Saturday, May 25, 2024

From the Backlist - In What World

 

YUMESHIP: Photo
A Vampire Knight [ヴァンパイア 騎士]

Welcome to the Sup!

It's time again to explore our awesome backlist and I'm so glad you have joined our troupe of merry readers!

Today we are sharing another post by the bestselling author Margaret Ronald. Her thoughts on world building from May 20, 2011 are insightful for both readers and writers alike. 

Come along with us to discover the effects of adding magic to a world!

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In What World...


...WORDS (have) become a sort of shorthand for setting up drama. And for me, they sum up one of the things I love about writing: finding that "in a world" moment and drawing it out into a real, complicated situation.

Say you have a fairly normal setting, only with magic/mythical creatures/mutant superpowers. (In a world where vampires roam the night...in a world where deities lurk in back alleys...) Said powers can range from outright awesome (immortality! control over electricity! telekinesis!) to just above mundane (control over all shrimp no longer than one inch! olfactory invulnerability! keeping a fridge permanently clean!). The first and most important question then becomes "why aren't these magicians/vampires/mutants in charge of everything?"

One answer is "they are, we just don't know it." Okay, then. How much energy does it take to hide something that big? And why not rule openly? Or perhaps in this world, they are already visibly in charge of everything. That's going to make a lot of changes in the governance of this world, possibly even down to who's still considered a person. If vampires are in charge, are humans cattle? If magicians rule, where's the check on their power? 

 

There are lots of fun ways to play with this character by character -- say, Mr. Electricity above can only exert his power at great personal cost, and so lives off the grid, away from civilization. Or maybe the fridge-cleaning guy works in a sterile lab, and so that just makes his life a little easier. But on a larger scale, the effects of adding magic to a world are a lot more pernicious... Read the rest of the post.

Read more about Margaret Ronald here!

And, her awesome books.



Thursday, May 16, 2024

Choose Your Weapon - Firearms


Jinx from Arcane - Season Two Theories - by Tom Hartig November 22, 2021

A firearm might not be the first weapon we think of sifting through the Fantasy genre, but when considering the popular subcategories, from Steampunk to Urban Fantasy, they do indeed appear. Think of it this way: In any world where gunpowder has been discovered, firearms can exist. 

Ever since Marco Polo started travelling the Silk Road, these exploding projectile weapons have found their way into the hands of Western inventors, and shortly after, Western literature, including Fantasy. Just take a look at these wonderful subgenre examples.

Steampunk



Gail Carriger's The Parasol Protectorate Series comes to mind.

Engagingly written in a Steampunk/PNR/tongue-in-cheek style, this is a 'five book (and one prequel short) series chronicling the exploits of Alexia Tarabotti, a lady of considerable assets including a large Scottish werewolf, a battle-parasol, and treacle tart. Oh, and she has no soul...'

“Well, my love,” said Alexia with prodigious daring to Lord Maccon, “shall we?” 

The earl started to move forward and then stopped abruptly and looked down at her, not moving at all. “Am I?”

“Are you what?” She peeked up at him through her tangled hair, pretending confusion. There was no possible way she was going to make this easy for him.

“Your love?”

“Well, you are a werewolf, Scottish, naked, and covered in blood, and I am still holding your hand.”

He sighed in evident relief. “Good. That is settled, then.”

― Gail Carriger, Soulless

How fun is that!


Think also of Sanderson's Alloy of Law, the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik and other great Steampunk reads like the Lightbribger series by Brent Weeks

From Western subgenres to the Victorian era and the Civil War, Steampunk has much to offer, including a 'new' take on weapons in the Fantasy arsenal.

Urban Fantasy

This genre has had its ups and downs, but Urban Fantasy is in our blood and here to stay. With its paranormal characters set against a citified backdrop, what's not to love?

I burned through the Southern Vampire Mysteries (You can check out this internet database of firearms found in True Blood, as an example). I  also relish authors like Patricia Briggs and her Mercy Tompson Series

But there are some caveats to consider when writing Urban Fantasy.

 Because we want readers immersed in the tale, 'modern' weapons require careful handling. Otherwise, their appearance might flip readers out of the magic and fracture the storytelling altogether.

The first thing I consider with this genre is giving the township or city backdrop a personality. Think of it as a main character:

The backdrop aesthetic in an urban fantasy... plays a key role in the story; For this reason, the urban setting needs to be very well developed. - Jacqueline Silveste

Weapons are part of this environmental dev. That's why, in some cases, these Urban Fantasy guns will have real names (like the Ruger in the Ava Sykes series), or even mystical ones that imbue magical powers. They may also have special modifications like species-specific bullets. 

... I opened my gun safe and slipped my Ruger 9 mm into my calf holster and smoothed down my jeans. 

I was licensed to carry, and I always did at work, more for the trip there and back than anything else. 

New LA wasn't really a city of angels, not good ones anyway...

From Ava Sykes - The Blood in the Beginning

Post Apocalyptic Fantasy


In this genre, guns make plenty of sense though there may be more issues around obtaining the firearms,

and maintaining them, let alone finding bullets. It depends on how far down the rabbit hole the world has gone. Try TW Piperbrook's Better Guns and Gardens for a quick intro!

And if you want to just kick back and watch a fantastic video-game-turned-Prime-Original-Series, there is always the newly released Fallout

"Based on one of the greatest video games of all time, Fallout is the story of haves and have-nots in a world in which there’s almost nothing left to have. 200 years after the apocalypse, the gentle denizens of luxury fallout shelters are forced to return to the incredibly complex, gleefully weird and highly violent universe waiting for them above."

However we look at them, guns are fantasy weapons and when handled correctly, make exciting additions to the storytelling.

Do you have a fav fantasy-with-firearms series? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

xxKim

Choose Your Weapon Series

Poison

The Perfect Storm

The Sword

Firearms

***


About Kim Falconer

Kim Falconer, currently writing as AK Wilder, has released Crown of Bones, a YA Epic Fantasy with Curse of Shadows as book 2 in the series. Currently, she is working on the third book, out in 2024.

Kim can be found on  AKWilder TwitterFacebook and Instagram

Throw the bones, read your horoscopes or Raise Your Phantom on the AKWilder.com site

 


Sunday, May 12, 2024

From The Backlist: "Tall, dark, and handsome isn't going to cut it" by Margaret Ronald

Margaret Ronald

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It’s 'from the backlist' time again – and we love this post on writing heroes / romantic others from Margaret Ronald

Tall, dark, and handsome isn't going to cut it

by Margaret Ronald

 


"Let's face it: tastes differ. Especially when it comes to romantic leads.

I know my tastes when it comes to fictional men are a little . . . off. I'm more likely to crush on the hero's sidekick rather than the hero himself, I'll skim through thirty pages of stuff blowing up (okay, maybe I'll slow down for the explosions) to reach two pages of awkward infatuation, and I'd ditch Neo in a heartbeat for some quality time with Agent Smith. I imprinted on Tom Baker's Doctor early on, and so I've got a weakness for expressive eyes and a goofy grin. (And long coats and scarves, but that's another matter entirely.) Ten minutes with Miles Vorkosigan would probably drive me insane, though it would undoubtedly be an interesting madness.

In short, my fictional crushes are usually not the sort that would look good in a photo shoot -- or, at the very least, wouldn't express what I find so endearing about them. And that's okay.

What it means for writing is that I've learned to separate out what qualities get me interested and see where they overlap with what interests my heroine. Sure, I like a tall, skinny guy with glasses, but would Evie? What's more likely to sweep her off her feet? (Does she want to be swept off her feet?) And, more importantly, does that aspect of his character fit with everything else I've envisioned for him?

Still, I'm slowly learning that there are some common factors that I really like in romantic leads: wit without cynicism, the ability to be stoic in the face of overwhelming odds, a habit of introspection even if those thoughts are not shared. (And, for some reason, cyborgs. I just really like cyborgs. Go figure.) I don't know yet that I can adequately turn these loose associations into a character, but examining my reactions and understanding them makes it easier for me to figure out how to provoke a similar reaction.

Granted, tastes in fictional romantic leads don't necessarily translate to the outside world, nor the other way around. The darkly brooding type might be quite a draw while he's safely between the covers of a book, but off the page he's more likely to be the Darth Vader Boyfriend. (And, as Captain Awkward so succinctly states, you do not want to date this man.) Or, as Kate Beaton shows, dude watching with the Brontes has its limits. But this is fantasy -- as is, in a way, all fiction -- and so we're free to dream up a few things that can stay safely on the page.

..."

To read the full post and the comments, click here.

To find out more about Margaret and her writing you can visit her blog or search on "Margaret Ronald author" -- you'll get some hits. :-)

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

The Year of the Villain #4: “Elidor” and Formless Evil

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Happy May Day everyone, especially all those in the Northern Hemisphere. J

Being May 1, that means it’s time for another Year of the Villain post (in our wonderful Fantasy genre, of course!) – #4 to be exact. As the title indicates, I’m looking at Alan Garner’s Elidor and formless evil.


I say “evil” rather than “villain” because, being formless, there is no one antagonist, nor yet a gallery of villains, as in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

Elidor is a children’s book, but like Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea, I believe it’s very readable for adults, particularly the sense of constant unease, morphing into outright menace, created from the outset. 

Original cover

The protagonists are four siblings, in the tradition of CS Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, although in this case it’s three brothers – Nicholas, David, and Roland – and a sister, Helen. Again similar to Narnia, it’s the youngest sibling, in this case Roland, who is the main point-of-view character.

Although the story is chiefly set in our world (i.e. it’s an early urban fantasy), initially the four stumble through a portal into the world of Elidor, which has fallen beneath an all-consuming darkness. Three of the four fortresses that once guarded the land have fallen to the dark and the lord of the fourth charges the children with taking the realm’s four treasures – the spear, sword, stone, and grail of Celtic myth – back to our world to keep them safe.

Audiobook cover

Yet the darkness, too, can cross between worlds so the children must still contend with it in order to keep the treasures safe. What they face, though, is never clearly defined beyond a darkness that stains walls and congeals in the corners of rooms. Its power manifests as static on television sets and eyes at keyholes, looking in from the other world. Warriors serve it, with terrifying persistence, but the children can no more name them than the darkness. The exact nature of both remain a mystery.

Thus proving, in Alan Garner’s expert hands, that the unknown, and allusion rather than explanation, may be more terrifying than a named and clearly understood villain, however powerful. Because make no mistake, the sense of menace, and outright terror, remains constant throughout Elidor

Ebook cover

© Helen Lowe

~*~

About the Author

Helen Lowe is an award-winning novelist, poet, and lover of story. With four books published to date, she is currently completing the final instalment in The Wall Of Night series.
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Helen posts regularly on her
“…on Anything, Really” blog, monthly on the Supernatural Underground, and tweets @helenl0we.

~*~

Previous “Year of the Villain” Posts:

January:      Ushering in 2024 -- & the Year of the Villain

February:    The Year of the Villain #1: The Lord of The Rings Pantheon

March: The Year of the Villain #2: Ursula Le Guin & “Earthsea”

April: The Year of the Villain #3: Tigana and Brandin of Ygrath

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

From the Backlist - eBooks in a Changing World

Amazon Kindles

Hello Everyone!

It's time to check in on the #backlist at the Supernatural Underground! 

Today we are highlighting a post made in April 2011 on a topic as relevant as it was over a decade ago.

So dive right in to Joss Ware's, (one of the pen names of Colleen Gleason) the international best-selling author), post on eBooks. Don't skip the comments either! So intriguing.

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A Rapidly Changing World

eBooks, hypertext links, SMS - What's Next?
 

... eBook sales and popularity are exploding, heralds are crying that "print is dead!" and we authors are wondering if we'll ever have reason to do a booksigning again!

We're spending a lot of time as authors thinking about the future, but I'd like to get some perspective from those of you who enjoy our books, but who aren't in the thick of the industry.

So, today, I'm hoping our readers here on Supernatural Underground will weigh in on the following questions for us. We'd love to know what's going on in your mind!

1. Do you have an ereader or do you read ebooks?
2. What percentage of print books versus ebooks are you currently buying?
3. If you have an ereader and only or mostly download books to read, would you find a booksigning worth attending? If so, why?
4. Do you have any suggestions for us authors as far as how to sign/promote books for those of you who buy them electronically? (I've been asked to sign a Kindle and a nook more than once...the actual devices!)


...and any other thoughts or observations you might have!

Thanks so much for being our readers and let us know what you think. 


To explore the many comments already made, continue reading here... and visit Joss (Colleen Gleason) on her spectacular website.

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Where fiction makes the heart beat faster...

Monday, April 15, 2024

Choose Your Weapon - The Sword


The Netflix Witcher based on novels by Andrezej Sapkowski

Welcome to the third instalment in the series Choose Your Weapon. Today we are talking about the mighty sword, an implement used in human history for thousands of years. But no matter how long the blade has been with us, it can't compare to the glorification it receives in novels, films, graphics and the gaming industry. 

There is nothing like it in real life!

From the mythos of Excaliber to the wonders of Sting, Glamdring and even the Witcher's Zireael,  Fantasy swords are often written with an elaborate history and purpose. They are literally characters themselves. 

Consider Andúril, the Flame of the West. This is the broken sword that Aragorn carries, the very one that is eventually reforged from the shards of Narsil in Rivendell. Andúril, even when broken, is the mark of the heir of Isildur, but isn't it interesting we know more about it than the history of hobbits?


Why the Popularity in Fantasy?


The Fantasy genre, especially the subclass of Swords and Sorcery, initially derived from life in the Middle Ages, a time when carrying a sword was a sign of power and command. This holds true in Eastern stories of the samurai, depicted in Anime for their prowess, skill, grace and mastery in sword fighting.

Jin and Mugen from Samurai Champloo - CBR 2022

We can say that writers like David Eddings, JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, Anne McCaffery, C L Moore, Tanith Lee, Terry Goodkind, Marsaru Gotsubo, Kazuo Koike and our own Helen Lowe and yours truly, helped to and continue to help fix this weapon firmly in the Fantasy genre. But why this weapon in particular?

The Archetype of Truth

As said, the sword symbolizes power, protection, authority, strength, and courage. The connection is obvious, but metaphysically, it also represents truth, discrimination and the penetrating power of the intellect. Take the Suit of Swords in the Tarot (Tarocchi) deck, a metaphorical card 'game' with us since the 15th century.

Keywords for the suit of swords from http://learntarot.com/less3.htm -  

The Swords are the suit of intellect, thought and reason. They are concerned with justice, truth and ethical principles. Swords are associated with the element Air. A cloudless sky, open and light-filled, is a symbol of the mental clarity that is the sword's ideal. This suit is also associated with states that lead to disharmony and unhappiness. Our intellect is a valuable asset, but as an agent of ego, it can lead us astray if it is not infused with the wisdom of our Inner Guide...

Writing Sword Scenes Successfully

I've shared my struggles with sword fighting scenes early on in my career, but will summarize again here, especially for writers just starting out.

From The Way of the Sword – Voyager Blog.

... (twenty-five) years ago, I showed my first manuscript (The Spell of Rosette), to an author friend who was also a weapons black belt. She came back a week later saying Brilliant story Kim but you don’t know shit about the sword.

Oh boy... as if form-rejection letters weren't demoralizing enough.

But hang on! I thought I knew plenty about the sword. I’d watched ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ at least ten times and saw Kill Bill on the big screen twice. Could my sword scenes really be that bad? 

She assured me they were. She also invited me to join her Iaido (ee-eye-doh) classes and learn the ancient Japanese art of the samurai. 


Over years of training, I became fluent with techniques against single and multiple attackers, against spears and armour, and horsed riders. Sure enough, my fight scenes improved as I choreographed each one from scratch and when I finally found a publisher for the series (Stephnie Smith as HarperCollins Voyager), her first comment was "Great sword fighting scenes, Kim."

Truth is, it's one thing to slip poison into a cup, or even brew a magical spell to control the weather, but you just can't fake a sword fight.

Do you have a favorite Fantasy story that includes a swordfight or two? We'd love to hear about it in the comments.

Happy reading and writing!

xxKim

Choose Your Weapon Series

Poison

The Perfect Storm

The Sword

Firearms

***


About Kim Falconer

Kim Falconer, currently writing as AK Wilder, has released Crown of Bones, a YA Epic Fantasy with Curse of Shadows as book 2 in the series. Currently, she is working on the third book, out in 2024.

Kim can be found on  AKWilder TwitterFacebook and Instagram

Throw the bones, read your horoscopes or Raise Your Phantom on the AKWilder.com site