Saturday, November 16, 2019

The Cover Story

Cover artist Zalantina Zareva 

We all know we aren't meant to judge a book by its cover.  I mean, really. The saying's used as a reminder not to base our opinions on outward appearances. But...

It happens all the time.

For example, check out these fun facts listed by Aaron Gouveia:

Tall people are paid more.

Overweight people less.

Blonds, gym addicts, women wearing makeup, 'attractive' people' all get more, unless you are female and VERY attractive. Then you can forget about being hired for the position traditionally held by men.

Bottom line; we humans judge books, and other things, by their covers and like it or not, we might as well use that trait to our advantage.

Cover art by Alexander Jannson
Which is what the marketing department in a publishing house is for. They decide what's trending in which genre and do everything they can to apply that to your book, without outright stealing the design.

Though apparently there is stealing at times.

Meanwhile, when it comes to Fantasy, unicorns on the cover are down, dragons up. Crowns and thrones going like hotcakes, stilettos not so much. 

Note: crown and castle double whammy!

In YA Romance, the girl in the dress is still a classic, though being replaced by crowns and thrones and castles/citadels.

The designs shift but the facts remain, the cover is the first thing that draws a reader to the book.

It also tells a story of its own, hopefully, one that correlates to the pages of the book!

And now, in the digital age, it has to look awesome when the size of a postage stamp as well.

For me, I'm all about the artistry of the cover, but that is so individual, it's near impossible for a marketing team to predict.

How about you? What draws you to pick, or click a cover?


* * *

Kim Falconer's New YA Fantasy Series is out March 2020 - The Crown of Bones. (Writing under A.K. Wilder)
Also, check her urban fantasy  - 
The Blood in the Beginning - and Ava Sykes Novel and the SFF Quantum Enchantment Series

You can find Kim on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Or pop over and throw the bones on the site.

Contact at or

Sunday, November 3, 2019

High Fives with Amanda: Things for NanoWrimo

High Fives with Amanda: Top 5 things you need for NaNoWriMo

The time is upon us. The one month of the year where writers buckle down and try to write 50k words in one month. Its approximately 1600 words a day. Which for some writers is not a lot and for others is the biggest ask ever.

I've been participating or cheering on people for NaNoWriMo since the beginning. I remember doing it in college. My first book, Diaries of an Urban Panther, was a product of NaNoWriMo.

If you have never heard of it, you can check out more about it here.

 So being a veteran of the event, here are my top fives things you need for NaNoWriMo.

1). New notebook and pen. Not all of us are office supply nuts, but there is a certain magic evoked when you crack the spine on a new notebook and pop off the cap of a fresh pen. You'll need this new energy as you start writing and think of things in chapter 12 when you are only one chapter 3.

2). Tea. I KNOW! I'm such an avid coffee drinker, but I'm also an avid believer in ritual and not overdosing on caffeine. I need a hot cup of something to write and when you are squeezing in an extra hour of brain time at 1130 at night (like I usually do), a cup of coffee is not the best thing for your sleep cycle. So I recommend finding a fancy tea (decaf, obvs) to make special for yourself as you sit down to write.

3). A comfy chair. A coffee shop. A spot where you feel safe and
focused. I usually pick the big green chair in my library and that is where I will write and write only. No reading, no watching TV. Writing only in this chair. It always helps my brain get back to what it was doing last time I was in this chair. Also, its comfy and feels like a hug when I need it.

4). Inspiration that is not the entirety of the internet. And you know me, I'm a Pinterest girl. But during NaNoWriMo it becomes important not to get lost in research and the unknown depths of the web. Pinterest allows for a surface understanding of most things and that is all you really need for drafting a book. Weeks of research on medieval poisons can wait until December as long as you get a dead body on the page in November.

5). Community! Friends! Compadres! I've spoken about the power of supportive writing buddies a
million times, but this is the time that you will need a few to commiserate with about why you do this instead of pottery or macrame. You can also connect with friends on the NaNoWriMo site or through Twitter #NaNoWriMo2019.

There you go. The five things you'll need to get through November!

If you have a Top Five list you'd like me to cultivate, please let me know in the comments below or at @pantherista

In the meantime, give yourself a high five!

Amanda Arista
Author, The Lanard Files (Coming January 2020) 
& Diaries of an Urban Panther (re-release 2020)

Friday, November 1, 2019

Romance in Fantasy Fiction: True Triangles in Patricia Briggs' "Moon Called" (Mercy Thompson #1)


Intro: #RIFF #YOR

I don't feel I can have a Year of Romance (#YOR) and Romance in Fantasy Fiction (#RIFF) post series, certainly not here on Supernatural Underground without checking out a for-real paranormal urban fantasy. Plus there just has to be a triangle at some stage — and today's the day! 

And since this post series is all about my personal favorites, today's feature is a paranormal urban fantasy I really heart, i.e. Patricia Briggs' Moon Called, in which we first meet the awesome that is Mercy Thompson: car mechanic, coyote shape-shifter (deriving from her Native American heritage), aka Native American 'skinwalker' (as this is part of Mercy's heritage) *(See *Note below post), and all around feisty urban-fantasy heroine. 

And although a paranormal urban fantasy doesn't have to involve a triangle to be the real deal, triangles are part of the tradition — and I like the way the one in Moon Called rolls.


Patricia Briggs' Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1) & True Triangles — Mercy, Adam, and Samuel

I may've subtitled this "True Triangles", but Mercy Thompson is also the quintessential gal-next-door — in this case, literally right next door to Adam, leader of the local (Tri-Cities) werewolf pack. Adam is not only drop-dead gorgeous, but he's also definitely an "order" and "chain-of-command" kinda guy, which is probably not that surprising considering he's the alpha-in-chief of all those werewolves. 

Now, coyotes may be tricksters with plenty of smarts, but when it comes to a wolf vs coyote contest of strength, the wolf is definitely apex predator. So Mercy knows a smart coyote shapeshifter will show plenty of respect around the local werewolf leader. Instead, she likes to give her powerful neighbor sass, albeit from the relative safe distance of her own back yard, chiefly by 'taunting' him with a dead car body in full view of his own imposing residence. 

You might think this is setting readers up for a bog-standard "we-love-to-hate-each-other-and-wallow-in-misunderstandings" romantic engagement, but when we first meet Adam properly he's actually pretty civil, given the circumstances, and although he's laying down the law to a certain extent, it's actually to very sound purpose. So despite rusting car bodies and more serious divergences of view on a number of topics, Mercy and Adam's fundamental relationship is one of genuine attraction but also a bedrock of mutual respect. 

In addition to romance, adventure and mystery are integral to the Moon Called story and the action soon kicks in. In the Mercy Thompson, Tri-Cities world, any action is going to involve supernatural forces, with fae and vampires, as well as werewolves, all part of the mix along with mainstream human society. So there's plenty for any lover of paranormal urban fantasy to enjoy.

Yep, it's a graphic novel, too.
In terms of the action, escalating violence sees Adam seriously injured defending his home. Not knowing who to trust, Mercy flees with him to her childhood home, the remote rural stronghold of the Marrok, the leader of all werewolves in North America. Enter Samuel, the Marrok's son, another alpha werewolf and the third corner of Moon Called's romantic triangle. 

Samuel, needless to say, is also drop-dead gorgeous. :-) He's also a lone wolf, as opposed to Adam's pack leader, and Mercy's childhood sweetheart. Uh-oh, you may think, and you're not wrong — but here's the thing I really like about Moon Called and the way the triangle plays out: 

Yes, there's plenty of simmering sexual tension and smoldering alpha werewolf standoffs, but ultimately everyone in this story is an adult. So Mercy actively tries to resolve the standoff rather than adding fuel to the flames, and Adam, despite being wounded and confronted by Samuel's taunting, manages to defuse the sexual and alpha-primacy competition. 

Chiefly, this works by everyone realizing that there are More Important Things at stake in the unfolding story, like many lives and the security of North American werewolf-dom. 

So although Moon Called ends with the Mercy-Adam-Samuel triangle essentially unresolved (there are more books to come, after all ;-) ) the lines that have been established are essentially those based on mutual respect and establishing some adult, albeit alpha, ground rules — all without lessening the romantic tension and payoff in the story.

And yep, that rusting car body ends exactly where it started...

*Note: As two commenters have pointed out, I said in the intro that Mercy is a coyote shapeshifter, which is correct, but then implied that equated with a Native American "skinwalker." Although I believe this is implied by other characters in the book, I also believe the commenters are correct: Mercy herself refutes being a skinwalker. -- HL

List of Year of Romance in Fantasy Posts (so far):

March: JRR Tolkien and The Lord Of The Rings Effect
April: Laini Taylor's Daughter Of Smoke and Bone – "My Enemy, My Love"
May: Patricia McKillip's Riddlemaster of Hed – "Constancy Amid Tumult"
June: Guy Gavriel Kay's Under Heaven – "When Your Ship Doesn't Sail"
July: Katharine Kerr's Daggerspell (Deverry series) – "Love At First Meeting"
August: Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys – "Friends and Lovers"
September: Julian May's Saga of the Exiles Katlinel & Sugoll aka "Beauty and the Beast"
October: Teresa Frohock's Where Oblivion Lives (Los Nefilim) – "Endless Love"

Helen Lowe is a teller of tales and purveyor of story, chiefly by way of novels and poetry;she also blogs and occasionally interviews fellow writers. Her first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. The second,The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012, and the sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013.Daughter Of Blood (Book Three), was published in 2016 and Helen is currently completing the final novel in the series. She posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog, monthly on the Supernatural Underground, and is also on Twitter:@helenl0we.