Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Secret I Didn't Share...

"Supernaturally" event
As soon as I posted my "Supernaturally" Tips For Aspiring Writers last month I realized that I hadn't shared the most important secret of all.

Tip 6: Writing is — and has to be it's own reward.

Surely that's obvious, you may say, but I'm not entirely sure it is. Most of us may know that no business case in the world would ever support writing as a viable business proposition, but I think we're also often dazzled by the fame, glory, and commercial success achieved by (for example) authors such as JK Rowling and Stephanie Meyer.

The endurance event...
While there is absolutely nothing wrong with the stuff of dreams that comprises stardust and a little bedazzlement, it will not sustain a writer through the long distance endurance event otherwise known as the writing life. Those with writing ambition need to think marathon as opposed to a stroll amongst scented (& thornless) rose gardens blooming beneath a blue moon.

No question, marathons can be rewarding — we only have to look at their worldwide popularity to know that they bring exhilaration as well as grueling moments. But there usually comes a moment somewhere in a marathon where the athlete hits the wire and keeping going (see Tip 5 from last month) definitely becomes "the way is hard."

Promised treats...
When I hit that spot with writing, I try all sorts of different ways to "keep going." One method I tried when pushing myself toward he finish line for Daughter Of Blood, The Wall of Night Book Three, was rewarding myself with treats (we will not say bribes!) for achieving milestones — only to find, when I did hit the milestone, that I wasn't interested in the promised treat.

The reward was always the writing and the achievement of the book itself.

And has to be, because with writing there is no guarantee that you will ever receive any other reward. If you do, then treat it as the bonus that it us.

A bonus moment.
That's not a gloom and doom prognosis though — I believe it's the key to what the ancient Greeks meant when they said "Know yourself" and also to an individual's personal writing "success", which (the only thing we can be sure of, I suspect) will be very different for each of us.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Back home from Scotland!

Congratulations to Kezia from Washington, who won this month's contest!  Thank you all for stopping by and leaving so many wonderful comments.  Please come back Oct. 25, when I'll be giving away the next two books in the series, Vampire Mine and Sexiest Vampire Alive!

What a fabulous time I had in Scotland!  It's one of those places that soothes your soul and fills your mind with imagination. I was fortunate to travel with a great bunch of women, all writers. Here you can see six of us in a selfie I took with Stirling Castle in the background.  Denise, Deb, Cathy Maxwell, Lorraine Heath, Elizabeth Essex, and me! We lived for a week in an old Victorian hunting lodge in Perthshire, complete with wonkie toilets, old-world charm, and a resident ghost, who made a few noises in the middle of the night, but otherwise, left us alone.

Every day was an adventure.  We went to places like Dunnottar and Blair Castle. We visited towns like Aberfeldy and Braemar. Even the journey there was an adventure, since we had to drive on the left side of the tiny, narrow roads and fly into a panic whenever a truck came along!  We happened to be near
neighbors of the Queen, who was in Balmoral.  The estate was closed for visitors, but we toured the church she attends every Sunday.

The trip ended in Glasgow, where we met with sixteen readers!  Here are some photos of them!  We all had a great time with lots of
laughs.  HarperCollins UK had mailed three boxes of goodies to the hotel, so everyone left with some signed books!

When I came home, there was a surprise waiting for me!  A box full of ARCs (advanced reading copies) for Russell's book, Crouching Tiger Forbidden Vampire!  These are uncorrected galleys, meaning they may not be exactly like the final version, since they don't reflect any changes made in the copyedit or final page proof stage. Which means they probably have too many commas in them, LOL. I tend to overdo the commas.    Crouching Tiger Forbidden Vampire goes on sale Dec. 30!  (And I am so tempted to put a comma in that title!)

Since I still have Scotland on my mind, I'm delighted to give away the book starring Robby MacKay! (I learned in Scotland that I have been mispronouncing his name for years! MacKay rhymes with tie.) I'll also give away Carlos's book, Eat Prey Love! (Again, I so want to put commas in that!)  So, for a chance to win The Vampire and the Virgin and Eat Prey Love, just leave a comment below. It makes it easier for me to contact the winner if you leave an email address in your comment. If you don't want to leave an email address, I understand that, but please come back in a few days to see if I'm looking for you. International entries are welcome. Good luck!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Writing Fiction vs Fact

La-memoria-de-los-peces by Chelin Sanjuan
Fiction and non-fiction, fantasy and reality, they have a lot more in common than we think. On the surface, they seem like polar opposites. One is real, the other not, right? But given a large enough perspective, both are simply stories that we tell, and those stories have a way of swapping places over time.

For example, we've all heard this one: the world is flat - fact or fiction? The answer depends on 'when' and 'where' you ask it.  In the 6th century BC, Samos, the world is spherical, thanks to Pythagoras. Middle ages Europe, flat or round, it's a toss up. 16th century China, definitely flat. Stories change. What's real changes,and sometimes imagining something new can open doors to its existence.

We see this all the time when science fiction that becomes 'science fact'. Here are a few examples:

Edward Bellamy’s 1888 novel Looking Backward introduced the notion of 'debit cards' in a financial era that had no models for this kind of exchange.

Ray Bradbury's 1953 classic Fahrenheit 451 describes the earbud headphone perfectly, when that technology that didn't appear until 2000+.

Hugo Gernsback’s ancient serial Ralph 124c 41+ publised in 1911 included the 'telphot', basically SCYPE, or video conferencing.

Jules Verne, who wrote in the 1800s gave us everything from submarines to lunar landings.  The Earth To The Moon predicted Apollo 11's lunar landing in 1969 - from the launch from Florida to the amount of force that needed escape Earth’s atmosphere.

And Philip K. Dick's 1956 Minority Report portrayed multiple 'fictional' technologies that have since become reality, including facial recognition software, personalized advertising and gesture-based user interfaces long before touchscreens and motion-sensing inputs became common.

The Spell of Rosette, a story about DNA,
strange attractions and other forms of magic.
One of my favorite recent 'stories' from neuroscience is that meditation alters gene expression. It means that our thoughts (mantras) have a direct effect on our DNA, changing our physical make up. Of course, Vedic masters have been telling this story for thousands of years, but now researchers in brain science are saying it's 'real'.

The notion of altering gene expression with our thoughts is the bedrock of my Quantum Enchantment Series, a science fantasy whose hero is a quantum computer who thinks himself up a Tulpa body and gets out of Dodge before they pull his plug. I wrote that before the recent breakthrough . . .

Do you have a favorite 'fiction' you would love to see come true? A story that seemed outlandish at the time but is commonplace now? We'd love to hear about it.

Kim Falconer is a Supernatural Underground author writing paranormal romance, urban fantasy, YA and epic science fantasy novels.

You can find out more about Kim at or on the 11th House Blog, and on FaceBook and Twitter. She posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month. Her latest release is"Blood and Water" in Supernatural Underground: Vampires Gone Wild.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Holy Smoke: The Supreme Ordeal

Year of Living Heroically #7- The Ordeal

So my lovelies, you might have noticed that I didn't post last month. I'm not going to say that I was going through my own Ordeal, but let's say that I am really glad that August is over. I don't know if I spent the month living heroically, but looking back on it, I should have just stayed in bed instead of choosing to go once more into the breach.

This month, we are talking about the Ordeal, aka The Supreme Ordeal, aka the Dark Moment, aka, Oh-MyGod-Luke-is-Dead-in-a-Trash-Compactor part in the story where our hero dies. But totally comes back. Its okay. You looked a little worried there for a moment.

After our trek with our allies, meeting the foe, and choosing, not quite brilliantly, to go toward the cave with the dragon, our hero has bottlenecked herself into the certain death. One of the reason's it is certain is the hero doesn't see it coming. The certain death is hiding in a blind spot with the hero's flaws. Ex: Luke's need to be a hero like his father and save the princess is his flaw that ends him up in a nasty situation.

The key to defining the supreme ordeal for me has always been that this event fundamental changes who the hero has been up to this point. Even though she has embraced all the things she has learned during her tests and use them to varying degrees of success, this event will break her because it is directly connected to an internal flaw fighting against her, preventing her from being the hero she needs to be. The supreme ordeal will shatter who she thinks she is. It will literally break them across a rack. It is perfectly tailored to destroy that person who crossed the threshold all those chapters ago. And if she survives, she will be purified to continue on her trek, OR she will fail and is doomed to repeat it again.

Think of our hero as a wad of clay who wants to grow up and be a real coffee mug (no personal preference here, a tea cup is perfectly acceptable). The journey so far as molded our hero into a cup, maybe gotten a nice coat of glaze and a handle. The supreme ordeal is the kiln that will change our hero from a mushy, moldable lump into something that is very much like a coffee cup. After this event, the hero can not go back to being an ordinary guy anymore than the newly fired cup can to back into a ball of clay.

So this takes a newly formed hero, this purer form of our main character, one that has been fundamentally changed, back on course to the reason they were on the journey in the first place. Providing that she didn't fail miserably (possibly another post for another time).

Now, what I'm not going to do is mention a movie with an actual dragon, because that would be too easy. I thought I'd mention two not-so magical supreme ordeals that might feel a little closer to home.

Devil wears Prada- Andy's trip to Paris- she really is not the sweet little Andy she was when she gets back from Paris. Though I wish my supreme ordeals had Simon Baker in them.

Dead Poet's Society- When Todd is forced to improv a poem in front of the entire class. Once done, he is a new student full of confidence who will stand up for his friends and teacher at the end of the movie.

Because I write paranormal, there are some teeth and claws in my supreme ordeals. In Diaries, Violet's
flaw was always her low self-esteem. When she is attacked on her first date in years, she is faced with her boyfriend's death or her accepting that she is powerful enough to save him. Violet comes out the other side a stronger shifter, but no longer just that quirky girl with her head in the sand.

In life, I think we all know what our supreme ordeals look like. They are the moments that we look back on and see that's were I changed. That hurt like hell and I'm stronger for it. Ordeals are very internal and person specific. My ordeal could be your Tuesday and vise versa.

So my parting thought to you for this month of living heroically is to realize that you can't know what part of another's journey they are on. For all you know, they just faced a dragon.

Amanda Arista
Author of Diaries of an Urban Panther

Monday, September 1, 2014

"Supernaturally" Tips For Aspiring Writers

Over the weekend, I had the very great pleasure to chair the "Supernaturally" event with YA authors Laini Taylor and Elizabeth Knox at the WORD Christchurch Writers & Readers' Festival.

L-R: Laini, Elizabeth, moi.
(My thanks to HachetteNZ & The Realm for the photo.)

With authors of Laini and Elizabeth's calibre speaking it's not surprising that the question time included a request for "tips for aspiring writers."

So I thought I'd share something from their replies and add a few "extry" tips of my own today.

Laini Taylor
The remark Laini made that really resonated with me was (& I paraphrase):

Tip 1:
"Writing takes at least 100% of what you have to give so it's important to make other life choices that support your ability to give that 100%+, for example choosing an undemanding part-time or day job."

While Elizabeth Knox made an equally important observation (and again I paraphrase):

Elizabeth Knox
 "No matter how demanding the writing life we need to make sure we keep having fun with our writing."

Yes indeed to both these points. I'd also add the following from my own experience:

Tip 3:
Write, not necessarily what you know (in which case no Fantasy would ever be written—a point both Laini and Elizabeth also made!) but what you love because that is the creative touchstone from which almost everything else follows.

Helen Lowe (that's me again!)
Tip 4:
"Life," to quote Hippocrates, "is short but the art long." So don't wait. Start now!

Tip 5:
The writing flows easily—keep going; the writing comes hard—keep going. Keep going!

Everything else is up to the writer, because every creative voice is unique and must find its own 'right path."

Write on—and may the muses be with us all.

Monday, August 25, 2014


Congratulations to Bella Boo, who won this month's contest! Thank you all for the lovely comments! Please come back next month--I'll have some photos of Scotland!! And I'll be giving away signed copies of The Vampire and the Virgin and Eat Prey Love! Meanwhile, you can follow the Scottish adventures on Facebook and Twitter.  See you next month!

Have any of you been watching the new television series, Outlander?  Jamie Frasier captured my heart years ago when I first read Outlander, back in 1991. But then you know that I have a thing for valiant young men in kilts (or valiant old vampires in kilts!).  One of the things I love most about the TV show is that we get to see Scotland. I've been fascinated with that country ever since I was a kid reading
Nancy Drew books and she traveled to Scotland (and solved a mystery, of course.) And I have Scottish ancestors, so I can't help but feel drawn there.

In September, I'll be traveling to Scotland with a group of writers.  You may know of a few of them-- Cathy Maxwell, Lorraine Heath, Elizabeth Essex.  We'll fly in together to Glasgow, and then take off to an old hunting lodge for a week. Of course, the only thing we'll be hunting is countryside, castles, and men in kilts! When we come back to Glasgow on Sept. 14, I hope to meet some of my readers. If you are able to attend our get-together, please let me know! I want to bring a signed book for everyone.

And since sadly, you can't all make it, I'll give away two signed books today.  One lucky winner will receive a signed copy of Secret Life of a Vampire and Forbidden Nights with a Vampire! Just leave a comment to enter. International entries are welcome. Good luck!!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Loving the rogue

Each month, the fabulous Helen Lowe sends us ideas for posts - because sometimes, you get so caught up in your world (both the real one and the one in your head) that you just can't conceive of what to blog about.

I don't know if Helen was inspired by one of the comments on my last post, but one of her prompts about swashbucking rogues mentioned the one, the only, Han Solo. So, let's get our Solo love on.

What was it about Solo that attracted us (apart from the fact he was played by Harrison Ford - seriously, just look at that face!)? Why was it the bad boy, who wasn't supposed to be much more than a foil to show up how heroic Luke was, who became the star of the trilogy?

I've always kinda felt sorry for Mark Hamill. He should have been the one to come out of those movies a megastar. Instead, we've been gifted with decades of Harrison Ford.

I don't think it's just about the actors. I don't think it's about the fact Hamill had that accident and it changed his face. I think it was about the characters.

While Luke had the real hero storyline, he started off selfish and a whiner and I don't think any of us ever got over that. Whereas the first time we see Han he's poised, in control, and you bet your sweet patootie that he shot first! Not likeable, but still you see in the relationship with Chewbacca that there's something to him. Han knew who he was, and he wasn't apologising for it. Luke knew what he wanted to be, and did nothing to get himself there until circumstances allowed it.

In the end, I think that's the attraction of the rogue - it's his confidence. He don't care what people think, and we'd all like to be like that.

So let's drink a toast to Han Solo and his ilk - may we never lack for a good rogue!

What do you love most about Han Solo in particular, but rogues in general? I'd love to know. Help inspire me to write my own lovable rogue!