Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Importance of Workplace

The Inventionland Design Factory - my fantasy work space
The workplace, defined here as the space where you work and/or play, may be a reflection of your mind. 

Think about it. If our external life is a mirror of our inner world, then wouldn't the actual workspace tell us something about our mental processes? How we think, structure and organise? How we create?

For example, this is where I write and though it's not on par with my dream space of Inventionland Design Factory, it has a lot of plusses.

Click to enlarge

My work space compares and contrasts with these creative spaces, and creative minds!
Neil Gaiman's writing space

"You need a room with a door," says Stephen King

Tina Fey, actress, comedian, writer, and producer's writing space


Where Charlaine Harris writes.
For me, the importances of the creative workplace boils down to feeling good. I have to like where I am to immerse in the story and allow it to unfold. Think 'stimulating, atmospheric and most importantly, isolated'. 

I have to work in solitude, where I unplug the phone and close down the social media and simply be with the words.

What about you? What's your idea workplace?

We'd love to hear.

Kim Falconer's latest release is out now - The Blood in the Beginning - and Ava Sykes Novel. Find this novel in a store near you.

You can also learn more about Kim at AvaSykes.com, the 11th House Blog, and on FaceBook and Twitter.  Or on GoodVibeAstrology.com where she teaches law of attraction and astrology.

Kim posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month and runs Save the Day Writer's Community on Facebook. Check out her daily Astro-LOA Flash horoscopes on Facebook.


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Family isn't about blood

Things I carry: The Nature of Different Friendships

I was sort of wondering what to write about this month and Helen solved my problem! Which I thought was sort of perfect, because isn't that was friends are supposed to do? Find you when you are lost, comfort you when you are struggling and help you kickass when the time arises. 

I'm sure I have mentioned this a few times, but I'm adopted. The entire notion of family is different for me than it is say for my husband who has two biological brothers that look exactly like him. Its crazy- confusion has ensued. I think that not having people that I look like forced me to look deeper, listen harder to people to make sure that they were on my side. I looked for actions and words to mean family, not just a similar nose shape. 

So here are some on-screen and on-page relationships that really resonate with me, either as something I have found or as something that I've always wanted in my chosen friends. These friendships have defined friendship for me, the best and worst parts. 

Nostalgic friends: Stand by Me. Now most people a little older than me will say it was all about The Goonies, but for me, it was all about these four boys. Now as I watch the movie, I think it was the framing of the story that made it resonate.  Gordie, Chris, Teddy, and Vern taught me there is power in allowing people to be what you need them to be when you need them to be that. These boys were the outcasts, but they were the outcasts together, and that's what they needed. We can look back on these types friendships with a golden nostalgia and a thankfulness that these people were in our lives, even if it was just for a summer, or to find a dead body. 


School Friends: AKA, the people who become who they are while you are figuring out who you are AKA College. I went old school for this one. Horatio to be has always been the model of the classic college friend. Him and Hamlet bonded at the University of Wittenberg and Horatio came with Hamlet to bury his father, to be a good friend in this tumultuous time in Hamlet's life. But the true nature of Horatio taught me that friends should know who you are going to be, see the potential within you, and will sing your praises even when you are not there. 
And I bet there were some crazy times at Wittenberg!



The Power Friends- The Craft. You know, sometimes it just takes a posse to really get the mojo going. Now, I have never actually been part of a coven, though my mom thinks I was in high school, but there is a synergy that happens when girls get together for a common cause. These power groups let each member feel wanted and strong and independent. But they can also get toxic and start to be exclusive of other people. 
And I always really did want to be a witch. 





The Life Friends- Elizabeth Bennett and Charlotte Lucas. Even though these two characters have drastically different viewpoints on love and marriage, they remain friends. Even though Elizabeth couldn't have made the choices the Charlotte did, she didn't just stop being friends. Elizabeth took the time to talk and understand Charlotte's choices and they remained companions through a  transitioning time in everyone's life. This taught me that the good ones stick around, the good ones listen. And they support the decisions that make you happy. 



The Self-promoting Friends- As you can see, I have marinated in friendships so of course, I wrote them into my own book. Jessa Feychild is a spoiled little brat but she is Violet's spoiled little brat. They were friends before they were prophesies and they remain steadfast through breakups and apocalypses. Jessa and Violet will always be together. And I think that is the most powerfully displayed when Jessa nearly rips the world in half trying to rescue Violet from the other side of the Veil in the last in the series. 





So these examples of friendships are the ones that have stuck with me through my life, that have defined friendships for me. 


Until next time, carry on. 

Amanda Arista
www.amandaarista.com
Author

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Sisterhood is Powerful in SFF

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I'm declaring August the month of celebrating sisterhood in SFF! Last month, I posted on five of my favorite romances in Fantasy fiction, sparked by my view that "romance and love are one of the drivers that make human beings tick and the world go around." (And Fantasy fiction, too, for that matter.) In addition to my five picks, commenters also joined in with some reccommendations of their own, so together we ended up with a great selection. :-)

Hermione & Harry: just good friends
Another very important driver—as Kim Falconer discussed under "Relationship" in her post, Read Your Way To Happiness—is friendship. The "bromance" has been a feature in recent television, with shows like Sherlock and Merlin, but although there are also some great male-female friendships, like Harry Potter and Hermione Granger, and Uhtred and Hild in The Last Kingdom, friendships between women did not spring to mind as readily.
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Willow & Buffy: besties from the get-go
We know women' friendships are a really important component of real life, but the question became whether they figured as strongly in genre fiction. For starters, although "womance" may be the verbal gender equivalent to "bromance" in terms of a strong, vibrant and charismatic, but platonic, relationship between women, it's not as entrenched in popular culture. (I mean, I had to search for it! O-o)
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Korra & Asami: from "womance" to romance?
However, a quick mental review of my genre reading convinced me that these fictional relationships do exist. (Phew!) In terms of my criterion that the friendship should be central to the story, rather than "token", here are a few important female friendships that came to mind (in alphabetical order by book title—lest preference should be inferred):

Breq and Lieutenant Awn in Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice (SF). You may argue that the ubiquity of the feminine personal pronoun in Ann Leckie's "Imperial Radch" trilogy means that you can't be sure these characters are female, but the contextual use of that pronoun in a non-gendered society gives you a sense of "sisterhood" so I'm going to stick my neck out and and include them—especially since Breq's liking, and in fact devotion, to the Lieutenant is a major driver for the story. (And there are a few hints that suggest the "sisterhood" tag is appropriate, although you have to delve pretty deep to find them.)
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The relationship of Katsa and Bitterblue in Graceling (YA/F) by Kristen Cashore is very much that of older sister / younger sister, although they are in fact unrelated. It is also central to the second half of the book and evolves into friendship despite the disparity in ages and strength, a friendship that continues in the novel Bitterblue, although in the latter book their friendship is more incidental to the story.
Patricia McKillip's Heir of Sea and Fire (F) is the second novel in her famous "Riddlemaster" trilogy and fouses on the heroine, Raederle (rather than the hero, Morgon, as in Books 1 and 3.) The "heart" of the book is Raederle's friendship with Lyra of Herun (a "warrior-princess" long before we encountered Xena) and Morgon's sister Tristan. In fact, together with Lyra's all-female company of guards, I believe they were the very first "band of sisters" I encountered in SFF.
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One of the many relationships I love in William Gibson's Mona Lisa Overdrive (Cyberpunk SF) is that between the hardened "razor girl" (think "street samurai" / mercenary), Sally (whom readers of the classic Neuromancer will recognize as Molly) and thirteen-year-old Kumiko, the bereaved daughter of a Yakuza warlord. In one way, Sally is a mentor figure, but never maternal or even sisterly, but Kumiko's intelligence and composure also result in a sense of equality between the two. Certainly, they are allies, and as such a powerful combination...

No discussion of the "band of sisters" in SFF would be complete without the crew of the spaceship, The Pride of Chanur, in CJ Cherryh's novel of the same name. The Pride's crew are all females of their leonine species and all related, comprising an aunt, Pyanfar, and her niece, Hilfy, and two pairs of sisters, Haral and Tirun, Cher and Geran—with all five adults being cousins to some degree. And as a reviewer put it, "These swaggering, vain, tough-talking Hani heroines make Chewbacca look like a pussycat."
While I was writing this, a friend—looking over my shoulder—demanded to know about my own books. The latest, Daughter of Blood, does have a special friendship between two of the women characters, Myr (the Daughter of Blood of the title) and her bodyguard, Taly, which has elements of the womance and is sufficiently important that near the end of the book another character observes: "Yet more than anyone else...Taly...truly loved Lady Myr."

So it looks like sisterhood is powerful in SFF, after all, which is more than A-OK by me. But do tell me your standout female friendships, dear Supernatural Undergrounders: I'm always keen to hear about more great friendships and great reads. 




Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, interviewer 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 her 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

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Read your Way to Happiness

Fairytale Moods

You probably won't be surprised to hear that HAPPINESS is a core human value. What you may not realize is how much reading fiction can foster this core value, improving health, well being, creativity and even economic success. 

Positive Psychology - the study of what makes people happy - has made many advances in the last decade. Their research has revealed the habits happy people engage in. The list includes:

1. Relationship - happy people feel connected, part of a tribe or clan with friends and loved ones to share their lives with.

2. Kindness - we all have something in us called the “moral molecule” which is linked to love and pain relief. This molecule releases high levels of oxytocin (a happy brain messenger) when we care for or think about those we love.

Empathy - "I cry over anime character's problems
more than crying over my own.
"
3. Positive thinking - being grateful, optimistic, hopeful is another key ingredient to a happy life. 

4. Exercise - Moving the body increases happy brain messengers, making us feel more optimistic, empowered and strong. 

5. Culture - People who go out to art shows, performances, music and films and even sporting events are more likely to be happy.

6. Pets - Having cats, dogs, horses, bunnies or snakes, whichever animal captures your heart, is shown to reduce anxiety, improve the health and put a smile on your face. This could fall under the categories of relationship, kindness and exercise as well.

7. Honoring Strengths and Virtues - Studies show that happy people have discovered their unique strengths and virtues and use them for a purpose that is greater than their own personal needs.

8. Coping with Stress. Stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol put you in a constant state of 'fight or flight' - great for emergencies; hard on overall peace and relaxation.

Arden Cho plays Kira, a Kitsune in Teen Wolf (MTV)

Interestingly, reading fiction can support and amplify many of these happiness fostering habitsCompare the list below to the key habits of happy people:

1. Relationships - Reading improves our RW (real world) relationships through simulation as we explores ideas of change, emotions and the unknown. According to studies conducted by social and media psychologists, the companionship experienced with fictional characters can be very real. We care about them, love them, and connect when we fall into the story.

2. Empathy and compassion. Multiple studies have shown that imagining stories helps activate the regions of your brain responsible for compassion and seeing the world from a new perspective.

3. Reading fiction reduces stress by allowing us to disengage from our 24/7 cognitive attention. In other words, it allows us to rest. Research at the University of Sussex shows that reading is the most effective way to overcome stress, better than other methods like listening to music or taking a walk.

4. Getting enough sleep - A reading routine can help us sleep better. Tim Ferriss, sleep optimizer, suggests we read fiction before bed to engage the imagination and present-state attention (unlike non-fiction which encourages projection into the future and preoccupation/planning. 

5. Memory - Reading boosts memory, forestalling decline in later life. 

6. Inclusivity and perspective. Reading literally opens our minds, enhancing the ability to understand the perspective of unfamiliar or marginalized groups. 

7. Creativity - Research findings suggest that reading fictional literature leads to better mental processing generally, including those of creativity.

8. Overall Happiness - Surveys show that reading fiction makes people happy, plain and simple! Falling into a story is a joy unto itself.

What about you? Can you relate to these benefits of reading? Whether it's a traditional book, iPad, tablet or phone, we'd love to hear what books light you up the most.

Comments welcome, and happy reading!


Kim Falconer's latest release is out now - The Blood in the Beginning - and Ava Sykes Novel. Find this novel in a store near you.

You can also learn more about Kim at AvaSykes.com, the 11th House Blog, and on FaceBook and Twitter.  Or on GoodVibeAstrology.com where she teaches law of attraction and astrology.

Kim posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month and runs Save the Day Writer's Community on Facebook. Check out her daily Astro-LOA Flash horoscopes on Facebook.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

5 Favorite Fantasy-Genre Romances

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Early last month, my fellow Supernatural underground author, Amanda Arista, wrote here: "I know that this is supposed to be an all things fiction blog, but I find myself ruminating on Romance recently."

And what a wonderful post it was, too. If you haven't read it out already then do check it out now, right here: "Love is messy, love is kind...Wait, That's Not How It Goes." 

Since reading Amanda's great post I have been reflecting on the place of romance in Fantasy fiction. The upshot of my reflections are that—just as romance and love are one of the drivers that make human beings tick and the world go around—so, too, Fantasy would be much the poorer without romance in its storytelling.

Fortunately, the genre is characterized by some great Fantasy romances—and today I am sharing five that have rocked my world.

Eowyn & Faramir
One of the most unexpected, but also delightful because of that unexpectedness, was the romance of Eowyn and Faramir at the conclusion of JRR Tolkien's  The Lord of the Rings. Faramir (as he appears in the books, rather than the movies so much) was already one of my favorite characters. And of course I adored Eowyn who rode to the battle of the Pelennor Fields disguised as a man and slew the evil and powerful Witch King (aka the Lord of the Nazgul.) So when Eowyn and Faramir fell in love, I was a happy reader...

Karou and Akiva in Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone. "Once upon a time an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well." This is such a great setup for the love story of Karou and Akiva, which is another one of my favorites of recent years, not least because the two protagonists have not only to bridge the divisions of a bitter and vicious war between their peoples, but also the conflicts within their own societies—and ultimately death itself. If you love romance in your Fantasy and haven't read this book yet, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Dev and Cara from Courtney Schafer's Shattered Sigil series (which starts with The Whitefire Crossing) are both scouts guiding caravans through difficult and dangerous mountain terrain. What I love about their relationship is that it is clearly one between equals and also that it evolves through the difficult and dangerous crossing referenced in the title of the first book: a gradual dawning of romance rather than 'love at first sight' but no less real or rewarding for all of that.

Jill and Rhodry in Katharine Kerr's Daggerspell, the daughter of a Silver Dagger and a prince of the Celtic kingdom of Deverry, are a love-at-first-sight couple as well as the proverbial star-crossed lovers. What sets the story apart is the magic of the characters (both are headstrong and more than a little impetuous) but also the magic of the connection between them. A fine romance, indeed.

Katsa and Po in Kristin Cashore's Graceling. Katsa and Po are another of fantasy's great relationships between equals. Their romance is also tempestuous and set about by darkness and danger—but one of the things I really like is that they not only fight side by side, as well as against each other sometimes, but like Dev and Cara they know how to have fun together, too. And there's nothing quite like moments of shared laughter to make romance, as well as the world, spin along.

So there you are, five great romances of Fantasy fiction that have spun my wheels and rocked my reading world. But how about you? I bet you have a few favorites, too. If you'd like, share with me and fellow Supernatural Underground readers through the comments. :-)





Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, interviewer 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 her 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

Friday, June 16, 2017

Mapping the Worlds


Hi everyone!

I've just finished a more polished version of the world Map of Amassia, the series I am currently writing. It's out in 2018 with Entangled Teen. I'm thrilled to be writing Young Adult Fantasy for this publisher.

About the Map

Amassia is a time so far in the future that the continents have reformed into a single landmass. (It's predicted to happen in another 250 million years.) Here's a glimpse at my original drawing, before I learned the open source image editor, Gimp.

My worn sketch and noted for the world of Amassia

Why Maps?

We humans have been making maps for thousands of years. From cave paintings to ancient Babylon, Greece, and Asia, to the 21st century, maps are used as tools to help us understand, and explain, the known world.

My Father's Dragon
It's no wonder that many fantasy authors choose to do the same, even though their worlds will only exist in their reader's imaginations.

It all started with Tolkien. The Hobbit, and the LOTR came with a map, and it's an unspoken expectation that authors of this genre will follow suit.

But for me, the longing to look at maps of imagined worlds began before LOTR was ever published, in a little book by Ruth Stiles Gannett called, My Father's Dragon. I loved hearing the story, and tracing the journey of on the little map.


Another classic map on the heels of Tolkein, Brooks, Goodkind (who apparently didn't like the idea of mapping at all), Eddings (who thought it was essential), Hobbs, Le Guin, Martin and countless other fantasy authors is the world of Harry Potter.


More recently is the Shadow Hunters, a TV version of The Mortal Instrument Series by Cassandra Clare. With this app, Mundanes can download and view an overlay of the Shadow World right on their phones.

Mundanes' Guide to the Shadow World

One of my favourite maps artistically is from our very own Helen Lowe's Wall of Night Series. I love this fantasy world!
Wall of Night's world of Haarth

And finally, here's the map from one of the more ingenious and mind bending story worlds from China Meiville - The City and the City. When you think about it, it't not that far from the Shadow Hunter world, where one city is superimposed over another.

The City and the City Map by Simon Rowe
What are your view on maps in books? Do you read them? Are they spoilers, or part of the adventure? Have a favourite?

All of us Sup authors would love to hear your thoughts.

xxKim

Kim Falconer's latest release is out now - The Blood in the Beginning - and Ava Sykes Novel. Find this novel in a store near you.

You can also learn more about Kim at AvaSykes.com, the 11th House Blog, and on FaceBook and Twitter.  Or on GoodVibeAstrology.com where she teaches law of attraction and astrology.

Kim posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month and runs Save the Day Writer's Community on Facebook. Check out her daily Astro-LOA Flash horoscopes on Facebook

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Love is messy, love is kind.....wait- that's not how it goes.

The Things I Carry- Love is messy.

So, I know that this is supposed to be an all things fiction blog, but I find myself ruminating on Romance recently. Maybe its because I'm plotting out two romance series right now, but I have a feeling its primarily because I'm celebrating my twelfth wedding anniversary today. Twelve years of marriage to the same man. Seeing the same face every morning for 4,380 mornings.

That's a lot of mornings.

As much as I want to say that its been easy, it hasn't. In fact, I'm coming to terms with the fact that sometimes what I read in books (and sometimes what I write in books) is only the shiny, brand new love, and rarely the dingy because its been washed for 12 years kind of love.

So I love it when I find something that hits on that note, that Love is Messy idea, because love in real life is messy, and complicated, and gets rusty if you don't use it, and that's okay. Its actually better that way.

There are a few things that I carry with me to help me remind me of this notion. And Yes, some of them come from Rom Coms.

In Someone Like You, which is based on the book Animal Husbandry by Laura Zigman (HILARIOUS, btw), there is a scene at the end in which Jane (Ashely Judd) realizes that when you are at your worst, love is at its best. And even though the movie ends with a sweeping kiss a swelling music, I still carry with me the notion that when I'm a total wreck, a very hot Hugh Jackman will dry my tears.






In Edward Norton's directorial debut, Keeping the Faith, the three main
characters find out that love is complicated but possibly the only thing that everyone can believe in. In this movie, Rabbi Jake Schram falls in love with his childhood friend Anna Riley, but so does his best friend, Fr. Brian Finn. Yep, you read that right, a rabbi and a priest are best friends and a girl gets between them. From this movie, I carry the notion that love doesn't plan on ruining everything, it just sort of happens, and those who think that can efficiently plant it in their lives are going to have a rude awakening.





If you follow me on Twitter, you'll know that I re-read Alice Hoffman's The Museum of Extraordinary Things recently. This book is perfection. Beautiful, and intriguing, and just perfection. In there, one of the main characters gives a piece of wisdom that really resonated with me. That perfect beings, like angels, can not love the way that flawed humans can. They can not feel the depth and breadth of it because they are perfect. Only the flawed can find love. I think that line sunk into me in conjunction with the line from Leonard Cohen "There's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." We have to be flawed so love can find its place within us.



So without being too mushy, remember that love, like a great plate of spaghetti or an amazing cheesy enchilada, is messy. And that's okay- the best things usually are.

Until next month, carry on.

-------------------

Amanda Arista
Author
Amandaarista.com