Saturday, March 23, 2024

From the Backlist - What's In a Name?


Dragon Name Generator from TA Barron

Hello Everyone!

For us dragons and humans, it's time again to explore the #backlist at the Supernatural Underground

FIY my dragon name, according to the above, is Crimson Smoke the Young. LOL 

Today we are sharing a post made in March 2011 by the bestselling romance author Pamela Palmer. Here she talks about the ups and downs and ins and outs of choosing a character's name.

I promise, it's actually a lot harder than it sounds!


What's In a Name?

by Pamela Palmer

...I always thought that picking the names of my characters would be easy. Just thumb through a baby name book, find a few names I liked, and that would be it, right? Maybe it works like that for some authors. Not for me. I have to like the name, of course, but it's so much more complicated than that. The name has to, in some way, capture the essence of the character for me. It becomes an important vehicle for understanding that character.

In comparison, naming kids is easy. And I can say that because I've named two of them and it wasn't easy at all. My husband's and my tastes in names were poles apart. The thing with naming babies is, you don't know them. You're trying to give them a name they'll be happy with for a lifetime, but unlike naming characters, you're not trying to fit their name with their personality, because you don't know them yet.

Before I choose a name for a character, I have to understand her (or him). I knew that Kara (the heroine of Desire Untamed) was a sweet, spunky, girl-next-door type long before I knew her name. I knew Delaney (the heroine of Obsession Untamed) was a tough human FBI agent and Skye (Passion Untamed) was a sweet Mage witch with a pure heart. Their names came later, and not easily. I tried several names each before I found the one that clicked for me. In Kara's case, I went through at least six before finding the one that fit.

So how do I decide which name fits? Like so many things having to do with the writing process, I look inside myself for the answer. When I hit on the element, in this case the name, that feels right, I know it. I feel it in my gut. But I don't always feel it instantly. With names, in particular, I have to live with them a little while before I know, although this 'living with them' usually takes place during the plotting process, before I ever start writing the book. Rarely will I change a name after the book is underway any more, though that used to happen all the time.

As I plot and work out the key aspects of my story, I try out different names until I find the ones that feel right...



To read the full article and learn more about this wonderful author and her bestselling books, go to the original post and follow Pamela on FB and Twitter.

Let us know in the comments some of your favorite character names.


Saturday, March 16, 2024

Choose Your Weapon - the Perfect Storm


Blurred Lines by Yuumi Art - This image reminds me of Hina Amano an Anime character known as a "sunshine girl." She can stop a downpour, but at a great sacrifice to herself.

Hello everyone! Today we continue the exploration of weapons in Fantasy Fiction through the power of the Perfect Storm. 

What do I mean by that exactly? 

Perfect Storm

a) a particularly violent storm arising from a rare combination of adverse meteorological factors.

But, in the case of Fantasy, those adverse meteorological factors are conjured through magic, or the power of the mind. 

This is where we find rain, wind, earthquakes, avalanches, volcanic eruptions, lightning strikes and tornados controlled by an adept being, and utilized as a weapon whether defensive or offensive.

To be clear, these meteorological nightmares are not random acts of nature, but disasters under the specific control of a weather witch, mage, sorcerer, wizard or a High Savant. In some cases, they may be controlled by a young apprentice who has no idea what they are doing! 

Just think of Mickey Mouse in the 1940 animation Fantasia where he plays the Sorcerer's Apprentice inspired by a poem by Goethe, and later Paul Dukas, performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. It's a cautionary tale!

Let's look at more examples:

A favourite character that comes to mind is Ged from Ursula K Le Guin's Earth Sea Books (recently discussed by Helen Lowe in The Year of the Villain #2). Again we have a young mage who discovers by accident that he has the power to control meteorological forces of nature.

And speaking of Helen Lowe, weatherworkers feature prominently in her title "Daughter of Blood" where Faro, a kid with innate weatherworking power, calls lightning to save himself on two occasions, both times to profound effect.

In the case of authors like these, myself included, the power comes from within the character (Mage, Weatherworker or Savant) who must learn how to control their abilities before they can utilize them effectively. In Crown of Bones, we see just how powerful the caller savants can be when they combine forces to repel Tann's attack on Baiseen.

In the LOTR, and the Hobbit, it is Gandalf who conjures lightning and fire as weapons.  This is different from those like the Airbender's abilities to manipulate actual meteorological phenomena. For example, they might change barometric pressures in the jet stream resulting in torrential rain, wind and storms. 

Power Objects

Another take on the topic is the artifact or power which, when found and harnessed, is used to master the environment or turn it into a battlefield. 

Robert Jordon does this with the ter’angreal, the bowl of Winds that when first mentioned has been missing for over two thousand years. It then appears in several Wheel of Time books: Lord of Chaos and A Crown of Swords, before being mastered by Elayne, Aviendha, and Nynaeve in The Path of Daggers

The problem with the power in the artifact is that it can be stolen by anyone. Take for example the Windspeakers in Emily Foster's The Drowning Eyes. These beings have eyes of stone, almost like a reverse Medusa. With them, they draw the wind from the sails of pirates to protect the island villages. But when pirates steal the magical artifact, the control of the weather is in other hands, to devastating effect.


...which leads us to an array of consequences. 

As seen in The Sorcerer's Apprentice, most stories dealing with the manipulation of meteorological power also explore the outcomes, both good and bad. David Eddings does this brilliantly in The Malloreon.
Here we discover sorcerers like Belgarion with the power to summon storms as weapons but don't always stop to consider what might happen next, as when one simple storm triggers an Ice Age.  

What are your most loved uses of a Perfect Storm in Fantasy Fiction? I'd love to hear about it in the comments. 



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, March 9, 2024

From The Backlist: "Modern Day Faery Tales Drawn From Fantasy and Folklore"


We love this post from one of Supernatural Underground's founder authors, the great Terri Garey.

It's a wonderful exploration of the origins and unique characteristics of the awesome that is paranormal urban fantasy.

We love what Terri has to say even more! So here goes:

Urban Fantasy: Modern Day Faery Tales Drawn From Fantasy and Folklore 

by Terri Garey

As an author with an all-too-vivid imagination, I've never had a whole lot of trouble with “suspension of disbelief”. Ghosts, near-death experiences, haunted houses - anything that frightens or intrigues me is very likely to end up in one of my books. 

I write Urban Fantasy, which is basically fiction that’s set in the real world, yet contains aspects of the supernatural or fantastic. Urban Fantasy was first defined as an acknowledged sub-genre in the late 1980’s and early ‘90s, but in my opinion, “Urban Fantasy” has always been around, from the earliest days when spooky stories were first told around warm fires on cold nights. Ancient gods and goddesses, elves, witches, faeries and werewolves. Dragons, trolls, giants. By the standards of the era (whether it be Classical, the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages, the Victorian, etc.) any of these stories could be considered Urban Fantasy, for they all involved a mixture of the real and the fantastic. Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Robert Lewis Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde – these are all fictional tales that were based in the real world, yet include elements of the supernatural.

In Urban Fantasy, the supernatural elements are limited only by the author’s imagination, but certain themes, however, remain constant. These “literary tropes” are at the heart of every good fantasy novel, whether it’s Urban Fantasy, Sci-Fi Fantasy (Star Wars, Star Trek), Historical Fantasy (Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones), or Young Adult Fantasy (Harry Potter). 

1) First comes the over-arching theme of Good vs. Evil. The stakes can be as high as the fate of the world, or as simple as saving the life of one individual, but there is always a goal that serves the greater good. Whether the protagonist is a supernatural bounty-hunter who keeps demons from taking over the world, or a single mom who finds out her neighbor is a vampire, moral dilemmas—and the consequences of them—are a mainstay of Urban Fantasy.

2) Second is the journey of the self – protagonists often start out ill-equipped, or even unwilling, to deal with the situations they find themselves in, but through character development (which the author shows by their ongoing actions and insights), find within themselves the strength to meet ever-increasing challenges.


3) Third is A Major Secret – one that puts the protagonist outside the realm of “normal”, but forces them to behave as though they were just like you and me. By placing the protagonist in an urban, “everyday” setting, the author creates a sense of kinship with the reader, fostering the much-needed suspension of disbelief.


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

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

Friday, March 1, 2024

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

(Warning: this post does contain a spoiler regarding the outcome of A Wizard of Earthsea. I'll alert you again once we get there.) 

Otherwise, welcome back, gentle readers, to the Year of the Villain in our own, much loved, Fantasy fiction.

If you're a regular here, you may be thinking, "Hey, doesn't Helen always go from Tolkien to Ursula Le Guin?"

In which case, although it's by no means "a truth universally acknowledged", you wouldna be wrong either. Very often, I do follow Tolkien with Le Guin.

Here's why. Foremost, I perceive both as hugely influential on the genre, but also profoundly different in terms of how their books work. So when looking at any aspect of fantasy storytelling, such as villains, worldbuilding, or magic, their styles illuminate very different terrain. 

They're both master storytellers as well, so there's much to be learned, as well as to delight in, by shining a light on their work. 

So-o, in last month's deep dive into The Lord of the Rings I pointed to its villains being monolithic and very often remote, and their evil world-threatening, i.e. Sauron. Even secondary antagonists such as the Lord of the Nazgul and Saruman are large scale and relatively "distant", and although Gollum is small, personal, and vicious, his corruption stems from the ring, and via the ring, from Sauron.

In terms of Le Guin's Earthsea, I'm going to look at the first trilogy, which I consider the most formative, although the same principles inform all her work. The three books are A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, and The Farthest Shore.

The Nature of Earthsea Evil

In general, Earthsea's evil -- and the villains that go with it -- are not world-threatening. (Bear with me, all those who're shouting The Farthest Shore, because I'll come to that. :-) ) Evil is part of the fabric of the world, particularly its earth, as we see with the stone of the Terrenon and the tombs of Atuan, and given effect by those who choose to serve it. For example, Serret and her husband with the Terrenon stone, and the priestess Kossil, in the tombs. 

The evil may seek expansion through its servants, but in general it is confined to a geographic location, with many counterbalancing forces in the Earthsea world. These include its oceans and the wizards, or mages, who are charged with maintaining the balance of magic and powers. And because the old evils of earth rely on human servants, the servants' villainy manifests as corruption and possession, raiding and murder within a sphere of influence, rather than all-out war on the world.

Dragons are another of the forces the wizards must contend with. Although powerful magical beings they are not evil in and of themselves. Rather, very like humans, they may, individually or collectively, engage in villainous deeds such as killing, looting, and destruction. Like the evil wrought by the old powers of the earth, through their servants, the dragons' villainy is limited by their physical and magical strength, so tends to be regional.

This is the pattern of evil established through A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan, in which the innate evil of stone and tombs, for example, are given shape through villains such as the Lord of the Terranon and Kossil. Alternatively, dragons like Yevaud lay waste to islands like Pendor -- not unlike the Kargish raiders that go a-viking, murdering, looting, and pillaging through Gont.

The Contest Between Hero and Villain

If Earthsea's evil, and its villains, were limited to the old powers of earth and the dragons, the only difference between its approach and that of The Lord of the Rings would be one of scale. But in A Wizard of Earthsea, Le Guin gives the contest between protagonist and antagonist a very different focus to Frodo--and Gollum's--struggle against the externalized evil of the ring.

The protagonist of all three novels is Ged. The youthful wizard of the first book is arrogant, proud, and jealous, as well as strong -- all qualities that lead him to undertake forbidden magic, unleashing a demon into the world. Consistent with the overall approach of the worldbuilding, the nameless demon's primary danger is to Ged himself, because it seeks to possess him. If successful, it will then use his strength and magical ability to do greater harm. 

[Spoiler follows -- and although, given the fame of the story, the ending is probably well known, if it's a concern, maybe skip the next paragraph or if required, stop reading altogether.) 

In order to defeat the demon, Ged must name it. After a long chase across sea and land, he finally comes face-to-face with his nemesis -- and the name they both speak in that moment is the same. The demon generated by his act of hubris is not an external force, but a manifestation of his jealousy, hatred, and pride. In the end, Ged is both the hero and the villain, with the evil that must be defeated originating within himself.

The Farthest Shore, Earthsea #3

This is the third -- and was for a long time the final -- book in the Earthsea series. In this book, the evil is world threatening, as a breach in the barrier between life and death saps knowledge and unravels magic, destroying Earthsea's balance. Yet consistent with Le Guin's overall approach, the threat arises through the hubris, folly, and self-will of a sorcerer, Cob, in seeking to avoid death, which twists the laws of nature -- rather than from a malevolent external power. 

To my mind, this exemplifies the chief difference between the villains of Tolkien and Le Guin. In one case (Tolkien), the villains largely operate as "the other", their evil an external force. In the other (Le Guin), the evil is integral to the world and the villainy arises through the weakness, ill nature, and ethical failings of human beings: forces that exist within all of us. 

I believe these represent the two main approaches to writing villains in fantasy storytelling, which is why they are my starting point for the series. In the hands of master storytellers like Tolkien and Le Guin, both approaches make for great reading, which is why I've always loved their work.

© 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