Friday, February 23, 2024

From the Backlist - What Would Your Echo Be?


Hello Everyone!

It's time to explore the awesome backlist at the Supernatural Underground

Today we are sharing a post made on February 23, 2011 by the bestselling author Kimberly Derting. She has some fabulous new releases out now, but these oldies but goodies are based on a beautiful, eerie premises: What Would Your Echo Be? 

Check this out!

By Kimberly Dering, Feb 23, 2011

In THE BODY FINDER and its sequel, DESIRES OF THE DEAD, 16-year-old Violet Ambrose is drawn to the dead by sensory imprints that attach to them when they are killed. Yes, they must come to an untimely death to be left with one of these “echoes.” And the thing about the echoes is that they’re completely and totally random. They have nothing to do with how the person lived…or even how they died.

It can be a sound (bells, music, the sound of glass breaking)

A taste (garlic, briny salt water, caramel)

A physical sensation (brain freeze, the sensation of feathers brushing over her skin)

Or a visual echo (a glow or a burst of colors)

I was asked at the launch party for DESIRES OF THE DEAD this past weekend, if I had an echo, what would it be?

Even knowing the rules (that it has nothing to do with the individuals themselves), I was still convinced that my echo would be something chocolate-related. I mean, honestly, how could it not be?

So I’m asking you, if you could choose your echo, what would it be... 

To read more about the amazing writer Kimberly Derting, visit her website, Twitter and FB.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Choose Your Poison

 Weapons in Fantasy Fiction - Part 1

Magical Potion Shelves by Fiulo

Welcome to my 2024, mini blog series on Weapons in Fantasy Fiction. Examples will include a range, from magical staffs, blades, bows and arrows, daggers, war dogs/horses, shapeshifters, curses and bare hands. In the case of Urban Fantasy and SteamPunk, a plethora of firearms enter the arena. 

There are hundreds of types of weapons and each can be, in fiction at least, embued with special powers, names and even personalities, like Sauron's One Ring. But a writer can't just reach into the grab bag and pull up any old thing...

They must choose their weapons wisely to reflect the culture and setting, the nature of the hero, accessibility, training, history and opportunity. Some weapons are immediate, like daggers, heavy rocks and martial arts. Others are slower-acting or may take intricate planning.

Here, I'm talking about poison. It isn't always quick on the draw, but it can be easier to get away with. 

Like many weapons, poison has been with us IRL (in real life) for a long time suggesting it requires research to weave into the story. The more familiar readers are with a topic, the easier it is for them to spot inconsistencies, and no writer wants those. They can throw the reader out of the story, and make them question everything the author says from then on (if they keep reading)!

Fortunately, there are thousands of years of documented history of poisoning to draw on. Within several hours of research, the writer can portray a convincing scenario of a fatal dose of, say, arsenic or strychnine. 

Yet again, an author with a bio-chemical background may do much better. Take Lydia Kang's A Beautiful Poison, for example, or  Maia V. Snyder's Poison Study. Also the bittersweet An Affair of Poison by Addie Thorley.

Not all poisonings are headliners though. Many authors incorporate poisonings into the story's background through secondary characters and side quests. I have done this myself in Crown of Bones and subsequent books in the series. Not only are the 'villains' playing with poisons, but the Healer savants are too. They not only mix potions to save lives but can use them in battle against enemies. Their phantoms are usually required for the process and often have extreme ways of administering the substance. 

Will they have antidotes on hand, in case of accidental ingestion, or even a change of heart? 

That's always going to be entirely up to the writer, of course. 

The most recent tale of poison I've read is Belladonna by Adalyn Grace - it's smoky dark with hints of gothic horror and romance....

What is your favorite use of poison in fiction? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

xx Kim


Choose Your Weapon Series


The Perfect Storm

The Sword


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 site

Saturday, February 10, 2024

From The Backlist: "What Happens When Writers Can't Sleep"


Merrie Destefano
Today, we're excited to refeature another fabulous post from our Supernatural Underground backlist -- an intriguing insight into what happens when writers can't sleep, from the wonderful Merrie Destefano

Merrie shared this post in February 2011, but we think you'll enjoy revisiting it today, with a link through to the original for the full context, including comments.

So without further ado:

From The Backlist: What Happens When Writers Can't Sleep

by Merrie Destefano

Like most writers, I tend to over think things. Way too much. For the past several years, one of the things that has fascinated/terrified me is the whole process of falling asleep. I’ve analyzed and studied it to the point that sometimes I can’t go to sleep. (Insert silent scream here.) I will lay awake, trying to capture that moment when my waking self dissolves into my dreaming self, but it’s like trying to catch smoke in a bottle. And, as I already mentioned, one of the brutal side effects of all this is the fact that now I have trouble sleeping. 

Merrie's latest!

So what happens when a writer over thinks things? Especially if that writer can’t sleep?

She starts working on story ideas. About creatures who never sleep. Creatures who slip in your window in the middle of the night to steal your dreams.

.I mean, haven’t you ever wondered why you can only remember some of your dreams, while others you can’t remember at all?

All of my sleepless angst gave birth to my ... book—Feast: Harvest of Dreams—a tale of forbidden love and supernatural intrigue that mixes vampire and fairy lore to create a new paranormal creature. The book contains two interwoven love stories, one with the main character, a fantasy writer named Maddie, that will appeal to adults and one with a 16-year-old half-human/half-paranormal girl, named Elspeth, that will appeal to readers of YA ...

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

And to discover more about Merrie and her writing, visit her on:


Thursday, February 1, 2024

The Year of the Villain #1: "The Lord Of The Rings" Pantheon

Tis a truth universally acknowledged that an aspiring hero in possession of an excellent quest-adventure must be in want of an antagonist.

And not just any antagonist, but a rip-roaring, no-holds-barred bad guy -- so welcome, gentle readers, to the Year of the Villain in our own, much loved, Fantasy fiction.

Sauron in "The Lord of the Rings" films
We have it on good authority that the place to start is "the very beginning", and although that really isn't The Lord of the Rings for either villains or fantasy, I do feel that JRR Tolkien's classic is foundational in terms of the genre.

It's also, just imho, a very interesting work when we turn the spotlight, and the microscope onto a little scum and villainy, aka antagonists and archvillains, nemeses and "big bads."

Starting with Sauron, who is what I think of as "monolithic evil", meaning that he is unremittingly and irredeemably bad, but also immense. Yep, Sauron is evil on an all-out, world (if not universe) sized scale, that seems impossible to defeat.

Sauron in "The Rings of Power" series
Here's the thing, though, Sauron is also remote -- I suspect because it would be hard, if not impossible, to main that sense of monolithic power if the story got too close to him. So he needs to be distant to work, but that means the narrative also has to bring his evil into the story in a more immediate way, and also offer lesser contests (between hero and villain) that the reader can engage with more directly.

The first objective is achieved by means of the ring itself, which contains a significant part of Sauron's power, i.e. "one ring to rule them all." It's also as seductive as it is dangerous, ultimately consuming the mind and will of the bearer. 

"One ring to rule them all..."
The only way to counter the ring is not to wear it, but even then its will -- and through the ring, Sauron's evil -- works on the ringbearer. Over two thousand years before Frodo inherits the ring, it has betrayed the hero, Isildur, to his death.

So throughout the time he bears the ring, Frodo is constantly tempted to wear and use it, and the closer he comes to Mt Doom, and to Sauron, the more the ring becomes a weight on mind and spirit. One he very nearly doesn't survive.

Frodo & the One Ring
.Yet the ring is still an object, however powerful, and its evil is impersonal as well as focused on the bearer. So in terms of less monolithic but still potent antagonists that the heroes can fight, enter the Lord of the Nazgul, aka the Witch-King of Angmar, and Saruman, a wizard sent to oppose Sauron (along with Gandalf) who ends falling beneath his sway. 

The Lord of the Nazgul plays a significant part in the first and third books in the trilogy. In The Fellowship of the Ring, he leads the Nazgul's (the nine Black Riders') terrifying pursuit of the hobbits, which is only stopped, after many close calls and narrow escapes, by the power of Rivendell. 

Lord of the Nazgul
.Much later, in The Return of the King, he commands the equally frightening assault on Minas Tirith, which only fails by the narrowest of margins, in large part because he meets his own long-prophesied end -- "not by the hand of man" but by the sword of Eowyn, a woman, and the dagger of Merry, a hobbit.

Any of you who have read the books or watched the film will know Eowyn and Merry's desperate, against-the-odds fight is heart-stirring stuff -- and one we can engage in deeply, which (of course) is why the story grips us.

Saruman the White
.Saruman fulfills a very similar roll in the trilogy's second book, The Two Towers.  At first he, too, is a distant figure, one that has unleashed rampaging armies of super-orcs (the fighting Uruk-hai) on Sauron's behalf. A series of alarms, pursuits, and battles follows, but at the end Saruman is defeated and held to account. The Witch King, and ultimately Sauron and the ring, are destroyed but with Saruman, the reader sees the consequences of a villain's defeat and fall. 

I mentioned orcs, and between Uruk-hai and goblins, trolls and corrupted humans, there are plenty of evil minions in The Lord of the Rings. But when it comes to the pantheon of villains, the fifth and final place goes to Smeagol, better known as Gollum.

.Gollum was corrupted by the ring from the outset, murdering his cousin to acquire it, and subsequently possessed by it. Having lost the ring to Bilbo (Frodo's uncle) in The Hobbit, he is obsessed by the need to recover it, a determination that leads him to Frodo and Sam.

Gollum's villainy is the opposite of Sauron's monolithic power. He is physically small, and while vicious, is also wretched, being a victim of the ring as much as its instrument. Gollum is also the one villain where there is a real possibility, however slender, of redemption -- a narrative arc that is possible because his part is personal, flawed in a way we can comprehend, and very much an active part of the story.


.So there we have them: The Lord of the Rings' pantheon of villains. Together, they have established a baseline for villainy in contemporary Fantasy -- as well as a guide for how to make evil in storytelling work, so we, as readers, are right there with the heroes on their quest-adventures.

© 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 installment in The Wall Of Night series.

Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog, monthly on the Supernatural Underground, and tweets @helenl0we