Friday, March 23, 2018

A Book Inspired By A Monstrous Holiday

For a long time, I've been intrigued by famous authors and their writing groups, like J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and their group of Inklings. How did they meet one another, how often did they get together, what did they discuss? I wish I could listen in on one of their meetings, even though they took place years ago. But as much as the Inklings intrigued me, another group of writers captivated me even more.

This group shared a holiday in Lake Geneva, Switzerland in 1816, during a year that had no summer. A volcanic eruption caused snow to fall around the globe, so much that thousands froze to death in their beds—during the summer. In the midst of this, a group of brilliant minds felt their holiday was ruined by the horrible weather. They grew restless when they couldn't go outdoors and explore the nearby glaciers and castles. So, one of them challenged the others to write a ghost story. This group included Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, John Polidori, Claire Claremont and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (soon to Mary Shelley.)

As a result, a new genre of fiction was born: science fiction. Mary Godwin wrote Frankenstein. Meanwhile, John Polidori wrote the first vampire story ever, based on local legends—a story that would later inspire Bram Stoker to pen Dracula.

Imagine being there when everyone was writing new stories about horrible monsters.

Now imagine this: What if their stories were based on something that really happened? What if this new science that Mary and John were interested in—Galvanism—could really raise the dead? And what if the local legends of vampires were true and the foul weather drove these creatures down from the Alps, wild and hungry?

This was the basis for my new series, which begins with SHADE: A Re-imagining of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The first novella releases on May 1st and here are some early 5-star reviews:

"This is a nailbiting, teeth clenching, scream inducing, not blinking, afraid of the dark and anything moving in it read that hooked me from the start."—5-Star Amazon Review

"Merrie takes the reader on a Gothic horror thrill ride through Mary Wollstonecroft Godwin's eyes that ends in a heart-stopping cliffhanger. I can't wait to read the rest of the story!"—5-Star Amazon Review

"Shade hit the ground running from page 1. It is a truly disturbing gothic horror story with some romance thrown in for good measure."—5-Star Amazon Review

A short description of the book:
200 years ago, a young woman and a young man changed the world with their stories. They also fell in love. Then they had to kill the creature they raised from the dead to survive...

You can also read an excerpt here on my website.

What classic horror stories do you love? Comment below for a chance to win a free advance digital copy of SHADE: A RE-IMAGINING OF MARY SHELLEY'S FRANKENSTEIN. GIVEAWAY will end on Thursday, March 29th and will be announced on this blog post, so check back to see if you won!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Creative Instincts

Avatar directed by James Cameron

Perfecter and Innovator 
While on a little break - think 10 minutes of flipping through Instagram and checking FB/Tweets - I came across this theory of three creative types. It reminded me of Amanda Arista's Know Thyself and thy brain wiring post and made me wonder what type I was. The theory is simple: We instinctively approach creativity in three general ways.

1. Perfecter — An artist/writer who and maximizes what is, elevating it to the best it can be (think Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Spielberg, James Cameron, Stephen King, Tolkien, Pixar, Disney...)

Laini Taylor - Perfecter
2. Innovator — An artist/writer who breaks the mold, pioneering a new style (as in Beethoven, Schoenberg, Kubrick, Picasso, Joyce, Dalí, Le Guin...)

3. Synthesizer — An artist/writer who draws from disparate sources, makes unexpected connections, to create something  new (e.g. Ligeti, Stravinsky, David Lynch, Tarantino, Murakami, Adams...)

Perfecter & Synthesizer
Synthesizer & Innovator
It's interesting to think of the creative process this way,  as an instinctual approach, and I suspect, after pouring through many films and titles, that writers are not one or the other. Like all things involving art, there is a certain blending. 

Categorizing is also dependent on the times. Kill Bill was break-out in 2003. Kubrick's 2001: a Space Odyssey blew minds in 1968. And, back in 1870, Jules Verne altered the course of history with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. As said by FP Walter:

"... this book has been a source of fascination, surely one of the most influential novels ever written, an inspiration for such scientists and discoverers as engineer Simon Lake, oceanographer William Beebe, polar traveller Sir Ernest Shackleton. Likewise, Dr. Robert D. Ballard, finder of the sunken Titanic, confesses that this was his favourite book as a teenager, and Cousteau himself, most renowned of marine explorers, called it his shipboard bible." 

Kim Wilkens as Synthesizer
China Mieville's 'New Weird' fiction is a genre blender, a synthesizer mixed with innovation and traditional representation. Michael Moorcock explains:

Neil Gaiman as Innovator
Miéville identifies with the “New Weird” movement, a development of what used to be known as “science fantasy” – a blend of the occult and scientific speculation... The New Weird, at its best, combines the virtues of visionary fiction and horror fiction, political satire, literary fiction and even historical fiction

Helen Lowe's Wall of Night series reads perfecter to me, elevating but also synthesizer with the feel of more contemporary themes and subtext. 

When I think about my process writing the Quantum Enchantment Series, I relate most to Synthesizer. It's a been called Science Fantasty blend. With The Blood in the Beginning, I align more with Perfecter, taking what I love most about the Urban Fantasy genre and giving it new wings (or make that fins). My YA Fantasy, The Bone Throwers, out September 2018 under the pen name AK Wilder, if anything, it might be innovation. My instincts were to bring together a traditional coming of age with a premise never seen before. We'll see when the jury (the readers) verdict is in.

How about you? I'd love to hear from other Sup authors and readers about their process and their favorite creative works. Films? Books? Plays? What's blown your mind recently?


Kim Falconer's latest release comes out in 2018 The Bone Throwers, book one in the Amassia series, writing as A K Wilder. Find her new page on Facebook - AKWilder Author and on Twitter as AKWilder.

Her latest novel is out now - The Blood in the Beginning - and Ava Sykes Novel.

Learn more about Kim on Facebook and chat with her on Twitter. Check out her pen name, @a.k.wilder on Instagram, or visitAKWilder on FB and website.

Kim also runs where she teaches the law of attraction and astrology. 

Kim posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month, hosts Save the Day Writer's Community on FB and posts a daily astrology weather report on Facebook. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Know Thyself and thy brain wiring

Year of the New: Post-its here I come!

So in February, my new endeavor was to take a class. And I did. Write Better Faster  with instructor R. L. Syme, was a whirlwind of personality tests and writing strategies that completely solidified why I do what I do and why some things work for my brain and some things don't. 

The website says that "You will leave the class with an individualized set of strategies and tactics that will help you do your best work, be your most productive, and accomplish your writing goals." and they ain't lying. I had been exposed to multiple rounds of the Meyers-Briggs personality assessments before, but never through the lens of my career as a writer. 

In case you were wondering what the brain of this writer looks:
Meyers Briggs- ENFP- Extroverted, Intuitive, Feeler, Perceiver
DISC- I/C&S- Influencer with moderate Compliance and Service
Strengthfinders- Strategic, Ideation, Connectedness, Relator, and Responsibility

The instructor helped us understand our personalities and strengths and what we can do to enhance those strengths and where we might go off the rails. For example, my strengths all have to do with big thoughts and feelings and I don't have a single detail-oriented bone in my body, which is why I can hammer out a fast draft and have to revise a million times to only keep finding mistakes. I like the emotions of the moment with the characters, but I really could care less what they are wearing so I have the tendency to write lots of dialogue and thinky-thoughts with no descriptions of place and setting. 

Knowing really is half the battle and the instructor also did one-on-one strategy sessions with us to see what one thing I could do better in the coming months as well as some great things to do when I'm ready to edit again. Anyone want to beta read for me?

Big thing- Don't change everything at once!

So the one strategy I am going to be working for March is to create a place in my house to have a focus board/plotting board, sort of like a vision board for a book. Since I can't  plot out an entire book, because that just sucks out the fun part of exploring the story and then I'll never actually write the book because, BORING. A focus board will help me not get so distracted by away from the point of the story as well as keep me focused on theme and subplots without killing the action and feelings by having them all prescribed. Also, hopefully, to have a more complete story at the end of the first draft. You can read more about one here

Turns out I am in a pre-writing stage for the next book, so its a perfect time to try something new. Post-its and poster board, HERE I COME!

As always, keep a look out for the hashtag #2018yearofthenew to see how I'm doing with my endeavors. And guys, you've got to keep me honest!

Carry on, dear readers. 

Amanda Arista
Author and ENFP

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Magic of Beginnings

Beginnings are magical. We all know it — and for those who still harbor doubts, I will only say: "New Year!", "weddings!", "baby showers!" Beginnings are magical and we love them!

And beginnings in books are no less magical than in real life. Strong beginnings — and endings — are essential to good story telling. Book beginnings are the vital opening lines that reach out and grab us, hauling us into full immersion in the world of the story.

Darcy & Elizabeth
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Well, we all know that one, right? Immediately, from the get-go, the Inimitable Jane captivates us with her sly irony — and executes a brilliant set-up for a story that has remained enduringly popular for two hundred years. (Two hundred years, fellow writers: two HUNDRED years!)

All of those two hundred-odd years later, here's another that definitely hooked me into the story:

" 'Heads Up!' A warning came through my earpiece as the door flew open. Two men, one average build, one overweight, tumbled past and hit the sidewalk, fists flying. The smell of sour beer and club music blasted out with them, the bass vibrating my bones. A few girls in short-shorts and sparkling tops squealed. The rest of the crowd cheered.

Typical midnight in Newton, Los Angeles."

– Kim Falconer, The Blood In The Beginning

These lines do indeed reach out and haul us into this action story: a great hook and scene-setting for an action-based paranormal story.

Sometimes, though, the beginning catches the reader's attention simply by its brevity:

"Call me Ishmael." – Hermann Melville, Moby Dick

This simple invitation from the narrator of Moby Dick is direct and personal. It both invites the reader in: no, it demands that the reader enter – and yet simultaneously repels, because the readers of Melville's time would have known that Ishmael was the Biblical outcast...

Here is another of my favorite, attention-grabbing, classical beginnings:

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
– Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

It's a beginning that gets you thinking and smiling wryly at the same time. It's also a beginning that tells you this will be a story about families, chiefly unhappy ones.

In a similar way, the beginning of The Gathering of the Lost (the second book in The Wall Of Night series) speaks to both what Robin Hobb has called the "strange magic" of the series but also its theme of darkness and concealed knowledge and events:

"Malian’s dream was darkness: blackness without stars, water without
light, a tower without a shadow that she remembered climbing—but
that too fell away as she plummeted, diving head first through the

These are just a few examples of both classic novels, and a few Supernatural Underground examples, that illustrate the magic of beginnings.

But how about you – do you have an all-time favorite book opening to share? Do tell me all about it!

PS: To read about endings, check out Kim's fab January post:

The End Is Near 


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, February 16, 2018

A Hero's Journey - Ursula Le Guin

 “People who deny the existence of dragons are often eaten by dragons. From within.” - Ursula K. Le Guin. Image by David Lupton. 
On January 22, Ursula K Le Guin passed away. It felt to me like the library at Alexandria burned to the ground. The only thing that helps is knowing I can read and reread her books for the rest of my life.  She has taken so many of us on a hero's journey, and lived her life as nothing less.

Photo by Eileen Gunn

“We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel... is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin

Le Guin inspired millions of readers and writers, not only with her magical storytelling but her 'revolutionary' ideas. She blasted through genre and gender biases at a time when few women wrote speculative fiction (save under a nom de plume) and speculative fiction was not considered remotely worthy of literary recognition. Le Guin, with a handful of other writers, changed all that.

"There are very real differences between science fiction and realistic fiction, between horror and fantasy, between romance and mystery. Differences in writing them, in reading them, in criticizing them. Vive les différences! They’re what gives each genre its singular flavor and savor, its particular interest for the reader — and the writer.

But when the characteristics of a genre are controlled, systematized, and insisted upon by publishers, or editors, or critics, they become limitations rather than possibilities. Salability, repeatability, expectability replace quality. A literary form degenerates into a formula. Hack writers get into the baloney factory production line, Hollywood devours and regurgitates the baloney, and the genre soon is judged by its lowest common denominator…. And we have the situation as it was from the 1940’s to the turn of the century: “genre” used not as a useful descriptor, but as a negative judgment, a dismissal." - Ursala Le Guin in conversation with Michael Cunningham

"I felt obliged for so many years to protest, to rant about those distinctions — genuine and useful ones — being misused as value-judgments. Now the judgmentalism is dropping out of them, and that’s great. I don’t have to worry, I don’t have to rant. Whew!"

When I first read the Earthsea books as a child, my eyes opened to new possibilities, a future where I could aspire to write. Living that future now is a privilege I wouldn't be experiencing without Ursula Le Guin and other authors who helped along the way.

She set so many examples. One was for dealing with rejections - how not to give up. Her words and advice kept me from crumpling at those first checks. You can read a rejection letter she received from an unnamed publisher for her submission of The Left Hand of Darkness. Enlightening!

“Light is the left hand of darkness
and darkness the right hand of light.
Two are one, life and death, lying
together like lovers in kemmer,
like hands joined together,
like the end and the way.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness 

Who remembers the wonderful film, The Jane Austen book club? The character Grigg, played by Hugh Dancy, is open to reading Austen. He doesn't care if it's a 'girly' genre or old. He's interested. Curious. But when he tries to share his love for SF and Fantasy with Jocelyn, Maria Bello's character, she scoffs at him, even though she'd never read any herself. He asks if she's heard of Ursula Le Guin. "What a wonderful writer she is," he says. Eventually, Jocelyn tries out this genre author and falls in love... with both Grigg and Le Guin!

Maria Bello and Hugh Dancy in The Jane Austen Book Club
The year the film came out, 2007, Powers was published, a young adult novel that follows the adventures of a runaway slave with amazing powers of memory. The book won Le Guin her sixth Nebula award for best novel. She was shortlisted with Terry Pratchett for Making Money, Cory Doctorow for Little Brother and Ian McDonald for Brasyl. You can read more about her achievements here.

“Only in silence the word,
Only in dark the light,
Only in dying life:
Bright the hawk's flight
On the empty sky.
—The Creation of Éa” ― Ursula K. Le Guin

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness 

Read more on Ursula K. Le Guin, 1929 – 2018 at Helen Lowe's Blog, and please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Journey well, Ursula Ursula Kroeber Le Guin.

Kim Falconer's latest release comes out in 2018 The Bone Throwers, book one in the Amassia series, writing as A K Wilder. Find her new page on Facebook - AKWilder Author and on Twitter as AKWilder.

Her latest novel is out now - The Blood in the Beginning - and Ava Sykes Novel.

Learn more about Kim on Facebook and chat with her on Twitter. Check out her pen name, @a.k.wilder on Instagram, or visitAKWilder on FB and website.

Kim also runs where she teaches the law of attraction and astrology. 

Kim posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month, hosts Save the Day Writer's Community on FB and posts a daily astrology weather report on Facebook. 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Back in the Saddle Oxfords again

2018- Year of the New

So January was an interesting mix of aspirations and whirlwinds. I am very glad that all I committed to on this hashtag driven year was to read a book. #2018YOTN

Elizabeth Gilbert's BIG MAGIC was a great way to start off the year. A major take away for me was that I was the only person who could give myself a hall pass to be creative. I didn't need to wait, waving my hand frantically in the back row for some supposedly older-wiser-cardigan-wearing person to give me permission to do what I need to do. I can just do it.

If you are a creative person and want to see your greatest fears written down into a book so that you can burn them in effigy later, I do recommend page 13-15. Gilbert NAILED every single fearful thought I have ever had in my writing career. Every person has them. The successful acknowledge them, take them by the hand even, and move on. Its called Bravery.

Though there are some ideas in the book that didn't really jive with my current schema of thinking (the importance of art, how ideas find us), the one that really did was her notion of originality vs authenticity. As a person who writes in a genre where everything that can happen has happened, I struggled with the notion of "This has already been done." But Gilbert stresses that you must "say what you want to say, and say it will all your heart" and that is the authenticity that people will respond to.

The best line is the last- "The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes."

I mentioned in my last post that I felt like I needed to shake the dust off, go outside and clear the erasers of my brain to get 2018 all started again. Well, Gilbert's book helped me define a few more things that I'm going to try this year (one month at a time to see what sticks):
1. Dressing My Truth (getting all dressed up to seduce your muse)
2. Making dedicated time for writing (#5amwriteclub here I come to have an affair with my muse)
3. Keep learning (to have something to talk to you muse about?)

For February, I signed up for on on-line class entitled Write Better, Faster, part of the Lawson Writer's Academy. I had the pleasure of seeing Margie Lawson speak at a conference and I still carry around everything she said in that one hour lecture, so I went back to her for something new to carry with me. I will report back next month and let you know if I was an A student, or if I was in the back of the class snickering with my friends.

Carry on, dear readers!

Amanda Arista

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Those Good Ole Romantic Movies...

I'm sure it was last year when I said that romance was part of what made the world go around and there's nothing quite like a romantic movie to make it spin a little faster.

Asked for a list of some of my "all time" favorites, here's what I came up with:

Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet may not be the original "star-crossed" lovers, but they're certainly among the most famous. And Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 film (with a very young Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting) captures their magic – although Baz Luhrman's 1996 version with Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio also has its charms. If you like your love star-crossed, either of these movies is for you. 

Strictly Ballroom

Speaking of Baz Luhrman, his 1992 film about ballroom dancing definitely strikes a romantic chord with a basic Cinderella theme. It's a lot of laughs but with just enough pathos that you'll whisk away a tear or three...And there's dancing!

Out Of Africa

Taking a quickstep back to 1985 for the movie, and the early part of the 20th century for the true story, the love affair of the movie is equally between Karen Blixen and Denys Finch-Hatton, and Karen and Africa. Wonderful cinematography and music, as well as performances by Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.

The English Patient

Still set in Africa, but this time during WWII, the film encompasses two love stories: that of Count Laslo De Almasy (Ralph Fiennes) and Katharine Clifton (Kristin Scott Thomas), who meet in Egypt prior to the war; and a Canadian nurse, Hana (Juliet Binoche) and Indian bomb disposal expert, Kip (Naveen Andrews), during the course of the war. It's a tremendously romantic story juxtaposed with marvelous shots of the Egyptian desert and the doom of impending war.

Sliding Doors

This is a little sweetheart of a "parallel lives" romance – and with Gwyneth Paltrow and Scottish actor, John Hannah, in the lead roles you won't be disappointed. The Monty Python quip that "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition" also stars. A little bit of sad, a little bit of sunshine, and a lot to like. 


The French romantic comedy, Amelie, is quirky, offbeat, and frequently hilarious, yet at the same time manages to make your heart beat faster for the out-of-step Amelie and her equally reclusive love. With Paris as a backdrop, you'll enjoy the scenery as well as the romance.

A Knight's Tale

So hard to come to terms with the fact that it's a decade since Heath Ledger left us – and although others may laud The Patriot or The Dark Knight Returns, this lively and ridiculous medieval romp (with a smoldering Rufus Sewell as the evile contender for the heroine's hand) will always be my light-hearted favorite.

Pretty Woman 

Definitely a Cinderella story (with King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid looking in), but what a Cinderella story with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in the principal roles. And then there's that famous scene where he gives her his credit card – it's gotta be love, right?!

Ever After

This movie is not just a "Cinderella-type" story, it's an official Cinderella retelling with Drew Barrymore as a Renaissance-woman version of the heroine, who manages to both save the prince and herself, while still hitting all the classic notes of the story. It's also a lot of fun  – and you can't ask more than that from a romantic movie .

A Little Chaos 

Competitive landscape gardening in the time of Louis XIV, the Sun King, may not sound like the stuff of romance but Kate Winslet (Sabine De Barra) and Matthias Schoenaerts (André Le Nôtre) manage to pull it off, with a story based around the establishment of the gardens at Versailles with all its attendant professional jealousies and the caprice of the King. A gentle story but a worthwhile watch.

Of course, even with ten movies featured here I had to leave a lot of great films out! But how about you, what's your all-time favorite romantic movie? Let me know via 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