Saturday, December 28, 2013

New Year's Just Around the Corner

Wrapping paper cleared away, exchanges made--what comes next? A good, long rest, of course! We all deserve it.

I like to use the week between Christmas and the New Year as a time to reflect on how fortunate I have been in my life. I could have been born into a country torn by war and live in fear daily. I could be without the means to feed myself and my family or to provide shelter. I could be suffering from some dread malady for which no cure is available.

Instead I am enjoying the benefits of living in the United States in a way that I don't have food insecurity, homelessness, bombs to frighten me, or diseases that commonly threaten people in undeveloped countries. I'm a writer, the most gratifying way I can spend my time as a career. I have a loving family plus felines Marble, Snickers, and Squeakers who all bring me joy.

What did I do to deserve this?

 When I figure that out, I'll let you know! In the meantime, one thing I can let you know for certain is that I love you all. :-)

SSU 2014 Calendar
Here's a 2014 calendar with the Supernatural Underground logo in the background. Click on the thumbnail for a PDF. 

Here is a greeting card with my wishes to you for 2014. Click on the thumbnail. 

If you have some pre-New-Year's reflections to share, I'd love to hear them. Doesn't have to be anything grandiose. Just a little reflection will do.

See you in 2014!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Congratulations to Ilyssa!!! You are this month's winner. Please contact me at, so I can get your address.  Many thanks to all of you who dropped by with lovely Christmas wishes!!  I am always amazed by the kindness of my readers. Wishing you all much happiness and good health in the New Year, and hopefully that will include lots of great books!  See you January 25th for the next giveaway!

Happy Holidays! It's the time for being with family and friends, not really the best of times for being on the computer-- not when there are cookies and pies in the kitchen!  Since some cookies are calling me, I will be brief.

It's also the time for giving, so this Christmas, I'm giving away a werewolf, a were-bear, and that merry vampire, Dr. Phang!  Yes, one lucky winner will receive a signed copy of Wild About You, starring that cuddly were-bear Howard, and a signed copy of Wanted: Undead or Alive, where the Love Doctor meets his match with werewolf Brynley.  Just leave a comment below to be entered. International entries are welcome. The winner will be chosen at random. Please check back here in  a day or so in case you're the winner and I'm looking for you.  Meanwhile, enjoy your holidays and may you have a happy and healthy New Year!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Holiday Traditions

We've just received a fresh blanket of snow up here in Wisconsin and we're guaranteed another white Christmas.  I've run to the grocery one last time to get everything that my husband will need to make our Christmas dinner and my stomach is already growling with excitement.

As you Christmas steadily approaches, I was thinking of some of the family traditions that I look forward to every year.  One is my mother making these candy cane-shaped coffee cakes.  About a week before Christmas, she's prepare mounds of dough that would be rolled, snipped, filled, carefully shaped, and decorated like candy canes filled with apples.  Yum!  She would them give them to our neighbors about us.  It was only years later that I found out how much many of our neighbors looked forward to those coffee cakes.

I'm not much of a baker, though I do like to attempt cookies every once in a while.  I look forward to seeing the Christmas movies that start to populate every channel during the month of December.  Growing up, Thanksgiving wasn't Thanksgiving until we watched Planes, Trains and Automobiles (which still has the power to make me cry at the end).  And the family favorite for Christmas is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.  I think watching it make us feel a little better about our own chaotic Christmas.  That no matter how insane things had gotten or how wrong events had turned, you realize that maybe the Grizwalds are having a little more trouble.  Also, it's a good way to remember that you just need to laugh about it.  Clark also set the bar for what it takes to decorate a house with light.  One day, we will reach those lofty heights of brilliant exterior illumination.

 Personally, I love finding a quiet night and settling in with an old classic, White Christmas.  I love the soothing sound of Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney singing.  One of my favorite songs from that movie is "Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me" sung by Rosemary Clooney.  I love watching Danny Kaye tap dance across the stage with Vera Ellen.  I love the pageantry.  I love the costumes.  And I love the story.

Finally, one of my favorite traditions is listening to Christmas carols.  I have far too many favorites, but I think the one that keeps rising to the top is Carol of the Bells.  In closing, I will leave you with this interesting rendition of Carol of the Bells from my childhood and pray that you and your family have a wonderful holiday season.

And if you're looking for something to read while relaxing this holiday season, my Asylum Tales stories are currently on sale. For more information, please click here.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas presents for our paranormal friends

They probably don't celebrate Christmas but still, it is the season of giving and I don't think they should miss out.
Some of the present options are obvious eg raw meat for your favourite werewolf, your neck for your favourite vampire. But if you put a bit of thought into it, I think you can come up with some great ideas. Here's a few to start with.


* Leather studded dog collar, for the werewolf who's also into a bit of BDSM
* A cat onesie, for the werewolf with a sense of humour
* Framed photographs of wolves, for the werewolf who likes to be sly
* A swimming pool, because after all that running in the woods, they'll need somewhere to cool off
* A conservatory on their house, for the nights they can't get out but they need to smell the roses


* A course of allergic reaction reduction for that pesky problem with garlic
* Lessons on wood whittling - might as well do something with those stakes!
* A portrait of them, so they know what they look like
* For the vamp with a sense of irony, a painting of the sunrise
* Computer games - let's face it, they've got the time to finish them!


* A medical-strength suture kit
* A treadmill, for training
* A degustation menu - maybe if they tried some different foods, they'd get off the brains obsession
* A word of the day calendar - some learning might help with all the mindlessness stuff
* A set of keys that actually open nothing - for the zombie with a sense of humour


* A get out of jail free card - give them permission to do one thing really, really naughty and get away with it
* A fabulous apron, followed by dinner at a rib joint - no more worrying about getting dirty
* A massage, to help pull the wax from the joints through their feathers to keep them shiny
* Dante's Inferno, for the angel with a sense of humour
* Your very own sexy angel outfit, for the sexually ravenous angel

Would love to hear all your ideas! And if someone can find me a sexy zombie pic, that would be awesome!

I hope you all have an incredible holiday season and that 2013 ends happily and 2014 starts wonderfully!

Monday, December 16, 2013

When Genres Bleed

Beauty and the Beast by alicexz
When it comes to genre fiction, we can count on the labels - Fantasy, SF, Romance, Crime, Historical - to tells us what kind of a ride we are in for. It's like going to a restaurant. If we feel like the taco salad, we order up, and though it may be a good or not so good version, it's still a taco salad - not too far outside the box. We won't, for example, be served a Greek salad with a side of fries. There's something comforting in that. Same with our fiction, right?

Wrong . .  .

There are some genre blenders out there, and none so plastic as Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance, especially in the YA category (where there's a whole lot of blurring going on). Let's look at Urban Fantasy first. Many see UF as an offshoot of Fantasy, but its origins are in Gothic Horror and Hard-boiled Crime. The Urban setting in UF is contemporary, an almost perfect match to our everyday 'reality', save for the pesky 'breach' that has occurred, just the opening 'others' in various forms - angels, demons, vampires, weres, fairies, fay - can enter, and live among us humans. In Uf the streets are tougher, the crimes uglier and the nightlife grittier, forcing our heroine, or hero, to pack a lot of kick-ass and smarts. The protagonist borrows heavily from the Crime detective, and is often anti-authoritarian, tough, shrewd and ultra street savvy, not to mention, a little more than human.

Our Paranormal Romance heroine may have many of these qualities, both internally and externally, but for her, saving the day or solving the crime comes a close second to winning her heart's desire. HEA is expected, and almost always delivered, the driving motivation being connection. And why shouldn't it be? PNR is neither an offshoot of Fantasy or Horror but of Romance. It follows the path to relationship, through the land of the heart, even if that land has its share of vampires, werewolves, shifters and witches.

How to tell them apart?

Murder, suspense, sudden reversals, strong female protagonists and a contemporary setting may be present in both UF and PNR. They will also share supernatural elements and some other world-building, and usually a good fast pace, edge of the seat drama and a whole hell of a lot at stake. But if you take out the love interest from the UF, you'll still have a ripping good story, no holes in the plot. Take the love interest out of the PNR, and the story fails.

This is all fair and good, until the genres bleed too far. Readers, bloggers and even some publishers are looking at PNR and UF as if they might meld, or perhaps are one and the same. Unfortunately, this means a lot of readers will be confused when they pick up a UF that isn't pivoting on the romance or a PNR that ends without the traditional HEA. Again, genres evolve, a reflection of the readers who love them, but what of this mash up UF/PNR? Will both forms survive, or become something not quite one, or the other?

Have you ever felt misled by a genre label (or cover)? Did you mind? What direction do you see these genres going? As I'm writing a UF series now, I'm interested in your response. And perhaps our Supernatural Underground authors would like to chime in too! I know many of us write in multiple categories.

And warm holiday wishes to you all!

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. 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.    

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Mark of Character

I spend a lot of time thinking about heroes and what makes a person heroic. A lot of my characters skirt that line from time to time. Many have done things that have bothered their consciences, sometimes to the point of haunting them centuries later. So what makes a person honorable and/or heroic? There are the obvious things, of course, like putting others' safety and needs above their own, particularly in a time of crisis. That kind of sacrifice makes for a great fiction hero. But what about in real life? Rarely are we faced with crises of that magnitude...thank goodness.

For me, the mark of honor...and revealed in how a person lives their life every single day. Does he open the door for the lady with the baby, or rush through before her so he can get in line first? Does she let the store clerk know he forgot to ring up one of her high-dollar scarves, or keep quiet? Does he consider how a decision impacts everyone involved, or only care about how it serves...or doesn't serve...him? And what does she do when she makes a mistake?

It's that last one I'm talking about today because I had a prime example of it this week. Everyone makes mistakes. You do. I certainly do. Though they might not be happy to admit it, all my characters do. Most of the time, our screw-ups are minor, like missing our turn on the way to the store. Other times they're disastrous. Often they fall somewhere in the middle.

The act of screwing up itself has no bearing on whether or not a person is honorable. Because, hard as we try, we're going to from time to time. That's what comes of being human. (Or vampire or shape-shifter, for that matter.) What's important is what happens next. What she does about it is the true mark of character. Does she make excuses and explain why it really wasn't her fault? Does she promise to fix it, then never get around to it? Does she blame someone else for the mistake? Or does she own up to it, apologize sincerely, promise to make it right...immediately...then follow through...immediately? That's the true mark of character and tells me I'm dealing with a person I want to work with again. (Unless, of course, the original mistake was a matter of gross negligence or incompetence. A surgeon who accidentally leaves a surgical implement inside a patient isn't someone I'm going anywhere near, sincere apology or not.)

A couple of days ago, my car started making a funny sound, a sound I recognized as a bad alternator. I took it to my dealer's service department and they determined it was, in fact, the alternator. Which had, unfortunately been bad long enough to wreck the battery. And, oh by the way, the rear brakes they'd warned me were going to need to be replaced the next time I came in ought to be done, too. Merry Christmas to me. Over $1000 in repairs.

The service rep called me late afternoon to say the car was ready, so my husband drove me over to pick it up. Less than twenty minutes after I got home, the service rep called again. "I have an odd question for you. Did you pick up your car?" "I did. Why?" But I knew. "You weren't finished with it?" I asked. He coughed. "We haven't even started it. The technician just came to get your keys so he could start working on it. Apparently we put your folder in the wrong pile." Needless to say, my jaw dropped. I'd not only handed over $1000 for work on a car that hadn't been touched, but I'd already been without my car all day.

I had every right to get mad...but I didn't. Because the service rep continued, "I'm so sorry. I know this is a terrible inconvenience, but I want to make this as easy on you as possible. If it's okay with you, I'll send a porter to come to your house, pick it up, and leave you a loaner. You won't be without transportation. We'll do the work this evening and as soon as it's convenient for you, we'll bring yours back and pick up the loaner. Tonight or tomorrow, whatever time works for you. Will that be okay?"

You know what? It was. They goofed. We all do from time to time. But they apologized sincerely and fixed it immediately, and with a minimum of inconvenience to me. Honestly and character. There's nothing more I can ask. Had they handled this differently, I might be looking for a new service department. Instead, I'm more loyal than ever.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Hyper Poodle Incident (aka Keep the Stories Coming)

Hello there,
First let me apologize for missing last month. I was sort of preoccupied with this little angel:

So life has been a little crazy with a new baby and the holiday season on its way. But Helen Lowe got me to thinking what my favorite Christmas traditions are and I've come up with a few that I can't wait to pass along to the little bean. And as with everything else with my life, there are stories that go along with all of them, and I can't wait to tell her.

Number 1: Watching Love Actually. Its just enough of the Christmas spirit, but ultimately, its about all the different kinds of love in the world and I want her to know that. It will probably be a few years before she knows what is going on, but she will be able to sing "Let it Snow" just like Bill Nighy.

Number 2: New PJs on Christmas Eve. We actually didn't do this growing up, but I have always known that I wanted to do this with my kid. Part of it is that every kid needs to have a footed pair of pajamas for cold winter nights with a reindeer tail, but mostly, you have to look stylish for Santa.

Number 3: Box of Queen Anne Cherry Cordials. My dad loved these holiday candies and I remember wrapping them up one year and putting it under the tree. The next morning, we found our poodle very hyper in the middle of the living room covered in cherry goo. The next year, the box of cherries had petrified. Each year something strange happened to these cherries, so I still buy a box every year because I know that something will happen to them.

Number 4: This should probably go first, but decorating the Christmas tree as a family. We are big on ornaments in our family, and each person has enough to fill their own tree. Every year the weekend after Thanksgiving, we would spend hours taking each ornament out of the box and remembering who gave it to us and why. Little Bean already has her first ornament waiting to go on the tree.

Number 5: Driving around to look at Christmas lights. We used to drive around as a family and Mom would make hot cocoa to take with us. Last year there was Starbucks and bicycles, which could be a little more difficult with a little one, but it is something that I always look forward to.

My new writing partner. 
So I know there isn't a lot in this post about Paranormal or Writing (both of which are still brewing in my head at all hours of the morning), but as I reflect on holiday traditions, each has special meaning because they each have a web of stories behind them (except that PJ one: i just really like PJs).

So, in the spirit of the giving season, if you share a holiday something that you like to do and a story
to go with it, I'll give you a Diaries gift set.

Happy Holiday and type at you next year!!!


Amanda Arista
Author, Diaries of an Urban Panther Series

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Magic Of Winter Worlds

With Thanksgiving past and Christmas drawing near, I thought I'd share a few of my favourite winter worlds in Fantasy literature...

...starting with the Narnia of CS Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, of course. I  think that moment when, together with Lucy Pevensie, I stepped through the back of a wardrobe and into the snowy landscape of Lantern Waste was definitely one of the most magical of my reading childhood.

As an adult, Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness provided a similar defining moment, with the physical world of Winter (Gethen) absolutely dominating the cultural, sexual, and political landscape of the story.

And then there’s Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale — which is more like historical urban fantasy (meets the Gangs of New York) and is rich, mythic, magic-realism imbued — and where winter undoubtedly ‘colors’  the entire story.

More recently I’ve read Kate Elliott’s Cold Magic (the first of a “Cold’ trilogy) which also picks up the idea of an ice age realm where the ice influences magic — but in a world where alternate history means the Carthaginians fought the Romans to a standstill, retaining their maritime empire, and North African (Mali) magicians have emigrated (ahead of a ghoul/zombie horde) to hook up with Celtic druids. Fascinated already — you should be!

Joan Vingt’s “The Snow Queen” is another favourite and one where the prolonged winter world of Tiamat, but also the imminent transition to an equally prolonged summer, is essential to the story being told. 

Picking up on extended winter/summer worlds again, “Winter is Coming” in George RR Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, even if it is not quite here yet — but the giant wall of ice and the Night Watch definitely set the scene from book one, A Game of Thrones.

There are also distinctive winter elements to wider worlds, such as the Winter Country in my own “The Wall of Night” series, and the north of the Finnish witches and panzer bjorn in Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass.

The more I think about it, it seems fairly clear that winter worlds hold an enduring fascination, so now I’m thinking about why that might be… In part, I suspect it is because winter landscapes and worlds are so dramatic, stark and elemental. Physically, they challenge us — and the white on white of snow worlds is also a very strong aesthetic.

Can you think of any great winter worlds I’ve missed mentioning?