Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Happily Never After : Storytellers Need Satisfaction, Too

...and they all lived happily ever after.

Or did they?

Back when my writing career began, I pitched a book idea to my literary agent about Nicki Styx, a young woman who unexpectedly dies, comes back to life, and begins to see spirits. DEAD GIRLS ARE EASY sold very quickly to HarperCollins Publishing, who requested that I turn it into an Urban Fantasy/Mystery series about love and life among the undead. DEAD GIRLS ARE EASY was followed by DEAD GIRLS DON'T TELL, YOU'RE THE ONE THAT I HAUNT, and SILENT NIGHT, HAUNTED NIGHT.

At just four books, it seemed as though the series was just getting started, but then my editor asked if I would interested in writing a spin-off series based on one of my favorite characters, the sexy yet sinister Sammy Divine. (SPOILER ALERT: He's the Devil.) I was excited to do some world building, to delve deeply into the worlds of myth and magic in order to develop and share Sammy's world with my readers, but doing so meant that I had to put Nicki Styx, her boyfriend Joe and her best friend Evan on hold for a while. Several books, anthologies and short stories later, surrounded by the unexpected yet ever-present vagaries of life, I carried with me still the nagging sense of a story left unfinished.

Now, finally, I'm very happy to say that I've been able to finish that story. After all, even though I was the writer, I wasn't sure myself "what happened next", because I hadn't written it yet: Did Nicki and Joe get married, or did she choose the dark side over the light in the end? Did Evan ever meet his soul mate, or just give up entirely and start wearing white after Labor Day? :)

HAPPILY NEVER AFTER answers those questions and more, and I'm very excited to share "what happened next" in this series with my readers. Thanks so much to all of you who've written me asking for more Nicki Styx stories, and I sincerely hope you enjoy this one.

Here's to love, laughter, and happily ever after,



A Southern girl with an overactive imagination, Terri Garey writes award-winning and critically-acclaimed urban fantasy. Her novels have been described as "smoldering" by Publishers Weekly, and "sultry and upbeat" by Library Journal. Even though she's a big scaredy-cat who can't watch horror movies or visit haunted houses, she loves moonlit graveyards, moss-covered headstones and the idea that life goes on even after it's over. You can visit her on the web, friend her on Facebook and occasionally find her on Twitter.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Music as Character

Crazy Fingers by Sue Duda
Writing a novel in any genre means connecting readers to a 'real' world with tastes, textures, smells, sights and sounds. Most authors give us the thunder and crack of the adventure, the whistle of bird calls and the pounding of hooves on a dry dirt road, the deep moans of a lover... you get the idea. But there are particular books that appear over time where the music is so vital it becomes a character unto itself.

One of my favourite of these is Ann McCaffrey's Dragonsong in the Harper Hall Trilogy. What magnificent writing. We root for the hero, Menolly, a girl who longs to play music, but what starts out as a craft turns into a relationship as important as any main character.

Ann McCaffrey's Dragonsong in the Harper Hall Trilogy

Another Fantasy book you may know is The Name of the Wind by Patrik Rothfuss. His main character also has a deep and sometimes tumultuous relationship to his music which is so well developed it has a soul of its own. Then there is Terry Brook with characters in the third book of the Shannara series, Brin and Jair, find, through their voices, that music IS the magic.

Others that come to mind are Alison Croggon's The Naming, about the slave girl Maerad who plays the lyre, and Peter V Brett's The Warded Man.

 Alison Croggon's The Naming,

My interest in these musical novels rises now as I edit my newest series, The Bone Throwers, where the original whistle bones, carved from the skeleton of King Er, become major characters alongside Marcus, Ash and Kaylin. 

"The black-robes carry a sack of bones—whale tooth, horse rib, bird wing, lizard hip, bat tail, water dragon, fossil – carved into whistles of varying pitch and etched with one of the steps to enlightenment. At birth, a Bone Throwers pulls twelve to cast, and how they fall makes up the child’s song, determining if they will live, become savant and raise a phantom, or be sacrificed to the sea…" 

If you want to throw the bones and gimps your own future, tap a black-robe savant on the shoulder. But remember, once set, you can't un-hear it.

Meanwhile, I'd love to know your thoughts on music in your favourite books. Urban fantasy characters, for example, often play contemporary songs on their iPods or laptops. And sometimes, an
Supernatural Underground author Terri Garey
with Jyrki Linnankav of The
69 Eyes
Urban Fantasy series will be so influential, songs will be written about it.

This happened to our own Terri Garey when the Finnish "goth-n-roll" band, The 69 Eyes, read her first UF release - Dead Girls Are Easy - which resulted in their debut single and video by the same name, all inspired by Terri's character, Nicki Styx.

Terri, is there anything you haven't done yet?

Watch the clip here.

* * *

Kim Falconer's latest novel is out now - The Blood in the Beginning - and Ava Sykes Novel.

Kim also runs GoodVibeAstrology.com 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. 

Friday, August 3, 2018

Early to bed, early to rise

2018 Year of the New: 5am writers club.

I know. Just typing that makes me nervous. Especially because last month I was watching a bunch of stuff late into the night checking off my "To Watch" list. Now I'm getting up early?

Am I insane?

Yes, dear readers, but only for your amusement. 
So July, I did in fact watch a lot of muse-feeding Netflix. Learned about nuns and coffee and rewatched The Paradise (so many delectable longing glances across the room, swoon). It was a good, relaxing month. A much-needed muse break.

But the relaxing is over. I need to finish a manuscript and I've given myself to the end of September to complete it. Two months. So we are not playing around with this one.

Several of the writers I know with full-time jobs and kiddos participate in #5amwritersclub. They get up before dawn to make use of the wee hours of the morning when the house is quiet and their mind is fresh.

I scoffed at this the first time I heard it. I'm not a morning person. Not an early bird. I am a night owl. I have always been a night owl. I have always written after everyone has gone to bed. My brain gets going and I write until I drop. There was no way I was waking up that early!

However, I did want to test the notion that your mind is fresh when you wake up. You haven't gotten frustrated with your boss, you haven't made a heap of dishes after cooking dinner, you haven't given anyone any of your energy. Your book, your work, gets it all in the peaceful hours of the morning before the Chaos man arrives and hands you your daily package.

Now that was something I wanted to test.

I'm going to ease into it. Maybe just get up at 6am and start my day for a week. When the Bean starts school again, then I could maybe try for 5am. Most importantly, I am making time for myself. And Myself wants to get this book into a pretty draft form.

I've got my desk all ready. I've got my notebooks stacked. My coffee prepped. So you'll see me, dear readers, checking into the #5amwritersclub and I'll let you know how it goes.

Until then, carry on.

Amanda Arista
Author and Morning person?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Rediscovering "Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone" via Audio Book

I first discovered audio books well over a decade ago, when travelling with friends who enjoyed listening to them on the car radio. I did, too, but for some reason never adopted the medium beyond that one experience.

Recently, however, I sustained an injury to my eye, one which has made any sort of reading and screen work very difficult. Even now, it's only slowly coming right enough to write this post, and as you can imagine, with a life bereft of books, television, and the internet ("I know"  grave extremes indeed!) it did not take long for my mind to return to audio books.

As I was not feeling particularly well, my first choice was to opt for an old favorite, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone*.  From the outset, I found myself in love all over again  I believe thanks to the change of medium, from reading (with the risk of skimming if time is short or looking ahead if the suspense cannot be borne) to listening to every word.

What good words they are, too. I found myself consciously enjoying JK Rowling's gift for creating suspense through the opening atmosphere of mystery and the marvel of Harry's survival. The immediate contrast with the mundane world of the Dursleys and 4 Privet Drive, not only in the sense of building Harry's character (as well as his circumstances) works, too, as the reader is introduced to the wonders, but also dangers, of the wizarding world through Harry's marveling eyes.

 I felt, listening to the presence of the magical world unfold within the mundane, from Diagon Alley, Gringotts, and Platform 9 3/4, to Hogwarts and the Forbidden Forest, that the heart of JK Rowling's success with the Harry Potter series lies with the truly magical world she has created  and the fact that as reader or listener you believe in it so implicitly.

Part of the reason for that, I believe, is delight: we cannot help but feel delighted as the layers of the extraordinary and mystical, the absurd and the dangerous unfold. Elements such as the description of the school feasts and quidditch matches add texture that makes the world feel even more believable and real.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is not all about the worldbuilding, though. The Dursleys might be close to slapstick characters in some ways, but the central players of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, feel real and human. As readers, or in this case listeners, we can readily identify with their hopes and doubts, mistakes and successes. Supporting characters such as Neville, the Weasley twins, and Hagrid are all similarly real, while the apparent malevolence of Professor Snape is masterful.

Severus Snape
Arguably, worldbuilding and characters are enough to make any Fantasy story rock. I felt there was one further element, though, that really stood out for me when listening to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Hermione herself says it, when leaving Harry to seek help at the end of the book:  "...friendship, and bravery and  oh Harry ..."  Hermione is in a hurry, so she doesn't add "kindness", and "generosity" to that list, but I think it could be included in her "and " that precedes "oh Harry."

The friendship between Harry, Ron, and Hermione is the heart of this book. Notably, the three of them are kind to Neville, in particular, when they could as easily ridicule and ostracize his social awkwardness and ineptitude. It is kindness, too, that sends Harry and Ron to rescue Hermione from the troll, when they haven't particularly liked her up until that point. And Harry, who has been emotionally and physically deprived by the Dursleys, is generous in sharing what he has, both in terms of time and energy, but including giving his last chocolate frog to a distressed Neville.

Harry, Ron, Hermione

There weren't many listening moments when I felt my suspension of disbelief tested and I think the main instance (which I don't recall having struck me at all when first reading the book) was Harry and Hermione leaving the invisibility cloak on the top of the tower. "Yeah," I thought, "that's definitely a 'nah' for me..." I found it hard to believe that something as valued and vital as the invisibility cloak, together with the consequences of being caught, could allow it to be so easily forgotten.

Dudley Dursley
Also, although Dudley Dursley is essentially a 'broadbrush' take on a boy who is spoiled and encouraged to be selfish, greedy, mean-spirited and cruel, one of his most significant negative attributes in the story is that he is fat. Personally, I have known several overweight and even very large people who are kind, generous, intelligent, witty, and as morally courageous (in their "muggle" ways, of course) as Harry, Ron, and Hermione. So, children's book or not — or perhaps because it is a children's book  it struck me that equating weight with qualities of character was unfortunate.

In terms of other moments of difficulty, these were not with the story itself but with the adult reflections it sparked. I say "adult" deliberately because of course Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is a story written for children. So in that sense, the Dursleys' absurdity works, not least in that it softens the extent of their cruelty to Harry. Yet having recently heard of the specific case of a foster child who was subjected to a very similar from of emotional and physical deprivation as Harry in the early chapters of Sorcerer's Stone, as well as the terrible emotional and psychological effects on this very young individual, I found myself very conscious of our everyday world's realities while listening. I wished, too, that such instances might be confined to the pages of children's literature, with a Hagrid always there to ride to the rescue and the safety of a Hogwarts waiting, only Platform 9 3/4 and a ride on the Hogwarts Express away.

To return, though, to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, overall I thoroughly enjoyed rediscovering it through the medium of audio books and may well listen to The Chamber of Secrets very soon...

* In the UK, and also in Australia and New Zealand (where I live) the book was published as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone drawing on the medieval tradition of a stone that could turn base metals into gold, i.e. alchemy. In the Middle Ages, and in fact well into the Renaissance and pre-Industrial eras, alchemy, like astrology, was considered a proper field of inquiry for philosophers. 

Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, 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 Helen's 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