Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Writing Resolutions for the New Year

Or the new month, or the new day, I'm pretty flexible about resolutions as a whole, because we all tend to slip off the wagon from time to time. However, there is nothing like having an outline of sorts for the year ahead ... or the month, or the day ...

You get the idea. Anyway, here are some of my plans for writing in 2016:

A Business Plan. My business plan will consist of more than eating collards on New Year's Day and hoping that means I will make a lot of money in the coming year. I will actually sit down and make dollar signs followed by actual figures as to how much I can afford to spend on promotional activities. I will analyze my writing, the markets I want to reach, and my readership. I will have a clear idea of the types of books I intend to write along with realistic timetables as to how long it will take me to produce each work.

Read More Books. I will read more books both in my genre and outside my genre. I want to read fiction and non-fiction, because reading broadens my skillset by constantly exposing me to new ideas. While I definitely read for enjoyment, I also read in order to study other authors' works for story structure and techniques that might improve my own writing.

Pace Myself Better. This is actually part of my business plan, too, but I wanted to list it separately, because self care is important. I pushed myself a little too hard in 2015. Keep in mind that I work a full-time job in addition to writing. Realistically, it takes me about five months to complete a 30,000 word novella. What I didn't account for in 2015 was a month of edits on a previous novella along with a month of promo on the opposite side. In 2016, I will be accounting for those extra two months. I also know that I can produce about 30,000 words of good fiction in a five month period (in addition to blog posts and other stories), so that I can better assess how long it will take me to write a novel. Add in reading, those little ups and downs of life, and family, and seven months for a finished novella is actually more realistic.

Take More Risks. I want to write at least one new short story in this coming year, because short stories are hard for me. The other nice thing about short stories is that I can write in a different genre and expand my skills without the time investment required by a novel. I would also like to try my hand at poetry, because like short stories, poetry is difficult, yet at the same time, poetry helps sharpen my prose skills.

Blog Posts. Like short stories, blog posts are difficult for me. I dislike writing them; however, they also stretch my writing skills in various ways. In 2016, I want to practice writing informative, fun blog posts that are entertaining. This is a task that I will be working on at my own blog and here at the Supernatural Underground.

So what about you? If you have a moment in all the festivities, drop us a line with one of your writing resolutions for the coming year.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Happy 26th of December!

I hope your holidays (Hanukkah, Yule, Kwanza, and/or Christmas) were wonderful and filled with loving family and happiness. And my hope for you, dear reader, is that 2016 is a great year filled with joy shared, and that you've spent the last month (at the very least) being extra kind to others when it counts. (No one can be perfect. Perfect isn't the point. We're human for pity's sake. So, Good When It Counts, is.) For me, that's the reason for the season as it were. I'm not Christian, and Christmas isn't my favorite holiday. Still, I do feel the winter solstice holidays are extremely important--more so and in more ways than we often realize. Oh sure, I hate commercialism. Buybuybuy getgetget shouldn't be the focus but that's often the place where people start. That's fine as long as they get to kindness and generosity. Winter solstice should be about looking out for one another and sharing joy--even if it's only giving a stranger a smile for an instant. None of us knows what that might mean because knowing the important instants when they happen isn't always how the universe works. (And that's why my favorite of all holiday films is It's a Wonderful Life.) Even so, I don't feel that is the biggest reason for the winter solstice holidays. Terry Pratchett summed it up best in one of my favorite novels, Hogfather which was later made into a wonderful film.

That's it right there. So, be human. Whatever your faith (or not) believe in the things that aren't true in order for them to renew and become for another whole year.  We need Justice, Truth, and Mercy more now than ever before.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas From All Of Us, Here On Supernatural Underground

Our very best to all of you for the holiday season -- wherever you are, whatever you are doing, may your days be "merry and bright."

Monday, December 21, 2015

Gifts and giving

Hello everyone! After a really difficult year, I'm back at the Supernatural Underground and delighted to be here.

It's a great time of the year to get things going again. Even with all the stress of preparing for Christmas (I still haven't done my shopping - eek!), this feels like a time when anything is possible. Miracles can occur.

Such as the fact we once again have a good Star Wars movie on the screen.

I'm not going to spoiler it for anyone - although I do want to note it's been kinda interesting to see US friends talk about going to the opening night when I knew Aussies already on their third viewing. For once, the time difference has worked for us.

But for someone like me, who grew up with Star Wars (I was 7 when I saw the first movie), this new movie is a real gift. I sat in the theatre, almost giggling like a child, wriggling in my seat and shaking my hands in the air with excitement as each old favourite was introduced. I once again got to fall in love with Han Solo, and find a kick arse girl to worship (Rey is the awesome).

In short - JJ Abrams and the team gave me the gift of being a child again. Of being overwhelmed with happiness. Of being so excited I couldn't sit still.

With all the pressure that comes with adulthood (and while sometimes it is fun, sometimes it is damn hard work), it's great to have the moments where we can escape.

That's what The Force Awakens did for me. In the middle of a heatwave, with an ear infection building, it still pulled me from the world I knew into a wonderland where everything is fun.

Of course, we here at the Supernatural Underground know that books can provide that same wonderful escape. In particular, I've tried to do it with my Jorda series of SF romance (which was actually inspired by Star Wars and in particular Princess Leia).

So I want to give you all the gift of that wonderment. So anyone who tweets a link to this article (make sure you put me in it - @nicole_r_murphy) will be get a free copy of Loving the Prince, book one of the Jorda series.

I hope you all have a fabulous holiday time - and let's keep an eye out for those for whom this is a hard time and see what we can do for them.


About Loving the Prince

From Escape’s fresh, exhilarating science fiction romance catalogue comes a story of corporate espionage, betrayal, sex, and bodyguards. Just another day in the colonies.

Cassandra Wiltmore is the heir to the throne of Rica, but it’s unlikely she’ll be stepping up any time soon. So she spends her days managing and building the Rican Balcite Mining Company. The company has made her family wealthy beyond imagination, but that kind of power needs careful control, and Cassandra is just the Wiltmore to control it.

When a new bid for the mining license is announced, Cassandra is determined to squash it. Then the thefts and threats begin, and every step she takes seems to be wrong. Taking on a new protector seems like an indulgence Cass can’t afford, but she equally cannot afford to be caught off-guard. If only the best man for the job wasn’t also the best-looking man she’s ever seen.

Kernan Radaton has ambition, and as protector to Cassandra Wiltmore, he’s well placed to reach all his long-held goals. If only his new all-business boss didn’t make him think of only pleasure. With the company, the heir and the family under attack, the last thing anyone needs is a distraction. But once everything is safe again, Kernan is developing new ambitions — ones that involve a lot of very personal time spent getting to know his boss on a very personal level.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Feng Shui Your Mind for 2016

A Boy and an Elephant - by photographer/filmmaker Gregory Colber
Hi Everyone,

Happy Holiday Season. There are so many ways to spend this time of year and most include a sense of celebration, reminders of joy and appreciation, family, clan, food and friends.

In this spirit, I wanted to share with you some ideas on how to release 2015 with gratitude and prepare for a fabulous New Year 2016.

As with all Magic, it begins in the mind . . .

Artist – Jeannette Woitzik
I love that we are drawn to the supernatural genre, immersed in magic, wonder and the 'impossible'. I think that puts speculative fiction readers ahead of the game when it comes to creating personal rituals to change our lives.

We've already been there in the pages. It's not a huge leap to go there, in our minds, in our everyday reality.

Here are five great tips to de-cluttering our mental feng shui, opening doors of infinite possibilities when it comes to love, relationships, finances, work, career, creativity, artistry, home, family, prosperity.

Let's all start 2016 with clear minds and open hearts.

1) The Only Love Spell That Works

Most of our relationship, or lack of relationship, issues rise from an absence of self-love. As Jeannette Maw says, “The universe can only be as good to you as you are to yourself,” and face it, we aren’t always that self supportive.

Think about your self talk when you look in the mirror. Are you your own best cheering squad, or do you list the faults and things that need to be ‘fixed’? What about at work? In your creativity? Your daily routine? When you lay awake at night, are you thinking of the things that went right or ‘wrong’? Most of us are in the habit of self judgment, criticism and denigration. Just imagine what signal that sends to the universe? It’s a spell that conjures more of what we don’t want.

But there is a way to turn it around, a love spell that changes everything, from the inside out. There are a lot of them out there, spells that boost self-love, but here are two I found life changing:
Mirror Mirror on the Wall:

2) 1% Improvements

No British cyclist had ever won the Tour de France, but as the new General Manager and Performance Director for Team Sky (Great Britain’s professional cycling team), Dave Brailsford was asked to change that.

His approach was simple.

Brailsford believed in a concept that he referred to as the “aggregation of marginal gains.” He explained it as “the 1 percent margin for improvement in everything you do.” His belief was that if you improved every area related to cycling by just 1 percent, then those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement. AND IT DID! Read how to alter your daily life by 1% and watch things expand towards success!

3) Core Value check in

How can knowing your core values make your life better? It can't, but knowing AND honoring them can!

A core value is simply what matters most to you in life; it’s what makes you who you are. As in, without it, you just wouldn’t be you. For some that might be humor or generosity. Learning or spirituality. Creativity or connection. The list goes on.

So how does one live their values?

It starts with identifying them. There are a couple ways to do that. Read more here.

4) Toleration Let Go

Many know the importance of managing their feelings and focusing on the positive.  But sometimes we mange so well, we put up with things that actually are energy drainers. One of the most powerful ways to clear this error is to identify and eliminate the daily tolerations of life.

Some examples could include the car tags are expired, the desk plant is withering, the family dog is overdue for a dental, your shoes don’t fit right, neighbor noise keeps you up at night, your mother-in-law drives you nuts, you work too much overtime, you don’t eat a decent lunch, a bulb is burned out in the ceiling light, your credit card is maxed out, etc.

Your job is to identify and eliminate the things that are draining your joy from life.  Here’s how to get started:

5) Astrology and Relief

How do we know if there is too much stress in our lives? Check in with emotional guidance! Feel good = stress-free. Feel bad = stressful.  The idea is to bring awareness to the situation so we can let go of what’s not supporting us. Indicators of stress include:

• Fatigue, yawning, dozing, spacing out, depression

• Aches and pains and symptoms in the body

• Nervous tension, anxiety or apprehension

• Insomnia and sleep disturbances

• Lack of enthusiasm for life

The signs of the zodiac can alert us to authentic needs and modes of stress reduction. We each have all twelve signs in our charts, although some will be emphasized more than others. Looking at the natal signs of the Sun, Moon, Ascendant and Ascendant ruler(s) offers a good starting point. Go here to get started!

That's it, everyone. Five quick steps to Feng Shui the mind.

Let me know how you go, or if you have any favourites to add in the comments.

Happy Holiday, and Happy New Year wonderful readers and writers.


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 the 11th House Blog, and on FaceBook and Twitter.

She posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month and runs Save the Day Writer's Community on Facebook.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The word no one can say but everyone searches for

Year of Living Authentically: Finding home

So apparently its December. I'm not sure what happened. When I started typing a month ago, there were pumpkins, and when I just looked up, there are lights and evergreens everywhere. It is very disconcerting just how fast everything has happened this year.

Which is why, my lovelies, it is paramount that you live all moments authentically. As the most heroic version of yourself. If the characters in our stories have taught anything, you get nothing without blood, sweat, and tears. It's hard because it's real. Living Authentically is not for the faint of heart.

I really like this quote from Dr. Brene Brown. It speaks to me as a writer and as a mother who is constantly giving a toddler options for dinner. According to my daughter, the answer to all life's questions is cheese.

Choices test who we are, shape who we are, and prove who we are. A good writer will always give the hero a choice to be ordinary or extraordinary. A good writer will always give the villain a choice to be good or evil. The choice sets each on a path that will never be the same. There are no do-overs (except in those sci-fi's- but that might be another post for another day).

The universe is one long buffet line of choices and, man, sometimes that seven layer chocolate cake looks amazing, but we know the harder path, the better path, should have some veggies and meat. We can't eat cheese all the time. I repeat, Bean, we can't eat cheese all the time.

When you get tired, it is so much easier to take the easy way out, be nice instead of being kind, placate to  stop the insanity. We let parts of ourselves get stepped on or step on other people because we are not in a good place ourselves. And there is nothing more tiring than looking at a holiday schedule and trying to figure out how you are going to bake pies,  get family photos, and still make it to that cocktail hour for work.

In moments when I know I'm not being awesome, yes it does happen, I stop and find my happy place. Find something that reminds me of who I am. I don't think that querencia needs to be a Fortress of Solitude, but if you've got one, hey, live the dream. I think it needs to be a touchstone. Something that reminds you that life is hard, precious, and totally worth the slower path.

I hope in this multi-part rant, you have found some truth. I have grown in this past year, trying to follow my own tenants of Authenticity:

Know your balance
Tell the truth, especially to yourself and especially if its funny.
Be kind, not nice.
Find others who speak your language.
Read Well and Often.
Find your Home.
Keep calm and Live Authentically.


Amanda Arista

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Getting Fictional: "The Kiss" , A Short Story For Beth

Back in March, I drew the result of a Tuckerization competition, which is where a reader gives their name to a character in a short story or a book.

The winner was Beth /Pegasus 358 and I promised the story would be featured right here on the Supernatural Underground.

So without further ado, today I give you The Kiss, a short story that features a "Beth" as the main character.



The Kiss

by Helen Lowe

Fairy lights rippled across the darkened harbor, illuminating the crowded faces on the boathouse deck. Someone yelled from the adjoining carpark, and a few moments later Beth heard the cough of a car engine. More yells followed, and laughter mingled with the smash of breaking glass.

The place would be a mess in the morning. Beth leaned against the edge of the pier, enjoying the breath of cooler air off the sea, her eyes fixed on the darker water beyond the dance of lights. Phosphorescence touched a wave edge, further out, and a light winked from the far side of the bay. Someone floundering, Beth thought, or maybe lighting a lamp in a one of the old baches that had no electricity …

Not like the new, flash houses that dotted the Point above the boathouse. “New people,” Marg at the store had said, and sniffed—just as if Beth wasn’t a summer visitor herself, working on an archaeological dig the next bay over.

“Found anything interesting yet?” That was Dave, taking advantage of a gap in the crowd to finally reach her side. He was as local as you could get, even if he was working a summer job, too, researching the harbour’s water quality and correlations to various shellfish populations. Beth took the beer he held out, chinking her bottle against his before taking a long swig.

“Here?” she asked innocently, then laughed at his grimace. “No, I knew you meant the dig.” She drank again. “Not yet, unless you count a couple of nails I found today. But they’re not even old enough to catalogue, let alone coming from the mission station. If it was ever here,” she added, momentarily gloomy.

Dave shrugged. “There’re a hundred bays to this harbor and records from those days are erratic at best. Just because the last survivor was picked up from the Point doesn’t mean the station was here, although I suppose it makes somewhere nearby more likely.” He grinned at her. “Look on the bright side, though: they’re paying you to grub in the dirt.”

“They are.” The band inside the hall was picking up pace and Beth studied her beer, avoiding Dave’s gaze. She told herself it was because she didn’t want to plunge into the noise and heat and lose-packed bodies inside, but really, she didn’t want to dance with Dave. But if she made eye contact, she knew he would ask her …

“Hey Dave, dance with me!” Jess, Marg’s daughter, broke away from her friends and seized Dave’s arm, dragging him into the thick of the dancing. Beth smiled and shook her head as he glanced back, before the crowd closed between them. She could see the trail of Jess’s friends, though, weaving their way into the heart of the dancing. If she stayed put, Dave would come back—or they all would—and drag her into the dancing, too. Although Beth suspected that Jess would delay that as long as possible …

Grinning, she downed the last of her beer and headed toward the steps that led directly to the beach, negotiating knots of revellers until she stood on the smooth half-moon curve of sand. The Point cast a long shadow across its far end, the silhouette of a solitary tree marking where the land ended and the harbour began.

The patupaiarehe*, the faerie people, were supposed to have come out of the sea there once, and the last survivor of the failed mission had been found beneath the tree, starving and delirious, by a whaling ship’s crew. And a young woman from the Point had drowned herself beneath its shadow when the lover who sailed away to fight in the First World War had never come sailing back again.

The tree was ancient and gnarled enough to spark as many stories as it had roots, the long cables twisting down the Point’s rocky face. Beth strolled toward it, and although the music and laughter spilled after her, the waves were a soft, accompanying swish. The path up to the tree was a steep twisting scramble, but the rising moon was bright enough to see by. Once Beth reached the top she saw the moon track, a silver-gilt path across the night harbour.

Another narrow beach lay on the headland’s far side, almost immediately below her, and she saw there was a boat beached just above the surf line. The man beside it was standing in the creaming foam, drawing in what looked like a net. He was wearing ragged, cut-off jeans, his bare back a play of moonlight and shadow in the uncertain light. But he must have sensed her presence, because he turned, holding the net in one hand while the other gestured in equal parts greeting and salute.

Beth’s hand rose in answer, aware of the tree’s darkness at her back as he began, unhurriedly, to gather in the net. As far she could see there were no fish in it, and he folded the empty strands across the boat before coming to stand beneath her promontory, is hands on his hips as he stared up. “You’re new,” he said. The lilt of the waves was in his voice. “One of the summer people.”

His hair was wet, she thought, and the stray glimmer across his shoulders and chest could be either water or sweat. The sounds of the party had grown distant and the lap of the waves filled the space between them. “The fact you say that,” she said finally, “means that you must be local.”

He laughed. “I am.” He gestured invitation. “Come down, summer girl.”

Summer girl… Beth felt as though a thread spun of moonshine and phosphorescence was drawing her down to the dark figure below. He was smiling, she could sense as much as see that, and when he extended a hand to help her down the last zigzag slither, his fingers were unexpectedly warm. But he did not relinquish his clasp once she reached the beach, and now the thread between them was electric, its current leaping between their joined fingertips. Still smiling, he leaned in close and kissed her.

His lips were silk and salt and the moon’s cool fire, as Beth was on fire, kissing him back. His hands were on her hips now; her palms exploring the play of muscle across his back as his lips drew her in deep, deep… The rush of memories that came with the taste of the sea on his lips, and the depth of the kiss, was like being caught beneath a wave and swirled violently about, first one way, and then another. A part of Beth was still herself, kissing the stranger on the moon-dark beach; the other was the procession of women who had been drawn to the exact same tryst, time after time.

“Sometimes I save them.” The whisper was quicksilver in her mind, the flash of a fish leaping between water and air. In that moment Beth was the last survivor from the lost mission, delirious with thirst and hunger as the voice of the sea lured her here, here, here to this headland with its solitary tree. But she would not have lived to be rescued if the young man who came out of the sea at dusk had not breathed in life with his kiss and left a gourd of fresh water at her side.

“And sometimes I do not.” Now Beth was the young woman who had gone to the Point to mourn her lost lover and been drawn into deep water with the night—only to float back in on another dawn, wrapped in the seaweed shroud of her hair. Lured by a kiss and drowned, as Beth was being drawn in, her mouth and body melded to the young man from the sea while the waves broke in a welter of foam around both their knees.

No! The part of Beth that was still herself tried to pull away, but the arms about her tightened and the man whose lips still held hers took another step back, so the next wave was a slap against their hips.

“But I love them well before I drown them deep.”

Now the quicksilver thread was laughter, and despite the part of her that was panicked, terrified, Beth was still in thrall to his dark allure. Folklore eddied through the swirl of memories: tales of patupaiarehe and selkies, of water horses and the Old Man of the Sea: faerie folk in all their guises. Now the waves were breaking about their waists—but as the swell rocked them both, Beth managed to slide a hand free and into her pocket, groping for the two disdained nails from today’s dig. She had thrust them into her pocket and forgotten them, but now her hand closed convulsively around their cold iron.

The young man’s hands dropped away from her and his head arched back, freeing Beth’s lips as he hissed like a cat, his shape fraying into something ancient and wild, shaped out of bone and sea kelp. Her fingers still clutched about the nails, Beth staggered backward, out of the water and past where the boat lay beached—only now it was no longer a boat but a log, draped about with seaweed. She circled well clear of it, her eyes still on the figure in the surf. His eyes glowed, luminous as mother-of-pearl, but the rest was dissipating into spindrift and the night’s shadow.

“And sometimes,” she told him silently, because her teeth were chattering too hard to speak aloud, “they spoil sport and save themselves.”

“Presumption…” The cat’s hiss was in her mind, but the eerie eyes were fading now, too. By the time Beth reached the tree again the harbour was as she had first seen it: the moon tracking its path across dark water, with only a log beached above the high tide line. Shuddering, she drew in deep steading gulps of air and balled her fists to stop them shaking—but she made sure she held onto the nails.

“Beth! Hey, Beth!” Dave’s voice called up to her, but there were others with him, Jess and the whole crowd of dancers laughing and strung out across boathouse beach. At least one of them had a torch, spinning its beam around like a spotlight.

“We’re going to have a bonfire here on the beach. Come on down!” Jess called out, although she sounded grudging.

They would never believe the explanation for her dripping jeans, so she would just have to say she slipped—which in a way, Beth supposed, she had done. She shivered as she started the descent to the far safer side of the Point, reliving the wash of memories and the young woman who had been saved, as randomly as another had been drowned. Far more drowned than saved, though, if the memories had told true…

“Still,” she said to Dave later, when the bonfire’s initial blaze had burned down into a friendly glow and her jeans were drying, stiff with salt, “I think I may try looking further afield for the mission station site. Maybe over toward Last Bay, since Marg says there’s a sizeable area of flat land there.”

“But no reliable water supply.” Dave grimaced. “What makes you think it’s a more likely site than around here, though?”

Beth shrugged, fingering the nails in her pocket. “Oh, call it a hunch. But it can’t hurt to look.” She shivered as the wind off the harbour picked up, huddling deeper into her jacket. “I think I’ll go by road, though, even if it is the long way round.”

* Patupaiarehe, fairy race who (primarily) dwell in the sea, according to the folklore of New Zealand's Maori  people 

© Helen Lowe, 2015: All Rights Reserved



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 forthcoming on January 26, 2016. Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog, occasionally on SF Signal, and is also on Twitter: @helenl0we.