hungry Salila and her unsuspecting love interests. The first book follows Ava's journey to discover the secrets of her past and the nature of the mysterious men in her life.

In my upcoming series, The Bone Throwers, the Mar play a vital role in the survival of the planet, on the brink of the next Great Dying. 

Here is a brief conversation between Ash, a young wordsmith and Kaylin, the sailor taking her to the Isle of Aku:

“What of your people, Ash? What stories do they tell in Baiseen?” 
I take a breath. “There is the idea that the Mar catch the sacrificed babies and free them from their chains. There have been sightings.”
“I’ve heard that too.” His fingers lift to play across my hand. 
I follow the movement, trying unsuccessfully to swallow a lump in my throat. 
“And what would a Mar do with the child?” Kaylin asks. “Once freed?”
“Some stories say they eat them.”

Do you have a favorite 'merpeople' story? I'd love to hear it in the comments!


Kim Falconer's latest release comes out in 2019 - The Bone Throwers, book one in the Amassia series, writing as A K Wilder. Find her new page on Facebook - AKWilder Author and on Twitter as AKWilder.

Her latest novel is out now - The Blood in the Beginning - and Ava Sykes Novel.

Learn more about Kim on Facebook and chat with her on Twitter. Check out her pen name, @a.k.wilder on Instagram, or visitAKWilder on FB and website.

Kim also runs where she teaches the law of attraction and astrology. 

Kim posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month, hosts Save the Day Writer's Community on FB and posts a daily astrology weather report on Facebook. 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

"Thornspell" Giveaway Result

The giveaway for a copy of Thornspell — offered as part of my post on Supernatural Beings In Fantasy: The Fey — has now been drawn and the winner is:

Chris Besier

Congratulations, Chris!

Thanks for entering the competition. I shall be emailing you directly. :-)

And thanks as always to all our wonderful Supernatural Underground readers and followers!


ICYMI, Merrie De Stefano's wonderful giveaway is still open — click Here to Read All About It and get the details.

Otherwise, until next month: read on!

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 her most recent book and she is currently working on the fourth and final novel in The Wall Of Night series. Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog and is also on Twitter: @helenl0we

Friday, May 4, 2018

Why Making An Outline Creeps Me Out


Some people do a great job using outlines to create masterful books. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people. There’s something about making an outline that gives me the creeps. Seriously. I’ll actually get a panic attack when I attempt to outline. I’ll beg my friends to help me plot. I’ll clean the house. I’ll take my library books back. I’ll do anything else on my to-do list, except work on my outline.

Sometimes, if I absolutely have to, I can put together an outline. But then, when I sit down to write the book, I rarely follow the outline that took three panic attacks, four sleepless nights, and five phone calls to my closest writer friends to create.

On the other hand, I’m really good at doing character sketches. And figuring out my theme. And I almost always know both the beginning and the ending of my story. It took me a really long time to figure out that I’m more of a discovery writer or an intuitive writer than a writer who focuses on plot. When I’m in the midst of writing, I feel like I’m following a two-lane road through the wilderness, wearing a blindfold, and one of my hands is trailing along the raised pavement markers like braille, like they’ll tell me where I’m going. I’m a little bit lost, but I know I’ll get where I’m going. Eventually.

If I outline a story, I don’t want to write it. I already know all the secrets.

I like to write for the same reason I like to read—to learn new things about myself and the world around me. It might sound crazy (okay, it definitely sounds crazy!), but that’s what I love about writing. It can take me anywhere. It surprises me. It astonishes me. It scares me, it breaks my heart, it makes me cry. If I actually experience fear, sorrow, love, anguish and betrayal when I’m writing, then I know I’ve hit the heart of my story. I know I’m writing something that other people are going to like too.

Writing the first draft is how I find the heart of my story. Editing that draft is how I find the music. Sentence structure, paragraph structure, word choice and the rhythm of the words all work together to make a story that sings. I’m not happy with my work until it resonates, both emotionally and rhythmically.

There are a lot of people who use outlines and I secretly wish I were one of them. But if you’re a discovery writer, like me, then I hope you find a system that works for you and, please, don’t let other people tell you that you’re doing it wrong. Your way is the best way. And don’t stop writing, no matter how many drafts it takes, until your story resonates with you.

Also...I have a new book out. (YAY!) Shade: A Re-Imagining of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein released a couple of days ago.

It's the sort of book you should read in the daylight, since it's a bit scary. Here's a short blurb:

To the rest of the world, 1816 would be remembered as the summer when snow replaced rain and crops refused to grow and thousands died in their beds, hungry and cold.

To me, it would forever be remembered as the summer when our curse took shape and came down from the mountains, ready to devour us all.

Here's my latest 5-star review for this book: "This retelling is amazing and I couldn't hardly put it down. Beautifully written. Can't wait for the next installment."—Maria on Amazon.

SHADE is only .99 and you can purchase it here. Or you can purchase the entire series for only $3.97 here.

And stay tuned! The next installment in this series, DUSK, releases on May 30th! (The story gets even scarier in book 2!)

Also, I have a cool giveaway for you! Two winners will receive a $100 Amazon giftcards! (Imagine all the cool books you could buy!) The link to enter is here and all the info about the contest is there too. May the odds be in your favor and thanks for stopping by!

Novelist and magazine editor, Merrie Destefano writes dark stories with a thread of hope. She’s the editor of Victorian Homes magazine, Zombies magazine, and Haunted: Mysteries and Legends magazine. Her novels include Afterlife, Feast, Lost Girls, and Fathom and she’s been published by HarperCollins and Entangled Teen. Her latest release, Shade: A Re-Imagining of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, released on May 1st, and her next novel, Valiant, is scheduled to release in December, 2018. For more information, visit her website at

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Pin all the motivational quotes!

2018 Year of the New: Accountabili-buddy

So last month in the Year of the New, I started a new way of plotting while in the brainstorming phase of a book with fancy post-its and file folders and I loved it. LOVE IT!

After my Write Better Faster class,  I found this to be a great way to get my squirrelly brain to focus on multiple plots lines at once so I wouldn't have to revise so much. I can still have a clear story in mind without plotting it to death and losing the excitement of letting the characters take me on their journey.

Turns out, when you see everything together, it all gels together. And the pacing, so much much better. I can see the soggy middle!

Now all I have to go is sit down and finish a book.
Easy-Peasy, right?

Ha. Ha. No.

Writing is really hard.

Its like having a hyperactive hamster on a wheel in your  brain that just had a Red Bull. So imagine having two of them: one that writes women's fiction and the other that writes paranormal mystery.

As I'm waiting on a revision letter from my agent, I'm in Women's Fiction mode and its hard because I just want to smite everyone with a spell and chop off their heads Queen of Hearts Style.

So I need some focus. I'd been hearing writers talk about accountability groups and how much they helped just knowing that someone was at a finish line with a bright yellow sign rooting for you. That you are also responsible for rooting on that other person as well. 

Turned out, a friend reached out to me and asked if I'd be willing to be her Accountabili-buddy.

So May will be the month of Accountability. And lets hope that the random factoid here is correct.

Here are my goals for May:

  • 20,000 additional words to this partially complete manuscript
  • Complete a synopsis with scene breakdown as I go (a great tool for AFTER the book is written)
  • First 50 pages ready to go to my beta readers. 

The plan is to check in with my Buddy at least once a week and to work on one of the above named things every day. If I run into a challenge, call/text her. If I fail miserably, have a convo about why I failed miserably and what I am going to do differently tomorrow.

So here I go, off into the Year of the New.

Wish me luck!


Amanda Arista
Author, Diaries of an Urban Panther Series

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Supernatural Beings in Fantasy: The Fey

The Sleeping Beauty by John Collier
From fairytale, through folklore, to myth, supernatural beings are a cornerstone of Fantasy storytelling and the fey have always been one of favorites. As a very small child, I loved listening to a retelling of Sleeping Beauty that featured on a local radio station — and subsequently read all the fairytales I could find, particularly those with actual fairies or fey in them.
Some of the qualities associated with the fey that appealed to me included magic, otherness, mystery, power, and delight but also danger. These qualities are among those that also characterize the fey in Fantasy storytelling, such as Diana Wynne Jones' children's book Power of Three. Rudyard Kipling's Puck of Pooks Hill and Rewards And Fairies are another, though older example — to a decidedly adult version featuring some of the same characters, in Raymond E Feist's dark-edged Faerie Tale.
The fey unquestionably have their place in adult storytelling. Author CJ Cherryh has a series of Fantasy novels centered on the Fey and folklore, some in analogs of this world, such as Rusalka and Chernevog, while the Ealdwold books are set in an essentially "other" world where the fey are closer in kind to Tokien's elves. The fey appear in Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series, in Neil Gaiman's American Gods, and Charles De Lint's Newford novels. In Stina Leicht's The Fey & the Fallen series, a darker and more brutal version of the fey are entwined with the Northern Irish Troubles.

Readers who are fans of fairytale retellings and YA lit. will know this is home turf for encountering the fey. Some examples I have enjoyed include Charles De Lint's The Blue Girl, Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely, and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough's Godmother books, which take a series of diverse fairytales and weave them into a contemporary story.

The fey take many forms, however, and Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races centers on the capall uisce, the vicious and maniacal water horses of Celtic legend.
All these stories are either urban fantasy or overlap our everyday world, but fey-centric tales and fairytale retellings can also take place in historical settings, such as Juliet Marillier's Wildwood Dancing (the twelve Dancing Princesses retold in a Transylvanian setting.) Recently, Katherine Arden's The Bear and The Nightingale returns readers to the Russian setting of Rusalka and Chernevog, but with a  distinct historical cast.

My own Thornspell also has an historical setting in the early to mid-Renaissance period, with the events taking place in  a realm that is almost-but-not-quite the Holy Roman Empire. And Thornspell, of course, brings us full circle because it's a retelling of Sleeping Beauty: in this case, from the perspective of the prince who breaks the spell cast by the wicked fairy — who also features in the story. :-)

The giveaway has now closed. The result is posted Here


 I've enjoyed reading all the books mentioned, but if you would like to check out Thornspell I have a copy to give away. To enter, leave a comment below the post with your contact details (so I can get in touch with the winner.) 

I'll make the draw on Saturday 12 May (using RANDOM) and will post the result here and in a fresh post at the top of the masthead, also on Saturday 12. 

(If the winner doesn't get in touch by Thursday 17, I'll redraw and again post the result here.)

Note: Neither I nor the Supernatural Underground will use your contact for any purpose except drawing this giveaway, unless your further permission is sought.

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 her most recent book and she is currently working on the fourth and final novel in The Wall Of Night series. Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog and is also on Twitter: @helenl0we